Beware of Becoming What You Intend to Rebuke

 

Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. (Matt 7: 15-20) NIV

The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other. (Gal 5: 19-26) NIV

 

Where is the ferocity being displayed in this video?

Who is making an unfulfilled “prophetic” claim of judgement? (Note: Ananias and Sapphira were struck dead instantly)

How (and by whom) are the fruit of the Spirit being displayed, compared to the “acts of the flesh”?

Note, the video seems to have been proudly posted by the rebuker or his followers.

Does “Brother Terry” never consider how different things could be if the time and effort spent picketing events and rebuking others (something NOT commanded by the Lord) was put into something the Lord actually DID command – such as preaching the gospel and healing the sick, delivering those under demonic influence?

Beware of becoming what you intend to rebuke.

Giving Careful Thought to the Paths…Update

It’s now three months since I started this journey.

Along the way I’ve taken a number of steps to build my faith to ensure the medical profession’s prognosis is proven wrong. Doctors don’t have answers. They can offer no hope, but as I’ve discovered, and tried to share, God desires a different outcome to the one they have predicted and I’m looking forward to a complete healing and a powerful testimony of what God has done.

I will not die
But live
And I will proclaim what the Lord has done (Ps 118)

The basic steps taken have been an increased engagement with scripture, a more consistent prayer life, and return to Christian fellowship. Every step has been productive.

Scripture: In three months I’ve read through the New Testament twice and have started a third time. I have also read most of the Old Testament, with half of Psalms left, as well as all of Numbers and Proverbs. I skipped the difficult Leviticus and Numbers earlier on to make sure my reading momentum was maintained when I needed it most, but have just completed Leviticus, a book I found surprisingly rewarding, in particular chapter 26.

Along the way I have taken a lot of notes in my Bible. For that I had bought a wide margined edition of the NIV that I’d seen reviewed in a Christian publication as well as a favoured reading bible (see here for details). I’ve loved the process of note taking, finding and recording connections between different books to build up a more complete understanding of what I’m reading.

While my first readings used the NIV and TNIV, for my third reading I’ve been using a New King James Version to see if it gives me a different perspective. I was able to find a single column “reader’s” edition that places chapter and verse numbers in the margins instead of within the text itself, where they can often disrupt reading by creating unnatural and unnecessary interruptions to the flow of scripture. With that feature it is similar to the TNIV that I’ve used as my reading bible to date. I also have other translations as references if I feel that something I’ve read needs a bit more clarity. I continue to transfer notes into the wide margin NIV as I read the NKJV.

Prayer: This perhaps had a slower start than bible reading. The initial breakthrough came after seeing a few YouTube videos about prayer binders – a kind of prayer journal created and used to give some kind of order and discipline to prayer time.

Gloria has really taken off with her prayer journal, initially enjoying the craft aspect of creating pages for various categories of prayer, she now has a daily prayer time in our “prayer closet” (craft room/ office) and often adds a second or third session during the day when she is led to pray more.

My own journal is divided into sections for Praise (where I have a few relevant Psalms), Repentance, Personal needs, Prayer for Gloria, Family Members, Friends (and enemies), MIssions and Ministries, Local Community… The different categories and the notes within help to keep prayer focused and make sure I don’t forget to pray for those who have asked for prayer – or I have promised to pray for.

At first I relied heavily on the journal, but recently, while it is still used, I’ve been praying more without it (adding to the use of the journal, not doing away with it). Like Gloria, I also find myself being led to go back to the “prayer closet” again later in the day.

Fellowship:  This has perhaps been the most difficult step. We’d had problems with churches we’d previously attended, experiencing the opposite extremes of traditions. I didn’t know where we could go with few other options in our town.

But I found a small congregation meeting on Sunday afternoons. They are far from perfect, and in the past I wouldn’t have lasted more than a week or two before giving up on them, but it seemed clear that the Lord wants us there despite disagreeing with some of what they believe, and despite their clear devotion to some questionable “ministries”.

One thing the Lord drew to my attention was:

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.

This was not a suggestion or a request. Jesus makes it clear it is a command. I was also made aware of what “as I have loved you” meant – when I considered what Jesus tolerated from His disciples, from lack of faith, to some very wrong attitudes and thinking. If we are to love other believers in the same way as He loved His disciples, we’ll find ourselves having to overlook their shortcomings, and also have the hope they’ll overlook ours.

Great is the LORD.

Yesterday I started the sixth cycle of chemotherapy. It’s the halfway point of the only treatment that medicine can provide. Treatment that medically can’t cure, but can only hold things at bay and give me a little more time.

But great is the LORD. The LORD who heals me. The LORD who HAS healed me.
My faith is not in what doctors can’t do, but in what God has already done.

Most importantly the treatment has given me time away from work. So far I’ve had three months and I’ve tried to make every moment count, building and strengthening my faith in the LORD.

More time spent in scripture.
More time spent in prayer.
Reconnecting with local believers in fellowship.

A profitable time in many ways.

A few days ago I wrote of how difficult things had been after my last chemo treatment. There was a physical element, where I had a worse reaction than usual to the treatment, but also a spiritual element, especially through comments made on this blog, attempting to sow seeds of doubt.

I praise the LORD that my time spent with Him over the past three months had strengthened me enough in advance.

I know it is God’s will that I live in health.
I know God’s promises regarding prayer and His desire to heal.
I have a confidence in God.
But I had some fear that I would let Him down, that my faith would waver. Some of the comments posted on my blog last week seemed intent on creating that wavering.

There were references to others who died of cancer despite believing they would be healed. I really don’t know what would motivate someone to purposely post such comments in full knowledge of the current situation.

And things weren’t helped by the fact that the pastor of a church I used to attend had died of cancer only a few months before my diagnosis. I assume he and his family were probably trusting in the Lord for his recovery.

But the experience of others (or even our own) should NEVER be a factor determining our own faith and beliefs. We have to build our foundations on God’s word and not any other message the world (and Satan) may try to throw at us to knock us down.

Yesterday I woke with a strong assurance. A vital confidence. A deeper conviction. It’s as if what I’d previously believed in my head has finally broken through to my heart. That assurance, established on a foundation of scripture remains today.

By Jesus’ stripes (wounds, bruises) I HAVE been healed.

 

Do You Believe Jesus?

What do you make of the following statements?
Do you believe them?
If so, what PRACTICAL effect does that belief have in your life?

If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer. (Matt 21:22) NIV

I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. (Mark 11:24) NIV

If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. (John 15:7) NIV

whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. (John 15:16)NIV

Very truly I tell you, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete. (John 16:23-24) 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: 14-15) NIV

Are these promises we can actually believe?
Do we believe those promises to the extent that our lived experience is determined by them?

Or do we find ourselves having to “reinterpret” their meaning to make them fit our lived experience?

Does our faith in Jesus include believing what He said?
Does our faith in Jesus include believing in the wider scriptures , written by His disciples?

Is our faith in Jesus and God’s word or is it more focused on tradition and our personal experience?

In particular, what do we make of this?

Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And 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: 12-14) NIV

If Jesus said “whoever believes in [Him] will do…”, how is that being reflected in OUR lives as professing believers?

Are we experiencing those works and greater things in our lives?
Are we expecting those works and greater things to be part of our lives?

If not why not?

Standing with Faith and Patience

Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armour of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then

This week hasn’t been the best.

It started off well.
Monday last week I woke full of joy, something that continued throughout our pre-dawn walk around the neighbourhood.
At times I felt I could shout out “HALLELUJAH” and break into a dance of celebration in the middle of the street (totally out of character). But nearby residents would not have taken kindly to the early morning disturbance.

From there things went downhill with a clear attack against my faith on several fronts.

It was the hardest week to date physically, with post-chemo fatigue spreading over three days instead of one (usually only a few hours on that one day) and a few other chemo-related symptoms I’d not previously suffered.

And there have been some comments made on the blog clearly intended to undermine my faith. Even though I give the commenter the courtesy of assuming he had the best of intentions, I have difficulty understanding what he thought those “best intentions” were.

I’ve answered those comments under the posts on which they were made, and also addressed some of his beliefs in my previous topic De Facto Calvinism.

I have now advised that any further comments of that type will not be passed through moderation – although, unfortunately I’ll have to read them myself to make that judgement and decision.

Basically his comments were grounded in typical Calvinist thought – that God is sovereign and He alone will sovereignly choose if I live or die. Forget what God has revealed in scripture. Forget faith in Him, His word, and His promises. Just submit to Divine lottery.

I reject such fatalistic nonsense and submit myself to the One true God through faith in Him and His word. I’ll seek Him HIS way.

We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised. (Heb 6:12) NIV

In addition to that particular commenter, there was also an ongoing series of negative comments about videos I’d posted of two men with healing ministries. One particular thread had to be closed for comments after what was possibly a record 50 comments (mostly negative, apart from my replies). Sadly that seems to show how little regard has been paid to what God has revealed about healing and His will regarding the health of His people, something I have dealt with in some detail, with abundant scripture references, in many posts over the past couple of months.

Despite another doubt-sowing comment, in which I was told of three friends who died of cancer despite believing God would heal them*, things started to turn around yesterday. I had a wonderful time in prayer during which I had a personal breakthrough. This followed on from some very fruitful Bible time when I was able to resolve a longstanding, personal question I’d had, that probably helped make the prayer time so profitable. (Thank you Lord for your word, and thank you Holy Spirit for the understanding.)

I was also contacted by an elder from the church I’ve recently started attending, inviting me to a prayer meeting tonight. It’s good to know this new fellowship is a praying church and I hope to get along to that meeting to join them.

Praise the Lord, my soul;
all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the Lord, my soul,
and forget not all his benefits—
who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion
who satisfies your desires with good thing
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.(PS 103) NIV

Just as I was finalising this post, I was interrupted by a phone call.

It was a very precious long-standing friend, someone I’ve known for about 40 years. She is a woman of strong faith, and powerful prayer, and called to check on how I was going and to encourage me.

Yet another example of the Lord’s care.

Praise His name!!!

_______________________________

* For some reason I have difficulty understanding why believing God should be viewed as a bad thing.
I suspect those friends of the commenter had no regrets for maintaining their faith in God when they found themselves face to face with Him.

Giving Careful Thought to the Paths… Faith

I’m sure all Christians would passionately insist they want to please God, but how many of us REALLY consider what the following means?

…without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. (Heb 11) NIV

Most Christians would have no problem with the first part of that statement. The belief that God exists would be such a basic, undeniable thing that we might risk skimming over the next condition given in the quote. “That He rewards those who earnestly (or diligently) seek Him”.

Do we REALLY believe in God’s rewards as much as we believe in His existence? That He  really rewards those who seek Him? OR do we spend more time trying to excuse our lack of reward – because we don’t want to admit that our seeking hasn’t exactly been earnest?

Please let me point something out – there are no escape clauses in that particular promise, and it does NOT suggest that God might be a denier of reward to those who earnestly seek Him.

This is an issue we NEED to take seriously. God promises to reward for a reason, and it is foolish, if not dangerous to push aside His promise.

His rewards relate to equipping and empowering His children for service. To deny ourselves His reward is to more or less to say we aren’t interested in serving Him, or that we are satisfied in serving Him in our own strength and abilities rather than His.

But beyond that, faith is NOT something we can take lightly. It’s something that we NEED to understand and exercise. It is at the heart of the message of the gospel, and the way that salvation became accessible to the Gentiles.

Paul wrote to the Romans saying that Israel failed to obtain righteousness because they pursued it through the Law, but a righteousness through faith has been obtained by the Gentiles. However, how can we assume that we HAVE obtained that righteousness by faith IF we fail (even refuse) to believe God and His word, which is the very foundation of faith in Him?

Believing in God’s existence, or even believing that Jesus died for our sins, is not enough IF we are rejecting everything else that God has made evident in His word. Faith in God needs to be far reaching, trusting Him in (and for) everything, not just to provide a get out of hell free card.

In Psalm 103 the Psalmist commands his innermost being to not forget any of God’s benefits. Those benefits are not due to some divine whim of God, that we can accept or not. He provides them for a reason, which is why none of them should be forgotten.

Paul said that Israel failed because they pursued righteousness through the Law. And yet it was God Himself who gave them that Law. Isn’t that unfair ?

I admit I was puzzled by that until I saw something in Jeremiah that shed a little light.

…when I brought your ancestors out of Egypt and spoke to them, I did not just give them commands about burnt offerings and sacrifices,
but I gave them this command: Obey me, and I will be your God and you will be my people. Walk in obedience to all I command you, that it may go well with you. (Jer 7) NIV

Israel were picking and choosing parts of the Law instead of heeding ALL of it. In particular they were happy to obey and practice the sacrifices, the burnt offerings given for atonement for their sin – but not the other aspects of obedience that would have prevented sin and made the offerings unnecessary.
In effect they were acting as if sin did not matter to God because they expected the relevant burnt offering would erase it’s consequences.
They didn’t take the WHOLE law seriously to the extent that they thought it wasn’t necessary to even try – as long as they could cover up their sin with the designated offering.

In the same way that Israel failed to obtain righteousness through a selective obedience, could professing believers today, who assume they obtain righteousness thorough faith also be in danger of missing out because their “faith” is no less selective?
They are happy to “believe in Him” (Jesus) so they “shall not perish but have eternal life”, and to be saved by grace through faith, but maybe aren’t so interested in being “God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Eph 2).

Without faith it is impossible to please God.
So how selectively pleasing to Him are we willing to be?

Selective enough to avoid God’s rewards through which He shapes us as His handiwork, making us able to do those good works in His strength rather than attempting to do them in our own?

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.