He’s been there!

I thought Selwyn provided an excellent conclusion to this study (below). Often, I’ve felt, that I’ve a slightly different view of God’s sovereign powers, as compared to the view expressed by Selwyn – yet they are were, in general, minor differences of opinion. As, I’ve said in earlier posts – I think the Bible gives a sufficient knowledge of God to enable us to life, in a way which gives God glory. However, what we know of God is less that 1 % of what is ‘knowable’  – we can never pretend to know the full extent of God’s nature – and, if we say we do – then pride is at work in our heart and mind.

Selwyn wrote: “… I know one thing – the God who made the world has been here and seen for Himself what it is like to suffer. He took on the same flesh that you have. His nerve fibres were not bionic – they screamed with pain when misused (or abused). There is nothing known to us which He has not felt (excluding actual sin). … Take heart, beloved fellow traveller. No Matter what your struggles, your Lord has been there!”

The verses set for reading and meditation are Hebrews 12:1-11 (NLT) – the suffering mentioned in these verses ,  is a specific form of suffering – and, I think, they can’t be applied to all of the trials that we will face during our life-time: ” … Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.

We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up. After all, you have not yet given your lives in your struggle against sin.

And have you forgotten the encouraging words God spoke to you as his children? He said, “My child, don’t make light of the Lord’s discipline, and don’t give up when he corrects you. For the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes each one he accepts as his child.”

As you endure this divine discipline, remember that God is treating you as his own children. Who ever heard of a child who is never disciplined by its father? If God doesn’t discipline you as he does all of his children, it means that you are illegitimate and are not really his children at all. Since we respected our earthly fathers who disciplined us, shouldn’t we submit even more to the discipline of the Father of our spirits, and live forever?

 For our earthly fathers disciplined us for a few years, doing the best they knew how. But God’s discipline is always good for us, so that we might share in his holiness. No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.”

 

Turning pains into pearls

I thought Selwyn’s conclusion was good: “Let God help you turn your pains into pearls, so that others can walk through them into joy and encouragement.”

The Scripture selected by Selwyn – comes from John’s Revelation – the language in this book is spiritual, it’s is not to be taken as a description of natural, earthly events or objects.  Just read the following words, and seek the Holy Spirit’s guidance on the meaning of these verses.

Revelation 21:9-27 (NLT): ” … Then one of the seven angels who held the seven bowls containing the seven last plagues came and said to me, “Come with me! I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.”

So he took me in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and he showed me the holy city, Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God. It shone with the glory of God and sparkled like a precious stone – like jasper as clear as crystal.  The city wall was broad and high, with twelve gates guarded by twelve angels. And the names of the twelve tribes of Israel were written on the gates. There were three gates on each side – east, north, south, and west. The wall of the city had twelve foundation stones, and on them were written the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.

The angel who talked to me held in his hand a gold measuring stick to measure the city, its gates, and its wall. When he measured it, he found it was a square, as wide as it was long. In fact, its length and width and height were each 1,400 miles. Then he measured the walls and found them to be 216 feet thick (according to the human standard used by the angel).

The wall was made of jasper, and the city was pure gold, as clear as glass. The wall of the city was built on foundation stones inlaid with twelve precious stones: the first was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald, the fifth onyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, the twelfth amethyst.

The twelve gates were made of pearls – each gate from a single pearl! And the main street was pure gold, as clear as glass.

I saw no temple in the city, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. And the city has no need of sun or moon, for the glory of God illuminates the city, and the Lamb is its light. The nations will walk in its light, and the kings of the world will enter the city in all their glory. Its gates will never be closed at the end of day because there is no night there. And all the nations will bring their glory and honor into the city. Nothing evil will be allowed to enter, nor anyone who practices shameful idolatry and dishonesty – but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.”

Consequently, given the imagery of the above verses – I think it’s a mistake to try and make too much of the ‘every day meaning of these words’. For example, ‘the main street was pure gold, as clear as glass’; is not a description of an actual street!Yet, many well- meaning people appear to favor such an interpretation – when they do, they often overlook the spiritual meaning of these verses. The spiritual meaning can only be seen through the application of the power of God’s Spirit. We cannot understand these verses if we try to use our own intellect, our own natural abilities to apply spiritual meaning to imagery – is flawed.

Any comments? Is your name written in the Lamb’s Book of Life?

Suffering versus miracles

I think the important point which Selwyn makes is that miracles still happen – there are some who think that God ceased using His power in this natural world when the last of the apostles died. They are wrong!

However, in general, the miracles we read about in the Gospels are to do with the fulfillment of Scripture and authenticating the identity and ministry of Jesus. Later, we read in the early chapters of the Book of Acts, about the many miracles attributed to a number of the apostles – again, many of these cases are to indicate to the early Church that the apostles had been called by God to continue His work. Towards, the end of Acts – there are fewer miracles mentioned – but, that does not mean they entirely ceased. It’s more a case that the credibility of the apostles had been established – and the need for further signs of their anointing was no longer required.

God is still involved with changing world events by supernatural means especially when the issue is to do with His holy Name or as acts of grace for His servants. I believe that everyone who has been baptised by the Holy Spirit should have experienced at least one supernatural action initiated by God – at some point, during their Christian walk!

As Selwyn says in today’s study: “God does work miracles in answer to prayer, but at times He chooses to let us pass through something so that He can use it in our lives to deepen our understanding and enrich our ministry to others.”

Jesus suffered to save the world – so too, we will often suffer as we walk in His footsteps – as we play our role in taking Jesus’ message of salvation to our family, friends and community. It’s learning to face life’s difficult problems by adopting Jesus’ attitude, as illustrated for us by the writers of the Bible; in this way, we are gradually transformed into His likeness.

Imagine, what sort of people we would turn into, if God was like some wonderful genie for His people – a genie who saved us from every painful experience during our lives. The outcome would be this – everyone (who was sane) would follow God’s commandments: if there was always loaves and fishes available to eat, a nice house to live in, and each had a long successful life which was shared with a loving family; plus there were no accidents and all sickness was miraculously cured.

I really like the verses set for reading and meditation, it is really a circular discussion – the only conclusion – any Christian can reach – is: the Father and the Son are one!

John 5: 16-30 (NLT): ” … So the Jewish leaders began harassing Jesus for breaking the Sabbath rules. But Jesus replied, “My Father is always working, and so am I.” So the Jewish leaders tried all the harder to find a way to kill him. For he not only broke the Sabbath, he called God his Father, thereby making himself equal with God.

So Jesus explained, “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself. He does only what he sees the Father doing. Whatever the Father does, the Son also does. For the Father loves the Son and shows him everything he is doing. In fact, the Father will show him how to do even greater works than healing this man. Then you will truly be astonished. For just as the Father gives life to those he raises from the dead, so the Son gives life to anyone he wants.

In addition, the Father judges no one. Instead, he has given the Son absolute authority to judge, so that everyone will honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Anyone who does not honor the Son is certainly not honoring the Father who sent him.

I tell you the truth, those who listen to my message and believe in God who sent me have eternal life. They will never be condemned for their sins, but they have already passed from death into life.

And I assure you that the time is coming, indeed it’s here now, when the dead will hear my voice – the voice of the Son of God. And those who listen will live. The Father has life in himself, and he has granted that same life-giving power to his Son. And he has given him authority to judge everyone because he is the Son of Man.

Don’t be so surprised! Indeed, the time is coming when all the dead in their graves will hear the voice of God’s Son, and they will rise again. Those who have done good will rise to experience eternal life, and those who have continued in evil will rise to experience judgment. I can do nothing on my own. I judge as God tells me. Therefore, my judgment is just, because I carry out the will of the one who sent me, not my own will.”

Yes – Jesus has absolute authority to judge – he judges, as God!

Any comments?

‘Go home and suffer’

The main message coming out of today’s study is: “Just as Jesus’ wounds give Him a special empathy for us in our struggles and sorrows, so our own wounds can be used to soothe and strengthen those who hurt.”

And, the verses selected for reading and meditation by Selwyn, are excellent – in that they illustrate the main point – that our ability to comfort others, comes from God.

1 Corinthians 1:1-11 (NLT): “This letter is from Paul, chosen by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and from our brother Timothy. I am writing to God’s church in Corinth and to all of his holy people throughout Greece.

May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace. All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others.

When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. For the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ. Even when we are weighed down with troubles, it is for your comfort and salvation! For when we ourselves are comforted, we will certainly comfort you. Then you can patiently endure the same things we suffer.  We are confident that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in the comfort God gives us.

We think you ought to know, dear brothers and sisters, about the trouble we went through in the province of Asia. We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it. In fact, we expected to die. But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God, who raises the dead.

And he did rescue us from mortal danger, and he will rescue us again. We have placed our confidence in him, and he will continue to rescue us. And you are helping us by praying for us. Then many people will give thanks because God has graciously answered so many prayers for our safety.”

In summary, we don’t rely on our own strength and personal experiences – we rely, only on God, to provide His comfort and love to our neighbour, through us.

Any comments?

How to avoid infection

The subject of today’s study is: ‘to note the way Jesus responded to the wounds He received’. As Selwyn says, Jesus did not nurse His hurt in an attitude of self-pity; nor did He harbour unforgiveness.

His response to the greatest crime ever committed – was to plead, on His enemies behalf, by crying out to His Father: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34).

To say, such a prayer – in the midst of extreme pain and suffering – is beyond the ability of a normal human being. This type of prayer can only be said, through the power of the Holy Spirit indwelling within the human heart.

Selwyn states in his conclusion that: “Jesus freely forgave those who hurt Him – so must we.”

So many people I feel, try to forgive others based on their own strength –  and, I think it’s a shallow form of forgiveness because you only have to dig a little below the surface and you will find resentment and revenge lurking in the dark recesses.  Jesus forgives totally – there is not a trace of anger left behind – it is, as if, the offence never occurred. We can forgive in exactly the same way – if we call upon His Spirit within us – to show us the right way to forgive.

In Jeremiah 31:33-34 (NIV), we read: “This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time,” declares the LORD. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,”  declares the LORD.   “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”

I also liked the prayer for today: Blessed Lord Jesus, help me to avail myself to Your grace and power so that I, too, might be free from corroding hate ans cancerous resentment. Save me, not from hurt but from (unforgiving) infected hurts. In your dear name I pray. Amen.”

The cry of dereliction

As Selwyn mentions in his opening comments – the cry of dereliction, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’  is used by theologians to describe the feelings of abandonment experienced by Christ, as He died on the cross.

Now, my dictionary (Macquarie), has the following meaning(s) for dereliction: 1. culpable neglect, as of duty; delinquency; fault. 2. the act of abandoning. 3. the state of being abandoned. Consequently, I perhaps can reach the conclusion that theologians are using the word – as meaning, the act of abandoning?

The difficulty I have with Selwyn’s position – that Jesus was actually forsaken by God, is this – Jesus is God, can God abandon Himself? Okay, you may respond by saying – ‘yes, but He was also fully man’! I can only agree with that response – but, Psalm 22 does not only talk about abandonment it also talks about how we can trust God to save us. I believe Jesus’ desperate cry on the cross – pointed precisely to these two truths – sin separates us from God and God is the only one who can save us from eternal isolation – caused by sin.

The pain, I think,  Jesus may have experienced for us  – was the pain of knowing and experiencing the terrible consequences of sin – a perfect knowledge of eternal ‘death’.  A point where His human nature and His divine Spirit co-experienced a feeling, which we can only guess at –  the exact detail – we will never know, here on earth. Therefore, I just don’t know enough about Jesus – to say one way, or another – what actually did happen – regarding the feelings Jesus had – when dying. In summary, all I have to guide me is His words, and His direct reference (I believe)  to Psalm 22, which is more a Psalm about trusting God to save, than abandonment.

Any views about this specific issue?

If you are confused about this issue, the exact nature of Jesus (like Thomas or Philip) – then these verses from John’s Gospel may help (John 14:1-18, NLT) – Jesus talking to the Apostles, and all those who follow: ” … “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am. And you know the way to where I am going.”

“No, we don’t know, Lord,” Thomas said. “We have no idea where you are going, so how can we know the way?”

Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me. If you had really known me, you would know who my Father is. From now on, you do know him and HAVE SEEN him!”

Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.”

Jesus replied, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and yet you still don’t know who I am? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father! So why are you asking me to show the Father to you? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words I speak are not my own, but my Father who lives in me does his work through me. Just believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me. Or at least believe because of the work you have seen me do.

“I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father. You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father. Yes, ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it!

If you love me, obey my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you. No, I will not abandon you as orphans – I will come to you. … “

These verses are perhaps the most misunderstood verses, written by God – many a theologian appear to have put the meaning of these verses to the side as they discussed such matters as ‘predestination’ and related topics – I think many a child in Christ has a better grasp of the meaning of these verses than those intellectuals with years of theological study.

Just glance through the above verses – dwell on the parts I’ve highlighted – notice the implied choice that we all have – that comes from the word ‘if’,  in the following extract: “If you love me, obey my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. … No, I will not abandon you as orphans.”

[More than likely, John wrote his Gospel at a time after Paul wrote his letters – for example; John, I think, would have known the content of Paul’s letter to the Romans –  if not in a human sense – definitely in a spiritual sense.]

My final comment is this: God will not abandon us – as orphans! He never did – abandoned Jesus!

Any comments?

Telling yourself the truth

In today’s study, Selwyn discusses the possibility that the feeling of being abandoned by God may be due to ‘psychological malfunctioning, such as having a faulty concept of God, unrealistic expectations, perfectionist standards, irrational fears and so on’. In a certain sense, I agree that psychological ‘illness’ can have a profound affect on ‘what’ we feel.

In his conclusion, Selwyn writes: “Take my advice, if you cannot solve this problem yourself, discuss the issue with a mature Christian friend.” I would be the first to agree with this advice – with a qualification, Christian maturity does not come from ‘age’, that is,  the number of years, a person may have identified as a Christian; and, it does not come from theological studies, undertaken at a recognised or respected University or Bible College. Maturity comes from allowing the Holy Spirit to have full control of your life and the ability to discern God’s guidance – this maturity is clearly seen in the spiritual fruit that a person produces!

Paul was a person who allowed the Holy Spirit to totally guide his walk with Jesus. Listen carefully to God’s words as they are recorded in Paul’s letter to the Roman church. Romans 12:1-13 (NLT): “… And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let your bodies be a living and holy sacrifice – the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

Because of the privilege and authority God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us. Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other.

In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.

Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality. … “.

In summary, we all need to keep on praying that God will change the way we think – to totally trust Jesus, so that we don’t feel the need to follow the customs of our culture. Finally, to identify the gift we have been given by God – the gift to serve Him well, in the role assigned to us by Him – which is pleasing and perfect … and, in this way, we rejoice in God’s love, now and forever!

Your thoughts?