Cross-posted at: THE WORD on The Word of Faith (a GroupBlog)
(My father passed Oct., 2008; The below was originally posted Feb., 2009, reworked for my site June 2015)
See also my “Sermon” ~ Mark 11:20-25, “Moving Mountains: Faith in Faith”
(To skip the intro and go directly to the eulogy, click “here“)
Before beginning my own thought, I would be remiss not to recommend a well written dealing with these issues, “Sickness and Suffering in Light of Christ.”
- An Introduction to My Eulogy
I felt it necessary to post a short biography of what brings me, Papa Giorgio, here to THE WORD on The Word of Faith.
My father was the road manager for a short time for Wilson Pickett and then was involved with Mitch Rider and the Detroit Wheels. Before this time period of my father getting into all aspects of the music industry (drugs, traveling, and the like), I was born in 1970. One-year later my mother and father were divorced. It was the seventies, so the hippie/vagabond lifestyle was chic and my mom traveled a bit, finally settling down in Detroit [proper], married to a wonderful man. My father settled down in North Hollywood California, the other side of the country.
In 1976, my father was saved through the ministry of Ma Bean, a skinny little charismatic woman who had a ministry in Southern California. It was part of the early “Jesus Movement,” where hippies were giving up their drug highs for the “high of Holy Spirit.” After my dad was born again, he started to contact us in order to be involved in his son’s [my] life. He would travel once-and-a-while to Detroit to visit with his family and also see me. In 1982, one of my mom’s aunts who lived in California was sick, so my mom went to visit. During this visit, my dad was key in bringing my mom to the Lord. After her return to Detroit my mom divorced her current husband [a very tough time for me, any child] and we moved to California where she was remarried to my father in a charismatic Catholic church service.
We attended Church on the Way (Jack Hayford’s church), visited the Catholic church when there was a Charismatic service, and TBN (Trinity Broadcasting Network) was on 24/7 in the home. While the A-Team was the discussion point at school, any programming other than TBN was “devilish.” (I am sure some can relate.)
Years later, my mother and father were divorced again. I attribute this to a few factors. First, mainly due to no real doctrine being present in their life, just emotional Christianity. Their subjective wills were not firmly based in the immovable will of the revealed God of Scripture. This is not to say they were-not-or-did-not have a real conversion moment… I did at thirteen. But replacing the sound doctrine of the Cross with “kingdom now/word faith” theology stretches the boundaries of Christ’s salvonic work (1 Samuel 16:7). Secondly… my mother is a hippy [vagabond] at heart. This isn’t ideal, but she i-s my mom. Thirdly, my father
I remember, a while after my parents were divorced, my dad having just enough to pay another month of his mortgage… or… paying TBN during one of their faith marathons.
During this particular drive, TBN had a fire pit built in back of their California studio and promised that no matter what a person’s financial need and situation was, that they could receive 10-times the amount given — and very possibly more. So my dad took his last $2,000 and sent it in. Obviously he lost the house, and ultimately his life (I will explain further shortly).
It is this type of thinking that has devastated my family as well as taking the life of my father. It is not just another form of Christianity, it is a killer form if taken to its logical end.
An additional point. This type of thinking is VERY legalistic. You will often hear about some Baptists practicing strict legalism over behavior. However, in the “Health and Wealth Gospel,” often time you HAVE to show the evidence of tongues in order to to show that you have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. If you do not speak in tongues, you do not have the Spirit in you. This is legalism that changes even Jesus’ promise to us (John 14:15-31).
In this set of verses He [the Holy Spirit] is called Truth v. 16-17):
- “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.”
This is important because for all the evidences we give for the faith, we KNOW it to be true because of the inner witness of the Spirit. And “knowing” truth [Truth] is important when confronting a culture with God’s attributes that not only include love, but equally: justice, hatred of sin, and even judgement. Without truth [Truth], a Christian does not KNOW God, cannot express the Truth in love or in standing against evil. True evil.
It interferes with what Scripture is meant for as well:
- All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
What a daunting rejection of God’s grace and plan for His church/people. Pride comes before a fall, and this is hubris on steroids!
Which is why I must participate in such a site and post articles like this, if only to reach one soul with the true freedom found in a proper understanding of Law and Grace.
There is freedom for those who take up their cross, in this case, it is a cross of understanding what Jesus died for… it wasn’t for my father’s mortgage.
Jesus died for something more valuable than that, more valuable than all the money racked in by TBN…. He died for your and my soul.
My father was sent home to “live” with my wife and myself with a diagnosis of two-months to live. On October 25th I was reading Scripture to my father when his breathing started getting worse than it already was. I stopped reading from the Word and started to fluff the pillows and blankets surrounding my father. He managed to gasp “help” and shortly thereafter was strong enough to cry a bit…
(as I did as well)
…while telling him that I loved him and wiping the drool from his mouth and the sweat from his brow. I could not dial 911 or call for help because my father was sent home with us for this reason… to pass as comfortably as possible.
All I could do is watch my father suffocated to death.
He looked scared.
Not because he lacked faith in God, but because the natural tendency of mankind is to live. He was also coming to the understanding that the doctors were correct and his theology flawed… realizing your life is slipping away and having so many open ends in it can be daunting. Even terrifying, to say the least.
You see, his lungs were full of cancer due to his colon cancer.
This cancerous barrage spreading through his body was the result of him feeling sick but not going to the doctor to get checked up. Rather, he would claim his wellness by faith.
F-i-n-a-l-l-y, he was so sick he HAD TO go to the doctors for a look at what was wrong.
he was diagnosed with colon cancer and it was recommended he be operated on immediately. He pushed off the operation a few times, canceling dates of the operation in order to claim his healing by faith.
I will never (never) forget this next visit I drove him to at his primary physician’s office. His doctor was at her wits end. When she walked out of the examination room, I told my dad that if he did not get the operation that I was through with helping him. He yelled at me this favorite saying of word-faith teachers,
“GET BEHIND ME SATAN!”
This is important and should not be lost on the audience. I am his son telling him to follow his doctor’s suggestion and quit canceling his operation dates… and I am Satan according to his theology.
He finally acquiesced and got the operation.
The operation proved successful, you could see a marked improvement in even how he looked.
I went with him to his follow-up appointment with his regular, primary care doctor. [Turned out to be his only.]
She showed amazement — as did I upon finding out the information — that he didn’t go to his scheduled meeting[s] with the specialist (the doctor that did the operation).
My father ended up rejecting any form of recommended chemotherapy (his doctor even explaining a new pill form that wasn’t as invasive as radiation therapy).
The doctor was worried that the cancer had spread and they wanted to kill as much of the cancer as they could thus extending my father’s life. My father rejected this and refused to even see his regular doctor. AGAIN, claiming his well-being through faith.
- You see, this type of thinking is ingrained in the word-faith movement that was popularized by TBN (Trinity Broadcasting Network) and taken from the writings of Kenneth Hagin and later Kenneth Copeland. My father had just about every Hagin booklet known to man.
Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago (11-3-08) and my father was being told that he had cancer all over his body. Especially in his lungs, BECAUSE he had a) initially waited too long allowing the cancer to perforate the wall of his colon… and his later b) refusing and post-treatment allowing the cancer to spread quickly.
I was present in the hospital when it took TWO doctors to get the point across that there was nothing more they could do.
I watched as my father begged them for chemotherapy to help extend his life.
Obviously, it was too late for that. And they forcefully explained that.
It was sad to see him put in a corner of the one-for-one odds of our death. It was a bit tougher in his case because it was hastened by his own actions and bad theology.
It did not take long for my dad to revert to saying that Satan was a liar and that he was going to be healed.
It is regrettable that many at this church [my father’s church] commented positively upon reflection of my father’s rebuking of Satan and his claiming his healing by faith.
I wonder if his fellow church members knew what he was really saying? It is this:
He was i) denying his sickness in the hope that his ii) positive confession would express iii) enough faith to iv) receive his healing that he believes is v) promised to him via the atonement. His sickness/faith… and thus his “atonement” are intimately tied up with his outcome.
- atonement: the reconciliation of God and humans brought about by the redemptive life and death of Jesus.
A Quick Break
Here are some audio files from some leaders in the Word-Faith Movement.
True Christians do not get Sick:
Sickness is Demonic:
Faith is a force & James 4 is stupid:
- Continuing My Introduction
And this is the crux of the matter which I will explain more in the actual eulogy I did at my dad’s service.
After my presentation (again, below), one woman came up to me after and said she would love to have seen my father and I heatedly discuss the issue of healing in the atonement.
I did not know what to say.
I wanted to say that what she did not realize was that my position had been proven in my father’s death. There was no need for an argument, death was unfortunately on my side of the argument.
Obviously, there will be a time when all of creation, hence mankind, will be in perfect harmony again as the creation God intended… anyone listening to my presentation thoughtfully would realize such when I read from Romans chapter 8 from two different versions. However, I fear that not too many listened with a sharp ear.
So now I am anguished a bit at my dad’s last attempt to shed a tear right before he took his last breath.
Was it because he faltered in his faith and was frightened that he had been wrong all these years due to his non-healing?
Was it because he had unfinished business with loved ones… namely his son?
Did all the stuff he accumulated in his apartment supplant what he really needed, a family, his grandsons, daughter-in-law?(He drove for years past our condominium three-or-four times a week going to his church without stopping in once.)
W-h-a-t-e-v-e-r his reasoning was, I couldn’t do anything but cry and tell him I loved him.
(like I am now)
And these folks at his church ~ as wonderful as they are and were to him ~ are soo caught up in their emotional stances of Scripture that a healthy-well-balanced understanding of scripture is too much to ask for.
The charismatic and Pentecostal tradition has a lot to answer for in the proverbial “By-and-By.” Mind you, while I truly believe some of these people at my dad’s church are saved and are going to heaven, they are destroying lives of people around them. They just don’t see it.
Here I am adding a caveat.
If people follow the Word-Faith theology to its logical conclusion, then the person may not in fact be saved at all. My father rejected much of the following… I know because we argued this stuff for years. Some dangerous views that could lead some to eternal separation from their Creator are:
- Jesus is not God ~ Paul Crouch and Kenneth Copeland
- God is a Man (more) ~ Kenneth Copeland;
- Trinity isn’t Three, but Nine – Benny Hinn;
- more Trinity missteps – Benny Hinn
Listen to more actual audio of these cultists preaching a twisted faith, HERE, stuff like:
- God the Father has a body;
- Trinity not important;
- Adam flew to the moon;
- men become gods;
- men are gods
Just like the early movement in the Corinthian church that had a similar emotional outburst and rejected a healthy-well-balanced theology that Paul spoke to in 1 Corinthian 14:23. Thus, Paul would have rebuked gracefully and doctrinally my dad’s church.
This eulogy I entitled:
O’ Sweet Exchange
I love the smell of Scripture…
It even smells like grace…
In fact, we have a smell as well… did you know that?
…2 Corinthians 2:15 says that because of Christ, we give off a sweet scent rising to God.
We are truly a new creation, even down to our aroma!
And I have seen Pastor Andre after he has worked on one of his tanks, so I am sure this substitution of aroma wrought by Christ’s sacrifice on Calvary is much appreciated by him and his congregation.
- [So the reader knows, the pastor of my dad’s church works in the movie “prop” industry and has many of real military equipment one has seen in the classic war movies, from Saving Private Ryan to Heartbreak Ridge.]
Many of you probably know by now that I am Ron’s son. I will always be his boy, but am nonetheless a man with my own family.
And the very recent passing of my father got me thinking about our lives and the promises we have in Scripture in regards to our eternal security.
Now let me confess that there is no “holy theology.”Man is corrupt from the inside out and we tend to corrupt most things we touch, even the plain and simple promises of the Word. All one has to do is study church history or read the letters to the churches to get a good grasp at how quickly we can goof things up.
One example is found in Galatians 1:6 where the apostle Paul admonishes the church in Galatia when he says: “I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel.” Another version reads, “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel.” Yet another version says the apostle was amazed. Why amazed? Paul was writing the Galatians in A.D. 49, a church he founded on his first missionary journey only three years earlier.
You see, we tend to corrupt things quickly and efficiently, and it takes the Holy Spirit daily infecting our lives through the Word of God and the body of Christ to keep us focused on the goal that Paul says we are to strive for.
My father had a clear understanding of this goal and I have no doubt he is present with the Lord because he is definitely absent from his body.
My goal here then is not to mourn his gain, that would be futile. My goal is to bring a deeper understanding to something he struggled with here that may offer some clarity in your own walk.
You see, we do not see as clearly as my father now does for he has lived on both sides of 1 Corinthians 13:12, which the Message translates thus:
We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!
My father see’s as he was once seen.
He F-U-L-L-Y realizes the cost for his soul that Christ suffered on the Cross for, which we still only dimly see.
Isaiah speaks to this in chapter 53:4-5:
“Surely He has borne our griefs And carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, Smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed.”
Sin is not only a crime, for which we were condemned to die and which Christ purchased for us the pardon of, but it is a disease, which tends directly to the death of our souls and which Christ provided for the cure of. By his stripes (that is, the sufferings he underwent) he purchased for us the Spirit and grace of God to mortify our corruptions, which are the distempers of our souls, and to put our souls in a good state of health, that they may be fit to serve God and prepared to enjoy him.
Bible scholars John Walvoord and Roy Zuck comment that Isaiah here “refers to illnesses of the soul. His healing many people’s physical illnesses (though not all of them) in His earthly ministry anticipated His greater work on the Cross. Though He does heal physical ailments today (though not all of them) His greater work is healing souls, giving salvation from sin.” 1 Peter 2:24 & 25 sheds some light on this promise:
who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.
Walvoord and Zuck make mention that this verse “does not refer to physical healing for the verb’s past tense indicates completed action, the “healing” is an accomplished fact. The reference is to salvation. Christ’s suffering and death accomplished ‘healing,’ the salvation of every individual who trusts Him as his Savior.” They continue:
1. The apostle Paul couldn’t heal Timothy’s stomach problem (1 Tim. 5:23);
2. nor could he heal Trophimus trof-i-mus at Miletus (2 Tim. 4:20)
3. or Epaphroditus ee-paf-ro-DAI-tuhs (Phil. 2:25–27).
4. Paul spoke of “a bodily illness” he had (Gal. 4:13–15).
5. He also suffered a “thorn in the flesh” which God allowed him to retain (2 Cor. 12:7–9).
6. God certainly allowed Job to go through a time of physical suffering (Job 1–2).
In none of these cases is it stated that the sickness was caused by sin or unbelief. Nor did Paul or any of the others act as if they thought their healing was guaranteed in the atonement. They accepted their situations and trusted in God’s grace for sustenance.
It must be noted as well that on two occasions Jesus said that sickness could be for the glory of God (John 9:3; 11:4).
Other Scriptures as well reveal that our physical bodies are continuously running down and suffering various ailments. Our present bodies are said to be perishable and weak (1 Cor. 15:42–44). Paul said “our outer man is decaying” (2 Cor. 4:16). Death and disease will be a part of the human condition until that time when we receive resurrection bodies that are immune to such frailties (1 Cor. 15:51–55).
Going back though to Isaiah 53, let us suppose that these verses did teach the panacea or elixir of physical healing some claim it does. This interpretation carries an unwelcome corollary. That is… If healing is in the atonement and is accessed by faith, then those who die due to lack of faith must remain in their sins. They die without hope. Why? Because if both healing and salvation are included in this passage, they must be accessed in the same way. And if one does not have enough faith to make oneself well, it follows that he cannot have enough faith to be saved.
This logical conclusion of faith teachers I reject of course, but I reject it based on Scripture telling us in Romans 8:22-25 that:
For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body. For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.
The Message Bible paraphrases these verses thus:
All around us we observe a pregnant creation. The difficult times of pain throughout the world are simply birth pangs. But it’s not only around us; it’s within us. The Spirit of God is arousing us within. We’re also feeling the birth pangs. These sterile and barren bodies of ours are yearning for full deliverance. That is why waiting does not diminish us, any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother. We are enlarged in the waiting. We, of course, don’t see what is enlarging us. But the longer we wait, the larger we become, and the more joyful our expectancy.
This healthy-well-balanced understanding of Scripture and the atonement led famous hymnist Thomas Chisholm (1866-1960) to pen this song about Isaiah 53:
He was wounded for our transgressions,
He bore our sins in His body on the tree;
For our guilt He gave us peace,
From our bondage gave release,
And with His stripes,
And with His stripes,
And with His stripes our souls are healed.
He was numbered among transgressors,
We did esteem Him forsaken by His God;
As our sacrifice He died,
That the law be satisfied,
And all our sin,
And all our sin,
And all our sin was laid on Him.
We had wandered, we all had wandered
Far from the fold of the Shepherd of the sheep;
But He sought us where we were,
On the mountains bleak and bare,
And brought us home,
And brought us home,
And brought us safely home to God.
Who can number His generation?
Who shall declare all the triumphs of His Cross?
Millions, dead, now live again,
Myriads follow in His train!
Victorious Lord and coming King!
D.A. Carson concludes that the meaning of Isaiah 53 “grows in clarity through these verses: the pain Christ is bearing in verse 4 is ours; it is the punishment of sin in verse 5a; it is the price of salvation in 5b.” Warren Wiersp takes notice that to say there is “healing in the Atonement,” and that every believer has the “right” to claim it, is to misinterpret Scripture. He goes on to say of 1st Peter 2:24 that “God is not obligated to heal all sicknesses. He is obligated, however, to save all sinners who call on Him.” It is this obligation of salvation of the man and healing of the soul that my father did take God up on, I hope you will as well.
End of “O’ Sweet Exchange”
At the end of others talking about my father, I had a recording of my father which he apparently recorded on accident during one of his church services on his camcorder. With some help from Pastor Russ from my church the two video files were joined into one audio file. This posthumous find is a very special find and was equally so at the end of the service… enjoy: