Healing

Divine healing or deliberate hoaxing?

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

I believe that God heals. Healing was a significant part of Jesus’ ministry. It is one of the gifts of the Spirit mentioned by Paul in 1 Corinthians 12. Sadly, the Spirit’s “gifts of healing” (v. 9) have often been corrupted and distorted by opportunists and charlatans. We need to be careful.

I recall watching a 1991 ABC Primetime Live television program that exposed as fake the “healing” ministries of Robert Tilton, E.V. Grant and Larry Lea. One of the practices exposed was leg-lengthening. The evangelist would “diagnose” the person’s physical problems as related to one leg being shorter than the other, then ask God to lengthen the shorter leg. Lo and behold—before our very eyes—the shorter leg would began to grow. Wow!! Except that, as the program showed, this was just an old carnival trick masquerading as a miraculous healing.

The first time I experienced this trick, it was performed on me by my chiropractor as a joke. He had me sit in a chair and firmly grasped my legs and then held them together to reveal that one leg was two inches longer than the other. I marveled at how quickly he healed my leg by pulling and talking to my legs. I knew there was some kind of trick to this. I had been to medical doctors on a couple of previous occasions with sprained ankles and sprained knees. I’d had x-rays and MRIs and I knew that my one leg was not two inches shorter than the other. So I said, “Okay Doctor, show me the trick.” He quickly explained that it was an old trick used at carnivals. The more you practice it, the better you become at duping unsuspecting people.

There are plenty of videos that expose this practice. In one, former faith healer Mark Haville discusses his use of fakery and hypnotic manipulation (http://youtu.be/BCohlCPSLlo). Another shows two examples of the leg-lengthening hoax (http://www.godtube.com/watch/?v=JC229FNU).

Over the years, I have met quite a few people who had been deceived by this hoax. I marvel that so large a number of people needing their legs lengthened did not sound an alarm in medical circles (actually, most people’s legs are slightly unequal in length, a condition that generally produces no significant physical ill effects).

The Primetime Live program showed that bogus leg-lengthening was only the tip of an iceberg of fraud. The investigative reporters examined every aspect of the three ministries, using hidden cameras and multiple interviews with experts and witnesses. They even examined the ministries’ trash bins and dumpsters, finding thousands of prayer requests that had been discarded (after removing the donations, of course). What masqueraded as Christian ministry was shown to be a racket that was making millions of dollars a year by preying on gullible people.

Why am I bringing this up? Because, although the three fake ministries were exposed, the use of their fraudulent practices continues, and leg-lengthening is having a revival. It is not my purpose to publicly expose those who practice these things; nor is my intent to call into question their sincerity. Some people who use these tricks believe they are performing genuine miracles. However, others know it is a fraud.

But we should and do pray for the sick. While praying we often anoint the sick person with oil and lay hands on them to signify God’s healing presence. However, we need to be aware of the potential pitfall in developing a ministry focused on “miraculous healings.” What may seem to be spectacular demonstrations of God’s power can open the door to profound disillusionment, turning people away from Christ and his gospel.

The gospel proclaims that God has healed our relationship with him and reconciled us to himself. We can begin to live in that new life in relationship with him beginning today. He will one day make everything new and wipe away every tear. That’s the reality. However, for now we have only temporary and partial signs of this coming hope. We have only the “deposit” (down payment, pledge or earnest) of his renewing and transforming Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:14; 2 Corinthians 1:22; 5:5).

While God does grant signs, they remain just that—signs. And God grants such signs in ways that are not predictable or controllable by us. God remains wisely sovereign over how and when he distributes extraordinary signs and does not simply hand them over to us to dispense. That being said, we can remain open to the Spirit’s working “as he wills” (1 Corinthians 12:11).

Jesus is truth personified and he is the one who sets us free. He is our healer who sends his Spirit to work when, where and how he sees fit—for his glory and our benefit. .

Your brother in Christ,

Joseph Tkach

Permanent link to this article: https://hobart.gci.org.au/?p=267

God of Surprise!

When we survey God’s interaction with mankind; it has always been full of surprises. Full of the unexpected and the amazing.

People have consistently had trouble accepting God and his unorthodox and paradoxical ways. Creating the universe out of nothing still boggles our minds, and those of scientists and atheists. Abraham and Sarah were surprised on many occasions, particularly by the birth of Isaac. There were surprises galore for all involved in the Exodus from Egypt, both the Israelites and the Egyptians.

Many were surprised in the OT negatively as well as positively.  Adam and Eve, and Israel were surprised when their choices to live independently of God turned out so badly, but Noah, Joseph, Moses, and David were hugely surprised by God’s rescuing them from impossible situations in ways they could never have imagined.

In the New Testament Jesus’ birth, its time and place, circumstances and implications was the greatest surprise of all.  Mary and Joseph were totally surprised by what the angels told them.

John the Baptist’s disciples were surprised and put off by Jesus.  Later even John the Baptist himself questioned if Jesus was indeed the Messiah, because he wasn’t doing what John expected.  The disciples were shocked and surprised by Jesus’ actions and teachings just about every day of their time with him.

The religious leaders were surprised and outraged by him.  Pilate was so surprised and puzzled by Jesus, that he washed his hands of responsibility for the decision about his fate.

The crucifixion was a massive surprise and upheaval the life of Peter and the other followers of Jesus.  And what we read about Jesus’ resurrection is one surprise after another.

Saul, who became Paul experienced one of the most profound and transforming surprises of all.  He went on to teach and expound the surprises of Jesus and the Gospel more comprehensively than anyone else.

So it is clear from repeated examples that with God, all we can reliably expect is the unexpected.  When we or others expect the expected, when we think we have God and his future actions all nailed down and circumscribed, then we are sure to be in for a real surprise.

Check out our Sermon Section for a series of sermons on “The God of Surprises.”

Permanent link to this article: https://hobart.gci.org.au/?p=261

In Search of Knowledge

Author and evangelist Ravi Zacharias tells of being a graduate student when a new edition of Encyclopædia Britannica was released. It was a massive work that had taken 14 years to produce and he remembers being fascinated by the statistics: 200 advisors, 300 editors, 4,000 contributors, over 100,000 entries, 34 million dollars and 43 million words. In the last pages of that work, one of the editors had the audacity to conclude: “Herein contains the entirety of human knowledge.”

It didn’t, of course. It has been estimated that human knowledge doubles at least every five years. So in the 14 years it took to produce the encyclopedia, knowledge would have doubled and redoubled itself several times. So where is the “entirety of human knowledge” contained—Google perhaps? No, even with its amazing knowledge-mining capacity, Google can’t keep up.

Used with permission.

The Bible makes no such boast, though it says this about God: “Great is our Lord…his understanding has no limit” (Psalm 147:5). The Bible contains many stories of people, who in encountering God discovered the depth of their lack of knowledge and understanding.

For example, when Jacob dreamed of meeting God at the top of a great ladder, his first words upon waking were: “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I was not aware of it” (Genesis 28:16). Then there was Sarah’s maidservant Hagar who having fled Sarah’s abuse was amazed when God spoke to her, telling her to return home. Genesis 16:13 gives her reaction: “She gave this name to the LORD who spoke to her: ‘You are the God who sees me,’ for she said, ‘I have now seen the one who sees me.’”

We used to say, “the camera doesn’t lie”—but that was before Photoshop. And we used to say, “seeing is believing”—but that was before sophisticated scientific instruments revealed a world beyond the limits of our human senses. No matter how far we probe into the atom or out to the edge of the universe, there is always more. As a result, much of what we now understand to be the nature of physical reality seems so unreal. Therefore, it is pompous to boast that anything we produce contains the entirety of human knowledge. And it is even more ridiculous to claim that we fully understand God, particularly if our knowledge leads in the direction of atheism.

The Christian faith acknowledges and even takes joy in deep mysteries beyond our powers of comprehension. Jesus tells us that “No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son…” (Matthew 11:27a). But mystery does not rule out a true knowing of God—an apprehension, if not a comprehension, of who God is. Jesus goes on to say why: “…and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him” (verse 27b).

The fact that human beings cannot know God on their own power does not mean that God cannot make himself known to his human creatures. The early church had a saying: “Only God knows God, only God reveals God.” The transcendent God of the universe has done just that, personally revealing himself in his incarnate Son. The witness of the Christian church is not that we have found God, but that God has revealed himself to us in Jesus Christ.

Karl Barth once wrote: “In our hands even terms suggested to us by Holy Scripture will prove to be incapable of grasping what they are supposed to grasp.” However, as Cyril of Alexandria once said, “when things concerning God are expressed in language used of men, we ought not to think of anything base, but to remember that the wealth of divine Glory is being mirrored in the poverty of human expression.” So we must remember that even the words of the Bible, borrowed from human understanding and experience, refer beyond themselves to divine realities that far exceed the words themselves and the creaturely realities they come from.

Holy Scripture preserves for us a record of God’s acts of revelation, beginning with the prophets of ancient Israel and culminating with the apostles whom Jesus appointed. Those narratives and teachings introduce us to a God who makes known God’s invisible presence, even if now we “see through a glass darkly,” as the apostle Paul described it.

Such revelation does not tell us all that can be known about everything, but it is always profound in what it does proclaim. It is only because of the working of the Holy Spirit in and through Holy Scripture that we are put in actual contact with the living God and can hear this God speak again to our spirits. So, although the Holy Spirit does not speak directly of himself, he nevertheless goes where God wills, to surprise, to comfort and to reveal. Whether in Jacob’s dream or Hagar’s distress, God makes himself known and gathers people who respond to his outgoing love. God told Jeremiah, “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do now know” (Jeremiah 33:3).

As we mature spiritually, we realize that there is much we do not know. While this makes us want to know more, we also realize that it is a relief to accept that there is much that we do not and cannot know. Our lack of knowledge and understanding keeps us looking to the One who knows it all, who wills to be known and has made himself known in Jesus Christ.

In this coming year, there will be many unknowns. The world economy will continue to cough and sputter along. Wars and rumors of wars remain a fact of 21st-century life. There will be catastrophes and technological advancements. Scientists will make discoveries, some of which will overturn previous understanding.

I pray that Grace Communion International will grow ever more sensitive to God’s leading in our lives. I pray that we respond as he shows us how he wants us to co-minister with Jesus in new and exciting ways that will shine light into the darkness as signs of the promise that God will make all things new.

With love in Christ’s service,

Joseph Tkach

Permanent link to this article: https://hobart.gci.org.au/?p=254

One Small Life

The little babe was a gift too big to wrap.

That one small life was all life.

A King, born at the back of the Pub

and there was the rub.

No one  expected the helpless,

the human, the ordinary.

 

Those in the know, with robes

stretching back to Moses,

The priests with pedigree,

who whispered  in the ear of God,

and owned His nod.

Guardians of the books,

who knew where to look

for that warrior King

promised for greatness.

Destroyer of  enemies.

A King bigger than

their own importance.

That King will be born

In Bethlehem of Judea”

they said.

Yawned, stretched,

went back to bed.

Drugged by certainty

and confidence, God

would have woken them

personally.

 

While in the hills shepherds thrilled

to angels singing and bringing

news of new life. For free.

 

And star gazing Pagans

who weren’t supposed to know

or go, traipsing across the desert

for months.

Laid gifts before the Child

and gave thanks for inclusion

that touched untouchables,

and welcomed the unwelcome.

 

That Baby grew into the promises

and laid eternity

at everyone’s feet.

 

Geoff Miller ©

10/12/12

Permanent link to this article: https://hobart.gci.org.au/?p=249

The Meaning of Christmas

Though we are in the Christmas season when we celebrate the joy of Jesus’ birth, we are in shock following two horrific events. In the Philippines, Typhoon Pablo killed over 1000 people with 900 more still missing and 80,000 left homeless. In Newtown, Connecticut, 20 children and six teachers and administrators were brutally murdered by a 20-year-old gunman who also murdered his own mother. We grieve these terrible losses and struggle to make sense of them.

For my thoughts about the Newtown shootings, click on this link to watch the new Speaking of Life program. In this program, I point out that, while there are no easy answers, it helps to have an eternal perspective.

That perspective is offered by the Christmas story itself. It’s the story of the Son of God coming to be with us in the midst of our sin and sorrow, in order to bring us his salvation—the ultimate healing. As we thank God for sending his Son, born in a manger about 2,000 years ago, let us pray for those who are suffering and grieving in the wake of these tragedies and let us also pray for our Lord’s return in glory when all tears of sorrow will be wiped away and all this world’s wrongs will be made right.

The word Christmas

Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given (Isaiah 9:6)

Our appreciation of the Christian meaning of Christmas is enhanced by understanding the origin of the word Christmas. It is the contraction of the words Christ’s mass, which is derived from the Middle English Christemasse and the Old English Cristes mæsse. The suffix –mas is from maesse, which means “festival,” “feast day” or “mass.” Maesse is derived from the common Latin word messa, which means “dismissal” and is taken from the formal Latin word missa, the feminine past participle of mittere, meaning “to let go” or “to send.”

Over time, missa came to signify the Eucharistic service—a practice that continues in Catholic churches, probably because the concluding words of the service are “ite, missa est” meaning, “go, the mass is over,” or “the prayer has been sent.” You will find this sort of information in an etymological dictionary, like the one online at www.etymonline.com/.

Celebrating and proclaiming the Messiah’s coming

As the etymology of the word Christmas indicates, the Christian celebration of this day has its roots in the idea that Jesus has been sent to us. The church gathers on Christmas to worship and take communion in recognition of his coming through his birth to Mary in Bethlehem. From this gathering, the church is sent out (dismissed) to proclaim this good news in all the world.

When Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist regained his voice, he proclaimed a rich prophecy concerning the coming Messiah (from the Hebrew word Māšîaḥ, meaning “anointed one,” which in Greek is Christós and in English is Christ). In Luke 1:78, Zechariah refers to the long-promised Messiah as “the dayspring” (KJV) or “the rising sun” (NIV), sent “to us from heaven.” The Greek word translated “dayspring” or “rising sun” is anatole—a word used by Greek speakers in two ways. First it is used to refer to the light of the sun and the stars rising—also meaning, “from the east,” since the sun rises in the east and sunrise is another way of saying daybreak or dawn. Second, anatole is used to refer to a “shoot” or “branch.” It was used this way in the Septuagint (the Old Testament in Greek) to convey the meaning “branch” found in Jeremiah 23:5 and Zechariah 3:8 and 6:12.

Thus, in Luke 1:78, anatole could be translated “the branch from on high,” a reference similar to Isaiah 4:2, “the Branch of the Lord.” However, the translators chose “dayspring” (KJV) and “rising sun” (NIV) because verse 79 contains the imagery of light coming into darkness, just as the dawn chases away the darkness of night. The translators were likely correct in this choice, though the idea of “the branch” is lurking in there too. It appears that Luke uses anatole as a play on both meanings of the word—celebrating the Messiah as both humankind’s new branch and new day.

Christmas proclaims that God is the light of his people from all eternity. And when, in the fullness of time, Jesus came, it was to fulfill all the ordinances and messianic prophecies concerning him. These were shadows, cast by the real light, for Jesus alone is “the dayspring” (Malachi 4:2; Luke 1:78) and “the morning star” (2 Peter 1:19; Revelation 2:28 and 22:16) of the promised everlasting day in which the sun never sets. With Jesus’ first coming, the eternal morning dawned. In this we find great hope for it carries with it the promise that all wrongs will ultimately be righted and all tears wiped away. Thus Jesus’ first coming carries with it the promise of his second coming in glory, when the fullness of this hope will be realized in the new heavens and new earth, proclaimed in the book of Revelation.

Our celebration at Christmas of Jesus’ first Advent (coming) is a joyous celebration of his love, his faithfulness and the promise of the fullness of his kingdom at his second Advent. Because of his birth, life, death, resurrection and ascension, the love of God dwells not just among us but also, by his Spirit, in us so that we will love one another with his love in the same Spirit.

Christmas is about the light and the love of God being sent to us in a most personal way—in the incarnate person of the Son of God, Jesus Christ. I pray that as you and yours celebrate Christmas with this fullness of meaning, you will find the joy, hope and comfort that come through our Lord’s presence.

Sincerely in Christ’s service,

Joseph Tkach

Permanent link to this article: https://hobart.gci.org.au/?p=238

Is Mary “the mother of God”?

There are many mysteries to life and Christianity.  How on earth does God become one with us?  The story of Christmas provides the answer.  A controversial question that goes along with Christmas, is the role of Mary.  Is she “the mother of God?”, or simply and only, “the mother of Christ” ?

We invite you to look in the sermon section for a message on this topic, as well as many others.

 

 

CARAVAGGIO Adoration of the Sheperds (detail) 1609

Photo by carulmare

Permanent link to this article: https://hobart.gci.org.au/?p=225

Advent: Bad News, Good News

You probably know about the 1815 Battle of New Orleans, in which the Americans resoundingly defeated the British. But do you know that this battle was fought two weeks after the signing of a peace treaty ending the War of 1812?

News traveled slowly 200 years ago—but not today! We are kept on constant alert about everything and anything. Competing news channels are desperate to attract and keep our attention. They try to convince us that we have a right—even a duty—to be informed, and they feed us a steady stream of “breaking news.”

In this hyped-up media environment, an international crisis or major natural disaster must compete for attention with “news” that Lady Gaga has gained 15 pounds. Accuracy and objectivity are often casualties. Reality TV confronts us with the bizarre and offbeat. Entire channels are devoted to fringe diets and fads. You don’t know what to believe!

This barrage of media keeps many in a state of tension and anxiety. According to the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), anxiety disorders have increased 1,200 percent since 1980.

I suspect that one reason for this increase is the increase in the number of 24/7 news programs on radio and TV. In the 40-minute drive from my home to the office, I can hear several news stories repeated, each time with slightly more “information” than before. It is as if I am being force fed the news, like a goose being prepared for pâté de foie gras. So I often find peace by turning off the news. It is not that I want to stick my head in the sand. On the contrary, I find I need to get my mind above all the trivia and conflicting details so that I can see the big picture.

And whenever we talk about the big picture, our focus returns to Jesus. Focusing on him isn’t religious escapism–he was and is a real person in time and space. Jesus pitched his tent with humanity when he became human. And now, following his death, resurrection and ascension, he lives in us. Unlike the shifting priorities of the media, Jesus is “the same, yesterday, today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).

It is certainly appropriate to call Jesus the Lord of history. He is a source of information that we can rely on, as we struggle to make sense of our frustrating and uncertain times. He promised us peace, but not as the world gives it (John 14:27).

In view of Jesus’ Lordship, the apostle Paul confidently gave this advice: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7). Peter gave similar advice: “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).

My comfort and peace comes in knowing the good news, and by this, I mean the genuine, cosmic good news of what Jesus has already done. The Gospel confronts us with that reality—not the contrived hype of so-called Reality TV.

I pray daily for the peace that transcends understanding to be upon you all, my brothers and sisters in Christ.

In Christ’s service,

Joseph Tkach

Permanent link to this article: https://hobart.gci.org.au/?p=216

More Sermons Added

Check out the sermon section for new sermons on Advent, Temptation, The Letters of John,  Love or Love Not the World, and the purpose and focus of Worship.

We hope you will find them inspiring, thought provoking, and helpful in your life’s walk.

You are very welcome to come and visit us at our Sunday services at Warrane Senior Citizen’s Centre, 10 Binnalong Road (off Cambridge Rd), Mornington at 10am.  We are a small, relaxed and happy group so don’t be shy!

 

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Retreat – Oct 8-14th – Camp Clayton, John’s Letters

 

We are holding our annual retreat/festival at Camp Clayton, Claytons Rd,  Bass Highway, just east of Ulverstone, starting at 3:30pm on Monday October 8th, and concluding Sunday morning the 14th.  Christians from around Tasmania as well as some from the mainland are planning to come and join us for a week studying John’s three letters, and enjoying a relaxing, rejuvenating time of fellowship and worship.Camp Clayton

Sessions are held each morning at 9:30am in Parkdown, except Thursday, when we have a 7:15pm session.   Saturday has morning and afternoon sessions.Visitors are very welcome.If you would like more information please email Phil Hopwood at phopwood@internode.on.net or phone 0407 566987.

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Grace From First to Last

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

Grace is the first word in our name. We did not choose it because it sounds “religious.” Each word identifies our experience as a fellowship and grace is an integral part of our identity – especially our identity in Christ.

As a denomination, we have always understood grace to be God’s unconditional and unmerited pardon. But we tended to think of it as a component of salvation that needed to be “stirred into the mix” because of our inability to keep the law. We now see God’s grace as much more than that.

Grace is not some sort of passive concept of forgiveness. It is not a principle, a proposition, or a product. Grace is the love and freedom-producing action of God to reconstitute humanity into what the apostles, Peter and Paul, refer to as being made into God’s own people (2 Corinthians 5:17–20; Galatians 6:15; 1 Peter 2:9–10). It is not just a spiritual supplement that God provides because we can’t keep his law, like a whiff of oxygen to help a sick person breathe a bit easier.

Grace is an entirely new atmosphere that transforms us and gives us a new kind of life – life that no amount of law keeping could sustain. Note Paul’s explanation: “For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God. I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:19-20 KJV). Grace is the environment that allows us, God’s new creation, to not just survive, but to grow and flourish.

At the risk of over-simplification (a danger inherent in all analogies) we might think of grace as God’s “operating system.” The Father, Son and Holy Spirit have been giving, receiving and sharing love for all eternity. When they extend that sharing of love to us, it is their gift of grace. This grace of God is not the exception to a rule–his rule is a gracious one, all the time, to give us life and to bless us, even if obstacles to our receiving it have to be removed at his own cost.

We see God’s grace most clearly in the person of Jesus, who as Paul said, loved us and gave himself for us. As the early church leader Irenaeus taught, the Son and the Spirit are the “two arms” of the Father lovingly embracing us back to himself. The Gospel of John gives us Jesus’ own encouraging words: “The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one. I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me” (John 17:22-23 NRSV).

As recipients of the grace of God in Christ, we not only share in the love and life of the Father through his Son in the Spirit, but we also share in the mission of God to the world. That mission is the complete restoration and renewal of all creation in Christ Jesus, through the Spirit, into a state of perfect glory.

God’s grace in the person of Jesus Christ is for all humanity without distinction to race, status or gender. And that is why the vision of Grace Communion International is for “all kinds of churches for all kinds of people in all kinds of places.”

With love, in Christ’s service,

Joseph Tkach

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