Mar 21, 2009

The Supernatural (normal) Christian Life

I wonder how Luke’s practice as a doctor was impacted as he watched a carpenter go from town to town healing everyone who came to him. I think he would have been envious. I know I would have been. Jesus modeled for His disciples an incredible thing. For 3 years he went about doing amazing miracles. One day he turned to them and said, “Ok, now it’s your turn. I want you go and do all the things you saw me doing.”

He modeled the kind of life we are all invited to follow. It’s been given to us the authority, power and opportunity to participate in all the miracles Jesus performed. Before he went to be with His Father, he said, “he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father.” (John 14:12)

Yes, Jesus wants us to live the same supernatural lifestyle he did. If you’re skeptical, please hear me out. I’d like to explain why I think we aren’t doing so. Jesus knew his disciples wouldn’t have the courage (faith) to do the miracles unless they watched someone else do them first. He was their model and every time they watched another miracle, they believed a little more that they might be able to do the same thing. Their faith had to grow and it did. After years of watching Him the disciples had the faith to do it themselves. We fear that God won’t back us up if we attempt something that requires supernatural power. We fear the embarrassment, shame and ridicule that come with failure. So we never try. And we seldom see others doing it either. It’s imperative for us to have a model who shows us that it can be done.

This is the place I’m at right now. I’ve never been a supernatural person. I’m more of a book collector/ believer. I like systematic theology, doctrinal statements, apologetic arguments and I sometimes believe the bible is the 4th person of the trinity. It’s just easier that way. But God is not a book, a collection of theological statements, a world view, a concept, a force or anything else I want him to be. He’s an intelligent, funny, creative, loving person who wants to spend time talking to me, hearing my ideas and using His power to change people through me.

In reading about the Christian experience of the first century, I see a large gap between where they were and where most of us are now. Paul asked his friends in Corinth (rhetorically) about their practice of spiritual living when they came together. They were all eager to prophesy, sing psalms, speak in tongues, teach, etc. (1 Cor. 14) Paul told them “my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.” (1 Cor. 2:4-5) The disciples of Jesus routinely worked in the realm of healing and miracles, also demonstrating God’s power. It seemed to be the ‘normal’ Christian life. I know many of us believe the signs and miracles of those days have ceased. I once thought so myself.

I see two things that challenge this idea. It’s hard to support that teaching with scripture. And there are people today who are still working in the realm of miracles. If one takes an honest and objective survey, you can’t conclude that everything miraculous is a hoax. Some of it might be, but there seems to be validity to much of it. If any of these things have really happened in modern times, i.e. miracles of healing, angelic encounters or resurrections from the dead, then we must conclude they haven’t passed away. That presents a challenge to us. If these things are valid today in any small way, perhaps God wants them expressed in a larger way. If God’s desire is to show his nature through the power of miracles that means the normal or expected Christian life might be a routine display of the supernatural. Does that challenge you?

It challenges me. For many of us, our experience with God is confined to occasional worship, occasional study of the bible and occasionally praying to a God who seems distant and unpredictable. It isn’t very supernatural; most of us are content with this kind of experience. We are very ‘Greek’ in our world-view. Unlike most of the world, our western culture is based on rationalism and pursuit of understanding. Reason has replaced supernatural revelation. As a society, we are anti-supernatural. We prefer to think about God rather than experience Him. We’d rather read about him than hear His voice, we’d rather recite a learned pattern of prayer that converse spontaneously with our creator. We’re afraid of the supernatural. It’s an intimidating and risky proposition. The closer I draw into relationship with God the more I lose control of the terms and conditions of the experience.

We like the idea of God as long “god” conforms to our ideas of divinity. When I’m confronted with something outside my understanding of “god” I’m quick to find something to shoot down the threatening idea before me. I want God to be neatly defined, logical and predictable. Most of us in the west really believe God made the universe, and is busy with other things right now. Yes, He’s out there and He hears us when we pray (sometimes) But we think it’s rude to interrupt or He’s to busy running the universe to be bothered with our affairs on a constant basis. We ascribe to a kind of deism that’s really not biblical.

More ‘primitive’ cultures of the world are exactly the opposite. They are extremely spiritual. They expect the supernatural to collide with their daily affairs. They pay a lot of attention to dreams, visions, demons and angels. Magic, voodoo, curses and spells are a big part of their cultures. They may have some incorrect understanding, but their life is very supernaturally oriented. We see them as ‘primitive’ and they may be so in philosophical or technical knowledge. But in the realm of the spirit, we are far more primitive. The apostle Paul noted there are basically two kinds of mind-sets; Greek and Jew. Greeks seek wisdom, Jews seeks signs and wonders. (1 Cor. 1:22) There are those who prefer knowledge and those who prefer displays of supernatural power.

Unfortunately the church always seems to fall into one camp or the other. There is the generalization (sorry) against the charismatics that they are only after the supernatural and don’t develop sound theological understanding. The other camp is content to develop great depth of understanding but they neglect the supernatural. I think it’s best if we have a balance of both. Sadly, few of us do.

As I began praying for my patients last year, I developed a pattern. I prayed for the patients I thought God wanted me to and I prayed about the things I thought were important. But I didn’t always ask God who to pray for and what to pray about. I developed a formula. It was easier that way. But God began to tell me not to pray for some people. Then he asked to pray for people I didn’t want to (arrggh!). Then he showed me some things in their life that I couldn’t learn from reading their chart; things only He and they knew about. I actually had to begin my calls by having a meeting with God and asking him a bunch of questions first. That forced me to quiet my soul and ignore any internal emotions, feelings, fears, assumptions and anything else that distracted me from hearing and seeing what God wanted to tell me. It forced me to establish a more regular relationship with God and to trust what I heard Him saying. I had to throw away a lot of assumptions I worked hard to acquire.

But that’s the supernatural life. It’s being led by the Spirit of God. I think it was the normal Christian life a couple of thousand years ago. I doubt it’s very normal these days. It’s different, and sometimes it takes me out of my comfort zone. It requires me to let God direct my interactions to the greatest degree possible. If God asks me to pray for the woman behind me in the check out line, I need to trust that He knows it will be received by her and bear fruit. It requires obedience and forces me overcome my own fears.

What I am talking about would have seemed bizarre to me a year ago. Many of us see angelic encounters as weird. We see faith-healing as a hoax, resurrections as phony and third heaven experiences as a deception. We question experiences we haven’t had ourselves. I believe there’s a reason for this. For many of us, our ‘spiritual life’ has been sub-normal for so long, that when someone operating in a truly normal spiritual way, we see it as bizarre. Isn’t it time for a change?

I was in the ER recently, picking up a patient. As I waited for the nurse to give me report, I was aware that in the next room there was a patient who had been resuscitated from cardiac arrest. They weren’t doing very well. Their heart was beating but there was no sign of neurologic activity. The patient was probably pulseless long enough to suffer brain death. The family members were very distressed as they went to and from the room. The doctor struggled to find the words to tell them about the poor chances for survival. It was a very difficult time for everyone.

As I tuned in to hear what God had to say about it, I saw the word ‘resurrection’ in my mind’s eye. I’ve been seeing it more often as I go past rooms where patients have died and/or been resuscitated. God gently told me he wanted me to pray for this patient, though I’m not sure He was planning on a resurrection. I struggled with fear for a while and finally gave in. I approached one of the family members and asked if I could pray for the patient. They agreed so I prayed with them for a complete recovery. I couldn’t hang around to see if anything happened. I had to transport the patient in the next room. As is almost always the case, I pray and run and rarely get to see the results. For all I know the patient may have sat up in bed a few minutes later and asked for a cup of coffee.

The fear that I have when God asks me to go out on a limb is natural. It’s something we experience in unfamiliar places. I don’t want to look weird, and I don’t want to give people false hopes. There are a lot of things I’m afraid of. But not everyone has this fear.

I’ve been thinking about Todd Bentley a lot lately. Every time I think about his life and ministry I hear God speaking to me about mine. Say what you want about him, there’s one thing in his life I’d like to have – his fearlessness. I’ve heard him tell stories about his ministry in Africa that would have scared the hell out of me. He was constantly confronted with large angry crowds that wanted to destroy him, but he stood in the fire and God backed him up. He’s a guy who lives in the supernatural and he does it fearlessly. And that requires a lot of things I don’t have yet. He trusts God a lot more than most of us ever will. That requires a surrendered soul. He isn’t afraid of opposition to his ministry. That requires confidence. We all know about his mistakes, but you and I make them too. I’ve learned from mine, and Todd will learn from his. This isn’t about mistakes, it about success.

I’m convinced there will be a wave of supernatural Christians showing up in unlikely places soon. I think they’re going to turn the world upside down. You-tube is great in that it allows us all to experience the ministry of others who walk in the supernatural. We can learn from their successes and their failures. As we watch others heal the sick, raise the dead, and proclaim the kingdom, it builds faith in us to go out and do the same things. Just as the disciples walked in the supernatural after watching Jesus do it, the folks today are beginning to believe they can do it too. The supernatural life really boils down to a closer walk with God. It should be the normal Christian experience. I’m ready to be challenged, stretched and transformed. Are you ready for a supernatural life?


  1. I've been wondering a lot lately how to incorporate my faith with my work.

    How do you approach patients to pray for/with them, and are you ever met with resistance?

  2. Dave - Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions! Sorry I didn't realize you had responded sooner. I start a new job in a few weeks and I'm hoping I can get to the point where I am confident enough to ask patients if I can pray for/with them.

    God is good!