Yesterday we talked about the power God’s people were given to defeat vast armies and how the church was also supposed to have that same power that came at Pentecost. King Jehoshaphat said, 2 Chronicles 20:12 “For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” God responded and said, “17 You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you, Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the Lord will be with you.’” The problem is the church doesn’t have that kind of power because our eyes are not on God’s word and because of rebellion, the power to defeat vast enemies has been taken away as God has turned His face from the church. Pentecost was to be the start of the church going out in power to continue do as Jesus did. Matthew 4:23 “Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. 24 News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed; and he healed them.” This is what Jesus showed the church it would be doing and the church was supposed to continue doing the same. 

        Pentecost was not a one-time event. Power fell that day but would continue to fall. Acts 2:1 “When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.” That promise also applies to the church down the road. Peter said Acts 2:38 “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.” The Holy Spirit would continue to fall on the church. Acts 4:29 “Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. 30 Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus. 31 After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.” Acts 8:6 “When the crowds heard Philip and saw the signs he performed, they all paid close attention to what he said. 7 For with shrieks, impure spirits came out of many, and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed.” This was the power, that created the universe, the same power that divided the Red Sea, the same power that stood the Jordon up in a heap, the same power that razed the walls of Jericho, the same power that would take the land promised, the same power that healed the sick, cast out demons and raised Jesus from the dead. This was the power that the church was supposed to have. The church was supposed to be able to say “we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you,” and then God would answer and destroy the enemy. But today that is not happening. Today the church talks about the Holy Spirit but there is no power.
        Today’s blog is based on something I came across when reading about the tragic loss of Mandisa just a few days ago. She was an amazing singer who seemed to light up a room not just with her voice but with her smile. Look at a picture of her and you will see that infectious smile. She was a gospel singer and sang songs like Overcomer and also had written a couple of books. Her latest book was called Out of the Dark. She was also a top ten finisher on American Idol. She was very open about her life and some of what she struggled with became very public when she was on American Idol. From what I could see her mom and dad divorced when she was two. She was molested as a child and raped as a teen and struggled with her weight her whole life. On American Idol, Simon Cowell mocked her ruthlessly about her weight. Then she forgave him and said, "Simon, a lot of people want me to say a lot of things to you right now. But this is what I want to say. I want you to know that you hurt me. I cried, and it was very emotional for me. But the good thing about forgiveness is that you don't need someone to apologize in order to forgive them. So Simon, I want you to know I have forgiven you because, if Jesus could forgive me for all the things I've done wrong, I can certainly extend that same grace to you. The producers aired every word Mandisa said.” Mandisa struggled with her weight, as many do which was related to her mental health. She struggled with her mental health and “on her 2017 album, “Out of the Dark,” she addressed her struggles with depression, which she also wrote about in a memoir of the same name, published in 2022. “My dream,” she told “Good Morning America,” “is that this book will be a tool used in living rooms and coffee shops all over the world to help prompt discussions about our mental health.”
        I have not heard yet what the cause of death was, and I would say most are praying and hoping that it was not suicide but by natural causes. This blog is not about a weak person but about a person who had called out to God. TobyMac described her as “one of the most authentic people I have ever met. Her heart is to help others and in this book (Out of the Dark) she vulnerably shares her own real life experiences and struggles in an attempt to provide insight and love others well.” Today I want to address God not answering her prayer for her friend who had cancer and died of which completely devastated her. When I read about her friend dying of cancer and God not answering her prayer which caused her to turn away from God and was angry, I thought about the many people in the church who feel this way. They might not go as far as Mandisa did with her rejection of God, but the feelings are still there. People magazine did an article about her in 2017 that said, “She’s known for her determinedly sunny disposition, but Mandisa recently weathered a dark depression. In 2014, she reached a major career milestone, taking home two Grammys for her album Overcomer. The motivational LP was inspired by her best friend and backup singer Kisha Mitchell’s battle with breast cancer. “When she passed away, it shook the foundations underneath me,” Mandisa says. “I sank into a deep pit of depression.” Rather than cope with her emotions, “I turned back to my old ways, which is food,” says Mandisa, who gained back the 120 lbs. she had famously lost, plus 75 lbs. more, and became a recluse.” Although it is very difficult, and God’s testing usually is but she was so overcome by the loss of her friend she did not listen to the words she wrote and sang. 
        When I read about this, I realized that everyone, like Mandisa, has this desire for God to heal when they ask Him too and like Mandisa will become very angry when He doesn’t. The expectation for God to move in power is very high as there is something inside that feels God should heal. The problem is that many, even though they want God to heal, have accepted the powerless church as normal. The other problem is that the church has rebelled against God’s word and God is not responding as He is expected to. God is not doing what He told Peter He would do. Matthew 16:18 “on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” But God is not the problem here. Think about all the churches that really do not believe in healing or casting out demons and have just accepted this pathetic and powerless church to be the true church. Their doctrines and theology do not allow for it, even though the bible makes it very clear there is power available to all who would believe. Mark 16:17 “And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; 18 they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.” Of course, they say if God so desires to heal, then He would, but He doesn’t. God made it clear that just as Jesus healed, his disciples will heal also. 1 Corinthians 12:9 “to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10 to another miraculous powers.” James 5:14 “Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. 16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” If the church would just read the word of God, the expectation for healing would increase and if the church would repent and turn from wicked ways, the power to heal would return.
        Mandisa was very open about her struggles and made this comment. She said in an interview “she felt she needed to talk about mental health in the body of Christ and said she felt it was a pandemic and something we need to be speaking about more.” That is very true. Mental illness is not only a pandemic in the church but the world also. On the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health’s website, they said “it's fair to say that most people still don't have a true understanding of just how big, onerous, and potentially damaging the crisis really is—on both a societal and personal level. The numbers simply don't lie.” “According to the World Health Organization, around 450 million people currently struggle with mental illness, making it the leading cause of disability worldwide. Here at home, it affects more than 6.7 million of us. In fact, one in two Canadians have—or have had—a mental illness by the time they reach 40 years of age. Alarming statistics like this only underscore the need for all of us to get involved in one way or another.” “Mental illness is a leading cause of disability in this country, preventing nearly 500,000 employed Canadians from attending work each week. To make matters worse, the cost of disability leave as a result of mental illness is about double the cost of leave due to physical illness. All in, the economic burden of mental illness in Canada is an estimated $51 billion per year including health care costs, lost productivity and reductions in health-related quality of life.” 

        Mandisa also praised the counseling she was receiving for her ongoing battle and yes, it is helpful but does not have the power from on High that we saw Jesus heal with. Most have come to believe you either pull up your bootstraps and do it yourself or get counseling. The numbers for mental illness would be even higher because not everyone reports it. Christian counselors are available to help the Christians through their struggles but where is the power to heal and cast out demons? I believe that Christian counselling is just secular counselling in disguise. Where is the power to be set completely free? We read about the power of Jesus and then the power that came at Pentecost but picture the gospels looking like the church. We read in Matthew 8:16 “When evening came, many who were demon-possessed were brought to him, and he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick. 17 This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah: “He took up our infirmities and bore our diseases.” If Jesus was like the church, none of this would be happening. Jesus did not make appointments for people to see them over the next 6 months; he healed and cast out demons. If Jesus was like the church, he would become a referral service to the counsellors making money off of Christians who should be seeking the power of God to be healed. Jesus would say I would love to help you but here is the number of someone I think you could really be helped by. Here is a prescription to help with your pain and anxiety. Think about how many people in the church are on some form of medication. Can you imagine Jesus saying I don’t really believe healing and casting out of demons is something that should be done today. I will leave that up to God. The demon-possessed would stay possessed and the sick would probably die. Then people would say things like they are better off in heaven or they are finally home, free or healed. Jesus would tell people that is just how it is as strolled through the neighborhoods. He would say there is nothing I can do about your daughter or son, and I am sorry for your loss. People would not be following Him, because he wasn’t doing anything. 

        The church talks as if Jesus is powerful and has authority but none of that shows up in the church. Churches like Saddleback came up with a Christian version of a 12- Step program called Celebrate Recovery (or Recovering), but there is no power. Rick Warren’s son died of suicide, and although I believe him to be a false teacher, I would never wish that upon anyone but this also shows how desperately the church needs the healing power of God. One article said, “Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church in California, and his wife Kay spoke to the congregation on Saturday night, for the first time since their son Matthew, 27, shot and killed himself on April 5. Warren this year marked the 10th anniversary of the release of his book, “The Purpose Driven Life,” which has sold 60 million copies and was recently re-released. Despite the phenomenal success of Warren's megachurch, which he founded in 1980, and his writing career, he was unable to overcome his son's mental illness. Warren said his son struggled with deep depression and suicidal thoughts throughout his life. Warren and his wife, Kay, who visited Alabama and spoke at Judson College in 2009, spent the evening with Matthew that Friday night, but Matthew returned home and took his own life. Over the years, the Warrens had sought out the best doctors, medication and counseling available. 
        Stories like the Warren’s son and Mandisa should make you realize that the power to heal is missing. If there was power, there would be massive change in people. This was not intended to be slight against the Warrens or Mandisa who struggled her whole life to overcome and was still struggling. Overcoming is not coping with a sickness through counseling. Overcoming is freedom. Matthew 16:18 “And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” Luke 10:19 “I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you.” When Jesus healed people, they were immediately healed. They did not need counselling or medication to sustain them the rest of their lives. Luke 13:10 “On a Sabbath Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues, 11 and a woman was there who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not straighten up at all. 12 When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, “Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.” 13 Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God.” This power I believe is what the Warrens and Mandisa desperately wanted when she prayed for her friend. I also believe she wanted that power for herself also. 

        This is not saying, as many like to say, that if they just had more faith, God would have heard their cry. This is about the church following other gospels and a different Jesus and refusing to turn from wicked ways, thus having no power to stand against our vast enemies. We were told, Exodus 15:26 “If you listen carefully to the Lord your God and do what is right in his eyes, if you pay attention to his commands and keep all his decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the Lord, who heals you.” That is the power we are looking for and is why the church needs to turn from its wicked ways. We were also told that Deuteronomy 28:15 “if you do not obey the Lord your God and do not carefully follow all his commands and decrees I am giving you today, all these curses will come on you and overtake you: 27 The Lord will afflict you with the boils of Egypt and with tumors, festering sores and the itch, from which you cannot be cured. 28 The Lord will afflict you with madness, blindness and confusion of mind. 29 At midday you will grope about like a blind person in the dark. You will be unsuccessful in everything you do; day after day you will be oppressed and robbed, with no one to rescue you. 45 All these curses will come on you. They will pursue you and overtake you until you are destroyed, because you did not obey the Lord your God and observe the commands and decrees he gave you. 46 They will be a sign and a wonder to you and your descendants forever. 47 Because you did not serve the Lord your God joyfully and gladly in the time of prosperity, 48 therefore in hunger and thirst, in nakedness and dire poverty, you will serve the enemies the Lord sends against you. He will put an iron yoke on your neck until he has destroyed you. 58 If you do not carefully follow all the words of this law, which are written in this book, and do not revere this glorious and awesome name—the Lord your God— 59 the Lord will send fearful plagues on you and your descendants, harsh and prolonged disasters, and severe and lingering illnesses. 60 He will bring on you all the diseases of Egypt that you dreaded, and they will cling to you. 61 The Lord will also bring on you every kind of sickness and disaster not recorded in this Book of the Law, until you are destroyed. 62 You who were as numerous as the stars in the sky will be left but few in number, because you did not obey the Lord your God. 63 Just as it pleased the Lord to make you prosper and increase in number, so it will please him to ruin and destroy you. You will be uprooted from the land you are entering to possess.” Jesus said Matthew 24:22 “If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened.” We were also given this hope but we must obey. Deuteronomy 28:12 “The Lord will open the heavens, the storehouse of his bounty, to send rain on your land in season and to bless all the work of your hands. You will lend to many nations but will borrow from none. 13 The Lord will make you the head, not the tail. If you pay attention to the commands of the Lord your God that I give you this day and carefully follow them, you will always be at the top, never at the bottom. 14 Do not turn aside from any of the commands I give you today, to the right or to the left, following other gods and serving them.” We were also given this hope. Exodus 23:25 “Worship the Lord your God, and his blessing will be on your food and water. I will take away sickness from among you, 26 and none will miscarry or be barren in your land. I will give you a full life span.” Matthew 9:35 “Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” Acts 5:12 “The apostles performed many signs and wonders among the people. And all the believers used to meet together in Solomon’s Colonnade. 13 No one else dared join them, even though they were highly regarded by the people. 14 Nevertheless, more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number. 15 As a result, people brought the sick into the streets and laid them on beds and mats so that at least Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them as he passed by. 16 Crowds gathered also from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those tormented by impure spirits, and all of them were healed.” This also should be said about the church, but it cannot be said.

        Most people in the church have no idea about the power that is supposed to be available for the church. I believe deep inside Mandisa was desperate for God to move in power and when He didn’t, she was shattered. How many people have accepted the powerless church as the church of the gospels? This is why the church must return to God’s word as people are not being healed nor are they being set free. As we see here in this verse, God will allow people not to be healed. Jesus said Luke 4:23 “Jesus said to them, “Surely you will quote this proverb to me: ‘Physician, heal yourself!’ And you will tell me, ‘Do here in your hometown what we have heard that you did in Capernaum.’” 24 “Truly I tell you,” he continued, “no prophet is accepted in his hometown. 25 I assure you that there were many widows in Israel in Elijah’s time, when the sky was shut for three and a half years and there was a severe famine throughout the land. 26 Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon. 27 And there were many in Israel with leprosy in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed—only Naaman the Syrian.” 28 All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. 29 They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him off the cliff. 30 But he walked right through the crowd and went on his way.” 
        People are not being healed and demons are not being cast out and people are not being set free as Jesus intended them to be. There is not the power needed to defeat satan as we see in this amazing verse describing the power of God. 1 Corinthians 6:9 “Do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” They key words are “and that’s what some of you were.” The church is filled with people who have never changed, nor have they been set free. Many in the church used to stand against homosexuality but then because there was no power and they followed other gospels and accepted homosexuality as okay before God even though His word clearly says this is an abomination. Many who still speak against it do not have the power to heal those who have been taken captive by it. You shouldn’t really speak against homosexuality unless you are seeking the power to heal homosexuality. If the church would turn back to God’s word, that same power Paul went out with would return. Acts 19:11 “God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, 12 so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them.” 1 Corinthians 4:20 “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power.” That is why those above could be washed and set free from captivity. 
        Many ask, why doesn’t God heal, why did God not answer my prayer but that is not the right question. Isaiah said, Isaiah 1:15 “When you spread out your hands in prayer, I hide my eyes from you; even when you offer many prayers, I am not listening. Your hands are full of blood!” The right question is, why doesn’t the church return to God’s word and repent? Isaiah goes on to say 16 “Wash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out of my sight; stop doing wrong. 18 “Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool. 19 If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the good things of the land; 20 but if you resist and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword.” For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” Zechariah 1:3 “Therefore tell the people: This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Return to me,’ declares the Lord Almighty, ‘and I will return to you,’ says the Lord Almighty.”