Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Our attitude towards sickness and healing

Here are some thoughts, jotted down after listening to a teaching by Bill Johnson on unanswered prayer. I hope you will find some encouragement and/or some food for thought and further reflection. God bless!

  • "If you just had enough faith, you would be healed!" This is not a cruel thing to say to somebody who is sick (even though it certainly can come across in a condemning way), but it is throwing them a life-line, pointing them to the only solution to their problem. It is actually cruel not to tell them that they should have faith for their healing!
  • The opposite of "a little faith" is not GREAT faith, but NO faith! Jesus said that with faith as small as a mustard seed we could move mountains – no "great" faith required even for such a monumental task. Jesus also simply asked whether He will find "faith" on the earth when He returns – again no "great" faith required or expected. Similarly, Jesus asked the disciples after He stilled the storm WHERE their faith was. He did not rebuke them for not having "enough" faith, but simply made it clear to them that their faith was in the wrong thing (i.e. in their own ability top maneuver through the rough sea, in this case).
  • "Complacency and ignorance tolerate unanswered prayers." Bills Johnson
  • Accepting sickness in our lives somehow seems to be easier than believing God for healing, as you will not be disappointed (you cannot be disappointed if you didn't really expect to get anything in the first place), but it simply does not glorify God.
  • If we pray for somebody to be healed, but doubt that God wants to heal that person, we are actually saying that we have more compassion for that person than God, but that is impossible. That makes me think that God wants to heal me more than I want to be healed myself!
  • If we expect to be healed because of some kind of merit from our side, we are doomed. God is our Father, and as such we do not have to and we cannot do anything to earn His favor. He heals us because He loves us.
  • I want to be healed so that my life glorifies God. It's a sad, man-made theology that says God would be glorified when we accept sickness because He wants to teach us something or build character in us. Jesus never told that to ANYBODY who came to Him for healing!
  • Rather than shaking or being bedridden or being dependent on medicine, I am convinced it glorifies God much more when I am hiking through the mountains, enjoying His creation while snorkeling off the coast of the Cayman Islands, riding a bicycle to a waterfall around Chiang Rai, or playing football, being fully alive FOR Him, IN Him and together WITH Him.
  • I do not want to be healed merely so that I can SERVE God better, but to ENJOY Him more (even though it will certainly be much more fun to preach, teach, drive busses, clean stuff or do whatever, rather than being miserable, unable to do anything. Jesus did not die on the cross because the Father needed servants… He wanted CHILDREN J
  • God wants us to pray for His will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. There is no sickness in heaven, thus to "seek His Kingdom" here on earth entails for people to be healthy and whole.
  • 2. Timothy 3:12 says that everybody who wants to lead a godly life will suffer PERSECUTION, not sickness.
  • I do not want to accuse God ("You don't want to heal me") and neither do I want to blame myself ("I deserve to be sick") but I am guilty of self-pity, believing that I have to convince God of how miserable my situation is – as if He had not noticed.
  • Healing was God's idea, not ours.
  • Mt 6:33 ("Seek first His Kingdom"): We should never make our needs the primary focus of our prayers, even though it is absolutely legitimate to pray for our "daily bread" – instead, we should always be praying for what is on HIS heart.
  • "Answers to prayer reveal God" – we need to pray for more than one thing at any given time, not to focus on just one issue. The breakthrough in one area will give us the hope and perseverance to see breakthroughs in other areas.
  • Some things God does not give to soldiers / fighters, but only to sons and daughters. This point seems to be the easiest one, but often turns out to be the hardest, because we grow up being taught that we only get what we deserve…
  • Just in case you were wondering: No, I am not a parrot. God created me to be a son, made in His image, not a parrot who just says what we think He wants to hear…


Friday, February 10, 2017

God's sovereignty in natural disasters, accidents and terrorist attacks - A short study


Tsunami warning sign in Phang Nga, Thailand

Tsunamis, floods, storms, earthquakes... do those kind of disasters just happen? Are they God's judgments? 
A common answer from Christians is that God certainly did not cause these disasters, but that he is grieved by the destruction they cause, the lives that were taken, etc. I want to suggest 6 reasons why this kind of thinking stands on very shaky ground, and does not align with what the Bible reveals about God's character. 
The ultimate question is whether anything seemingly bad can be caused by God. He might have reasons that we don't understand, but I don't think that "God allows disasters, but didn't want them to happen" is a very smart answer. Indeed, it's an unbiblical answer. 


If God is not causing (for whatever reason) natural disasters like tsunamis, floods, fires, earthquakes, etc., what would be his role? Just by common sense and, yes, logic, I see 6 options: 

a) He is not able to prevent them from happening (which would mean he is not all-powerful (but all Christians hold that he is all-powerful)

b) He is not willing to prevent them from happening (and thus protect the innocent and the children); a person who was able to prevent a disaster/crime/accident, but didn't do anything can be held responsible (at least in a German court)! 

c) He didn't see them coming/was surprised by them; that would mean he is not all-knowing (but of course all believers hold that God is all-knowing)

d) He knew it would happen, but didn't warn at least his people, so they could evacuate the innocent & children 

e) He simply doesn't care what's happening (but every true believer knows that God is interested even in the smallest detail of our lives - even the hair on our head is numbered…)

f) God is not in control - either Satan or men is, and God has to allow things that he doesn’t want to happen (this seems to be the politically correct answer in modern day evangelicalism, but it does not stand a Biblical test, neither does it solve the above mentioned concerns) 

g) ________________________________(please let me know if you have another thought) 

Any of the above mentioned options make God look to me like a toothless grandpa who would love to see everything being peace, joy and pancakes, but can’t quite muster the strength to really do anything of significance, and who retreats therefore to crying and weeping. The Bible, however, speaks of an all-powerful God, before, during and after the cross, who does whatever he wants and whom nobody can resist…

Job said that he would worship/trust/hope in God "though he slay me" (Job 13:15). And in Job 2:10 Job says ""Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?" In all this, Job did not sin in what he said.""

Isaiah 45:7 "I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the LORD, do all these things." 

Psalm 105:7 “He is the LORD our God; his judgments are in all the earth.”

Revelation 16:7 "Yes, Lord God Almighty, true and just are your judgments."

Saying all that does not mean that every natural disaster is God's judgment. Thailand frequently sees major mudslides destroying villages, and most of them indeed can be blamed on forest encroachment and following erosion. In some cases we can therefore speak of man-made disasters. But a tsunami that kills hundreds of thousands of people is definitely not man-made. The options are thus that natural disasters are either caused by God himself, or that he at least allows Satan or “nature” to cause them, for whatever reason. In the Old as well as in the New Testament are many examples of natural disasters being directly caused by God. Many times children were killed together with their parents, who had sinned (e.g. Numbers 16).

Now some point out that Korah’s rebellion, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah and the flood were before the cross, and that now nobody has to be afraid of being judged by God, because all punishment was laid upon Jesus on the cross. That is a very good argument, but even after the cross we read about God pouring out his wrath, especially in the book of Revelation. Only in Jesus are we saved from God’s judgment. Those who do not believe in Jesus remain under God’s wrath, in spite of the cross (John 3:36)! But just as God was able to safe whomever he wanted through the flood in Noah’s days, or from the plagues in Egypt, God is able to protect whomever he wants from natural disasters, accidents and terrorist attacks in our time. Therefore, I am not afraid that I will die in a freak accident, unless it’s by God’s appointment. He will fulfill his purpose for me (Psalm 138:8), and no devil and no earthquake will be able to remove me from this planet before God’s purposes have been fulfilled in my life. That’s my strong conviction and confidence!

God is able to safe! But if he chooses not do that, he will have reasons. And I tend to think that God is not merely interested in displaying his awesome power, making man realize how powerless he is, in spite of internet, bank accounts, nuclear bombs and international space stations. God might sometimes really use disasters as judgment and as call for repentance. And then it’s even more tragic when man does not respond by humbling himself and repent! I would say that the USA completely missed the boat in the aftermath of 9/11. While there are many great, god-fearing people in America, who really love God with all their hearts, the overwhelming majority of Americans pay nothing but lip-service to God or even openly oppose godliness on every level. Now the very symbols of the things that most Americans (and other Westerners) really trust in were attacked on 9/11: The World Trade Center was the symbol for economy (banking, trading, insurance, money) and the Pentagon obviously is the symbol for military might. A godly response would have been one of humility and repentance, but America responded in pride, and put even more trust in the economy and in the military. This led to two disastrous military campaigns (Iraq and Afghanistan) and the global financial crisis in 2008.

So, if you think that God never judges anything in our days, you better think twice… you might ignore the very thing that God is using to shake up people’s consciences, and you might just put a band-aid on wounds that will lead to certain death and eternal separation from God if not treated rightly!

For further reading I recommend John Piper’s book “Suffering and the Sovereignty of God”, which you can download for free at http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/onlinebooks/bytitle/2439_Suffering_and_the_Sovereignty_of_God/

* Before about 200.000 people were killed by the tsunami in 2004 in Banda-Aceh (Indonesia) there were no churches in the region; now there are 26… so in some ways the tsunami opened the doors not only for emergency relief teams, but also for the gospel! 



Marks of a disciple

The following is a (non-exhaustive) list of attributes that mark a disciple of Jesus Christ.

A disciple...
  • follows Jesus
  • wants to be discipled (!)
  • is faithful
  • loves people
  • is not only interested in him-/herself
  • cares for others
  • is concerned about other people’s salvation
    (if you are not concerned about this, you are most likely not saved yourself!)
  • is interested in world-evangelization
  • is a giver, not just a taker
  • is obedient
  • knows he/she is forgiven
  • has assurance of salvation
  • is marked with the blood of the lamb
  • is a sheep
  • is chosen (not just called)
  • loves Jesus
  • knows God
  • honors and treasures the Scriptures
  • disciples others