This weekend is a special weekend of personal victory, praise the Lord! As of yesterday, I am finally off prednisone, a strong steroid, to reduce inflammation in my lungs after being on it for almost a straight year (that drug is bad for me, yes, I know)!
On June 28, 2019, I accidentally breathed in some saw dust from a sand pine that got under my mask while I was working on a craft project. Let me tell you, I have known for months what it is like to go though the hellish feeling of not being able to breathe. I had emergency inhalers, bronchodilators, urgent care visits, nebulizers, and had to take supplements for the extreme panic attacks it caused when my body would try to black out from struggling to get air. Crazy!
In the midst of all of it, God is good. I don’t appear to have lasting damage from the saw dust, according to a lung function test I took last month. Even when I got the flu back in January of this year, it never went into my lungs. Unfortunately, my husband coughed horribly for weeks after he caught it from me! My doctor marveled that everyone else he had seen with that flu had lingering issues with their lungs for weeks, but not this girl (my husband is fine now)!
God also showed me His compassion and the power of prayer and community during a pivotal moment when I was at my sickest moments. I went from feeling the worst I ever felt to suddenly on the path of healing in one night as my friends prayed the Scripture of the paralyzed man over me! I sang in church that Sunday!
Don’t be dismayed if things look dark in your life right now. A new dawn is coming, and God hears your cries. Look towards Heaven, and ask God to reveal all the little answers to prayers behind the scenes. Although He is God and doesn’t owe us anything, out of His abundance, He so often extends His hands of mercy, especially to His children.
May you find Him in your deepest valley. I know I did. You are never alone.
“For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power.” – 1 Corinthians 4:20
Does God still give gifts of apostleship, prophecy, miracles, healing, discerning spirits, words of wisdom, words of knowledge, tongues and interpreting tongues to Christians today? Theologians and other Christian experts frequently debate this subject. As a result, I decided to write a post about this question, not from an argumentative standpoint, but as a way to understand my own personal journey and remain grounded in the Scriptures. Over the years as I studied the Bible, examined the Greek, and witnessed God’s hand in my life and the lives of others, my thoughts about the existence and use of miraculous gifts has shifted.
Early in my Christian journey, I regularly dreamed of real events involving friends and family which had not yet occurred. These dreams were so startling they prompted me to engage and encourage the person I had dreamt about. As I interacted with friends about what was happening to me, I quickly learned these gifts were not considered “normal” within my Christian social circles. As a result, for many years I ignored these gifts which I often called “curses” because I did not understand them. I usually kept them to myself. At the time, I was very young, and I didn’t understand what those gifts are, why they happen, and from whom they are given (1 Corinthians 12:11).
As the years passed, I saw spiritual abuse by people within other denominations who claimed to have gifts like mine, using it as a gimmick to get money from gullible people. It became easy to distance myself from those false prophets. I already wanted nothing to do with my gifts and primarily went to churches that believed in cessationism, meaning the miraculous gifts ceased with the 12 Apostles. I convinced myself, despite my own experiences, that all people claiming to operate in the miraculous were frauds and fakes or they were fooling themselves.
More years passed. I knew doctrine. I knew Jesus saved me, but my spiritual life was stunted and without power for various reasons. Life was often distracting and difficult at times. God was real, but I didn’t see Him actively moving in my life; and at the time, I so desperately needed Him to show up.
Then the year 2012 happened. That was the year God encountered me and everything changed. He used a tiny prayer room, Spirit-filled Christians from different denominations, and the wife of the minister to physically heal me from an anxiety disorder that I had suffered from my whole life. I was healed in an instant, and my life transformed forever because God heard the prayers of Brothers and Sisters that night.
As I walked through the days and weeks that followed, the transformation in my life became more evident. I wanted others to know what Jesus did for me. Most of all, I wanted other people to be free. If he did it for me, I knew he’d do it again for someone else. However, as soon as I shared my testimony, I met familiar resistance. Many people around me didn’t know what to think of my story. Some try to argue that God didn’t use that night to heal me, but it was tough to disagree that I was not the same person. What really happened to me?
Soon after being healed, I moved to a non-denominational, charismatic church and witnessed believers and non-believers become healed from cancer, injuries, mental oppression, and illnesses. I also met other
Christians who prophetically dreamed like me. Suddenly I was normal and ordinary which was comforting.
Experiences are great, but they can be deceiving. I appreciate them because they provide valuable perspective, but what do the Scriptures say about the miraculous gifts? The best answer I can give you is “read your Bible.” His Word is my litmus test. To settle the issue in my own heart once and for all, I researched many verses and dissected them in their original Greek. Some of the verses I reviewed were:
Acts 2:17-18 – a reference to the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecy in Joel 2:28-29 stating God would pour out His Spirit upon all flesh in the last days [Greek lexicon]
Acts 4:10-16 – the Apostles were identified as being sent by Jesus and performing miracles in His name and under His authority
Ephesians 2:20 – a reference about the gentiles being included into the family of God upon the foundation of previous apostles and prophets. This verse is often used to state that apostles and prophets are no longer needed because Jesus, as the cornerstone, completed the Temple of the Lord.
James 1:25 – This passage talks about the perfect law has already come to compare it to 1 Corinthians 13:8-10 and Romans 8:24 [Greek lexicon]
Hebrews 2:3-4 – Apostles (with a capital “A”) were identified as those who had been with Christ and performed signs and miracles in His name [Greek lexicon]
I hope the verses above help you come to your own conclusions, because after all the research I’ve done, I have decided the answer to whether or not God still regularly gives these gifts is not definitive. Phrases like “prophecy and speaking in unknown languages and special knowledge will become useless…but when the time of perfection comes, these things will become useless” (1 Corinthians 13:8-10, emphasis added) and “[Miraculous gifts] will continue until we all come into such unity in our faith…” (Ephesians 4:11-13, emphasis added) are not easily discernible. What is the “time of perfection” and “unity in our faith”? Do these passages refer to Jesus when He walked among us, or maybe they refer to when we die and we’re united with Christ? There aren’t clear answers to these questions, and the Greek fails to define these verses in enough detail. And what do the experts say? That answer also varies depending on whom you ask. What now?
At this point, I pray. I ask God for wisdom. I ask Him for discernment. I examine my experiences with a critical eye. I ask myself if those experiences have been tested or can be tested (1 John 4:1-3). Do the experiences proclaim the Gospel and point to Jesus, or do they simply exalt a person? If they do not point to Jesus, they are not from the Lord.
No matter what stance you take on this issue, it’s not the primary focus of our lives. That designation is reserved for Jesus alone. I hope this post encourages you on your faith journey.
I lift up my eyes to the mountains — where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord the Maker of heaven and earth. – Psalms 121:1-2
I’m a news addict. I love to read everything I can get my hands (or eyes) on. It’s a great blessing to know at any given moment what’s going on in the world, but it’s also a curse. It’s hard not to be effected by stories of death, wars, natural disasters, crime, etc.; and it can seem paralyzing at times.
As Christians, how should we respond to negative news or suffering around the world? Pray for Christ to come quickly? Shake our heads in condemnation? Worry about the future? Throw up our hands and just give up?
It would be easy to agree with the lie that we’re helpless. After all, it’s a big world with plenty of big problems. It often seems impossible for one, small voice to be effective. However, it’s important for us to remember we have the most powerful weapon in the world against such chaos — prayer.
Negative things we see and hear often effect us deeply because we are made in the image of God. As Christians, what grieves our Father should also grieve us. We are His mirrors on the earth, reflecting His heart for humanity and His divine nature. We are creative, emotional, inventive and Spirit-filled beings just like our Abba. As we grow in our Christ-like world view, our compassion and love for others grows. As such, when we see terrible things happen, whether it’s in the news or a tragedy involving a loved one, it can be painful. However, instead of feeling helpless and giving up on the situation, what if we used the burdens we feel for others as opportunities to pray? Could our intercession and pleading on the behalf of others change the course of an event or a person’s life? I can speak from personal testimony — Yes, prayer makes a difference!
Prayer is frequently used as our last line of defense when it should be our first. It’s a direct communication line with the God who makes all things possible. When prayers are answered, it builds personal faith in God. It strengthens and reaffirms trust. When we share testimonies of God’s faithfulness through answered prayers, it can change someone’s helpless feelings to hope again. It can build the faith of others or renew a commitment to pray about a promise not yet fulfilled.
Here’s a true story about how someone else’s prayers and testimony changed a person’s life (and mine):
Mrs. Golightly, my middle school and high school English teacher, appeared visibly shaken one morning as we begin class. Her usual cheery smile was noticibly missing. Tears welled up in her eyes. As she explained the day’s lesson, she began to cry and had to stop.
“Class,” Mrs. Golightly began, “I found out this morning that a former student who is only a few years older than you all has been diagnosed with Lymphoma. The cancer is all over his body, and the doctors don’t expect him to live more than a couple of months. We are going to pray for that young man every morning before class until he is healed.”
I had Mrs. Golightly as a teacher for two straight years. Every day for two years, we prayed for the boy with lymphoma. Although there were bad reports some days about the progress of the cancer or lack of effectiveness of chemotherapy, we prayed anyway. When two months and then several more passed and the boy miraculously still lived, we prayed. We thanked God for the young man, his life, and his testimony. We prayed with hope that he would live despite the odds against him.
Then the news came: the boy was healed completely of cancer. The doctors ran several tests and claimed it must have been a miracle because the evidence of cancer was gone.
How did the news of they boy healed of cancer affect me? As a new Christian, I saw my Father in action. I saw that partnering and petitioning with Him matters. That day built my faith and laid a foundation to pray earnestly and expectantly, knowing my Father would here my requests and answer.
Scripture points us to the importance of intercession as a valuable tool of deliverance, healing, and divine intervention:
I’ve spent countless hours praying for God to answer my requests. I remember the tear stains on my pillow over the figurative “closed doors” and the heartbreak over not receiving the answer I wanted or expected. And although I have seen God miraculously heal the sick in a moment of prayer, I’ve watched others die of cancer, suffer from pain or experience immense hardship. Why does it seem like God is occasionally silent to our prayers?
As I think about how our Father receives and answers our prayers, I am reminded about four key absolutes: 1. God is good all the time (Psalm 100:5). 2. God works all things for the good for those who love Him (Romans 8:28). 3. The Father loves to give His children good gifts (Matthew 7:11). 4. When we ask Him for a desire that aligns with His desires, His answers are always “yes” and “amen” (2 Corinthians 1:20). You may be thinking if you’re a fellow believer, “Yeah, yeah. I’ve heard all of that before. So what?” Let’s paraphrase to find applicable meaning within these absolutes — we have a loving, all-knowing Father (Matthew 6:27-30) who adores us (Isaiah 43:5) and wants the best things for us, and He promises to give us whatever good and righteous thing we ask of Him because He’s a good daddy.
He’s a good daddy.
“But what about all those closed doors? What about my heartbreak? What about the failure to come to my rescue? Where was God?” you may ask. If we think about what a good parent might do since God is our Father, the answers to these questions become a bit easier to understand. Good parents don’t say “yes” to every request just to make the child happy. Good parents look at the situation and determine if responding “yes” to a request would be hurtful, helpful or if waiting for a better solution is actually the best option. Many times, God answers our prayers and sets things in motion behind the scenes, but we don’t understand it or see the answer right away, if at all (Proverbs 3:5-6). Dependency deepens trust. Hardships aren’t meant to crush us; they are meant to make us stronger (Romans 8:35-39). We learn to rely on God for answers instead of ourselves, especially if we have little or no control over the situation; and our victories glorify Him. If we instantly received what we want all the time, we would become ungrateful and settle for less than the abundance God has planned for our lives. Essentially, we’d miss out on the better blessing.
Dependency deepens trust.
As we lift requests up to God, He expects obedience and partnership as part of our relationship and communications with Him. Just as our natural parents often set boundaries and expectations with our requests through them, so does our Heavenly Father. When we pray, we must believe He will provide (Matthew 21:22, James 1:6-8). We must confess and remove anything that separates us from God: sins, idols, wrong motives, ignoring the plight of others around us, or a heart that is not Christ-centered (Isaiah 59:1-2, John 15:7). If you’re like me, I look at the list of God’s expectations and feel somewhat overwhelmed at times; but God knows the intentions of our hearts. He knows our needs, and many times in spite of our failures, He mercifully answers prayer requests anyway!
I remember when I got out of high school. I was planning to become a graphic designer in Japan. I studied the language and immersed myself in the culture. I practiced designing, writing and drawing almost every day. Becoming a graphic designer was everything to me at the time. Then life took several unexpected twists, and circumstances occurred that kept me from fulfilling that dream. Many years later, I can see the journey that brought me to where I am today. I would not have the same blessings today if I had gone to Japan. Would I have settled for less? Maybe whatever waited for me in Japan was the lesser blessing, or it could have just ended up as an alternate route. Either way, it was obvious at the time that the doorway to Japan slammed shut, and a different life awaited me. I could be bitter or angry at the death of that dream, but it’s hard to regret something that never occurred. After all, I would have missed out on my husband, valuable time with my grandfathers who have since passed away, the friends I’ve made along the way and my personal and spiritual growth. I can honestly say that my spiritual walk and personal growth as a person have grown exponentially out of the dependence and deepening trust in God through many hardships, changes and miracles over the last several years. Also, I’ve had the amazing privilege of watching God transform lives through close friendships. If I could do it all again, I think I’d want to do it the same way.
Silence doesn’t mean there’s no answer.
My short answer to the complex questions above is this — if you’re praying to God for an answer, keep praying. He loves you and has your best interest in mind. He will never forsake you. Sometimes, “no” or “wait” are the wiser alternatives to “yes.” Silence doesn’t mean there’s no answer. Hardship may occur, but our sovereign God goes before us, walks with us and carries us through to the other side (Psalm 139:5, Jeremiah 29:11).
In the words of Paulo Coelho, “Don’t give up. Normally it is the last key on the ring which opens the door.”
The question “what is the Kingdom?” colors my view of everything as I walk around on this physical earth with a resurrected mindset. It describes the future and the present. It is simultaneously a place and a description of God and His people. If you’ve never really thought about the “Kingdom”, God says some amazing things about it.
Examining the Words of Jesus and Personal Analysis
The “Kingdom” is talked about several times in the Bible. According to Luke 17:20-21, a religious leader asked Jesus when the Kingdom of God would come. Jesus answered by stating the Kingdom “can’t be detected by visible signs…for the Kingdom of God is already among you (‘among you’ in the original translation also means ‘within you/within grasp’).” Some Christians believe this section of verses depicts Jesus talking about His second coming which is detailed in the Book of Revelation. But is seems possible that He was also talking about His resurrection. Both views seem perfectly accurate. It’s my personal belief God intentionally provides us Scriptures that hold multifaceted levels of understanding.
Revelation 5:10 says we are “a Kingdom of priests for our God”
Revelation 5:10 says we are “a Kingdom of priests for our God” who will (“are” is used in some manuscripts) “reign on the earth.” If we compare His pre-resurrection statements to this post-resurrection Scripture, it appears God is calling us the Kingdom.
Heaven on Earth
If we are the Kingdom as the Scriptures state we are, then it opens up a whole new level of revelation when we read the part of the Lord’s Prayer that says, “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.” It appears Jesus taught us to pray for a revelation of our identity — that we bring heaven to earth in His name as priests for our God (and model after Jesus who is our High Priest). Also, it is a reminder of the powerful Holy Spirit who lives inside of us and excitedly waits to spill out upon others around us.
If we are to follow the Great Commission, we should preach the gospels, heal the sick, cast out demons and raise the dead as Jesus did. it makes sense to me that we are the hands and feet of Jesus that will bring Heaven to earth now. I can personally testify as a witness and a recipient that God has used a “Kingdom is now mindset” as a vessel for healing several times.
May this post encourage you and inspire you, priests of the Kingdom. Let’s bring Heaven to earth!