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In this sermon I share what Francis Shongwe, a man who was killed and raised back to life in 2003, told me about Heaven when I met him three years ago. I go on talking about the importance of sharing the Gospel with those who have not received Christ as their Saviour yet so that they can go to Heaven too. Here’s an excerpt from the interview I made with Francis:
Raising dead people to life is awesome, but how do you do it practically? Join me in this radical Bible study for some tips and tricks from Elijah, Jesus and Paul that will help you in your revival ministry. Contact me when you’ve raised some.
As I’m developing a formulation and defense for the miraculous argument for God’s existence I’ve enjoyed listening to lectures on YouTube by other Christian apologists where they defend the key premise, that miracles occur, from both a philosophical and an empirical perspective. The main philosophical objection to miracles was raised by David Hume in the 19th century, an argument that is still often referenced to by atheists and skeptics but which is actually circular and not very persuasive, as Timothy McGrew explains:
It is generally agreed today that Hume was simply lacking miraculous experience himself and so just assumed that nobody else was experiencing it. His remark of how a dead man coming back to life “has never been observed in any age or country” is embarrassingly naïve, not just dismissing the resurrection of Jesus a priori but also the numerous dead raising accounts of his time. As I have met and interviewed a man who was raised from the dead I can assure you Hume was wrong. (more…)
In May 1976, a 16-year-old girl called Heidi was kneeling at the altar of a small Pentecostal church at a Choctaw reservation site in Mississippi. She had been saved just two months earlier, and now she was astounded as she suddenly saw a white light coming over her while she heard a voice, audibly, that said “I am calling you to be a minister and a missionary. You are to go to Africa, Asia and England.”
Heidi married Rolland Baker, grandson to the great missionary H.A. Baker, and God took them on an amazing adventure across the world. Today they live in Mozambique and help thousands of orphaned children, planting thousands of churches and witnessing amazing miracles such as blind people seeing, deaf people hearing and dead people coming back to life. I’ve made a video about them and their organization Iris Global which you can watch below:
Heidi and Rolland have inspired me so much in my vision to combine miracles, evangelism and social justice, and I pray that they will continue to make an impact in Mozambique and all across the world for the glory of God.
Why are not everybody healed when they receive prayer? Why was that person healed but not this person, even though they both believed in Jesus? Charismatics are often asked these questions, and as they are related to theodicy and the problem of evil and suffering, they take some time to answer. I have appreciated the Kingdom theology response to why not everyone are healed developed by John Wimber, which can be read in his great book Power Healing.
In this blog post I want to address a particular type of healing theodicy, where one points to the death of a loved one as an argument for the strange selectiveness of God’s healing. I have several times heard friends describe how a dear relative was very sick and they prayed and prayed, bit eventually they died. Several of those who have told me this have then said that because of this they have some problems with the healing message; some of them have been mad at God for healing others but not the one they prayed for.
Such a scenario reminds me of how Martha questioned why Jesus didn’t heal Lazarus while he was dying:
“Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”
Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (Jn 11:21-26)
In September 2003, pastor Francis Shongwe was beaten to death by a violent gang in Backdoor, South Africa. He was an usher at a youth conference, and as the gang beat and kicked him he suddenly saw his body below him, and he went to Heaven. There, he saw countless people and angels worshipping the Lord, and he was so happy. Francis comes from a very poor neighbourhood with a lot of social problems, but he realized that there would be no more hunger or need in Paradise.
Suddenly, he heard a voice, calling his name. He then woke up in the mortuary in a hospital in Nelspruit, and discovered that pastor Surprise Sithole had raised him from the dead in the power of the Holy Spirit. As readers of this blog should know, this wasn’t the first time Surprise has raised a dead person.
Now, Francis actually cried and was very sad at first when he woke up, since he now was among all the troubles and poverty of the world again. However, he now realizes that because of his experience of Heaven, he preaches the Gospel about eternal life through Jesus Christ more powerfully than before.
When I visited South Africa last year, I interviewed Francis about his resurrection as you can see in the video above. I also talked to Surprise as well as several witnesses to how Francis was killed and then come back. Francis has been featured in the documentary Finger of God, and his testimony has been shared by Heidi Baker and others. I’m very grateful that I got the chance to meet him. Praise God for His resurrection!
As you probably know by now, I’m writing a thesis in systematic theology about miracles. A week ago I presented to you my research on how pope Francis views miracles, and now I like to share what Surprise Sithole, pastoral director for Iris Global in southern Africa, thinks about the miraculous. Enjoy!
Surprise Sithole was born in the late 1960’s into an animist family in the small village of Cachote in Mozambique. In his biography Voice in the Night, he writes:
“From the time I was born, my parents hoped I would follow the family tradition and become a witch doctor. […] My childhood was full of strange spiritual experiences and spiritual oppression. This was the only life I knew. […] Did my parents have heal power, or were they charlatans? The answer is both. Much of what they did was trickery, pure and simple. But I also know that they sincerely believed in the spirits, and I saw many strange events for which I have no other explanation than the supernatural. More than once, I found myself floating above the floor as I tried to sleep at night.”
Sithole claims to have heard the voice of God at the age of 15. This voice told him to leave his village, and after wandering in the jungle for two weeks he met a Christian man, Mr. Lukas, who took care of him and taught him how to be a Christian. Lukas said that God had given him a dream where he foresaw Sithole’s arrival. Soon, they received the news of that Sithole’s family had been poisoned back in Cochete. Surprise was the only survivor.
Sithole writes that he then became a missionary, travelling mostly by foot in Mozambique in Malawi to preach the Gospel. He says that on the island of Chikusi, he started to preach in a language he had never studied – Chichewa. People on the island were converting to Christianity when they saw this, Sithole writes, since they knew that he didn’t know the language naturally. He also claims that he still speaks Chichewa, and that his first bible was written in that language.
As I mentioned last week I’m reading Jeff Doles’ Miracles and Manifestations of the Holy Spirit in the History of the Church, and it’s amazing to see what God has been doing continously in His church throughout world history. The book is basically only made up by quotes from older works, and it gives clear proof that cessationism – the idea that miraculous spiritual gifts ceased with the apostles – hardly existed before Luther and Calvin. For example, take a look at what Irenaeus of Lyon, the second century bishop who was a disciple to Polycarp – who in turn was a disciple of John the evangelist – says concering miraculous gifts when he refuted the Gnostics in his famous work Against Heresies:
“Those who are in truth His disciples, receiving grace from Him, do in His name perform [miracles], so as to promote the welfare of other men, according to the gift which each one has received from Him. For some do certainly and truly drive out devils, so that those who have thus been cleansed from evil spirits frequently both believe [in Christ], and join themselves to the Church. Others have foreknowledge of things to come: they see visions, and utter prophetic expressions. Others still, heal the sick by laying their hands upon them, and they are made whole.
Yea, moreover, as I have said, the dead even have been raised up, and remained among us for many years. And what shall I more say? It is not possible to name the number of the gifts which the Church, [scattered] throughout the whole world, has received from God, in the name of Jesus Christ, who was crucified under Pontius Pilate, and which she exerts day by day for the benefit of the Gentiles, neither practising deception upon any, nor taking any reward from them* [on account of such miraculous interpositions]. For as she has received freely from God, freely also does she minister [to others]**. (Against Heresies, book 2, chapter 32, section 4)
I love to read reports about evangelistic campaigns in Africa, Asia and Latin America, and just two weeks ago my Facebook feed was filled with testimonies from my Facebook friend Tommy Lilja who organized a campaign in Kitwe, Zambia. Many were saved, healed and baptized with the Holy Spirit. Here is what he reported (translated from Swedish):
Resting after having eaten some french fries. A good first night. A little bit chilly. Many healings. A man around 25 years old had been blind since he was 10, he was healed, another young man shared how his ear “popped” when it opened and he received his hearing again.
Thousands came to receive Jesus. So many were baptized in the Holy Ghost, a real breakthrough. It was a life-changing meeting. Many came broken, sick and without hope. But they went home with Jesus and hope for a bright future. Jesus, the Prince of Peace, was there and the Pentecostal revival is spreading across the world.
“At the cross the work was finished
You were buried in the ground
But the grave could not contain You
For You wear the Victor’s crown” (more…)
Wow, wow, wow. Compelled by Love is seriously one of the best films I’ve ever seen. It’s radical, passionate, moving, inspiring and awesome, it combines joyful happiness with serious pain and sorrow, and in the end I just sat in awe agreeing completely with Heidi Baker when she said that it’s all about Him – what this film portraits is nothing else than the life of Jesus today in one of the poorest nations in the world. It’s a film about an amazing missionary couple and their organization, yes, and for that very reason it is a film about Christ, because Christ is all they stand for in an amazing way.
The film is 100% Iris. It’s emotional. It’s beautiful. It’s messy. Some professional film makers would perhaps react to the patchwork-style; the film is chronological for only 30 minutes or so, and then holy anarachy is released with a multitude of different messages, themes and stories presented, some of which have already been published in YouTube clips. I love it! Shara Pradhan and her team simply takes the best Iris have directly from the field.
The Bethel and Iris culture (those ministries are basically “married” by now) talk a lot about honor, and this film truly wants to honor the life of Heidi and Rolland Baker. Bill Johnson is interviewed when he states that he simply knows no one who has constantly said “yes” to God the way Heidi has, and while she and Rolland are so extraordinary in that they always, continously, give everything to Him, their passion is multiplied to so many others that see that they are not superheroes but carrier of the divine presence of the Holy Spirit that are available for all of us. The film carefully emphasizes both sides of this paradox – the Bakers are amazing saints and should be recognized as such, but their gifts are not excluded to them but constantly multiplied to those who follow their example as they follow Christ. After all, it is the Mozambiqan bush pastors that have raised over 100 dead people within Iris, not the Bakers.
One of my best experiences from my visit to Iris Ministries South Africa this summer was to meet and do a interview with their leader Surprise Sithole. Surprise has, as I’ve written before, had an amazing life with many miracles as he has been preaching the Gospel and helped the poor in southern Africa. In the interview I asked him how he likes the idea of combining miracles with peace and justice, what his conception of poverty is and how it feels to see God raise someone from the dead. This is what he answered:
From now on this blog is a part of the MennoNerds network, a bunch of bloggers (or nerds) who like Anabaptism. Ana-what? Anabaptism, the grandmother of the Baptist, Pentecostal and a bunch of other movements, which was and is characterized by pacifism, economic equality and radical theology. While I’m not a part of an Anabaptist church (they simply don’t exist (yet) in Sweden), I was involved in forming the Anabaptist Network of Scandinavia, and together with my friend Andrew Meakins I’m administrating a facebook page called Charismatic Holiness Anabaptist Theology.
While several modern-day Anabaptists eagerly seek miracles and the gifts of the Holy Spirit, there still are many who don’t. Not necessarily because they don’t believe in miracles but rather that they believe it isn’t part of their tradition. But it is. In 1995, Stuart Murray, one of the leading Anabaptist theologians in Europe, wrote this article about the early Anabaptists’ view on spiritual gifts. Here is an excerpt:
Anabaptism as a Charismatic Movement: Diverse Phenomena in Early Decades
What would sixteenth-century Anabaptists have made of the “Toronto Blessing” that has impacted many churches in Great Britain in recent months? How did the Radical Reformers respond to such spiritual phenomena’? The charismatic aspect of Anabaptism has not received much attention from historians, but evidence of spiritual phenomena in early Anabaptist groups is substantial. Some welcomed manifestations of the Holy Spirit, while others were wary and attempted to regulate or discourage such expressions. Basic to the Anabaptist view of charismatic gifts, however, was a belief that a transformed life was the true measure and sign of Holy Spirit presence.
For Dirk Philips, the Spirit had a vital role as agent of regeneration. The Spirit writes the new convenant on the hearts of believers and enables them to participate in the divine nature. The Spirit is the earthly presence of Jesus, empowering ministers called by God and helping believers interpret the Scripture. Anabaptists equated “baptism in the Spirit” with conversion, but expected more to happen experientially than did the Reformers. The radicals were not satisfied with forensic ideas of grace, typified by the legal terminology of “justification by faith”. Rather, they saw grace as “the inner light that directed a life of righteousness “.
On the third day of my visit at Iris Ministries South Africa, I was helping the men and children to cook food on a women’s conference. Suddenly a jeep with the Iris logo appeared, and out stepped a man whose big smile I recognized so well. “Surprise! Wow, I’m so glad to meet you! I’ve read your book!!” The smiling apostle shook my hand, told me I was welcome, guided some ladies to the jeep and then pointed at me: “Micael, get into the car!”
We dropped off lady after lady until we arrived to the house of the last one, where all three of us entered. There was a very, very thin and weak man. I didn’t catch what condition he was suffering from, but I eagerly joined Surprise in praying for his healing. Then we left, and Surprise drove me back to the conference.
I met this man’s wife last Thursday. He has had severe problems with his liver and kidneys as well as TB, and has not been working since October last year. However, now he started to feel much better, he went to the doctor last week – and the doctor pronounced him 100 % well. He started working again last Wednesday. Glory to God!
This first meeting of mine with Surprise Sithole was very Surprise-ish. In his book Voice in the Night, he shares his amazing life story. He was born in a family of witch doctors in a small village in Mozambique. At the age of 15, he heard a booming voice in the middle of the night: “Surprise! Get out of the house! If you do not leave, you will die.”