A Healing Cloth

The Children’s Bread 11/12

God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, 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. Acts 19:11-12

Trying to reproduce something that happened in a different time, place and culture is a bad idea. Many years ago, I received a letter from a famous evangelist with a small piece of cloth. The letter instructed me to lay the cloth on my body to receive healing. The cloth was a point of contact to help me release my faith and receive from God. The letter concluded with an appeal to send an offering so the evangelist could send more miracle working pieces of cloth. Need I say more? Money is a caution sign that manipulation is involved.

The reason God used prayer cloths had a purpose that had nothing to do with money. The people of Ephesus believed in many gods and faithfully worshipped them. In their religious practices they used curious arts of magic. Barnes Notes state “That such arts were practiced at Ephesus is well known. The Ephesian letters, by which incantations and charms were supposed to be produced, were much celebrated. They seem to have consisted of certain combinations of letters or words, which, by  being pronounced with certain intonations of voice were believed to be effective in expelling diseases, or evil spirits; or which, by being written on parchment and worn, were suppose to ….guard from evil spirits…”

The Ephesians believed touching a parchment or cloth that had been prayed over had power to cure diseases and guard against evil spirits. Whether or not the Ephesian religious practices worked is debatable. Not debatable, they were accustomed to this practice.

God comes to us on a level we can understand and receive him and then lifts us higher. The Ephesians who touched the prayer cloth were healed.  And by the end of the revival, many Ephesians admitted their religious practices were evil and burned the books that taught them to practice sorcery.


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The Word of the Lord

The Children’s Bread 10/12

 “Paul left them. He took the disciples with him and had discussions daily in the lecture hall of Tyrannus.  This went on for two years, so that all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord….. God did extraordinary miracles through Paul,  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. Acts 19:9-12

When the leaders of the Ephesian synagogue slandered Paul’s message that Jesus is the way, he moved to the lecture hall of Tyrannus. All of Asia heard the word of the Lord, not the word of the synagogue’s leaders, not the word of Paul, not the word of the apostles, but the WORD OF THE LORD. Hearing the word of the Lord purged from human additions is another key element to God working miracles among us.

We must not only come out from among people in the church who refuse to believe, we must teach God’s thoughts and ideas. The leaders of the synagogue who refused to accept accurate doctrine and continued teaching their own ideas excluded themselves and those who believed them from the miracles of healing and deliverance that exploded in Tyrannus’s lecture hall.

Before Jesus ascended to heaven to take his place at God’s right hand, he said signs would follow those who believe the truth. Healing and deliverance from devils are two of those signs.

Mark concluded his gospel:

“Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it.” Mark 16:20, emphasis added

When we speak God’s thoughts and ideas, he works with us to confirm we have spoken the truth. Paul sought to establish his disciples “not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power” (1 Corinthians 2:4).

In Paul’s list of the gifts of the Spirit we find “to another gifts of healings by the same spirit, to another the working of miracles….(1 Corinthians 12:9-10). If the people in a congregation are plagued with sickness and act like devils, examine the doctrine. Is it full of human wisdom or is it full of wisdom the Lord can confirm?


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Dogs and Miracles

The Children’s Bread 9/12

 Last week, I promised to tell you why Jesus refused to heal a woman’s daughter of devils until she put him in a no-win situation.

To understand why Jesus initially told the woman, “NO”, we need to consider a few important facts. First, the woman’s daughter was full of devils. Devils cannot possess us unless we give them permission. Second, the daughter was not seeking help. Therefore, the daughter was involved in worshipping devils. Third, the woman approached Jesus crying help me. She wanted relief from a daughter full of devils, but that did not mean her daughter wanted the devils to leave.

Mom’s solution to her problem, cast out the devils, was well within Jesus’ ability to implement. But if we back up from Matthew 15 to Matthew 12 Jesus already explained what happens when devils leave.

“When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest, and finds none. Then he says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when he comes, he finds it empty, swept, and put in order. Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first.” (Matthew 12:43-45, NKJV)

 Jesus can cast out devils, but that does not stop them from returning.  He knew healing the woman’s daughter would not be good because the daughter was not seeking his help, and the devils he cast out would return to an empty clean house. Ultimately, the mother’s solution would have made the problem seven times worse. When God says “No” he has a good reason.


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Crumbs for Dogs

The Childrens Bread 8/12

Gentile woman who had heard about Jesus and believed he was the son of David and heir to his throne approached him seeking a miracle.

 And behold, a woman of Canaan came from that region and cried out to Him, saying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David! My daughter is severely demon-possessed.” But He answered her not a word. (Matthew 15:22-23)

Note that the daughter full of devils is not present. The mother didn’t need mercy, her daughter did, and the daughter was not asking for his help. In response to the mother’s plea for mercy, Jesus refused to acknowledge her.

The mother responded by turning to a lessor power for help–his disciples. The disciples could not help her, so they went to Jesus and complained.  They didn’t ask Jesus to help the mother. They asked him to send her away. Jesus didn’t send her away. He explained to his disciples why he refused to acknowledge her.

And His disciples came and urged Him, saying, “Send her away, for she cries out after us.”  But He answered and said, “I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” (Matthew 15:23-24)

Miracles were for the lost sheep, God’s children.

 Then she came and worshiped Him, saying, “Lord, help me!” (Matthew 15:25)

When the disciples tried to convince Jesus to send her away, she changed her tactics. Instead of pleading for mercy, she worshipped Jesus. God does not ignore people who worship him. Jesus explained why he did not want to heal her daughter.

But He answered and said, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.”  (Matthew 15:26)

Did Jesus lie to this desperate woman?

I have heard many sermons that claimed Jesus really did not mean it would be bad if he healed her daughter. He made that statement to draw faith out of the woman. If Jesus does not mean what he says and says what he means, he is a liar. If he lied to the woman, he is not God. It is impossible for God to lie (Hebrews 6:8). If he can tell a lie, we cannot trust him.

The only way to accurately interpret what happened is to believe Jesus told her the truth. He wasn’t trying to get faith from her. He had her best interest at heart. He told her why he ignored her plea for help. It’s not good to give the children’s bread to dogs.

Knowing the truth, healing her daughter would not be good, she rejected his wisdom and refused to be denied.

And she said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.” (Matthew 15:27

She agreed that getting what she wanted would not be good, but even dogs eat crumbs. The insincerity in the mother’s worship is revealed. If she truly worshipped him, she would have respected his wisdom and accepted that it is not good for her daughter to receive a miracle.

Then Jesus answered and said to her, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be to you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed from that very hour.  (Mat 15:28, NKJV)

You might argue that Jesus said she had great faith, and by that faith she obtained what she desired. He healed her daughter. Great does not mean good. WWII is called the “Great War”. Does that mean it was a good war? God gave us faith to obtain what he desires. She ignored Jesus’ counsel and refused to leave until she got what she desired. From the day Eve desired to be wise like God until today, getting what we desire is the source of much pain and suffering.

God is infallible. He owes a debt to no man because he has wronged no one. If we back him in a corner with our “great faith” putting him in the position that we will be angry with him if he does and angry if he doesn’t, he will give us what we want. He knows how to keep his hands clean. The pain we bring into our lives thinking we are smarter than God, is our fault, not his.

If you are thinking I am way off base because her daughter was healed, log on next week and I’ll explain why Jesus said it is not good to give miracles to dogs.


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Tolerating Covetous Revilers


 “But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortion – not even to eat with such a person.” 1 Corinthians 5:11

The church is good at separating themselves from most of the things on Paul’s list of undesirable company that defiles us. We do not tolerate sexual immorality and drunkenness, nor would we erect an idol in the church. People caught extorting money are removed from office. We excel at keeping most of the pollution out. But there are two things on the list we have failed to purge from our churches—the covetous and the reviler.

The Greek word translated covetous means eager to have more. The Greek word translated reviler means abusive. Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words clarifies revilers abuse people with their words. If you harm others by speaking reproachfully to them you are a reviler who needs to repent.

The leaders in the Ephesian synagogue publicly maligned Paul’s message. To malign is to criticize in a spiteful and false or misleading way intending to harm. The same leaders who wanted Paul to stay the first time he spoke in their synagogue reviled him when he returned. If you are covetous, eager to have more, you will become a reviler if you cannot accept the truth.

It is so common to revile shepherds that many barely have a twang of conviction we have acted wickedly. Most of the reviling comes from the desire for more of God. When pastors do not give us the more we desire, we speak reproachfully about them. Some subject them to verbal abuse.

Not only do sheep revile their shepherds, shepherds revile the sheep for the same reason. They want more. They want the sheep to pray more, give more and win more people to the Lord. When the sheep fail, they speak reproachfully to us with fine-tuned messages backed by scripture.

We bob our heads in agreement believing we deserved the verbal abuse. Then we walk out the door thanking the shepherd for a great message as he pats himself on the back for his boldness. But the only thing that happened was  abuse. The only thing God saw was wickedness.

The reviling that takes place in the church will never give us more of God. Reviling each other puts us in the class of dogs devouring one another, too wicked to have more. There is a good reason God waits for us to purge all the wickedness out, so he can give us more of him. It is dangerous to give miracles to dogs.


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A Time to Separate

The Childrens Bread 6/12

Paul left the synagogue with his disciples and resumed meeting in the lecture hall of Tyrannus. Two years of extraordinary miracles followed, which leaves us with a question of epic proportions. Why didn’t the miracles begin while they were in the synagogue?

I find a reasonable answer in 2 Corinthians 6:14, “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?” While some use this scripture to prove we should not marry or enter a business partnership with an unbeliever, its message includes the unbelievers in the church, especially the ones who lead us.

Paul told the saints at Corinth not to keep company with sexually immoral people. The saints took his message to the extreme, so he clarified what he meant. He never meant for the saints to separate themselves from the people of this world who are immoral. We must not “keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner—not even to eat with such a person” 1 Corinthians 5:11, NKJV.

When we refused to be unequally yoked with leaders in a church who claim to be a brother in Christ yet their lives are filthy with sin, we will see miracles again. God’s promises guarantee it.

“As God has said: I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people. Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you. I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.” 2 Corinthians 6:16-18

Miracles are the children’s bread. When Paul took his disciples and separated from the unbelievers in the church, God according to his promises received them as his children and extraordinary miracles began.

We don’t have proof that the leaders of the synagogue were sexually immoral, worshiped idols, were drunkards or thieves, but we have proof they were revilers who rejected Jesus. Their lust for more of God became their undoing and excluded them from the revival.


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The Benefit of Controversy

The Children’s Bread 5/12

“Paul entered the synagogue and spoke boldly there for three months, arguing persuasively about the kingdom of God. But some of them became obstinate; they refused to believe and publicly maligned the Way.

Paul returned to the synagogue in Ephesus by invitation. They wanted him to “spend more time with them.” Paul promised to return if it was God’s will and it was. When some Jews who wanted more of God understood Paul’s message they refused to believe it.

The leaders became obstinate when they understood Jesus is the only way to obtain the kingdom of God. They did more than reject Jesus. The leaders stood before their congregation and publicly maligned Paul’s message to prevent their congregation from receiving salvation.

Whenever God seeks to give us more, controversy is inevitable, but it serves a good purpose. 

“God’s solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: The Lord knows those who are his…” 2 Timothy 2:19

God knows who is his, but we don’t. God looks where we cannot see. He looks on our hearts and knows who sincerely wants him, and who is seeking personal benefit. Churches are full of self-appointed ministers whose erroneous doctrines create strongholds in our lives that prevent us from receiving more of God. When someone declares the truth, the light in truth exposes them for the charlatans they really are. At that point they will repent or defend themselves. If they don’t repent controversy erupts. The ensuing battle reveals to the rest of us who is God’s and who is not.

Churches split when leaders quarrel leaving the congregation to choose whose message to embrace. The message that left them dry, thirsty and sick or the message that quenched their thirst and healed them. They either follow the leader who suffers for their good or the leader who cares more about being right than benefiting his congregation. Unfortunately, many will choose the familiar that left them dry, thirsty and empty.

The maligned leader, Paul, had no option but to take the sheep who embraced his message that “Jesus is the Way” and leave the stubborn goats behind. When Paul moved to the lecture hall of Tyrannus, God released a revival of extraordinary miracles.

LOG ON NEXT WEEK FOR PART 6: A Time to Separate

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