Search

All Things are Yours

"… whether Paul, Apollos, Cephas, the world, life, death, the present, or the future— all things are yours, but you are Christ's…" (I Cor 3)

Tag

PRAYER

6 Types of “Prayer-Engagement” with the World

I like to observe trends in the body of Christ and keep an eye out for what God is doing, and since I hang out in and around various “prayer movements” I have been intrigued by what I see happening with prayer when it comes to engaging with those outside the church.

I’m noticing what I think is something of a scale or range in how praying for people outside the body of Christ to know Jesus engages with those very “stake-holders.”  By stake-holders, I mean that “the people the prayers are aimed at reaching or helping know God better”, since they are ultimately the folks who have the greatest stake in how the prayer plays out!  🙂

So with no further intro, here is the scale that I think we are seeing:

(Type 1) Evangelism of some type or another, with little to no specific prayer

I hope this type is somewhat rare, but I know it is out there.    Taking a cue from verses such as, “I am not ashamed of the gospel for it is the power of God to salvation for them that believe,” there are workers in the body of Christ who consider prayer to be a small trivial piece of their engagement with the world.    “All that matters is sharing the gospel – and since in and of itself, the gospel is powerful, there doesn’t NEED to be any prayer involved in sharing it with people” is the mindset this set brings to evangelism.

While in my experience, people proceeding on this basis often find evangelism to be a lot of effort for a tiny bit of headway, I can’t deny that there is a tiny itsy bitsy morsel of truth here.   I consider the verse to, “preach the Word!  Be ready in season and out of season…” to somewhat describe what is happening here.   Without prayer, it will almost always be something of an “out of season” activity to preach the Word, but hey, even that sometimes helps people.   (And if the ‘preaching’ is done without BEING preachy – with cultural sensitivity, and real engagement with people, and acts of kindness and justice – so much the better.)

(Type 2) Prayer for “workers to be sent” into the harvest field.

This type of prayer has a pretty explicit scriptural basis and takes many forms – whether it is praying for workers to be sent, or praying for workers to have strength or provision or an open door into a culture.   Prayer of all types involving workers comes into this category – praying for safety, praying for strategy, praying for workers to find spouses or ministry partners or have happy marriages so they can be their best while reaching a group of people evangelistically – there are all sorts of ways to pray for workers.   This prayer focuses on Jesus being the Lord of His own growth strategy – and honoring Him in that by asking Him to direct and provide for His body as they are led by Him in this endeavor.

Prayer for the body of Christ itself can often fall into this category – as praying for the body of Christ to be strengthened, equipped, strategic, obedience, unified, etc, is in some way a prayer for everyone who represents Christ in an area, when people who approach evangelism in a mostly category #1 sort of way may also engage in this type of prayer, as even a simple prayer to “help me find the person you want me to talk to today, Jesus” is, technically, this type of prayer – a prayer for the worker themselves as they are sent.  But this type of prayer is only in the beginning part of the range of the evangelism/prayer spectrum, because there is no direct engagement of prayer here with the actual stakeholders – those who are to be met with the gospel.

(Type 3) Prayer in a room somewhere for people but – mostly about peoples’ lifestyles, rather than their ability to believe in Christ.

Now the prayer starts to focus in on the stakeholders, as prayers are actually being aimed on their behalf, directly.   In this case, what does this look like?   Praying against crime in a city, praying for people to choose certain political candidates, praying for peoples’ minds to be changed to something “better” on a specific topic whether political or otherwise.

The word “repent” means to “change one’s mind” so essentially these are prayers for repentance.   It’s hard to find much explicit Biblical precedent for this, as there are not many clear examples of people praying for other people to act or think a certain way – although assumably, praying “for those in authority” per 1 Timothy 2:2 would include prayers for rulers to have divine wisdom to make good choices.   And there are other non-explicit rationales that can be gathered from Scripture that there might actually be some value to praying this way.  1 Timothy 2:1  simply says to “pray for all people” with petitions, prayers, and thanksgiving – which seems to open the door wide to pray for basically anything that might improve their lives.  2 Timothy 2:25 contains nothing whatsoever about prayer, but does mention the idea that God grants repentance – so if repentance comes from God, then it’s not a leap of logic to decide petitioning him to move over people in that way is not beyond reasonable.

Declaring the wisdom of God in the cross of Jesus in prayer and worship also has an effect on the spiritual powers over a region, too, so if a group of people know what they are doing there is some value in tackling the spiritual “winds” blowing over the minds of people in an area.  However, thankfully, most groups that pray in this way tend to mix other forms of prayer into the mix, which we’ll talk about next.

(Type 4) Prayer in a room somewhere – or sometimes at a specific strategic location – specifically for Christ to be made known to those who don’t know Him.

This probably makes up the bulk of prayer that intercessory prayer groups engage in for our non-believing “stakeholders.”   Surprisingly, however, there is again in this category not much ‘explicit’ command or example in Scripture about praying for people to know Jesus.   Most of the prayers about peoples’ minds being enlighted to see or know Jesus better in the New Testament, were not actually prayers for those outside the church, but were prayers for folks who already believed in Jesus to know and see Him better.

However I don’t believe there is no scriptural support whatsoever for praying for nonbelievers – it just doesn’t show up in the Bible with the intensity or frequency we might think it should, and this is worth considering.  Of course 1 Timothy 2:1, the verse we saw in Category 3 which talks about praying for all people, certainly still applies to praying for them to come to faith in Christ in some way or another.   Category 4 here would include prayers for “revival”, and Acts 3:9 talks about turning “to God” as being a step before he sends “refreshing,” there is some evidence here for the idea of believers “turning to God in prayer” being a precursor to something that might end up bigger than the initial “turning to God,” – in this case, “refreshing” – as a result.  Identificational repentance – where believers in God repent on behalf of those in their city or region – would seem to also be in this category.   And anecdotally – and historically – many, many believers testify that they have seen amazing outcomes when they have prayed specifically FOR the people they are trying to reach with the gospel.

Watchman Nee once made a list of all of his friends that he wanted to share Jesus with, and after being frustrated by seeing not one of them come to faith, his mentor advised him to start praying for that list daily.   In a short time after he began to pray, almost the entire list had come to faith in Christ.

(Type 5)  Encountering people and praying for them where you meet them.

This takes things up a notch in terms of interaction of the people doing the praying, with the actual stakeholders that are receiving prayer.  Instead of praying for people in a room somewhere, this is when believers offer to pray for people – nonbelievers included – wherever they have had a meaningful encounter with someone.

The newest prophetic evangelism approach called “Treasure Hunts” often involves people finding people on the street somewhere and striking up a conversation that results in praying for someone’s needs then and there.   This brings prayer TO the people who need it, as well as to God, and creates a bridge between someone who might not know how to pray for themselves, and God.  The people offering prayer are therefore doing a priestly function of ministering both to people and to God in prayer on behalf of those people.  This is where prayer first starts to directly turn into evangelism, as sharing the good news of Jesus with people and praying for them become in some ways one united action.

(Type 6) Creating opportunities where people who are foreign to prayer are invited and enabled to begin praying to Him themselves.

This is a trend that some groups have begun exploring and the beautiful thing in this is that it goes beyond all the other steps in that the medium really becomes the message – stakeholders are brought right into the adventure of engaging with God, and isn’t that right where things need to go at some point?  I was once with a group at the University of Pennsylvania who did something called “Prayer Week” where they set up a tent in the center of campus and posted signs around it inviting people to come inside and explore prayer.   Once inside, they were greeted with gentle worship music, drawing supplies, 3×5 cards and pens to write prayers on and post on the walls, and papers explaining ideas about how to engage with God, as well as other people who were praying or ready to help orient them in how to begin praying.  For a great example of what this can look like, read this story about a prayer space in a school in the Congo.  In some ways this is discipleship, prayer, and evangelism all tied into one – people are given an opportunity to come to God and thus develop a hunger to know Him better, which can sensitize them to a need for Jesus who is the one who provides direct access to the Father’s presence.

So there you have a it – a scale from Type 1 to Type 6 of how prayer and evangelism can intersect.

And even though Type 6 is the most engaged with the people who are the topic of the prayers – because they themselves do the praying – the reality is that all those have their place somewhere along the way as the body of Christ walks out its priestly role to make God and His Christ known to all the Earth.

Civilized God vs. Natural God

So, I had this friend who was really struggling in his life and was taking steps towards God, and one late night while he and a friend were praying together in my community’s prayer room, he decided that the most authentic thing he could to get real with God was to strip naked and pray his heart out in his birthday suit.   florence-1060040_640Actually I don’t know exactly what he was doing, because I wasn’t there – but it was at an hour of the night when the likelihood of anyone walking in on this…event?…was extremely low (though admittedly not altogether without risk) and thankfully no one did – but his prayer partner thought it made a good enough story that he told a few folks, who told others, who told others, who told others who….eventually told me.

Except by the time it got back to me, it was from someone who wasn’t part of our community, and, the story had taken on a very twisted and shameful tone to it, and had unfortunately come to be used as an example of all that was wrong in our group.   Oy.  And now I’ve blogged about it – double oy.   Realistically, a community’s shared prayer space probably isn’t the best place to fulfill one’s urges to strip naked before God, unless the shared space is a Jewish Mikvah, in which case it is somehow totally sanctioned and even required – but then again, those spaces are not co-ed.

skydiving-270148_640Anyway, I don’t actually know how it played out intra-communally on our turf, whether or not any leaders actually said anything or cared about the fact that this had happened in our prayer room, but, whether it is to our collective shame or our collective honor, or neither, my guess is that not many people in our group cared terribly much, beyond it being a great story of, “You’ll never guess what so and so did!”   The group in that season had a culture of encouraging each other to take risks and make both big achievements and big mistakes, and so my guess is for most it would have been a “no harm, no foul” sort of situation.   Maybe.   (For all I know, everyone might have been horrified.)

But to those who heard about it outside our group and did not have those sensibilities, this was an indictment of monumental proportions.   As our group had other rumored indictments (both true and false), this one just seemed to corroborate with those.  But this is the thing – I think the shock and horror factor of this story would still have been there for most people in our neighborhood even if it included the fictitious detail that the door had been locked and no females could ever had accidentally entered, and all windows were covered, and the male prayer partner had waited outside so no accusations of anything could be made.

statue-5998_640Even with all those safeguards in place, the idea that someone had prayed naked in our community prayer room would have been just as offensive in any regard; of that I’m pretty sure.  And I don’t think the offense was merely about nakedness per se – I don’t think the story would have quite been the same if the story had been that this individual had been walking to the prayer room in the rain and got absolutely drenched, and for some reason couldn’t change in the restroom but asked his prayer partner to wait outside and guard the door while he quickly changed into dry clothes he had in his knapsack and then they went on to spend the rest of the night, fully clothed, praying the way they would be expected to do.

Now, there are all sorts of reasons for this.   I’m not going to dissect all of them, nor seek to justify nor condemn what my friend did.  But there is one specific aspect of this that I want to talk about, and it has to do with the messy confluence of a “Civilized God” with a “Natural God” construct.

What do I mean by a “Civilized God?”   When people form communities, and set apart buildings (such as our prayer room) for the worship of God, and have agreed upon procedures for worshipping that God, they are to some degree or another embracing a Civilized God.  Screenshot 2016-02-01 at 5.44.08 AMThat is to say, they believe that God receives and desires to be worshipped in the context of the social phenomenon we call civilization with all that it entails, and that He is happy to be in some way, a participant in the things of civilization.   What aspects of our civilized social life we outfit His worship with is debatable – but when we produce worship music with state of the art music studios and electric instruments, we have nodded to a Civilized God.  If the music is done with a carefully practiced choir, wearing choir robes, we sing that song to a Civilized God.   When we read the book of Revelation and see things like angels that write (invented by civilization) on scrolls (again, civilization) and play harps (civilization yet again) and blow trumpets (yep – civilization), we may be so civilized ourselves that we don’t even notice the interjection of the human inventions of civilization (don’t forget swords, horsemanship, herbal medicine, and thrones) into the allegorical description of the spiritual realm, but again, we’ve embraced a very Civilized Kingdom of God.   Revelation in fact culminates with the arrival of an amazing – wait for it – CITY. And nothing says civilization better than C.I.T.Y., even if it is a city of God.

the-substance-990771_640But that’s not the only view that people have of God – there is also the “Natural God” mindset.   After all, my friend had some instinct from somewhere, that to really have nothing between him and God, he needed to get all the vestiges of civilization off of his person – which of course, meant his clothing. He’s not alone – many, many people have sought God by heading to the wilderness, or a high mountain somewhere, so it could be just them and God away from any and all signs of humanity and its designs.

Screenshot 2016-02-01 at 5.51.26 AMAdam and Eve seemed to be this way – the closest they got to being civilized was taming a garden.    Moses at some point in his life was one of these folks – He met God on a high mountain and had communion with a very uncivilized, Natural God meeting, in the form of a burning bush.   John the Baptist, filled with the Spirit from his mother’s womb, also had a thing going with the Wild and Natural understanding of God, wearing camel skins and eating wild stuff and living far away from the temple worship of his father’s house – instead making the great outdoors his temple.

So you see, when my friend got naked in a prayer room, he was putting two things together that normally just don’t really belong together – the raw, natural, “nothing-but-a-man-and-his-God” sort of worship, mixed with the civilized, industrious, “a community of people got together” and pooled their resources to do something which will be a place in a town for townspeople to meet with God together.

And which God is God, really?

The Bible paints a picture of….
cairn-678422_640– A God who prohibits the use of tools in building him an altar – prefering instead a pile of wild rocks.
– A God who mixed up human languages because the people tried to use their know-how and social organizations to get closer to him
– A God who tells the man who wants to build him a temple, “Heaven is my throne, and Earth is my footstool….where is the house you would build for me?”
– A God who tells a man he is talking to to “take off your shoes….”
– A God who said that people who would consecrate themselves to Him must leave their hair to grow without styling or cutting it, and who may not eat grapes (a heavily cultivated crop.)
– A God who tells a man to lay on his side, outside, for a year, and eat food cooked over animal dung.
– A God who drives people like John the Baptist, Jesus, and Philip out into the wilderness.
– A God who overcomes a king with His Spirit, which leaves him laying naked in a ditch, prophesying.
– A God who is worshiped by a man who takes off everything but an ephod (and no one really knows what an ephod is, so I could imagine it is hardly worth mentioning) and dances wildly before Him.
– A God who does “not accept praise from man.”
dandelion-411756_640– A God who considers a babbling baby’s vocalizations to be “perfect praise.”

– A God whose express image, his very Son, had, “nowhere to lay his head.”
– A God whose Son went to a mountainside regularly to pray.
– A God who desired His Sacrifice to be made “outside the camp.”
– A God who provides for disciples who have been sent out to minister, taking nothing with themselves.
– A God whose Spirit births people of which one cannot pin down their origin or destinations, like the wind
– A God whose Son called his own body, “God’s temple.”
– A God who clothes the lilies of the field with more glory than any king ever had.
– A God of whom it was said, “The Most High does not live in houses made with human hands.”
– A God who met Paul when he conferred with no humans but spent three years in the desert of Arabia.
– A God who thinks has no regard for the fame and honor of this world, but regards as precious what the world rejects.
– A God whose Son Himself was rejected by society.
– A God who is building a “spiritual house” of people.

But, the Bible also talks about a God who is also the one who is…

jerusalem-108851_640– A God who gave the Israelites a code of laws to keep.
– A God who set up a priesthood caste with clear ritual requirements of record keeping, administration, times and dates, special foods and rites to be performed.
– A God who gave extremely specific instructions about the cloth and measurements and objects used for his tabernacle.
– A God who authorized fine craftsmanship in the building of ritual objects for his worship.
– A God who punished people like Korah who worshipped him in nonprescribed ways
– A God who spoke to kings and rulers about the events of their kingdoms, and gave them military and strategic advice on the affairs of their domains.
– A God who showed kings dreams about the rise and fall of their civilizations and others, so that the kings established mandatory worship of God in their realms.
– A God who filled an illustrious and expensive temple with His presence in honor of its ritual dedication.
– A God who was worshipped with harps and cymbals by priests working in carefully prescribed shifts.
– A God worshipped by highly structured acrostic poetry.
– A God who has angelic armies that have order and rank.
– A God that speaks metaphorically about piercing his daughters’ ears and adorning them with fine jewelry and rich linens.
– A God whose Son shows a preference at a very young age for hanging out in the temple, even calling it His Father’s house.
– A God whose Son expressed extremely strict ideas about the institution of marriage.
– A God that honors his servants in a far-off country that engage in ritualized prayer three times a day.
– A God whose Son shows some preference for Jewish nationalism, calling a Gentile woman a dog.
Screenshot 2016-02-01 at 5.54.31 AM– A God whose Son found refuge at His friend Lazarus’s house.
– A God whose Son went to the cultivated garden of Gethsemane to pray.
– A God whose Son teachings his disciples a prescriptive form of prayer, saying, “Our Father…”
– A God whose Son sings a hymn and performs a ritual passover meal, even instituting a new ritual along the way.
– A God whose Son weeps over a city, mourning that the systems and people running that city did not accept His visitation.
– A God whose Son tells his followers to hole themselves up in a room for weeks on end, practicing the discipline of prayer.
– A God whose followers came together regularly on the first day of the week.
– A God whose leaders came up with prescribed guidelines for choosing leaders, and appointed them.
– A God whose leaders issued decrees for ostracizing group members from the tribe who had disagreeable behavior.
– A God whose leaders carefully taught from written scripture truths about Him and His Son, and urged other leaders to “devote themselves to the public reading of scripture” and exhortation and teaching.

Ok.   Whew.    Where does this leave us?

Screenshot 2016-02-01 at 5.56.28 AM

We have a Natural God with no accouterments – the kind one looks for on a mountain.     We have a very Civilized God with a whole structured way of relating to him in society – the kind of God one looks for in a place like Jerusalem – where the Jews had their temple, and where the early church began.  (Yeah, I know – these two concepts play together about as well as a naked man trying to pray in a community prayer room.)

So which God will we worship, and how will we worship Him?   Will we embrace the Wild God, the unstructured, uncivilized God – or will we embrace the God of human institution, the civilized God of religion?   Will we go to the mountaintop to meet with Him or to the place of ritual and artistry and organization and form?

Where’s the living water?  What will we use to draw it up out of the well – our “natural God” tools or our “Civilized God” tools?  How will we drink?

Jesus weighs in, “Believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews.   But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.  (John 4:23-24, ESV)


Is that an answer?   Not until it becomes real to you and me as we actually find out what it means for us for in our own experience, not as a doctrine or a theory about the “right” way to do things, but in the desperate try-almost-anything hardcore search to find Him and find how to relate to Him – not until it becomes a place you truly have met with and worshiped God.  And this is the important one – not until you and I, both alone and corporately, find a way to go back and get with Him over, and over and over again, does it mean much either; because let’s face it, a chance encounter with Him doesn’t mean we’ve learned how to drink that water from the well – it just means we had a happy accident.   Although I’d venture that when we start having regular, frequent, happy accidents, we’re heading in a good direction.

utah-440520_1280

But we’re looking for that stability of real communion with Him, and we can, and should…journey to the mountain, journey to the valley, go to the city, and go to the town – worship in silence, and worship with lots of noise – worship with ritual, and worship freestyle – worship with others, and worship alone – sing old songs, sing new songs, pray in tongues and pray in English, draw a picture and dance a dance and reach for Him with our focus and thoughts and hearts – or toss it all out if the only thing that’s giving you or I anything is something not even named here.  But that pursuit must be deliberate and ongoing – it must be given time, energy, and push some other things aside.  Its not a works thing, but a laying hold of the One who has laid hold of us, thing.   And if we don’t seek, we’ll almost never find.

And please, I’ve really had to learn the hard way – it’s really important sometimes to forget anything about the “right” or “wrong” way to do church.  “Natural God” complexes and “Civilization God” complexes are alive and well in our pursuit of fellowship, unfortunately – but really the main issue is Jesus.   Are you finding Him when you’re with your church?  Put your doctrines and church theories aside – your organic church ideas or your tradition ideas or your social issue concerns or Holy Mother church ideas – for Christ’s sake I beg you, put it all aside.    That stuff tripped me up for way too many years of my life, and I don’t want it to get you too.

cathedral-569340_640Despite how much that church you’re at is doing everything wrong in your eyes, are you growing in Him there, or do you at least see potential for that?  If yes, don’t let anything tear you away from there.   But if not, move on – even if the church you’re part of is doing everything “right” and it’s the kind of church you’ve always been looking for or always gone to that has the right teaching and way of doing things – you have no time for that, find Jesus for real or at least find people as intent on real communion with Him as you are, who agree with you on perhaps nothing at all other than they want to know and pursue Him too, whether in the Natural God place or the Civilized God place or neither.   The less answers any of us have, the better, really…  And find, my friend, in the midst of all that, as all of it fades away, where you’ve seen and tasted and experienced a communion with Christ, no matter whether it looked wild and natural or civilized and structured.    Find in it all, despite it all – find the One who has truly made “all things yours.”

Selah.  Amen.

(PS – I usually hyperlink everything I say referencing a Bible verse to a Bible verse program online, but no one ever clicks on those links. So, if you want to know where I pulled something from the Bible, drop me a comment and I’ll let you know.   Otherwise, on this post, it would just take hours to insert links that no one ever uses.)

 

Epigenetics and “Generational Curses”

I ran across a video today posted by a friend on Facebook about how science is “proving the Bible” – in this case, “proving the Bible” was synonymous with affirming the charismatic belief in “generational curses.”

Now I know many of my readers are not part of the charismatic movement and as far as I know, most versions of Christianity outside of the charismatic church do not teach such a concept even exists, but to give a quick primer version of what this belief is about, I’ll just simply say that some Charismatic churches teach that if one’s great-grandparents, grandparents, or parents indulged in any of a variety of sins in their lives that one can inherit a curse in their family line for these actions. This belief is based on verses such as this one:

The LORD is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, forgiving iniquity and transgression, but he will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, to the third and the fourth generation.
(Numbers 14:18 ESV, see also Exodus 20:5, 34:7, and Deut. 5:9-10)

Now, I must disclose that I personally am somewhat undecided about what I think about this (even though I am a card-carrying charismatic myself) as I also consider the contrasting view presented in Ezekiel 18 on this very topic. That said, I have also prayed according to recommended charismatic wisdom about the sins of my family, known and unknown, and asked the Lord to break off any curses from me, should they exist. But as the goal of this post is not to debate the validity of “generational curses” in and of themselves, none of that is really what I wish to discuss here – so for the sake of this post, I’ll proceed from this point forward with the hypothetical position that generational curses really are, well, real – and that they are the Biblically accurate concept about how this sort of thing works. The question then I am exploring here is the validity of the scientific assertions that this video presents, and whether epigenetics is in fact, as the video says, synonymous with the charismatic belief about “generational curses.”

And, so, here’s a preview – my position on this video is that while epigenetics is an exciting science that is SOMEWHAT explained in this video, overall this is an intensely misleading, twisted example of Christians doing bad PR for the faith…and the only thing I think can be rightly done for this video is to “burn it with fire.” So in hopes that more misleading PR won’t be perpetuated, here comes the fire.

Oh yeah, I guess you’d like to see the video first. It is only right to give some free promotion for those I am about to take to task. Ok, so here it is, and then I’ll proceed with the fire:

Now, I must say that first of all I can’t fault the creators of this video for exhorting people to live a holy life – and to care about the effect that their decisions might have on others. That in and of itself is a noble exhortation, even though I may disagree with the details. And yes, as you are well aware at this point, I do emphatically disagree with the details. So on with my disagreements, below:

1) The concept of a Biblical “generational curse,” as I understand it, does not require the person receiving the curse to be as-yet unborn in order to receive the curse. For instance, if a 50-year old grandmother commits adultery, and she has a grown daughter who has a 2-year-old son, from what I understand about generational curses, her daughter and grandson (and grandson’s future children) could receive that curse, even though her daughter and grandson are already born at the time the adultery is committed and any great-grandchildren would not be able to receive epigenetic results from her life decisions at that point in time. If instead, epigenetic changes are presumed to be the normal way that these curses are transmitted through the family line, then the family line is not able to be cursed in this situation – because the daughter and grandson (and, by extension, grandson’s future children) can’t inherit genes from the grandmother when they’ve already been born.

2) If epigenetics is believed to be the way that Biblical generational curses are transmitted through a family line, then all prayer counseling and repentance to “break off” generational curses is relatively pointless. If you alter your chromosomes through epigenetics, then getting saved, confessing sins, breaking off generational curses, etc., has no effect on those changes. In the charismatic movement, we know this is not the case regarding generational curses – a generational curse, if it actually exists, is reversible – it is breakable through repentance and confession in prayer. But if we blame “generational curses” on epigenetics, we are saying there is no hope, at least not by merely praying about the issue – once you’ve sinned, your genetics are altered and there is no way to break the curse off yourself or your children short of a really huge inventive miracle or a dose of methylizing chemicals either injected or ingested into your system in the right way to alter the epigenetic changes….

3) Epigenetic modifications are not all bad. For instance, if your parents are addicted to watching porn before you were born (an example from the video) despite what the video forewarns with carefully edited ominous music, the actual epigenetic effect on your genes is not necessarily going to make you addicted to porn. (And to my knowledge, there is no scientific study on the books that actually says anything to this effect.) The epigenetic changes to one’s genome are not the way the video is describing them – it’s not like, “Your parents did this so now it’s written in your genes that you will be even more predisposed to do the same thing.”
In fact, in regards to cocaine addiction, there is substantial evidence at least through a mouse model that if a mouse develops a cocaine addiction, its offspring are substantially LESS likely to ever become addicted cocaine than a normal mouse would be – in this case, epigenetics has a protective effect. See article here.

4) Epigenetic changes are not necessarily due to “sin.” If one of your parents goes through a car accident, a traumatic experience, the trauma is possibly going to cause epigenetic changes that you will inherit. Your parents didn’t sin by experiencing a traumatic event – so why would we consider the resulting epigenetic changes to be a “curse?” Experiencing trauma does not curse your family line, but it can cause epigenetic changes… Again, epigenetics is not necessarily “good” nor “bad” – but to sum up the way epigenetics works in really loose laymen terms, whether an epigenetic change is “good” or “bad” for an organism is not really related to the morality of what prompted the change. Many times what we consider “bad” habits do tend to create some negative epigenetic changes; but bad things do not always result in bad epigenetic changes. For instance, a study done in Sweden showed an epigenetic disadvantage towards diabetes and heart disease for the offspring of people whose fathers had ample food between the ages of 9 and 12, whereas people whose fathers faced famine during those ages inherited better health. But this result also only held true if the father experienced famine in that age range – experiencing famine at a different age had no effect.

5) I’m not sure why anyone would say this is a proof against evolution. That doesn’t follow from the science of epigenetics at all. And there’s the rub: the guy in the video seems to go out of his way to give a blatant, but subtle misrepresentation of the science.
A recent, actual study done on Darwin’s finches relative to epigenetics states, “As environmental factors are known to result in heritable changes in the epigenome, it is POSSIBLE that epigenetic changes CONTRIBUTE to the molecular basis of the evolution of Darwin’s finches.” But, somehow video guy leapt from the words “possible” and “contribute” and he instead paints a much different picture using the words “science has now PROVED it is epigenetic modification” making it sound like it is much, much more than a “possible contribution.” Realistically, whether or not epigenetics is involved (and it is likely that it is) doesn’t change whether or not the finches on Galápagos island, or any other species, evolved for millions of years or not. The theory of evolution has always recognized that small changes -whether those changes be mutations, or now, epigenetic changes – occur and in one way or another, lead to evolution – whether this be by punctuated evolution (spurts of time in which many changes occur relatively rapidly) or otherwise.

6) The video names a number of sexual things that are implied to cause epigenetic changes in humans, without any concern for God’s approval of sexual acts done within marriage. For instance, “cyber sex” and “masturbation” are displayed as examples of things that will change your genes (and thus far in my searching, it seems that this is completely imaginary with not a single study to support it.) But, if we allow such a thing as a hypothetical, then assuming typical evangelical/charismatic Christian morals regarding what is sexually appropriate behavior, the question becomes: are your genes going to be epigenetically marked differently if you have “cyber sex” with some stranger, in contrast to what will occur if you are away from home on a business trip and have “cyber sex” with your spouse long distance? How? Or again, will masturbation alone contrasted with masturbation with your spouse as part of foreplay markedly affect your genes in profoundly differing ways? And if so, how?
If so, the assertion the video is making that the pleasure center of someone’s brain is somehow distinguishing between holy acts of sexuality and yet cursing someone with epigenetic changes if they do unholy acts with similar amounts of pleasure, but if someone who was raised to not feel guilty about these acts performed outside of marriage, are we really to believe that they are experiencing destruction of their genome in the one situation and health of their genome in the other? If so, again the question would be: how? What is the mechanism of action?
One side note: it should be mentioned that sex addiction is not universally regarded by the health field as even existing – while the video is maintaining that science has demonstrated sex addiction causes epigenetic damage. Again, the question must be asked: if a married couple has an extremely high libido and together they enjoy unusually frequent sex by mutual consent, is this damaging to their genes – and can we prove it? And would charismatic Christians really want to start teaching that the marriage bed is made impure somehow in this way?

7) Finally, the singularly most detestable thing in my mind about this video is the absolute attempt to deceive people using the visual graphics of the presentation. For instance, starting at about 2 minutes into the video, various sexual activities are written on the screen and underneath are written such things as “Genome: Up to 97%”. For each sexual activity, the percentage listed is different, but they are all extremely high percentages, and it appears that the suggestion being made to the viewer is that these activities alter an incredibly high percentage of someone’s genome. In reality, any epigenetic change that we have ever studied involves only a ridiculously miniscule amount of one’s genome. Small genetic markers can have large effects, but to suggest that sexual conduct is changing vast amounts of one’s genome – when there’s not even a single study to substantiate that sexual behavior is changing ANYTHING in one’s genome, is deception of a pretty high degree – maybe even something like, 97%, give or take.

sexaddiction
Science fiction jibber-jabber, designed to look like something real

But that’s not all. Reading the fine print on these graphics reveals…complete gibberish. Not a single line of any of these graphics says anything scientifically real at all. It’s all nonsense, designed to make the viewer think that there are actual scientifically precise encodings of genes taking place, that are known and measurable – using words and numbers that don’t even describe the process as it would be described if it WERE known to be taking place. And that is incredibly yucky, at least to me.

In the final analysis, the field of epigenetics DOES demonstrate that what parents do affects their unborn children and grandchildren. It DOES give us an extra reason to take care of our bodies and make good choices. But the science is extremely complex, and it is nowhere near as cut and dry – nor “moral” as this video wants us to believe. And it definitely does not “prove” the Bible, nor the concept of “Generational Curses” in any way that the video is suggesting – or demanding – that we believe.

For more reading on this topic, check out:
http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/epigenetics-it-doesnt-mean-what-quacks-think-it-means/

The Spirit in the Room

Years ago I had this friend, Stephen, who had this natural ability to turn any conversation into a real heartfelt conversation about God and Jesus, and I and another friend were hanging out with him one day as we all went to visit a friend who was undergoing some spiritual turmoil.   Her family had invited us in and told us all to go wait for her in her room, that she would be home shortly.   So while we waited, we prayed for her – and we asked the Lord to send His Spirit into her room to make Himself more real to her.

Not long thereafter, this gal came in and together we had a conversation about the Lord, where each person seemed to have something to share that flowed in perfect harmony with what the others shared.   As we spoke with her, I noticed what seemed to look like a barely discernable “mist” that filled the air, and as I took notice of the mist, it became more and more visible to me.    It seemed to sparkle, too, like this ambient light was filling the mist “particles” whatever they were, and as I paid more and more attention to this slightly glowing mist, I realized that the “light” seemed to glow not with some impersonal light, but with an extremely personable sense of affection and love, emanating from the mist.   Describing this sounds somewhat insane to me, even as I write it: how could a glow emanate something personable and loving?   These things just sound awful when one tries to put them into words, but this is the best I can describe what more or less is indescribable by normal terms, typical terms.   I have to admit though, at the time, I did not voice this experience to anyone: I was accustomed to spiritual experiences being highly individualistic, and assumed I was the only one there that saw such a thing, that anyone else would have thought I was nuts or lost in my own imagination.

So I was shocked, when upon leaving this gal’s house, Stephen immediately turned to me and my other friend, and exclaimed, “Did you see the Shekinah glory of God filling her room?!?!”   I was so surprised and gasped, “You saw it too?!?”  We asked the third friend who said she also saw the mist, although I wasn’t ever sure if she was just going along with what Stephen and I were sharing, or if she had really seen it also – but I knew that day that as individualistic as spiritual experiences can be, that they’re not ALWAYS private, individual, non-confirmable occurrences.

This was years and years ago; since then I have had many, many opportunities to be confronted with the presence of God in a room – with rare exception this has always occurred when people were gathered together to declare Him and His love in song (aka, to worship and pray together.)   There were many years of my life as a Christ-follower where I never saw or felt anything supernatural – during that time period, if you had told me then that you felt “the Spirit of God” during worship, I would have wondered firstly why I never could seem to share that experience, and secondly if you were just deluding yourself.   But something happened in between the time of my life when I “felt nothing” and the time of my life when I grew in an awareness of God’s presence among His people: and that was encountering the Holy Spirit not in a room filled with other people, but within myself.   It’s a long story for some other posting(s) to explain that journey, and how I came to know more what the indwelling Spirit of God was like in my own being; a journey that started with believing in the Messiah Himself and then asking, seeking, and crying out to know Him more – stumbling around in darkness wondering when and how He would turn the lights on for me, but still seeking, still reaching, still groping, knowing that there had to be something more than a “theory” of what it meant to have the Spirit come and live within me – that somehow this had to be something more than a belief or doctrine but an actual living experience.   I would read verses like this one:

Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” (John 7:38) 

and wonder what this was describing, because even as a believer and follower of Jesus I knew that nothing which had happened to me thus far could be described in words like those.   So I went looking, and found that the Father was looking for me at the same time, to reveal His Son in me, to me, in a way that I didn’t know up to that point (and am still learning about even to this day.)

But this brings me to the point of this blog posting: that I believe there are two distinct ways in which the Spirit of God is made manifest to a believer.    And all too often, I hear and see my friends getting hung up on one of those two ways, while completely dismissing and misunderstanding the other of the two.    So to speak more clearly, there are two distinct ways (and these are not the only two, but for the sake of this discussion I am focusing on two) that the Holy Spirit frequently makes His presence known to those who know Jesus:

a) within themselves, in their own individual innermost being (in many various ways)

and

b) within a gathered, corporate expression of believers honoring Christ together

If you think about it, we know that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, and that this is true on an individual level.   You do not need to gather together with anyone else to alone be a temple of the Holy Spirit.   Jesus said this about Himself on a solitary, individual level, when He refered to His own body as God’s temple, and we know that this is true for each individual believer who receives Him into themselves.   We are each of us God’s temple.   And thus within ourselves, God can be communed with, ministered to, petitioned, and each of us can be led by the light of His Spirit within, on an individual level.    In the Old Testament, God sending His Spirit upon an individual is a recognized occurrence; sometimes New Testament believers will make a distinction about whether God wants to position Himself “upon” or “within” someone in the New Testament sense and whether or not there is a difference between the impartation of the Spirit to a person upon the initial commitment to Christ in one’s life, or sometime thereafter, but regardless of these discussions, most believers agree that the Holy Spirit is available to any individual believer in one sense or another.

I think one issue however with the Lord dwelling among us individually is that for some individuals, their only experience of the presence of God has occurred in corporate settings.  Even their individual sense of His presence is only found when they meet with others to sing and pray.   For a new believer, this isn’t immediately a problem as gathering with others can be like “training wheels” as they first recognize their ability to sense the Spirit in environments where others are setting the spiritual tone for them.   Being in a corporate setting can help one to recognize not only the Spirit as He moves in the midst of music or sharing in a group, but also to become more sensitive to what He is like within the individual.   But for some people, they remain dependent exclusively on the others in the group to manifest the presence of Spirit for them; and this is problematic; it is essential that each believer is uniquely aware of the Spirit of God in such a way that they are not depending on others to know Christ by the Spirit.  People that are struggling with this dynamic are often very upset if something happens during a corporate meeting to distract from enjoying Christ together, and are not easily able to follow the leading of the Lord through disruptive situations to the corporate situation.    For instance, if a nonbeliever is visiting in a small home meeting of Christians, and behaves in a way that is insensitive to an awareness of the Spirit of God – or if he or she has conversation with someone where the conversation does not focus on spiritual things, a believer who is not able to tap into Christ within themselves individually may not know how to extend grace and love to someone who has disrupted their corporate worship or sharing time, instead considering that person a trial or a tribulation.   One who knows how to experience Christ within however is not dependent on an outward experience of Christ in a group to be edified or to have the wherewithal to give something of the Spirit to someone who doesn’t know how to see or touch Him yet;  and there are many more reasons why it is essential that every believer be fluent in experiencing the Spirit of Christ for themselves without being dependent on gathering with others to tap into His presence among them, at least not most of the time.  If one is dependent on the “corporate anointing” to experience the Spirit, one does not mature in their own ability to edify others, but remains a consumer of what others in the body bring forth to edify them.  (Unfortunately, most churches are set up so that during the Sunday service particularly there is very little opportunity for anyone other than a few select people to exercise their giftings for the edification of others, and so people remain mostly consumers of the religious services offered to them, and the Lord still does make Himself manifest corporately from time to time in these settings; but I do believe that the more the church makes opportunities for people to go from being mere consumers to those who actively edify others that the corporate presence of God experienced in meetings of the body will increase in frequency and magnitude.)

This well known scripture, 1 Corinthians 14:24-25 demonstrates the difference between a group of people where believers are enjoying God’s presence corporately for themselves but unable to adjust to bringing forth a deeper measure of Christ individually, in contrast to a group of people that know how to listen to the Lord individually and make Him known corporately from their own individual reserves.  When the latter is the case, out of a place of growing maturity individual believers can bring forth treasures from Christ in such a way that even a nonbeliever with undeveloped awareness of the spirit-realm can see that He is among them corporately:Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature….If, therefore, the whole church comes together and all speak in tongues, and outsiders or unbelievers enter, will they not say that you are out of your minds? But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or an ungifted man enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all; the secrets of his heart are disclosed; and so he will fall on his face and worship God, declaring that God is certainly among you.”

But aside from the drawback of being fixated on a corporate experience at the expense of the individual experience, one can see that is a great deal of validity to being able to relate to His presence as a gathered people as well.   For instance, while it is completely scripturally valid to think of each individual Christian as a temple of Christ, we also know from scriptures such as 2 Corinthians 6:16, that we are a corporate, collective temple as well.   Also, 1 Peter 2:5 talks about each believer being a living stone, built TOGETHER into one spiritual house.   Thus there is a sense in which the Spirit of God can fill not just us as individuals, but also us as a gathered, corporate expression of faith in Christ.  In the Old Testament, God coming “among” His people is a persistent motif – from Him coming among them (Leviticus 26:12-13) and walking in their camp (Deuteronomy 23:14), going ahead of them and leading them corporately (Exodus 13:21, Exodus 33:14, Deuteronomy 31:8) and His desire to dwell among them as a people, corporately, in the New Covenant (Ezekiel 27:37).   There is also a motif of the glory of God coming in a rather demonstrative way and filling His temple (*1 Kings 8:11, *Ezekiel 10:4, *2 Chronicles 5:14, *2 Chronicles 7:1-2, Ezekiel 43:5 & 44:4) remembering that we are not just individually temples, but are corporately a temple, it should be no surprise that the presence of Christ can be experienced corporately when believers gather together to minister to Him and each other.

Now, I have heard many objections to this whole idea.   One common objection is the idea that God being experienced corporately is an Old Testament thing, not a New Testament thing, because Christ has made it possible for the three-in-one God to dwell within each of us.   While I agree, obviously, that the work of the cross and resurrection and ascension of Christ has huge ramifications for the accessibility of the Spirit, I think it is a misconception that a *corporate* experience of God’s presence is uniquely ‘Old Testament.’ For one thing, an *individual experience* of God’s presence is very much an Old Testament occurrence so why do we believe that the distinction made by the New Testament is a matter of individuality vs. corporate life?   I think this is a mistake.   Another objection I think also to be a mistake is to believe that because God comes to dwell inwardly within an individual under the New Covenant that this means all outward experiences of God’s presence (which a corporate experience is in some aspects) are no longer valid.   The reality is that if God dwells in me, but He is also dwelling IN you, for me to experience any aspect of communion with you in that same Spirit requires me to experience something outside myself – to experience a communion shared BETWEEN us, not only within myself.  This can happen on many levels; I do not in any way mean to suggest the normal and presumed means of us experiencing His presence together will be to see a sparkling mist of love filling the room (although that is certainly one way I have personally experienced His presence being made manifest corporately on less than a handful of occasions) but experiencing His presence IS something that in one way or another is not a rare occurrence by any means – and learning to be sensitive to the Spirit within oneself sharpens one’s spiritual senses for discerning Him, via the inner sensitivity to His love or voice or glory or light or wisdom or movements, etc., to that same Spirit when He does things in the midst of a group people as well.

No, I think the largest difference between what we see in God filling the temple in the Old Testament, versus what He does when He fills His temple now, is that the temple NOW is not a building made of stone, but is now a building of LIVING stones.    If God comes and fills a room, He’s not filling it because He has a thing about “rooms” as much as because He is meeting in a  with the people gathering there.   The motifs of the Old Covenant have become realized in flesh and blood more than in stone and mortar; in a very real way we have become the stones, and this was what He was after all along anyway.   Even in the Old Testament God was still hanging out with people; in the New Testament He does this even more so, in an even much more relatable way.   Christ has come as the incarnation, the “God with us” of the Father, and we have been caught up in this in such a way that even we have been transformed into the very incarnation of Christ, brothers together with Him.  (1 Cor 6:15, 1 John 4:17, Hebrews 2:11)

Unfortunately many New Testament scriptures that reference God’s Spirit being among us as a group are scriptures that refer to His presence among us specifically to deal with matters of sin, but nevertheless the testimony of Scripture is that He does meet with us corporately.

“Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven. For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.” (Matthew 18:19-20 ESV)

When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus…” (1 Corinthians 5:4 ESV; Paul’s Spirit is present in the gathered assembly by extension, unity, and association with the Lord’s Spirit…)

The fact that these verses however refer to judgment and discipline is actually helpful; because to establish a matter in a court of law according to the law of Moses required 2 or 3 witnesses.   Therefore there is something hidden in these verses that is wonderful – the concept that it is not just when people come together that they find Jesus present corporately, but when people come together for the sake of witnessing and testifying to something of the Lord that He is somehow “present” in a way beyond the general sense of God being present ubiquitously in the universe.

Another way in which believers testify of Christ’s reality is through their good works, their actions in the world.   This testimony of Christ is compared in Scripture to a lamp, placed on a stand where others can see it.

“….nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:15-16 ESV)

This lampstand then comes to represent the testimony of believers about who God is, spread their good works, in a region or vicinity where a church is found.   This testimony then results in praise, people “glorifying God” in response to what they see and hear.  It is this combination of one group testifying to another group of people, which then results in praise, that makes up the lampstand motif – and this lampstand motif is then used for another image in Scripture which demonstrates the unique presence of Christ that is present among believers in a corporate sense, when believers are shining forth a testimony of who God and Christ are to their neighbors through their love and care for those around them, resulting in praise.

Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the lampstands one like a Son of Man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. ” (Revelation 1:12-13)

Christ is present “among the lampstands.”   This is different than an individual experiencing Christ within themselves, this is a unique way that the Lord is present, found “in the midst” of what a collective group of people say and do together regarding Christ.

When a group of people remembers the character and works of the Lord together – how they’ve seen Him in their lives, and in the lives of others, and how they have experienced His testimony in their own life and the life of their community, this is meant to result in “praise and glory to God.”   Charismatics are fond of the verse, not without cause, that says, “Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel.” (Psalm 22:3 – People often paraphrase this as “God is enthroned on the praises of His people.”)  As overused as this verse can be, there is a validity to how the glory and presence of the Lord is made manifest among those who declare, honor, and remember His goodnesses together.   The testimony of the Lord expressed corporately, whether in song, outcry (“Come Lord Jesus!” aka, Maranatha!) or sharing the life and truth of who He is (such as my friends in the opening story of this blog) provides an environment in which the Spirit of Christ can agree and make Himself manifest and known more fully to those who look to Him for His appearances.  If you sow to the Spirit, you reap from the Spirit, and this is not only a personal truth but a corporate truth as well – filling the atmosphere of our shared time together with words expressed from open and hungry hearts turned towards Him is like lifting up the loaves and fishes towards Heaven and suddenly finding that there is more in the baskets than what one started with – more to eat of Who He is than what was brought to the meeting originally by the participants.  

What is the whole point though?   Criticisms of “worship times” where people seem to be worshipping to “get something from God” or “have an emotional experience” of some type are not entirely without merit, although they are often unduly critical of those who simply enjoy meeting with God.  (Really – is it wrong to get one’s sense of fulfillment and pleasure from experiencing the actual presence and glory of the Living God?   If so, what *is* the acceptable thing in life that a human may rightly derive a sense of joy, fulfillment and pleasure from?   Some might say He is worthy to be honored and glorified for His own sake, regardless of what we might enjoy or not enjoy of that – and this is true – but if one finds themselves deeply enjoying honoring and glorifying Him, and also finds a taste of Heavenly realities such as the glory and presence of God Himself – and responsive feelings to tasting those realities here on Earth – is this really so unseemly?)  We all have seen worship meetings though that seemed to be filled with emotional and musical hype, even manipulation.   These are real issues for the body of Christ to reckon with as it seeks to meet authentically and in reality with God, and give Him praise, and honor, and hunger, and love, as a gathered group of people.   But the hype driven, or manipulative seeming music or styles are not by any means the real crux of the story here.    The reality of this story is that we pray for the Kingdom to come to Earth – and while there are many, many facets to what this means, two facets are not be easily dismissed or ignored:
Each one of us has a heart of flesh, taken from the dust of this Earth – and that is one place that the King, and the Kingdom, is meant to come.  He does that via His Spirit, which is His presence.


And, not only that, we are a people, a nation, a temple here on the Earth.   And if His presence doesn’t come
and dwell among us when we gather together, how do we hope for His presence and His Kingdom to be made manifest anywhere else on this planet?   Are we not, as those called by His name, ground zero for His appearances?   What is it we partake in together as one body – is it only “truth” and “ideas” and “ways of life” or is there a facet of God coming to us, like the morning dew, or sometimes as a mist, or sometimes as a sense of His personhood, or sometimes as a Song, or as fresh revelation of His word to us, or in many other ways, is He welcome among us as a group?   I hope we can say yes.   Yes to Him, in however He makes Himself known to us – individually, or corporately, or any other way known to man.

 

 

On a Scale of 1 to 10….

Some of my friends on FB know that, back in May, I was at a friend’s house during a late night power outage, and slipped on an unusually shaped/sized step going into her kitchen to get a candle, and simultaneously broke a bone in my foot while tearing a tendon in my ankle.   It was a VERY slow-healing fracture (the 5th metatarsal is a notoriously difficult bone for fracture healing) and it turns out that the torn tendon is an even bigger, more long-term issue than that.  

Four months later, and I was just starting to be able to walk again, albeit with the help of crutches and physical therapy.  Here, at the fifth month mark, I can now hobble around the house without crutches, but generally when I go out in public I still use the crutches for otherwise painful occasions, like shopping, where I’ll need to walk more than a few feet at a time.   This past weekend I was not feeling all that ambitious, so I took my crutches with me as I visited…a new [charismatic] church.

My friend who went with me remarked on our way to the car, “Do you think they’ll call you up to the front to pray for you to be healed?”   I replied, “No, I doubt they’d do that.   I don’t think what from what I know of this church that that would be their style.   But – I bet they’ll get me in their lobby after the service is over.”   I was really actually not hoping this to be the case – but we were mostly teasing each other with the comments. 

So I walked into the church, feeling like I had a bullseye on my back, saying, “Aim prayers here.”   I was glad when we found an empty pew, and I could lay down my crutches and be “normal” again.   It’s not that I don’t like prayer – I actually do like prayer.  It’s just that there’s something about the way people accost people when they want to try out their healing ju-ju on them that is very uncomfortable to me in some ways – especially when the prayer is not asked for, and the person is a stranger.  

Anyway, we sat through the service, and both my friend and I found the teaching time to be really down-to-earth, basic, but solid stuff.  So solid in fact that we sat there for at least a good 5 minutes after the meeting was over, just processing together some of the heart issues that were brought up for both of us.  Meanwhile, the room grew emptier.   So we finally got up to leave. 

Back in the lobby, my friend went to look for a pen to fill out the visitor card that would earn us a “free CD” as first time visitors, and I stood there a moment waiting, when an attractive and trendy guy came up to me and introduced himself.   He talked to me for a little bit and seemed strangely friendly and interested in me, beyond what I would normally expect from an attractive and trendy guy on first meeting.   I honestly wondered at his interest in me – was he trying to pick me up?   Call it low self-esteem, but that seemed highly improbable.   So what was with this dude?   Men of this caliber, unfortunately, rarely even speak with me – let alone speak to me with such a level of personal interest.   

And then came the question – the question that instantly brought me back to reality and immediately removed all questions from my mind.   “So,” he asked, “on a scale from 1 to 10, how bad would you say your ankle hurts right now?”   And right then and there, I knew.  Not because I was intuitive, no, but because he was following the ‘script’ – the latest charismatic formula for how someone who has been trained in ‘healing’ in any of the big name ‘healing schools’ or conferences is trained to approach their victim – I mean – the person they want to try healing.  

How the script is supposed to go is like this:  you ask the person how bad their pain is on a quantitative scale, from 1 to 10.   Then you ask to pray for them.   You ask to touch them and lay your hand on the part that hurts, if possible.   Then after you command that part of their body to be healed, you ask them if they felt anything.   And you ask them if the pain has decreased – and you get another number on the scale from them.   Then you ask to pray again to get the pain to go down the scale further.   Then you check your ‘patient’ and ask again if the pain is any less.  And you keep repeating the process, over and over and over, until the patient finally says they are in much less pain, or that they are healed.     Then you ask them to do something that would have been painful earlier, like if they had shoulder pain, to lift their arm above their head or something.  This is a pattern – a template even, for how the interaction between the healer and healee is to be carried out.

So my new friend of the moment asked me how my foot felt on a scale of 1 to 10, and I instantly knew that my earlier prognostication that I would be the recipient of healing prayer ministry in the lobby after the service, was instantly proven accurate.   Yay.  

I cut to the chase.   I told him, “The pain is only around a 2 right now, because the crutches are bearing my weight for me.   But if you want to pray for my foot, you’re more than welcome to do so.”  Heck, it’s not the prayer itself that bugs me.   Since he was here, I’d receive the prayer.   So he prayed…and commanded…the ankle to heal.  Then he got up and predictably, asked me if I felt anything happening.   I told him, honestly – no, I didn’t.   I saw him getting ready to go for round two…and I just didn’t want to go through that whole entire process of pray, ask, repeat – pray, ask, repeat.   I wonder, if this formula was designed knowing that people eventually feel so much pressure to say, “Yeah, yeah, the pain has gone down” that they eventually just give in and say that?   I know from my past run ins with this form of prayer that there comes a point when I feel so pressured to just say something has happened just because it feels like the person will never let you go otherwise.   Anyway, I didn’t want to go through the whole process, so I cut to the chase again, thanked him for his one prayer, and told him the honest to God truth: I have experienced healing before.   But it has never, ever happened to me while someone was actually in the process of prayer with me.   

So my benefactor kindly nodded, smiled, and let me go.   And I was glad.   But as I look back on the encounter, I realized a few things.   And mostly it was this:

There are people in churches and groups I have been in that have never been interested in knowing me, or being friends with me.   But when they host an Avon party or an Amway party or some other sort of “get everyone who has a checkbook to come to your party” type party, they never fail to invite me.   And for me, it always goes something like, “Wow, you are talking to me?  You are inviting me to a party?   Wow – thank you – I’ve been really hoping to get to know you all this time and i always got the impression you didn’t think I was cool enough to know.”   And then, just as my hope is rising, I realize – oh, wait.   It’s not a real party.   It’s not a social invitation.   It’s a business.   They only invited me to THIS party because of the fact that they need customers.

And unfortunately, that’s sort of how I felt with Mr. Cute Healing Guy.   (He was married it turned out – which is fine.   He’s probably married to someone as cute as he is – but wow, it would have been so amazing for my friend and I to get invited to go to a meal with Mr. and Mrs. Trendy after church, and all get to know each other.   That would have been totally banging.   But that’s not what this was about.)  You see, this is what I think it was about.  No, he didn’t want money from me.   But, I can’t help but think he saw me, not as a someone to know, but as someone to practice on.   In these healing seminars, where these methods are taught, one other thing is taught: that the big guys, like John Wimber, who learned how to “do the stuff” and really heal people, prayed for something like 500 people first without a single miracle, before they got their first healing. So you have to just get out there and practice, practice, practice.  And how do you practice unless you can find people to practice on?   That’s what I think I was to this guy – an injured object for him to practice on.   Not someone he wanted to know….  not someone he even really truly cared about, but just, a chance for him to try out his stuff.   

Does that sound bleak and bitter?   I suppose I could go to that church 10 more times, and see if he ever talks to me again – or if he ever talks to me about anything other than, “How is your foot?   Would it be ok if I tried praying for your foot again?”    But I will concede: perhaps I am wrong about this guy’s intentions.   The thing is, even if I am reading the wrong thing here with him, I know one thing is certain: this blog post is worth publishing, because there are thousands of other people being taught to do exactly what this guy did, and this blog post would not be wrong about the intentions of the majority of them.   

Thus, I now hit publish, and you are invited to comment.