Angels

This is what the writer to the Hebrews says about angels:

‘Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?’ Hebrews 1:12

The psalmist says this: ‘If you make the Most High your dwelling – even the Lord, who is my refuge – then no harm will befall you, no disaster will come near your tent.   For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.’ Psalm 91: 9-11

My daughter Clare contributes the following:

‘I was about 18 years old and on a walking holiday in the Lake District with a friend.  This particular day, we were walking up Coniston Old Man.  As we headed towards the summit the mountain became enveloped in a thick mist.  We couldn’t see a thing, perhaps only 3-5 metres ahead.  We lost our way and had no idea which way to go.  We sat on a rock and prayed for God’s angels to look after us.  Soon afterwards, while we were still sitting there, and trying to decipher where we were on the map, a man walked towards us, a hiker, and asked us if we were OK and needed any help.  We told him we were lost.  He gave us some directions and then went back the way he had come.  We followed his directions the best we could and ended up going down a scree slope towards the bottom.  We eventually came to a country lane that had a house on it with a cross on the wall next to the door.  We decided to knock and see if we could get a lift back to the car.  They were very welcoming and gave us cups of tea and some cake/biscuits and got us back to the car.

It was an interesting series of events because, although we weren’t sure that we followed the hiker’s instructions accurately, we were led to safety and a means of getting back to the car in one piece.

Maybe the hiker was an angel.

Another incident took place more recently.  One day I was driving up Ecclesall Road in Sheffield.  This road splits into two lanes as it heads towards Ecclesall Road South.  I was in the right hand lane getting ready to turn up Ringinglow Road.  As I was driving, I was feeling very heavily tired and was fighting sleep.  I kept telling myself not to fall asleep and that I would be at my parents very soon anyway.  However, that heavy half-conscious state started to fall over me and I would probably have gone out completely if I hadn’t heard a voice from the back seat shouting ‘CLARE!’.  It was loud enough to give me a start and make me turn round quickly to see who it was.  There was no one there. What I saw instead was a car coming up towards me in the left hand lane, with me veering towards it.  I quickly regained control of the car by steering it back towards the right.  The other car carried on past me in the left hand lane.

All I can say is that if I hadn’t been woken up at that point, I would have swerved into the car coming up on the left hand side.  I definitely heard a voice, and I can remember thinking that it must have been an angel.’

Praise the Lord for the ministry of angels!

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Miracles and the Ministry of Angels

angeleI was a boy at the time, riding down a hill on my bicycle.  Rounding a bend, I looked up and saw a parked car right in front of me.  All I could do was shut my eyes.  When I opened them again I was the other side, continuing my journey.  I remember thinking at the time: ‘That’s good, I must have gone on the inside’. I knew that there was no way I had gone round it.  Years later, for some reason it came back to mind.  Thinking about it again, I thought: ‘No, I didn’t go round it, there wasn’t room.  In any case I had my eyes shut.’  So how did I get to the other side?

I was recounting this incident in a group one time when a woman spoke up and told us how, when driving along a country road, she was faced with the inevitability of a head-on collision with a lorry.  Nothing happened.  When she looked in her driving mirror the lorry was continuing its journey behind her.

How are we to understand incidents like this?

Bill Bryson says this in ‘A Short History of Nearly Everything’:  ‘The world in which we live is not as solid as it appears.  Everything is made up of atoms that are mostly empty space. The solidity we experience all around us is an illusion. Every atom is made of three kinds of elementary particles: protons that have a positive electrical charge, electrons that have a negative electrical charge; and neutrons which have no charge at all. When two objects come together in the real world – billiard balls are most often used  as an illustration – they don’t actually strike each other.  Rather the negatively charged fields of the two balls repel each other.  Were it not for their electrical charges, they could, like galaxies, pass right through each other unscathed.’

Perhaps an angel turned off the electricity?

Towards Wholeness

Soon after leaving theological college in 1960, the opportunity came to study Clinical Theology under the late Dr Frank Lake, a Christian psychiatrist.  This involved attending seminars over a two-year period.  Dr Lake had developed a model for understanding the development of the human personality called ‘The Womb of the Spirit’ and emphasized the importance of what happened in the first nine months of an individual’s life. We looked at various types of personality and it was not long before I recognized myself as fitting into the schizoid  personality pattern, someone shy and withdrawn who found close relationships difficult.  I was very sensitive and tried to bottle up my feelings.

Following this I was generously given permission to attend a further course at Lingdale that was then the Clinical Theology centre in Nottingham.  We met on alternate weeks from Monday to Friday over a six month period.

We were a small group of clergy, all Anglicans apart from me.  The facilitator of the group was Brian Lake, also a psychiatrist and Frank Lake’s brother. We met together every morning with the same task: share what you are feeling.  Metaphorically speaking, I would hide behind a newspaper and peer out occasionally to see what was going on.

One day my dam broke: floods of tears and the release of incredible inner pain.  When the storm passed, I discovered to my surprise that my colleagues were still there, accepting and supporting me.  It was a most wonderful experience of love and acceptance.

Why was I hurting so much, where did the pain come from?  I began a search to find out.

Not long after this I became aware of the ministry of Wholeness Through Christ, a small charity offering training in prayer ministry through five-day training courses held at various conference centres up and down the country.

Each person attending one of these courses is offered time to explore their own need for healing and discover how the Holy Spirit can bring both healing and release from the effects of past hurts and sins as well as giving us the grace to forgive those who have hurt us.

Over a period of time I attended a number of Wholeness Through Christ courses and was eventually invited to join the team.  I found them very helpful and beneficial but the question that set off my journey towards wholeness was still unanswered.

By now I had come to understand how the Holy Spirit, the revealer of truth, can enable people to recover ‘forgotten’ memory, even the memory of an unborn child.

I went on another course called ‘Journey into Healing’ with the express intention of finding out how I was feeling when my mother was carrying me.

I was encouraged to lie on a mattress, curling up into a foetal position and breath deeply.  I began to experience some very powerful emotions, including murderous rage.

I realized that I could never be what my mother wanted me to be because she was hoping for a little girl.

At last I had found the answer.  My pain stemmed from feeling rejected while still in the womb.  I found that the discovery of the truth set me free, as promised by Jesus (John 8:31-32).

Healing the Memories

Healing the memories

The Psalmist tells us that the Lord is to be found in every situation in which we find ourselves (Psalm 139:7-8).  He is our creator.  The Lord saw what was going on while we were still in our mother’s womb (Psalm 139:15-16).

One of the great discoveries in recent years is the way in which the Lord can heal the wounds of the past.  The following is a brief outline of how this can happen:

  • Pray for the Holy Spirit to show you anything you need to see and understand – perhaps a ‘forgotten’ memory.  He promises to guide us into all truth.  John 16:13
  • Face reality as it was – discover the truth of what happened.  Accept that “what happened, happened to me”.
  • Allow the feelings to surface.  Feel what you felt.  Jesus was with you then and he is with you now.  Psalm 139.  He heals the broken-hearted and binds up their wounds. Psalm 147:3 He is to be found in the place of pain Isaiah 41: 9b-10
  • Mourn the loss of what you did not have.  Mourning is part of the healing process
  • Work through the feelings – anger etc. Jesus allows us “Let Him have it” and vent our rage on him.  “Crucify Him”  we cry.  His response is “Father forgive them”.
  • Choose to forgive the people who hurt you by telling God that you forgive them.  It is not necessary to tell the person himself.  See Mark 11:25.  Ask God to help you if you find it difficult.
  • Recognize any sinful reactions to what happened – anger, resentment, hatred, bitterness etc.
  • Seek release from any negative soul-tie to the person who caused the hurt.
  • Look to Jesus to heal the wound.  There is healing through the Cross.  See Isaiah 53:3,4-6 & 1 Peter 2:24.

Sometimes it is claimed that the ministry of healing the memories is not found in the bible. The answer to this is to be found in John 16:12-13, where Jesus says to his disciples: ‘I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth.’ This is known as progressive revelation.

Healing Defined

Healing is defined as wholeness of spirit, soul and body (1Thessalonians 5:23-24).  Healing of the spirit is concerned with the healing of our relationship with God and release from oppression by the spiritual powers of darkness.  Healing of the soul is concerned with the healing of the mind, will and emotions.  It is concerned with healing the hurts of the past and becoming released from the effects of trauma.  Healing of the body is concerned with physical healing.

Healing begins when we put our trust in Jesus Christ.  He is the Lord our Healer.  He has made provision for our healing through his death on the Cross (1 Peter 2:24).  As a result of his resurrection, he lives to be our Lord. Jesus ministers to people today through the person and work of the Holy Spirit who is described as ‘the Spirit of Jesus’ (Acts 16:7) and ‘the Spirit of Jesus Christ’ (Philippians 1:19).

Healed by the Word of God

“He sent forth his word and healed them”. Psalm 107:19

One day, driving past a hospital, I recognized a familiar symptom.  Discomfort in my left tonsil told me that I was about to have another dose of tonsillitis. Infections had tended to go straight for my tonsils ever since I had had acute tonsillitis when I was a boy.

This time, almost simultaneously, another message dropped into mind: ‘By his wounds you have been healed’. It was unbidden and unexpected.  My unthinking response was ‘Thank you, Lord’.  The symptom faded.  I did not get tonsillitis.  This happened about forty years ago and I have not had it since, though from time to time the symptom has tried to return.  When this has happened, in order to stay healed, I have found it necessary to stand on the truth of the word of God rather than accept what the symptom was trying to tell me.

The words that dropped into mind that day were a quotation from the first letter of Peter chapter 2 verse 24: ‘He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.’

Peter, the apostle, is saying that when Jesus died on the Cross he made provision both for the forgiveness of our sins and the healing of our sicknesses.  In claiming this he was echoing what the prophet Isaiah said: ‘Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted.  But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.  We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.’

Isaiah 53:4-6.

Something to notice is that whereas Isaiah said ‘By his wounds we are healed’ Peter, looking back to the Cross, says ‘By his wounds you have been healed’.

In 1980 I was diagnosed with a skin cancer (malignant melanoma) when a mole on my face started to grow.  It was removed by surgery but returned a year later.  It was removed by surgery again. Then a black spot appeared on my leg.  By then I had met a lovely Christian woman who had a strong conviction about the Lord’s willingness to heal so I asked her to pray for me.  I did not have any faith of my own, but I did have faith in her faith.  The spot was removed by surgery and declared to be benign.

Someone who played a significant role in my healing was John Wimber, an American who made a significant impact on sections of the Church in the 1980s and 90s.  During his last visit to this country he led a conference at the Free Trade Hall in Manchester.  By then he was seriously ill with cancer himself and confined to a wheelchair, but was still ministering powerfully.  As the Holy Spirit came upon him, he rattled off at high speed a list of things the Lord was doing including ‘Someone with a cancer on the left cheek has been healed’. This is where my cancer had started and my response was to throw my hands in the air exclaiming  ‘Thank you, Lord’.

The practice of the Christian ministry of healing arises from a biblical world-view, the conviction that the bible tells it like it is and that it is the Word of God, authoritative for faith and practice.  However this is not to make a god of the bible and we need to be aware of the warning of Jesus:

‘You diligently study the scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life, yet you refuse to come to me to have life’ (John 5:39-40).

Seeing is Believing

Seeing is Believing – Sight for the Blind

eyeWe have seen that Christianity is a revealed religion.  God has chosen to make himself  known by stepping into his creation in the person of Jesus Christ. Spiritual truth is spiritually revealed. (1 Corinthians 2:14)

Consider how the apostle Paul describes God’s calling: ‘I am sending you to them (the Gentiles) to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are made holy by faith into me’. (Acts 26:18)

Paul tells us that the god of this world (Satan) has blinded the minds of unbelievers so that they cannot see who Jesus is (2 Corinthians 4:4).  However the good news is that when a person turns to the Lord the veil is removed, the blind see (2 Corinthians 3:16). This is an important aspect of healing because we are blind to the truth of the gospel until we turn to the Lord and put our trust in Him.

One day, during the time I was at theological college, we had a time of sharing about how we had come to faith in Christ.  I remember our theology tutor saying that though he could not name the day when he became a believer what he could say was: ‘Whereas I was blind, now I can see’.

There came a very important day in the life of Jesus and his disciples: it marked a turning point in his ministry.   It was the day they came to Caesarea Philippi:  the day Jesus asked his disciples:  “What do people make of me?  Who do people say that I am?”  Peter’s answer was  “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God”.  “Well done,”  said Jesus  “You’ve seen it.  This was not revealed to you by man but by my Father in heaven.  And I tell you that you are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church.”

(Matthew 16:13-18)

The Church would grow as unbelievers became believers by putting their trust in Jesus and coming to see his true significance. This points to the importance of the ministry of the evangelist whose task is to help people become believers. This is a very important ministry because it results in the new birth and the gift of eternal life.  It is like being born again.  For more about this see John 3:1 – 8. Notice that the new birth is a work of the Holy Spirit.  (John 3:6).