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In Theory: Miracles for Money?

They come to be healed. They are people afflicted with everything from paralysis, cancer to blindness. Some travel great distances for a promise to be healed instantly in the name of Jesus Christ. ABC's "Nightline" this week aired a report titled "Turning to Revivals for Healing." In the story, reporter Bill Weir examines the validity of the revivals and interviews evangelist Nathan Morris and revival presider Pastor John Kilpatrick at a revival event held recently in Mobile, Ala. Do miracles really take place at these healing revivals? Are people really cured? Or are they simply "mirages," as the report states, organized it seems with only one purpose — taking people's money?

"People brought all their sick to him and begged him to let the sick just touch the edge of his cloak, and all who touched him were healed."

Miracles are two things — they are real and they are rare. Only because there is a God is the miraculous possible.

When a bona fide miracle occurs, it is undeniable, unexplainable and graciously wrought by the hand of God. Healings are beautifully breathtaking events. God does not often break his own rules of physics or even bend them. But when he does, God pulls back the curtain of heaven just a bit and we see how small our frailties are compared to how big our God is.

I've seen it happen at our church. On the other hand, contrary to what today's "miracles for money" charlatans would have us believe, genuine miracles are exceptionally rare. No amount of prayer or faith or money can obligate God to do our bidding. He does what he will according to his own good purposes. Predictably, things like health, physiology and medicine most of the time continue as they always have. Even the holy apostles, brimming with the power of God, occasionally could not heal their loved ones.

There were roughly three periods of biblical history wherein most miracles occurred. In these periods, God used miracles to authenticate his chosen messengers: Moses, Elijah/Elisha and Jesus and the apostles. Like today, outside of these periods, miracles were extremely rare.

Compare this to the faith healers of today who can only knock people over through a carefully choreographed formula of background music, suggestion, singing, lighting and peer pressure from an intensely emotional crowd. How sad to see the faithful return to their seats unhealed, still confined to the wheelchairs they hoped to leave behind. Someone today with a genuine ability to heal by the power of God would need no external tricks or gimmicks. Even as Jesus could, this person today could enter Glendale Adventist or Verdugo Hills or Huntington Memorial and empty them — for free! I wonder if today's faith healers would ever consider performing their miracles for free. This is one reason Jesus is called the Great Physician.

The Rev. Jon T. Karn,

Light on the Corner Church,

Montrose

The New Testament is replete with stories of Jesus Christ healing the sick and afflicted, including the woman who had such faith that by touching Christ's garment, she believed that she would be healed (Matthew 9:22). After Christ called his apostles, he sent them out two by two and they healed the sick (Mark 6:13). Even after Christ's resurrection and ascension, his Apostles continued to heal the sick (Acts 28:8).

In 1 Corinthians, Chapter 12, the apostle Paul taught about the gifts of the spirit, including the gift of healing and the working of miracles. In James 5:14-15, we are taught: "Is any sick among you? 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 shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him."

Did the healing of the sick cease with the death of the apostles? The answer is no. I believe that people are healed in this day and age based on their faith in Jesus Christ and the faith of those who, as in olden times, are called in to prayer for them in faith.

Turning to the revivals referred to in the question, do I believe that miracles of healing take place? I tend to be skeptical of such revivals, especially when sensationalism, fame and money are involved or associated with them. But having not attended such revivals myself, I'm probably not in a position to judge such events from a distance.

For me, Jesus Christ works miracles in the lives of those who believe and have faith in him. Such miracles most often occur in a quiet manner, based on prayer, and perhaps fasting. They are not predicated on money or fame. They are based on true devotion and the will of God.

Rick Callister

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,

La Cañada

Taking a break while watching the video, I picked up a newspaper and read an account of a recent conference in Los Angeles of the Council for Secular Humanism. I would rather pull weeds or stand in rain with an anti-war sign than attend meetings on anything all weekend, so reading the in-depth report in the New York Times religion column was ideal. I am interested in religion and disbelief and in keeping church strictly out of state; I just can't sit still that long.

To broadly characterize a very nuanced debate among the doubters on making the atheist/humanist case to the public, a central question quoted in the article was, "How publicly scornful of religion should we be?" Going back to the video I confess I had scorn-heaping urges, not on the revival participants, but upon their manipulators (and entertainers), the revival organizer and healer.

Then, over the weekend, I talked about our assignment with a friend, a thoughtful, non-observant Jew (and non-local, so stop guessing). He offered totally different insights, and I'm persuaded he's right.

About the preachers taking people's money: People are enticed to blow their money on lots of questionable stuff. How is the revival collection plate (which in the video is a large box) any different than leaving your money at a gambling casino? About the healing: Test subjects given only placebos get better, and hopefulness (generic or faith-based) makes chemo more effective. Yes, of course, people may be healed, or at least helped, at these revivals.

Better, though — certainly more rational, equitable and making us more competitive globally — would be universal health care, including dental and mental, regardless of a patient's ability to pay. I wonder how many healing revivals happen in countries that really have socialized medicine. Universal healthcare is one example of my personal belief in the possibility of heaven, but right here on earth, before we die, since nothing exists after.

Roberta Medford

Atheist,

Montrose

I'm not sure what I believe about healing and faith. These mass revivals are outside of my own tradition and experience, and I view them with suspicion. But I'm hesitant to say that healing can't happen as a result of powerful prayer and intense faith.

Jesus, of course, had the power to heal people — sometimes they simply touched the hem of his cloak as he walked past in the crowd; sometimes he healed people long-distance, a parent coming to him and pleading for a sick child at home (Mark 6:56, Matthew 15:28). I suppose we could be cynical about whether these healings actually happened. But there are so many stories of Jesus as healer, and they are often so specific, that it seems true to say that he had this gift.

Often the nature of Jesus' healing was bound with the forgiveness of sins, or the casting out of demons (Luke 5:20 and 8:36, for instance). Some would label such healing as psychosomatic; but can healing the body by healing the mind, or by healing the soul, be denied as a valid form of healing?

I think we don't know enough about the human body and the holistic nature of wellness to be able to rule out the power of faith to effect physical change.

I guess where I land on this question is on the side of spiritual wellness. I would not personally go to a revival seeking cure of a physical ailment. But I do believe that being well spiritually has a direct effect on my physical wellness. Certainly it's been my experience that when I am unwell spiritually and emotionally, I often get sick.

I practice myself, and would counsel my people, that part of physical health is spiritual health; a life of prayer and spiritual discipline is good medicine for the body as well.

The Rev. Amy Pringle

St. George's Episcopal Church,

La Cañada

There's nothing like an old-fashioned revival; people from all walks and varied denominations, meeting under a single canopy in Christian unity for the purpose of reviving their souls and convicting the unsaved companions that they convince to come along.

Standards are led by volunteer choruses. The preachers deliver fiery Gospel messages of eternal hope and temporal significance, and the sawdust trail beckons the repentant sinners to venture forward and accept Christ as their everlasting savior. What a scene, what an event. But that's hardly what happens anymore at so-called revivals.

Today, the word "revival" means a big production in some arena where faith-healing gets top-billing, and the bill is high, as chicken buckets are held out in expectation of massive cash collections which get continually repeated. I hate to sound jaded, but I've been to revivals and to healing crusades and have witnessed firsthand the poor representation of biblical Christianity; how they murder the scriptures and devastate the faithful folks who really could use a miracle but wind up leaving in the same wheelchairs that brought them. Meanwhile, others are paraded onstage testifying that their itchy feet don't seem to itch as much, and their neck pain seems to have gone — well, for the most part. Lots of yelling, shouting in tongues, writhing on the floor and uncontrollable jerking mark these events, and little of it really seems Christian.

Now I believe God can and does heal, and prayer is called for — with the provision that we leave it to him whether he deems it necessary to circumvent nature in our case. We know that this life promises no perfection of the body, and ultimately we all succumb to that final illness that puts us in the grave. We have the expectation of resurrection, as Christians, that one day our bodies will rejoin our departed souls in everlasting and glorified health, but that's not today. Today we pray, we stay faithful to God's holy word, and we frown upon such side-shows as these.

Rev. Bryan Griem

Montrose Community Church,

Montrose

Do miracles really take place at revivals? Or are there mirages? It depends on the revival.

I have no way to judge what happens at all revivals. I do know that there are some authentic services out there where people are touched and healed. To what degree depends on how the Holy Spirit is moving and according to his purposes.

I have seen firsthand healing; I have prayed and had someone healed, and I have been prayed for and healed immediately. But I have not been healed every time someone prayed for it. In fact, I have been on the receiving end of someone praying for me while trying to push me down to the ground as if I was "slain in the Spirit." I could feel it was not from God and resisted being physically pushed down — and I was a bit freaked out by it. But I have felt the power of the Holy Spirit and seen God work in people's lives through miracles. I approached my relationship with God skeptically, wanting to see and experience things firsthand. God did not disappoint me.

As with most things in life, there will always be the imposter, the counterfeit. There is evil and/or selfish gain all over — Christians are not excluded. And these ministries are hard to be a part of because it is evident to those with discernment that it is not authentic. As for money, I think we find that everywhere — even in what seems to be "in the name of the Lord."

The Rev. Kimberlie Zakarian

La Vie Counseling,

Pasadena

I can understand why many may be skeptical about miracle cures taking place at revival events; nonetheless, I cannot comment on specific healing incidents as I simply don't know enough about them to make an educated decision.

I can, however, share my understanding of healing and miracles. Judaism teaches that we are forbidden to rely on miracles; when a person falls ill, they should never disregard doctors or medicine and simply say, "I will rely on God to heal me." It is incumbent upon us to utilize every medical treatment available. God, in essence, is found in medicine, since he infuses doctors with the ability to heal and medical scientists with the wisdom to innovate. He provides man with wondrous discoveries, and expects us to use them when necessary.

At the same time, we need to pair conventional healing with its spiritual dimension. Jewish texts tell us that even if we are receiving the finest medical care in the best hospital, we still need to turn to God and ask that he provide his guidance and infuse us with a healing spirit.

Ultimately, God is the one who gives the gifts of health and life, and doctors are but an extension of his grace.

And finally, once one has harnessed the full power of medicine and turned to God in prayer requesting his assistance, we should employ the essential principal of hope and belief that miracles can and do happen. Even if a person is facing a dire situation where all chances of recovery seem bleak, we must never give up hope or stop believing that the salvation of the Lord can come at any time and in any place.

There are three essential elements to the healing process: medicine, prayer and hope. In times of sickness, all three should be employed in order to achieve a wholesome healing experience.

Rabbi Simcha Backman

Chabad Jewish Center,

Glendale

This week's issue really hits this believer in a sensitive place.

Certainly there are religious shysters out there who are interested only in separating people from their money; in fact, I'd venture to say that most "faith healing" is a sham and a scam. However, having expressed my skepticism, what about my faith and what about the biblical accounts of people being healed?

I'm not talking about the healings that Jesus reportedly did in the Gospels. I'm talking about the healings reported in the book of Acts, performed by people exactly like you and me. St. Paul is said to have raised a young man from the dead, a young man who fell out of a third-story window during a church service after falling asleep during the sermon. (Thankfully, my church is all at ground level.) This account can be found in Acts 20:7-12. Such accounts of miraculous healings challenge my faith. Part of me wants not to believe — but another part of me believes that God can do all things.

Also, one's attitude is certainly important: If you think you can't be healed, you surely will not be. Also, remember how Jesus told people to rise and walk because "your faith has made you well"? The mind is an amazing thing, and if we do not allow for the occasional miracle , we condemn ourselves to a life of drudgery and no hope.

David Ben-Gurion, one of the founders of the state of Israel and a Jew, said this, and I love it: "He who doesn't believe in miracles is not a realist." How about that!

The Rev. Clifford L. "Skip" Lindeman

La Canada Congregational Church,

La Cañada Flintridge

Miracles can and do happen every day.

Webter's Dictionary defines a miracle as "an event or effect in the physical world beyond or out of the ordinary course of things, deviating from the known laws of nature, or transcending our knowledge of these laws."

In reality, miracles are events that take place as a result of the operation of a higher, spiritual law. Charles Fillmore, co-founder of Unity, wrote: "All true action is governed by law. Nothing just happens. All happenings are the result of cause and can be explained under the law of cause and effect."

Mighty things have happened in the past by those who had mere blind faith to guide them. When we add understanding of the operation of spiritual law to our blind faith, the result is "understanding faith," and we get results to our prayers that the world calls "miraculous," but the results are actually the right application of spiritual principles.

That which we call a "miracle" is really the ongoing, natural state of the kingdom of heaven, here and now. We bring our thoughts and our belief system into harmony and right alignment with spiritual law. What we have exclaimed as "It's a miracle!" is the normal state of being. We are healed from old conditions of lack, limitation and disease when we accept that God's will for us is a life that is full and free.

Those who are emotionally caught up in the moment of the group energy (as in a revival meeting), say "it's a miracle," and unless there has been a complete change in the conscious and subconscious mind — that is, understanding the principles of spiritual law — the one who dropped their crutches in the revival tent meeting will go back the next day to pick up the crutches again.

An individual's consciousness (all that they believe to be true) and "understanding faith" must reflect divine law before there is a complete healing.

The Rev. Jeri Linn

Unity Church of the Valley,

La Crescenta

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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