Cast out demons and cure disease (or, what it means to be the Church)

We are the tabernacle of God.

The Bible tells me that when I take Christ into my life, I have the same resources available to me that the Israelites had and the Acts community had. Like them, I have the power of God. I don’t do this on my own steam. When I am filled with the Holy Spirit I receive power (Acts 1:8) —  the same power the Israelites had who fought with enemies twice their size and won, who found food enough to feed hundreds of thousands of people, who received miracle after miracle of God’s provision.

I have those same resources.

We who follow Jesus have the same resources as the followers of Jesus in Luke and Acts, who healed sick people and cured diseases and cast out demons and preached good news to the poor.

So why don’t we act like it? Why don’t I?

When the disciples came back from their first mission trip — having been sent out by Jesus to cure disease, cast out demons and proclaim the Kingdom — they complained to Jesus about a guy they’d seen who was also casting out demons. They wanted Jesus to tell this guy to stop; after all, he wasn’t one of them. You can feel the sense of competition in their comments. They also complained about some religious leaders and had the audacity to suggest that Jesus rain fire down on a few heads.

That’s when Jesus decided maybe it was time to recast the vision.

We find it in a line that isn’t actually there. Or at least it isn’t part of the earliest manuscripts. Somewhere along the way, some scribe felt the need to add a line between Luke 9:55 and Luke 9:56. Scholars give it about an average chance of being an actual word from Jesus and since it doesn’t show up in the earliest manuscripts, you won’t find it in most Bibles, but if your Bible has study notes, they probably mention this line.

As I said, it comes at a point in the story when the disciples are being sort of arrogant about the people who are not in their circle. Most Bibles say, “Jesus turned and rebuked them. Then he and his disciples went to another village.”

That’s the official version.

But some manuscripts insert another sentence so that the passage reads, “But Jesus turned and rebuked them and he said, ‘You do not know what kind of spirit you are of; for the Son of Man came not to destroy people’s lives but to save them.’ Then he and his disciples went to another village.”

What a powerful commentary! Even if Jesus didn’t say it here, he said it often, that we don’t follow Jesus not because we don’t know who to follow but because we don’t know who we are. As believers, we do not know what we’re made of. We’ve bought some lie that the spirit of Jesus is a spirit of rules and condemnation and guilt, so maybe that’s why we don’t embrace the Spirit. But it turns out — and this is good news! — the Son of Man did not come to destroy people’s lives but to save them.

This is great news! The spirit of Jesus is a spirit of redemption!

This means that if you have received that glorious release from shame and guilt, then it becomes yours to give to the next person. You have that spirit. If you’ve been healed, then you are healed to become a healer. If you’ve been set free by knowing the truth, then you are free to share it. If that place inside of you that’s been dead for years is being brought to life again or if that relationship that was left for dead is being restored then you have received this as a gift. And the Word says, what we have freely received, we freely give.

We don’t even have a clue what kind of spirit we have, what kind of power we have to go out and change the culture, change the community, change people, change the world — to give what we’ve been given so that by the authority of Christ and under the power of the Holy Spirit the very spirit of Christ overflows from us.

We have forgotten that this good news is not ours.

This is ours to share.

 

(The image used at the head of this blog is the artwork of He Qi)

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Words in Your Toaster

Some years ago, we had a toaster tragedy in our home. Our toaster sits on our kitchen counter by the refrigerator. As in lots of homes, the top of our refrigerator is like a mini attic, a place to put little things we’ll probably never use again but can’t bring ourselves to toss. For the longest time, one of the things on top of our fridge was a little boxful of magnetic words, the kind you stick on your fridge to string together fun sentences and thinly veiled comments about family members.

I guess it was an accident waiting to happen. Steve went to get something from the cabinet above the fridge one morning and down came the whole box of little magnetic words, right into the toaster below.

The metal toaster.

Do you know how hard it is to get little magnets out of metal toasters? We shook and shook. A few words fell out, but others lodged more deeply inside. I shook out words like drive and guilt and grace and manipulate and gorgeous. I noticed as I kept shaking words out that some of them would wedge up in corners where I could no longer see or get to them.

At the end of all my shaking, I could still see one word in plain view that simply wouldn’t shake loose. The word was “dust.” Until that word comes out, the whole thing is useless. Fire it up and that one little word could start a fire.

I’m talking about the toaster, of course, but maybe I’m talking about life, too.

I wonder how many people in the world have had words dropped into their lives — words like “worthless” or “lazy” or “useless” — that drastically change who they are or how they function? I suspect a lot of us live under the curse of a word wrongly dropped into our spirits. I suspect this because I meet folks like this all the time. They are forty or fifty or sixty and wonder how it is they got so off track with their lives. After enough of a conversation, I hear it. Someone somewhere dropped a word in their toaster, spoke a lie into their spirit. And now, for the presence of an angry word lodged too deeply in their soul, they’ve lost sight of who they are. Or for the lack of a blessing, for the lack of an identity or destiny spoken over their lives, they’ve been derailed.

Sometimes, those words even start fires.

I will say what is stunningly obvious:  words have power. They connect or disconnect us to our created purpose. A blessing unleashes destiny. The alternative derails us.

What word needs to be shaken out of you so you can become who you were created to be? What word can you pass along as a new year begins so someone else in your circle is set free?

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Don’t settle.

Mark Batterson tells the story of Honi the Circle-Maker.* Honi isn’t a Bible character, but from other writings that include his story (Jerome, for instance), it seems that Honi likely lived within fifty or so years of Jesus.

Honi was an Israelite known for his ability to pray for rain. He visited cities dealing with drought, drew a circle in the sand there, then stood inside that circle and prayed for rain.

Once, the Israelites called on Honi when they hadn’t seen rain in a year. Honi did his usual. He walked to the edge of town, drew a circle in the sand, stood inside it and said, “Lord, I know you have power to bring rain and I know your will is provision. And so, I swear before this great nation that I am not going to move from this circle until you have shown mercy on your children.”

That ends up being a dangerous prayer. Honi was almost killed for that uttering it. People in his day didn’t think a person should talk to God that way.

They might have killed him except that about the time Honi finished his prayer it started to sprinkle. If I’d been this prophet I might have picked up my circle at that point and walked right out of town. After all, I’d proven my approach. Why would I give more to people who would have killed me but for that sprinkle?

But Honi knew God, and because he knew God and God’s power, he wasn’t about to settle for a sprinkling of God’s provision. Tolerable was not the goal.

Hear that: Tolerable is not the goal. Transformation is.

Honi stayed inside his circle, leaned into the power of God and kept praying. “Not for such rain have I prayed, but for rain that fills cisterns, pits and caverns.” With that second prayer, it began to rain like crazy. Torrential rain. Egg-sized raindrops. Damaging rain.

And again, Honi prayed. “Not for such rain have I prayed, but for rain of your favor, blessing, and grace.” And with that prayer, the rain became the kind of sweet, soaking rain that settled in and filled cisterns and souls.

In Batterson’s book about this very prayer, he notes that there are some things God will not do unless we ask. Maxie Dunnam has often said the same. “What if there are some things God cannot do or will not do until or unless we pray?”

This actually better suits what we know of God. He is omnipotent, which means he has limitless power. A God of love would surely want to share it. A God of limitless power and love is not only capable of more than we can imagine; he also desires to share that power with us in good and life-producing ways.

What if our biggest limit is not God’s inability to answer but our inability to imagine more?

In the middle of our wrestling, maybe God is asking us to wrestle with the very question of his power. “Is there a limit to my power?” Why would he want us to shoot for anything less than his fullness? And what if our praying is how he compels us to lean in and hang on until his power is revealed?

Batterson says that how we answer that one question determines how we will live and how we will pray.

Is there a limit to my power? The coming of Christ and his defeat of sin and death answer that question boldly. There is no limit to God’s power. Which means that we are free to draw our circles around our biggest issues and stand confidently knowing that whatever the circumstance, our God is able.

Batterson says, “With God, its never an issue of, ‘Can he?’ It is only an issue of, ‘Will he?’ We may not always know if he will, but we know he can.”

 

*Mark Batterson’s book, The Circle-Maker, is an inspiring short read.

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