Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Healing and Healers Part 2

The series of posts is part of a discussion I am having with some other Christians.  It is a very important question for those who seek to help those in pain as well as those who hurt.  Those of us in the healing professions are often here because we ant to help those who suffer.  You see us briefly for treatment and go on your way. 

What you miss is our inner struggle.  We actually care about what we are doing.  We don’t just apply a procedure, perform a service, or prescribe a pill.  We leave the treatment room and think long and hard about what worked and what did not.  We think about those we have tried to help.  On my own part I can say that I go home and scour medical journals and books looking for ways to improve what I do and for answers to why a particular person may not be responding as I like.

The last post focused on Biblical reasons that people suffer.  In this post I want to look at what the Bible says about healing and healers.  I am going to do it in a way to answer a question that a friend has.  We will give this person a nice unisex name.  How about Alex?  You supply the gender.

Alex is a massage therapist like me.  These are 2 related comments that I will be responding to.  Please keep in mind that the purpose of this post is instruction.  I am not making a personal attack.  I am trying to build up and help another who professes faith.  Alex said:

“I want to see MS be cured, the paralyzed to walk, and bodies be redeemed. I know God can do that through me as a vessel, but what's blocking it. How can we remove ourselves out of the picture from doing tangible acts like massage & allow God to supersede our limited thinking with His limitless power?”

“However, John 14:12 keeps nagging at me, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father."
Human rationalizations or even Biblical interpretations don't seem to suffice this hunger in me to see those red letter words fulfilled. If that's what HE said isn't that what we should be doing or expecting instead of trying to explain it away? The power of sin could never overcome the power of salvation.”

Alex wants to know why the people he/she touches are not responding in an even greater way than what happened for Jesus.  It’s a valid question.  A bible verse has been quoted. It appears according to the theology of the first glance that we should be out performing Jesus.  It looks like that is what he clearly said.  Why ARE we explaining away what God the Son, the second person of the Trinity said?  What are we to do?

If you are suffering from chronic pain you might well have the same sentiment.  Where are these healers?  You would even be satisfied with what Jesus did!
It would probably be a good idea to go the passage mentioned by Alex. I will go a little before and after:

John 14:11- 14 Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father in Me, or else believe Me for the sake of the works themselves. Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father.  And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.   If you ask anything in My name, I will do it. 

In the context Jesus states that his works in and of themselves should cause those who see them to believe in him.  There is no local context that tells us what these works are.  This chapter is silent but we do learn something about the purpose of the works of Jesus that are recorded in the book of John.  He says here that these works should lead us to faith.  John 20:30 - 31  “And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.” So we see twice that the purpose of the works was to drive us to faith.  Another interesting thing is that these works were not few in number.  John says again chapter 21: 25  “And there are also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. Amen.”

So Jesus came and did many great works to cause people to have faith in him.  Why on earth would they do that?  Why don’t we just record them in Ripley’s Believe it or Not and chalk it up to an interesting story that has no effect on our lives?  Why is it that according to 1Co 1:22  “Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom…”  Why in fact did Nicodemous say in John 3:2  "Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him."  What is this about signs and faith?
It began with Moses:

Exodus 4:1-9  Then Moses answered and said, "But suppose they will not believe me or listen to my voice; suppose they say, 'The LORD has not appeared to you.' " So the LORD said to him, "What is that in your hand?" He said, "A rod."  And He said, "Cast it on the ground." So he cast it on the ground, and it became a serpent; and Moses fled from it. Then the LORD said to Moses, "Reach out your hand and take it by the tail" (and he reached out his hand and caught it, and it became a rod in his hand), "that they may believe that the LORD God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has appeared to you." Furthermore the LORD said to him, "Now put your hand in your bosom." And he put his hand in his bosom, and when he took it out, behold, his hand was leprous, like snow. And He said, "Put your hand in your bosom again." So he put his hand in his bosom again, and drew it out of his bosom, and behold, it was restored like his other flesh. "Then it will be, if they do not believe you, nor heed the message of the first sign, that they may believe the message of the latter sign. And it shall be, if they do not believe even these two signs, or listen to your voice, that you shall take water from the river and pour it on the dry land. The water which you take from the river will become blood on the dry land."

Moses needed to speak to the leaders of Israel.  God gave him signs to show that he was indeed bringing a message from God.  They knew the time was near because God had told Abram in Gen 15:13  “Then He said to Abram: "Know certainly that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and will serve them, and they will afflict them four hundred years. And also the nation whom they serve I will judge; afterward they shall come out with great possessions.”  So the signs and wonders were used to authenticate that the messenger was in fact from God.

There was also the promise of the Messiah.  We read of the amazing things that he was to do through then entire Old Testament.  The Old Testament scriptures describe the offices he was to fulfill as Prophet (Dt. 18:18-22), Priest (Ps 110 ) , and King (2 Sam 7).  In the discharge of his Kingly office he was to heal: Isa 35:5-6 “Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, And the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then the lame shall leap like a deer, And the tongue of the dumb sing. For waters shall burst forth in the wilderness, And streams in the desert. “
So, the Jews were waiting for a Messiah who was a healer.  When John the Baptist was having a crisis of faith in prison he sent messengers to Jesus.  Look at Jesus’ reply in Luke 7:19-22:

  And John, calling two of his disciples to him, sent them to Jesus, saying, "Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?" When the men had come to Him, they said, "John the Baptist has sent us to You, saying, 'Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?' " And that very hour He cured many of infirmities, afflictions, and evil spirits; and to many blind He gave sight. Jesus answered and said to them, "Go and tell John the things you have seen and heard: that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the gospel preached to them.

The healings of Jesus were presented to John the Baptist to demonstrate that Jesus is indeed the Messiah.  The healings were additional proof to the Jewish people that Jesus was the promised Messiah.  The Apostles continued this ministry.
So Jesus tells his disciples, “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do…”  Did the Apostles do anything more fantastic than Jesus did when raising the dead or making the lame to walk?  If they did it is not recorded in scripture.  This would be a great place for a non believer to cast aspersions on the truth of scripture.  Jesus said it and it did not happen. 

That is a pretty scary thought.  The Jews would have made good use of such an argument.  We read in the passage where the coming of the Prophet is announced exactly how to tell a true from a false prophet.  Deut. 18:20 - 22  But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in My name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die.' And if you say in your heart, 'How shall we know the word which the LORD has not spoken?'—when a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the thing does not happen or come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him.”  The Jews would certainly have made use of this argument when bring the Apostles to trial – yet it is never mentioned.  Why?

There was a common type of argument used by the Jews at this time.  It was called an argument from the lesser to the greater.  We see Jesus using this when he talked about the unjust judge. Luk 18:1-7 “  Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart, saying: "There was in a certain city a judge who did not fear God nor regard man. Now there was a widow in that city; and she came to him, saying, 'Get justice for me from my adversary.' And he would not for a while; but afterward he said within himself, 'Though I do not fear God nor regard man, yet because this widow troubles me I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.' "Then the Lord said, "Hear what the unjust judge said. And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them?” The argument was that if an unjust judge would hear an entreaty he cared nothing about and would deal righteously – hom much more would the Father?

Another instance is displayed in Matt. 7:9-11 “ Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!”  If these natural arguments are true, how much more will God bless us!

My favorite is Mat 9:2-8  “Then behold, they brought to Him a paralytic lying on a bed. When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, "Son, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven you." And at once some of the scribes said within themselves, "This Man blasphemes!" But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, "Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say, 'Your sins are forgiven you,' or to say, 'Arise and walk'? But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins"—then He said to the paralytic, "Arise, take up your bed, and go to your house. "And he arose and departed to his house. Now when the multitudes saw it, they marveled and glorified God, who had given such power to men.” This is really amazing – is it more difficult to do the spiritual or the physical healing.  This is really pertinent.

This statement of Jesus regarding greater works is another example of this type of argument.  Which is more difficult or spectacular.  I think John Gill says it well in his commentary on this verse

“John 14:12
Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that believeth on me,.... Having mentioned his miracles as proofs of his deity, he assures his disciples, in order to comfort them under the loss of his bodily presence, that they should do the same, and greater works; for we are not to understand these words of everyone that believes in Christ, of every private believer in him, but only of the apostles, and each of them, that were true believers in him: to whom he says,

the works that I do shall he do also; he shall raise the dead, heal all manner of diseases, and cast out devils; things which Christ gave his apostles power to do, when he first gave them a commission to preach the Gospel, and when he renewed and enlarged it: and which they did perform, not in their own name, and by their own power, but in the name, and by the power of Christ: and greater works than these shall he do; meaning, not greater in nature and kind, but more in number; for the apostles, in a long series of time, and course of years, went about preaching the Gospel, not in Judea only, but in all the world; "God also bearing them witness with signs and wonders, and divers miracles and gifts of the Holy Ghost", Heb_2:4, wherever they went: though perhaps by these greater works may be meant the many instances of conversion, which the apostles were instrumental in, and which were more in number than those which were under our Lord's personal ministry: besides, the conversion of a sinner is a greater work than any of the miracles of raising the dead, &c. for this includes in it all miracles: here we may see a sinner, dead in trespasses and sins, quickened; one born blind made to see; one who was deaf to the threatenings of the law, and to the charming voice of the Gospel, made to hear, so as to live; and one that had the spreading leprosy of sin all over him, cleansed from it by the blood of the Lamb yea, though a miracle in nature is an instance and proof of divine power, yet the conversion of a sinner, which is a miracle in grace, is not only an instance of the power of God, and of the greatness of it, but of the exceeding greatness of it: and the rather one may be induced to give in to this sense of the passage, since it is added, as a reason, because I go to my Father; and upon my ascension the Spirit will be given, to you, which shall not only enable you to perform miracles, as proofs of your apostleship, and the doctrine you preach, but which shall powerfully attend the Gospel to the conversion of multitudes of souls.”

Far from “explaining this verse away” this post illustrates how these words would have been understood by those who heard them.  The greater works had more to do with the progress of the gospel going from Jerusalem and Judea unto the uttermost parts of the earth.  There is still much to be said.  Lord willing – more to come!

Friday, February 21, 2014

Healing and Healers Part 1

I often have people question me about friends and people they know who are suffering.  They don’t understand why their friend or loved one is going through whatever it is that is happening “to them.” It is one of the “Why God?” questions that comes up often.  How ought we as Christians respond?

I never tell a person that I know why they are suffering.  God has not given me that knowledge.  I do make people aware of some of the following material so that they can think about the issues from a more biblical perspective.  There may well be more explanations than I write about.  This subject may very likely require a few posts to deal with the many issues involved.  Stay tuned!  But for now – well here goes!

The big reason many people jump at for an explanation is that the person afflicted is in some type of sin and that this is the punishment involved.  We certainly have many illustrations in scripture of people being judged for their sin.  Miriam became a leper in Numbers 12 for her complaining about Moses.  The children of Israel were bitten by snakes in Numbers 21 for speaking against God.  Instances of this type can be easily multiplied.

The problem is that this is not the only cause for suffering.  I often think of the man born blind in John 9.  Look at this amazing interchange:  Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth.  And His disciples asked Him, saying, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" Jesus answered, "Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him.”

This grown man had suffered his entire life for at least one incredibly significant purpose.  People have spoken of this man for over 2,000 years.  He suffered so “that the works of God should be revealed in him.” Christ did his works so “that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.” The prophesy was that the Messiah would in the words of Isa 35:5  “Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, And the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped” open the eyes of the blind. This man’s blindness helped demonstrate that Jesus was indeed the Christ! Basically the point is – no sin here, God chose to be revealed specifically in this man.

I love the book of Job.  Job loses everything – family, fortune, and especially respectability.  It’s hard to look or feel respectable when your scraping your sores with broken pottery {Job 2:8} and your breath is offensive to your wife {Job 19:17}.  Job was being tested for his faithfulness.  Generations have read his story, felt his pain, and learned from his experience.  Far from being punished for his sin, Job was made an example of faithfulness to God’s people for millennia.  The thing I personally find so amazing is that, in this life, Job never knew why things were happening to him.

Paul was an incredibly effective and important apostle.  He laid hands on and healed many.  Even his used tissue was used to bring healing in Acts 19:11-12.  Yet he relates in 2Co 12:7-9  “ And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me.  And He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” Paul had a physical problem given to keep him humble.
Let’s look at what James has to say:  Jas 1:2-4 “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” Our trials are there to teach us.  We would not be who or what we are without the trials that God uses to perfect us.

I could go on but I hope you get the idea.  There are many reasons why people suffer.  I tell people with pain or medical issues to seek appropriate help.  There is nothing wrong with that.  I don’t try to play Holy Spirit and tell them why they may me suffering.  I do however point them to passages in scripture for their own edification.  I hope this is helpful.  Lord willing, There will be more to come.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Massage Therapy and the Creator/Creature Distinction: An Interpretive Grid

As a Massage Therapist I live at a time when many beliefs about what I do are changing.  It is imperative that I spend a good deal of time studying and reexamining what I do in a therapy session and perhaps more importantly what I think about what I am doing.  Failure to do so on my part is a disservice to my clients and ultimately to my God.

The Bible says in 1Co 10:31  “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” This is said in the context of a disagreement in the church regarding eating meat offered to idols.  The principle of “whatever you do” seems to apply itself naturally to pretty much everything.  I think of it in regard to my work.

The constant exposure to new or threatening material can cause me to worry.  My beliefs are threatened and I can get defensive.  I am not immune to that response.  Another possibility is to listen carefully to the argument or case being made.  There might very well be something there for me to learn.

One of my favorite theologians/apologists, Cornelius Van Til,  once said “The Bible is authoritative on everything of which it speaks.  Moreover, it speaks of everything.” This is absolutely true.  We have principles in God’s word that give us a foundation for all of our reasoning – even in Massage Therapy!

Let me give a really foundational one that we especially need in Massage Therapy.  It is called the Creator/Creature distinction.  The Bible clearly says in Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”  It is clear with very little thought that God is not what he created.  This is foundational.  Many times as a Christian Massage Therapist I encounter a challenge to my faith.  I read or am told that:

God does not exist:  Wrong.  This verse says he does.  Moreover Psa 19:1-6 says “The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork. Day unto day utters speech, And night unto night reveals knowledge. There is no speech nor language Where their voice is not heard. Their line has gone out through all the earth, And their words to the end of the world. In them He has set a tabernacle for the sun, Which is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, And rejoices like a strong man to run its race. Its rising is from one end of heaven, And its circuit to the other end; And there is nothing hidden from its heat. Clearly everyone sees and knows this."  This is often called Natural Revelation.  It is part of the image of God in man that he really does know of God’s existence.  So much for argument 1.

There are equal and opposite forces in the universe that I am to balance in the body with Massage Therapy.  No, there is a Creator and a creation separate from him.  There are no equal and opposite forces to be balanced.  The creation is not held together by such eastern philosophy.  Colossians 1:15-17 clearly speaks to this issue as well, “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.   For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him.  And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist.”  Christ, not yin and yang, holds the universe together.  Moreover, we learn in Acts 17:26 – 31, that God has established where and when each of us will live, “And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, 'For we are also His offspring.' Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man's devising. Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead."  

Yin and Yang as a concept is very impersonal – not so the gospel.  Jesus in intimately concerned.  Indeed, the hairs of our head are numbered in Mt. 10:30.  All of this points to the Christian doctrine of Providence that is so well described in the Westminster Confession of Faith:  “CHAPTER V—Of Providence1. God the great Creator of all things doth uphold, (Heb. 1:3) direct, dispose, and govern all creatures, actions, and things, (Dan. 4:34–35, Ps. 135:6, Acts 17:25–26,28) from the greatest even to the least, (Matt. 10:29–31) by His most wise and holy providence, (Prov. 15:3, Ps. 104:24, Ps. 145:17) according to His infallible foreknowledge, (Acts 15:18, Ps. 94:8–11) and the free and immutable counsel of His own will, (Eph. 1:11) to the praise of the glory of His wisdom, power, justice, goodness, and mercy. (Isa. 63:14, Eph. 3:10, Rom. 9:17, Gen. 45:7, Ps. 145:7)”

Thinking in terms of the Creator Creature distinction will help me to discern truth and error as a Christian Massage Therapist.  There is much more to be said on this issue but I hope this is helpful in pointing you toward scripture.  Scripture gives guidance in my profession.  I have less anxiety when dealing with whatever new idea comes down the road when I think about this concept.  As Van Til said: “The Bible is authoritative on everything of which it speaks.  Moreover, it speaks of everything.”