Tag Archives: Holy Spirit

The Snake Woman And The Blind Man

A couple of years ago, I was in Juba, South Sudan. I heard of a recent ‘event’ that had happened in the city. The story was, that there was near panic in part of Juba, because a woman had reportedly turned into a snake. How this was supposed to have happened and why, I don’t know, but the fact was there that in addition to the panic, there were apparently a large number of people that came out to see the snake woman. Ridiculous we would say. To add to it, we’d probably go on to say that it was simple-minded people believing in superstition, if we were to speak out loud what was going on within our heads before we remembered it’s not politically correct to pass judgement on what anyone believes.

Now let me tell you another story. The same year, there was a semi-homeless man that I would run into frequently as I’d walk my dog in my hometown. I would occasionally speak to him, and got to know him a little. One day, I saw that he had a patch over one of his eyes. I asked him what had happened. He said that his retina had detached, and his doctor told him he was losing his vision. I asked him if I could pray for him, and he agreed. I prayed that God would restore his vision to him and heal his eye, and we both went on our way. About a week later, I saw him again, and he was no longer wearing the patch on his eye and could see out of it.  I asked him about his eye, and his response was, “My doctor says he misdiagnosed it.”

One culture believes in all things spiritual, the other believes in nothing spiritual. While faith is the evidence of things unseen, what do you call it when you see something with your own eyes and still manage to rationalize it away? We in the supposedly Christian west write off all things spiritual as superstition or the figments of simple minds.  The fact is, that in my experience, it’s only in the caucasian west that we manage to convince ourselves that all things spiritual are such figments of a desperate imagination.

Go to Africa, and you’ll find that even the educated believe not only that God is able, but that he WILL intercede if we pray and act on the authority given to us in the Holy Spirit. Most of the book of Acts, and a good bit of 1st Corinthians deals with the subject of spiritual gifts. Jesus says in the gospel of John, “Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves. Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.”

“Greater things than these” are the words used. So as Christians, do we believe this, and if not, why not?  I’ve seen things that would blow the minds of such deniers. We don’t believe, because we don’t want to believe. We would have to live differently. We would have to take God at his word on a lot of things we currently ignore. I hear the question a lot, “How do you know which religion is correct?”  When an entire Muslim family in Ethiopia is instantly and miraculously healed, they know what is correct.

When a doctor tells a man he is going to lose his vision, the doctor has to be pretty sure about his diagnosis. When I see a man’s vision restored anyway, I know what’s correct.

If we profess to be Christians, it seems to me that there is the choice to take the whole package or nothing at all. Why would we want to follow Christ if what he said was a lie?  There’s any number of liars I’m free to follow, and most of them don’t require such things as abasing the human nature and pride, or putting others before yourself, or any of the other myriad of unpalatable things Christians are called to do but rarely do. In fact, most of them tell you to follow your heart and do what feels good. The book of Proverbs speaks directly to this and says, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.” On the other side of things, if everything Jesus said is true, then why WOULDN’T we want to follow him? Yes, it requires a lot of you, but it’s so much better a way than the half-hearted, half-believing version of following that the church generally does now in America. Jesus says in Matthew 10, “As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.”  That is the version of following Christ that I want.

A woman who received her sight back after two years of blindness while I was in Ethiopia.
A woman who received her sight back after two years of blindness while I was in Ethiopia.

Standing room only farming

So I’ve given my practical advice in my last blog, and I feel the need to get back on my soapbox. It’s only 13 days until my next trip to South Sudan.

A villager surveys his crop in South Sudan.

Imagine a farm, if you will. This farm has been harvested to the point that the only thing left is stubble and a few heads of wheat. Criss crossing the farm are hundreds of farmers looking for the last kernels of wheat. They are on top of each other, getting in each other’s way. Once they realize that there is no more grain, they begin stealing from each other’s bins from what has already been harvested. This causes anger and fights among the farmers, and pretty soon there is grain spilled all over the ground.

Just over the fence is a farm with a full ripe field of grain, but in this field there is not a single farmer. The field is ready for harvest, but because there is no one there to harvest it, the grain falls to the ground and rots.


By now, you’ve probably figured out that I’m not talking about agriculture. I’m talking about the state of missions and the state of the church. Now I don’t mean to sound hard on the church, especially one’s that take the time and the human and financial resources to send out missionaries. This is an incredibly noble thing. The problem is that the resources are being funneled over and over again to the same places. Churches send missionaries to the same saturated areas while leaving other parts of the globe almost completely untouched.  Large parts of the world, mostly in the Arab World, parts of Asia, and parts of Africa, are almost completely neglected.

Jesus final words to his disciples were this; “All authority in heaven on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you, even to the end of the age.”  So if we are called to go to the end of the earth, why do we keep ignoring such huge parts of it?  And if Jesus says he will be with us, then why are we afraid to go to the hard places?

When we go to places that are already saturated with the gospel, we lose the ability to bring the good news. If people have already heard it over and over again, what message do we bring?  Do we bring a message of how we’re different from that other group of Christians over there?  There is only one foundation, and that is Christ. If the foundation is already there, then why do we keep changing around the furniture in the building?  It’s time to get back to the basics. As the book of James puts it, “True religion is this. To look after widows and orphans in their distress, and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”  Let’s show the neglected parts of the world the Spirit that drives us, and share the gift that we’ve been given.

Farming the traditional way in South Sudan, with a stick to turn up the earth.