THE HOLY SPIRIT AT WORK

Blog 100 November 12, 2018

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MIRACLES NEVER CEASE ~ Robert Wise explores the world of divine intervention from an objective point of view. Can 21st Century people believe that the hand of God touches people in today’s world?

Last week we explored Quintin Moore’s early experience when he grew up in Oklahoma’s beginnings of Pentecostalism. Let’s take another look,
Pentecostalism appeared around the turn of the century in the Azusa Street revival in Los Angeles, California beginning on April 19, 1906 when a black preacher named William Seymour began calling the Holy Spirit down on the congregation. Many people repented and fell under the power of the Holy Spirit. The revival lasted until 1915 and is considered to be the beginning of Pentecostalism. From humble beginnings, the movement rapidly spread across America and into Oklahoma.

In Quintin’s world extraordinary events were considered the norm. When Quintin went to college, he encountered attitudes at the other end of the spectrum. The skepticism bug began to bite. Modern academia looked askance at the divine intervention stories coming out of Pentecostal churches. They were considered emotionalism, psychological manipulation, as well as nonsense. As Quintin studied logic, philosophy, and science, he began sliding to the edge. He certainly believed in the basic tenets of the biblical faith, but the supernatural dimension became less and less attractive. After Quintin completed an excellent education, he felt called into the ministry and started exploring various aspects of ministry. A church in Liberal, Kansas called him to come up and speak. Taking his new wife Annie with him, he drove to a small congregation, to try his hand at preaching. Around 35 people showed up to hear this young man.

The typical plain church building had a communion table underneath the pulpit with a thanksgiving basket sitting in the middle of the table. Bananas, apples, oranges had been piled together to represent the harvest season. People sauntered in and sat down to listen to this young fellow.

One man was particularly noticeable. Slouched down in the middle of the pew, the man stared at Quintin with a defiant look on his face. While no words were spoken, he seemed to be daring the preacher to say something. Quintin could feel the challenge written across the man’s face.

Quintin launched into his sermon, but a strange thought blipped through his mind. “Take a banana and put it on that obstinate man’s head.” While Quintin knew what it was to have the Holy Spirit speak in his thoughts, this idea sounded beyond the preposterous. He kept preaching but the idea wouldn’t go away. Finally, he jumped down from the pulpit grabbed a banana out of the basket, and started up the aisle pointing the fruit at the man’s head.

The defiant look vanished and the fellow virtually fell out of the pew. He began crawling up the aisle crying. The man grabbed the kneeling rail and sobbed bitterly. Most of the people in the congregation were family or knew him. They gathered around, praying for his wholeness.

After the service was over, Quintin approached the man to inquire what had happened. “Look,” the man said. “I cynically told the Lord if this preacher hears from you, let him put a banana on my head.” Still sobbing, the man said “you did!”

We have just begun a new website ~ THE EARLY CHURCH FOR TODAY ~ Surveying the first 3 centuries, we are examining the ancient Christian faith. The focus is practical, relevant, and inspirational. TUNE IN. Join us at earlyfaithfortoday.com

THE HOLY SPIRIT AT WORK

Blog 99 November 5, 2018

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MIRACLES NEVER CEASE ~ Robert Wise explores the world of divine intervention from an objective point of view. Can 21st Century people believe that the hand of God touches people in today’s world?

You met Quinton Moore in an earlier blog. Today he is the Presiding Bishop of the Communion of Evangelical Episcopal Churches.  I shared one incident in his ministry, but I didn’t go into details. I think you will find more insight into his life and ministry instructive. Let me tell you about his story.

Quinton Moore grew up in Pentecostal land. His grandmother had been the baby sitter for Oral Roberts while the cotton pickers worked in the field. Today, Lottie Moore would be thought of as an old time Pentecostal. She lived in a world that assumed miracles came with the Christian faith. Quinton grew up in rural Oklahoma where Pentecostalism was a major religious force.

Grandmother Jessie Hargrove, a full blood Cherokee-Osage Indian, remains as one of his early memories. Quinton watched her pace back and forth praying in the Indian language and in tongues. Suddenly, she stopped. “Yes!” Jessie cried out. “I sees him!”

Eight-year old Quinton wasn’t sure what was going on, but watched his grandmother grab a shawl and run to the door.

“Come on, Quinton,” she demanded. “We got to get to your uncle quick. I knows where he is now.”

Quinton piled into the pickup and they went flying down the road. He had no idea where they were going or where they were. Grandma Jessie seemed to have a map in her head and only she knew what was ahead. After a number of 90 degree turns on dirt roads he had never been on before, Quinton looked up and saw what was ahead.

“Hey!” he shouted. “That’s the cab to my uncle’s truck turned over!”

“Yes, son,” Grandma Jessie said. “That’s what the Holy Spirit showed me.”

They pulled up alongside the semi-trailer cab laying on its side. Jessie leaped out and climbed up the underside of the cab. “Just as the Spirit said! Your uncle’s down there out cold. He’s hurt. I’ll try to shake him loose. You run to that house over yonder and have them call an ambulance. Git with it!”

Quinton went running down the road to the nearest farm house. They were able to get his uncle to the hospital and saved his life. But Quinton couldn’t ever forget that experience. Without any knowledge of an accident, through her prayers, his grandmother Jessie had been able to discover the disaster and locate her son. She considered divine interventions to be simply part of her journey.

We have just began a new website THE EARLY CHURCH FOR TODAY Surveying the first 3 centuries, we are examining the  ancient Christian faith. The focus is practical, relevant, and inspirational. TUNE IN Join us at earlyfaithfortoday.com

THE SECRET Part IV

Blog 97 October 22, 2018 ~ MIRACLES NEVER CEASE

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Robert Wise explores the world of Divine intervention from an objective point of view. Can 21st Century people believe that the hand of God touches people in today’s world?

In 2007, I wrote Crossing the Threshold of Eternity, about near death experiences. I found a large number of persons with such experiences. Even though they were pronounced medically dead for some limited period of time, they recovered. Their stories were fascinating.

At the time, I didn’t think of these stories as divine interventions, but in retrospect I realized they certainly were. While reading The Oklahoman daily newspaper, I found the story of Don Houston’s near-death ordeal. Don told me what happened.

Members of Faith Church, an Assembly of God congregation, Don had been general manager of a house building company that manufactured modular units. Congestive heart failure ran in his family, taking his father at 58 and his brother at 56. Don is in the 2% who survive this condition.

Because bronchitis caused Don to snore, Rita often slept in another room, but on this night she didn’t. In the middle of the night, she heard a “death rattle” and panicked. When she rolled Don over, there was no movement and nothing would wake him up. His tongue began to hang out. Rita called 911 for an ambulance as well as receiving instructions on performing CPR.

The ambulance attendants stuck needles in Don’s feet and received no response. He simply laid there not breathing. By the time he got to the hospital, the only things keeping him alive were machines. The doctors gave Rita no hope that he would regain consciousness and felt he wouldn’t make it. The best she could hope for was a nursing home.

Rita went into his secluded room and prayed. With Don’s two daughters, she made a prayer circle around the bed and began to pray fervently. “Jesus help us.”

And what was happening with Don?

Don became aware and looked around. He was in a totally white room with no windows and two distinct doors. The voice of God said, “Don, you had a heart attack.” The room suddenly lit up and arch-shaped widows appeared. Don saw figures walking by. The all had the same features, and the same colored hair. Each wore a white robe and Don thought they might look like Jewish people (though he really hadn’t been around Jews). He realized they were angels. Don felt totally peaceful with no worries.

Finally, one of the angels said, “Come with me.”  The angel escorted him through what Don calls “the door of second chances.” Suddenly, he was back in his body.

His daughter had been holding his hand and felt a squeeze. The doctor thought the tug was only a reflex and took Don’s hand. Abruptly there was another squeeze. The doctor nearly fainted. He rushed out and brought in other doctors to observe Don.

Rita stared. Don’s eyes had always been a greenish brown. Now, they were the prettiest bright blue eyes, she had ever seen.

Today Don tells everyone that there is life after death. He says, “I do know for a fact. You’re not alone. You need to get God in your heart because you never know when you’re going to pass.”

Can we call the results a miracle? Even a skeptic has to throw in the towel on such a phenomenon. For all practical purposes, Don was dead and the medical profession did not expect a recovery. However we define life, Don Houston came back because he was filled with renewed life that only heaven can give.

We have just began a new website ~ THE EARLY CHURCH FOR TODAY ~ Surveying the first 3 centuries, we are examining the ancient Christian faith. The focus is practical, relevant, and inspirational. TUNE IN ~ Join us at earlyfaithfortoday.com

THE SECRET Part II

Blog 95 October 8, 2018

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MIRACLES NEVER CEASE ~ Robert Wise explores the world of Divine intervention from an objective point of view. Can 21st Century people believe that the hand of God touches people in today’s world?

In the last blog we explored what occurs when we pray. Following the guidelines in scripture, we found some clues in the word ζωη or life. The New Testament called Jesus the bearer of life, leaving the implication that life is imparted to our need. Let’s look further.

For the first three hundred years of the Christian era, believers struggled to completely define Jesus’ identity. Interestingly enough, this lack of precision and definition did not stop the experience of the miraculous. I believe we can gather from that period that we don’t have to be dogmatic or 100% certain about how we define our beliefs to be able to reach for the hand of God to bring divine interventions. The people I interviewed  reported in previous blogs would tell you the issue is not in theological precision, but in humbling ourselves.

The scripture suggests life begins in eternity and finally ends there. Its essence is transcendent. This life came in the historical presence of Jesus, but ζωη is in fact supra-historical. We experience life in time, but the nature of life is eternal. No test tube can measure this dimension. Unfortunately, society most often fails to grasp this fact. Like the concept of love, life comes from another dimension that is not calculable with a computer.

My experience has led me to the conclusion that when we intercede for illness and brokenness, we are literally calling for a new surge of life to enter the person. The addition of new life brings the healing. Even when the body remains the same, new vitality touches the mind, the emotions, and the soul. I began to see that this transfer of vitality occurred in many of the people I interviewed.

Another dimension for healings can be found in the Book of Genesis. The creation story makes it clear that humanity is to have dominion over the earth. We are part of a divine partnership which means we have a responsibility for what happens in this world. For example, we can pray for a nice lawn, but we don’t get Bermuda grass until we plant the seed. When we are struggling with illness and pain, it is important to make a connection with the heavenly Father for Him to release life in and through us. A process, a connection exists between human need and the life God wants to pour into us when we are praying.

The Bible calls this bridge, this point of contact, “the laying on of hands.” As we have already noted in an earlier blog, the palm of everyone’s hands naturally alludes a release of energy. You can feel this reality by bringing your palms together slowly until you sense the flow of warmth and energy. My conclusion from numerous interviews is that the hands are a natural connection place for healing to be released. When we pray, life is transmitted to and through the person in some form.

Let’s go back to an analogy I used earlier. A large power line brings electricity to a transformer that brings electricity to our houses. The hook up is small compared to the power line but without the smaller wire, no lights would turn on in my home. Why does the system of life seem to work in this manner? Because we are born with free will and our Creator waits for us to use that capacity to invite his intervention.  I conclude that intercession and the laying on of hands is part of the divine plan to establish connection for empowerment.

THE SECRET

Blog 94 October 1, 2018

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MIRACLES NEVER CEASERobert Wise explores the world of Divine intervention from an objective point of view. Can 21st Century people believe that the hand of God touches people in today’s world?

Let’s depart from miracle stories for a moment. Our question for this week concerns what is going on when miracles and divine interventions happen? How can we understand what is occurring in us when healing is prayed for and we quickly recover? What transpired within our person?

We can’t miss the fact that Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.”(John 14:6). He brought life to those who encountered him.

I found that The New Testament had a more expansive understanding of life than we have today. When healings and miracles occur, life is released. The Greek word ζωη (zóé) implies natural life or normal existence. (I Corinthians 15:45-48) The word implies living in health. (Mark 5:23). Consequently, life is a supreme good. (Mark 8:36-37) ) St. Paul was clear our bodily containers of ζωη comes to end when we die. However, while we are here we need experiences that build up our sense of life like a walk in the forest, a magnificent concert, or a close relationship with a friend.                                                                                                                                                                    Jesus’ miracles restored life as it was intended to be. All of this is true and possible because God is the only One who is the Creator of life. All life originates in Him. (John 5:26) Whether we recognize it or not, a healthy vibrant life remains a gift from God. The Gospels tell us Jesus bestowed this gift on people in need. We can conclude that when the sick are prayed for, this supreme form of life is to some degree imparted to them.

Hidden in the folds of the scripture’s use of the word ζωη is the recognition that life implies a dependency on God. Whether understood or not, such remains true. As Jesus came preaching, both his words and his example made it clear that we should not live for ourselves but for God. (Romans 14:7-8)  The scripture indicates that a cosmic event happened when Jesus was crucified that was for the good of the human race. Rather than only another Jew dying under the heavy hand of Rome, Christians contend that this death reached beyond history and effected every generation that followed.

By giving up his life on the cross, Jesus broke the power of death and released new life that has never stopped flowing into this world. His wounds can heal our brokenness.   

Consequently, Christians believe they should live righteously for the good of the world because they have received ζωη from him. They are to live life with the awareness that everyday is an anticipation of eternal life after they die. Paul expressed this insight when he wrote that his life was not his own, but that of Christ living in him. (Galatians 2:19-20) Our present life is sustained by the certainty of that future. Ζωη offers this promise to us. When we pray for healing, we are calling for this reality of life to be increased in the person.

That’s quite a promise!

HERE’S A TRULY FASCINATING GUY! PART II

Blog 93 September 24, 2018

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MIRACLES NEVER CEASE ~ Robert Wise explores the world of Divine intervention from an objective point of view. Can 21st Century people believe that the hand of God touches people in today’s world?

Born Franceso Forgione in the small town of Pietrecina, Italy on May 25, 1887, his parents were peasant farmers.  Franceso had an elder brother and three younger sisters. Grazia became a nun. At his baptism, he was given the name Francesco. By the time, he was five-years-old, he made a decision to give his entire life to God. The Forgione family reflected the deeply devout convictions of their faith. These little towns in Italy are filled with devout people whose faith goes back for centuries. Saints days were always celebrated. The family was in worship far more than once a week. His mother said that little Francesco appeared to be able to see and talk with Jesus, the Virgin Mary, and his guardian angel.  Apparently, he thought everyone could do the same.

Last week, I started telling you how I became a acquainted with this extraordinary man. This week, I’m adding a few more details that you may find important.

Francesco received the name Padre Pio after becoming a Roman Catholic priest in the Order of Friars Minor Caphuchin in San Giovanni Rotondo. His fellow friars reported that during prayers, Pio often appeared to be in a stupor as if he were completely absent from the group. At such times, they reported seeing him levitating above the ground. During his 81 years living in the twentieth century, his life was filled with divine interventions and numerous incidences of bi-location. However, all during this time, he struggled with difficult medical problems.

In September 20, 1918, while hearing a confession, the first experience of the stigmata appeared. While he preferred to suffer with the wounds alone, the word quickly spread and people came from everywhere to see him.  Word of his amazing gifts spread quickly.

Eventually some church leaders became suspicious of Pio and thought he induced the wounds for financial gain. The Vatican even issued severe restrictions on his work. Finally, this pressure diminished and the Pope himself affirmed Padre Pio and his work.

One of the remarkable stories concerns the visit of Bishop Karol Jozef  Wojtyla (who became John Paul II) with Padre Pio in 1962. Reportedly, a prophetic word was given to Wojtyla that he would occupy a high position in the church. Obviously, this came to pass beyond Wojtyla’s wildest dreams.

During the years that I traveled in Italy, I recognized the profound influence Padre Pio had on people and the country even though he virtually never left the monastery. He abruptly appeared on a battlefield and saved an Italians soldier from being blown up and then disappeared. He is credited as appearing during a World War II bombing of the area around the monastery and preventing a disaster. At one point while he was looking out the window in the monastery, he was also seen far away assisting a dying man. The stories were endless.

Early in the morning of September 23, 1968, he prepared for the end of his life. At around 2:30, he said, “I see two mothers (meaning his earthly mother and the Virgin Mary). He died in his cell in San Giovanni Rotondo with a final whisper, “Maria.” He was buried in a crypt in the Church of Our Lady with over 100,000 people attending. He was both beatified (1999) and canonized (2002) by Pope John Paul II. Regardless of the subjective elements present in his story, the record speaks for itself.

Some skeptics will see all of these stories as nonsense or at least highly questionable. I discovered the people who experienced them believed these events to the core of their being.

HEY, SUMMER’S OVER!

Blog 91 September 10, 2018

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MIRACLES NEVER CEASE Robert Wise explores the world of Divine intervention from an objective point of view. Can 21st Century people believe that the hand of God touches people in today’s world?

Can you believe it? Fall is here.

I’m still out here in Colorado, but the Aspens have already begun to turn. The locals are saying we are going to have an early Fall with a cold winter. That’ll make you shiver a tad.

During the summer I’ve been turning out a couple of books and been hard at work with our new website The Early Faith for Today. You’ll find this site exploring the first three centuries and getting us in touch with the faith of the first Christians. I believe you’ll find it to be helpful and inspirational.

I discovered a number of miracle stories over the summer, but the one I’m sharing now just came in. You’d like Ryan Mackie who is one of our bishops in the Communion of Evangelical Episcopal Churches. Bishop Mackie is a scholar as well. So, you can understand why problems with his eyes would be particularly troubling. The issue was serious.

Following a retreat, Bishops Mike and Beth Owen were called on to pray for Bishop Mackie. You’ve met Mike and Beth in previous blogs. For years, the couple has had an inspired ministry in several cities. Praying for the sick has been one of their strengths.

On August 24, Mike and Beth gathered around Ryan and laid on hands just as the book of James prescribes. (James 5:13-15)  As they always do, both prayed fervently for the problem. When they finished, Ryan felt a change. He knew something was going on. During the next six days, he was sure a restoration was occurring.

The doctor had noted that Ryan lost 63% of his ability to see out of his right eye… but Ryan began to realize that he could see out of his right eye. He returned to the physician to get an evaluation. The tests surprised the doctor. Where his right eye was seeing only 37%, it was now seeing 96%. When they measured his overall seeing, Ryan had improved from 20/400 to 20/40.The last x-ray photo of his eye sight had shown a nearly entire black area inside his eye. Now, when the photo was made there was only a small black dot.

Before the Owens prayed for him, Ryan couldn’t see a student sitting in front of him in his classroom. Now, he can see the lights in the center of the test screen. While Ryan came expecting a medical treatment, any such procedure was cancelled. No treatment! No steroids. Nothing.

The hand of God had released life-altering empowerment. James was right when he wrote, “And the prayer of faith will save the sick man.” (James 5:15) What a great way to start the Fall!                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     

HEY! IT’S VACATION TIME

BLOG 91 July 9, 2018

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With the heat of summer comes the relief of sitting by a nice swimming pool and soaking your feet in the cool water. Maybe. Most of us are so hard at work we don’t have time.

    During the next two months I’ll be traveling, finishing up book projects, and out of sight in the mountains. Consequently, I won’t be writing blogs again until after September 1. In the mean time, the new Early Faith for Today website will continue. If you haven’t tuned us in yet, summer offers an opportunity. The Christian faith is presented as it was in the first three centuries with application for today. Check it out.

Have a wonderful summer and I’ll see you in the fall.