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Sunday, 12 May 2013

Prayer & Healing

So this morning I preached on prayer and healing. I cut quite a lot of what I was going to say so that we would have plenty of time to actually pray for people! Here is the full (ish) version for anyone who is interested... (For info, when I preach I write whatever I feel God giving me, out in full first then I reduce it to notes, with highlights to remind me. This is the first draft so it's not exactly what I said but gives an idea! 

I want to start by saying, or reiterating, that we are a church that believes God can heal. We might not have a statement of beliefs or a doctrine as such, but as a church we believe that the power of the Holy Spirit reigns in us, as Gods adopted sons and daughters. I know some people struggle with the idea, or might have theologically different ideas, but that is the point we are coming from as a church. So I’m not going to make any excuses for talking about healing again, or from talking about the fact that God can heal. ok?
Now we had a tough year last year, 3 key church members died. I know that has knocked some of us, and we have talked about that from out the front here, but I really don’t want to focus on that, I want us to move on from that... Not to belittle the grief or pain that any of us may feel, but what I mean, is that we need to fix our eyes on Jesus and the glory and goodness that he brings. If we dwell on what we think he hasn’t done we will get stuck in that place. We have to focus on HIM.
So today I am telling you that God can heal and God does heal. No apologies. That is God’s truth.
PASSAGE: 1 Cor 12: 8-10
To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10 to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues,[a] and to still another the interpretation of tongues.[b]
We’ve talked a lot recently about the spiritual gifts, part of our theme on prayer. And its important to recognise that God gifts all of us differently, after all we are all parts of one body and if we were all the same or had the same gifts we would be an unbalanced body. I’m really excited that next term we are going to be looking much deeper at Spiritual gifts and how God gifts us all, because we all need to work together, to our strengths...
Whilst each of us might have a very specific calling, or a gift that is to be used more, it doesn’t mean the rest of us sit back and say, ‘oh thats not for me...’ We all have Jesus within us so we all have the capability to pray for healing. 
So as an example some members of our church have really felt God calling them to be praying for healing and so they have set up their once a month Sunday evening session. Which is amazing, God has clearly spoken to them and they have acted upon it. But does that we mean we all stand back and say, to anyone who is poorly, or needs prayer, of you need to wait until the next monthly meeting to get prayer for healing? does it?
No of course not, we pray in faith for whoever needs it. For faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things unseen. Just because we haven’t seen anyone miraculously healed of blindness or had a arm grow back, we still have faith, right? which is: the substance of things HOPED for and the evidence of things UNSEEN ... YET! We need hope in the things we know God can do, even if we haven’t seen it.
John Wimber... 
John Wimber was an amazing evangelist with a gift of healing - someone who God had clearly called to this kind on ministry. he saw hundreds of people in the 1980's and 1990's healed and he taught many others to heal by faith in Jesus. But John Wimber prayed for more than 1,000 sick people before he saw his first healing. How could anyone possibly stick with something through such constant failure? He refused to go by what he was experiencing, but stood on the testimony of scripture. 
I had to take my youngest 2 to the docs for an immunisation this week. and a funny thing happened whilst i was there. and you know that if something odd happens and you recognise it is odd or out of the ordinary, it’s always good to take note, because you just never know when God is talking to you...
So whilst we were sat in the waiting room a boy of around 15/16, came in with a nasty gash to his head, obviously needing assistance, and he came in with a few concerned friends who said that someone had just walloped him over the head. So what would you think would be their response? Maybe to rush him through to be patched up, or to find a nurse straight away or to sit him down and find out if he was alright maybe?
Well the receptionists very first response was ‘well I think the best thing would be for you to got to A&E’ Now I won’t tell you where we were but the nearest hospital I would guess is 20 miles away, this boy is obviously too young to drive and anyway is in no fit state and the buses, are frankly rubbish.
On top of that, this young boy had come to the place that had both the skills and the resources to help him, and yet their response was we can’t treat this,  I don’t know why, maybe it’s not in our guidelines, he has to go to the hospital, we can’t treat this... but they had in that building all that they needed. Doctors and nurses, many of them, trained with the skills to stitch a headwound. Dressings, bandages, needles, all under that roof and yet their first response was ‘we cant’. Was that fear maybe? fear of reprisals? fear of mucking up their schedule - people already waiting... would people be cross at having to wait?
And yet it seems rather ridiculous doesn’t it. That a medical centre would send someone to a different place, miles away which it would have been very hard to get to, when they could treat him right there.
Sound familiar....? I think that’s what we are like as a church sometimes. WE HAVE ALL WE NEED in JESUS!! He is the great healer and lives within us... we have the resources, we have the skills. But so often we don’t use them because we are fearful. Fearful of getting it wrong, what if it doesn’t work, what if they don’t get healed? what if they think I’m ‘not normal’ a bit odd (Wills talk a few weeks ago - well, we’re not normal!) maybe we don’t believe we have what we need to pray for healing? maybe the docs thought they didn’t have what they needed?
What if we said to people, oh no we can’t pray for you, you have to go to a special prayer meeting, or to a church miles away that has a good record of seeing people healed? like they would have sent that boy to the hospital... We can feel that we need to go to these far away places to get healed, but Jesus is right here in this building...
be saved and have faith.. thats it.
Just to finish the story, thankfully, after a very long wait, in which I thought he might faint in the middle of the waiting room! they called him in and stitched him up. Thankfully someone in the building knew their skills and knew what resources they had and they weren’t afraid to use them. So I’m telling you, you have what you need! We all do, Jesus has given it to us. 
 let’s not be fearful, let us be confident in who we are, in Jesus.

Just to reiterate. When Jesus sent out his disciples, the bible says this:
Matthew 10: 5-
10 Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.
....later he says:
As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ 8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.

So Jesus tells his disciples to go and pray for the sick, well in fact what he actually says is ‘heal the sick’, not go and pray and see what happens, but ‘heal them’. and for those of you that think that was for then and not now, he later says in the Great commission (Matthew 28)
18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

And it is still happening 2000 years later. We are many generations down but each of us has been made a disciple, most of us have been baptized (and if not, next week...) we follow and ‘obey’ the teaching of Jesus and his word.

So I read through most of the gospels this week, I wanted to reaquaint myself with how Jesus healed people, how he prayed, what happened.
Jesus healed all who came to him. All. Even the soldier who had come to arrest him, he healed his ear. 
The bible talks a lot about compassion ‘Jesus was filled with compassion’, or ‘he had compassion upon them’. In his compassion he heals them.
do we have compassion for all who come to us needing help? needing healing? and it might not be physical healing, it might be mental or spiritual, needing healing from pain, past hurt, needing to forgive.
And Jesus doesn’t pray long prayers or in one particular way, most of the time he just says something very simple like: 
‘be clean’, get up, ‘Go, your faith has healed you’ ‘woman, you are set free from your  infirmity’
Now I’m not dissing any one way of praying, there is some amazing teaching out there and there have been some amazing men and women of God who have had hugely successful ministries in healing. Often these people will have a specific way of praying and they teach that. And clearly we do need to be careful not to be inappropriate or too directive, praying for healing is often with vulnerable people and we have to respect that, but what I would say is that really it is nothing to do with us, What we do when we pray for the sick is we are bringing people into the presence of Jesus by his Holy Spirit. That’s all we are doing. 
So when we see Jesus healing people in the bible, we see people coming to him. People will all kinds of ailments from blindness, deafness, withered limbs, paralysis, possession by evil spirits and so on... The people come knowing that he is something special. That he can help them - they have a hunger for what he can bring, what he can give them. and I think that’s the key - are we hungry enough? Do we want God to move more in our church? Are we on our knees seeking him daily? are we crying out to him?
When Jesus was travelling around people travelled huge distances to see him and not in cars like we have today, on foot or possibly by donkey. How did they know where he was - could have taken days/weeks to find him!
The bible says that people followed him everywhere. That huge crowds formed. word must have spread like wildfire
in Mark 1:45 - says that Jesus couldn’t go to towns but stayed in open places, (because so many people would crowd to him) but even then people followed.
He tried to move to another place by crossing a lake and yet they still followed him. 
I Love that hunger - people were so desperate to see him, to hear his teaching, to touch him etc - they filled houses, they formed huge crowds, they followed him, some left jobs, families to be his disciples.
There was the woman with the issue of blood who touched his cloak - perhaps that was all she could do, I imagine it must have been like being at a big concert, down the mosh pit at the front, and she knew all she had to do was just reach out and touch him, what would it have taken for her to do that? a woman, probably alone, she was probably weak from her condition, she would have been unclean,  and anyone who touched her would have become unclean, she took a huge risk and yet she fought her way through a huge crowd of people. What hunger she had.
and there was the paralytic man whose friends lowered him through the roof! they didn’t give up when they couldn’t get into the house so they actually dug a hole in the roof and lowered him through.
Do we have that kind of hunger, to see more of God at work here? and in our lives?

So 2 weeks ago I went to a small town in Wales called Cwmbran, it’s near Newport just off the M4. In a church not much bigger than ours the week before a man who had been paralysed for 10 years got up out of his wheelchair, lifted it above his head and ran around the room. That is what God can do... Come on!!
So anyway I went down to find out what God was doing and it was pretty awesome! I had a great time there. There are 2 things I want to say about it. 1 is that those people were/are hungry. 2: THEY ARE IN NEED. 3: THEY GET INTO JESUS PRESENCE...
 The Pastor there is a reformed drug addict who spent time in prison, he was saved in prison, went to work for an organisation called Victory Outreach UK, eventually trained and became a Pastor. He pastored a huge church in Birmingham and he felt God call him back to Llanelli in s Wales where he came from. Now this is a deprived area, pretty much the whole of the welsh valleys is, closure of mines, theres high umemployment and with that the associated problems, alcoholism,  crime, drug addiction and so on. People here are in need. 
So the church in Cwmbran was set up 3 years ago and since then 4 others planted in the valleys area. God is clearly on the move there. But much if that is about peoples hunger. For many of them they are in dire need, and the church is a place where they can be set free and they know that. many in their congregation have been set free form addictions, just as their Pastor was, many come from deprived families and yet they know they need saving! They know there is another way. And they come to this church with that hunger within them and there they meet Jesus.
So for the last month, since that chap, Paul, got out of his wheelchair, people have been flocking there to receive a touch from God. Hundreds have been saved, hundreds healed. Such hunger
and the other thing to highlight is that when the outpouring started, the Pastor preached from the book of Esther. and his message was about how Esther dealt with her enemy. If you don’t know the story, read it! Short book, great story. But the bottom line is that Esther overcomes her enemy (and an enemy to the all jews), not by ranting and raving, shouting getting cross, but by bringing her enemy into the presence of the King. That was the message that he preached, you can hear it online - great message. And so Pastor Richard encourage people to  bring whatever the enemy was throwing at them, into the presence of THE KING.
Paul, in his hunger, brought his paralysis into the presence of the King, into the presence of Jesus and and he was healed.
We need to be hungry and we need to get in Jesus presence.
Now that outpouring has been going on for 4 weeks and each night people are getting healed and saved. People are travelling from all over to experience what God is doing and in fact Pastor Richard speaking this week - Thurs night at TKC. Because they are hungry and they want to be in God’s presence.
We don’t have to go to Wales, or Bethel Church or anywhere else to meet Jesus, he’s right here. Are we hungry enough?
Look the bottom line is we believe in God. A God who created heaven and earth, who sent his own son to die so we could have a relationship with him. How can we possibly expect to always understand what is going on? We cannot! and we just have to live with that. But do we live with the balance of it, or do we become defined by unbelief..
Do we believe in Gods word or not? simple as that...
Eph 3:20: MSG: 20-21 God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us.

edit: 14/05/13: you can hear the audio here.

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