March 16, 2013

Who was the "Real" St. Patrick?

On the occasion of St. Patrick’s Day, I thought I would post about the “real” Patrick.  Most of what I have written here comes from a couple of books about his life and ministry – one is a biography entitled Let Me Die in Ireland, The True Story of Patrick by David Bercot (Scroll Publishing, 1999) and the other, “The Celtic Way of Evangelism – How Christianity Can Reach the West Again” (George G. Hunter III, Abingdon Press, 2000).  Many Christians today “claim” Patrick as their own – most are surprised that he doesn’t really fit any modern labels that we might try to put on him or the movement he birthed.

Patrick was NOT a Roman Catholic, but rather a British Roman citizen born in the late 4th century (AD386) on the West Coast of Britain.  He was a part of the independent British or Celtic Church which did not come under Roman control until the 6-8th centuries.  His father was an ordained Deacon and his grandfather had been an ordained Presbyter, but Patrick as a young man didn’t show a tremendous amount of interest in the things of the Lord. 

God had a radical way of getting this boy’s attention.  As a 16 year old, he was captured by Irish raiders who took him back to Ireland where he was a slave for six years.  It was during this “captivity” that Patrick really came into a relationship with the Lord.  His role was to shepherd flocks and he became a man of prayer.  In his own words,  

  • “After I had arrived in Ireland, I found myself pasturing flocks daily, and I prayed a number of times each day.  More and more the love and fear of God came to me, and faith grew and my spirit was exercised, until I was praying up to a hundred times every day and in the night nearly as often”.
He learned the Gaelic language (the language of the Irish people) fluently and developed a heart for the very people that enslaved him.  After 6 years, God miraculously enabled him to escape.

The Lord spoke to him in a dream - “You are going home.  Look! Your ship is ready”.  The following morning the Lord led him to the coast where he found a ship and sailed away from Ireland.  Upon being reunited with his family in Britain, he never intended to set foot in Ireland again. 

God spoke to Patrick in a dream to return to Ireland to bring the Pagan Irish (who were in bondage to Druidism and other pagan beliefs) the Gospel.  In the dream an Angel gave him letters from his former captors asking him to return and he then heard the Irish calling out to him, “Please, holy servant boy, come and walk among us again”.  It was God who called Patrick to take the Gospel to the Irish, not the Pope of Rome as some have mistakenly taught.  He was ultimately sent out by the independent British/Celtic Church as a pioneer missionary to the Ireland.  Interestingly, the Bishop of Rome had sent a missionary to Ireland about the same time, who lasted about one year before returning. 

At the time Patrick was sent to Ireland, in 432AD, he was a Bishop (or Overseer) of over 40 years of age.  He took with him several younger ordained presbyters, who he had taught Gaelic in Britain.  In the face of great danger, and unbelievable hardship, this band of missionaries began to bring the Gospel to the pagan Druid Irish and God powerfully blessed their work.  In 28 years of ministry which history records was full of Biblical signs and wonders, 30 to 40 of Ireland’s 150 tribes were Christian, between 200 to 700 churches had been planted and over 1000 local Irish leaders had been ordained.  Truly their ministry was both the WORD (preaching) the SPIRIT (signs, wonders and miracles).

The Irish Church became a major missionary Church (arguably the greatest in Church History) in the following few centuries, taking the Gospel to other pagan peoples in Scotland and even Northern Europe.

Patrick was a man of prayer and fasting.  He was a man who lived like Christ – he never married, he forfeit his worldly inheritance (he was from a wealthy British family) and suffered great hardship for the sake of the Gospel.

Patrick’s vision to reach the Pagan Irish was resisted by his own British Church – it was considered too dangerous, an impossible task and it would be an understatement to say that the “civilized” (Romanized) British Christians weren’t racist towards the “barbaric” Pagan Irish.  When the Church today considers the task of evangelizing the Muslim World – (i.e. Arabs, Afghans, Iranians or even followers of ‘Al Qaeda’) or other places full of hostility and conflict, let us remember the fearless commitment of these 5th century Apostolic teams who literally won an entire nation who the Church in their day didn’t love and considered unreachable.  

Patrick and his spiritual descendants were really a mixture of different Christian traditions – in some ways you could say he/they embodied the “best of” many Christian backgrounds/traditions and yet would serve to challenge all of us to recover things that we may have lost, rejected or deemphasized depending upon our own spiritual heritages. 

On a day when people are caught up in all sorts of twisted St. Patrick’s Day celebrations, may we be reminded of the real man behind the ‘myth’.  May it open doors with others who most likely don’t know anything beyond leprechauns, 4-leafed clovers and pinching people who aren’t wearing green.

God Bless you on this St. Patrick’s Day.


His final words recorded in his Confessions are humbling:

  • "But I pray those who believe and fear God, whosoever has designed to scan or accept this document, composed in Ireland by Patrick the sinner, and unlearned man to be sure, that none should ever say that it was my ignorance that accomplished any small thing which I did or showed in accordance with God's will; but judge ye, and let it be most truly believed, that it was the gift of God.  And this is my confession before I die.

March 15, 2013

healing testimonies

Tonight a group of us gathered and everyone shared about what had happened this past week.  Here is a summary:

One Lebanese muslim man's back was healed.  Another Iranian muslim woman was healed as was an Iranian muslim man who kept asking, "but how did you know?" because his condition was revealed by a word of knowledge.  Another Gulf Arab muslim student was healed over the phone – pain left her kidney.  Also a Sri Lankan muslim woman was delivered from demonic torment in Jesus' Name.

This was all before an Egyptian muslim man came to our meeting.  He has essentially been crippled and unable to walk except with crutches for 2 years.  He received a significant measure of healing tonight – and could walk around with out the crutches and do things he hasn't been able to do in a couple of years.  He isn't completely healed, but was crying out to Jesus (a muslim!) for healing and thanking Jesus for His death on the cross and for the price He paid for his sins and his physical healing.  We'll see what happens – but if he was sincere about what he was praying tonight, we might have a baptism coming up very soon!

a theology that isn't shaped by circumstances

I was deeply challenged today listening to one of my favorite preachers, Dan Mohler, speak about the recent death of his mother after a 40 year battle with MS. (see link below) Here is a man who regularly sees the sick healed, including having seen MS healed, but lost his mother to an untimely death.

I have watched many Christians radically change their theologies when circumstances challenge their convictions.  Years ago some friends of ours became hyper-Calvinists when their teenage son went of the rails.  It somehow in a twisted way became God's will!  A leading Christian leader in the U.K. changed his position on homosexuality after years of "experience" with Christians struggling with same sex attraction.  Just recently a Christian politician in the U.S. changed his position on gay marriage because his son has come out as being gay.  Circumstances changing people's theology and convictions - it seems to happen all the time.

This never seems to be truer than when it comes to healing the sick.  We all know that Jesus healed everyone who ever came to Him and asked.  It is an argument from silence to say that there were those He didn't heal (but that argument is made all the time).  And yet, a heart-breaking loss of a loved one to cancer or some other disease and people often will begin to allow life and circumstances to shape their theology - it is often subtle, it is often long-term but it for many seems inevitable.

Then there are the world-changers who don't allow adversity and loss to deflate them, or stop them as they contend for the fullness of God's Kingdom to be manifested in and through them.  Lost battles, diseases that aren't healed, deaths that are clearly untimely don't derail these types - they compel them towards greater faith, and an attitude that says "Next time we aren't going to lose this same battle".

There are so few who are like this - so many of our popular pastors, teachers and theologians have made their names by essentially growing into greater and greater unbelief in their respective journeys of faith and they call it "balance"!  I would just prefer honesty.  It is their experience that has dictated their theological conclusions and not the life and ministry of Jesus as our example.  I don't have to name names because it is essentially every single one.

Thank the Lord for men like Dan Mohler who won't sell-out to experiences of life that would lead him to compromise the clear teaching of God's Word.  He is truly one of those world-changer, revolutionaries who isn't allowing loss to cripple his future into a disillusioned, cynical place of the kind of unbelief that the Bible demands we repent of!

You can find the message at this link -