June 2013

The quantity of spiritual energy released

Series: An edited adaptation of the book Prayer, Power, and Proclamation by C.L.Peppler published by Chrispy Publications in 2009 (ISBN 978-0-620-43583-3). Chap 4; part 4: 

As explained in my previous post, words direct the flow of energy, but what determines the actual quantum of energy released?

Following the analogy of a battery, we can obviously only discharge what we contain. John said to the beggar, “What I have I give you.” (Acts 3:6). The two major considerations determining what charge a battery carries are, the capacity of the battery and the amount of charge received. A small battery can only carry a small charge. A big car battery would also only carry a small charge if (a) its capacity was reduced through sediment, lack of water, and so on, or (b) it was only given a small charge to store. In a similar manner, the charge of spiritual energy we can store is dependent on:

  1. The ‘size’ of our spiritual ‘battery’. We increase our spiritual capacity by growing more like Jesus. We do this by spending time with him and by yielding to the transforming work of the Holy Spirit. The more spiritually mature we are, the greater our capacity.
  2. The lack of ‘sediment’ and impure ‘water’. When we are acting in disobedience to God’s Word, and when our thought lives, or our physical actions or words, are impure, then our spirits are tainted. We become clogged with spiritual sediment, and our capacity reduces. A good analogy is that of a glass of water – if it is half-full of sand, then it can only receive half its volume in water.

Several batteries linked together are capable of discharging more current than a single battery of similar size. If we link them in series, then they will give off the same current as a single battery, but for far longer. If we link them in parallel, then they will give off a much stronger current than a single battery for the same duration as the single unit.

The thing which links us together (much like batteries linked in parallel) is a common mind and heart. Acts 1:14 records that the early disciples, “all joined together constantly in prayer.” The Greek word used here carries the fuller meaning of people coming together, both physically and with their minds in full agreement with each other. They come into agreement of heart and mind by praying as a group until they believe that what they ask for and envision is according to God’s will.

I do not believe that we can expand, grow, or increase our faith. Either we have it, or we do not. It is the catalyst, the trigger, for receipt and release of spiritual energy. Think of a regular light switch. If it is off, then the light is off. If it is on, then the current flows to the bulb and the light comes on. In this analogy, the switch represents faith. The ‘amperage’ of the current is, as already described, the quantity of spiritual energy present. But what determines the ‘voltage’ of the current? Voltage, returning to the analogy of a light bulb, is the potential force which pushes electricity through the wire to the bulb. In spiritual terms, faith is the switch which allows the ‘electricity’ to flow. ‘Voltage’ is the force which propels the ‘amps’ of power, through the switch of faith, and down the wire of the minister, to the recipient.

The emotion of compassion generates spiritual ‘voltage’. If I care about the one to whom I am ministering, if I empathise and deeply desire to help, then the spiritual energy I have will flow strongly. Jesus was moved by the emotional power of compassion (Matthew 9:36; 14:14; 15:32; 20:34.  Mark 1:41; 6:34). Compassion is what draws spiritual energy from us and imparts it to the object of our compassion. Diagrammatically, the process looks something like the following:

The Role of Compassion
Our potential for ministry is greatest when sin does not reduce our spiritual capacity, where we feel passionate about ministering, and when we ask the Holy Spirit to fill us with his power. The ministry potential of a group of believers is the sum of the individual potentials.

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The function of words

Series: An edited adaptation of the book Prayer, Power, and Proclamation by C.L.Peppler published by Chrispy Publications in 2009 (ISBN 978-0-620-43583-3). Chap 4; part 3: 

I do not believe that words are power ‘capsules’. Instead, they contain meaning, and they convey intent and authority. In this way, they focus the release of spiritual energy and act as a sort of targeting mechanism.

I love science fiction, so please forgive my use of a laser gun as an example. The gun butt contains a battery, which stores the energy, the trigger releases the energy, the laser beam constitutes the energy released, and the gun sight is the targeting mechanism. In this analogy, the trigger stands for faith and the gun sight stands for words. Faith triggers the release of energy, and words direct the energy.

Let me use the incident recorded in Acts 13:11 as an example. Paul said, “YouŒ are going to be blind, and for a time you will be unable to see the light of the sunŽ”.

Words identify and clarify the objective Œ “YOU are going to be blind”

Words specify the intended action  “You are going to BE BLIND”

Words describe the result Ž “for A TIME”

Here is the model again, this time showing the role of words in the process of ministering.

The Ministry Model

How is it that words spoken in faith can direct spiritual power? Unfortunately, the Bible does not give any information on the ‘how’ of it. This is not unusual, for in many instances the scriptures record that something ‘is’, yet give no indication of how it came to be. The creation account is an example of this – “And God said, ‘Let there be light,” and there was light’” (Genesis 1:3).

From at least the days of Plato, metaphysical thought systems have included the concepts of vibration and energy waves. Sounds are vibrations that travel in waveform. Electromagnetic energy also has a waveform. So, the sound of spoken words could, I suppose, resonate sympathetically with higher wavelengths. In this way, sound could perhaps translate into energy. Words could thus produce actual physical effects. However, I don’t think that this is what happens. Quantum physics will probably provide us with a more reasonable explanation. It seems that, at the quantum level, focused thought has the ability to change reality. I suspect that at the spiritual level something similar happens. Our focused and sustained intent, expressed in faith, and articulated in words, somehow has the ability to direct spiritual energy. The Bible, as I have already stated, has nothing to say about how this works, and so all of this is purely speculative. However, the scriptures do record that God created light and matter by proclaiming them; “And God said… and there was…” (Genesis 1:3) This, and the examples drawn from Jesus’ life, provide the fact of the matter, but the scriptures still do not given clarity on the ‘how’ of it.

The scriptures attest to the practice of laying hands on people for healing. Most Christians practise this, although many, I suspect, perform it as a sort of Bible-based ritual. My understanding is that spiritual energy can transfer from one person to another through physical contact, in faith. I have already cited and discussed the case of Jesus and the suffering woman. However, I have also made the point that on occasions Jesus healed with words alone, and at a distance.

Faith is being certain of what we do not see. When we feel prompted by the Holy Spirit, we should not hesitate to declare conditions which do not yet exist. For instance, at the seminary I am involved with we were anxiously awaiting government registration for our programmes. We had done all we could, yet the officials at the Department of Education were taking an inordinately long time in finalising our application. One Saturday morning, at a church prayer meeting, I felt the strong prompting of the Holy Spirit. I stood up and declared the removal of the hindrances to registration and the issue of approval. Just a week later, we received the long-awaited certificate of registration.

There are some obvious dangers here. We have to realise that the Holy Spirit gives us whatever power we have, and that it is not self-generated. We need to ensure that others understand this when we minister to them, or when we make declarations. If we elevate ourselves, or allow others to regard us as ‘special’, then God may not entrust us with further power. Remember, King Herod paid dearly for attempting to glorify himself (Acts 12:22-23).

The ‘name-it-and-claim-it’ abuses of recent years have caused many more conservative believers to shun any form of declaration of the sort I have been detailing. However, we should not allow aberrations to detract us from truth. Jesus proclaimed, and things were as he proclaimed them to be. He also instructed his followers to do likewise (Matthew 21:21). So, the real question is ‘on what grounds do we NOT do what he modelled, taught, and commissioned?’

Words are ways of expressing meaning, and in that sense they are thought containers. Can they also be energy containers? I don’t think so. Words express the intent of the speaker. When we address a sentient being, either human or demonic, our words convey authority and intent. When we direct them at non-sentient objects, then the words serve as a focusing mechanism. They identify and clarify the objective, they specify the intended action, and they describe the result. The speaker releases spiritual power by faith and directs it in accordance with the words spoken.

Why then do we need to speak aloud? Why won’t silent words, thoughts, suffice? My understanding is that spoken words make concrete, precise, and definite, the intentions of the mind. Using the analogy of the laser gun again, the marksman first thinks about shooting at the target, but before he can hit the mark, he has to physically align the gun and squeeze the trigger. In the spiritual world, words act in the same way as the gun sights and the marksman’s hands as he aligns the weapon.

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Peter’s deadly words

Series: An edited adaptation of the book Prayer, Power, and Proclamation by C.L.Peppler published by Chrispy Publications in 2009 (ISBN 978-0-620-43583-3). Chap 4; part 2:

Let’s consider a very disturbing incident in the life of the early church where another intriguing indication of the power of proclamation occurs in Acts 5. Peter appears to speak death to Ananias’ wife, Sapphira. Verses 9-10 record how Peter, said to her, ‘How could you agree to test the Spirit of the Lord? Look! The feet of the men who buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out also.’ At that moment she fell down at his feet and died. Then the young men came in and, finding her dead, carried her out and buried her beside her husband.

You could argue that God merely backed up Peter’s words by striking the woman dead, but that would indicate that God was responsible for a brutal response to what appears to be a rather minor offence. It is equally unlikely that both Ananias and his wife would have died from shock. I suppose this could have happened, but one incidence would have been most unusual, let alone two!  It makes more sense to understand that Peter was utilising the authority and power given to him and under his control. We may well question Peter’s use, or abuse of this power, but this is surely preferable to laying the blame at God’s feet.

I must tell you, though, that the common interpretation of this passage does put the blame squarely on God. The idea is that God needed to nip any form of dishonesty and self-serving in the bud. In my view, if this was his intent, then the strategy failed miserably. For instance, the members of the church in Corinth behaved disgracefully and obviously took no warning from the Ananias incident. Significantly, God did not strike any of them dead!

There is a revealing parallel to this event recorded in Acts 13:9 – 12 where Paul deals with Elymas, a Jewish sorcerer and false prophet. Paul says this to him, “’You are a child of the devil …You are going to be blind, and for a time’ …When the proconsul saw what had happened, he believed, for he was amazed at the teaching about the Lord.” The point of similarity is that Paul, like Peter, proclaimed negatively, and the results were exactly as spoken. There are, however, some major differences. Ananias and his wife were children of God and disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ, while Elymas was a child and disciple of the devil. Despite this, Paul did not proclaim his death but just a temporary blindness. The result of Peter’s action was fear amongst the people and a huge reticence to join the church, while the result of Paul’s action was a pagan official turned to Jesus.

Would Jesus have struck dead two of his followers because of a ‘white lie’? No! Jesus healed and raised the dead; he did not kill! Why then would we think that he would do any differently in his dealings with his church?

For me, the inescapable conclusion is that Peter abused his authority and misused his power. The Holy Spirit gifted him with a Word of Knowledge, so that he could correct the couple’s behaviour, but instead of correcting them he terminated them!

When I was teaching on this passage, a few people got upset with me on two counts. Firstly, they felt that I was criticising Peter, the great man of God. Well, yes I am. Peter was an ordinary man with strengths and faults. He was impetuous and sometimes arrogant. I believe that he made a grave mistake in his handling of the situation. His lesson is our lesson. Christian leaders often emotionally ‘shoot’ their erring church members. Of course, nowadays we don’t actually shoot them; we just criticise them, speak badly of them, and run them out of the church! 

Secondly, my gentle critics objected to the inference that the Bible was inadequate because it recorded this event without censure. The Bible tells things as they are. The book of Acts is, in part, a history of the early church. It contains both good and bad models and examples. They are there for our instruction. I appreciate this about the Bible, and I draw hope and instruction from the mistakes committed by biblical characters. I can relate to them because I constantly make mistakes and require God’s grace and mercy.

But what actually happens when a spirit-filled believer speaks words of blessing or curse? The Bible gives no direct answer to this question, so I will try to set out my understanding in upcoming blog posts.

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About Me

My name is Christopher Peppler and I was born in Cape Town, South Africa in 1947. While working in the financial sector I achieved a number of business qualifications from the Institute of Bankers, Damelin Management School, and The University of the Witwatersrand Business School. After over 20 years as a banker, I followed God’s calling and joined the ministry full time. After becoming a pastor of what is now a quite considerable church, I  earned an undergraduate theological qualification from the Baptist Theological College of Southern Africa and post-graduate degrees from two United States institutions. I was also awarded the Doctor of Theology in Systematic Theology from the University of Zululand in 2000.

Four years before that I established the South African Theological Seminary (SATS), which today is represented in over 70 countries and has more than 2 500 active students enrolled with it. I presently play an role supervising Masters and Doctoral students.

I am a passionate champion of the Christocentric or Christ-centred Principle, an approach to biblical interpretation and theological construction that emphasises the centrality of Jesus

I have been happily married to Patricia since the age of 20, have two children, Lance and Karen, a daughter-in-law Tracey, and granddaughters Jessica and Kirsten. I have now retired from both church and seminary leadership and devote my time to writing, discipling, and the classical guitar.

If you would like to read my testimony to Jesus then click HERE.