casting the demon out

“When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it wanders through waterless regions looking for a resting place, but it finds none. Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ When it comes, it finds it empty, swept, and put in order. Then it goes and brings along seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and live there; and the last state of that person is worse than the first. So will it be also with this evil generation.”

Matthew 12:43-45; NRSVue

Sometimes I think, and it’s beginning to feel settled to me, that often a demon so to speak inhabits institutions, and yes, even families. When one thinks about it, there’s really no family nor institution that is perfect. It might be “picture perfect” in reputation or even in its own imagination. But there’s a brokenness in everything as certain as the cracks that show up on the walls or ceilings of any house.

When I refer to institutions, I’m not leaving out churches. Christ’s presence is what makes up a church, where two or three are gathered in his name. But as we see in the seven letters to the church in the Revelation and elsewhere, the devil can get into the details, into the works. And families, the same. Some are very broken, and some seem to get along remarkably well. But no family is any more perfect than any individual.

But while there’s a sense that there may be some truth in this for any institution or family, I’m thinking of special situations such as we find ourselves in today. There is so much anger, division, and there appears to be little if any hope that anything will change perhaps before catastrophe or the worst part hits, hopefully with some cushion and limited fallout. And hopefully as well, to give the needed realization that change is needed.

If we’re concerned about such a situation, chances are it’s close to us, or we’re somehow involved in it. Like Daniel of old, who from all appearances even in Scripture was blameless and upright, we too need to pray to God, confessing our sin, our part in the problem, be it in family, or any institution. We most definitely need to be open for the Lord’s insight and correction in our own lives, before we can imagine God’s breakthrough in the lives of others.

As we do that, then maybe God will give us the understanding and sense needed to become part of or fit into the solution. And as Jesus said, some do not come out except by prayer and some manuscripts add, fasting.

There’s always hope, even if it doesn’t come easy. In and through Jesus.

a story of the Lord’s power over the demonic

They sailed to the region of the Gerasenes, which is across the lake from Galilee. When Jesus stepped ashore, he was met by a demon-possessed man from the town. For a long time this man had not worn clothes or lived in a house, but had lived in the tombs. When he saw Jesus, he cried out and fell at his feet, shouting at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, don’t torture me!” For Jesus had commanded the impure spirit to come out of the man. Many times it had seized him, and though he was chained hand and foot and kept under guard, he had broken his chains and had been driven by the demon into solitary places.

Jesus asked him, “What is your name?”

“Legion,” he replied, because many demons had gone into him. And they begged Jesus repeatedly not to order them to go into the Abyss.

A large herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside. The demons begged Jesus to let them go into the pigs, and he gave them permission. When the demons came out of the man, they went into the pigs, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned.

When those tending the pigs saw what had happened, they ran off and reported this in the town and countryside, and the people went out to see what had happened. When they came to Jesus, they found the man from whom the demons had gone out, sitting at Jesus’ feet, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid. Those who had seen it told the people how the demon-possessed man had been cured. Then all the people of the region of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them, because they were overcome with fear. So he got into the boat and left.

The man from whom the demons had gone out begged to go with him, but Jesus sent him away, saying, “Return home and tell how much God has done for you.” So the man went away and told all over town how much Jesus had done for him.

Luke 8:26-39

This may seem an odd story, especially in our western rationalistic world today, but it’s really quite a beautiful one if one walks slowly and thoughtfully through it. Jesus deals with a profound brokenness of humanity when seized by the demonic realm. Ordinarily Satan works undercover, especially here in the west, where the idea of demons is largely dismissed, yes even true in some Christian circles. Of course in parts of the southern hemisphere the people know only too well the reality of such.

The story goes to show how those demonized can lose control and essentially their humanity. In the story Jesus casts the demon out, which turns out to be a host of demons, and the man who had been uncontrollable either by himself or others was now normal so that at last he could be himself.

The people who lived in the area were overcome with fear given the change and all that had happened. Really it was both a rational and irrational fear. Change and disruption: the large herd of pigs was gone. But good which would go on: the man who had been possessed by the demons would tell the story of how Jesus delivered him.

God never forces his way on us. When asked to, Jesus departed. But the Lord wants to help us, indeed deliver and save us. We should never act on fear. Instead of letting our faith be overcome by fear, we need to let our fear be overcome with faith. That can take time, but we need to settle in and wait because by faith it will come.

A great story. Telling us something of the salvation that has come in and through Jesus.

satanic opposition

We don’t do well to downplay or write off the reality and danger of the satan. Actually, those of us in Christ particularly, won’t go very long until we experience something of it, a force and spirit, indeed personality (although steeped in an evil which nearly cancels, denigrates or changes that personhood), at work in the world in subtle and not so subtle ways.

This spirit in scripture is called Satan, that old serpent (of the garden in Genesis) the devil. Satan means adversary or opposer, while the devil seems related to slanderer. The devil is hell bent on the destruction of humankind, those made in God’s image, even standing in opposition against God. Of course the devil is only a creature and no match whatsoever for God, indeed owing his very existence to God.

It seems from scripture that the devil may well have been created as an angel, who somehow became enamored with itself, and lured other angels (perhaps one-third of them) to join it in its rebellion against God. Those angels would comprise the demons which are active and often cast out of humans by Jesus and his followers in the New Testament.

The whole world lies in the power of the evil one, that is, the devil. For the most part, this is a rather friendly alliance, even while the intent on the devil’s part is nothing less than malicious. The world, the flesh, and the devil has been called “the unholy trinity,” and does seem clearly from scripture and in experience, in league with each other. Getting on in life in the way and ways of the world is part and parcel of the devil’s ploy. We remember the devil showing Jesus all the kingdoms of this world and their glory, and offering them to Jesus if the devil would receive Jesus’ worship. Of course Jesus rebuked it with the words, “It is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only, shall you serve.'” The world appeals to the flesh, the sinfulness and weakness of fallen humanity. In fact the world and the flesh go hand in glove with the devil fueling the fire. Some of the time the result is indeed ugly and spirits are evident, especially in societies which believe in their existence. But by and large where we live, in the west, they are well hidden, indeed part of the fabric of society, and what problems might surface because of them is chalked up to naturalist explanations, such as mental illness, or social ills, etc. Such matters are indeed important, and deserve careful consideration on their own part. But the spirit at work in the world needs to be unmasked and indeed cast out. That is done only in and through Christ.

Ephesians 6 mentions “the evil day,” which may refer in some respects at least to this present era. But in context, it may refer to especially troubling days and times. While we in Jesus need to be strong in the Lord, putting on the armor of God, we do so, so that when the evil day comes we may be able to stand our ground, and having done everything, to stand. Of course that is not easy, and no fun, in fact quite uncomfortable at times. We may seem weak, but we stand with the strength and armor that is ours- in Christ. When I experience those days (thankfully, as a rule, not that often, although maybe in some respects we face something of this every day), I am rather amazed at all the other days, or that there is not more of this. Only God’s grace and power in Jesus protects us from that, I would think. I remember Paul’s words, “The Lord will deliver me from every evil attack, and bring me safely into his eternal kingdom.”

Satanic opposition is not merely something about us, about “me.” But we must get a handle on it, and learn to cope with it, and more than that, to learn how we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. Of course in a spiritual warfare, not physical. This is not only about us, but about the world God so loved and sent his Son to redeem. Our world and the world at large, both with reference to people and systems. God’s kingdom come in Jesus factors into everything, even while its base is from God’s people in Jesus, the church. Not to say that God isn’t at work in the world in all kinds of ways beyond that. But to say that in some mysterious sense, through the church, God’s manifold wisdom is being made known to the rulers and authorities of this world. And it’s through Christ, his death and resurrection. We proclaim that and live that out in this life. Only “in Christ”(King Jesus) and all that means do we both triumph and bring light into the darkness, goodness into what at its core not good.

This satanic opposition is ongoing, but our victory in Christ is ongoing, as well. By the Spirit in the way of the cross, the way of death and resurrection.

Jordan Seng on supernatural ministry for today? yes, but…*

One final thing that supernatural ministry may require of you is what you might call the faith to discover—or to rediscover, as the case may be.

I’m often asked this sort of question: if supernatural ministries are so useful and have been as prevalent as many claim, then why don’t all churches and traditions use them today? It’s a good question that actually reflects a profound historical reality. The truth is, while supernatural ministries have been both common and enormously fruitful in church history, they’ve never been what you would call steady. Over the centuries we see great renewals of supernatural ministry followed by long droughts of disuse. It’s up and down, here then there, a consistent inconsistency. You can focus on regional revivals and conclude that supernatural ministries have been constant, but you could just as well focus on down times and conclude that supernatural ministries ended with the first apostles. Really, it’s the variation that needs explaining. Why do supernatural ministries surge so often only to dwindle so frequently?

Since supernatural ministries have never been entirely absent, it’s hard to argue that God decided to stop empowering them, so the cause for variation must lie with us. My theory is this: groups of believers frequently figure out how to do supernatural ministry, but they have a hard time figuring out how to live with the ministry. Revivals come with great exhilaration and fruitfulness; downturns come when people tire of the level of weirdness, vulnerability and sacrifice that supernatural ministry demands.

One result of this variation is that very few believers have had the benefit of what you could really call a tradition in supernatural ministries, so each new generation has to do the work of rediscovering the ministries for themselves.

It’s always been this way. For example, the use of supernatural ministry by first-century believers is well-chronicled in Scripture and elsewhere, but by the late second century the church father Irenaeus in his Against Heresies actually had to reassure his readers that supernatural works were still practiced fruitfully in his jurisdiction. “For some do certainly and truly drive out devils,” he wrote. “Others have foreknowledge of things to come: they see visions, and utter prophetic expressions. Others still, heal the sick by laying their hands upon them, and they are made whole. Yea, moreover, as I have said, the dead even have been raised up, and remained among us for many years.”

In the next century the seminal theologian Origen wrote from Alexandria of “traces of that Holy Spirit” among Christians who “expel evil spirits and perform many cures, and foresee certain events,” but it was only “traces.” A century later, in the same city, Bishop Athanasius extensively documented the miracles of his Egyptian contemporary, Anthony of the Desert, but his whole project was based on the notion that only exceptional monks were doing such ministry.

The great Augustine of Hippo totally dismissed the possibility of supernatural ministries initially, but then he encountered them during a fifth-century revival in his native North Africa. In the last section of The City of God he offers gushing accounts of healings, concluding “even now miracles are wrought in the name of Christ.” He reportedly collected accounts of recent miracles for pastors to read aloud in the churches he supervised in order to rekindle the ministries.

We have rather detailed accounts of the use of supernatural ministries by Patrick, Columba and other monk evangelists of the western European outreach. In a wonderfully personal letter to Augustine of Canterbury in A.D. 601, Gregory, bishop of Rome, acknowledged the use of miracles to attract English natives to Christ, and even offered advice for handling the pressures of being a supernatural minister. But by the later middle centuries, as central church leaders focused on governance rather than outreach, supernatural ministries seem to have survived only on the fringes.

Early Reformation leaders strenuously dismissed miracle stories as a ploy by Catholics to legitimate their dominance, but it didn’t take long for Protestant pioneers to rediscover the usefulness of supernatural tools. Scottish Reformers John Knox, Alexander Peden and George Wishart had highly regarded prophetic ministries in their day. (Wishart even predicted his own murder.) John Welch, a leading Reformer at the turn of the seventeenth century, was recognized as a man of “prophetic utterance” and was credited with raising a man from the dead. Seventeenth-century biographers of reform clergyman Robert Bruce systematically collected eyewitness accounts of the many healings, deliverances and other supernatural manifestations linked with his evangelistic meetings.

And yet less than a century later, the great British revivalist John Wesley was shocked to find “that signs and wonders are even now wrought by his holy child Jesus.” His revered journals are spiced  with accounts of deliverances and healings , and also of the opposition he experienced from “formal, orthodox men [who] began even then to ridicule whatever gifts they had not themselves and to decry them all as either madness or imposture.” Wesley’s New England contemporary, Jonathan Edwards, often called the dean of American theology, wrote some of his most ardent essays to fend off Christian critics who didn’t trust the supernatural manifestations that characterized his revival ministry. Even her wife was called to defend what was called her “joyful view of divine things.”

Francis Asbury, the first American Methodist bishop, was so passionate about supernatural ministry that he used to command his preaching protégés to “Feel for power, feel for power!” Two Methodists and a Presbyterian touched off the Cane Ridge Revival on the American frontier in the early 1800s—a movement that  popularized the phrase “slain in the Spirit.” But today few Methodists or Presbyterians are aware of this movement, and neither of those denominations is known for practicing supernatural ministry.

Supernatural ministries played a big role in the establishment of the early church, the birth of monasticism, the expansion of the faith to Western Europe, the spread of the Reformation, the great revivals of the Atlantic and American frontier evangelism. And yet in each instance, practitioners had to discover it anew for themselves.

So, what does this pattern of atrophy and rediscovery mean for you?

Well, it mean that while you may or may not have had some supernatural experiences with the Lord, you probably haven’t benefited from a lot of examples of living with supernatural ministries. If you’re at a church that practices supernatural ministry, the church is probably relatively new to it. And even if you church does have a strong supernatural tradition, chances are the congregation has experienced some dramatic waxing and waning in the effectiveness of its supernatural ministries. In all, if you’re interested in supernatural ministries, it’s likely that you’re in a place of rediscovery or renewal, and that requires a certain sort of faith.

There’s a style of Christian discipleship that is conservative, in the literal sense of the word: its emphasis is on preservation, affirming what’s proven and familiar. There’s another sort of discipleship that presumes new things and experiences—not liberal, in the sense of giving license to violate the old or established, but progressive, in the sense of Jesus’ teaching on “new wineskins” for “new wine.” To embrace all the works of the kingdom, we have to be willing to expand our containers of knowledge and experience. To pursue supernatural ministry, we need the faith for this progressive sort of discipleship. We have to be willing to try things, to reach for things we’ve only heard of, to explore and discover, to act without being totally sure how to act. Supernatural ministry entails adventure.

Jordan Seng, Miracle Work: A Down-to-Earth Guide to Supernatural Ministries, 25-29.

*Could have been entitled, “renewal of a supernatural people,” in keeping with the titles of the chapter and section quoted, but that raises questions which are not answered well by what is quoted here, though in my view are indeed answered well in the book as a whole.

being open to the Holy Spirit

Most all of my Christian life I have more than dutifully listened to the Bible being read (on cassette, and now on CD’s). Except for one period of time. For a few years we went to a Vineyard church. I had a personal crisis and we up and left the church we were part of. I had been dissatisfied with my Christian life to some extent, and had considered considering Roman Catholicism at one point. I had believed in all the gifts or manifestations (as I might want to emphasize now) of the Spirit through the writing of Gordon Fee. Now we were in a church in which a number of the gifts cited in scripture, particularly in 1 Corinthians, likely would be “in play.” And over time we found out that was the case. Probably not as intense as in some Vineyard and charismatic or Pentecostal churches. But just as surely present.

Back to the Bible point, for the first time and I think the only time in my decades of being a Christian, I quit listening to scripture for a time, was using a different version than the NIV, the new NLT, and was simply trying to be open to the Spirit and get into worship. The worship, while one dimensional in the sense that it was one kind of music, was excellent in quality of music, but more importantly, it was about worship. For people to be lying on their faces, at times dancing, all of us moving with hands in the air, was the norm. God’s presence in conviction and sweetness was often palpable for me. I believe the Lord helped me emotionally during that time, and to know more (even though still not enough) of the presence, power and person of the Holy Spirit. I entered a bit into some of the manifestations of the Spirit.

I was there a few years, and though I was impacted on the “charismatic” side, I felt like I wasn’t being used, wasn’t really needed there, I felt like somehow I didn’t entirely fit in. And eventually we left for the church we are members of now. I came to miss the charismatic side, but I also thought that sometimes people on that side don’t have their feet sufficiently on the ground. Probably unfair and that Vineyard church had an unusual amount of artists and creative people, which means they will seem off the beaten path, oftentimes more than not. I believe the church we are at is open in theory and a little in practice to that side, the charismatic side.

I do think that an emphasis on the Holy Spirit is much bigger than the distinctions of the Pentecostal and charismatic movements. At the same time, I think a significant chunk of the manifestation of the Spirit is missed when we aren’t that open to works like prophecy, tongues, healing- laying hands on others and healing the sick in Jesus’ name, discerning spirits, both in regard to utterances, and perhaps with reference to those who may be demonized, either possessed to some degree or another, or troubled by a demonic spirit, etc.

And I think we need to be open to whatever the Spirit might do, including the phenomena of being slain by the Spirit. If this would happen in a church, I suppose it might come to be known as a full blown charismatic (or Pentecostal) kind of church, though I don’t think that necessarily follows. A problem has been the questionable interpretations and practice in regard to these gifts and the manifestation and power of the Spirit. There are “ministries” I would want no part of, engaged in this kind of thing (at least in appearance, and I don’t doubt there might be some power present, even from the Lord). But who are not well grounded in scripture, and are questionable in some way or another (or in a number of ways). In some ways I would just as soon go on and know church as I always have, but scripture indicates there is more in the sense of variety as well as degree, I suppose.

All of this simply to say, we need to be open to the Holy Spirit, to the ministry of the Spirit. The Spirit will emphasize Christ, that Jesus is Lord. And will empower us as witnesses about Jesus to the world. And he will move in power, if we are open to that, indeed if we pursue it.

Much more to say, and this opens me up to much misunderstanding. But I must end this post here. We by the Spirit are together in Jesus in this for the world.

the failure of Christianity

In a certain sense, and indeed even in a primary sense, Christianity can’t be a failure because Christ is at the heart of it, by the Spirit. And yet as an institution, Christianity has failed again and again. As Christendom it failed in its unholy alliance to nation-states. Christianity continues to fail insofar as it gets away from God’s calling to it in scripture. Should the church speak out with reference to what is going on in the world? Yes, I think so. But above all we have to live out the mission Christ has called us to of making disciples of all nations.

A certain school of atheists nowadays make much of these kind of things, and indeed some of them are breathtakingly bad. Evil, yes evil is the right word. Of course not all those who name the name of Christ belong to him. And not all who are followers of the Lamb really follow him in all of life, or entirely in his way of  life. I don’t want to gloss over the failures of Christianity, which are many. Both inside and out. And yet something powerful is at work, even in spite of those failures, yes, even in spite of ourselves, not to excuse ourselves for a moment. We need to repent and change where that’s needed.

That something at work is God in Christ having reconciled the world to himself, not counting people’s sins against them, as God offers to the world through the church, this message of reconciliation. Jesus declaring that God’s kingdom is present in him, God’s grace in Jesus offered to all, as we await the coming of the kingdom in its fullness and completion when heaven and earth become one in Jesus. God powerfully present in Jesus by the Spirit so that we can proclaim the good news of God’s kingdom and grace in Jesus, heal the sick, cast out demons, prophesy, and even raise the dead.*

Above all, we are to be in the process of being conformed into the image of Christ as individuals and as a body, a community. There is only one answer to the world, to the plight of the world, to all the wars and fighting in the world. Only one real answer, period. It’s not western liberalism, not western liberal democracy, not a conservatism which points to the past, though there is good in all of these things. No, the answer for the world lies only in Christ, in God’s kingdom and grace come in him. The answer comes through the church, but that answer must always be well grounded in God’s revelation in Christ, and in nothing less than that. For Christ followers it must be the way of the cross, the way of death and resurrection, the way of love, even to all of our enemies, the way of forgiveness and reconciliation. As we look forward to the day when Jesus will come and bring in the justice in mercy which is to begin in and with us here and now.  Together in Jesus in this for the world.

*Of course God doesn’t always heal, though I agree with Jordan Seng that we should assume that God wants to heal as a default position. And demons are real, though we in the west have managed to hide them quite well. The gospel, God’s power for salvation, can drive them out, but sometimes we have to take the matter in hand with the bratty, stubborn spirits.** God does want to speak to us directly and through others in various ways. And to raise the dead. Well, that’s one I can’t at all wrap my imagination around, except to say that this has happened in cultures in which spiritual power is more prevalent in the sense of being more evident and open. Miracles are a part of scripture. The fruit of the Spirit, in a certain sense does indeed trump the gifts of the Spirit, but it shouldn’t be an either/or proposition, but rather, and/both.

**I write that second hand from, I trust, a good source

our struggle (and a bit on rest)

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.

Whether we like it or not- oftentimes I don’t mind it that much, but sometimes it seems too much- we in Jesus are in a struggle. It is not as if two equal powers are pitted against each other. Although Satan and his kingdom has been taken care of at the cross through Christ’s death, they are still active on an earth which awaits the redemption in Jesus yet to come. Which means we in Jesus have to take authority over Satan, over the satanic hosts, the demons. In Jesus and by the power of the Spirit, they are no match for us at all. Just the same, somehow they directly resist us, as well as cause suffering and brokenness to humanity.

Paul likens this to a battle in which we need to be strong in the Lord, in the power of his might. As well as putting on the armor he provides for us. And with all prayer.

In some translations it is a fight, I like the old KJV rendering of wrestling.

There is no doubt that the rest God provides in Christ is important to us, indeed essential. We need to learn to live in that rest. But we need to learn to accept the struggle as well, the battle we are in. To fight or struggle within the rest God gives us in Jesus. To carry on the struggle, even when it seems we are not experiencing that rest. It would seem that learning to do what Paul tells us in Ephesians 6 would contribute to us being able to live in the power of God and take authority over the demonic (see the entire book of Ephesians as well as the rest of the New Testament, particularly the gospels and Acts) within that rest. The struggle is not for our own spiritual lives. And yet it can seem that way sometimes only in the sense that we can feel like we’re barely hanging on. Not in the sense that our very faith is being undermined and is at stake. Though part of living in Jesus is keeping the faith, and in this instance taking the shield of faith to protect us against the fiery arrows of the evil one, as we put on the rest of the armor.

And so we go on in this life. Wanting to do so in the power of the Spirit, in the authority of Christ, standing firm in him together for the world.

“I have a dream.”

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., fifty years ago today, gave a speech which has rightly been eulogized and remembered for all time. It was a great speech especially for that day, and as such remains a great speech for all time. The push behind that speech goes on to this day, although much has been gained since that time with regard to the crux of the issue then: civil rights in America for Black people.

A society free of racism continues to be a good goal to pursue in the public sector, one that ought to be lived out Sunday after Sunday in our churches, and in our daily lives as followers of Jesus. Today the push for civil rights includes gays and the LGBT community. Many either want or are open to gay marriage, at least accepting it. And of course there are many causes being pushed, some good, some not so good, and some probably indifferent to many of us.

Do we have a dream? As followers of Christ is that legitimate? I think of dream here as a vision of what is good, what we would like to see, even what we hope to see in this world. Such a vision will depend on one’s theology to a large extent. And I include those who hardly know the definition of “theology.” Theology I am thinking of in terms of what one thinks is possible as well as good in this life. Something to which individuals, communities and society at large ought to aspire. The aspiration for the world at large will vary, again depending on one’s view of what is possible as well as good in such.

For me I simply see the fulfillment of God’s kingdom, come in Jesus, in the church, and out from the church into the world, as central to any dream I would have. This includes an emphasis on the gospel of King Jesus in terms of redemption from evils, wrongs, sins done. And reconciliation through that gospel across the board. And that is in terms of the offer of the good news of King Jesus to all, to the world. On the basis of Jesus’ cross- of his death, walls of separation, even hate can and will come down, as people both accept that cross objectively, as the focal point and mover and shaker for change, and subjectively as the way in which life is lived as followers of Jesus. Such a change is to come from the heart in relationship to God in Jesus by the Spirit. It cannot strictly speaking be legislated. And yet such an example from followers of Jesus, from the church shows a standard that perhaps is new to many of what humanity ought to look like, yes, even in this tragic, sinful world.

The other part of the dream I would have would be in terms both of the fruit as well as gifts of the Spirit. We need the Holy Spirit. We don’t just need right thinking or right theology. We need the experience no less than God’s love being poured out in our hearts by the Spirit whom God gives to all who believe in Jesus. We need the experience of the power and presence of God by the Holy Spirit. Yes, we need the faith to heal people, to cast out demons, to prophesy, to live in the movement of the Spirit in ways in which by and large most of us are not accustomed to. We need openness, but more than that we need to put this faith into practice. To grow in it.

I am of the persuasion according to my theological understanding that response and change within the world at large to God’s kingdom come in Jesus will be mixed. We can expect some persecution. Yet we can also hope for some good, some change. Only when Jesus returns will justice really prevail. The church should be an expression of God’s will for the earth. And that expression is not only localized, to itself, but missional. Although the expression as an example in itself, is missional.

And so I have a dream. God can give each of us dreams, perhaps on a smaller scale to contribute to the whole. God’s good will for the earth. We are in that good will together in and through Jesus for the world.

miracles (are they for today?)

I am one of those people who often will go in to “where angels fear to tread,” largely in ignorance. I say that only because on any subject one thinks on, there is usually so much reading that needs to be done. And at best I read only a few, or maybe even one or two good books on a subject, usually ones steeped in exegesis of scripture, my preference. And I’ve been in the word for years and years now, not as good as I should have been, but at least in it as a rule day in and day out. We were members of a Vineyard church at one time.

I have a friend who has testified and have read of others who have testified to amazing healings. I mean life saving ones, true in my friend’s case; he was near death’s door over a deteriorating chronic condition. But God healed him in sync with a prophecy that had been spoken over him I think years earlier. An amazing story, but not at all unique. Here is my friend, Mike’s words:

After dealing with illness for fifteen years that left me in a wheelchair, God has healed me.  I’m running, jumping, dancing. working out. . . My hope was not my shame – he has turned sorrow and depression into joy.  My God heals!  I praise God for what he has done and I am thankful to all who faithfully prayed for restoration.  Quote my doctor: “I’m glad He healed you ’cause I certainly wasn’t going to.”

I wish I could share Mike’s sermon he gave at Southside Vineyard. One of the most powerful messages I’ve heard, probably the most powerful on this subject. His body had been shutting down, but in answer to prayers the Lord raised him up.

The Lord wants to do so much more in this way, I’m convinced. What spurred  and rekindled me on this subject is this post Scot McKnight shared yesterday, and this video. And “leafing through” at least most of the pages of this book (published by Intervarsity Press) Amazon shared. On top of that someone who I respect much (he’s an Anglican, professor and scholar) lent me a couple of books recently right along this line. And I see devastation around me, chains which need to be broken, people which need to be set free (if they are willing). And this includes the demonic as well. Yes, the powers cited in scripture are not human or even simply world systems, but beings behind that, even if they have lost much of their personhood.

In my culture and orientation do I like this? Does this make me feel comfortable? Would I choose to go this way? No. Because of the weird and sad stuff which sometimes masquerades in its name. But like Jordan Seng, the author of the book says, God’s works are often messy in that the divine is colliding and disrupting the human, even as we see in the gospels. This work by the way is meant for all who are followers of Jesus, not to simply this or that “healer.”

I would challenge any reader to read through the pages of the book cited which Amazon shares, and listen to the short video. In the meantime, I will stay in the word and prayer, hopefully, trusting that the Lord will lead us his people so that we can carry on his ministry and work together in this world, to heal the sick and set the captives free in and through Jesus.