10 tips for successful dance auditions

Jazz sneakers – tick. Heels – tick. Knee pads – tick. CV and photo – tick. Sheet music – tick. Towel – tick. Big bottle of still water – tick. 2 bananas – tick. Make up – tick. Hair brush and hairspray – tick. Am I ready? Well if not now, when will I be!?

Years ago, this was alien to me, leaving college, heading into the big wide world, not really knowing what I was to expect. During the last term of my professional training in London, we were allowed to head out to auditions, to get a feel, to start to learn the ropes, to gain experience and to learn how dance auditions actually work. Yes, learn, there is that word again that should never ever leave your head and heart, no matter how long you have been at it. Learn all the things that you need to know about what you need when doing dance auditions, to learn the experience of it, to learn what is required, it is your obligation to your art. No one can teach this, don’t get me wrong, plenty of us are out there who can give tips and advice (like I am here) on what to expect and by all means, listen and take on board as much as you can, but the key is, get up and do it yourself.

A dance call is a completely different kettle of fish to that of an individual singing call and in my humble opinion, having been both sides of the desk, I feel these few tips will help you along the way. Whether you are new at it, have been going for years and need a little reminder so you take nothing for granted or just need reassurance of a guide line to help you grab the moment. Execute them well and no mattter what the outcome is, at least you will have the feeling that you have done your best and that is the most you can ask for.

10 tips towards delivering successful dance auditions

1) Breakfast! – Even though you have most probably had a bit of a sleepness night with nerves and it is the last thing you want, make sure you eat a good breakfast and eat it early enough.

2) Appearance – This is VERY, (did I mention the word VERY?) important. It is that old school theme, but for dance it works every time, be polished in your look. Body hugging attire that shows your physique, preferably in a colour that you are comfy wearing and that attracts attention (it jogs the memory of the team later on in the day, as they will be seeing a lot of your sorts and on mass at that!) When auditioning for dance, the team will no doubt want to see what physique you have, do you have a tight six pack, how is your technique, how do you physically tackle the choreography. Remember: no technique means injuries :0( And this has alarm bells all over it when you are required to do eight shows a week. Make sure ladies, that your make up is well prepped, not heavy, but definately enough to enhance your features, this helps the team get an idea of how your face presents itself in a crowd of people and if you have long hair or hair that hangs in your face, tie it back, so your face is open . You need to present as much as possible with your look. Plus, hair in the face whilst dancing will get on your nerves, as well as the team’s.

3) An over-crowded dance studio – and not enough space to dance! Everyone has the same idea – “get to the front, so I can see what is being taught and can nail the choreo.” Well, this I understand, but a good and fair choreographer will want to find good dancers and when it is a crowded affair, they will most likely switch lines during the audition so everyone can see what is going on, or in other scenarios, send half of the room away and tackle 2 groups, this will lead to possibly teaching the combi fast.

4) The combination is taught fast – buckle up and focus. This does happen, not all the time, but it does happen. Pay attention, listen, look, learn, take note of the style immediately and copy that what is being shown, it is for a reason, it is what is required for that particular production. A choreographer will be looking for this immediately. Are you a person that can pick up this style, would you fit in the show?

5) Think for yourself – This is an obvious one I know, but if you are not used to doing this, I can guarantee you are what is known as a “late dancer”. The reason? Well if you don’t think for yourself, it means you are not focused on yourself, you are focused on the other people around you in the studio, are you worried you are not good enough? Are you checking the others out? You will be looking at those “other people” and copying their movements and not thinking and executing the movements yourself. Copying others means your movements will be a beat behind the real time choreography – you will be dancing late and no doubt have a blank expession on your face.

6) Questions – If something is not clear: ask! If the choreographer does not switch lines and you still have no clue to the steps and are learning them from copying your neighbour standing in front of you, ask to switch lines. Questions are mostly always welcome and even if you’re not the one asking them, still listen, the answer will most definately help, even if you know the answer already.

7) The Rounds – Ok, the choreography has been taught, it’s now time for the elimination rounds. Pending on the size of the studio and the amount of people, this will happen in smaller groups done mostly with 3-6 people. The process? One mostly gets to dance the routine twice through, but not always, (so be mega the first time just in case). If a second dance through happens, the back line and front line exchange positions and normally you will dance the combi through immediately one time after the other with a tiny break to establish the new staging. This is the point to show what you really have. The style, the technique, the look, think for yourself, catch the teams eyes, even if you make a mistake, pick it up and get back in. The worst thing you can do is to walk away, I can most definately say this is not good, it shows that you have tendencies in giving up, one cannot walk away during a performance, so why do it now. As the Noel Coward saying goes: “The show must go on!”. And you have to do exactly that.

8) After you have danced, stay on place until a team member says thank you. You will be out of breath, control it, keep your stance, look strong, don’t collapse on the floor, no matter how tired you are. Look positive and open. In dance auditions, eliminations happen fast and you want to get through to the next round, right?

9) Until you are called up for your elimination round, a good audition etiquette to have is: never stand at the back of the studio, always stand on the sides and never dance full out until it is your turn. It distracts the team and is very disrespectful to the people who are on at that point. Keep warm, keep your brain focused on the routine and dance the choreo with your toes in your shoes, at the most with light arms movements only. This helps the team so much, believe me. AND before I forget – don’t chat. If all are chatting, it is very noisy.

10) At the end – So, the first (and maybe only) part is over, all candidates have danced and you hear “the following people please stay to sing”: it’s that moment, the next bout of butterflies in your tummy appears but here goes. 1) Your name is called out, keep your focus, get ready to sing, keep warm, a tip, it may be a good idea to keep your dance clothes on, in case you have to dance again (one can always ask) but it jogs the memory of the team when you come back into the studio in the same look you had during the dance round (if you get called back to an individual call that is a different story). 2) If your name is not called out, it doesn’t mean to say you have done a bad audition, you may just simply not be the ideal person the show requires. Let it go, carry on and exit with pride. One of the key things in this profession is to be able to deal with rejection and carry on, it shows strength of character and one day you will get that foot through the door.

An extra tip: A question I’m often asked is, “how do I learn quick pick up? Are there classes?” Personally, I have never in my life heard of a “quick pick up class” and I’m not sure how one would do this other than the obvious, but surely one can get that in a normal class? My simple advice: practise, the more classes you do with different teachers and choroegraphers with their own individual styles and the more auditions you do, the easier it becomes, (it never becomes easy, but easier). The more you get used to doing this process, the more you can really dig your heels in and travel the many levels needed to having a successful audition.

On that note, wishing you all the best for your future auditions and looking forward to seeing you out there one day,

20 tips for singing auditions

Singing auditions are a difficult art to master and we are delighted that Mr Paul Christ, a very experienced music director and music supervisor who has worked on many Broadway and West End shows all over the world, has been so generous to share these great tips for anyone facing a singing audition! We hope you will find his advice as helpful as we believe you will – if you do, please share, using the buttons at the end of this article – thanks!

As music director and music supervisor for many West End musicals and now currently working as a conductor with the Vereinigte Bühnen Wien I have spent much time over the years sitting on the other side of the desk and would like to take this opportunity to share my feelings and opinions about what I consider to be good preparation and execution of a singing audition.
20 tips how to prepare for a singing audition

1. Be prepared! This seems really obvious but make sure that you know what’s expected of you. Show up early and be prepared to sing straight away.
2. Be in good voice. If you haven’t sung in a while, you can’t expect to go into a singing audition and perform well. Singing every day is essential for keeping your voice healthy and strong.
3. Know the Show. In musical theatre, there’s no excuse for not being familiar with the show you’re auditioning for. When preparing your audition material never sing something from the show you’re auditioning for, unless you’re specifically asked to. On the other hand, choose a song that’s similar in style and range to the character you’re auditioning for.
4. Always give yourself plenty of time to learn your audition material. Rehearse with a pianist and don’t solely rely on learning from a recording since that version may be considerably different from the sheet music you have. Never audition without the music! If you make a mistake while singing, do not stop! An audition is like a performance; just keep going and do not let your face or body language reveal the fact that you’ve made a mistake. Oh, and never glare at the pianist!
5. Never sing a Capella. Don’t choose a song that’s notoriously difficult for a pianist to play. Know your lyrics and your music; do not hold a cheat sheet or the sheet music, and don’t look over the pianist’s shoulder. Although this may seem obvious, choose a song that suits you. Many singers do not.
6. Have properly prepared sheet music. Make sure it’s written out in the right key, and that any tempo changes, and change in musical directions are all clearly marked. Never give a pianist sheet music in the form of a music book. That makes it too difficult to turn the pages. Make a photocopy of your song, and tape the edges together accordion fashion. When you hand the pianist your music, make sure you smile and say hello. Give them a good idea of the tempo by singing a few bars quietly for them. If there are tempo changes or the like, point them out.
7. Enter the audition with confidence – first impressions are key here. Keep good posture and walk with confidence, even if you’re terrified!
8. Don’t apologise. Not for any reason. Make no excuses. Always be professional.
9. Dress for an audition in a smart/casual way. Don’t wear uncomfortable shoes, or something that’s too tight. Don’t come in costume and don’t reveal too much! If you’re called back, wear the same outfit you wore the first day, and wear your hair and makeup the same way too. They liked what they saw…so don’t change it! In a large audition, wearing the same outfit also makes it easier for the panel to remember you.
10. Be friendly but don’t be overly talkative. Smile and be personable.
11. When you sing, just stand there and sing. Never do choreography or blocking to accompany your song. Don’t wander around. But do use hand and arm movements providing they are natural. This is no time to be shy, so sing out and give a performance.
12. Never Snap your fingers or clap your hands at the pianist. Even is you’re just trying to help them with the tempo. Keep your hands out of your pockets.
13. Good luck! The more you can audition the easier it gets.

Preparing to sing (not only in a singing audition)

1. Breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth. This gives the air a chance to warm and moisturise before hitting your larynx and lungs.
2. Do not lose body heat. 70-80% of body heat-loss happens through the neck and head so wear a hat and scarf even in mildly cool weather. This helps keep your vocal muscles warm.
3. Drink plenty of water. Both outside cold air and indoor heating and cooling systems can be very drying on the voice. If your throat is dry keep the fluids up, take a long warm shower (or even better a visit to a steam room) and do not talk. This will reduce any swelling to the vocal chords.
4. A warm drink will help warm areas around the larynx, but remember that caffeine is a diuretic and can dry you out.
5. Warm up wisely. It’s advisable to begin every day with some humming and light vocal exercises (it’s like stretching muscles before a gym workout). Ask your singing teacher or vocal coach to record a vocal warm up tailored to your needs.

Singing in public

1. Choose the right song and make it work. In order to connect with your audience you’re going to need to connect with the song itself. Be sure to select something that you enjoy singing, and equally important – understand what the song is about. The next layer to add is your own interpretation to the song and what exactly it is you want to say.
2. Posture and body language. Remember that your posture can increase or decrease the quality of your vocal production and your body language (especially your facial expressions) enhances the story you want to tell, so use these to your advantage. If you are not sure how you come across when you sing, then this is something to work on with your vocal coach and then practise in front of the mirror and family and friends! It’s all part of the performance. Keep your shoulders down and relax your jaw and breathe!

7 Tips For Leading Worship Music At A Church Service

How to lead worship effectively for the first time

Psalm 81:1-3 – Sing aloud to God our strength; shout for joy to the God of Jacob! Raise a song; sound the tambourine, the sweet lyre with the harp. Blow the trumpet at the new moon, at the full moon, on our feast day. Ahhh music! God has been generous to give me the gift of music. I love playing music on guitar. I love listening to others play music. Most importantly, I love participating in a church service while the music is playing and I can focus completely on Him as His house fills with beautiful voices lifted to the heavens like a fragrant offering. God is AWESOME!! Being a worship leader is a wonderful experience and as a leader it is important to do the job right. We as leaders have a great role to play in a church service and there are some things to keep in mind when preparing for and participating in the worship service.

Spending Time With God

As Christians, we are connected to an everlasting life-source, God. He is our strength and spiritual nurturer – Psalm 71:7b – You are my strong refuge. If we are to have our hearts right before God as we enter into leading, we must have a relationship with our Creator. When we spend time in the Word and prayer, we are really telling God that we love Him as our Father and that we love the relationship that we have with Him. When we are growing in God, then we can be confident to enter His house and lead His people in song.

Practice Practice Practice

It is vital that as musicians we know what songs we are playing/singing and that we have put time into playing/singing them before we lead corporate worship. I have learned that even if I have played a song 50 times, I always play better when I have rehearsed it ahead of time. Sometimes things get changed up, such as: omitting verses and singing extra choruses.

Warm Up Before Starting Service

I usually arrive to church 15 minutes before we do a practice run in the morning. This gives me time to set up my equipment and to do a quick run-through of the songs one more time. When doing this I am able to warm up my fingers and get my mind focused on the songs. For singers, the car ride to church is a great time to warm up the vocals.

Stay Calm

If you start to get nervous on stage, you may show it. When I first got into leading worship years ago, I would get nervous and my hands and fingers would sweat. Everyone that plays a guitar knows that sweaty fingers drop pics. It is important to remember that you are leading worship for God. The church service is where you bring your worship. So, concentrate on Him. I promise that you will forget about the people when you come into His almighty presence with worship. Everyone else fades away when you concentrate on Him.

Get Good Sleep

A good night’s rest is an amazing tool to help you get going. A proper amount of sleep gives you the energy and stress-relief to start the next day energized. Don’t forget that you are representing the church when you play. If you make mistakes just because you’re tired, it will not look good. Newcomers to a church want to see a church that is alive! So get that rest and show them how much you love God!

Eat Breakfast

This may sound silly but food nourishes the body and mind. With a proper breakfast you will be able to do your best during service. It can be difficult to do anything in life while your stomach is growling at you. Instead of focusing on what you should be, you will focus on fixing your hunger. The focus should be on God. That is why you are there.

Forgiveness

This is the biggest one of all. Matthew 5:23-24 says, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. I think that it is also implied that if you have something against someone, you must also forgive them as well before offering your gift. Being able to lead a congregation in worship is a gift, not a monetary one but a spiritual one. This is a very wise verse because if you have something against someone and it is bothering you, you won’t be able to give your entire being to worshiping God. You will be thinking of who wronged you. Even if you cannot get to them to reconcile, you must be able to forgive them anyway and let go of what they have done to you. Then you will be able to participate fully.

I hope and pray these tips will spur you on to strive for excellence. Our God is an awesome God! He deserves our best! God bless!

3 Tips for Writing a Worship Song

Luke Abrams served as a worship leader for nearly ten years at Mars Hill Church in Seattle, WA. He began at Mars Hill when the church was roughly 100 people and wrote many of the songs still sung there and at other Acts 29 churches today.

Introductions
I led worship at Mars Hill Fellowship in Seattle for over 6 years and have written a number of worship songs. The Lord tells us to sing new songs to Him, and it is a good thing to write new worship songs, especially if the church is new or going through a season of change. Worship is our response to the Lord, and writing songs relevant to the season and to the congregation is extremely powerful.

Synopsis
This is not a “how to” on songwriting, but rather on writing worship songs. Obviously, basic songwriting talent is required to write a good worship song, and musical ability does not hurt either. Know your audience, play your instrument well, these are good pointers, but out of the scope of this article. The focus here will be on how to write a song that people can best worship to.

Disclaimer
A how to article about art is difficult. How to write a book, how to paint a masterpiece – these are not as straightforward as how to change your oil or how to put together a boy band. By definition, art is not formulaic, so take this not as a recipe for song craftsmanship, but as a set of filters that I use to determine whether a song I have written meets the quality bar. These are my opinions, and therefore, may not prove relevant, but hopefully, they will be of some assistance to aspiring worship leaders.

The “how to” part I keep talking about

1. A good worship song is singable.
If no one sings, it’s not worship.

Worship songs are different then other songs in one distinct category – there are way more singers than musicians. Everyone in the congregation should be able to – and want to – sing along to the song.

How do you know if a song is singable? The “yeah duh” answer is if people sing to it. Though this doesn’t always tell, you should see some songs that people consistently sing along with, and others that they consistently don’t. Ask yourself the difference between these two songs, and I think you’ll see some of the things in this article.

Why does a song have to be singable? The congregation is not the audience, and the leaders are not performers. When worshipping, we are all one body lifting up our voices to the Lord. As singers and instrument players, our whole job as worship leaders is to encourage as many people as possible to worship, and this is usually manifested through singing.

A singable song is in a good key. Nuts and bolts – if a song is too low or too high, less people will sing along. The same goes for a song with a wide range. Sometimes, it is hard to remember that most members of your church are probably not musicians or singers, and if the song is all over the place, it can be intimidating to sing along with.

A good worship song should be fun to sing. Nuts and bolts – if a song is not fun to sing along with, less people will. The most important test here is the shower test – would you sing the song in the shower? Similar test – if the power went out in the church on Sunday, and you had to lead the congregation in a cappella worship, would the song fly? A strong melody is the backbone of a good worship song.

Clumsy phrasing should also be avoided. Putting too many words in a song or having awkward pauses or drawn out syllables can make it more difficult to sing along with.

Slight tangent on PowerPoint – Words have to be seen to be sung. Nuts and bolts – if the lyrics to the song are not made visible to the congregation in an easy and immediate way, they won’t sing as much. PowerPoint is a beautiful thing – if you have the means, use it. It adds the possibility of a whole other dimension to worship – visual. Artists in our church that have a knack for beauty of the eye participate with the musicians in ways that are inspiring. If you instead use handouts or some other means of textual delivery, the same rules apply. Make sure that the lyrics are large enough for everyone to read and are in a clear font with a high contrast background. Keep in mind people in the back of the room, poor eyesight, bad lighting, etc. Take the extra time to make sure that the lyrics on the slides are the same (and in the right order) as the ones you sing. Also, regularly correct any spelling or grammatical errors – these distract during worship, interrupting the flow.

2. A good worship song is captivating.
If everyone’s minds are wandering, it’s not worship.

This is a little more than nuts and bolts – and can be quite subjective, like asking, “Is that painting beautiful?” Hopefully, I can explain what makes a worship song captivating to me, and that will prove of some use.

Worship happens when people recognize the awesome majesty of God and respond. This happens all the time, and mostly without music – hiking, driving, washing dishes – all can be worship. Additionally, it is not your job as a worship leader to “make” people worship or to convince them to. I always start with the assumption that the congregation wants to and knows how to worship. It is my job to capture their attention and direct it to God.

The problem: worship hypnotism. Even if you’ve done the first part right and made a singable song so that people are standing, singing, smiling, it does not mean that they are worshipping. If a song has been played too often or is too familiar, often the lyrics can wash right over the worshippers, and they never contemplate the meaning or meditate on how it applies to them. Repetition is the constant enemy and companion of the worship leader. A worship band that plays regularly needs 20-40 songs that they can play at the drop of a hat and about twice that many in reserve – ready to go after a touchup. Playing a song repeatedly, especially right after it is written, can be very helpful in generating familiarity and comfort. However, if you play the same song every week for three months, it will become harder and harder to worship to.

Worship hypnotism can also be caused by bland lyrics. This goes back to know your audience – if they are reasonably intelligent, don’t challenge them with gems like,

“Lord, You are good. Oh, Lord, You are so good. Good Lord, Your goodness is so good. I will sing about Your goodness because You are so good.”

Yes, you can worship to this, but the number of people that mentally check out and the blandness of the lyrics are directly proportional.

3. A good worship song has Christ-centered lyrics.
If the lyrics aren’t focusing the attention on Christ, it’s not worship.

This doesn’t mean that you can only write songs about Jesus or that you even have to say His name in the song. It does mean that the sum total of the worship experience should be to direct admiration and adulation where it belongs – God. Even if you have written a singable and captivating song where everyone is way into it, if your lyrics are about robotic puppy helmets, you’ve defeated the whole purpose.

As for me, I’ve all but decided never to write lyrics again. I’m not that good at it anyway, plus there is a far superior source of worship material: Scripture. I’ve fallen head over heels in love with God by reading His word and hearing Him speak directly to me through it. Scripture has this magical property to it that isn’t inherently obvious in small chunks – it is God breathed. They are just words connected together like any others, but they hold up to every angle, every thought, every problem – they are Truth. If you write enough lyrics, you will eventually tell lies and blaspheme and a host of other nasty things because you are not perfect. Scripture is, and it is more powerful than your lyrics ever could be.

Songs are a perfect medium for Scripture memorization as well. How many Def Leppard or Michael Jackson songs do you know by heart? Dumb, painful lyrics forever etched into your memory banks by a catchy tune. How much better if it were Proverbs or Romans?

Therefore, I recommend taking Scripture and writing your lyrics from it. It can be difficult to take Scripture and put it 100% identical into your song (see the section on clumsy, awkward wording) though if you can manage it, that’s the ideal. I would not go so far as to say that the only acceptable worship song is one that is taken directly from Scripture. Instead, I say that my songs are inspired by Scripture – and that makes them more suitable for worship.

Conclusion
Writing a great worship song is an experience that cannot be equaled. Having a song get played on the radio or MTV is all fine and good, but that music is disposable. Worship songs tend to stick around for centuries, if they’re good ones. Some say that music is the language of the soul, and it is true that something magical happens when you respond to God with your voices in song – He shows up.

Confession Of Sin As A Key

“And many who had believed came confessing and telling their deeds. Also, many of those who had practiced magic brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted up the value of them, and it totaled fifty thousand pieces of silver.”

(Acts 19:18)

“Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.

“And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.

“Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.”

James 5:14-16

Confession of sin is a forgotten key in the ministry of divine healing. Yet it is clear from the above Scripture in James, that it was an integral part of the ministry of healing in the New Testament. People were instructed to “confess your trespasses [sins] to one another”, AS WELL AS to “pray for one another”, “that you MAY be healed”. The implication is, if you don’t pray for one another, OR if you don’t confess your sins TO ONE ANOTHER, you MAY NOT be healed – that is, it is quite possible that you will not receive healing.

I hope you are amongst those people who believe in getting prayer answers. What is the point of praying if God is not listening? Well, you might think that at least praying like this might prevent us from doing something worse, but actually God says in Proverbs 28:9,

“One who turns away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer is an abomination”.

In other words, if you don’t care what God says, God doesn’t care to listen to what YOU SAY. Not only that, God hates such prayer. To him, it is mockery. So then, in a church where sin – both open and hidden, has time and again limited the working of the Holy Spirit, do you think that a lack of honesty and transparency before God and man could be a reason why some prayers for healing are not answered? I believe you will say, ‘Yes’ to this. Sometimes, it is more surprising that ANY of our prayers are answered than that some of them are not.

Instead of making a theology of saying that God doesn’t do it any more, we would be better off finding out if He has told us in His Word somewhere WHY he isn’t doing it. And there may well be reasons that can be discovered. I am NOT saying that unconfessed sin would be the only possible reason for the lack of healing in a particular person’s case. But deep probing – both into the life of the minister of healing and into the life of the sick one, will often reveal that it easily could be.

Do we have the ear of God when we pray? The Bible says, “And if we KNOW that HE HEARS US, whatever we ask, we KNOW that we HAVE the petitions that we have asked of Him”. (1 John 5:15). If we are asking things from God, and we don’t KNOW that we have them, according to this Scripture, its because we don’t know if God is hearing us or not.

And there are reasons why God sometimes chooses NOT to hear our prayers. David the Psalmist wrote:

“If I regard iniquity in my heart, The Lord will not hear.” (Psalm 66:18)

Iniquity is rebellion. We are talking about things you know about, where you know you are going against God and His purposes. The Scripture indicates that if there are things the Lord is not happy about in your life, and God is speaking to you about them, but you love those things and don’t want to give them up, God won’t even hear your prayers. That is the price you pay for harboring and holding onto sin.

If God does not hear your prayers, you won’t get prayer answers. That will take all the excitement and wonder out of the Christian life for you. You may be able to get into a praise service and get caught up for a moment with the music and the motion and the atmosphere of it all, but in your deep heart, you just won’t have the confidence and joy that comes when you are no longer rebelling against the will of God for your life.

(As an aside, please allow me to point out that some people prefer churches that don’t confront sin. They want something that will tickle their ears (2 Timothy 4:3). They want an entertainment programme and motivational messages that build their personal self esteem without drawing them to the cross. Such churches may see what man is capable of doing, but they will never see what God is capable of doing. A lot of people like it that way though. Churches like this, if they are well run, CAN grow into the thousands, and look very successful. It doesn’t mean God is impressed, though we tend to be. There is something noteworthy about strong leadership, no matter who exercises it or to what purpose.)

Sin can block answers to prayer, and prayers for divine healing in particular. Jesus did promise to answer our prayers, but there are conditions. These conditions are not unreasonable. We must “abide in Him and He in us” (John 15:7), we must not “regard iniquity in our heart” (Psalm 66:18), we must “ask the Father in Jesus’ name”, we must “believe that we receive” (Mark 11:24), “forgive men their trespasses” (Matthew 6:14,15; Mark 11:25) and we must “keep his commandments and do those things which are pleasing in His sight” (1 John 3:22). And his commandments are “not burdensome” (1 John 5:13). His main commandments are to walk in faith and love. This we can do if we humble ourselves before God and receive grace from God. God is not looking for perfect legalistic obedience but an obedience from the heart.

There are certain kinds of unconfessed sins which are almost certain to prevent a person from receiving divine healing in their lives. Many times these unconfessed sins are also the real reason why the person got unwell in the first place.

I want to tell you want the most common sins are that block the flow of God’s healing power – or indeed God’s power in any dimension of salvation. They are:
Unforgiveness

Unforgiveness can grow into a root of bitterness, and cause other negative things to grow up in the soul of man – things like resentment, hatred, retaliation, revenge, anger, hatred, violence and murder. Murder can exist in the heart whether or not the act is ever carried out. And yes, these kinds of sins will often stop a person from getting healed. They need to be confessed in the right way. First of all to God, but often to the person involved, or to a minister of the gospel, as the Spirit of God leads.

Unforgiveness and related conditions of the soul are often responsible for diseases like arthritis and cancer which EAT AWAY at a person’s body, just as the bitterness EATS AWAY at their soul.
Fear and Anxiety

God says, “Fear not!”. To yield to fear is a sin. To accept fear is a sin. Fear many times is faith in the devil’s ability to hurt you. Fear can get a grip on your heart if you are not full of God, or if you refuse to walk in fellowship with God. But we are commanded to be filled with the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18), so FEAR is evidence of disobedience to God in this area. Fear is a substance of things not hoped for, an evidence of things not seen. Fear, and related issues like anxiety (worry) are responsible for MANY diseases – including heart troubles, angina, high blood pressure, asthma, migraines, sleep disorders, PMS, allergies, acne and many other skin disorders.
Self-Rejection

We are commanded by God to love our neighbour as ourselves. If we hate ourselves, our capacity to love others is correspondingly limited. And we tend to reject the love of God for us, also, when we hate ourselves. Some people reject themselves because of the way they look, others because of the things they have done. No body is perfect, but the body is a vehicle for giving expression to the spirit and soul. Good qualities in the spirit and soul can definitely be expressed through a less than perfect body, and most sensible people realise this, and appreciate a person for what they are on the inside. But if we hate ourselves because of our bodies, it sends a signal to the body which may result in various kinds of auto-immune diseases where the white corpuscles start attacking the body, leading to diseases such as Lupus or Krohn’s disease. It also makes us look and feel miserable.

The same thing can happen if we reject ourselves because of our past failures and sins. Self-rejection and guilt are roots for many diseases. Christ gave us a new life through his death and resurrection, opening the way for the Spirit of God to make us new. We need to identify with that new life, and not reject ourselves any longer. The old nature with all its wickedness and foolishness was put to death in Jesus at the cross.

The spirit, soul and body of man are closely inter-related.
If the soul is out of harmony with the perfect will of God, then the body will often get out of harmony with God’s perfect will, and get sick. If the soul is afflicted with feelings of resentment, bitterness, fear, guilt and self-loathing, then there are plenty of open doors for disease to come in, and spirits of infirmity to take root in a person’s life, resulting in disease.
The Remedy

God says to confess our sins and trespasses to one another, so that we may be healed. Traditionally evangelicals have emphasised only confession of sin to God, not to one another. Roman Catholics have emphasised confession to a specially appointed “priest”, but I don’t see that word in the passage of James. It says to confess to one another, the reason being that as born again Christians we are all priests unto God (Revelation 5:10, 1 Peter 2:9). Still it may well be that the Roman Catholics in one sense are closer to the truth in orthodox practice than many evangelicals – especially those who give the impression of having no need of repentance.

The biblical idea of confessing our sins to others is harder to embrace for many. For one thing most of us haven’t seen too many examples of it. Its hard to be the first to do something, even if it is written pretty plainly in the Word of God. Someone has to exercise leadership in this area. To whom though should we look for such leadership?

Many church leaders, being unwilling to confess their own sins to others, are not eager to create a culture in the church where this sort of thing could happen. I understand that there is a difference between temptation and sin. I am not suggesting church leaders confess their temptations to the church, because that would be totally unedifying. The Scripture is clear that sinning elders should be rebuked in the presence of all, that the rest may fear (1 Timothy 5:20). The difficulty in the voluntary confession of one’s sins – the times one has deliberately yielded to temptation or done the wrong thing, is that there is always the risk that loss of position and respect will ensue. Some sins, if they were known, might result in a clergyman being out of a job. However, there is also the God factor. God says, that if we humble ourselves, HE will exalt us. It is better to be exalted by God than to be a hypocrite. At the very least, problem areas should be confessed to someone else in the ministry. If this can’t happen, its an evidence of pride. It doesn’t matter who you are, and how many millions you are reaching.

In cases where elders are not willing to put the Scripture into practice in the matter of confession of sin, should they also stop praying for the sick in church? The two seem to go together in the Word of God, as I read it in the book of James. God’s Word promises results when we do what it says in the Book of James. But if we won’t do what God’s Word says, why go through the motions and discredit the Word of God and the name of Jesus by our fruitless ministry sessions?

If we do things ostensibly in the name of Jesus, but they are ineffective, we dishonor Jesus Christ and his name. What sort of king issues proclamations only to have them totally disregarded? If in the authority of the Lord of Heaven and Earth we command disease to leave and it does NOT, how does this honor Jesus Christ? Rather than suggesting, as some do, that the Lord really doesn’t want to intervene anymore in the case of his suffering children, I would suggest that we take a good hard look at what God is expecting from us. If we are going to use the name of Jesus, let us not do so fraudulently. Let us do so, having followed the instructions of the One whose name we claim to represent in our dealings. Let us minister in Jesus’ name as people filled with the Holy Spirit who have truly learned to wait on God in our ministry.

One of the main things the confession of sin does is to destroy PRIDE. It is pride and fear that keeps us from confessing our sins to one another. The confession of sin, done rightly, greatly destroys pride, and brings us quickly back into a place where God would be delighted to bless us.

The FEAR OF MAN is another reason why people don’t confess their sins publicly as much as what God wants. The fear of man brings a snare, but he who trusts in the Lord will be kept safe (Proverbs 29:25). When everyone is afraid of each other in the church, and what people think, we are all ensnared, and we won’t be able to move in real faith to the extent that God wants. When we are looking to receive glory from one another, based on the phony impressions we create about our own piety, it is impossible to believe the Word of God (see John 5:44).
Three Ways God Heals

1. God can heal someone sovereignly.

This happens just because God wants it to, not because of any conditions being met by anyone. God can do whatever He pleases. Sometimes unbelievers are healed against their expectation. Sometimes believers are surprised by healings they receive from the Lord. This can and does happen, but we can’t count on it happening for US.

2. God can heal using the gifts of the Holy Spirit through some minister.

Basically, this kind of ministry depends on the minister being led by the Holy Spirit. This kind of leading could come through a Word of Knowledge, or some other kind of instruction from the Lord. Other factors, such as faith in the heart can be important here. When what the Lord said is done, healings can result. These healings can come to people who still have major issues in their life, but are believing God.

3. God can heal through the removal of roadblocks to healing.

This method is the focus of this article. When a person comes before the Lord, and before a minister, and openly reveals the issues which have been a burden to their soul, great things can happen. This humility and transparency is often rewarded by the Lord.

By putting one’s life right with God and with one’s fellowman (as well as with oneself) through the confession of sin, God is honored, and the devil loses his legal grounds for afflicting the person. This is often very important. It is especially important that a person renounces all bitterness or unforgiveness and freely forgives those that have wronged him or her. This creates the conditions for a person to receive healing and/or deliverance. It is very important. People who have been rejected by others and are still in pain over it are usually need to practice forgiveness towards those who hurt them.

Repenting of fear is also very important, but it has to be more than saying some words, or being ashamed of the fear. There has to be a commitment to go after God. If a person is serious in this area, and use their faith to take authority over the spirit of fear, ultimately they will be freed. This freedom from fear will clear the way many times for healing to take place in the person’s body. At very least, it will be a factor in future disease prevention.

Sometimes there is a need to confess and repent of unbelief. We see this in the case of the man whose son was afflicted with epilepsy. The father of the boy said, “Lord, I believe, help thou mine unbelief.” This kind of honesty and confession was all the Lord required – he then healed the boy.

Other times a person must confess to the reasons they are feeling guilty, and bring these things into the light. Issues of self-rejection can and should be discussed.

Unconfessed adultery and fornication are common enough reasons why a person may be given over to sickness. Jesus makes it clear there is a link. In one place He says, “Indeed, I will cast her into a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of their deeds.” (Revelation 3:22). A person who commits adultery in their heart, giving themselves over to uncleanness and shameful lusts, could also be in this way opening the door to disease. Pornography and the masturbation it leads to are in plague proportions in the Body of Christ today from all accounts, few have remained totally untouched by it.
Ministries Practicing this Today

There are churches today that are encouraging people to expose their sinful ways and confess their deeds openly, so that the roots of sin can be destroyed. These churches are getting amazing, unheard of results in the area of ministering healing to the sick. One such church is very active in ministry in America, and more information on it can be found HERE.

The public confession of sin is also a major feature of T.B. Joshua’s church in Nigeria. A lot of lies have been put out against this ministry on the internet, and those who repeat them should take care lest they offend God. But even the enemies of T.B. Joshua cannot deny that something supernatural is happening along the lines of healing. The miracles taking there are unprecedented in the 21st century.

Confession of sin is a great pride killer. However, there is also a great responsibility on the ones who hear such confessions, that they never use them to put a person down, but rather to help them be lifted up. “The Lord raises those who are bowed down” (Psalm 146:8). After all, if GOD exalts those who humble themselves, we have to be careful how we treat those who have entrusted their deep secrets to us. I myself have experienced a kind of wounding from a minister who I trusted and loved very much when I exposed some of my former sins to him, and so I know that this is a very sensitive and important issue.

This kind of exposure of the roots of sin, and spiritual blockages to healing should become more and more standard practice, as we seek to be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ. Let us not forget this major key to effective healing and gospel ministry.

Michael Fackerell

Bible Evidence for Healing

Are there any good Biblical reasons to believe God still heals today?

There is no valid Scriptural reason to suppose that Christ ever withdrew
his healing gifts from the church, or that the Biblical promises concerning
physical healing have been abrograted by God. This means that all the promises
and instructions relating to divine healing are for today, since the Scripture
is the final authority in matters of faith and practice (2 Timothy 3:16).

However, there is every reason to suppose that, just as in Bible times,
unbelief limits the hand of God. “Now He [Jesus] could do no
mighty work there, except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and
healed them. And He marvelled because of their unbelief.” (Mark 6:5,6).

Some try to invoke 1
Corinthians 13:8-10 or Matthew
7:21-23 to deny the validity of the ministry of divine healing today.
The first passage refers to the second coming of Christ and says nothing
about healing miracles. Here

are more details on the subject. The second merely demonstrates that the
existence of sign gifts in a person’s life does not guarantee them a status
of being right with God. It was lawless activity and not the casting out
of demons which Christ condemned. After all, the early church leaders cast
out demons and healed the sick in Jesus’ name. And this was not just limited
to the apostles (see Acts 8:5-8).

Besides the testimonial evidence, there are a number of very powerful
Biblical reasons to believe that Jesus Christ still heals today. Taken
together, they provide a formidable case for the validity of this kind
of ministry.

Reason Number One: The Unchanging Nature of Jesus Christ

The Bible declares that, “Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today
and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). Our God is a living God – full of power, full
of love and ready to hear the cry of the afflicted. Jesus loves people
today as much as He did then. He regards sickness as a work of the devil
now just as He did then (see Luke 13:16; Acts 10:38). He is full of the
same compassion and mercy NOW (Hebrews 2:17) which moved Him to heal all
who came to Him THEN (Mark 1:41). In fact, He is referred to as our Compassionate
High Priest. If Jesus healed his enemies THEN (Luke 22:51), will He not
heal His worshipers NOW?

If Jesus Christ is truly the same, we can expect Him to respond to faith
now in the same way as He did as in the first century. Therefore, divine
healing is available to those who come to God through faith in Christ.

Reason Number Two: The Bible reveals sickness to be
a work of the devil

“how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with
power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by
the devil, for God was with Him” (Acts 10:38)

This Scriptures plainly reveals that sickness is a work of the devil.
When Jesus cast out demons and healed the sick, it was a manifestation
of the Kingdom of God. The coming of that Kingdom, even in part, meant
a defeat for the powers of darkness. When God effectively rules, and His
will is done, things are in order. In the physical realm, this means good
health.

Many times the Scripture declares that an evil spirit was behind the
sickness or infirmity that Jesus cured. The story of the hunchbacked woman
in Luke 13 was one such example. It is the desire of the devil to humiliate
and crush humankind – and sickness is one of his tools to do this. Jesus
wanted us to know that He has come with a greater power than the power
of Satan in order to set us free from such oppression. The demonstration
that Jesus can do this in the physical realm is a powerful incentive to
believe that He can do it in the spiritual and psychological realms as
well.

In Luke 9:42 Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit and healed a boy of epilepsy.
Epilepsy is generally caused by an unclean spirit. This in itself says
nothing about the moral character of epilepsy sufferers. Demons attack
us in different realms, but Jesus in us is more than enough to overcome
them, if we remain in Him.

Another example is found in Matthew 9:32-34. “And as they were going
out, behold, a dumb man, demon-possessed, was brought to Him.And after
the demon was cast out, the dumb man spoke; and the multitudes marveled,
saying, “Nothing like this was ever seen in Israel.” But the Pharisees
were saying, “He casts out the demons by the ruler of the demons.”

The translation “demon-possessed” from the Greek is unjustified. All
it means is that the man had a demon which affected him. The degree of
demonisation in people varies from none at all (rare) to total possession
by the powers of darkness. The word ‘possessed’ is misleading because it
leads us to think that Scriptures like this are not generally applicable
to the cases we find in life, when in fact, they are.

Jesus healed “to destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8; Acts
10:38). Demons are still active in defiling mankind today. Their attacks
are directed not only against the spirit and soul of mankind, but also
against his body. Armed with this knowledge, we have powerful motives to
understand God’s opposition to sickness and disease and to have faith that
He really does want to heal. By entering into the conflict with this conviction,
we enter into conflict with demons, which we must overcome by means of
the spiritual weapons which God gave us.

Reason number 3 – The Generosity and Goodness of God

He [God] who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us
all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? (Romans
8:32).

God is a good father. No good father ever wilfully made his child sick.
If they did they would be a child abuser. God wants to give us all good
things. Healing and health is a good thing – it is a blessing of the covenant.
Therefore God is willing to freely give us healing. Any difficulty in receiving
is not due to God’s unwillingness, but rather due to satanic opposition
OR a lack of faith. These are bold statements which fly in the face of
many outworn traditional excuses of theologians for the lack of power in
the church, but they are true none the less. See the answer to the later
question “But what about Paul’s thorn?”

The whole thrust of New Testament teaching is to encourage us to believe
that we will get answers to prayer from God. “Ask and you shall receive”
(Matthew 7:7). “Whatever things you desire when you pray, believe that
you receive them, and you will have them” (Mark 11:24). “Ask and you shall
receive, that your joy may be full” (John 16:24). These statements of Jesus
are bulit upon the foundation of the knowledge of God’s goodness. “If you,
being evil, know how to give good things to your children, how much more
will your father in heaven give good things to those who ask Him.” (Matthew
7:11).

Reason Number Four – The Scope of the Atonement of
Christ

The apostle Peter knew something about divine healing. In his first
letter to Christians, he said concerning the sacrifice of Jesus, “who
Himself bore our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, having died
to sins, might live for righteousness – by whose stripes you were healed.”
(1 Peter 2:24). Here the Scripture explicitly states that we were healed
through the stripes of Jesus. That this Scripture refers to physical healing
and not just spiritual healing or healing of the soul can be seen from
the context in which it is quoted in Matthew 8:17, where it refers to the
healing ministry of Christ.

“And He cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all
who were sick, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the
prophet, saying: ‘He Himself took our infirmities and bore our sicknesses’
” (Matthew 8:16,17).

These two verses from 1 Peter and Matthew respectively, quote Isaiah 53:4,5,
which reads as follows:

Surely He has borne our sicknesses [Heb. choli] and
carried our pains [Heb. makob]. Yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten
by God and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was
bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him,
And by His stripes we are healed”.

This Scripture refers prophetically to the work of Jesus at the cross.
At the cross, Jesus took the curse, that we might receive the blessings
of God. These Scriptures refer to the provision of healing which
is available to all who believe, just as spiritual salvation is available
for all who believe. Both provisions were made through the work of Jesus
at the cross.

The blessings of the atonement are not received automatically. It requires
a living faith, specifically directed towards the relevant promise, in
order to receive what God has provided. It may require the co-operation
of someone in the Body of Christ. So even if the Scriptures say “we were
healed” it is does not mean that true Christians are never sick. Christians
have a legal status of being healed, just as we have a legal status of
being perfectly righteous before God. To appropriate and experience the
benefits of our legal status requires the kind of faith that contacts God
Himself through the Holy Spirit.

Usually, but not always, God chooses to use others to minister the blessing
of healing to sick ones in Jesus’ name, through the laying on of hands,
anointing with oil or by other means. However, the basis for all divine
healing is not in the individual through whom it comes, but rather in the
sufferings of Jesus which were endured for our benefit.

Reason Number Five – The Covenants of Healing

“Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless His
holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits:
who forgives all your iniquities, who heals all your diseases.”
(Psalm 103:1-3).

David here states the fact that the Lord heals all his diseases. This
is because of the healing covenant God made with his people shortly after
they left Egypt.

“If you diligently heed the voice of the Lord your God, and do what
is right in His sight, give ear to his commandments and keep all His statutes,
I will put none of the diseases on you which I have brought on the Egyptians.
For I am the Lord who heals you.” (Exodus 15:26)

Some may object that these promises no longer apply to us under the
New Covenant, but such objections seriously misunderstand the guiding principle
of interpretation concerning Old Testament promises which Paul gives in
the New Testament:

“For all the promises of God in Him are Yea, and in Him
Amen to the glory of God through us.”

(2 Corinthians 1:20)

This Scripture means that if we are in Christ, then all the promises in
Scripture are valid to us. God gets glory when we receive the promises.
Just as people gave glory to God for the healings done by Jesus, so people
will give glory to God when we receive the manifestations of healing that
we need, which Christ has provided for us. All the promises of God, including
the covenants of healing in the Old Testament, are applicable to us today.
In fact, the New Covenant is a better covenant, with better promises than
were contained in the Old Covenant. Now that we as Christians can have
Jesus the Healer living in us (which Old Covenant believers could not have),
so much more is God willing to fulfil His covenant when we meet the conditions,
overcome the roadblocks created by traditional teaching on the subject,
and get a hold of God for ourselves.

Reason Number Six – The Instructions and Promises of
the New Testament

We can see it is God’s will to heal through the instructions, promises
and declarations contained in the New Testament. For example, James says
in his epistle:

“Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of
the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name
of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save (Gk: sosei) the sick, and
the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.
Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that
you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails
much.” (James 5:14-16)

This Scripture teaches any and all sick Christians, including those who
are bedfast, that they should call for the elders of the church to minister
to them as this passage describes. Elders are supposed to be able to pray
the prayer of faith. The Scripture promises that the prayer of faith will
have great effect and save [heal] the sick, raising him or her up.

Jesus Christ also said, “These signs will follow those who believe,
in my name … they will lay their hands on the sick, and they shall
recover” (Mark 16:17,18). This Scripture makes a definite promise concerning
those who believe according to God’s definition of faith. The sick they
lay hand on in Jesus’ name [in Jesus’ place, authority, cause] SHALL recover.

These Scriptures prove that it is God’s will to heal the sick.

Reason Number Seven – The Greek Word for ‘Healing’
and ‘Salvation’ is identical.

The word for ‘save’ in Greek is ‘sozo’ and is used for both physical
and spiritual restoration. The a form of the word ‘sozo’ is used in Mark
6:56:

“Wherever He entered, into villages, cities or the country,
they laid the sick in the marketplaces, and begged Him that they might
just touch the hem of His garment. And as many as touched Him were made
well [Gk: sozo].”

Jesus said to the leper he healed on one occasion, “Arise, go your way.
Your faith has made you well [Gk: sozo]” (Luke 17:19).

The word ‘sozo’ in its various forms is translated 36 times in the New
Testament (NASB version) as saves, and 50 times as ‘saved’. Yet it clearly
also refers to healing. James 5:15 quoted above is another example of this
usage.

This is further evidence that healing is in fact part of the great salvation
package which God offers mankind.

Reason Number Eight – Sickness is Part of the Curse
which Jesus Redeemed Us From

Deuteronomy 28:15ff reveals a huge list of curses which would come upon
the people of God who refused to obey God’s law. Since the law makes no
one perfect, it was inevitable that this curse would come into operation
at times. All forms of sickness are included in the curses listed here
(Read Deuteronomy 28:61). But part of the good news of the gospel is that
Christ Redeemed Us from the Curse of the Law! Again this was through Christ’s
death in our place. We are legally placed by this sacrifice in a place
where we can be free from all curses and we can receive the blessings that
come through the Holy Spirit of God.

“Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having
become a curse for us (for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who hangs
on a tree’) that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in
Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith”
(Galatians 3:13,14).

Jesus suffered to restore to mankind all that was lost through the fall.
He became a curse for us that we might receive the blessings of righteousness,
peace and health – and anything else that pertains to the Kingdom of God.
These blessings are administered by the Holy Spirit, who is in us and with
us today. There are multitudes today who, having learned to draw upon God’s
resources and provisions through the Holy Spirit, have received divine
healing in our times. It is a promised blessing, an offered blessing and
a relevant, up-to-date blessing because God has not changed. He still responds
to faith.

We therefore see in the Bible strong reasons to believe that divine
healing is for today. We see it in the unchanging nature of Jesus Christ,
in the fact that sickness is called the oppression of Satan, in the goodness
and generosity of God, in the Scriptures concerning the substitutionary
atonement of Christ, in the covenants of healing and the associated promises,
in the New Testament instructions concerning ministry to the sick, in the
choice of language used by the Holy Spirit linking healing and salvation,
and in the promise of redemption from the curse of the law.

Healing in Evangelism

For many years most of the Christian church considered that divine healing was not something people should expect in the context of preaching the gospel. This was due in large measure to general unbelief concerning many biblical promises, along with Augustinian cessationist ideas which took root around the beginning of the Dark Ages and influenced many prominent theologians both Catholic and Protestant since that time.

Since approximately the beginning of the 20th century, as men begun to re-examine the Word of God, divine healing has been practiced as part of evangelism by many. First of all there was Dr. John Alexander Dowie, founder of Zion, Illinois. Soon after came the pioneering pentecostal evangelists like John G. Lake, Maria Woodworth Etter, Fred Bosworth, Aimee Semple MacPherson, Smith Wigglesworth and their associates. Later evangelists such as Oral Roberts and T.L. Osborn brought divine healing to the attention of the world through the medium of television and mass evangelistic crusades in which many – but by no means all – sick people were healed.

In more recent times the proclamation and demonstration of divine healing as part of gospel work has spread through very many preachers and teachers so that it has come to be widely practiced by thousands today, with great results. The evangelist Carlos Annacondia has shaken South America with his large rallies in which the healing of the sick as well as the casting out of demons feature prominently. Many pastors have also begun to practice divine healing with varying measures of success. People like John Wimber, Charles and Frances Hunter and others have sought to empower lay Christians with the knowledge of how to heal the sick in Jesus’ name, often with great success. Reinhard Bonnke has won millions to the Lord around Africa in large meetings in which many miracles are reported.

Divine healing is only one tool in the hand of evangelists and soulwinners today. It is NOT the whole gospel, it is a small part of the salvation God provides. The proclamation of the law and of course the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ will always be needed by true evangelists until Jesus returns. The basic message is that on the cross Jesus took our rebellion and the consequences thereof, that through faith we might partake of His righteousness and life, with all that means.

Below are some writings which I hope will equip you in reaching others with the gospel. If you are not a Christian, I recommend that you first read Do you know the God of Miracles? and perhaps The Big Issues, as well as some testimonies of what Christ has done for others.

Divine Healing – A Scriptural and Practical Approach

Shows that God wants to heal people, rebuts traditional religious views on the subject and gives instruction on how we can go after healing from God.

Introduction

While it cannot be denied that the New Testament teaches that God did heal many people supernaturally in the first century, there are many in the church today who would be keen to downplay the present day relevance of such examples for those presently suffering with various forms of sickness and disease. The ministry of divine healing in the name of Jesus has been especially controversial in the last century, and has stirred up much religious feeling on both sides of the issue. At times this has been at least in part due to the unwise practices of certain well-known “faith-healers”. In some cases people have rejected divine healing because they could not accept some of the doctrines and practices of those who advocated it. Yet the Scripture does speak on this issue, and it is of great relevance to those who are sick and suffering, if perchance Jesus Christ might still be willing to demonstrate his compassion and power by healing them.

We must be willing to “test all things”, and “hold fast to that which is good”. Our standard of reference for discerning truth must be the Scriptures themselves, and not the pronouncements of popes, reformers, theologians, pastors, teachers or evangelists – although all of these may have something worthwhile to say at times.
God has more than a Religious Theory to help those who are sick and in pain

Many times the church has sought to comfort the sick with religious notions instead of effectively ministering divine healing through faith in the name of Jesus. The seriously ill may be encouraged by such ideas as these: “You must be very holy for God to have chosen you to suffer in this way.” or “God is using this to teach you a lesson.” or “God is pleased when He looks down and sees you suffering so patiently”. All these notions and others like them may be quite comforting to the minds of the sufferers, but that does not mean that they are the pure truth of God at all!

In fact, such words may in fact lead to religious pride or to distorted views of the character of God. Sometimes sick Christians will hold on to such ideas with more tenacity than to any of the Scriptural encouragements to faith for divine healing. These religious notions can therefore become barriers to what God wants to do in producing expectation and faith for healing in the sufferer.

The Good News is that God is healing people today through faith in the name of Jesus. All kinds of miracles have taken place. We have Scriptural reasons to believe that God wants to heal us when we are sick. We can have deliverance today through the ministry of God’s Spirit to our mortal bodies.
Do we learn the will of God from experience or from the Word?

Some have confused notions concerning what is meant by the Will of God. It is believed by some that whatever happens is the Sovereign Will of God. For such believers, the question of God’s will in the matter of healing must be determined by experience. Prayer may be offered for healing, and if the sickness persists, it is concluded that the sickness must have been the will of God! If the person got better – be it through medical intervention or otherwise, it is concluded that it was God’s will to heal that person – but when the next case comes along we will just have to wait and see what God’s will is.

When people think like that, there is little room left for faith, since faith is the “substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1) or “faith is being sure of what we hope for, and it is certain of what we do not see.” When people are unsure whether what they hope for is God’s will, they cannot be sure that it will come. This is not faith. In fact it is merely natural hope mixed with uncertainty.

Some point to examples of Christians, even great Christians, who were sick and died sick. Some even believed they would be healed. This does not prove anything one way or the other. We are not called to judge the spirituality of such Christians. Nor should we use their example to determine what the Scriptural teaching is. We would do better to judge experiences by the Word of God, than to judge the Word of God by experiences.

We take a great step forward when we realize two things:

(1) That God tells us what His will for us is in His Word. It is revealed through His promises, His declarations, and through the life and ministry of His Son Jesus Christ.

(2) The will of God is not always done in our life or in our world.

Concerning the latter point, consider the Scripture “[The Lord] … is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9). We know that not all come to repentance – even though God would like them too. Therefore God’s will is not done in their lives.

There is another interesting verse in this regard in Luke 7:30. Here the Word of God states, “But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the will of God for themselves, not having been baptized by him [John].” The plain meaning is that it is possible for men to reject the will of God for themselves. This means that what happens is not always the will of God. This means that just because a person was not healed does not automatically mean that it was not God’s will to heal them.

What God’s will is, is clearly revealed through the Scriptures. It can be seen through the ministry of Jesus to the sick, for Jesus perfectly revealed the will of God on the earth. It is seen in the many promises concerning divine healing in both the Old and New Testaments. We must remember that “all the promises of God in Him [Christ] are Yes, and in Him, Amen, to the glory of God through us.” (2 Cor. 1:20). Whatever God’s Word has promised is a clear indication of God’s will – for it is God’s will to keep His promises. And we will consider many of those great and precious promises concerning divine healing in the sections below.

All this is not a denial of God’s Sovereignty and rulership of the universe. It just shows how serious human choices are. God respects our ability to choose and will faithfully administrate the outcome of those choices – be it through judgements or blessings. Nothing takes God by surprise – and yet there are many choices people make and things people do that were not desired by our loving Father.

God did heal supernaturally. Does God still do it?

Yes! Today more and more people are thanking God for the healing they received from God, which was accomplished by a direct action of the Spirit of God in their bodies. All the time cases are reported of deaf ears opening, cripples walking, internal organs being healed, backs straightening and so on. Jesus Christ is still doing it!

The Scripture provides many models of Christ’s healing work. All these principles are relevant to us in building up our faith in these areas. We should not allow the traditions of men to neutralise the impact of these Scriptures to us.
How can one know if the source of supernatural healing is Divine or satanic?

Satanic healings take the attention away from Jesus Christ as the healer and are coming through people who promote unscriptural and/or occultic doctrines. They come without any reference to the cross of Christ and they lead people away from the true knowledge of God rather than to the foot of the cross. Satanic healings transfer the problem from the body to the soul of man. Those who have been to occultic healers often become mentally disturbed and confused.

This should not lead us to be fearful of the godly ministry of divine healing, however. We should bear in mind the teaching of Jesus in Mathew’s gospel.
Matthew 7:9-11
“Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!”

We have nothing to fear of the ministry of humble, Christ exalting men who teach the gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God, call people to true repentance and faith in Him and give all the glory to God for the miracles and changed lives that come as a result.
What Are Some of The Scriptures Indicating Divine Healing is God’s Will?

Proverbs 4:20-22
My son, give attention to my words; Incline your ears to my sayings. Do not let them depart from your eyes; Keep them in the midst of your heart; For they are life to those who find them, And health to all their flesh.
The Word of God has a key role in divine healing (see also Ps. 107:20). It can be health to all our flesh – leaving no room for sickness and disease in our flesh. It is difficult to spiritualise this passage and say that it is really talking about healing for our spirits or souls – since it specifically mentions our flesh – with no ifs or buts about it.

If you are sick you need to get your ears and your eyes onto the Word of God itself and off negative reports, unbelieving theologies, religious traditions and the pain itself. For God’s Word itself can become medicine to your flesh if you take that medicine faithfully according to prescription. God is Almighty but also a God of integrity, and sooner or later He will back up His own words when they are mixed with faith.

James 5:14,15
Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save [heal] the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.

This is a New Testament instruction that many sick Christians do not put into practise. The implication here is that the elders of the church should be willing to come to the bed of the sufferer, and able to pray the prayer of faith for healing. The word for “saved” in Greek is “sozo” and is used many times for “healed” as well as “saved” in the New Testament. This is no accident, because healing is really just an expression of God’s salvation for the body.

Here we have two very unambiguous promises concerning divine healing. Together with other promises and statements made in the Word of God, little room is left for doubt and unbelief at least concerning what the Bible teaches is God’s promise and intention in these matters.
Mark 16:17,18
And these signs will follow those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons … they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.

Although this promise is primarily valid for those engaged in evangelism (Mark 16:15), the truth remains that many times God will use the laying on of hands to impart the power of the Holy Spirit into a person’s body so that sickness is dissolved. Often this happens in conjunction with “the gifts of healings” (1 Cor. 12:9) – one of the manifestations of the Spirit given to build up the body of Christ.

Other Relevant Scriptures

Is. 53:4,5; Ex. 15:26; Ps. 103:3; 3 John 2; Ps. 107:20; Romans 8:11.
False Doctrines that Obstruct Divine Healing

1. Sickness is a blessing, of which God is the author.

Nowhere does God’s Word refer to sickness as a blessing. Rather, it is shown to be part of the curse of the law, which is detailed in Deutoronomy 28:15-68.

Deut. 28:15
But it shall come to pass, if you do not obey the voice of the LORD your God, to observe carefully all His commandments and His statutes which I command you today, that all these CURSES shall come upon you and overtake you.

Deut. 28:61 Also every sickness and every plague, which is not written in this Book of the Law, will the LORD bring upon you until you are destroyed.

These Scriptures clearly reveal that sickness and disease are curses and not blessings. Thankfully, under the New Covenant, we have the declaration of Galatians 3:13:

Galatians 3:13
Christ has REDEEMED us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”).

This Scripture actually reveals that when Jesus hung on the cross (the tree), he became a curse for us. In this way, He took the curse of sickness we justly deserve. The next verse tells us that it was so we could experience the blessing of Abraham.

Galatians 3:14
that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.

God’s intention is that we pass from curse to blessing. It was important enough to God for Jesus to pay the price for it when he suffered on the cross. So a real part of what God makes available for the Christian is the provision to be delivered of the curse of sickness and come into the blessing of God.

Sickness may be at times a judgment on the disobedient, but it cannot be viewed as a blessing. Sickness and death came in with sin, and are part of the corruption of nature which came by mankind’s initial rejection of our loving Father.

2. Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” was a sickness, and God didn’t want to take it away.

2 Corinthians 12:7-10
And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast of my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Many have taught that Paul’s “thorn” was a sickness, which Paul wanted the LORD to take away – but the LORD was quite unwilling to take it away (2 Cor. 12:7-10). Thus many sick Christians today have been taught that since their prayer for healing has apparently been denied by God, they are in the same situation as Paul. They see that God has given them this sickness for the purpose of character development – that they might exhibit fortitude and patience in their suffering and thereby glorify God.

While patience in suffering is certainly commendable, this passage tells us what the “thorn in the flesh was”. Paul himself says that it was “a messager [Gk: angelos] of Satan to buffet him”. This means Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” was really a person – most likely a fallen angel of Satan.

The use of the word “thorn” is obviously symbolic. We can see that also in the book of Joshua it referred to a harassing person or people. When Joshua told the Israelites that if they make peace with the Canaanites they would be “scourges on your sides and thorns in your eyes” (Joshua 23:13) he meant that they would be harassed and attacked by them. We should not make too much of the fact that the thorn was “in the flesh”, just as we would not draw too many conclusions about the location of the problem if we heard someone being described as “a pain in the neck”, or, to use the Old Testament expression “a thorn in the eyes”.

Therefore the most likely conclusion is that Paul was at some time in his ministry under intense demonic attack. These attacks may at times have produced physical discomfort and weakness, since Paul mentions “infirmities” in 2 Cor. 12:10. But he also mentions “reproaches”, “needs”, “persecutions” and “distresses” – all of which were likely also to be the results of this demonic angel stirring up trouble for Paul.

This view is in line with the text itself. The thorn was given lest Paul be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations. God did not want Paul to become haughty, arrogant or puffed up by the great revelation knowledge he received. Therefore he permitted Paul to get into circumstances where he would need to continue to depend on God and His power, and not on what Paul already knew and understood. Our true wisdom is to humble ourselves before the Lord and receive His help against our spiritual enemies who can stir up much trouble for us at times.

One thing is clear. Paul’s “thorn”, however distressing it may have been at times, did not prevent him from engaging in “labours more abundant” (2 Cor. 11:23). Are some of those who are claiming to have a thorn like Paul’s using their thorn as an excuse for not being able to work hard for the Lord? Are the exhortations to “be prepared for every good work”, to “be careful to maintain good works” and to be “always abounding in the work of the Lord” only applicable to Christians without “thorns”?

Paul’s thorn did not cause those on the island of Malta to have doubts concerning divine healing (Acts 28:8,9). While teaching on Paul’s thorn by many modern preachers has destroyed the confidence and expectation of believers that God shall heal them by his power, it was not so in Paul’s day. The words and works of Paul were doubtless in line with the testimony of the whole of the Word of God, which we are told is “medicine for all our flesh” (Prov. 4:22).

If a Christian is convinced that God has given him a sickness, a “thorn” for character development or any other purpose, then surely it would be wrong for them to go to the doctors to seek to have the “thorn” removed!

God wanted Paul here to humble himself and get more grace from God, so that he could overcome these demonic assaults. Indeed, the Christian life will have many battles with evil spirits. By humbling ourselves we receive grace from God to not only live patiently and righteously in these trials, but also to rebuke them and eventually clear the demonic opposition out of our path, no matter how strong and persistent it may seem to be.

In conclusion, Paul’s thorn was a fallen angel, not a sickness as such. And although there may be various demonic attacks on our bodies and our situation, this does not change the fact that God’s intention for us is to overcome these things through faith and patience and receive the fulfillment of the promises He has made to us concerning healing and every other problem. In the midst of these attacks we are supposed to gain spiritual strength. We are not supposed to just let the devil walk all over us.

3. Paul and his team were sickly – so this is what God wants.

It is true that Paul at times was physically weak (Galatians 4:13; 2 Corinthians 12:10). Epaphroditus, a co-worker of Paul was sick at one stage, but God had mercy on him and healed him (Php 2:25-30). Timothy was instructed to “use a little wine for his stomach’s sake and his frequent infirmities” (1 Timothy 5:23) and Trophimus Paul left in Miletus sick (2 Tim. 4:20). What can we make of all this?

These passages were included in the word of God to guard us against extreme positions and harsh judgments against those who at some points in their lives may have battles with sickness. The fact is, we live in a fallen world and the Kingdom of God has not been fully manifested. At times Christians, especially front-line missionaries may have to battle with sickness brought on by such factors as overwork, poor quality nutrition or water supplies, or demonic attack. God never guarantees that our prayers for the healing of others will have immediate visible results. In the case of Trophimus, Paul could not wait until the manifestation of healing came, because he had kingdom work to do and it was time to move on. God healed Epaphroditus and none of these men died of sickness as far as we know.

We must look after our bodies in the natural sense and not abuse them even in times of revival. Otherwise they may wear out and we will die before the time. God expects us to use wisdom and not to work ourselves to death or eat poorly if we have the opportunity to protect our health by eating well in moderation.

There may still be times when Christians, even spiritually advanced Christians, will struggle with demonic attacks on their health. But God has given us His word and His promises concerning healing. So we have a “sword” to fight with and God expects us at times to fight. The reality is that battles are not always won instantaneously, but that is no reason to give up the fight, to give up hope or to cast away our confidence or the confession of our hope.

The truth is that Paul often exprerienced the supernatural strengthening of God in his body in order to complete his mission. How else could he have got up and preached in the city immediately after he had been left for dead by those who stoned him outside the city (Acts 14:19,20)? After so many beatings with rods in which the bones of his feet were likely broken in many places, how could he continue his travels? Paul also knew the supernatural intervention of God in divine healing – and we should expect it too if we are serving the Lord.

4. God is glorified through my sickness.

Many times it is the sufferer that is glorified when he patiently endures his sickness without complaining. People will praise and glorify such a person. But God receives a greater glory when all can see that He has truly intervened in restoring to health the sick person. When we receive the fulfillment of the promise of God, God is glorified (2 Corinthians 1:20).

When people saw the paralyzed man get up and walk at Jesus’ command, they were “all amazed and glorified God saying, ‘We never saw anything like this!’” (Mark 2:12). This is the better way to glorify God. The streets of India are full of sick people – Hindus and Buddhists who seem to be patiently bearing their suffering, accepting it as their “karma”. But when they are healed in Jesus’ name then truly God is glorified.

We should seek to follow the New Testament pattern of glorifying God with regard to our bodies. Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today, and forever! (Hebrews 13:8)

5. God needs to use this sickness to teach me a lesson.

If we are willing to listen to God’s Word and God’s Spirit, there is no need to get into a place where God needs to use sickness to teach us. If an earthly father was to break his child’s arm or put harmful germs in his food when the child was disobedient, that father would be considered to be a child abuser. Well, God in heaven is not a child abuser. If we disobey Him or permit idols to have a place in our hearts, then it is true that we are opening the door for Satan and his demons to afflict us. But this is not the same thing as God needing to use sickness to teach us a lesson.

A mature approach to learning from God is to discipline ourselves to pray, hear God’s Word, and act on what it says. God promises to protect those who stay “under the shadow of the Almighty” from the attacks of the evil one (see Psalm 91).

6. I guess I’m another Job.

Although there may be times when we are battling sickness and cannot understand why God is permitting it to continue, we do need to be faithful to God as Job was. However, even Job sinned by allowing negative fear into his life and being self-righteous. “For the thing I greatly feared has come upon me, and what I dreaded has happened to me.” (Job 3:25). Fear attracts the thing we fear, and expresses a lack of trust in God, which is sin. We should not model our lives on Job, as wonderful as he was in other areas, but rather on Jesus.

While it is wrong to condemn those who are sick as Job’s friends did, we also must remember that God eventually did heal Job and restore his fortunes more than at the first. If we are going to be like Job then we should expect a practical manifestation of the Lord’s goodness and compassion also (James 5:11).

Another point to remember is that Job was not an Israelite and did not have the promises that we have in the Bible. God had not made a covenant of healing with Job as far as we know, as He did with the Israelites. The Israelites demonstrated far less moral uprightness than Job, and yet “there was none feeble among His tribes” when they came out of Egypt. Statistically, this represents an amazing miracle. God established a covenant of healing with the Israelites which Job himself knew nothing of.

Since we have greater promises and covenants available to us than Job did, we should not use him as a model of the relationship of sickness to the believer.

Also, if our life is not upright as Job was, how can we be sure than we are right in comparing ourselves with Job? But even if we have come into that level of holy living, we should believe all the promises of God concerning healing. Sickness is not the only way that a person can suffer. We will suffer at times and our loyalty to God will be tested, but let it be suffering that glorifies God and not ourselves.

We would do better to embrace the patience of Job without using his example to justify us in doubting the relevance of all the promises of God to us concerning divine healing and health, which were revealed to God’s people after Job was dead and buried.

7. The age of miracles is past

The Bible does not teach this, so why should we? This faith-destroying phrase has robbed many of some of God’s blessings. Indeed, if the age of miracles has passed, how can anyone be born again of the Spirit of God? For truly the “new creation” must be considered a miracle of God, since the Spirit of God is directly involved in changing the nature of the spirit of man.

To state that “the age of miracles” is passed is to mock prayer today, since any intervention of God as a result of prayer could rightly be considered a miracle. If the things that happen in answer to prayer would have happened even if no prayer was offered then prayer makes no difference and God’s promises regarding prayer are mocked.

8. Only apostles (or those close to them) can heal the sick, so it happens no more.

Firstly, Stephen, one of the seven, was not an apostle, yet he, “full of faith and power, did great wonders and signs among the people” (Acts 6:8). Also later, “the multitudes with one accord heeded the things spoken by Philip [also one of the seven and not an apostle], hearing and seeing the miracles which he did.” (Acts 8:6).

There is no solid reason to doubt the words recorded in John 14:12, “He who believes in Me [Jesus], the works that I do shall he do also” or the words of Mark 16:17, “These signs shall follow those who believe: in My name … they will lay hands on the sick and they shall recover”.

Notice that these promises are to those who believe and not merely to “apostles who believe” or some such thing. The promises to “those who believe” are all vaid throughout the gospel age.

Even in the writings of the early church fathers we find references to many healings and miracles done through believers, even the raising of the dead. The teaching that only apostles or those close to them can heal the sick is unbiblical, and contrary to both Scripture and the testimony of history.

9. The supernatural gifts of the Spirit have passed away.

Why not say, “Thorns in the flesh have passed away with the apostles”? Seriously, there is no solid Scriptural support for this idea. It is not enough to point to the teachings of noted Christian leaders to defend this doctrine, for in many places, the testimony of church history is against this foolish doctrine. Even if there was only ONE genuine occurrence of one of the supernatural gifts of the Spirit in our time this idea would be proven false! There is too much evidence of self-denying true followers of Christ who have solid testimonies of the gifts of the Spirit working through them, for this idea to be taken seriously any more.

Some appeal to the passage below to suggest that God has done away with these gifts.

1 Corinthians 13:8-10,12
Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part. But WHEN THAT WHICH IS PERFECT HAS COME, then that which is in part will be done away. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but THEN face to face. NOW I know in part, but THEN I shall know just as I also am known.

It is argued that when the New Testament canon was completed “the perfect” came, and then there was no further need for the gifts of the Spirit to give that partial measure of truth and confirmation of the gospel. Some see then that the gifts ceased when John finished the Revelation, others when John died, and still others, when the church councils finally authorised the NT Canon in the 4th century AD.

It should be clear enough that “the perfect” refers to the consummation of the Kingdom of God at the Second Coming of Christ. Then there will truly be no more need for the gifts of the Spirit. They will be swallowed up by something far more complete. Until then however, they will be needed wherever the gospel is preached and the church of Christ falls short of the fulness of the measure of the stature of Christ.

Here are some of the problems with the view equating “the Bible” with “the perfect” in this passage.

a. The word “then” in verse 12 implies that when “the perfect” has truly come, we will see the Lord face to face. Now people only see Him imperfectly. The proof of this is the disagreements about the will of Christ that can be found everywhere in the church. When we see Him, we will be like Him.

b. We still only know in part, for no man living has the complete revelation of everything that the Bible truly teaches about the Lord.

c. Scholars are disagreed about minor textual variations concerning what the original Scriptures exactly said, word for word. If this is so, how can we say we know “perfectly”.

d. Partial knowledge has clearly not passed away amongst Christians. So why should we say that tongues and prophecy have? If this be so then clearly this passage of Scripture points to a future fulfilment, and was not fulfilled in the 1st or the 4th century A.D.

e. When the canon was completed, not all Christians had access to it all, and not all could read. The need for God to reveal Himself through the gifts of the Spirit was totally unchanged as far as those Christians were concerned.

f. The purpose for the supernatural gifts of the Spirit was not and is not to establish true doctrine – but rather for the building up of the body of Christ. People still need the personal encouragement that comes through the Holy Spirit speaking and acting directly through people to them. The need therefore for healing, prophetic confirmation of the specific will of God, supernatural wisdom and knowledge is just as real now as it ever was. And praying in other tongues will still build up any Christian who takes the time to do it.

g. So many millions of sincere Christians have discovered that these gifts are working in their lives and have received personal benefit from them. While counterfeits may exist, their existence only suggests the existence of something real that could be counterfeited.

h. There is no other Scripture which can support this theological assumption which remains unproven and has been demonstrated to be positively harmful in destroying faith for the some of the very things God ordained to build us up.

10. Supernatural healing today is all of the devil.

This doctrine, which is as old as the Scribes and Pharisees who accused Jesus of casting out demons by the prince of demons (Matthew 12:24), is unworthy of a Bible believing Christian who believes that God is a compassionate and powerful God and that Jesus is our merciful High Priest, the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8).

While some manifestations of spiritual healing are demonic in their origin – such as those coming through people believing in a New Age, Satanic or Hinduistic philosophies this does not mean that genuine divine healing no longer exists. While it is true that the mere mentioning of “Jesus” or the word “Christ” in no way guarantees that the Lord Jesus Christ truly is the source of what a person is doing, neither can we say that all supernatural healings are now of the devil. How could that be so if James 5:14,15 or Mark 16:18 is still true?

Some point to Matthew 7:21-23 as proof of this doctrine.

Matthew 7:22,23 Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’

This passage shows us that merely doing supernatural works in Jesus’ name does not guarantee a person a place in the Kingdom of God. But the reason Jesus told them to depart is that they were “practicing lawlessness”, and “not doing the will of the Father in heaven” (vs 21). If this passage was meant to show that healing the sick and casting out demons are sinful, satanically inspired activities, then many prominent New Testament figures were clearly guilty of this charge! Not only Peter and Paul, but also non-apostles like Philip the Evangelist, Stephen the first martyr and Agabus the prophet were guilty.

The presence of “signs and wonders” does not prove anything about a man’s life or acceptance with God – one way or the other.

Actually, healing the sick and casting out demons is supposed to follow every believer, according to Mark 16:17,18. It may be that many of those professing Christians who criticise such activities are themselves practicing lawlessness by deceiving the Body of Christ concerning these things, and “not doing the will of the Father in heaven” by refusing to be vessels of God’s healing and delivering power. They are not showing forth the will of the Father in the way Jesus Christ expressed it to a world in pain and darkness.

Nevertheless the passage above sounds a strong warning and exhortation to practical and moral righteousness for all those who are moving in the supernatural, using Jesus’ name. It is not one or the other, but both that fully express the will of the Father. The passage does not show that healing and deliverance being practiced today in Jesus’ name is of the devil.

11. But if the doctrine of divine healing is true, how could Christians ever die?

This is really not as great a problem as it may seem at first. The simple answer is: if Jesus does not come back first, a Christian may die through persecution, or by their body wearing out and God taking their spirit to be with him. “You take away their breath, they die and return to the dust” (Ps. 104:29). Although many Christians do die with sickness in their body this does not mean that all do or all should. After God has satifisfied a man with long life (Ps. 91:16), He is quite capable of taking his spirit without making him sick first. Those who die as martyrs are a special category and obviously do not die because of sickness.

Our bodies are still mortal and as such cannot inherit the kingdom of God. They are affected by the Adamic curse and no longer have the capacity to live forever. They must be put aside at some stage before we can receive our new resurrection bodies. Only then will that promise for our bodies become a practical reality.

We mustn’t allow philosophical arguments to rob us of the blessing of divine healing and the possibility to run the full course which God has for us in life.
The Good News for those Suffering with Sickness

If you are sick God’s path for you will eventually take you out of sickness and pain, one blessing at a time. Unless you are satisfied with long life already, you ought to be able to experience your healing well before you receive your resurrection body! This is not to deny the Sovereignty of God, but rather, it is to affirm His Faithfulness and the integrity of His Word.

Proverbs 4:18
“But the path of the righteous is like the shining sun, That shines ever brighter until the perfect day.”

Things will get better, at least in the soul of an obedient Christian. But God has something for the body too!

Psalm 103:2-5
Bless the Lord, O my soul, And forget not all His benefits: Who forgives all your iniquities, Who HEALS ALL YOUR DISEASES, Who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies, Who satisfies your mouth with good things, So that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

At the cross Jesus already legally accomplished your healing and deliverance. What is necessary now is to follow Him in all things and let Him make some changes to your life. One of them, if you are sick and in pain, will be your healing.

Isaiah 53:4,5
Surely he has borne our griefs [Heb: choli = sicknesses] And carried our sorrows [Heb: Makob = pains] Yet we esteemed Him stricken, Smitten by God and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes WE ARE HEALED.

In this passage Isaiah the prophet foretells the sacrifice of Jesus on Calvary. Just as Jesus bore our sins and the punishment for our transgressions, he also bore the curse, which includes sicknesses and the pains they produce. Jesus would not have done this if God wanted us to always bear our sicknesses and pains ourselves.

There is really no good reason for translating “choli” as “griefs” and “makob” as “sorrows” except perhaps to uphold religious tradition. These words really mean sicknesses and pains respectively. That is why Matthew, when quoting this passage in Matthew 8:17 renders it as “He Himself took our infirmities and bore our sicknesses”. This implies a physical interpretation for the Isaiah prophecy.

Just as salvation has been provided for all men in the area of forgiveness and spiritual regeneration, so it has also healing been provided for by the same sacrifice. But people need to appropriate the benefits of Calvary by repentance and faith, and so it is also with divine healing. We have the strongest indications here that God doesn’t want us to remain sick – just as He doesn’t want us to remain in sin. Faith takes hold of the provision of Calvary. We may need to add patience to our faith in order to inherit the promises (Hebrews 6:12), but the promises are there and they can be really experienced.

God is interested in our total healing and salvation. Therefore we are wise if we co-operate with the way He is leading us. Many times God will begin by addressing a spiritual or emotional problem in our lives before He gets around to removing the physical infirmity or disease. Thus God may first lead a person let go of bitterness and resentment in their life – thus freeing them emotionally, before the manifestation of the physical healing can come.

We cannot tell God the way He must heal us. It is an error to command God or try to use “faith” to force Him to do something we are not convinced He wants to do. We need to realise that God does want us to be well – but the way He wants us to receive that wellness may not be known to us. This is why we need to seek to know God’s ways and be sensitive to His Spirit. We really need to be dependent on the Spirit for all things. True faith is based on relationship with God, not formulas and principles. Failure to understand this has led to a lot of grief and disappointment amongst those who have been looking to the Lord for divine healing.

We will consider below different ways which God may use in order for us to actually receive our healing, which He provided for us at the cross.
What is the role of faith in divine healing?

Is lack of faith always to blame when the sick is not healed?

Faith has an important role not only in divine healing, but also in our salvation, and everything we do in life. Since the Word tells us that “without faith it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6) and “whatever is not of faith is sin” (Romans 14:23) it is obviously very important to God that we do all we can to develop our faith.

It is possible to have great faith in God for certain areas while being full of doubt in other areas where God has spoken. Many believe God for the salvation of their soul that believe nothing definite regarding the healing of their body. Some have faith to pray effectively for revival or even for the healing of others and yet do not seem to have any confidence in regard to the healing of their own body. Some have faith for their healing and yet do not even have faith for salvation! Think of how many were healed under Jesus’ ministry and yet did not follow Him! It is therefore a mistake to consider that having faith in one area means that there is nothing more God is expecting you to believe for in life.

We ought not to judge people whose faith is deficient in a particular area, but rather encourage them with the Word. People however can be discouraged by if they somehow conclude that what we are really saying is that they are “second-rate Christians” because they struggle in the area of divine healing. We must bring the living water of God’s life to such people, not discouraging words of condemnation which put all the responsibility for receiving healing on the patient.

When Jesus sent out the seventy He simply told them to “heal the sick there” (Luke 10:9). He put the responsibility on the disciples, and not on the sick. The great challenge for all God’s ministers (which should include all true Christians) is to stay close to the Holy Spirit under the authority of Jesus Christ and to know exactly how, when and where to minister divine healing in Christ’s name. Since faith comes out of fellowship with Christ, our communion with the Lord through the Holy Spirit is very important if we are to minister divine healing consistently and effectively. The commission for divine healing is still given to the body of Christ today (John 14:12; Mark 16:17,18).

Having said all this, it is important to realise that God expects us to believe what He says. We should believe it even when our physical senses and our minds may be screaming out that it cannot be so. As we have seen, God has given great and precious promises concerning the healing of the body. Our responsibility is to focus on those promises, to praise God for them, and to rest patiently in the confidence of their truthfulness until indeed our divine healing is a physical fact in our bodies.

We must imitate those who “through faith and patience inherit the promises” (Hebrews 6:12). This means that there may be a period of time between actually believing the promise and experiencing the results of divine healing. This is true despite the fact that it was all legally accomplished a long time ago at the cross.

The Scripture gives us many examples of people whose faith played a major role in their healing, or in the healing of others. To the woman with the issue of blood, Jesus said, “Daughter, your FAITH has made you well. Go in peace, and be healed of your affliction.” (Mark 5:34). This woman believed and declared to herself that “If only I may touch his clothes, I shall be made well.” (vs 28). No one was telling her what she needed to believe or say. Her faith and confession came out of her heart. She had heard about Jesus and what He can do, and this sparked off faith in her heart. She pushed past the crowd of religious traditionalists who were just waiting for Jesus to do something, and she got her miracle.

In the same way, if a believer today can get past the crowd of religious people who are hanging around Jesus but not touching him with faith, that believer can get something real from God. Though Jesus is not physically here with us, He can touch us just as surely by His Word and by His Spirit. His touch may come through an anointed servant of God ministering in His name. We should be open to such things. More than that, like that woman we should come to a place where we expect Jesus to do something for us when we can “touch his clothes”. The way we do that depends on the God given conviction we receive from God about what needs to happen. It has to be more than wishful hoping. It must be a God-given conviction.

To Bartimaeus, who was blind, Jesus said, “Go your way; your faith has made you well.” (Mark 10:52). He is another example of someone who went after Jesus with determination and faith, not taking into account the discouraging words of those around him and around Jesus. We should have the same attitude.

It was the faith of friends that resulted in the healing of a number of people in the gospels. The paralytic in the story of Mark 2 was saved and healed because of the faith of his friends who got him to Jesus (Mark 2:5). The centurion’s faith in Matthew 8:5-13 resulted in the healing of his servant. And the great faith of the Syro-Phoenician woman in Mark 7:25-30 resulted in the healing and deliverance of her daughter. In an atmosphere of faith where Jesus is moving, the faith of others can bring deliverance to their loved ones. Our faith in Jesus can result in great blessings for our loved ones.

A person’s lack of faith is not always the reason that divine healing does not flow to them. There may be any number of reasons in such cases, and unless the Spirit of God has clearly shown us by revelation what the problem is in a particular case, we do better to confess our ignorance rather than declare what we think the problem is.. It may be helpful however, to refer to the section below: “What are some of the things which may obstruct divine healing”.

Things will get better, at least in the soul of an obedient Christian. But God has something for the body too!

Psalm 103:2-5
Bless the Lord, O my soul, And forget not all His benefits: Who forgives all your iniquities, Who HEALS ALL YOUR DISEASES, Who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies, Who satisfies your mouth with good things, So that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

At the cross Jesus already legally accomplished your healing and deliverance. What is necessary now is to follow Him in all things and let Him make some changes to your life. One of them, if you are sick and in pain, will be your healing.

Isaiah 53:4,5
Surely he has borne our griefs [Heb: choli = sicknesses] And carried our sorrows [Heb: Makob = pains] Yet we esteemed Him stricken, Smitten by God and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes WE ARE HEALED.

In this passage Isaiah the prophet foretells the sacrifice of Jesus on Calvary. Just as Jesus bore our sins and the punishment for our transgressions, he also bore the curse, which includes sicknesses and the pains they produce. Jesus would not have done this if God wanted us to always bear our sicknesses and pains ourselves.

There is really no good reason for translating “choli” as “griefs” and “makob” as “sorrows” except perhaps to uphold religious tradition. These words really mean sicknesses and pains respectively. That is why Matthew, when quoting this passage in Matthew 8:17 renders it as “He Himself took our infirmities and bore our sicknesses”. This implies a physical interpretation for the Isaiah prophecy.

Just as salvation has been provided for all men in the area of forgiveness and spiritual regeneration, so it has also healing been provided for by the same sacrifice. But people need to appropriate the benefits of Calvary by repentance and faith, and so it is also with divine healing. We have the strongest indications here that God doesn’t want us to remain sick – just as He doesn’t want us to remain in sin. Faith takes hold of the provision of Calvary. We may need to add patience to our faith in order to inherit the promises (Hebrews 6:12), but the promises are there and they can be really experienced.

God is interested in our total healing and salvation. Therefore we are wise if we co-operate with the way He is leading us. Many times God will begin by addressing a spiritual or emotional problem in our lives before He gets around to removing the physical infirmity or disease. Thus God may first lead a person let go of bitterness and resentment in their life – thus freeing them emotionally, before the manifestation of the physical healing can come.

We cannot tell God the way He must heal us. It is an error to command God or try to use “faith” to force Him to do something we are not convinced He wants to do. We need to realise that God does want us to be well – but the way He wants us to receive that wellness may not be known to us. This is why we need to seek to know God’s ways and be sensitive to His Spirit. We really need to be dependent on the Spirit for all things. True faith is based on relationship with God, not formulas and principles. Failure to understand this has led to a lot of grief and disappointment amongst those who have been looking to the Lord for divine healing.

We will consider below different ways which God may use in order for us to actually receive our healing, which He provided for us at the cross.
What are some different ways to receive divine healing?

Divine healing may be received in many ways. Below some of the more important ways are discussed. All of these methods have worked in a multitude of cases, and testimonies can be given to support all of this. But this is not done here for the purpose of space.

Calling for the Elders of the Church

James 5:14,15
Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save [heal] the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.

This is a command of the New Testament. In cases where simpler methods have not worked, it is the instruction of God that we call the elders of the church to come to the bed of the sick one and do these things. God assumes here that the elders are able to pray a prayer of faith. If your church leaders are unable to do this, perhaps you should find a church where the elders can and will do their part in this matter. Then God gives his promise, “The Lord will raise him up.” Wonderful promise!

Laying on of Hands

Jesus laid hands on the sick on many occasions and in this way imparted the healing power of the Holy Spirit to their diseased bodies. Jesus touched the hand of Peter’s mother-in-law in Matthew 8:15, and the fever left her. Jesus raised Jairus’ daughter from the dead by taking her by the hand and speaking to her (Matthew 9:25). By touching the eyes of blind men Jesus healed them also (Matthew 9:29). Many other examples could be given.

Many times also it was enough for the sick themselves to touch Jesus, or His clothes. Mark 6:56 says that “as many as touched him were made well”. This is a variation on the idea of laying on of hands but the idea is similar. The healing power of the Holy Spirit flows from Jesus through a physical contact made in faith.

Jesus gave this ministry to all believers in Mark 16:17,18. “These signs will follow those who believe: In My Name … they will lay hands on the sick and they shall recover.” It is still working today.

Intecessory Prayer

It is biblical to pray and intercede from a distance for those in sickness. The centurion did this in one sense, knowing that a word from Jesus was enough for the healing of His servant. In the Old Testament, Abraham prayed for the healing of Abimelech and his family and was heard (Genesis 20:17). In Numbers 12:13 Moses intercedes for the healing of his sister Miriam from leprosy, and she was healed by the time seven days were up. It is Biblical to pray for others. We are told to ask in Jesus’ name, and we shall receive, that our joy may be full (John 16:24).

Prolonged intecessory prayer will often prepare the way for God to move miraculously and suddenly in divine healing. Such prayer involves a struggle with the powers of darkness. We are not often aware of the reasons for the spiritual struggles involved in getting answers for some of our prayers. Persistent faith is important here (Luke 18:1-8).

Listening to Preaching on Divine Healing from the Word of God

Since “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of Christ [God]” (Romans 10:17) one way to grow in faith for God’s promises to be fulfilled is to hear anointed preaching on the subject. We need not only to read and analyze, but to really hear faith-filled preaching of God’s Word in the power of the Holy Spirit. In third world countries many are healed in great evangelistic rallies by simply hearing the message preached. Even listening to taped messages can be of great benefit to our faith.

Meditation on the Word

Many benefits are promised to those who meditate on the Word (e.g. Joshua 1:8). The Hebrew concept of meditation includes muttering something to oneself over and over again. This causes the words to enter deeply into the human soul and spirit. In this way, faith can be developed for things which look impossible to the natural eye.

Proverbs 4:20-22 promises healing to the flesh of all who attend to God’s Word, focus on it and do not let it depart from their heart.

One of the ways faith comes is by hearing the Word of God (Romans 10:17). If we keep hearing the Word of God about healing, eventually faith will be developed in that area. We need to meditate on the Word until our hearts are speaking the Word back to us, and we are really hearing it. After we have begun to hear the Word, we need to keep hearing it, pondering it, and turning it over in our minds so that doubt and unbelief has no place to enter.

Confessing the Word in the first person

Closely related to meditating on the Word is the idea of declaring with the mouth the promise or declaration of the Scriptures in the first person (that is, using the words “I” and “me”).

This is far from the only method of healing, yet it has its place. The classic example of this is to refuse to talk about the pain one feels, but rather to declare, for example: “Jesus took my sicknesses and carried my pains, and by his wounds I am healed” (Is. 53:4,5; 1 Peter 2:24).

The more we believe something, the more we will say it (2 Cor. 4:13). And the more we say something, the more likely we are to believe it. If it is true that repeatedly hearing lies results in deception, then it is also true that repeatedly hearing the Word of God, especially out of our own mouth, will result in faith. This is because faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God (Romans 10:17). As we prayerfully hear the Word with a soft, good heart, new faith germinates and grows in the previously barren areas of our lives.

Doubt is overcome by devoting oneself to meditation on the Word. Declaring the Word releases power and can change the spiritual climate governing our situation. This is a good reason to speak the Word of God out in the face of all kinds of negative and threatening situations. In order to do this, however, we first need to believe that God’s Word can over-rule the circumstances of our lives. Secondly, we need to know the Scriptures relevant to our particular case.

Since “death and life is in the power of the tongue” (Proverbs 18:21, we ought to believe that we can have what we say in line with God’s Will, which is revealed in His Word. There is creative power in words. God used them to create the Universe. We use them all the time to influence our world. Since God wants us well, we should speak words of life over our bodies and not words of defeat and discouragement.

When we truly believe from the heart, and when we talk and act consistently with that faith, God works. Such faith is a gift from God. God wants us to believe His promises. He knows when we believe. By holding onto our confession and patiently waiting for God to move we will obtain the promises (Hebrews 6:12; 10:23).

Confessing the Word concerning healing in the first person means to say out loud the declarations of Scripture concerning our healing and to make it personal. This can help build faith and also, “by calling things that are not as though they were” we can follow in the footsteps of Abraham (Romans 4:17-21) and see God intervene to change the circumstances.

Such confessions do not force the hand of God. Rather, they express trust and confidence in the integrity of God’s Word. It is a verbal affirmation that the thing God says about healing applies to us. Confessing the Word like this does not always bring instant results. Instead it works to progressively grow us up spiritually and release us from fear, doubt and discouragement so that faith can work.

Many other confessions concerning healing or anything else can be constructed using God’s Word. When done by the Spirit of God, it can release great power into our lives – harmonising us with God’s plan for blessing.

Speaking to the Mountain.

Mark 11:22-24 So Jesus answered and said to them, “Have faith in God. For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be removed and cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, HE WILL HAVE WHATEVER HE SAYS. Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.”

Jesus is not really talking about literal mountains here. “The mountain” refers to any obstacle, problem or negative thing in your path. Like a mountain, it looks like it is impossible to move. But Jesus said, if you tell it to move and don’t doubt in your heart, you will have what you say! This principle is applied to ministering deliverance and healing to people.

We command the mountain of demonic oppression to leave a person and it goes. We command the bodies of others or our own bodies to come into line according to the principles of perfect health, and they do. It works when we understand that God wants it to happen, because of His nature, His compassion and His written Will – the Word of God. It works when we take this Scripture seriously and believe that God could use us in such a way. If we doubt any of these things, it probably won’t work for us. We then need to purify our hearts and minds and become more like Jesus, who knew the Father perfectly and operated this way all the time with perfect confidence.

In Jesus name, we can command muscles, tendons and ligaments to relax, and bones to move into place. We can command internal organs to be made new, or nerve connections to be fixed. All this is to be done in Jesus’ name. If we believe it with God-given faith, God will do it. This “believing” though is not something we generate, but something that is imparted to us through our relationship with God and our knowledge of His ways. We still need to depend on God in all of this.

We are not commanding God here, but we are commanding the mountain – the body or the problem, to move. God is sovereign. He has commanded us to imitate Him (Ephesians 5:1). We put this Scripture into practise in obedience to Him. Mark 11:23 reveals an important principle to those with ears to hear. We are called upon to voluntarily submit to God’s Lordship, but this often means active faith rather than passive weakness. We have authority in Jesus’ name when we live under the authority of Jesus Christ in a practical way.

Praising God for the Promises

The story is told of a missionary in China who was afflicted with many smallpox sores and was in serious danger. The Lord instructed her to praise Him for His promises of healing. When those praises were greater than the problem, she was miraculously healed by the power of God.

In the same way, God is pleased when we thank and praise Him for His promises. This develops character in the face of difficulty. It glorifies God, and often results in a wonderful manifestation of divine healing.

Obedience to a Divinely given Instruction

In the gospels Jesus often gave instructions to people seeking healing. For example, he told the blind man to wash in the pool of Siloam (John 9:7). It was obedience to Christ’s instruction which released the healing to that man. It can be the same today, since God still has His ways of communicating with us.

I personally know a preacher who was healed of a skin problem when he obeyed the Lord and began to preach in the open air in his city. People may also receive physical healing when they put things right in a relationship either by restoring what was stolen or by forgiving those who have unjustly treated them. These are things the Holy Spirit may show us to do. And often, we will fail to receive divine healing until we do the very thing our conscience is pressing us to do.

A minister of divine healing may give an instruction in the name of Jesus to a person seeking healing. Obedience to that instruction will release healing if the instruction truly was from the Lord. Many times the instruction will involve doing something that was impossible or difficult to do before. I have been led many times to tell those with back problems to thank the Lord and then touch their toes. Many times they are surprised at the way the Lord instantly heals them at that moment. This happens both with non-believers and with believers.

It is no use talking about what great faith we have if we are not willing to obey the practical instructions of the Lord to our situtation. Faith without corresponding actions is dead faith – no use to anyone.

Personal Fasting and Prayer

Sometimes sickness persists and we don’t know why. Prayer and fasting (not eating food) is a divinely instituted means of getting breakthoughs in difficult circumstances. In humbling ourselves this way, we can receive grace from God and hear His voice more clearly. Our prayers tend to have greater power also in times of fasting.

Fasting has the side effect of releasing the toxins out of our body which have accumulated, perhaps through a less than perfect diet, or for other reasons. Often just eliminating these toxins will have a positive effect on our health. Natural things are not to be despised. Why should God keep on healing us if we insist on abusing our bodies with tobacco, excessive alchohol or gluttonous behaviour?

Fasting helps in breaking the power of sin and disease and demonic strongholds in our mind. It will also enable us in many cases to receive a far greater anointing with which to minister to others.

Deliverance from Evil Spirits

Sometimes sickness and illness, especially those sicknesses and illnesses of a chronic nature, are the direct result of the work of an evil spirits. In Luke 13:11-16 we read of “a woman who had a spirit of infirmity eighteen years, and was bent over and could in no way raise herself up”. Jesus healed this woman by a word of command. Regarding this case said, “So ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has bound – think of it – for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath?” (vs 16).

Here is a clear example showing that even a child of God can by physically afflicted or bound by an evil spirit. For further evidence on this point, see my booklet on “Deliverance from the Evil One”.

The casting out of demons goes together with the healing of the sick in many passages in the New Testament, especially in the ministry of Jesus. This is no accident. In fact, understanding the ministry of deliverance provides major keys to an effective ministry of healing.

Many people, even many Christians, are under the power of a demonic curse which is affecting many areas of their lives, often including their physical health. Such people need to understand how to have that curse broken through repentance and faith in Christ, and to receive deliverance from it and any evil spirits associated with it.

In the gospels, Jesus often gave the authority to heal the sick together with the authority to drive out demons.

Matthew 10:8
Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons. Freely you have received, freely give.
Luke 10:9,17
And heal the sick there, and say to them, “The Kingdom of God has come near to you”.

… Then the seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name.”

Mark 16:17,18
And these signs will follow those who believe: In My Name they will cast out demons … they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.

Philip the evangelist had one of the greatest healing and miracle ministries described in the New Testament. The Bible describes his meetings as follows:

Acts 8:7
For unclean spirits, crying with a loud voice, came out of many who were possessed; and many who were paralyzed and lame were healed.

Again we see the ministry of deliverance working together with the ministry of healing.

The whole of Jesus’ healing ministry was summarized by the apostle Peter in his message to the Romans as follows:

Acts 10:38
How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, and went about doing good and HEALING ALL WHO WERE OPPRESSED BY THE DEVIL, for God was with Him.”

This verse provides additional evidence that divine healing is the will of God, since it is a means by which the works of the devil are destroyed. It was not God who was putting sickness on the ones Jesus healed. The Scripture reveals that these diseases were the work of the devil.

The same principles used in casting out demons effectively may be used in healing the sick. However, it is not necessary to talk a lot about the presence of demons. Such talk can be counter-productive in some cases. The best thing to do in many such cases is just to treat sickness like a demon and expect it to go when confronted with the Name of Jesus, the Word of God and the Power of the Holy Spirit.

In many cases Jesus ministered healing by casting out demons. A few examples will suffice:

Matthew 12:22
Then one was brought to Him who was demon-possessed, blind and mute; and He healed him, so that the blind and mute man both spoke and saw.
Matthew 9:32,33
As they went out, behold, they brought to Him a man, mute and demon-possessed. And when the demon was cast out, the mute spoke. And the multitudes marveled, saying, “It was never seen like this in Israel.”
Mark 9:25
When Jesus saw that the people came running together, He rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it: “Deaf and dumb spirit, I command you, come out of him and enter no more!”

The word translated “demon-possessed” here in the original in no way implies total ownership by Satan or demons – but rather a condition of being affected by evil spirits. Sadly many Christians are unwilling to face the possibility that these kind of Scriptures may be relevant in some of the cases they may know of, even amongst believing people. There are many cases where spirits of infirmity must be driven out or driven away before real healing can take place.

In many cases demons are affecting people, re-inforcing the power of sin in their lives. When the demonic stronghold is broken, the grace of healing can flow more easily.

To be effective in casting out demons we need to understand our authority as believers to use the name of Jesus. We also need to say ‘no’ to our fleshly desires. We need to abide in Jesus and seek to be full of the Spirit of God at all times for maximum results. Also, we need to understand the work of Calvary and the power of the blood of Jesus for ourselves and others.

The Gifts of Healing, Miracles and Faith

Since God’s gifts have not been revoked from the church, we can expect to still find ministers operating in the special gifts of healings, miracles and/or faith. Such ministries will normally demonstrate a high degree of the power of Christ as they minister in His name. This can build our confidence in God’s willingness to heal and work miracles.

However, it is also important to develop our own faith in God’s promises, rather than rely on the faith or anointing of a man of God. Our healing and our faith received through such anointed ministry may be challenged when the anointed minister is not around. Then we will need to understand and believe the promises of the Word, and rebuke the disease ourselves in Jesus’ name.

Receiving Holy Communion with Understanding

Just as the cup in Holy Communion or the Lord’s Supper represents the blood of Jesus which deals with our sins, so the bread represents the Body of Christ which was brokenor our healing and health. Many of the Corinthians were sick and some died because they did not properly discern the Lord’s body in the bread. (1 Cor. 11:29,30).

The flesh of the lamb in the passover meal in the Old Covenant is a type of the Body of Christ in the New Testament. It is interesting to note that not one of the 3 million or so Israelites who left Egypt were feeble or sick after eating the flesh of that lamb (Psalm 105:37). How is it possible that so many church members are sick, while the Israelites were so healthy? Could it be that the church has ignored a vital meaning of the Lord’s supper as it applies to us? The flesh of the Son of God is supposed to have power when received by faith to impart physical healing to our bodies. This is in line with all God’s healing covenants and the declaration of Isaiah 53:5, “By his wounds we are healed.”

If one takes the Lord’s supper in faith, one can therefore expect not only a spiritual blessing, but also a physical healing. The Lord’s desire is that we come to the table of the Lord with a prepared heart and mind, so that we can fully partake of the goodness of the Lord’s gospel blessings for us at that time.

my ascent out of the pits of hell

hello everyone: my name is misslady and i am new to this site. i would like to share my testimony because my god is so good, and it means so much to me that he did this for me. you see, i once was involved in drugs and alcohol. i used drugs and alcohol everyday of my life, and i would lie to get money to make sure i had my fix for the day. i lost a lot of weight, so much that i could not stand to look at myself in the mirror. i was miserable, i mean really miserable everyday of my life. i woke up every morning with a hangover, and constant torment from the enemy because of my addictions, yet it was his doing that i was addicted in the firstr place. i began to feel that there was more to life than this, and i was weary of the ongoing treadmill of addiction. i began to talk to god about my misery, asking him to please help me. this went on for a few years, and no change. my family realtionship was strained because of my problem also. even though i saw no change, i knew about having faith in god no matter what things looked like. i began to listen to joyce meyer, td jakes, gregory dickow, joel osteen, and anyone else that could help me. i also began to read my word. i started saying out loud to the devil that no matter what it looked like, god was going to set me free. i even told my family members whenever they would start getting on my case. after a few years of this my god came thru for me. he made a way for me to go into a christian based recovery program in 2009.l stayed 7 mos there and left inearly 2010. i have been clean and sober since then, and no desires to go back. he has blessed me with a car, and i do not even have to make the payments!! i have a job making more money than i have in a few years, and my family relationship has been restored. theres so much more but i only have a little space left. god is good!! and i thank him for his deliverance from the darkness into the light. praise him everyone!!!

Drugs

First of all i want to tell you,that i can make a lot of mistake while writing,because im Albanian,from Kosovo.
Everything Happened when i started high school,first year.In High School i met a friend ,who looked to be a really good friend! I started to stay with him a lot,we were out for coffee everyday and stuffs like this.
But i had a problem.I could not concentrate in “learning“,and one day my friend told me“Lirik,i think i have the cure for you“,and i was like“What is that?“Than He said“Marihuana“,i was like“Hell no!`
And i was really mad.But days were going and i was just getting worst with `school“,so one day desperated i asked this friend if he can bring me some weed.He brought the weed,and I started to smoke,and actually it really helped me to concetrate,and there was my FALL.Than after that,i started to smoke more and more and more,and i felt that i`ve started to get addicted from marihuana.BUT,one day i was walking and i saw some persons playing HANDBALL.I was approached to see what was happening.Than i started to talk with them,and they told me that they were Christian MISSIONARIES here is KOSOVO.I was muslim,because in Kosovo 98% of the population is Muslim.I began to go to their meeting,and TALKING about Jesus.One day when i was going in bed,to sleep,and i started to pray to Allah,and i thought“lets just give a try(to pray to Jesus) “and i prayed“Jesus,if you`re a God please help me to leave marihuana“,but i was 99% sure that Jesus was just a prohpet and not a God and he CAN`T help me.Than,days were going,and with time “i didnt had the feeling of SMOKING anymore“,i was “FREE FROM MARIHUANA“ and this was the first MIRACLE OF JESUS IN ME.Than i decided to help my friend who taught me to SMOKE.I was like,praying all the time for him,and what was UNBELIEVING is that,HE STOPPED SMOKING TOO…this was the GREATEST THING THAT I EVER SEEN.
God Bless All Of You,and stay STRONG in your faith in Jesus,cuz that FAITH is the ABSOLUTE TRUE ONE.

The Fools Says There Is No God!!Transformation From Drugs

Hey everywhere,anywhere,anytime i am busy SMOKING.Since i accepted Jesus Christ and said no to sin i have said no to drugs and i encountered many good opportunities..first and foremost God has united my family.for so long after i completed my college 6yrs ago.There has been evil interfearance between me and my home..No luv found for me.I couldnt stay aday without smoking the strong weed or drink alcohol or both.His spirit live in me so safe now thank you Jesus.my family has accepted me and no longer talk evil about me.My bad companies refused to come closer cos they feel the hot fire from heaven around me.I pray that God give me the devine power to rescue my colleagues who are lost in the wilderness.

Valerie’s Testimony of Deliverance and Healing and going through the fires with JESUS by my side! Part 1

My dear Brothers and Sisters: When I came to know the LORD 24 years ago, I remember the first 6 years I was just on fire for the LORD and filled with HIS SPIRIT. It is almost like the honeymoon phase as we are just getting to know about our LORD. But, there comes a time when the LORD wants us to get of the milk of the word and start eating the meat of the word. Now, this is where we will be faced with every lie and attack of the enemy of our souls. This is a spiritual war that we are in. We don’t fight against flesh and blood, we are fighting against spiritual powers and wickedness in high places. It all started in 1994, when my mother came down with cancer! When my mother died, my life took a nose dive so to speak. I was attacked in my spirit and in my physical body from that point forward The enemy comes to kill, steal and destroy and that is exactly what he tried to do in my life for years. He destroyed my health, my marriage and tried to steal my relationship to my LORD. The LORD in the past 3 and half years has been truly bringing me through the fires so that HE could do the work that HE began in me since 1988. I have had 17 surgeries in my lifetime. I have experience a life of torment in many areas of my life. I was put on drugs for pain since 1992, then when the oral drugs no longer were effective to help with the pain, they surgically put an intrathecal morphine pump in my side. I was on morphine, and dilaudid from 2000 to 2010. My deliverance & healing came when the LORD taught me many things about the demonic realm of things and how if we do not repent of sins and keep sins of unforgiveness, bitterness, jealousy/envy, rejection, etc in our hearts, this opens doorways for the tormentors to legally have right to keep us bound. I then came to know about the deliverance ministry the LORD sent my way. I learned much from the LORD and by HIS HOLY SPIRIT. I would read my Bible all those years and would pray, but never able to over come. It was a very dark time in my life. I was in so much fear and unforgiveness towards those who rejected me and hurt me. One of them was my husband. You see for years because of failed back surgeries I was laid up in bed most of the time because of pain and depression. My husband in the year 2001 decided he would have an affair. I did not know about this until the end of 2002. I had some suspicion, but never knew until 2002. I forgave him and things seemed fine for a while but he never stopped seeing this women. Well to make a long story short. I at the time am disabled and unable to support myself, so my son and his family took me in. I lived with them for 7 years. We ended moving to Texas in April of 2003. My son was being deployed to Iraq at the time so this is why we left Maine to move to Texas. I continued in my life of a recluse and stayed pretty much in my room 24/7. I was dying inside spiritually and knowing the enemy and what he had done in my family tree, that he was trying to kill me physically. I had a sister who committed suicide at the age of 28 and a brother who died from contacting Aids from a dirty needle shooting up heroin, then my mother who was a very bitter woman died of Cancer at not even 54 years old. As we all know the wages of sin is death. In May of 2008, the LORD brought a deliverance ministry from E. Aurora, NY all the way to TX in our little house church. At the time my son was the pastor. At that point this is when all hell broke loose in my life. I was confronted with everything from my past life being led by the HOLY SPIRIT the LORD knew what I had to deal with in my heart before the demons that were tormenting me would have to leave. The LORD began HIS greatest work in me from that point on. HE took me back to many things that I just pushed down, but when the HOLY SPIRIT brought in to my attention in my spirit, I could see every thing vividly in my mind. It was then that I needed to with godly sorrow repent and forgive so many people in my life that was keeping me bound. I had to first forgive myself. That was the most difficult part for me, because I did not love Valerie at all. I felt no one else loved me so I must be unlovable. Well, for about 3 years I was getting free from those spirits that came in because I allowed it with my unforgiveness and sin. I continued to get deliverance on the phone with an accountability partner from NY. We would pray at least 4 times a week on the phone. One day, this dear sister said to me as we were praying, “Valerie do you have a mirror nearby?” I thought to myself, what an odd question to ask me. I told her yes and this is what she said to me. The HOLY SPIRIT is telling me in my spirit that HE wants you to look in that mirror and say to yourself, “I love you Valerie”, I immediately refused and said I can’t do that because I don’t love myself. Her response to me was this. “Valerie, this is not me telling you this, if you refuse then you are telling the HOLY SPIRIT no, not me! I immediately came under such conviction, that I knew I was dealing with GOD at this point. I right then dropped the phone on my bed and went to the mirror that was next to my bed. I looked in the mirror and hesitated saying I can’t do this LORD. Then this is what the SPIRIT of GOD spoke to me in my spirit. Valerie my dear daughter when you say you don’t love yourself, you are telling me that I did not know what I was doing when I created you. I began to cry and as I was crying, HE said to me, Valerie you were fearfully and wonderfully made, Psalm 139, I knew you from the foundation of the world before you were ever conceived in your mother’s womb. I have created you for a purpose and I have great plans for your life. I then looked in that mirror and was able to say, Valerie I love you because my GOD created me. I fell to the floor on my knees crying and repenting and praising the LORD OF LORDS and KING OF KINGS JESUS CHRIST. I was there for at least 10 minutes. But my dear friends, it was from that moment on that the LORD began to change my heart in amazing ways. This was during the summer of 2009. HE still had a lot of work to do in my heart, but me loving myself had to be the starting point, because you see when we don’t love ourselves it is impossible to love others and to love GOD. I will share more at another time on how he delivered me from all drugs and has set this captive free. I can say now that my relationship with my GOD is where HE wants it to be, seeking HIM and HIM alone every moment of the day. HE did amazing things to deliver me from the drugs. I will share that next time if you would like to hear more. May JESUS bless you my dear brothers and sisters, HE loves us and wants to bring us through the fires, because it is in our suffering where HE does HIS greatest work. Then HE purifies us as pure gold. I love you dear friends in JESUS! 🙂

the need For Jesus Christ in my life and the redemption of my soul.

to all who are the followers of JESUS CHRIST AND THE ONE TRUE GOD,HIS FATHER IN HEAVEN I ASK FOR YOUR PRAYERS TO DEFEAT THIS demon or demons that have for so long ruined my life with a drug addiction I can no longer live with and to deliver me from this. I see that I cannot do it myself and I ask JESUS CHRIST TO SAVE MY SOUL AND SAVE WHAT IS LEFT OF MY LIFE HERE3 ON EARTH THAT I MAY HAVE PEACE IN MY LIFE.,,,,,,,,I ASK THE PRAYER OF ALL WHO READ THIS……I BELIEVE IN THE POWER OF PRAYER AND THE POWER OF CHRIST TO SEND HIS POWERFUL ANGELS CHARGED WITH THE TASK TO DRIVE THE DEMONS AWAY AND WATCH OVER ME . IN THE NAME OF JESUS CHRIST I PROCLAIM VICTORY OVER THES THINGS AND ASK YOUR PRAYERS. MAY GOD BLESS ALL. AMEN

Jesus broke the chains of my meth addiction!

Praise Jesus! He is alive! He is present! He will never turn His back on His sheep, even when we are lost and gone astray from His holiness.

I’ve been addicted to Meth for 20 years, lost custody of 3 of my children and tried quitting on my own way too many times. Two years ago, I noticed I was beginning to behave strangely when I would get on one. I started to think of God when I was high, it became my obsession and I would stay up for nights just reading the Holy Bible for hours at a time and online research everything I could about Jesus and Recovery. I would have this overbearing desire to attend church while I was using. I would upset my boyfriend when doing this, he felt I was dishonoring God or being a hypocrite. It wasn’t that I purposely or personally wanted to do these things, it was something in me moving me to do this.

Soon after I found a church and started healing and growing and understanding more clearly. I started moving slowly away from the drug and one day I received the Holy Ghost and was speaking in tongues! For the next 2 years God was moving in my life and working in me like never before. I noticed the blessings and healing in my life. I would pray and he would answer! I was still backsliding and occasionally using but I never gave up on God. I would pray for recovery constantly and breakdown in tears right after I would take that first hit. Telling God out loud how sorry I was and how helpless I felt over this drug. I would beg Him to please free me from this hell I was living and break the bondage Satan had over me.

One night after hooking up and being up for several days, I was tired, sick, and in despair. I sat outside in the dark of night with a pipe in one hand and a bag of dope in the other. I looked up into the dark sky and thought this lifestyle is slowly destroying my soul. I had no doubt in my mind that I was about to experience a final blow that might very well be my death if I didn’t stop using. I remember telling God out loud “What’s matter with me? Am I just too good at being bad that I can’t be saved? Why am I still using? Why haven’t you helped me? I know you hear my cries and see my tears. God I can’t do this!!! I give up!! I have no more to left in me!! LORD YOU NEED TO COME GET ME NOW FROM THIS PIT OF HELL CUZ I CAN’T FIND A WAY OUT!!! ALL I SEE IS DEATH AND DARKNESS AROUND ME AND I FEEL THE ENEMY’S PRESENCE!! PLEASE SAVE ME!! YOU SAID YOU WOULD NEVER FORSAKE ME..YOU SAID “If I abide in You, and your words abide in me, ask whatever i wish, and it
will be done for ME”. I BELIEVE IN YOUR PROMISE.

I got baptized in Jesus Name September 13, 2011.When I became born again, I became a new creation sealed by the Holy Spirit. I learned that because of whom I had spiritually become, that all this power and authority was latent within me. I had the promise of God that He had already delivered me. I had already won the battle. I already had the victory. Jesus died to take away our sins. My addiction no longer existed. It was crucified with Christ. It no longer had power over me; I had power over it because I was delivered already by the blood of the Lamb! I changed the way I prayed. Instead of asking for healing and deliverance, I began thanking God for having already healed and delivered me. I came to a point of realization that I had claimed the victory Christ had won for me. When this truth hit my spirit, I was delivered!! I raised my hands in the air and began to shout and dance, and praised Jesus for the victory, tears running down my face. This was the most exhilarating and peaceful experience I’ve had. Until I let it slip away.

After 8 months of sobriety I backslid and used. It wasn’t because I was overcome by temptation or had cravings, no it was my own rebellious spirit that led me to dishonor God and fall into my sin. It was because I wanted to, period. So I did. But I was fearful and anticipated some kind of punishment for disobeying His word. Oddly enough, it never happened. Instead God continued to bless me in my life. It was his Grace that brought me to repent and love Him more and brought me closer to Him. God used my sin to convict me. He taught me about self-righteousness and how it was one of the most hated of sins. To be Trusting in Oneself for Righteousness instead of putting my complete faith in God is what I was practicing. It was a temporary work of the flesh, not spirit led, that is not blessed by God and will not last forever.

Since my backslid, I have 3 months clean!!! Starting over and praising God for taking my sin and making good from it. I feel His presence everyday as He guides me through the Holy Spirit living within me. He has changed who I used to be and He’s not finished with me just yet. He will continue to reveal to me exactly everything I need to know to live a godliness life, one that is God-fearing, obedient, and according to His will.

It wasn’t by chance you are reading this, No matter what it is we are dealing with; through Christ we already have the victory. When He comes to live in us, He brings our victory with Him. It then becomes our responsibility, to get it out! Christ did His job! Now it’s our turn! If you have not accepted Jesus into your life, accept Him in your heart and ask Him to forgive you for all your sins up until this moment. Accept Jesus as your Savior, right now!!

God bless the person reading this and grant them salvation!

Free at Last

Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.
John 8:36 (NKJ)

Hi, I’m Eric. On a lucky day in 1973, in Bremerton, Washington, I cost my parents five bucks when I came into the world. Being in the military does have its benefits, I guess.

My parents raised me in the way I should go, but sometimes we don’t all feel like going the way we’re told. In 1979, we moved up to Alaska, and we stayed there until 1989. Then, my parents decided to sell their house, and we moved to Vancouver, Washington.

In Vancouver, during high school, I decided that I didn’t want to be a Christian nerd anymore, and that I needed to party a little bit. So that’s what I began to do. Although I still attended church on a regular basis and participated in youth group activities, I led another, different life. I made lots of non-Christian friends, ignoring my father’s advice, “The friends you choose is one of the most important decisions you’ll ever make.” My parents soon gave up trying to keep me in line, because I simply didn’t want to listen.

I dove right into the party world, living for myself. I started smoking, drinking, doing drugs, the whole bit. I didn’t want anything to do with Christianity anymore. There were too many questions that I simply couldn’t answer, and too much fun that I simply wanted to have.

I graduated high school in the top five percent of my class, with practically straight A’s. I started college in 1991, and started dating a non-Christian girl who dominated the next few years of my life. I either spent time with her, or I partied. One or the other.

I came close to death more than once. One night, all tweaked out on drugs, I was downtown Portland and a guy pulled a gun on me. I laughed at him. That’s how much I cared about life.

One night, after a long, crazy night up near Tacoma, Washington, my friend Tom and I cruised down the I-5 freeway toward Vancouver and a Cadillac rear-ended us and sped away. His 1979 Datsun B-210 flipped a bunch of times and ended up upside down on the median. We sustained minimal injuries. We could easily have had the windows open and had limbs fly out and get crushed. We could easily have ended up in the freeway instead of on the median. We weren’t even wearing our seatbelts. My dad picked us up from the hospital the next day and we went to look at the car. It really didn’t look like anyone could have survived. The back window fell out when we touched it. All four tires were popped. It stood only a few feet high. My dad told us that my mother had got up that night, in the middle of the night, to pray for us. God knew that we needed protection.

One day, I rear-ended a new Lincoln Continental that was at a dead standstill. My car was going around 40 miles per hour. I didn’t have my seatbelt on. I broke my windshield with my head. Yet I only sustained a minor cut to my chin (I have a hard head, as you will soon see).

One day, I did a back flip off a cliff into a river. After an eight foot fall, I came down head first and cracked right onto a rock that lay hidden just under the surface. It didn’t even faze me. I bled a little and just kept living.

The drugs didn’t satisfy me. The girls didn’t satisfy me. My friends didn’t satisfy me. My family didn’t satisfy me. Basically, I lived for number one and I lived to get wasted. But God still remained near. And I knew it. The promise from Scripture never left me. “Raise your child in the way he should go, and he will not depart from it.” I knew that if God was true, and his promises sure, that His plan would supercede anything I desired, no matter how much I tried to run away. And believe me, I kept running.

My parents moved back to Alaska, in time, and so did my sister. I lived alone for the first time. Actually, I had lived alone for a while in an apartment and wasted about $7000 that I had received as settlement for the auto accident. But this time I felt that I was actually alone. I didn’t even have any relatives around. Now, I had to survive.

I moved in with Tom, and finally checked myself into a drug rehabilitation center. While in there, I received a note from a guy named Steve. I knew he had to be one of those Christian annoyances, but for some reason I called him anyway. He informed me that he had a place I could stay if I wanted to get away from the drugs and partying lifestyle. I thought about that, and finally said, “Why not?” I felt the end of my rope creeping nearer. Little did I know that the end of the rope was still afar off.

I moved in with Jim and Mark. New rules abounded. No drugs, no women, attend church, get a job, etc. I had to take care of the basics. I couldn’t really find a good job, because I had a terrible job history. I worked temporary jobs all the time. Every year I had at least 10 different employers. Jim and Mark bought my food, payed for my rent, gave me whatever I needed to live, and more. I hit some lady’s car and ran off in Jim’s car and he got his insurance cancelled. I smoked pot in the basement. I broke all the rules and took advantage of these nice people. And what started as a temporary living arrangement somehow turned into many months. Finally, we moved out of that place into an apartment. I lived there for a while, and then said, “Forget it.” I decided to drive up to Alaska in my truck and move in with my parents. I thought a new environment might help me with my problems. I smoked pot the entire way up to Alaska, and used my credit card that Jim had helped me pay off to finance the trip and the drugs. I got up there, and instead of trying to fix myself up, I immediately found the bums in town and maxed out my credit card with cash advances for drugs. One night, some “friends” and I went to the beach and drank a half-gallon of whiskey. On the way to the store, I wrecked the truck and broke the windshield with my forehead (again). I wasn’t wearing my seatbelt, of course. My dad and uncle bailed me out (in the middle of the night) and the cop, miraculously, let me go. They aren’t easy on drunk drivers in Alaska. My cousin almost got arrested for driving too slow. The cop thought she was drunk. In this particular instance, I was a stark raving lunatic. I couldn’t even walk or talk sensibly. I think my dad wanted to knock me out. Anyway, my “friends” stole my tent and other camping gear and left town. I decided to check myself in to a drug rehab program in Portland.

So, in Portland, I checked in and started living a clean life. This place didn’t mess around. The commitment was a year, and I lived with a bunch of other guys. I’ve never had so many rules in my life. I had to memorize scripture. I had to clean, and cook, and go to church, and man, did I get sick of being bossed around. They forced me to give up my girlfriend (the same one still) and I couldn’t take that. I quit the program so I could be with her. She wouldn’t have anything to do with me. No money, no truck, no job, no rehab . . . . I had nothing. To her, I was a failure. And she had me pegged. She drove me back to the rehab house and dropped me off. She left. They didn’t want me back. So I decided to just forget everyone. I lived on the streets for about two months. Hitchhiking around, bumming money, smoking pot, drinking whiskey or tequila or cheap beer, and going to bars defined my lifestyle. In order to get back into the program, I just had to keep attending church at their church. They had to know that I was making a serious commitment to the program and to changing my life. They finally let me back in with the requirements that I not see my girlfriend at all, and that my attitude improve. I lasted about two weeks and got booted out. Nobody wanted me now. Nobody.

I lugged all my stuff to the street corner and tried calling everyone I knew. Jim and Mark were my last resort. Of course, they took me in. Once again, they paid my rent, my credit card, my bills, and everything else. I continued to take advantage of them, being the self-centered person that I had become.

Finally, my long-time girlfriend cheated on me and dumped me and I started drinking and smoking pot in earnest. Every day, all the time. I became super-depressed, and happiness only came when I could get high or drunk. I can’t really even describe this part of my life. I had no job, not many friends, no church, and life just went on that way. The drinking and smoking and depression and loneliness and tiredness and emptiness just kept getting heavier and more intense.

Then one day, in the midst of it all, I met this delightful girl. It was Thanksgiving of 1997. I had nowhere to go so I went with Jim to his family get-together. His second cousin once removed or whatever you call it, was Don, and Don was a deacon in our church. So we went to this get-together, and being bored as usual with Christians, I decided to leave. But I had been playing cards with this most delightful girl, Don’s stepdaughter. I thought she looked quite appealing, so I called her the next night and asked her to dinner. She said, “NO.” Being used to rejection, I had to just shrug it off. Her excuse? She had to return to Corvallis the next day, to continue her education at OSU. For those of you not familiar with that place, well, their mascot is a beaver, if that tells you anything. Anyway, she said she would email me. And surprisingly enough, she did. We became good friends over the email, and soon she decided to come to Portland and attend PSU, where I planned on attending school.

In the midst of all this, I still kept on doing the bad things, while Jim and Mark continued to put up with me. Not only did they put up with me, but Jim encouraged my schooling, and he also funded it! Can you believe this guy? What was supposed to be a few day living arrangement had turned into what seemed like a lifelong commitment and investment (hopefully a good one) in me. Why? Because God wanted it that way. I sure didn’t deserve it.

Anyway, one day, while visiting my new love in Corvallis, I noticed some dark bruises on my legs. Weird, dark suckers. They scared me. The doctor checked me out and told me that my liver needed help. He said, “A few more years of this and you’ll be dead.” Right then and there I quit drinking. A few weeks later, a run-in with the cops scared me into quitting pot. So, at that one point in time, my life turned around. Jim’s investment finally started paying dividends. I quit everything cold turkey. The drugs, the drinking, the cigarettes . . . . everything. I started going to school. I got a job that I kept for the next two years. I started school full-time and graduated with honors earning a BA in English at Portland State. I married my sweetheart. Jim married us, and Mark agreed to be my best man. Tom agreed to be a groomsman. God decided to turn something nasty (me) into something nice.

So now, without bragging, I can safely say, beyond any shadow of any doubt, that Jesus Christ worked many miracles in my life. He saved me from death many times when I didn’t deserve it. He brought the people I needed into my life at the times I needed them. He healed my bruises. He took away my addictions. He gave me a wonderful wife that I couldn’t live without. And let me tell you, two people have never been better matched. He gave me a caring family. He gave me my mother and father, supportive Christian parents, and a supportive Christian sister. He gave me Jim and Mark, two selfless Jesus freaks. He gave me dear Christian parents-in-law. He gave me two genius Christian brothers-in-law. He kept me from going to prison. He funded my schooling. He fed me. He gave me the guitar I’ve always wanted. He gave me a nice apartment. He gave me a great church. He supplied the finances when I didn’t have them. He gave me the power to overcome. It’s impossible to run from God when you’re one of his. Jonah proved that to us. And I’ve proved it too. His Word says, “He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it . . .” My friends, if you’ve ever even thought about following Jesus, then it’s already too late for you to turn back. If He starts a work in you, He will be faithful to complete it. Jesus lives and He heals! Praise be to God!

My Boyfriend Raped Me

Jack seemed like a great guy at first. He’d send me flowers and shower me with affection. But then he began to change.
I first met Jack* at a BBQ dinner during my college’s Freshman Orientation. He was cracking jokes and making everyone laugh. He seemed like such a fun guy. He was also a Christian—the perfect package.

Within a month we were dating. I was flattered that Jack wanted to pursue me and excited about the way he showered me with affection. He would send me flowers. He’d also buy me cards and write Scripture mixed with professions of his love for me. I wanted to believe he was really sincere. So I blinded myself to how he was slowly changing.

When we first started dating he loved everything about me—the way I dressed, my laugh, my relationship with God, the way I interacted with my girlfriends. But it wasn’t long before he started to pick on small things. One day he decided he didn’t like my roommate. So I distanced myself from her. One night he didn’t like the outfit I was wearing—so I changed. Another night he claimed I was wearing too much make-up. So I went to the bathroom and washed it off.

We’d go out to eat and Jack would smile at other girls. If I confronted him about it, he blew me off. Not only that, he would tell me what he liked about them, and how I lacked in comparison.

I remember one incident in particular. We were in a restaurant waiting to be seated. A woman was sitting at a table nearby with her legs crossed. Jack commented on how long her legs were, then he looked at mine and didn’t say a word. But the point was clear. My legs didn’t measure up. How could he say my legs weren’t good enough? How could I change them? At that point I realized I couldn’t take it anymore. I had tried to change everything about myself to please him, and now with something I couldn’t change, insecurity overwhelmed me.

After five long months, I decided to end our relationship. Jack was angry over my decision. He felt God had told him we were to be married. I wanted to go to my girlfriends for support, but I had given them up months ago to please Jack. I suddenly felt very alone.

A few weeks later Jack called and invited me out for dinner—as friends, he said. Our time in the restaurant was awful. He was loud and obnoxious to the waiters and to me. When he asked to drive me back to my dorm after dinner, I didn’t object. I was more than ready for the evening to end. Unfortunately he didn’t intend to drive me home. He took me to a deserted parking lot and raped me.

I remember very few things about the actual rape—the car windshield covered with fog, the struggle, and the moment I felt too overpowered to resist any longer. In that instant I realized there was nothing I could do to stop what was happening. He was simply too strong.

When it was over, Jack took me back to my dorm, told me he would give me a call, and simply left. I was in shock. All I remember about those following hours is standing in the shower with all my clothes on, sobbing uncontrollably, desperately wanting the water to wash away the evening’s events.

The Search for Healing

Eight months later I found myself standing in a crowded court room. I had been told that going through the legal process would feel like being raped a second time, but actually it was worse. Even after sharing every intimate detail of the rape, Jack was still found not guilty—insufficient evidence. Case closed.

After that I fell into a deep depression. The college I attended said Jack would be allowed to register for classes. Innocent until proven guilty.

In the months that followed, Jack stalked me. He followed me to my classes, to the cafeteria, to my dorm. The helplessness I had felt during the rape was now multiplying, as I felt more and more helpless on campus.

Finally I reached a breaking point and started contemplating suicide. Around that time I attended a chapel service on campus.

A man named Stephen Arterburn was scheduled to speak. I expected him to talk about some recent missions trip or share his published study on a biblical text. Instead, this man—the founder of New Life Clinics, treatment centers for Christians struggling with depression, suicide, and abuse—spoke on the reality of pain.

Stephen’s words caught my attention. He said that even though everything might look okay on the outside, he knew some of us were thinking about suicide. Then he said something I’ll never forget: “There’s no shame in doing everything it takes to choose life.”

I realized that a trip to one of his clinics was exactly what I needed. But the clinic was expensive; my parents’ insurance wouldn’t cover the costs and they didn’t know what to do. However, one of my mom’s friends—a counselor—told my parents I’d had an “emotional heart attack.” She explained that when someone has a heart attack, you don’t wonder what to do; you get her to the emergency room in time to save her life. That put the money issue into perspective for my parents; three days later I checked into a New Life Clinic.

During the first week I sat in the hall and stared at the floor. On the outside I looked emotionless, but on the inside I was screaming with rage. Rage that demanded to know why I was the one in a psychiatric ward instead of the man who’d raped me. Rage that wanted to have my life back. But instead of the rage coming out, it all just brewed inside me—until Mark approached me.

I’ll never forget his face. It glowed with a certain peace. He was a fellow patient getting ready to go home in a week. Mark walked up to me, introduced himself, and said, “Me Ra, the longer you deny your pain, the longer it will rule your life. Look around you. All the other patients here are twice your age. Why? It’s because we did what you’re doing now for most our lives. We ignored our pain and stuffed it down. But one day it exploded, and that’s why we’re here. Do you see how much you have to gain if you invest yourself into your time at this clinic?” His words burned into me.
That night I couldn’t go to sleep. As I thought about what Mark had said, I let my pain and anger surface. Tears finally came, followed by sleep.

For the next few weeks, I went through 8 to 12 hours of therapy a day—sometimes in group sessions, sometimes individually. It was really hard—hard to face my fears, hard to let all my emotions out. But through the process God brought a lot of healing.
The Necessity of Forgiveness
When I came home from the clinic, memories of the rape haunted me day and night. Feelings of being trapped would grip me when I’d least expect it. It took me a while to realize that if I wanted to move on in the healing process, I would have to forgive Jack. If I didn’t let go of my bitterness, it would destroy me. So I chose to forgive, but I soon learned it would be an ongoing process.

One night I needed to use a restroom at a grocery store. It was in a very obscure place at the back of the store. To get to it I had to go through a set of double doors, around boxes of stacked food, through another door, down some stairs, down another hallway, and around the corner. As I walked down the stairs, all I could hear was a radio playing and a man yelling at one end. I couldn’t see him; I could just hear him. I began to wonder if he could see me. What if something happened? Would anyone hear me over the blaring radio?

I feared being raped again.

In that moment of fear, I had to choose to forgive—again—the man who had raped me.

In the weeks that followed, my desire to let go of my pain and hurt was tested over and over. Sometimes I’d step into an elevator and realize the only other person in there was a man I didn’t know. The familiar feeling of being trapped would wash over me. I’d have to force my fears to stop, take a deep breath, and choose to forgive again. I’m relieved that these moments of fear come less and less now, but there are still daily situations that can instantly leave me feeling vulnerable.

It’s hard to admit I’m sometimes scared and feel out of control. Sometimes I think admitting this makes me more vulnerable. But the truth is that not being able to admit it is what really makes me vulnerable. For a while I told myself I would have to be my own protector since I felt God had failed me the night I was raped. But as I tried to protect myself and be tough on the outside, bitterness grew within me. It became like a wall to everyone who wanted to love and support me.

I didn’t want to grow up to be a bitter woman after all the counseling and prayer I’d invested in my healing. Yet, as long as I hung on to bitterness my healing was always one reach too far. Forgiveness was the only way to get rid of it. Not only did I have to forgive Jack, but I also had to forgive myself for not seeing the warning signs of an abusive relationship.

Forgiveness has been a lot of hard work. I’ve had to tackle some tough questions. Like many children who become a Christian at an early age, I believed in God because my family did. But I didn’t know God intimately. For the first time in my entire life, the rape left me feeling abandoned by God. I wondered how he could let something so awful happen to me—his little girl. I didn’t understand that bad things can happen to good people.

I may never know why this happened to me on this side of eternity. But even though I don’t have all the answers, I’ve learned that God will never leave me—and that he can take a broken heart and mend it back together again.

Name has been changed.

Me Ra Koh is now married and recently gave birth to her first child. She is the author of Beauty Restored: Finding Life and Hope After Date Rape (Regal). You can find her book at your local bookstore or online at amazon.com.
Date Rape: The Warning Signs
Although there is no completely accurate description of a typical date/acquaintance rapist, experts have identified several warning signs to help you recognize potential danger before it happens. Girls should beware of a guy who:

• Acts immaturely; shows little empathy or feeling for others.

• Displays anger or aggression, either physically or verbally. The anger may not be directed at you but may come out during conversations. He may make negative comments about women. He might use vulgarity, show rudeness toward others,and the like. He might also think of women as adversaries.

• Behaves in a macho manner and brags about his strength.

• Has a short temper.

• Shows physical aggression, through slapping, grabbing, twisting arms, and so on.

• Acts excessively jealous and/or possessive. Be especially suspicious of this behavior if you’ve only recently met him or are on a first or second date.

• Ignores your wishes. Attempts to make you feel guilty or accuses you of being uptight.

• Becomes hostile and/or increasingly more aggressive when you say no.

• Tries to separate you from your friends and family by convincing you to spend more time with him and less with them.

• Insists on being alone with you on a first date.

• Demands your attention or compliance at inappropriate times, such as during class, or interrupting one of your conversations with someone else.

• Asks personal questions and wants to know more about you than you want to tell him.

• Believes that all males and females fit traditional stereotypes.

If you are with a person who exhibits any of the above behaviors, be very cautious and take your time getting to know him. Be a good listener, paying careful attention to remarks that may be warning signals.

Many acquaintance and date rapists plan to rape and then set out to find the victim. They often test a potential victim. For example, a rapist may try placing a hand on a potential victim’s thigh. If she does not react, even if she obviously feels uncomfortable, the rapist may identify her as easy prey.
A date rapist may also try to get a potential victim to trust him and then invent some reason for her to come to his house or apartment. The date rapist is usually very manipulative and tries to con an unsuspecting victim.

Many date rapists are repeat offenders and are skilled at identifying weaknesses in potential victims. The rapist is looking for a woman he can control, because his primary motivation is power rather than sex.

Some date rapists exhibit a Jekyll-and-Hyde personality. They may appear to be great guys. But when under stress or when they find a vulnerable victim, their personalities change.
What to Do If You Are Raped
Tell someone—a parent, a friend. You need support, and you don’t need to be alone.

• Do not shower or clean yourself. As soon as possible, go to a hospital or clinic. They’ll be able to treat you if you have injuries. They’ll also help you preserve evidence in case you press charges.

• Call the police or a rape crisis center. One of the following organizations may also be able to help you:

Minirth Meier/New Life Clinics: 1-800-637-7974

Rapha Treatment Centers: 1-800-383-4673

The Center for the Prevention of Sexual and Domestic Violence: (206) 634-1903

Adapted from Beauty Restored by Me Ra Koh, Appendix II, page 5 (Regal Books, 2001).

The Effects of Sex

The guilt I felt after having sex was overwhelming. I thought God could never forgive me for what I’d done.
You want to know what it’s like to have sex before you’re married? It’s like building a big wall between you and God, a wall you wonder if you’ll ever break through. I know because I had sex with my boyfriend.

Derrick and I met our freshman year of high school. It didn’t take me long to develop a big crush on him. By the time we were seniors, we were very close friends. But that seemed to be all we were, at least to him.

One day, when we were taking a walk, he reached for my hand. I was so surprised, you could have knocked me over. A few days later, he kissed me for the first time. And after a few months, we were fooling around, doing more than we should, on a pretty regular basis.

To me, the idea that someone as cute as Derrick found me attractive was incredible. And for the first time in my life, I actually felt beautiful, even sexy. I suppose that’s why I forced my conscience to shut up when it told me we were going too far physically. I hadn’t dated much, and I had never done anything except kiss a guy before. So being with Derrick—and knowing he wanted to be with me—was too strong a temptation.

Near the end of our senior year, we had sex for the first time. By that time, I wanted it as much as Derrick did. He never pressured me, and he never made me do anything I didn’t want to do. When I think back now, I almost wish he had pressured me a little. At least then I could blame him. But I can only blame myself.

Television and movies make it seem like sex is just this fun, romantic thing that doesn’t really matter. But sex affected me more than I ever dreamed it could. It changed every relationship I had. Sex became the focus of my relationship with Derrick. It also affected my relationship with my parents. I couldn’t look them in the eye, especially when Derrick was around. I thought my parents would be able to tell just by looking at us, and I didn’t ever want them to know.

And it definitely changed my relationship with God. I felt too ashamed to even talk to God, much less ask him for help and forgiveness. That’s when I felt that wall start to go up—the wall I thought would hide me from God.

I had been a Christian my whole life, and I’d never gotten into any trouble before. But the guilt I felt after having sex was overwhelming. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to keep me from doing it again. Instead, I tried to justify what Derrick and I were doing. I told myself it wasn’t a big deal, that it was just a physical act. I tried not to let it bother me.

But it did bother me—a lot.

By the time Derrick and I broke up a few months later, I could hardly look at myself in the mirror. When I did, I saw someone dirty, someone who couldn’t control herself, someone who was slapping God in the face on a regular basis.

After the breakup, I felt like my only hope was to turn back to God and repent for what I’d done. I tried to do my regular devotions, but I couldn’t. Every time I read the Bible, it seemed like I found a verse about sexual immorality that just made me realize how much I’d disappointed God. I couldn’t even pray.

I had always known God forgives sins. I had even told other friends that God would forgive them for the sexual things they’d done. But now that it was my turn, I just couldn’t believe that God could wash all that sin away. It seemed like too big a job, even for God.

It took me months of struggle to finally ask for forgiveness. The wall I’d put up between me and God finally came down, but I still had to live with the “bricks”—my feelings of guilt—that were piled around me. I knew God had forgotten my sin. The trouble was, I couldn’t.

It’s been a few years since Derrick and I broke up. And every single day, I struggle to trust in God’s forgiveness. Every day, I have to fight off my fears that God will punish me someday. My biggest fear is that I will never find a Christian man who’ll be able to live with the truth about me. And even if he can, I’ll have to live with the knowledge that I stole something from him. I’ve made it impossible for him to enjoy God’s gift of sex with someone who saved herself for him.

Back when I started having sex, I was focused on the pleasure I wanted right then. If I’d only known how much pain it would cause, believe me, I never would have given in.

Every Guy’s Struggle

I agonized, I pleaded with God. But then I’d find myself again and again falling into lust.

Bored and without much to do on a Saturday night, I was alone in the basement surfing through TV channels. Like snapshots with sound, the images flipped by rapidly, telling me that, as usual, there wasn’t much of anything on TV.

Then I hit a couple of numbers randomly, and suddenly I was staring at slightly blurred images of naked bodies having sex.

The blurry reception told me our cable connection had picked up a station that wasn’t part of our package. I glanced at the remote, and then looked nervously toward the basement stairway. I knew I should change the channel, but instead I stared at the couple on the screen. Minutes passed before I clicked the remote. In that short period of time, I’d placed powerful images in my mind that would play over and over like a continuous instant replay.

It wasn’t the last time I’d turn to this “secret channel.” Throughout my junior year, I’d find opportunities to watch it. Sexually excited by what I’d seen, I’d go into the bathroom and masturbate. Then I’d experience intense guilt.

I tried to stop. Sometimes I’d go weeks without watching that pornographic station. Even so, there were still other things that stimulated me sexually—and I didn’t have to make any special effort to find them. It could be a model in a commercial or magazine ad. Or maybe I would stare longer than I should at a girl at school in a midriff-baring top, a short dress or low-cut shirt. I’d find myself daydreaming about what I’d seen. Sometimes those images I tucked into my brain led me to masturbate. But whether or not I masturbated, I knew I’d let myself fall into lust.

I agonized. I pleaded with God:

“God, forgive me!”

“Help me!”

“I’m so sorry … “

But then I’d find myself giving in and letting my mind go places it shouldn’t. The shame and the guilt dug in deeper and deeper.

Help Me to Be Like Joseph

During this time, I really was trying to live my faith, which included reading my Bible. I remember reading through the book of Genesis and being surprised by the problems many of God’s people experienced. Apparently God used less-than-perfect people, I thought. There might be hope for me.

Then I came to the incredible story of Joseph near the end of Genesis. I was pulled in by this story of a young man who was sexually harassed by a powerful and probably very beautiful woman. She wouldn’t leave him alone, yet he consistently ignored her advances. One time she approached him, grabbed him by his coat and insisted: “Have sex with me!” He didn’t try to reason with her. He didn’t pause to think about whether he should or shouldn’t hang around. His first impulse was to get out of there—and quickly.

To make sure I hadn’t missed anything important, I reread the story. Then I prayed:

“God, help me to be more like Joseph … “

Far from Alone

As sincere as my prayer was, I continued to struggle. I felt so alone in my shame and guilt. But I knew I wasn’t alone. The guys in my small group Bible study would often hint at their own struggles. But they’d never get too specific. There would be a moment of embarrassing silence, then the topic would change. It was like we all knew we struggled, yet were afraid to get too vulnerable. I began to think lust and masturbation were problems too private to talk about—even with a group of guys.

Then I did take a chance and started confiding in a couple of close friends. I was really nervous about it at first, but I discovered they were a lot like me: feeling guilty about lust, yet unable to gain control over it. Throughout the rest of that school year, we occasionally talked about our problems. Even so, I still struggled.

Then something happened during my senior year that gave me hope. After our church’s midweek service, I started talking to one of the close friends I’d been confiding in. Since he’d had problems with Internet porn and masturbation, I asked him how he was doing. He looked at me and said, “Mark, I haven’t done any of that in a month.” He then began talking about sexual purity, and how he felt God was helping him make changes in his life. In a few minutes, another guy dropped by the table we were sitting at. Then another and another. Before long, there were six of us talking openly about lust. By the time we’d finished our conversation, I felt like God really could change me!

Before our conversation ended, we’d formed an accountability group. The six of us started meeting weekly. We promised to be open and real with each other—and not share anything we heard with anyone outside the group. We also talked a lot about the importance of not putting ourselves in situations that would cause us to think or do things we knew were wrong. And when it came to dating, we all agreed that going out with someone who wanted to push the limits was asking for trouble.

The discussions—and the accountability—were great. But there were still times we’d get discouraged over how often we’d fail.

“Run Toward God”

Around this time an adult leader from the church visited our group. He congratulated us for our courage and our desire to change. Then he told us something that really helped. As best as I can remember, here’s some of what he said:

“You need to ask God for forgiveness and then forget about it. After all, God forgets about it! He has a short memory when it comes to confessed sin.

“There will always be sin in our lives, so don’t dwell on it. Confess it, then move on and talk about prevention. But don’t focus so much on what you shouldn’t do. Instead, get rooted in God. Don’t just run away from lust. Run toward God.”

Our meetings changed after that. While we continued to talk about our struggles, we also talked more about building a solid relationship with Christ. By drawing closer to Christ, we discovered it was easier to distance ourselves from lustful thinking and actions.

We also discovered something about the power of Jesus’ death on the cross. We came to realize that Jesus not only died for our sins, but he also died for our guilt and shame. Up to that point, guilt and shame were like an enormous weight I dragged around wherever I went. But Jesus’ death meant I didn’t have to drag around that weight. What an amazing truth!

Answering My Prayer

I’m now a freshman at a Christian college. A friend of mine from last year’s accountability group also attends this school, and we decided to start a group like the one we had back home. This new group is not only helping us with our struggles, it’s also helping us grow closer to God.

I must be honest and say that I haven’t gained total control over lust. I don’t believe that will happen until I get to heaven. But I’m doing much better than I was a few years ago. I’m becoming more like Joseph: God is answering that prayer I prayed my junior year.

Most importantly, God is changing my heart. And it really is about turning to God. When I fill my mind and my heart with thoughts of him, and with the things he loves and desires, there really isn’t room for much of anything else.

*name has been changed

A Message for the Girls

Are you shocked by Mark’s struggle? Don’t be. Mark isn’t alone in dealing with lust. He’s not weird, sick or a pervert. Mark’s just more candid about this issue than many of our Christian brothers are comfortable being with us girls.

For guys, much of the battle is on the visual front. Guys tend to become sexually stimulated by what they see. Like Mark, many of them fight desperately to keep pure thoughts while they are surrounded by sexual images.

When he spoke to Campus Life, Mark shared that he’d like girls to read Every Young Man’s Battle: Strategies for Victory in the Real World of Sexual Temptation by Stephen Arterburn and Fred Stoeker (Waterbrook Press, 2002). Even though this book is written for young men, Mark says, “It will really help girls to respect how difficult it is for guys to be God-honoring in this area of our lives.”

Don’t get me wrong: We’re each responsible to God for ourselves. It’s a guy’s responsibility to gain control over his thoughts and actions. That’s between him and God. But the way we girls dress can help our Christian brothers maintain pure thoughts—or it can make their struggle with lust more difficult.

I’d encourage you to take responsibility for what you wear. With the help of your mom, a friend, your brothers or even your dad, look through your closet and ask yourself if each item there helps or hurts your male friends in their quest for purity. It’s something to think about when you’re trying on clothes at the mall, too.

By paying attention to how we dress, we’re doing more than helping our Christian brothers. We’re preparing ourselves to attract guys who will want to be with us for the right reasons.

—LaTonya Taylor

Loving the Unlovable

Surely, Jesus didn’t mean to love everybody …
I hit the red button in front of me. A light bulb lit up and a buzzzz sound rang out.

My scholastic bowl coach, Ms. Lemon, had just asked the last question of our practice match. The score was tied. And I knew the answer. The question: “Who wrote Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea?”

Mrs. Lemon called on me as I started laughing so hard I couldn’t get the name “Jules Verne” out.

“Time’s up,” she said. And then, the other team won.

As I was leaving practice, Ms. Lemon pulled me aside. “You lost that for your team,” she said, her voice shaking. “And I know why. Jules Verne made you think of Vern didn’t it?”

Everyone at my school knew Vern. He smelled. He wore big work boots and torn shirts every day. And he didn’t seem too bright. When Jules Verne came to mind, I was laughing at the idea of Vern writing a book.

“Vern doesn’t deserve to be treated that way,” Ms. Lemon said. “What makes you think he’s so unlovable that he doesn’t deserve simple respect?”

I had no answer. Suddenly feeling hot and sweaty, I apologized to her and left. But one word stuck with me for days: unlovable. I kept thinking about all the people in my high school who did seem downright unlovable. There were strange outcasts like Vern. There were mean kids like Justin, the bully who always called me fat. And there were crabby, annoying people like those guys in my algebra study group who never agreed about anything. Clearly, I thought, all of these people are unlovable.

But as a Christian, I’m supposed to love them all.

Perhaps Jesus’ toughest teaching is to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12: 31, NIV). Sure, that seems easy enough—until you really think about what it means. He didn’t say “like” them. He said “love” them. And you don’t get to pick who your neighbor is. It’s everyone—from Vern to Justin to your little brother who shampoos your hair while you sleep. (OK, maybe only my brother did that.)

Were Jesus’ expectations too high? I mean, he never had to go to high school. If so, surely he’d know that it’s not so easy to love everybody.

Well, that’s a cool thing about Jesus. He wasn’t just God on High shouting down orders. He experienced what we experience. When he told us to live a certain way, it was coming from a guy who’d been there. He lived on Earth—and probably knew his share of Verns and Justins. And he had little brothers.

However, Jesus understood two important truths:

1) Everyone is created in God’s image. So if we are worthy of love, so is everyone else because of who made them. 2) Because of sin, we’re all really unlovable. But Christ changed the rules by offering love, grace and forgiveness (Romans 5:8). If God can love us, surely we can love those around us.

But how do we do it?

Recently, I heard a pastor give a sermon about John 13. It changed how I view treating the hard-to-like people around me.
Here’s the big thing the pastor said that blew my mind: At the Last Supper, Jesus was in the same room with a bunch of people about to betray him, deny him and desert him. And he knew it. Talk about hard-to like people. But what does Jesus do? “He got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him” (John 13:4-5, NIV).

Whoa. He’s surrounded by guys who don’t deserve his love or respect. And he washes their feet.

Right here, Jesus shows how to love the unlovables. It’s not to just tolerate them. Or just not make fun of them. Or to pretend you love them. Instead, we should serve them.

Here’s why: 1) Serving gives us an easy way to see how we should love. It’s not just some mushy, hard-to-grasp emotion, but an action. 2) Serving someone has a way of changing the way we see them. If you are continually looking out for a way to help someone, it’s very hard to think they’re worthless. It’s very hard to stay mad at them.

Of course, it’d be weird to whip out a towel and lather up a bully’s feet. But serving them starts with praying for them. And then look for opportunities. Maybe it’s holding a door open when someone is carrying his band instrument. Or spotting someone a quarter when she’s short for a soda.

I wish I could say that I helped Vern with math problems. Or helped Justin jump his car. But I didn’t. However, those regrets push me to make the choice to serve the Justins and Verns in my life now. And that’s exactly what it is: a choice. Galatians 5:13 puts it like this: “It is absolutely clear that God has called you to a free life. Just make sure that you don’t use this freedom as an excuse to do whatever you want … Rather, use your freedom to serve one another in love” (The Message).

Going To Youth Group for All the Wrong Reasons

I knew I should be paying attention, but there was so much to talk about instead.
“WOW.” I said aloud the word my friend Jaimee* was “signing”—with three raised fingers in a “W” shape on either side of her “O”-shaped mouth. I echoed her gesture.

“Wow!” mouthed Jaimee.

“Wow … Wow … Wow,” I repeated quietly.

Jaimee and I erupted into giggles, but quickly stifled them. We sat in the back row of youth group, as far away from any youth leaders as possible. We knew we should have been paying attention to Giles’s sermon, but we had no desire to listen to our youth pastor. There were movies and song lyrics to quote, boys to discuss, and inside jokes to crack.

Jaimee was my closest friend, but since neither of us could drive yet, we could only see each other at youth group. And her friendship was what mattered most to me.

I’d met Jaimee my freshman year. My family had just gotten settled into a new church and I met her at youth group. Before long we were the best of friends—completely inseparable when we were at youth group events.

Jaimee was the only person I trusted. We confided in each other about absolutely everything, including the guys we were interested in. So, the day a classmate told me that Jaimee was pursuing the guy I liked, I was stunned. I tried calling her so she could explain, but she wouldn’t return my calls. My shock and confusion became outright anger that I could hardly hold in.

The next Sunday, I waited outside of youth group to confront her. As Jaimee’s mom’s car pulled up, I sprung up from the bench I was sitting on, ready to explode. I managed a polite “hello” to Jaimee’s mom, but once she drove away, I started in.

“Why? Why would you do that?” I spat out. “You knew I liked him. Of all the guys in the world, why did you go for him?”

“I don’t remember you ever saying you liked him,” Jaimee innocently replied.

“Are you kidding? That’s all you and I talked about for weeks. And you didn’t even know him until I introduced you.”

“I guess I didn’t think you liked him that much. And I can’t help it if someone you like happened to like me instead.” She shrugged, quickly turned away from me, and walked into the building.

I stood there fuming. All I could think was, This is supposed to be my closest friend. And she’s a total liar.

Over the next few months, I tried to reconcile with her. Even though she never admitted to betraying me, we made up a few times—but then she’d backstab me in a different way soon after. Our giggles and jokes turned into icy glares and the silent treatment.

It wasn’t long before Jaimee stopped going to youth group. Even though she was my main reason for going to youth group, I decided to keep going. I ended up making some other friends, but I noticed they were different. They were focused on worship, attentive during messages, and really open during small group. I admired them for what seemed like a genuine faith, but I still wasn’t sure I wanted to be like them.

The next summer, I decided to go on the youth group’s annual summer camping trip. On a placid lake in northern Minnesota, miles from civilization, and without distracting friends, I actually listened to what Giles was saying.

Throughout the week, he taught on Colossians 3:1-3: “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God” (NIV). During an evening message, he said, “Setting your mind on things above means doing everything because of Jesus.” He continued, “The passage says you died and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. Is that you? Have you died to yourself? You’ll know by how much you hunger for God.”

I felt totally convicted. I didn’t have a hunger for God. I was totally focused on earthly things. Thinking back to my relationship with Jaimee, I realized I had a tendency to make my friends into idols. I had often let them take the place of God in my life. During a morning devotional time, I stepped into a canoe with only my Bible, a journal, and a pen. I paddled a good distance away from shore and soaked in the stillness.

The lake was calm and the morning breeze cool as I started thinking and praying. I opened my journal and wrote a prayer: Lord, I’ve learned I can’t depend on people. I can only depend on you. I confess that I’ve idolized friendships and I want to change. Forgive me for my sins, and help me to walk with you and put you first.

I left that week with a real hunger to understand this God I had just been pretending to know. I still struggled with placing my friends above God. But I realized that if I seek God first, I would start hearing and seeing God through my friends—in their words of encouragement, hugs, and examples. My friends became more than just people to talk to and joke with; they became my brothers and sisters in Christ, who walked alongside me and continually pointed me to God.

8 Steps to a Better Friendship with God

Tips on how to form good habits.

“Where’s Angela?” I asked. The rest of our family was slumped on the living room couch. Everyone shrugged. Curious, I went in search of my sis.

I checked each room of the house. When I finally found her, she was intensely focused on something. She looked up, revealing the object of her attention—her Bible.

I started to notice that Angela “disappeared” about the same time each day. I wondered how she found time to read God’s Word: Between school, choir, church and volunteer activities, Angela’s one of the busiest people I know. So I asked her.

“Well, every day I have to make the choice to spend time with God,” she said. “It’s not easy, but it’s worth it—devotions help me to get to know God on my own, to have a real, personal relationship with him.”

Angela had some great tips on how she formed her good habit. Here are eight of them.

  1. Schedule a devotional “appointment.” Write a specific time and location on your calendar, or in your planner. You might want to choose a time that corresponds with another daily activity: after you get up in the morning, right after school, or immediately after dinner. Try to avoid putting devotions off until the end of the day. “If I wait until bedtime, I usually end up skipping it because I fall asleep,” Angela says.
  2. Choose your tools. Some basics include: 1) A Bible. Biblegateway.com offers 16 versions for you to compare, from that classic King James Version to modern versions like The Message. Or, consider using a student or study Bible—many contain reading plans and practical ways to apply Scripture to everyday situations. 2) A devotional book. Some are specifically for students. Many have a “thought for the day” and questions to help you relate the verses you’ve read to your own life. 3) A journal. Use it to record your favorite verses and reflections on Scripture. Or, try writing a poem or letter to God.
  3. Start with prayer. Ask God to keep you focused and to help you understand what you’re about to read. “Sometimes, my mind just starts to drift. I tell God I’ve set aside this time especially for him, and that I choose to focus on him,” Angela says.
  4. Use your Bible. Even if you use a devotional book with verses printed in it, read the passages in your Bible anyway. “Prove it to yourself that it’s really there,” Angela suggests. “It helps you to think of that verse as part of God’s Word, and not as just an excerpt from some random book.” Plus, you might spot another meaningful verse that wasn’t included in the devotional book.
  5. Read it until you get it. First, read verse by verse—read each verse several times until you understand what it is saying, then move on to the next one. Then, go back and read the entire passage, putting its meaning all together in your mind. Even if you’re familiar with a passage, try to read it like you’ve never seen it before—don’t skim. God might give you an understanding of something you’ve never noticed before.
  1. Don’t just read the Bible—do what it says (James 1:22). Make a list of personal traits (patience, kindness) or spiritual goals (witnessing, prayer) you’d like to work on. Each week, choose one item from your list. Using a concordance, biblegateway.com or a devotional book, find verses about that topic. Then, try to find ways to apply what you’ve read.
  2. Make a commitment. On a piece of paper, write these words: “I commit to read my Bible every day for the next month.” Sign your name and tape the paper somewhere in your bedroom where you can see it.
  3. Don’t give up. Let’s face it: There will be days when you skip devotions. Just try to keep it a high priority and do it whenever you can. “God is not going to abandon you if you don’t do a devotion one day—he knows what our schedules are like, and he knows our hearts,” Angela says. “Any time that you spend with God, he can use it to teach you and to grow your faith.”

How Far Is Too Far?

Students talk about what it does and doesn’t mean to be sexually pure.

Ever wonder what other Christians think about sex? Or how far they think is too far? Or how they would define sexual purity? Well, we wanted to know what Christian students are saying about abstinence and sexual purity. What we found were some misconceptions and unclear boundaries.

Take Tim*, 16, for example. Tim’s a Christian who believes wholeheartedly in abstinence. He says, “If you remain abstinent until marriage, you’re sexually pure.” But then he says, “I think petting’s all right. If you have genuine feelings for a person, if you love them, and if you are truly close to them, then what you’re doing is OK.”

Like Tim, many high school students —including a lot of Christians—are committed to sexual abstinence. In fact, recent research shows that fewer high school students are having sex today than were having sex a decade ago. Even so, many of these same students miss the point about other types of sexual activity.

“Actually, I think foreplay makes you stronger,” says Jenny, 17. “If you can last through foreplay, and not go all the way with it, you have a lot of self-control, and that’s a good thing. Foreplay is OK for a Christian.”

A Tough Lesson

There are many other Christian students, however, who believe sexual purity is about a whole lot more than just staying a virgin. And some of them have, unfortunately, discovered this truth through painful experiences.

Sarah, 18, is seven months pregnant. A couple of years ago, before she met Kevin, she was committed to sexual abstinence. But when Kevin and Sarah started dating, her values began to crumble. Before long, Sarah and Kevin were going pretty far sexually. Sarah wanted to believe this was true love. If it was true love, she reasoned, they really weren’t doing anything wrong. Eventually Sarah and Kevin were having sexual intercourse.

“I’d talk to this Christian friend of mine and she’d say, ‘Sarah, you’re rationalizing everything just to keep him. You’re making everything that’s wrong sound right.’ My friend was so right, but I’d pretty much pushed God and my values out of the picture.”

A few months into the relationship, Sarah left home to live with her boyfriend. Then she became pregnant. It was around this time that Kevin became physically abusive.

“Kevin’s abuse was a wake-up call for me,” says Sarah. “I moved out and went back home.”

As she’s recovered from her relationship with Kevin, Sarah has renewed her commitment to God. She’s also changed her attitude about sex.

“Sexual purity isn’t just about sexual abstinence,” says Sarah. “People who think that it’s just about virginity are headed for trouble. They are so wrong. I was so wrong.

“Sexual purity includes the things you think, as well as the things you do. Your thoughts lead to actions. And if you’re thinking a lot about sex, and if you’re fooling around with petting, you’re playing with gasoline and matches. You are going to get burned. I know from experience.”

Committed to Purity

“A lot of teens believe that if they haven’t had sexual intercourse, they haven’t had sex,” says Cynthia, 17. “I don’t buy into that thinking for a minute.”

Cynthia is a member of TYGR, Today’s Youth Getting Real, a group located in San Antonio, Texas. Through skits and talks at local high schools and churches, TYGR wants to encourage students to practice sexual purity. The group also seeks to educate students about the consequences of premarital sex.

“We want students to understand that sexual activity can lead to some very serious consequences, like AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases,” says Cynthia. “We want students to understand that sex, and this includes any kind of sexual activity, affects a person emotionally, physically and spiritually. Sex is a wonderful gift when practiced according to God’s plan. It is very harmful and destructive when God’s plan is abused.”

TYGR is just one group among many that challenges students to take a stand for purity. Probably the largest student-led, pro-abstinence organization is True Love Waits. Participants sign pledge cards stating they will remain sexually abstinent until they get married.

“I signed the True Love Waits card when I was 13,” says Lisa, now 17. “I’ve headed up True Love Waits rallies at my school. I’m committed to sexual purity, and I want to help other students stay committed too.

“True Love Waits isn’t just about not having sex. It’s about doing exactly what God wants for your life. And what God wants is for you to remain sexually pure, both in the way you act and in the way you think.”

Yet Lisa is the first to admit that sexual purity isn’t easy.

“It’s easy to sign a card and say, ‘I’m going to keep my True Love Waits commitment,'” says Lisa. “But it gets really tough when you’re faced with a date who wants to go further than you want, or when you’re pressured by friends to follow the crowd. It’s a daily struggle.”

Getting Practical

To deal with the struggle, say Lisa and others who value sexual purity, you’ve got to avoid situations that could compromise your values.

“I was in a situation a few months ago I shouldn’t have been in,” says Matt, 18. “I was alone in the house with this girl I was dating. We were close to having sex when I looked at my ‘What Would Jesus Do?’ bracelet. I knew Jesus wouldn’t be doing this!

“I told her I wouldn’t go any further. Then I got in my truck and drove away. After that experience, I decided to stop dating that girl. And I’ve let her know I’m sorry for what I did.

“I’m glad to say I’m still a virgin, although I’m not proud to admit that I went as far as I did.”

Matt says he no longer puts himself in situations where he’ll be tempted to compromise his values—or his sexual purity.

“I’ve decided to pretty much just go on group dates. I think it’s better to get to know girls while I’m out with groups of friends,” says Matt. “I just make sure I’m not alone with a girl I’m attracted to.”

Other students who are committed to purity also say they’ve taken practical steps to make sure they remain true to their commitment.

“A friend and I hold each other accountable for how we act on dates,” says Daniel, 17. “We give each other permission to ask questions like, ‘Where did you go? What did you do?’ Knowing I might be asked these questions helps keep me from doing something I’ll be ashamed of.

“I think accountability is so important, and so is prayer,” says Cynthia. “My good friend Amy is my prayer partner. We pray about each other’s purity. We also talk to each other about guidelines for what we will and won’t do. Then after one of us has gone out, we’ll talk to each other about the date.”

“My girlfriend and I have also set limits,” says Daniel. “We will only hold hands and hug briefly. Kissing, for us, is out. We just don’t want to be tempted to go too far.”

Daniel doesn’t believe he’s being hyper-legalistic. He simply wants to protect himself and his girlfriend.

“I gotta admit,” says Daniel. “I sometimes feel like staying sexually pure is not worth it. Then I realize I really do want to enter marriage as sexually pure as possible. I’m saving a very special gift for the one person I want to spend the rest of my life with. I want to save myself for the one I know I’ll always love the most.”

Christian students who value sexual purity realize that the happiness of their future marriage is more important than satisfying any current sexual desires. And they understand the potential consequences of sexual impurity. They also understand the most important reason of all for staying sexually pure.

As Lisa says, “Sexual purity is not simply my plan. It’s God’s plan. It’s what God wants. That makes it the best plan possible.”

*All names have been changed

True Love Waits is a nationwide student movement promoting abstinence and sexual purity. For information on how you and your friends can get involved, check out the True Love Waits website.

What’s Wrong With Sex Before Marriage?

It’s about following Christian truth and Scripture instead of popular viewpoints.

Q. I’m a 16-year-old Christian who recently gave up my virginity. I waited until I really loved my boyfriend, and I knew he loved me. I don’t think sex has anything to do with the fact that you’re married or single. I think it’s a choice each person has to make by asking themselves if they’re prepared for the outcome if something goes wrong. I talked to my partner about the possible outcomes. We used protection and nothing bad happened.

My boyfriend broke up with me recently. I know it wasn’t because of sex, it was just because we had grown apart in our relationship. We’re still best friends and we talk all the time. I still don’t regret anything I’ve done because I know I loved my boyfriend, and I always will. So why do people judge me when they find out that I’m not a virgin?

A. You feel criticized by people who learn you aren’t a virgin, but you might be surprised to know that some people feel criticized for just the opposite reason—because they’ve never had sex! It depends on who is doing the criticism, and what their philosophy is. In America today there are at least two very different philosophies of sex.

You’ve done a good job articulating the way sex is seen by many, especially on TV sitcoms, in most movies, and in supermarket magazines. The key to this philosophy is the individual—his or her likes and dislikes, his or her choices and responsibility. In this view, sex is a way for individuals to enjoy each other. Each person must decide individually whether to make love or not, with whom, and for how long. The only constraint should be whether they’re prepared to handle the consequences. You can’t avoid some risks, so you ought to face them honestly, minimize them if you can, and take responsibility for the results, whatever they are. If you should happen to get a sexually transmitted disease, or become pregnant, or decide you’re not meant for each other, those are just the breaks of the game. Most likely you’ll move through a number of sexual relationships before you find one that gives you lasting satisfaction. (And some people never find that, but keep moving from one partner to the next.)

If you follow this philosophy, there’s no reason to blame you for losing your virginity. If someone had a baby and didn’t take care of it, or contracted AIDS and whined about it, that would be wrong. But there’s nothing wrong with what you’ve done—if you believe this philosophy.

I follow a different philosophy based on Christian truth and Scripture. The key to this philosophy is relationship. Sex, according to this view, is the way for individuals to bind themselves in a total relationship, in which two people become a single loving unit for the rest of their lives. In other words, sex is all about marriage and family. Your individual choice remains important, but it doesn’t remain supreme forever. You become “one flesh” with a member of the opposite sex, by choosing to marry. Sex goes with a commitment. You lose a certain amount of freedom, a certain amount of individuality. But you gain a lifelong partner and soulmate.

That’s why some people are letting you know they disapprove of what you’ve done. According to Christian thinking, you’ve missed the mark. You may have had good intentions, but you didn’t understand what sex is for. You thought it was for enjoyment, long-term or short. According to a Christian view, sex is for enjoyment in marriage—and you’ve put that at risk. You’ve behaved in a way that makes it harder for you, your partner, and all your future partners to experience the real joy of sex. When you’re used to going freely from one sexual relationship to the next, it’s hard to stay with just one person. Sexual habits are very powerful.

You can argue about which works best. But I believe the Christian way gives the most benefits and offers the greatest chance of a satisfied life. You can see the consequences of an individualistic philosophy all around, and that’s because the individualistic view of sex is unrealistic. You meet someone, decide to have sex, then go your separate ways. As long as you used protection, “nothing bad happened.”

But I’d say that something bad did happen to you and your boyfriend. A bond that was meant to be permanent was thrown away.

People who love each other enough to expose their bodies and their love to each other in total vulnerability aren’t meant to ever be torn apart. Even though you don’t regret anything, I’d be surprised if the memories of that first, failed relationship don’t stick with you. Sex is not just a physical thing. It’s spiritual. When you tear apart after sex, there are consequences.

I’d urge you to think hard about which philosophy you want to follow. Do you want to stay in tune with the modern media or invest in historic wisdom? The way you answer will have lifelong implications, so think hard.

I Can’t Stop Feeling Dirty


I Can’t Stop Feeling Dirty

Q. A few months ago, my boyfriend and I had sex. He’s 16, and I’m 14. A few weeks later, we broke up, and after that, I found out that he’d been cheating on me. Now, I feel like he was just using me. I feel really dirty, and I wish I was still a virgin. I pray every night that God will help me and forgive me, but I can’t stop feeling dirty. What can I do?

A. Through your letter, I sense the pain you’re going through, and I feel sad that you’re struggling with these feelings. Unfortunately, I do think this guy was using you. And it sounds like you’ve learned, from painful experience, why God wants us to save sex for marriage.

When you’re dating someone, you have no way of knowing if the relationship will last. And even though your feelings can be very intense and real, it’s likely that a relationship you have in high school will end. Sex is too important, too intimate and too wonderful to share with someone who isn’t committed to you for the rest of your life.

It sounds like you’re struggling with the results of a poor decision. Sexual sin is about more than the possibility of an unwanted pregnancy, disease and damage to your reputation. Here is how the Bible explains it: “Since we want to become spiritually one with the Master, we must not pursue the kind of sex that avoids commitment and intimacy, leaving us more lonely than ever—the kind of sex that can never ‘become one.’ There is a sense in which sexual sins are different from all others. In sexual sin we violate the sacredness of our own bodies, these bodies that were made for God–given and God–modeled love, for ‘becoming one’ with another” (1 Corinthians 6:17-18, The Message). That dirty feeling you have is your soul’s way of letting you know you stepped outside of what God wants for you, and that is never a pleasant place to be.

Now the good news. You aren’t dirty. Yes, you feel guilty. You might even feel foolish for believing this guy was worth giving your virginity to. But if you’ve asked God for his forgiveness, know that you are forgiven and you are all cleaned up. Here are two verses I would encourage you to read over and over until the meaning sinks deep into your heart:

• “But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us from every wrong” (1 John 1:9, NLT).

• “Because of the sacrifice of the Messiah, his blood poured out on the altar of the cross, we’re a free people—free of penalties and punishments chalked up by all our misdeeds. And not just barely free, either. Abundantly free!” (Ephesians 1:7, The Message).

The pain and guilt you’re feeling are powerful emotions. But they will never be more powerful than God’s grace. God can and does bring good out of bad situations. So look for the ways this experience can draw you closer to God as you work through your feelings and gain the strength to resist the temptation to have sex until you’re married.

I would also encourage you to confide in a Christian adult you trust— someone you believe can help explain God’s love and grace to you. God calls us to be in “Christian community” for many reasons (Hebrews 10:24-25), and one important reason is to find support and help during difficult times and struggles. Please find someone who can help you discover God’s forgiveness and peace.

Carla is an editor of the Teen Devotional Bible (Zondervan).

Can You Become a Virgin Again?


“I’ve asked for forgiveness. Now please tell me how to answer people who want to know whether or not I’m a virgin.”

It sounds ridiculous. Become a virgin again? Why not ask to relive last week? Yet if you’ve had sex, you may be saying, “I’ve asked for forgiveness. Now please tell me how to answer people who want to know whether or not I’m a virgin.”

Maybe the best answer to the question, “Are you a virgin?” is “None of your business.” But what do you tell yourself? If you want to start over, is it possible? Can you be a virgin again?

A man once posed a similar question to Jesus: “How can an old man go back into his mother’s womb and be born again?” (John 3:4) Jesus answered by talking about a second, spiritual birth. “Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives new life from heaven” (John 3:6).

You can lose your physical virginity just once. If you did it, you did it. You can’t get that first time back again. And the past carries with it physical and emotional consequences. If memories have been etched on your brain, you can’t pretend they’re gone. But spiritually, it is quite possible to start all over again.

Spiritual rebirth doesn’t destroy the past. It transforms it. A second chance, spiritually, means there are no limitations to what you can become. The God who made the universe out of nothing can take your past and make from it something beautiful.

The apostle Paul talked about this transformation when he wrote to a group of Christians in Greece. They had plenty in their past to regret. But because they trusted Jesus to redeem them, the past had been transformed:

Don’t you know that those who do wrong will have no share in the Kingdom of God? Don’t fool yourselves. Those who indulge in sexual sin, who are idol worshippers, adulterers, male prostitutes, homosexuals, thieves, greedy people, drunkards, abusers, and swindlers-none of these will have a share in the Kingdom of God. There was a time when some of you were just like that, but now your sins have been washed away, and you have been set apart for God. You have been made right with God because of what the Lord Jesus Christ and the Spirit of our God have done for you. (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).

How do you begin that kind of transformation? You can’t manage it on your own. You need God’s power and forgiveness. And where do you find that? You ask for it. Spiritual transformation begins as simply and as mysteriously as that. You ask, admitting your need. And God goes to work in your life.

So when you’ve stopped having sex and asked for forgiveness, can you call yourself a virgin? Perhaps you are no longer a virgin in the physical sense. But because you have been purified by God, you are virgin in his eyes. That may not clear up your reputation or your memory. But it does clear up your future with God. You are as good as new.

Once you’ve experienced God’s forgiveness, you’ll still have to deal with the leftovers of your past, like guilt.

Feelings of guilt are your internal, emotional response. They aren’t always reliable. What we call a guilty conscience is often a mixture of feelings: regret, loss, sadness, self-reproach. These are natural feelings for someone who’s been heavily, emotionally involved in a sexual relationship.

The sense of guilt won’t instantly change. Like other natural consequences-pregnancy, disease, or painful memories-feelings don’t necessarily disappear when God transforms your life. But their sting is taken away. So, even though you may still feel guilty, it’s vital to know that, as far as God’s concerned, you’re not guilty. That’s the truth of

1 John 1:9, where God promises to forgive us and cleanse us when we confess our sins to him. And that’s the truth of Jeremiah 31:34, where God promises to forget your sins … forever.

Jesus didn’t die on the cross to take away your feelings. He died to take away your sins. Cleansed of sin, you can work on transforming your feelings into a useful tool for God’s service. They need not lead you downward. Transformed, they can give you compassion for the pain of other people. They can give you deep determination not to go wrong again.

I Wish I Had Waited

Now I understand why God wanted me to save myself for my wedding night.

I couldn’t look her in the eye. “Yes, of course his mom will be there,” I said sarcastically. My mom questioned me like this all the time, and I deserved it. But I couldn’t let her know that. I was going to my boyfriend Kevin’s for dinner and a movie.

My Kevin. He played guitar in a band, he wrote poetry and he was incredibly sweet. He said he loved me, so I said I loved him too.

Mom drove me over to Kevin’s, just to make sure his mom was there. She was. But that didn’t really matter. I could make my own decisions. And I did …

What If?

Kevin drove me home that night. After he kissed me goodbye, I stepped inside and went upstairs. I looked at myself in the mirror, and I didn’t like to look into my own eyes. I went into my room, trying not to look at my bookshelf where the words “Teen Study Bible” glared back at me accusingly. I lay in bed for hours, and I couldn’t sleep.

All I could think was, What if? What if I get pregnant?

I cried as I wrote in my journal, mapping out a plan in case I did get pregnant. Who would I tell first? Would I try to have an abortion? Would I stay in school? How would I ever be able to face my parents and brother?

“Oh please, God,” I prayed, “just let me not be pregnant. I’ll stop doing this.”

I didn’t get pregnant. But I didn’t stop, either.

Feeling Betrayed

Time passed, and little by little I became aggravated with Kevin. His friends kidded me about the physical side of our relationship; so much for his promised discretion.

He didn’t show at a dance recital that meant a lot to me. I started feeling betrayed. I’d shared my body with him, my soul, and he didn’t really care. It hurt a lot. I broke up with him after a six-month relationship.

A wall had been built, though, and it remained—between me and my parents, and, most importantly, between me and God. I went into another relationship, and again I went too far physically. I was addicted. It seemed like I was in an endless cycle, even after I broke up with my second boyfriend. Change seemed impossible.

A year later, I sat in church one Sunday, listening to something about a parable of wheat and tares (Matthew 13:24-30). Tares are weeds that grow in fields. Tares look like wheat, but are not. That hit me. Even though I’d been in church my whole life and came from a Christian family, I realized I had no true faith.

And faith was what it was all about. Faith that Christ had died on the cross so I could be with him—so my sins, all of them, could be washed away. Faith was the answer.

So I prayed. I told God I knew I was a sinner, that the things I’d done were wrong. I asked him to forgive me and be the Lord of my life. At 17 years old, I got saved.

As I began studying the Bible, I found more and more instances where God’s rules, and my parents’ rules, weren’t just stupid things that made no sense. They made perfect sense; they were there for a reason, to guide me on how to really be happy.

The Gift of Mercy

I talked to my parents one night and told them the truth about the things I’d done. I cried. I asked their forgiveness.

My mom said she had known all along; she gave me a hug, and she cried as well. And I’ll never forget my dad’s face—so twisted full of pain. But as time’s gone on, that face has softened; my dad loves me, and he has forgiven me too.

Mercy is an incredible gift.

I struggle daily with guilt, and with feelings I wish I didn’t have. I wonder if there’s going to be a Christian man who will love me and marry me one day, even with the mistakes I’ve made. That’s the worst fear of all.

And even though I know God has forgiven me, I struggle to forgive myself. Thoughts like that hurt. But I believe God has a plan for me. He will protect me and give me the strength I need to live for him and to wait for marriage. I pray for it every day, and, day by day, his grace comes to help.

I’m waiting for marriage because I’ve known the pain that comes from disobedience to God. Sex outside of marriage isn’t what he intended, and it causes feelings that cut deeply, to the very soul of a person.

I’m waiting because I know God has someone in mind for me as a partner one day, if it’s his will that I should marry. I’m waiting because I want what I will share with that person to be special. And I’m waiting because I know that through God’s strength, I can.

If you can relate to this story, please check out Can You Become a Virgin Again?

*All names have been changed.

Standing Alone

Many students mocked Julie Moore for starting a Bible study at her Indiana high school. But Julie stood her ground, and obeyed God’s call anyway.

Julie Moore felt like she was the only Christian in her whole school.

She was often mocked for her faith. Still, she felt like she could make a difference on her high school campus.

But how? Her answer came during her junior year at a Youth For Christ retreat, when a student speaker told how God had led her to start a Bible study at her public school.

Julie felt God calling her to do the same at her school, Bloomington (IN) High School North. But she was reluctant.

“At first,” says Julie, “I thought, Okay, God, whatever. I don’t think I’m going to do that.”

Julie didn’t want any more ridicule at school. And she didn’t think anybody would even be interested in a Bible study.

After all, there was that English paper she’d written about obedience, telling of Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son Isaac (Genesis 22:1-18).

Julie read the paper aloud in class, explaining that “God wants us to serve him by obeying him, and even though it’s hard sometimes, God is faithful and takes care of us.”

Most of the class had put their heads down on their desks, ignoring her.

And God wanted her to start a Bible study there?

“People were already mocking me because I was a Christian,” says Julie, now a senior at Indiana University. “Starting a Bible study would just give them more opportunity to mock me. I wasn’t sure I was ready for that.”
A Club Is Born

Still, Julie knew she needed to obey.

“I realized the Bible study was what God wanted me to do, like the Abraham and Isaac thing,” she says. “I felt like I was laying down my social status and letting God do whatever he wanted.”

Julie talked to her youth leaders and other adults, who encouraged her to go for it. She received information about starting a Christian club at school, including her legal rights.

School administrators were supportive. Several teachers offered to let the club meet in their classrooms before school.

And so “Cougars for Christ,” named after her school’s mascot, was born.

Julie spread the word that she was starting a club where students could study the Bible and learn more about God. Seventeen students showed up for the first meeting.

“I was filled with excitement and gratitude,” says Julie. “God had totally put this thing together.”

Julie challenged the students with 1 Timothy 4:12: “Don’t let any one look down on you because you are young, but set an example … ”

She encouraged them to make a difference, to not be afraid and to stand up for what they believed in. Everything went well—for a while.

The next fall, the beginning of Julie’s senior year, a photo of Cougars for Christ appeared in the yearbook. Club announcements were made over the P.A. system. The group was getting recognition—but not all of it was good.

Some students were hostile, mocking and cursing at Julie, nicknaming her “the Cougars for Christ Queen.”

Soon, blank sheets of red paper were taped up all over school. One guy told Julie with a snicker, “They’re for Cougars for Communism.”

A teacher told Julie that the communism club, which rarely met, had formed mainly to mock Cougars for Christ. Club members called Julie names, and complained that she was turning the school into a church.

That was only the beginning.

To the Principal’s Office

Soon, Julie was called to the office.

The principal, Dr. Sue Beerman, told Julie that Cougars for Communism had complained that Cougars for Christ had a room to meet in, announcements on the P.A. system, and a picture in the yearbook. The Cougars for Communism said they had a right to do the same things.

Dr. Beerman told Julie that she liked her group and what they were doing. But she also explained that Cougars for Communism had forced her to make some hard decisions to be fair to both clubs—while abiding by the law.

Both clubs had a legal right to meet on campus. But the principal said she wasn’t sure about their rights to use the P.A. system or have their pictures in the yearbook. Dr. Beerman said she would talk to a lawyer to get definite answers.

When she left the office, Julie was confused and discouraged. Cougars for Christ had been in the yearbook the previous year and had used the P.A. system all along, and it didn’t seem fair that those privileges might be taken away. To make matters worse, someone had smashed the windshield on her car in the school parking lot. She believes someone from Cougars for Communism did it, but admits she can’t prove it.

Why is this happening? Julie wondered. I thought the Bible study was a good thing.

She felt let down. But she wouldn’t give up.

She went home and reviewed a packet of legal information that her youth leader had given her. She typed up a constitution to better define Cougars for Christ and its philosophy.

Then she went back to the principal’s office to further plead her case.

Dr. Beerman, meanwhile, had talked to the school superintendent and an attorney, and had some answers for Julie. She explained that the law—specifically, the Equal Access Act—gives extracurricular clubs the right to meet on public school grounds, regardless of their beliefs. But the law does not guarantee extracurricular clubs can use school facilities—like the P.A. system—to promote themselves. Nor does the law say they have “equal access” to yearbooks, as do school-sponsored clubs.

So the school made these decisions:

  • Both clubs could continue meeting on school grounds.
  • All clubs—whether school-sponsored or not—had to get a faculty member’s signature to make announcements on the P.A. system.
  • Only “official” school clubs could be pictured in the yearbook. “Official” clubs are school-sponsored and curriculum-related. “Unofficial” clubs, like Cougars for Christ and Cougars for Communism, are neither school-sponsored nor curriculum-related, and therefore could not be in the yearbook.
  • Encouraging Support

    The struggle—with administration, and with Cougars for Communism and their taunts—took its toll. Attendance at Cougars for Christ meetings dropped to about five.

    Still, Julie found much-needed support. A family friend, a lawyer, offered legal help if needed. Many people prayed for her. And even though Cougars for Christ was not connected to Youth for Christ, area YFC leaders prayed for Julie and sent an encouraging card. One youth leader told Julie she was “a bright light in a dark world.”

    Julie says, “It was encouraging to hear that kind of reinforcement.”

    Cougars for Christ continued to meet, and Cougars for Communism continued to mock them. Julie downplayed the conflict, telling her group not to treat anyone from Cougars for Communism badly. The Bible study group prayed about the situation, and kept making P.A. announcements and handing out fliers.

    Meanwhile, Cougars for Communism couldn’t find a teacher to sign off on their announcements, so they never got to use the P.A. system.

    The conflict between the clubs subsided. Soon, the Cougars for Christ attendance was back up to 17. Cougars for Communism stopped meeting, and Julie never heard from them again.

    Still Going Strong

    Julie spent time mentoring several younger girls during those early days of Cougars for Christ, and one of them, Claire Pontius, ended up leading the group as a senior before graduating in June.

    Claire says the group is still going strong today.

    Almost 75 people showed up for See You at the Pole last year, and about 15 to 20 regularly now attend the club’s meetings.

    Claire, a freshman when the club started, says the club’s rough start turned out to be a good thing: “Paul said to rejoice when you’re persecuted because when you’re being persecuted you’re doing something right.”

    Claire says the club has “helped Christians come out into the open. It gives students a way to stand up for what they believe, to say openly ‘Yes, I am a Christian. I believe in God.'”

    Claire also says Julie’s example of perseverance was inspiring: “I know how hard Julie worked to get it started, and how hard it was for her to go through all that nonsense.”

    Julie is just thrilled to see that all the hard work — the result of her obedience to God’s leading—has left its mark.

    “I’ve learned to keep going, no matter what,” Julie says. “You can make a difference.”

Why I Believe in Jesus


What makes Jesus different?
I didn’t always feel that way.

I came to the United States to attend a small state college.

I planned to go on to medical school. My first year of college was perfect. I was getting great grades, and I had a girlfriend and lots of friends. And I was quick to point out to people that I had all of this without relying on anyone but me.

I knew plenty of Christians. In fact, I read the Bible often, just so I could argue with Christians. I wanted to know what they believed so I could break down their reasons for believing. For example, my biophysics professor was a Christian. He would tell me about the miracles in his life, the ways he supposedly saw God’s work in the world. But I thought he was way off. I’d argue with him, and try to convince him he was foolish to believe in Jesus. His faith was a joke to me.

It didn’t take long for God to change my mind. During my junior year of college, everything in my world started to fall apart. My girlfriend broke up with me, I ran out of money and I had to drop out of school. So much for having it made. I thought about going back to my family in Sri Lanka, but I didn’t want to face them when I’d failed so miserably.

One night, I sat in the college library, trying to come up with ways to get out of my situation. The only solution that seemed “reasonable” was suicide. But as I sat there thinking of the best way to kill myself, I heard a voice say, “Have you ever asked me for help?” I looked around and couldn’t see anyone. I thought I was going crazy. Then I heard the voice say, “I’m Jesus, and I’m right here next to you.”

I know this sounds strange. Believe me, I was pretty freaked out by it, too. But I honestly heard Jesus talking to me. As I listened, I felt something I’d never experienced before.

I felt filled up, not hollow and empty. I knew that what was happening to me was real.

I wanted to talk to someone, but I didn’t know who. Suddenly I felt God urging me to go see my biophysics professor. That’s right, the same guy I’d been arguing with all year.

I walked across campus to the science building and found him working in his office. As I walked in, he said, “I’m so glad you’re here. God has put you on my heart and I’ve been hoping you’d come and talk to me.” We talked a long time. I told him how empty my life had become.

I told him what I’d experienced in the library. As he talked to me about Jesus’ power to change lives, I knew I was ready to follow Jesus. He prayed with me. That was the day I became a Christian.

After that, things started to change. God provided just what I needed, like a rent-free place to stay. But it wasn’t just my situation, it was my heart that was really changing.

I wasn’t worried about the future because I knew the Lord was in control, not me.

The people around me saw the changes too. Before I became a Christian, I was arrogant, selfish and manipulative. I had done things to intentionally turn people away from their Christian faith. But after my conversion, I felt humbled by God’s power to change me. I wanted people to see Jesus in my life, not me or my accomplishments. I was almost grateful for my struggles, because I knew God was using them to keep me humble and focused on him. I wanted people to think, “Hey, if God can change the life of someone like Sam, I wonder what he can do in my life.”

Even when things in my life are hard, I know God is with me. I feel his presence through the people at my church who pray for me and support me. I see him in the Christian friends he’s given me. I try to serve him by counseling at a Bible camp in the summers. And I still hear his voice through his Word and through his answers to my prayers.

So why do I believe in Jesus? Because he’s real. That night in the library, when I hit the bottom, my New Age thinking didn’t help me. Buddha wasn’t there for me.

It was Jesus who saved me.

Desperate to Fit In


I wanted to be popular so badly that I let my life get out of control.

I’m not exactly sure when I realized my life was spinning out of control. Maybe it was that night in the police car. I’d just been caught shoplifting, and they were taking me down to the police station.

Maybe it was the night my parents found an empty wine bottle in my closet. They’d suspected I’d been drinking, but when they found that bottle, they knew it was serious.

Or maybe it was the day one of my friends caught me throwing up. No, I wasn’t hung over. I was just obsessed with being thin; I wanted to look good for my friends, so I’d fallen into a cycle of binge-and-purge, eat-and-vomit.

It was disgusting. And I was disgusted with myself.

How had it come to this, anyway?

I’d grown up in a Christian family. I thought I had my act together … until I hit high school. That’s when things started happening, things that led to some major changes in my life—and some bad decisions on my part.

First, we started building a new house, and the only time we could work on it was on weekends. We stopped going to church regularly. Eventually, we spent less and less time praying and reading the Bible.

Second, my best friend moved away the summer before I started ninth grade. I felt really lost and alone, so when school started that fall, I was desperate for some new friends. And it was that desperation, my intense desire to “fit in” with the right group, that ultimately led me down the path of self-destruction.

I met Kathy during the first week of ninth grade. She was one of the most popular students, so when she befriended me, I was pretty excited. I’d never been part of the “in” group before.

It wasn’t long before Kathy invited me to spend the night with her at another friend’s house. But that night turned out to be much more than I’d expected. It was a major party, with lots of alcohol.

I’d never been to anything like that before. And before the night was over, I started feeling excited about everything—the sense of freedom, of having no limits, of trying something new and grown-up.

I didn’t get drunk that night, but a pattern had begun. Before long, I was partying and getting drunk every weekend. I was staying out later and later. And since our house was still under construction, we didn’t have a phone. So I would stay out as late as I wanted, then I’d lie about where I’d been. What could my folks do? They couldn’t say, “Well, you should have called.”

By that time, I wanted to be as thin as the other girls in my group of friends. So I started forcing myself to throw up after meals. In fact, I became so obsessed with my weight that when I was at a party, I’d drink until I’d get sick and throw up, just so those calories wouldn’t be in my body.

And then there was shoplifting. Since it was a part of the “fun” my friends were into, I felt I had to join in, too. I enjoyed the thrill of getting away with it. At first, I mostly took small things that didn’t cost much. But soon, I was taking clothes and other expensive things.

So there I was, a freshman in high school, a common thief with a drinking problem and an eating disorder. And all because I wanted so badly to “fit in.”

As much as I loved being part of the in-crowd, I knew my life was out of control. I wanted things to change, but I couldn’t do it on my own. If I said I wanted to change, my friends would immediately dump me. But secretly, I wanted to get caught. I felt that would be my only way out.

Then it happened.

First, my folks found the wine bottle. My mom and I were up all night yelling and fighting.

Then I got caught shoplifting. One of my friends who’d never shoplifted asked me to teach her how. She really wanted a bathing suit. We found one she liked and she took it. When we got outside the store, she asked if I would hold the bathing suit, because she was nervous.

Well, I got caught holding the goods, literally. It would have been easy for me to tell the store clerk that my friend took it. But for some reason, I covered for her.

The cops came, and took me away in the squad car. I had to call my parents to come and get me at the police station. The ride home was awful. My mom and dad sat together in the front seat, holding hands and crying. I sat by the window, staring outside, not believing what had just happened.

How could this be? I wondered. I felt so ashamed.

Shortly after that, one of my friends caught me throwing up. She called my parents to tell them. Even though I was angry at my friend for squealing on me, it was the best thing anyone could have done. My mom confronted me, and we really had it out that night. At that point, my mom realized my problems weren’t going to go away on their own, and that I was really putting myself in danger.

My mom made an appointment for me to see a counselor, and I thought it was a good idea. Those counseling sessions helped a lot. We talked about the drinking, the stealing, the bulimia, my friends, how I was feeling, and what I wanted my life to be like.

I later learned how much my folks had worried about me and loved me through all the garbage I was doing. I found out my dad had been getting up at 4 o’clock every morning to pray for me. I cried when I heard that.

I knew I needed to make some changes in my life. I wanted to stop the drinking and throwing up and stealing because I was scared for my health and safety.

Also, I wanted to stop living a lie. I’d been lying to my parents all along. I’d been lying to my friends about what kind of person I was. And I’d been lying to myself about what was important to me. I was ashamed of the way I’d been living, and I knew it wasn’t what God wanted for my life.

I had some big fears about changing, though. I knew I’d have to find some new friends who wouldn’t pressure me to act a certain way. I was so afraid I’d end up with no friends at all. But God was already working on that. Within a short time, I met a group of girls who accepted me and cared about me for who I was. They also shared my Christian values, so I was free to be myself.

But sometimes change is slow. A year later, I decided to attend a party with some old friends. Even though I knew there’d be drinking, there were a few girls I really missed, so I decided to go. I decided I’d be careful and I wouldn’t drink. I even felt like I could be an example to my old friends.

But things didn’t turn out the way I’d planned. I wasn’t at the party very long before I started drinking, and after a few hours, I was really drunk and sick. The only way I could get home was to call my dad, which was humiliating, especially after the promises I’d made.

In the car on the way home, my dad was really quiet. The only thing he said was, “You’re old enough to punish yourself, Colleen.”

Dad was right. I punished myself by refusing to go out—with any friends—for a long time.

Dad also suggested I start reading my Bible again.

He was right again. So I started reading it faithfully. And all over again, I could see how much God loves me, how much he cares for me, just the way I am.

That party incident was the last of its kind for me.

A couple years have gone by. I’m not interested in the party scene any more. My shoplifting days were done after that run-in with the police. And after a lot of counseling, I’m no longer fighting my eating disorder—though I still struggle with how I feel about my body.

I’m so much happier now. I’m hanging with a good group of friends, people who love me for who I am—not for somebody I’m pretending to be. And even though I care and worry about my old friends, I’ve decided not to spend time with them. I’ve learned the hard way that I can’t handle it very well.

When I last saw my old friends, one of them asked me, “What happened to you? You used to be so much fun at parties, but we never see you any more. You should hang out with us again.”

I just smiled and said, “No thanks. I’m much happier now.”