Have you ever wondered what the label “Christian”, in all kinds of different scenarios, really stands for? The article below helps to sort “the sheep from the goats”, when we talk about what it means to be a “true Christian”, opposed to the “nominal brand”.
Today I received a powerful lesson, using the simplest every-day example!
I am sure the following example happens to most of us. When this is used to teach us a spiritual lesson, we can be sure that the Spirit, who lives in believers (in Christ), is and has been speaking to us! What a privelege this is!
What I am talking about is the situation, when we are looking for something, anything really, expecting it to be in a certain place, and it isn’t, all the while missing the fact that it is right in front of us!
This happened to me this morning; I was looking for my cup of coffee, convinced it was in a certain place but it wasn’t. All of a sudden I realised that all that time it had been right in front of my nose! Simple, but powerful, if applied to the spiritual realm!
Take for example, (as this is a website set up primarily to help refugees) a refugee who has just landed in Italy, or Greece or Spain, originally boarding from anywhere in North Africa (most of the time Lybia). Most refugees set their sights on Germany, France etc. They are convinced that those countries will meet all their needs. So, all their efforts are applied to get to those countries. Can you see how my above example could apply to them? Are they believers in Christ? Is God limited in his provision? Could they be missing out on what God has prepared for them because of their expectations as to where the answer will come from?
This applies to every area of need.
Let’s not limit God. Instead, allow Him to prove that He cares and wants our best! Expect His provision in the most unlikely places and you won’t miss out!
A believing (opposed to nominal or in name only) Christian friend of mine recently suffered the devastating loss of one of her sons. It is the worst nightmare for any parent; to survive his or her own children! He contracted a rare form of cancer and, aided by possible medical mismanagement, passed away two months later!
She prayed and believed for a healing miracle…and now has to reconcile her grief, disappointment and loss of reasonable expectation (after all, we are encouraged to believe that God still heals) with the reality that no (earthly) healing occurred!
This is where a believer can go through a “dark night of the soul”, where one’s childlike faith, which is commended by Christ Himself in Matthew 18:2-4, is deeply challenged.
The question of why, although problematic, nevertheless unavoidably arises.
It is interesting and somehow comforting that Christ Himself, in His humanity, was also challenged with these issues. When faced with His imminent crucifixion and death, he wrestled with his natural, in-built human desire to avoid the humiliation, suffering and death awaiting Him. A wrestle between His own preference at that moment and the knowledge of His Father’s will. He chose the latter, after a herculean spiritual battle, where “his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling to the ground” (Luke 22:44).
As well, when hanging on the cross, no doubt in unimaginable agony, He too exclaimed with that heart wrenching question: WHY? (Psalm 22 and Matthew 27:46: “About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” [which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”]).” He felt abandoned by His Father on that cross, due to taking on the sins of the world, but the Father never abandoned Him, for He had destined Him for eternal, glorious victory!
This is why Christ rightly is our only Intercessor before the throne of God (according to the Scriptures, especially described in Heb. 2:17); having fully experienced the depth of human suffering, encompassing its physical, emotional, mental and spiritual aspects.
Grief and loss can be devastating, as experienced by my friend and by so many. Our faith will be deeply challenged during those times. The temptation is and will be great to turn away from God, blaming Him, feeling abandoned by Him, unloved and betrayed. Many, sadly, stay stuck in that place.
Stealing our faith and distorting the true nature and heart of God has always been Satan’s greatest strategy! It began in the Garden of Eden, where that bait was swallowed: hook, line and sinker! “Did God say?…” presenting the lie of the “real” intention of God towards man.
Job, despite his understandable moaning, nevertheless never allowed himself to reject or blame God, contrary to the advice of his wife, who told him to “curse God and die” (Job 2:9). On the contrary: despite horrendous affliction, his declaration was “Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him…” (Job 13:15)
Another great declaration in times of utter devastation, was made by the prophet Habakkuk: “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior.” (Habakkuk 3:17-18)
Pain and suffering are part of living in an imperfect, sinful world. They are hard to bear when they touch us and they will, sooner or later. What will be our response during those times?
In the meantime, let us not shrink from it when we see it in others but prayerfully and with gentle sensitivity provide comfort and strengthening to those in the midst of it! They don’t need many words, just our heart of love and compassion.
“But if I were you, I would appeal to God;
I would lay my cause before him.
9 He performs wonders that cannot be fathomed,
miracles that cannot be counted.
10 He provides rain for the earth;
he sends water on the countryside.
11 The lowly he sets on high,
and those who mourn are lifted to safety.
12 He thwarts the plans of the crafty,
so that their hands achieve no success.
13 He catches the wise in their craftiness,
and the schemes of the wily are swept away.
14 Darkness comes upon them in the daytime;
at noon they grope as in the night.
15 He saves the needy from the sword in their mouth;
he saves them from the clutches of the powerful.
16 So the poor have hope,
and injustice shuts its mouth.
17 “Blessed is the one whom God corrects;
so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty.[a]
18 For he wounds, but he also binds up;
he injures, but his hands also heal.
19 From six calamities he will rescue you;
in seven no harm will touch you.
20 In famine he will deliver you from death,
and in battle from the stroke of the sword.
21 You will be protected from the lash of the tongue,
and need not fear when destruction comes.
22 You will laugh at destruction and famine,
and need not fear the wild animals.
23 For you will have a covenant with the stones of the field,
and the wild animals will be at peace with you.
24 You will know that your tent is secure;
you will take stock of your property and find nothing missing.
25 You will know that your children will be many,
and your descendants like the grass of the earth.
26 You will come to the grave in full vigor,
like sheaves gathered in season.
27 “We have examined this, and it is true.
So hear it and apply it to yourself.”
The amazing thing about faith in God and in His Son Jesus Christ is that those Scriptures become promises we can claim. It doesn’t work like incantations, using black magic. They don’t represent claims we have over God rather, they are his promises to us, received in an attitude of humble gratitude, knowing that the timing and the method of delivery are entirely in His hands. Those who have invested time in knowing God, through the study of His Word (both a person and a text), reap the benefit of unwavering faith and the reward of such; answered prayer!
Let’s be those who prayerfully consider the present needs of our precious country of Australia and make the effort to carefully consider the responsibility before us to appoint worthy representatives in both the Senate and the House of Representatives. Are they representing our struggling and often forgotten farmers, those most vulnerable in our society such as old people, the unborn and children, mothers and children fleeing from abusive partners, the mentally ill, those in the grip of addiction, refugees and their children, left without hope and ill treated, the sale of our land and houses for mere profit, to those who don’t care for our country or its people and are robbing young couples of what used to be and still should be the great Australian dream? I am sure, you can think of other, presently neglected but vital issues which need to be revived and protected.
The time is now to take responsibility; next week it will be too late!
I wanted to watch a movie last night; instead I felt compelled to do my homework and to plow through the confusing array of choices. Prayer helps in this process!
Ultimately it comes back to one issue: “Hallowed be your Name. Your will be done on earth (as it is in heaven)!” Amen.
Love is probably one of the most (mis)used words, yet least understood.
We call love between “brothers”, those who are united in the same cause ‘Philia’.
The love between family members is called ‘Storge’.
Then there is the much sung about type, Eros; consisting of powerful sexual attraction.
When God speaks of His love, it is always called Agape, God’s kind of love. Below, we will look at what His love looks like in practical terms:
1 Corinthians 13: v1 (The Message)
If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate.
“…So no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.”
V4-8 The Nature of Love (Agape):
“Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut, doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth, (God’s truth, as revealed in the Bible but also truth versus lies – my comment)
Puts up with anything (is not masochistic; endures with a God-given purpose – my additions).
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best (without a Pollyanna complex! i.e. unrealistic positivity based on good feelings but rather based on God’s character and word – my addition).
Never looks back (except to learn from the past, not to live in regret – my addition),
But keeps going to the end (displaying faithfulness, endurance and dependability; see the life of Christ – my comments)
So how can mere man make the switch from the so-common self-centred ‘love’ to God’s kind of love? Definitely not by trying hard and gritting one’s teeth, although self-denial is part of it. We need to switch from ‘being in Adam’ to becoming ‘in Christ’. That’s where the much maligned and ridiculed concept of ‘being born again’ (Gospel of John, Ch. 3, v. 7) comes in, spoken of by Jesus Himself. Unless our status becomes ‘in Christ’ and no longer ‘in Adam’, we will be stuck with the kind of love that is all too common in the world around us; leading to betrayal, abuse, pretence and manipulation, all because ultimately and primarily we want to look after no. 1.
To carry the Truth in a world of relative truths is a burden and costly. It is not our truth but His!
It is not a set of dogmas, ideas, philosophical treaties or any other thing parading as truth, but a person: Jesus Christ!
He said of Himself: “I AM (emphasis mine, although Christ identifies Himself as I AM in other parts of the Bible) the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father, except through me (John 14:6).
He also is identified as the Word in the Scriptures. In the Gospel of John, Chapter 1, verses 1 and 14 it is written that “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was God…And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”
The world will always hate us for preaching, teaching and believing the exclusivity of Christ. It represents that narrow road to salvation spoken of in the Bible, opposite to the world’s wide highway of perdition (Matthew 7:13-14).
That hatred represents the persecution awaiting true believers, for which Christ promises his blessing (Matthew 5:10, 10:22, 32-33; Revelation 2:10b), 26).
Someone once wrote that hell, like the grave, is never satisfied. They have an insatiable appetite for souls. The ruler of this world is the one in charge of both death and hell. That explains the whole thing about the highway to perdition being wide. He rules through warfare, lies and compromise, seduction and every evil thing.
Jesus said of him that “He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it” (John 8:44).
As believers, let us not “hide our light under a bushel” (Matthew 5:15) but rather bravely speak the truth in love, His truth. People need to hear it. What they do with it is not up to us!
26 August 2015