God’s Will

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What Is His Will?                                    
Most of us, either openly or secretly, struggle with finding God’s will for our lives. Sometimes, based partly on the influence of our more emotional brothers and sisters in Christ, we long for, no, expect an audible voice answering our plea. But what if we already know His will? What if He has clearly revealed His will for our lives?
First, let’s strip away theological meanderings, traditional liturgy, and false expectations. Let’s prepare the soil of our hearts and minds for a new crop; plow up the crusty surface of misunderstandings and misconceptions to reveal the pliable and rich soil of our hearts…ready to receive His direction — to know His will. Lo and behold, bits and pieces of this deep mystery (or so we think of it) rise from His written word, the book of absolute truth— there all the time!

  •     Romans 12:2  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.

Sounds so simple and yet, as we all know, so very challenging; “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world.” Lord I want to give up, walk away from, the world and all its trappings but…it is so difficult. It is right there all the time, waiting to pounce on me and drag me back into the mess of wanting to be liked and wanting stuff.

After I spend time reading the Bible and praying I feel spiritually strong, able to repel my own selfish desires and the Devil’s attacks. Then a friend calls with an invitation to coffee. I accept and as I arrive at our favorite coffee place, I see him standing by a shiny new car, my favorite model. “What do you think?” he says, grinning widely.

What do I think? I think I want your car— should have your car! Envy leaps upon me and holds on tightly. My mind is racing, and not toward the Lord. How can I buy one? Desire has not only planted seeds but they are the quick-growing variety and have sprung up to full size. My pulse quickens, I begin sweating, I’m ignoring my friend. And now, worse yet, I dislike my friend for having this beautiful car. Oh, what a fool I am— “copying the behavior and customs of the world.”

If following God’s will depended on me the result would always be like the one above. Thankfully, the second part of that sentence in Romans 12:2 says, “But let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.” Heaving a great sigh of relief, we can see it is Him who transforms our thought patterns, revealing His perfect will for our lives.

  •     1 Thessalonians 5:16-18  Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

 

  •     Ephesians 5:15-17  Be very careful then, how you live, not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

    I find encouragement and excitement in knowing that not only has God revealed His will to us, but has given us His Holy Spirit to come alongside and comfort. We are truly prepared to walk this walk and know His will for our lives. And we can also pray for each other to see His will for our lives, according to the following verse:
    
    Ephesians 1:15-17  For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.

By His Stripes We Are Healed?

 

“By His wounds you are healed!”  1 Peter 1:24

 

Partial quotes and quoting out of context are popular among Christians who wish something to be true. In this case, I am talking about a verse found in Isaiah 53 and 1 Peter 2. In the King James Version it reads, “…and with His stripes we are healed.” This verse is misquoted to imply that the horrible beating and subsequent death of Christ has brought physical healing to all believers. I’ve heard it used in prayers for sick and lame people many, many times. There is, however, a problem with using that verse to call upon God for healing. It does not mean that the death of our Lord guarantees healing. Why would it?

Jesus’ death on the cross gave Him the absolute right to become a sacrifice for our sins, not bring healing to our bodies. His death, burial and resurrection brings eternal healing and total future absence of tears, pain, sorrow and suffering. Future!

Revelation 21:4 says, regarding our eternal destination in the City of God, the New Jerusalem; “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

Then there’s another problem with using this verse as assurance of God’s desire to physically heal all who call upon the name of Christ…it doesn’t always bring the desired result! How many times have you prayed for healing, using this verse and nothing happened? How many times have you been in meetings where many were prayed over using this verse and nothing happened? I know I have.

God can and does heal people but not because of Christ’s wounds. If He chooses to heal someone, it is His choice and will, not because someone misused a verse in the Bible. I know because I have witnessed two such healings in my life and neither called upon that verse as assurance.

A very well-known example of not being healed is Joni Erickson Tada (Joni Eareckson Tada is an evangelical Christian, author, radio host, quadriplegic, and founder of Joni and Friends, an organization “accelerating Christian ministry in the disability community.). When she was 19 (and she was a Christian) she broke her neck while diving from the high board. There have been thousands of prayers sent up to God imploring Him to touch and heal Joni. All to no avail. But what about the idea that the “stripes of Jesus brings healing?” Perhaps that is not what the verse from Isaiah 53 and repeated in 1 Peter 2 means.

Jesus suffered and died for the forgiveness of the sins of the world, not for physical healing. Look at the lives of His apostles. They were scorned, mocked, beaten, tortured, jailed and killed! Surely they could have called upon the stripes of Jesus  to heal them. While He was alive, our Lord healed hundreds, perhaps thousands of people and raised some from the dead. Not by His future stripes but by the will of God.

Go back to 1 Peter 1:20-25 and see what he is saying about suffering for Christ. Human life is temporary. Pain and suffering are not uncommon expectations for Christians in many parts of the world. Surely we must see that God did not send His only Son to be tortured and painfully killed by crucifixion so we could claim his suffering and pain will guarantee physical healing to everyone living today.

“By His stripes we are healed” is referring to forgiveness of sin, the gift of new life. Eternal life is where we will have perfect pain-free bodies.

 

Godly Sorrow

Romanian Older Woman Praying

Jesus felt sorry for them and touched their eyes. Matt. 20:34

Misuse of words can bring insensitivity to their actual meaning. For example, “I am sorry.” This phrase is used so often, in place of other, more honest words, that when we hear it, we simply shrug it off, wondering what the person really meant.

I am sorry can mean we are actually sorry or it can mean, I don’t want to talk about this any longer. I am sorry can also be the universal excuse for being late, missing appointments, ending a relationship or many other unpleasant issues. Perhaps, borne out of a desire to make everything right, we say, “I’m sorry” too often.

Sorrow, a derivative of sorry, usually connotes sadness or grief. Sorrow is reserved for death, massive injury, loss of income, career, etc. I am sorry can be a lie but feeling sorrow, which brings I am sorry, is often the best we can muster at grave and serious times.

God has sorrow too. But His sorrow brings with it repentance and new hope. God’s sorrow is a piercing light into our souls, a surgical laser beam to reconstruct our thinking and actions. God’s work in our lives is always geared toward redemption and healing—Whether He literally heals our bodies or not, His actions are never selfish.

2 Corinthians 7:8-10 I am not sorry that I sent that severe letter to you, though I was sorry at first, for I know it was painful to you for a little while. Now I am glad I sent it, not because it hurt you, but because the pain caused you to repent and change your ways. It was the kind of sorrow God wants his people to have, so you were not harmed by us in any way. For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation. There’s no regret for that kind of sorrow. But worldly sorrow, which lacks repentance, results in spiritual death. (NLT)

Matthew 18:7 What sorrow awaits the world, because it tempts people to sin. Temptations are inevitable, but what sorrow awaits the person who does the tempting. (NLT)

Romans 9:1-3 With Christ as my witness, I speak with utter truthfulness. My conscience and the Holy Spirit confirm it. My heart is filled with bitter sorrow and unending grief for my people, my Jewish brothers and sisters. I would be willing to be forever cursed—cut off from Christ!–if that would save them. (NLT)

Ephesians 4:30-31 And do not make God’s Holy Spirit sad; for the Spirit is God’s mark of ownership on you, a guarantee that the Day will come when God will set you free. Get rid of all bitterness, passion, and anger. No more shouting or insults, no more hateful feelings of any sort. (GNT)

Hebrews 13:17 Obey your spiritual leaders, and do what they say. Their work is to watch over your souls, and they are accountable to God. Give them reason to do this with joy and not with sorrow. That would certainly not be for your benefit. (NLT)

John 16:19-22 Jesus realized they wanted to ask him about it, so he said, “Are you asking yourselves what I meant? I said in a little while you won’t see me, but a little while after that you will see me again. I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn over what is going to happen to me, but the world will rejoice. You will grieve, but your grief will suddenly turn to wonderful joy. It will be like a woman suffering the pains of labor. When her child is born, her anguish gives way to joy because she has brought a new baby into the world. So you have sorrow now, but I will see you again; then you will rejoice, and no one can rob you of that joy. (NLT)

Revelation 21:1-4 Then I saw a new Heaven and a new earth, for the first Heaven and the first earth had disappeared and the sea was no more. I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, descending from God out of Heaven, prepared as a bride dressed in beauty for her husband. Then I heard a great voice from the throne crying, “See! The home of God is with men, and he will live among them. They shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death shall be no more, and never again shall there be sorrow or crying or pain. For all those former things are past and gone.” (Phillips)

The world crucified Jesus, attempting to rid themselves of their guilt. Those who did not believe experienced ultimate sorrow. Godly sorrow will cleanse and heal His followers.

Dying To Self…

Dying To Self

We think we are willing and ready for the change God will bring in our lives as we totally surrender ourselves to Him. Our confidence grows as the first few layers of self are stripped away because these surface issues remove relatively easily.

But then we resist, as Jesus requires further stripping and removal. “Can He actually love me when all of me is revealed,” we think. Will I love me? In vain protest we call out to Him, “Lord, you are stripping away who I am!”

Gently, lovingly, Jesus replies, “Oh no. It is merely who you’ve become. Trust me. I will reveal who you are…a new creation.”

David Nelson

Have I Come Out?

Have I Come Out?

“Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord” 2 Cor. 6:17

While reading an article, extolling the virtues of a famous person recently, I was amazed by his accomplishments and honors. Wondering how he had come to such a life I was struck by how easily I could admire someone whose life was deeply embedded in the world and its charms. And then I wondered if I had come out?

To come out is not a phrase unique to the 20th century and needn’t be limited to one’s sexual preferences, instead it is a command of God for His followers…you and I, to come out from the world. To be separate from the world. Have I? Or am I blended like homogenized milk, an equal part of the world, indistinguishable from people who reject Christ as their Savior? Does my lifestyle illuminate the darkness in the world or have I reduced the flame to an ember so as not to offend? Have I come out?

2 Corinthians 6:14-18 Don’t team up with those who are unbelievers. How can righteousness be a partner with wickedness? How can light live with darkness? 15 What harmony can there be between Christ and the devil? How can a believer be a partner with an unbeliever? 16 And what union can there be between God’s temple and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God said:
“I will live in them and walk among them I will be their God, and they will be my people.
17 Therefore, come out from among unbelievers, and separate yourselves from them, says the LORD. Don’t touch their filthy things, and I will welcome you. 18 And I will be your Father, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the LORD Almighty. (Isaiah 52:11; Ezek. 37:27; Ex. 29:45; Lev. 26:12)

In case you are wondering how God sees our coming out from the world, it is important that we understand what He is NOT saying as found in 1 Corinthians.

1 Corinthians 5:9-12 In the letter that I wrote you I told you not to associate with immoral people.10 Now I did not mean pagans who are immoral or greedy or are thieves, or who worship idols. To avoid them you would have to get out of the world completely.11 What I meant was that you should not associate with a person who calls himself a believer but is immoral or greedy or worships idols or is a slanderer or a drunkard or a thief. Don’t even sit down to eat with such a person. 12-13 After all, it is none of my business to judge outsiders. God will judge them. But should you not judge the members of your own fellowship? As the scripture says, Remove the evil person from your group.

Ephesians 5:1-3 Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. 2 Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God. 3 Let there be no sexual immorality, impurity, or greed among you. Such sins have no place among God’s people.

1 John 1:6-10 So we are lying if we say we have fellowship with God but go on living in spiritual darkness; we are not practicing the truth. 7 But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. 9 But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his word has no place in our hearts.

Often, when faced with a life change, we naturally seek a set of rules to help lay the groundwork, light the path or make the change easier. However, we seek for them in vain since God has made it clear it is what doctors might describe as, “a heart condition.” Coming out for us requires our effort, our diligent effort. But if that were all, then the most disciplined person among us could proudly proclaim their success and right-standing with God.

Coming out from the world is a result of our faith at work (Jesus is the author and perfecter of our faith; Heb. 12:2). Reading the Bible, praying, choosing to call upon the Lord when we are weak, admitting to Him we are incapable in ourselves and praising and worshiping our Savior. Contrary to the world, God uses our weakness and dependance on Him to accomplish what is humanly impossible.

1 Corinthians 1:27-31 God purposely chose what the world considers nonsense in order to shame the wise, and he chose what the world considers weak in order to shame the powerful.28 He chose what the world looks down on and despises and thinks is nothing, in order to destroy what the world thinks is important.29 This means that no one can boast in God’s presence.30 But God has brought you into union with Christ Jesus, and God has made Christ to be our wisdom. By him we are put right with God; we become God’s holy people and are set free.31 So then, as the scripture says, Whoever wants to boast must boast of what the Lord has done.

Coming out from the world is not a thing I do, it is a life I live, through the grace of God.

Pray For Your Enemies

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“Pray for those who torment you and persecute you…”  Matt. 5:44

 

            Jim looked forward to Saturday evenings at his Bible study group. It was prayer night. He loved praying for so many friends and loved ones; his and those of his fellow Christians. But this night would be a milestone for Jim—a point of no return. It would be an obstacle and reshaping of his prayer life.

            Phil was leading the group this night and he asked everyone to make a list during the next week. The list was to be of those people considered their enemies. Included should be politicians, rude clerks, greedy corporations, worldly church leaders and so on. To kick start the project they would begin with prayers for “enemies” now.

            Jim almost bolted and ran. He had been deceived and stolen from by a best friend. His now ex-friend had taken his business, good credit and left him with a pile of debt. In addition to the business debt, Jim was forced to hire an attorney which cost him thousands of dollars and did little to help. Later he discovered the attorney was noted as one of the lest competent in town.

            As Phil asked everyone to pray, Jim began with a simmering anger, clenching his fists, silently asking God why He allowed all of those terrible things to happen to him. And now, when he thought it was all behind him, how could God ask him to pray for those who used and maligned him? His heart was breaking and his blood pressure was rising. Tears began to flow.

            “I know that some of you will ask why we’re praying for our enemies,” Phil said. “Why not just try and forget them and hopefully never talk to them again. After all, we are admonished by Jesus to love as proof of our Christianity. You may even feel that as long as you don’t still nurture the hate and anger toward them, you’ve done well. As always, let’s see what the Bible says about this issue.”

            Matthew 5:43-44  You have been taught to love your neighbor and hate your enemy. 44 But I tell you this: love your enemies. Pray for those who torment you and persecute you—

        Acts 7:59-60  As they stoned him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 He fell to his knees, shouting, “Lord, don’t charge them with this sin!” And with that, he died.

            Romans 12:15   Base your happiness on your hope in Christ. When trials come endure them patiently, steadfastly maintain the habit of prayer.13 Give freely to fellow-Christians in want, never grudging a meal or a bed to those who need them.14 And as for those who try to make your life a misery, bless them. Don’t curse, bless.15 Share the happiness of those who are happy, the sorrow of those who are sad.

            Romans 12:20-21  *If your enemy is hungry, feed him. If he is thirsty, give him something to drink. For in so doing you will be heaping fiery coals on his head. Do not be conquered by evil, but conquer evil with good.

            1 Cor. 4:11-13   Even now we go hungry and thirsty, and we don’t have enough clothes to keep warm. We are often beaten and have no home.12 We work wearily with our own hands to earn our living. We bless those who curse us. We are patient with those who abuse us.13 We appeal gently when evil things are said about us. Yet we are treated like the world’s garbage, like everybody’s trash—right up to the present moment.

            1 Cor. 13:4-8  Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud 5or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged.It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.Prophecy and speaking in unknown languages and special knowledge will become useless. But love will last forever!

            1 Peter 2:20-21 ,23  Of course, you get no credit for being patient if you are beaten for doing wrong. But if you suffer for doing good and endure it patiently, God is pleased with you.21 For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his steps. 23He did not retaliate when he was insulted, nor threaten revenge when he suffered. He left his case in the hands of God, who always judges fairly. 

            By now, cleansing tears were flowing throughout the room. Calling out to God in prayer opened their hearts for change, for a touch of the Master’s hand, for purification and redemption. And what of us, do we harbor ill feelings, grudges, anger toward someone who has actually wronged us? Someone who took advantage of us? Someone who has not paid the price, as far as we know? And that is the point;  as Stephen asked God to forgive those who killed him, we must allow God to help us forgive those who have wronged us. We must pray for them.   

*Proverbs 25:21-22