Saturday

Hands on!

I was reading through Acts 6, and my attention was drawn to verse 6. 

The story is the appointment of the first deacons. Our verse:

Acts 6:6: They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them.

The next verse points out “So the word of God spread, and the number of disciples multiplied.” There was a connection between this action and the spreading of the gospel. This is a powerful thing.

The New Testament Model


The Bible is thick with examples of God’s people laying hands on folks. Matthew 19:13 is the first NT example of someone laying hands on: “Then little children were brought to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them.”
  
Mark 16:18 says that we will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.
Acts 13:3 speaks of the commissioning of the world’s first missionaries: So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.”
Acts 19:6-7 shows another application for laying on hands: “And when Paul had laid hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke with tongues and prophesied.”
  
So the Bible shows us we lay hands on people for four purposes:
  
1. Imparting a general blessing, such as our modern practice of baby dedication.
2. Healing the sick. In fact, Mark 6:5 suggests that healing is easier if we lay hands on in the process.
3. Commissioning people to an office, or consecrating them to that service or office. This one appears to be more dangerous than others (see below).
4. Imparting an increased manifestation of Holy Spirit’s presence and gifts. See also 1 Timothy 2:8 and 2 Timothy 1:6.
Luke 21:12 talks about a fifth kind of laying on of hands, but I don’t think we want to adopt this practice: “But before all this, they will lay hands on you and persecute you.”
  

The Danger of Laying on Hands

Some will correctly point out that the Bible gives a warning to the topic as well:

1 Timothy 5:22: Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands, and do not share in the sins of others.This appears to reference #3 above: commissioning people to an office. And of course, a warning against laying hands on someone hastily is also an affirmation that while we must not rush, we are expected to lay hands on them.

There are members of the Body who – out of fear of error in this matter – have become unnaturally cautious, perhaps fearful, about laying on of hands. As a result, we have, intentionally or otherwise, come to the place where it is not acceptable to lay hands on an individual and consecrate them to service without at least a Bachelor’s degree in ministry. Preferably this is combined with a number of years of successful ministry, where “successful” is defined as “without significant moral failure.”

It is not my intent to minimize the danger. It is also not my intent to react out of fear and miss out on what appears to be a powerful weapon available to the sons and daughters of the Kingdom of God. I understand that there is a real danger; let us not fear to use the weapon because of fear of the danger.

  

The Invitation to Lay on Hands 

  
We are, in fact, clearly expected to lay hands on people in order to manifest the kingdom of God in them. I consider it similar to “painting the target” in modern warfare: “Holy Spirit, this is where to strike!”

Acts 6:6: They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them.

As I read the verse, I had the distinct impression that Holy Spirit was saying that we’re authorized to use laying on of hands more than we have been, and that we’re missing out on a fair bit that God wants to do in us, and on a fair bit of what we want to accomplish in him, because we’re missing out on the resources available to us.
  

Multiplication From Laying on Hands

  
I have been observing that the church is finally making a wonderful transition. For many years, we would work on increasing the effectiveness or range of our gifts. Evangelists would travel to more cities and host larger events. Pastors gathered larger churches. Teachers spoke to those larger congregations, and then to television and radio audiences, and then began to distribute tapes and CDs of their ministry.

It was a season of effectively adding to their ministry to increase the good things that were being accomplished in God’s name. More recently, churches, leaders and ministries have been offering training schools to raise up a new generation of leaders, to multiply their ministries. Growth always happens faster by multiplication, of course, than by simple addition.

The Book of Acts, the beginning of the Church, started the same way: “And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:47) When the twelve apostles laid hands on seven deacons, the next verse points out “So the word of God spread, and the number of disciples multiplied.”

This is actually the second time the New Testament speaks of the number of disciples multiplying: the first was verse 1, which led to the appointment of the deacons. It was because the crowd was multiplying that they started laying hands on others, and it was because of laying hands on others that the numbers were multiplied.

It is clear that laying hands on individuals is both a response to revival and a means of maintaining it. From this point forward in Acts, the spotlight moves from the apostles who had been doing the miracles to the deacons who were now the focus of the miracles. The twelve were not removed from the picture; they continued to teach (that was their main reason for appointing the deacons), and they governed the burgeoning megachurch. Later, the focus moves to the apostle Paul, who was healed and commissioned through Ananias laying hands on him.

The church grows when we lay hands on.

Thursday

The Hidden Goodness of God

If God is good, how do we explain all the evil that happens to good people? How do I as a believer respond when my family, when godly people, are struck with unspeakable evil.

In the book of Job, we as readers get to peek behind the scenes of Job's torment, and we see what he does not: that it is Satan who does the work, and that he is inspired to do it by God's boasting of Job's righteousness. The book ends with the un-enlightened Job accusing God of the evil done to his family, and demanding an explanation for that evil. God's evasive answer is very enlightening.

God accepts the blame.

At no point in the book does Job learn that it was not God's hand that killed his family and destroyed his livelihood. God's answer can be boiled down to two arguments:

1) Job, you aren't big enough to understand, and

2) as a sovereign God, don't I have the right to take sovereign action?

It was only when Job understood those points that his fortunes were again reversed.

I conclude that I, like Job, am not big enough to understand all that goes on in the heavenlies. I know my Father is good. I know that He will bring something that His omniscience defines as "good" out of the tragedies that hit my life and the lives of the Cassie Bernals of the world. And I know that no matter what goes on, I can trust Him, even if I don't understand: justice will one day be done.

Oh yeah: I also know that when Satan steals from me and from mine, he owes me at least double for that theft. I don't need to stand there and suffer: my Daddy and I can fight back, and because we win when we fight, we can grab all the plunder I can carry from Satan's stinking, twisted fingers!!

God is good, but sometimes we have to apprehend that goodness by faith, not by our understanding.

Saturday

Whose Spy Are You?


Now [the 12 spies] departed and came back to Moses and Aaron and all the congregation of the children of
Israel in the Wilderness of Paran, at Kadesh; they brought back word to them and to all the congregation, and showed them the fruit of the land.
Then they told him, and said: “We went to the land where you sent us. It truly flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit. Nevertheless the people who dwell in the land are strong; the cities are fortified and very large; moreover we saw the descendants of Anak there. The Amalekites dwell in the land of the South; the Hittites, the Jebusites, and the Amorites dwell in the mountains; and the Canaanites dwell by the sea and along the banks of the Jordan.”


Then Caleb quieted the people before Moses, and said, “Let us go up at once and take possession, for we are well able to overcome it.”


But the men who had gone up with him said, “We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we.”


-- Numbers 13

Twelve spies were sent to spy out the inheritance God had provided for them. Two returned with good news, ten feared the worst. I see this kind of division in our day.

It’s apparent: God is on the move; Aslan is on the prowl. He’s saying to his people something very like he said to Abram in the beginning: “Get out of your country, from your family and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you.” (Genesis 1:21)

God is clearly calling his people into action, and he’s saying very little so far about what he’s bringing us into. He’s clearly following the principle of Romans 14:23: “whatever is not from faith is sin.” If he were to tell us too much, we could not respond in faith. So he says, “Come to the land that I will show you. Eventually.”

One of the key principles for the day is that we must follow what he is saying now, not what he has already said. By way of illustration, we look at Abraham again: God gives him a son, then some time later he commands, “Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” (Genesis 22) Had Mo held onto that word, a true word that God truly had spoken, Zack would have been a corpse on top of the mountain; but because Mo did listen, he saw the ram, the provision from God, and sacrificed the animal instead. Zack’s life depended on Moses listening for the “now word” of God.

Likewise, if we follow what God has said rather than what he is saying now, we will miss what he is doing now, and we will suffer great loss. Therefore one of the day’s key lessons is to learn to follow his still, small voice. Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice and I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10:27) It’s time for us to live up to those words.

It goes without saying that we listen to his voice; any other will lead us badly astray.

A second opportunity for growth comes this way: many believers are reporting that the season in which we live is an intense season; the pressure is heavy and is increasing, the pace is fast and picking up. The pressure is a temporary phenomenon, but the completion of the lesson is different than what many of us have experienced or hoped for. I believe that the season will end, not with the lifting of the pressure upon us, but with our growing to the point where the pressure is no longer a hindrance to us. It is we who will change, not our circumstances.

So our second lesson is about responding to difficulties. The lesson is about how we respond to pressure: do we respond with growth or with complaining? Do we notice what God is up to? Do we celebrate where we see his hand, where we hear his voice? Or do we notice the difficulties first? Do we fix our eyes on the obstacles in front of us? Do we notice the growing darkness more than we see the growing light?

If we recognize the darkness first, then whether we mean to or not, we are aligning ourselves with the ten spies that spoke out against what God was doing, who led the people in the rebellion that cost every last life in the community except Josh and Caleb.

Those ten had no expectation that they were condemning an entire people to death with their words; they believed that they were simply reporting the truth as they was it. But the truth that they saw, the spirit that empowered their words, brought three million people who believed them to an early grave.

The question is about what we speak about, what we meditate about; it’s about the words we use with each other. Jesus said, “… those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man.” (Matthew 15:18) If our words are about darkness, then our lives will be defiled by the darkness about which we speak.

Does that mean we should bury our head in the sand and pretend that there is no evil? Come on, you’re smarter than that: of course not. We don’t pretend the evil is not present; we simply don’t give it our primary attention; we don’t talk about it, we don’t empower it.

When we measure the darkness, we fail the great test of our day. When we celebrate the Kingdom and it’s King, we pass the test, we overcome the darkness, we fulfill Jesus’ prayer, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done.”

So what are you reporting about?