Giving Careful Thought to the Paths… Word

Early in my new faith journey I came across the following from Proverbs.
I found it was very similar to the first part of Psalm 1 where the path to a fruitful life is described.

What to avoid, and what to focus upon.

My son, pay attention to what I say;
turn your ear to my words.
Do not let them out of your sight,
keep them within your heart;
for they are life to those who find them
and health to one’s whole body.

Above all else, guard your heart,
for everything you do flows from it.
Keep your mouth free of perversity;
keep corrupt talk far from your lips.

Let your eyes look straight ahead;
fix your gaze directly before you.
Give careful thought to the paths for your feet
and be steadfast in all your ways.

Do not turn to the right or the left;
keep your foot from evil. (Prov 4) NIV

Those two sections of scripture have influenced the direction I became determined to take, with special attention being given to God’s word.

I wanted to approach the Bible in a much more focused way than merely fulfilling an obligation to read so many chapters per day to get from beginning to end in a certain time frame.

Both the Psalm and Proverbs references speak of a deeper level of interaction with the word.

Blessed is the one…
…whose delight is in the law (word) of the Lord,
and who meditates on his law (word) day and night. (Psalm 1) NIV

and

turn your ear to my words.
Do not let them out of your sight,
keep them within your heart (Prov 4) NIV

I was also mindful of NT references to being DOERS of the Word and not hearers only, noticing that the man who built on sand is likened to those who actually HEARD the word, but did not act on it.

My current situation became a wake-up call that I needed to take God’s Word VERY seriously; something requiring deep thought leading to action.

But what kind of action would be required that did not merely become a de facto pursuing of the law as the way of righteousness as stated in Romans 9, in which Israel had failed? I found the answer is in the immediately preceding part of scripture, where a “righteousness that is by faith” was obtained by the Gentiles.

Doing the word is much more than obeying commandments. That approach didn’t work for Israel (mainly because they more eagerly practiced the sacrifice commands done as sin offerings, than obeying the behavioural commands that would have dealt with their sin before it was committed. See Jer 7:21-24 Sadly that is a similar attitude held by some Christians who see God’s forgiveness as a foregone conclusion despite their lax attitude to sin).

Being a doer of the word includes BELIEVING it; having faith in what God has said and living our lives according to its truth.

That requires a deeper relationship with the Word than just reading it.

As noted in Psalm 1 and Proverbs 4 – the word needs to be kept in our heart, and meditated upon day and night. It needs to become PART of us, renewing our minds to transform our lives according to His will instead of being conformed to the world around us.

Back to my personal journey and how I’ve started a new and more intense relationship with scripture.

To date it has taken a number of parallel approaches.

1) Reading through the whole Bible (reasonably quickly) to understand the broad revelation it contains.

For this I’m using The Books of the Bible, a publication that removes chapter and verse numbers from the text to give a smoother reader experience, unencumbered by the often intrusive and ill-placed divisions of those man made additions to the bible, and the text is printed in a single column across the page instead of the common double columns used on most bibles. That also makes it easier to read, like a “normal” book.

It also presents the individual books in a more logical sequence than the familiar, traditional order of books. For example Luke and Acts are presented together, followed by Paul’s letters in order of writing rather than according to length.

2) Study of particular topics in which urgent understanding is needed (such as my studies regarding healing)

3) Slower book by book reading, taking notes as I go. For this I turn to a more traditional bible with chapters and verses, which despite the problems they may cause for reading, can be a worthwhile aid for study. I have a bible with slightly wider margins for notes. Like The Books of the Bible, the NIV that I use for note taking is a single column “readers” bible.

4) During my  “whole bible reading” mentioned in point 1 above, I also occasionally write down anything that stands out as significant in my note taking bible, so I keep it in easy reach as I read the other one.

This varied approach I’ve been able to apply to bible study and reading has been quite profitable, and has led to an almost natural process of meditating on the word – with my mind frequently being turned to what I’ve read and studied. I find myself making connections across scripture seeing parallels and threads of truth woven between books and even across its diversity of writers and periods of history.

I’m several weeks into this journey now and while my relationship to scripture is progressing well, there are other areas that need my attention.

To be continued…

But as a final note, as I was typing this I was able to put into practice some of what I learned in my healing study.

Gloria was cooking dinner and burned her wrist on a hot pan. As she immersed it in water, I commanded healing in the name of Jesus. She was able to remove her arm from the water completely free from pain.

Gloria has been following my healing studies with her own, and has now experienced two healings within a week. The above being the second.

A few days ago she realised that a long standing problem with her knees had gone. For more than 18 years she had experienced difficulty standing after a sitting for a lengthy time or any movement that put pressure on her knee joints. She also she found it impossible to kneel without discomfort.

About two days ago, while cleaning the bathroom floor, she realised she was kneeling to do it, on both knees without any pain or discomfort.

She can now walk better, can kneel, and even demonstrated an ability to walk on her knees (not that she’d have any reason to do that in day to day life, apart from proving that her longstanding knee problem had been healed).

That healing was clearly an unsolicited gift from God. Previously no thought had been given to ask for the problem to be fixed, having lived with it for so long.

 

 

Sometimes Yes – Sometimes No ?

We’ve all heard the claim, and have probably said it ourselves at one time or another:
“God always answers prayer, but sometimes He answers ‘yes’ and other times He answers ‘no’.”

It’s a convenient response to justify why someone appeared not to receive what they had prayed for.

But is that statement based on God’s word or man’s tradition?

Is it true or false?

What does scripture say?

 

If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer. (Matt 21) NIV

Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.(Mark 11)NIV

I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it (John 14) NIV

If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you (John 15) NIV

whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you (John 15) NIV

Very truly I tell you, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name (John 16) NIV

This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us —whatever we ask — we know that we have what we asked of him, (1 John 5)NIV

If it was possible I’d highlight all of the following quote with vibrant flashing text, in the boldest print possible.

For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God. (2 Cor 1) NIV

Do any of the above give, or even hint at, the possibility of a ‘No’ answer from God?

Not that I can see, and the final quote specifically states that ALL of God’s promises come with a guaranteed YES! – with no hint of a possible ‘no’.

But there are some things I’d like to point out.
There are conditions to all of the statements above.

1) The reference from 2 Cor refers to God’s PROMISES, so if God hasn’t promised something, His ‘yes’ isn’t necessarily guaranteed.

2) Those in John 15 are dependant on an IF being fulfilled, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you”.

3) All of the others from the gospels have the condition of BELIEVING.

The 1 John reference explains on an important aspect of our ability to believe. Our faith needs a foundation. We need to know God’s will regarding a matter before we can genuinely believe He will give us what we ask.

“If we ask anything according to His will He hears us…”

“If we know that HE hears us…”

In other words, if we know we are asking according to His will, “we know that we have what we asked of Him”

So if it seems we aren’t getting our prayers answer, is God really giving a no answer?

Or is it more likely that we’ve failed to fulfil the conditions He has established related to prayer?

 

 

Foundation of Faith: God’s Word And His Will

My recent writings have made it clear that I’ve been pursuing a very personal journey of faith building. The reasons that journey became necessary have been covered in what I’ve written recently. (See my testimony posts).

The first part of that journey was surprisingly easy: to find a BIBLICAL foundation establishing God’s will regarding healing. I thought I’d have a harder task than I experienced.

God’s will regarding healing couldn’t have been made more obvious.

It IS His will for His people to live in health.

The importance of that can’t be emphasised enough. By ignoring it, or worse rejecting it, member’s of Christ’s body have been robbed of their health and even their lives, being deceived into thinking there was something noble in suffering sickness; that suffering their illness was for God’s glory.

God gets no glory from His children being hampered by sickness, especially when He’s made it so clear that He wants them healthy and able to serve as workers in His harvest field.

What I’ve written throughout my recent articles hasn’t been intended as a be-all and end-all study of healing.
My intent was to discover the very basic truth of God’s will, not necessarily how we are to obtain healing or how to lead others to healing.
It is futile to venture into the territory of receiving and imparting healing without establishing a foundational understanding of God’s willingness to heal.

Without knowledge of God’s will, anything we pray is merely a shot in the dark, hoping for results that we have no assurance of obtaining. And scripture makes it clear that we need to BELIEVE if we are to receive – vague hopeful prayers don’t have that same guaranteed outcome of receiving “whatever you ask for in prayer”, given to those prayed with BELIEF.

Not only has the church been robbed of health and life, its witness and message have also been compromised. While allowing ourselves to be denied the health God wants His children to “enjoy” – we also deny a very important aspect of the gospel we are supposed to be sharing, in word and deed, with the world.

The ministry of Jesus, the apostles and the early church was not a matter of word only.

My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power. (1 Cor 2) NIV

…our gospel came to you not simply with words but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and deep conviction. (1 Thess 1) NIV

The public preaching of the gospel was almost always accompanied by the healing of the sick.

While the initial motivation for starting this healing journey had a significant personal emphasis – being a literal battle for my own life – the ramifications are significantly broader than my own situation.

 

Paul’s Thorn Again

Paul’s thorn in the flesh continues to be raised as an argument against it always being God’s desire to heal.

I share the following video from David Servant and follow up with a repost of an article I wrote back in 2013, where I suggest that God’s response was not a “no” answer to Paul’s prayer for the thorn to be removed, but a revelation of its purpose, pointing Paul to the way he needed to deal with it – through obtaining and applying grace (which is given to the humble).

Finally, I include an audio version of F.F Bosworth’s chapter on the subject from his book Christ the Healer

(My article from 2013)

A few thoughts about Paul’s “thorn in the flesh”.

Despite common assumptions, there is no indication that Paul’s thorn in the flesh was a health issue – the scriptures describe it as a messenger (angel) from Satan sent to buffet Paul.

Paul had the understanding that God COULD remove it and would possibly be willing to remove it and therefore was able to ask for it to be removed. Then Paul was open enough to God’s Spirit to seek and hear God’s reason for the non-removal. He didn’t merely assume God wasn’t in the thorn-removal business.

2 Cor 12 spells out the nature of this “thorn in the flesh” and God’s revealed reason for not removing it:

“…because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations [given to Paul], a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Paul’s thorn wasn’t removed because it prevented him from becoming conceited (proud) due to the revelation he’d been given.

God told Paul that His grace was sufficient, but sufficient for what? Sufficient for Paul to endure, or sufficient for Paul to personally resist that messenger from Satan?

An interesting parallel dealing with similar issues of pride, humility and Satanic harassment can be found in James 4:6-7

“God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”

I find a comparison between the two scripture passages suggests a viable answer to my question above about sufficiency.

_____________________________

A reading of F.F. Bosworth’s chapter on Paul’s thorn in the flesh from his book Christ the Healer.