Category: Signs & Wonders

Proof that Prayer Works

Photo by Simon Simonsson
Article published in the Christian Post.
Can prayer be scientifically measured? In 1872, English intellectual Francis Galton, cousin of Charles Darwin, attempted to test the effects of prayer in a famous experiment. He hypothesized that the royal family, whose health the faithful prayed for every Sunday in Anglican parishes, would live much longer than the rest of the British population.
He found that the contrary was true, and concluded that prayer doesn’t work.
The royal diet and lifestyle did not factor into his equation, nor did Galton question the hierarchical theology of God favoring those privileged enough to command an entire nation to pray for them.
In more recent times, Richard Dawkins has hailed the “Great Prayer Experiment” as the definitive proof against prayer efficiency. The Experiment was a 2006 study conducted by Herbert Benson and team, showing that cardiac bypass patients who received prayer did not suffer from less complications after surgery than those who didn’t. In fact, the opposite was true!
What Dawkins doesn’t tell you in his book The God Delusion was that not all who prayed were Christians. A significant number of them belonged to Silent Unity, a New Thought group with unorthodox views on prayer. One of their leaders, James Dillet Freeman, has said that your purpose in praying “is to quicken into activity the creative processes that lie at the root of being and out of which the world takes shape.”
Mixing prayer methods like this when trying to measure prayer is a bad move. Other prayer studies that only included born-again Christians have received more positive results. But there’s a serious flaw with these kinds of prayer studies: they cannot guarantee that the control group they use don’t receive prayer. When you’re in a religious country, that’s impossible to guarantee. Thus, if weird or no differences emerge between patients who “receive prayer” and those who “don’t receive prayer”, it might be because all of them receive prayer!
I suggest another strategy. Over the last year, I’ve collected examples of people being cured after prayer in a way that medical science cannot explain. There are a lot of these cases. Some of them can be found in works like Testing Prayer by Candy Gunther Brown and Miracles by Craig Keener. They sometimes get published in scientific journals like this one. I’ve also spoken to people in my native country of Sweden, asking for their permission to confirm their stories with their medical records.
I’ve found blind people that see, deaf people that hear, cancer patients who were told that they were about to die that instantly got well, as well as allergies, brain damage, blood diseases and ulcers disappearing as people pray. I’ve also spoken to a man who was diagnosed with ALS, a fatal motor neuron disease, in 1987 but lives a healthy life today after a pastor prayed for him at the hospital. The doctors were sure that their diagnosis was correct, and could not explain his recovery.
These cures are too radical to be explained away by placebo or spontaneous remission. They are SICAPs: Scientifically Inexplicable Cures After Prayer. Such phenomena, I argue, are excellent candidates for miracles. Hypothetically, if God would heal someone in response to prayer, it will look exactly like a SICAP.
A naturalist (someone who does not believe in miracles) will argue that SICAPs are the result of unknown natural phenomena. Science is evolving, and what’s inexplicable today might be super obvious in the future. But here’s the problem. The naturalist cannot say that most SICAPs are the result of these unknown natural phenomena – that leaves room for some miracles to exist. No, all SICAPs must be natural phenomena. And that’s very unlikely. One could even call it miraculous.
The SICAPs we observe are simply too diverse to be easily dismissed as a scientific oversight. Furthermore, many of them occur at the very moment someone prays, and several have connections to prophetic visions or other spiritual experiences. Attributing both that and an inexplicable cure happening simultaneously is stretching naturalism to its limits.
On top of this, we generally view unknown explanations as quite unlikely. Why is the day generally hotter than the night? Is it because of the sun, or some other explanation we haven’t come up with yet? Both are theoretically possible, but I think we all know what’s more likely.
Thus, I conclude that affirming the existence of SICAPs logically leads us to affirming the existence of miracles. Miracles that happen in response to prayer. Who said that faith and science are opposed to each other?
Micael Grenholm is the editor-in-chief for Pentecostals & Charismatics for Peace & Justice and pastor of Mosaik Church in Uppsala, Sweden.

Syndicated from Charismactivism

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Coming Up: Book on Documented Miracles

My name is Micael, and I believe miracles are happening today. I’ve seen some amazing things on missionary journeys as well as here in Sweden, where I live. As an evangelist and apologist, I long for others to discover that God is alive and active today.
However, when I have talked to other Swedes about this, it has been difficult to convince them. As residents in the most secular country in the world, people here are skeptical and require evidence. For a long time, I have wanted to be able to refer to a single book in Swedish that collects the most well-documented, inexplicable answers to prayer that we know of.
Such a book is not available today. So I’ve decided to try to write one myself.
If you want to support this project, feel free to PayPal me!

A Gold Mine for Documented Miracles
Sweden has an extensive welfare state, with free, advanced healthcare accessible to all citizens. Swedish Christians rarely have a problem combining their prayers for healing with medical checkups and care.
As a consequence, a lot of the healing claims from the Swedish charismatic movement have medical data to back it up. In my research, I have been surprised at how common this is. Sweden is a gold mine for cases of documented miracles.

Syndicated from Charismactivism

Nine Common Beliefs about Pentecostals & Charismatics that are Totally False

Originally published at pcpj.org.

Ever since rev. Campbell Morgan called Pentecostalism “the last vomit of Satan” and the Los Angeles Times warned the public about the “new sect of fanatics [that] is breaking loose” from Azusa Street, Spirit-filled Christians have had a bad rap. Other Christians as well as non-Christians oftentimes find us weird, and sometimes a bit dangerous. A lot of those perceptions are based on myths and misconceptions. Here are nine common beliefs about Pentecostals and Charismatics that are totally wrong.
1. It’s a small movement

Depending on where you’re located, the Pentecostal and Charismatic (P&C) movement might seem pretty small. But when you look at it on a global level, it turns out that 600 million people are P&Cs. 200 million are Pentecostals, 100 million are charismatic Catholics, and 300 million are charismatics in a big variety of denominations and churches. Since the number of P&Cs amounted to around zero in the beginning of the 20th century, the P&C movement is commonly described as the fastest growing religious movement in the world.
2. It’s a Cult

I’ve heard surprisingly many casually state “All of Pentecostalism is a cult”, to which I like to respond “That’s about as true as the statement ‘The moon is a tomato’.” Cult is not synonymous with “religion I don’t like”, it has an academic meaning of an isolated group with an authoritarian leader, and while there surely are several sad examples of charismatic churches that have developed into cults it is simply ridiculous to claim that we all would be part of some sort of Jonestown. At least that’s what my Leader tells me and he’s always infallible when he drinks goat blood.
 
3. It’s Demonic

A few years ago evangelical minister John MacArthur claimed on his Strange Fire conference that all charismatics are infected by Hindu kundalini demons and that we’re all going to hell if we don’t repent from believing that what the Holy Spirit did in the Bible is stuff that he can do today. Now, the devil seems to be very interested in evangelism and world mission if that’s true. The church in Nepal has grown from a couple of hundred people in the late 80’s to two million today, and the Chinese church has exploded to about 100 million people during the 20th century. Almost all Christians in both of these countries are charismatic, and many refer to miracles as the reason they came to Christ.
4. P&Cs are too emotional

It’s true that we can become stirred up sometimes, but perhaps the issue is that many non-charismatic people, particularly in the West, are suppressing their emotional life in an unhealthy way. Rather than being too emotional, perhaps we’re just as emotional as one ought to be when the Spirit of the Creator of the universe moves inside you. And then of course there’s the Vineyard, which in the tradition of John Wimber is super casual and non-hype, delivering people from demons with one hand and drinking coffee with the other.
5. P&Cs don’t use medicines and doctors

In the early days of the movement, there were some Pentecostals who argued that we should only rely on divine healing, and that using science-based medicine is a sign of doubt. But those quickly died off, for obvious reasons. Today the consensus among P&Cs is that while divine healing exists and is awesome, it’s just stupid to not also seek medical help from humans as well, just as Paul and Luke thought in the Bible.
6. P&Cs think that only tongue-speaking Christians are real Christians

Again, there were early Pentecostals that would argue for something similar, even though most of them would not say that speaking in tongues show that you’re a real Christian but rather a complete Christian, realizing the full potential that God has for you. The main difference between Pentecostalism and the charismatic movement originally was that charismatics didn’t think that everyone who are baptized in the Spirit speaks in tongues, and over time less and less Pentecostals hold to the old view and have accepted Paul’s statement in 1 Corinthians 12 that not all speak in tongues.
7. P&Cs don’t care about peace and justice

Well, welcome to Pentecostals & Charismatics for Peace & Justice! We try to highlight three surprising facts: most early Pentecostals were pacifists, most Pentecostals and charismatics around the world today care deeply about social justice, and early Anabaptism – a Christian movement emphasizing peace and justice – was very charismatic.
8. P&Cs are fundamentalists

As Tony Richie has brilliantly pointed out, fundamentalism is actually theologically opposed to Pentecostalism, and the fact that some Spirit-filled believers have called themselves fundamentalists or embraced fundamentalist ideas is similar to atheists believing that there’s an objective meaning to life: it doesn’t really add up to the worldview they claim to have. At the core of charismatic theology is listening to the Spirit and following his lead when interpreting the Bible, and so most P&Cs globally are much more gentle and nuanced than your average angry, screaming fundamentalist down the block.
9. P&Cs are preaching prosperity

Some do, but most don’t. As mentioned above, the vast majority of P&C churches worldwide are promoting social justice. Some of them talk about “prosperity” as simply meaning poverty reduction, others abstain from using the word altogether due to its connection with the American “health and wealth” teaching, which is generally seen as a very weird and unbiblical bunch of ideas, globally.

So there you have it! Are there more prejudices and myths about Pentecostals and Charismatics that you know about? Feel free to share them in the comments.

Pentecostals & Charismatics for Peace & Justice is a multicultural, gender inclusive, and ecumenical organization that promotes peace, justice, and reconciliation work among Pentecostal and Charismatic Christians around the world. If you like what we do, please join our Facebook forum, and sign up for our newsletter!

Filed under: Holy Spirit Activism
Syndicated from Holy Spirit Activism

Christian TV Channel Claims that You Can Buy God’s Blessings

Originally published at PCPJ.

The Norwegian channel Visjon Norge (Vision Norway) claimed that donations between 180 and 6,130 dollars would bring blessings from God, as a Nigerian pastor would pray different prayers depending on the amount of money people donated.

David Sagen. Screenshot from Visjon Norge.

Verdens Gang reports that on October 15, David Sagen who regularly contributes to Visjon Norge explained why he two years ago started to give 2,500 kroner (430 US dollars) to the ministry of Nigerian pastor Bayo Oniwinde every month. Oniwinde had said that he would pray “Joseph’s blessing” over those who donated that amount.
– I told God, that Joseph’s blessing should come now, and really I was just happy that Joseph’s blessing was on its way. And that year, two years ago, many things happened in my business – and yeah, it went very well.
As the host of the show, Inger Hanvold, nodded approvingly, Sagen went on explaining the different blessings that Oniwinde would pray over people who gave certain amounts of money to his ministry:

For 50,000 kroner (6,130 US dollars), he would pray “Peter’s blessing” over your life.
For 10,000 kroner (1,200 US dollars), he would pray “Isaac’s blessing”.
For 1,500 to 3,500 kroner (180 to 430 US dollars), he would pray a blessing that would make the end of 2017 greater than the beginning.

– If you have faith to give any of these amounts that he talks about, if you do it and remind God about it during the year, or are simply thankful that it’s coming, there will be a great harvest, Sagen said.
The broadcast have been met with much criticism. “I can hardly see this as something else than spiritual abuse, and severely speculative theology”, said theologian Espen Ottosen from Norwegian Lutheran Mission to Verdens Gang. Swedish Pentecostal pastor Christian Mölk writes on Facebook:
“While many Protestants celebrate this year that it’s 500 years since Martin Luther revolted against indulgence trade, that is, the idea that one could buy forgiveness of sins and reduce one’s time in purgatory, the Norwegian TV channel Visjon thinks that it’s a good idea to launch their theology about buying different sorts of blessings.”

Bayo Oniwinde. Screenshot from YouTube.

Bayo Oniwinde tells Verdens Gang that he doesn’t “sell” God’s blessings, but doesn’t apologize for the practice of praying different prayers based on what people give.
– I let the Holy Spirit lead me in what I ask people to give, and lead me in praying back for those that give what he has instructed, Oniwende says.
Jan Hanvold, televangelist and executive editor for Visjon Norge, tells Verdens Gang that Oniwende comes from another theological context than most Norwegians, but he doesn’t distance himself from his teaching.
– Paul says that whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly. He refers then to giving money. People who are passionate about something can give 50,000 kroner or 100,000 kroner. Jesus emphasized that one should give what one is able to give.
Visjon Norway relies heavily on private donations to run their business. In 2016, they had a debt of over 11 million US dollars.

Filed under: Justice & Economics
Syndicated from Holy Spirit Activism

Rolland Baker Really Likes Fjords

Papa Rolland Baker of Iris Global has seen many amazing things in his life. His wife Heidi has been healed from MS, he has witnessed blind people seeing and deaf people hearing as they’ve ministered to the poor in Mozambique, and his ministry has led to the salvation of thousands of people. But when you look at his Facebook feed, you’ll find something else that totally captivates the heart of this man of God:

Rolland has recently been speaking in Norway, and while we Scandinavians tend to be more fascinated by palm trees and mangos, this Mozambician missionary thinks that mountains and lakes are the real deal:

And did I mention fjords? Rolland likes fjords.

His fascination is so great that he gets some romantic, although sadly not totally accurate, pictures of Norway:

God bless you, papa Rolland. We scandinavians might think that your country is 100 times more fascinating, but we appreciate your appreciation of the North. Now, keep us posted about the next exotic location you’re going to!

Filed under: Evangelism & Missions
Syndicated from Holy Spirit Activism

Amazing Miracle Reports from Christ for all Nations

Daniel Kolenda, President of Christ for all Nations (CfaN), has released a series of new videos featuring powerful and faith-inspiring testimonies of some of the miracles he has witnessed on his campaign meetings in Africa.

This video features Nigerian woman Placita Outa, who severely damaged her spinal cord in an accident. Doctors performed many surgeries to repair it, but the final surgery left her paralyzed. She had to rely on crutches and the help of others to move around. Jesus totally healed her on a CfaN campaign.

As Daniel Kolenda and some of the team were getting into the car after a meeting at a Gospel Campaign in Sapele, Nigeria, a woman stopped him. She wanted him to pray for her three-year-old son, who lay dead in her arms. Daniel took the child, held his body for a moment, prayed a simple prayer of faith and then left.

The following night the woman returned to tell the rest of the story. As Daniel drove away, the boy came back to life! He is now perfectly well. When the crowd of 200,000 heard this, they broke into wild cheering, and the whole city of Sapele was rejoicing.

This woman was totally blind in both eyes. She attended one of the meetings in Abidjan, and the Lord healed her left eye. So the next night she came to give glory to God.

While interviewing her on the platform for a testimony, Daniel learned that her right eye was still blind. He told her to cover that eye with her hand, and he prayed for
her. But nothing happened. So he covered her eye with his hand and prayed again, commanding the eye to open. “Mama, look at me. What do you see?”

She looked at him intently for a few moments, and then suddenly started shouting, “Oui, oui, oui, oui, oui!” (Which is French for, “Yes, yes…!”).

And this is one of my favourites. In 2010, Mohammed began to lose his hearing, eventually becoming deaf. Without any money, he could not visit a doctor to diagnose or treat the problem. He simply had to live in silence.

While returning home from visiting his stepbrother, Mohammed missed his train. Unusual circumstances thwarted him, forcing him to stay another night in Accra. He decided to spend the night at the local plaza – where Christ for all Nations happened to be holding an evangelistic Campaign. Because Mohammed could not hear, he did not know what the event was about. So he simply lay down on a bench at the Campaign grounds and fell asleep.

But he woke up suddenly to the feeling of liquid in his ears – even though it was not raining. As he removed the liquid with his fingers, his ears popped open. His hearing had returned! And the first sound he experienced after two years of silence was the voice of a preacher praying for the sick. Mohammed could hardly believe what was happening. But this he knew: Jesus Christ had just healed him.

Mohammed wanted to get the message to his wife. So he announced the name of his city and said, “If anybody knows me … tell my wife, ‘Jesus is the Son of God!’” The crowd erupted in praise. No football team had ever recåeived such an ovation. The people were jumping and dancing and shouting for joy.

Filed under: Signs & Wonders
Syndicated from Holy Spirit Activism

Ghanaian Charismatism and the Total Bastardization of “Grace”

This is the 2nd in a 2 part series of posts on the phenomenon of unbiblical understandings of “grace” that permeates Ghanaian Christianity. It follows from the first one, which is available here.
Walk into many Charismatic churches in Ghana, and do a survey of it’s church members. One will find that apart from the very young generation, most members of these churches were originally members of what are considered “orthodox churches” in Ghana – the churches founded by the missionary efforts of Europeans in the pre-colonial era. And though Charismatism began with an emphasis on the operation of the gifts of the spirit, it soon became infused with teachings originally from Kenneth Hagin and his cohorts – what is referred to as Word of Faith (WOF) teaching/prosperity teaching. In Ghana, I can confidently say that 90% of charismatic churches are now driven by WOF teaching, hence I hope I can be excused for not differentiating between WOF adherents and non-WOF charismatics in this post. In any case even those who aren’t WOF-inclined have some of the same seeds of divine determinism in them, and so will benefit from this critique.

Additional Ingredients
In addition to the seed of divine determinism that already flourishes in Ghanaian cultural Christianity, one more seed that has found fertile ground for the flourishing of these abuses of “grace” is the seed of individualism. Since Western Christianity had even before the Protestant Reformation, interpreted and preached the gospel as a call for each individual to save themselves from being thrown into hell fire and to rather gain a ticket to heaven, it had already been evident in the work of the missionaries to Ghana that Christianity was an individual walk with God. When this is mixed with the Ghanaian cultural deterministic perception that God has set out a “destiny” which is unique for each and every individual, you have an explosive mixture just waiting to be lighted up. And that is exactly what happened with growth in 3 things – urbanization, upward mobility and the arrival of the prosperity teaching, what I call the 3 horsemen.

The 3 Horsemen
Horseman 1 – Urbanization
Many people I’ve spoken to, including some people much older than me, speak of the sense of unity that existed in the orthodox church they used to attend back in the rural areas. They complain after moving to Accra, they experienced that even in a branch of the same denomination they attended here in the city, that sense of unity was no longer there, with everyone seeming to mind their own business. These friends bemoan this state of affairs, and pine for earlier days. What people like these fail to realize was that this sense of unity was always a false one that couldn’t last when transplanted into a new, more challenging environment – because this unity was based more on ethnic and cultural homogeneity than on a theological and practical outworking of what the New Testament means by unity. Once that sense of unity and care is lost, one begins to focus much more on oneself for survival. Enter horseman 2.

Horseman 2 – Upward Mobility
With no sense of real unity other than just showing up on church on a Sunday to perform the rituals and appease God (in the form of tithes and offerings), people naturally drifted into competition to show oneself as “moving forward” in life. Here, moving forward is defined as getting married if one was single, having children if one was married, having a better job and a nicer car than your fellow church member, probably owning one’s own home by 5-10 years of work. In recent times, becoming an entrepreneur has been added to this list. Enter the 3rd horseman.

Horseman 3 – Prosperity Teaching aka Motivational Teaching
Due to the de-prioritization of unity (which was already built on shaky grounds within orthodox churches anyway) and the elevation of individual achievement to the highest ideal, it is no surprise that the message of “name it claim it” and “everything is possible” sounded much more pleasing to cultural Christian ears than the boring old “clinging to the rugged cross”, hence Ghanaians moved across in droves. In recent times, the fashion is that almost every Charismatic pastor is also a “Motivational Preacher”. What they don’t realize is that one doesn’t even need to be a pastor to be a motivational preacher. All one needs is a bit of self-confidence to propound some 7 or 8 theories of success. Voila!! Of course they themselves need to show you that their teaching works to bring material prosperity, so it is near impossible to meet such preachers who look and live simple lives. Obviously that life is built off the back of their congregants, either via directly controlling the cash and exercising undue influence on its spending because they are the “founder” of the church, publishing books that are required reading by church members or have an appeal to a general audience in the “motivational speaking” genre but have nothing to do with the biblical gospel, or moving from office to office of richer congregants in the name of “praying” or “prophecying” for them, yet collecting monies for such “visits”.

What Has All This Got To Do With “Grace”?
I listen to a lot of snippets of sermons by many Charismatic preachers (unfortunately I don’t have a choice – almost every corner is filled with them in Accra so one can’t avoid them). And increasingly I hear the use of the term “grace” to speak of how God was going to bless church members with material wealth. Remember what we said in part 1 of this series? That Ghanaian cultural Christians have an already flawed understanding that God is a micromanager of lives who decides freely (“by grace”) who he was going to “curse” (typically the “wicked”) and who he was going to bless (typically the “righteous” ie one who does what a pastor/church defines as “righteous”) irrespective of hard work, access to opportunities and privilege? Well, these WOF preachers then play this false definition of God’s “grace”, by saying that God will “give more grace” (ie more good decisions) to those who desire to be materially prosperous. Of course, this “grace” always comes with a caveat – it’s given to those who have “faith”, i.e. those who show such “faith” by plenty prayer and profuse attendance of said pastor’s church programs and those who give monies to their church (called “sowing a seed”, “sowing into the man of God’s life”).
In the end, what these preachers mean by “grace” is exactly the opposite of what the New Testament means by “grace” – one does nothing, and I mean absolutely nothing – to deserve it. Not the number of tongues per minute, nor hours of prayer, nor hours of church attendance, nor amounts of money given to the church nor trees planted in the “man of God’s” life. Interestingly the one place where the New Testament uses the phrase “more grace” (according to the NIV translation) is the place that actually condemns selfishness and greed in the name of God.
“When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God … But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: ‘God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.’” (Jas 4:3-6).

Grace: A Quick Reminder of Its Biblical Usage
I have said a lot in defining what grace means in a previous post, but let me restate it here in a quick fashion.

The New Testament talks about “grace” in terms of Yahweh’s launching his kingdom by deciding to accept both Jews and Gentiles as part of his chosen people – his church – without asking anything from them ie requiring Gentiles to keep the law of Moses. Sadly, because our notions of the gospel are so individualized (getting a personal ticket to heaven), we don’t realize that when the NT talks about grace, it’s talking about how Yahweh maintains the promise he made to Abraham – just as he chose the Jews by grace, he will make that grace available to all others so that he will have one united people, irrespective of ethnic, social and cultural line. This is what Paul calls “the blessings of Abraham” (Gal 3:14). It is this critical understanding of grace that was not properly planted by our missionary churches, going way back to both the Roman Catholic and Protestant Reformers themselves, for which we are suffering today.

The New Testament speaks of grace as the power to serve God faithfully in this kingdom agenda – the agenda of creating and sustaining one united people of God via bringing this good news to others, and creating disciples out of those who believe this news regarding how to submit to one another and to suffer for one another just as God himself suffered for us to show us the way. That is, grace empowers us to serve God and one another, led by the Spirit.

In short, grace is how you get into God’s chosen people, and how you stay and serve in God’s chosen people. It’s got nothing to do with one’s personal ambitions of wealth and prosperity, and everything to do with who one is in Christ, and how one is living by Christ’s own self-sacrificial example after one becomes part of his people. Grace is about reconciliation with God and one another, and sacrifice for one another once reconciled. Simple and short.

Conclusion: The Seeds of Deception Have Always Been Therefore
Human beings, due to our sinful nature, are always selfish, whether spiritually or materially. We are selfish for holiness, righteousness, peace and self-sufficiency as much as we are selfish for sin, wickedness, violence and greed. Jesus came to show up our selfishness for what it is and to reveal the number one character of God that confuses the wisdom of both Jews and Gentiles (1 Cor 1:18-25) – that God dying on the cross shows himself as the unselfish God who is willing to die even for his enemies.
And this leads to a very important point that many Ghanaian Christians, whether orthodox or Penteco-Charismatic, are missing. Christianity is not about going to heaven, nor material wealth. If your creator is a God who takes risks and suffers for the sake of his enemies, then being made in his image, one must also be seen all your life to be one who is making sacrifices for one’s fellow human. We choose to love not because we will be rewarded with heaven, but because that is the nature of the one in whose image we are made. Therefore, Christianity is a matter of discipleship in the way of the one who created us, not for reward, but because that’s what makes us truly human.
Whenever Christianity is posed in the form of determinism – that God is micromanaging the world and deciding to bless only those who do “right”, we make room for false teachers to come up with their own definition of “right” so we can selfishly appease God whiles they milk us dry. Whenever Christianity is posed as a reward scheme – that saying the “right prayer” or “living the holy life” automatically guarantees access to heaven, we produce people who are more interested in their own individual walk with God than those of their fellow human beings.
When spiritually-minded Ghanaian cultural Christianity got tired of waiting to go to heaven, it obviously chose the next best thing – grabbing all that we can on earth. May we not be overcome by this selfishness, whose seeds were planted by our orthodox churches, but whose fruits are now being harvested in the form of modern Penteco-Charismatism and its WOF champions.

Syndicated from Vicit Agnus Noster, Eum Sequamur

Can Science Prove Miraculous Healing?

Previously published at Jesus Army.

Elijah Stephens is a former Vineyard pastor and spiritual coach belonging to Bethel Church in Redding, California. Since 2015, he has been working on a documentary about medically verified miracles. Micael Grenholm asked him a few questions.

WHAT is a medically verified miracle?

That is a good question. When it comes to miracles, we are talking about when God enters the world and does something. What makes something a miracle is God’s activity.

This is why you can’t study miracles scientifically, but what you can do is to find cases where people have prayed and there’s “before and after” medical evidence. For example, a person has a tumor, one day there is prayer, the next day the tumor disappears.

What you want to do is to corroborate miracles with medical evidence. So that’s what we’re attempting to do with the movie; finding cases where miracles have been corroborated by medical evidence.

It’s best, if you’re doing it from an apologetic standpoint, to find cases that are known impossibilities. There are things we know cannot occur. If you chop someone’s hand off, you know it’s not going to grow back on its own. So you want to look for cases, if you’re trying to help people that are sceptical but are looking for truth, by finding the more extreme cases.

We need to put forth the best case we can. But we also need to understand that God works in ways that often don’t leave much evidence, and we are still responsible to believe his activity in the world.

Elijah Stephens

How can you be sure that even if a person is cured after prayer, it wasn’t due to a natural process we simply don’t know about?

It all comes down to the nature of knowledge. One of the things that we as Westerners live under a delusion of is that most things fall into the category of 100 percent certainty. And a few things do; there’s mathematical truths like two plus two equals four; there’s moral truths like “torturing babies for fun is morally wrong”, there’s historical truths like “George Washington was the first president of the United States”.

But most of the things that we know fall somewhere on a continuum between zero percent and a hundred percent certainty. For example, I believe that my wife has never had an affair, I’m 99 % certain of that. But it could be the case that something’s happened that I don’t know about. Or when she says that she loves me, she could be a pathological liar or whatever. But knowledge is something you can have without a hundred percent certainty.

So when it comes to prayer, I can think of natural phenomenon for all of the cases that you hear of someone getting healed. You can create such scenarios in your mind. However, often, those scenarios are less likely than prayer itself working. There’s also the case of God using natural processes. When you look at miracles in the Bible, you see that when the Israelites crossed the Red Sea, a wind came up and blew the sea apart. Well, that’s God using some kind of natural process.

I don’t think it’s best to think of miracles in the terms of not using natural processes. Let’s say God speaks to you in a dream, well at some point that dream becomes a part of your brain chemistry. So what you’re asking is actually “Is God part of a particular natural phenomenon?”

One of the ways you can answer that question is by eliminating known natural phenomena that people often mistake for miracles: the placebo effect, misdiagnosis, con artists, the mind healing itself psychosomatically. When doing miracle research you want to eliminate those and look for things that are most likely known impossibilities.

Why do you think non-Western Christians seem to experience more miracles than Western ones?

I don’t think that’s the case. One of the things I found in my research was a Pew Survey of 35,000 people in the US, asking them how many had witnessed, or know someone who has experienced divine healing. Over 33 percent said that they had. In the States we have an anti-supernatural bias which means that the supernatural is not talked about very often.

If you think about it, when was the last time you asked a stranger or someone in your life that you didn’t go to church with, “Have you ever seen a miracle?” Has that conversation ever come up in your life? For most people in the West, that never occurs. So we simply never talk about this stuff.

Another issue that I think helps nations like China, Mozambique or Brazil where you’re seeing a lot of miracles is that it’s part of the culture to seek spiritual assistance, whether it’s from Christians or non-Christians. It’s not odd to offer prayer to a co-worker or family member who is sick. I think the more prayer people get, the more likely there are people getting healed by prayer.

What’s your advice to someone longing for a miracle?

People in pain are often desperate. Con artists know that and prey on people in pain. If anyone ever asks you for money to get prayer, stay away from that. Secondly, don’t feel guilty or ashamed of not getting healed. That’s not the heart of God.

Don’t blame yourself for not having enough faith or anything of that nature. I never see Jesus blaming people in the Scriptures. If you’re in need of a miracle, go to healthy, theologically solid people who have seen miracles and ask them to pray for you. A lot of times people want miracles, and they spend their whole lives getting a miracle for a specific area of their life.

Here at Bethel Church in the healing rooms, we have people in wheelchairs praying for the sick. I think that’s so powerful. Their focus is not getting a miracle, their focus is on knowing Jesus and living the calling he has for their lives. I personally have a hernia. Eric Johnson [the son of Bethel Church’s senior pastor Bill Johnson] has hearing aids. There are lots of people with sickness that say “Alright God, I’m going to get prayer for this, but if it never changes I will still serve you with my life.”

I’ve seen lots of miracles, but when I’m getting consumed with getting myself healed rather than consumed with Jesus and seeing his kingdom come with power, we miss out on going on an adventure with God. I can’t explain why my body hasn’t been healed, I know God heals people. But I’d rather be unhealed and follow Jesus, than spend my life desiring a miracle and that becoming my focus.

For more information on Elijah’s ministry and film, visit his website simplykingdom.com.

Filed under: Signs & Wonders
Syndicated from Holy Spirit Activism

Astronomy and God’s Greatness

What does modern astronomy teach us about God’s Transcendence?  Much indeed. Consider God’s words to Job about the universe:

Can you bind the chains of the Pleiades? Can you loosen Orionʼs belt? Can you bring forth the constellations in their seasons or lead out the Bear with its cubs? Do you know the laws of the heavens? Can you set up Godʼs dominion over the earth? -Job‬ ‭38:31-33‬ ‭

When we put these words next to what we know about the universe, we can only sit back in awe and wonder at the vastness of creation and the God who made it all. And it makes the fact that he came and lived among us even more incredible. Watch this short explanation about what we know of the universe and let the greatness of God overwhelm your imagination.

If you are interested in the entire sermon and how the transcendence of God is connected to the Advent season, you can find it here.

The post Astronomy and God’s Greatness appeared first on Greg Boyd - ReKnew.
Syndicated from Greg Boyd – ReKnew

Words of Knowledge that Led to Salvation

Kettering

God is so good. Last Sunday I went out on the streets of Kettering with a guitar and some Gospel tracts to invite people to our evening meeting. I met a woman in dark clothing walking with the help of a crutch, who commented how happy I looked when I played. I asked her how she was doing. “Like shit” she said, explaining to me her tough family situation, tragedies in her past and her homelessness.
She then asked me what I was doing and I said that I invite people to a Gospel meeting where there will be worship, Bible study, prayer – and tea. She responded that she doesn’t believe in God – she found it impossible after all the bad things that had happened to her. I gave her a booklet the Jesus Army has printed called The Biggest Issue which asked on the front cover “Where is God when all goes wrong?”
She asked me how I got involved with this church and I explained that I found it on the Internet and came all the way from Sweden to join a training year, living in community and working in one of their Kingdom Businesses. She was really impressed by that kind of commitment to a church. She revealed that she actually carries a cross necklace around in her bag, “I guess I do have a little faith after all.” Then she said that a warm cup of tea would be lovely and decided to go with me to the meeting hall.
Well inside she was warmly greeted by the rest of the Jesus people. Heather and Wendy sat next to her, listening to her story and explaining the meeting structure. We sang worship songs and Tim talked about how we all need help from God and how He lovingly offers all the help we need: salvation. He talked to our guest personally several times and she was clearly touched by his message. He ended by asking her if she wanted prayer and she said yes.

Mark

I, Wendy and my good friend Mark went to her and offered us to pray for her infected hip which was the reason for her walking with a crutch, as well as for a change in her life. Mark prayed about things in her history that she hadn’t mentioned to him, me or anyone else. She started to weep. We prayed for the hip, it wasn’t completely healed but she didn’t care. God had touched her, and Mark led her in a prayer to receive Christ.
She then joyfully joined us as we went back to our community house, Holy Treasure, for some food and fellowship. She was very happy: “Micael, you were my saviour when you found me on the streets!” “Oh no,” I said, “Jesus is your Saviour, I’m just His messenger.” She was also amazed that Mark knew stuff about her that she hadn’t shared. We explained that it would take a little while if she’s wanted a bed but that night she could sleep at her mother’s.
The next evening I held a Spiritual Q&A apologetics class as usual. She turned up and even though she almost fell asleep during the first ten minutes of me talking about design arguments for the existence of God, she eventually became very engaged in the discussion. “But who created God?” “How can you believe in Adam and Eve?” She was very intrigued and wanted to join future Q&As. She had many questions, but decided that before she got most of it she was acting on faith, holding on to what is beyond our intellectual capacity.
I’m so happy that she wanted to follow the way of God and pray daily for her and her family. Please join me in that.
Filed under: Evangelism & Missions, Salvation & Eternal Life, Signs & Wonders
Syndicated from Holy Spirit Activism

Podcast: Can We “Learn” to Speak in Tongues?

Greg talks about speaking in tongues and offers warnings and guidance.

Send Questions To:
Twitter: @reKnewOrg
Email: askgregboyd@gmail.com
Dan: @thatdankent

http://traffic.libsyn.com/askgregboyd/Episode_0073.mp3

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The post Podcast: Can We “Learn” to Speak in Tongues? appeared first on Greg Boyd - ReKnew.
Syndicated from Greg Boyd – ReKnew

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