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.

Giving Careful Thought to the Paths…repentance.

A very insightful and informative article from Art Thomas about the “guilt by association” accusations that have been levelled against his ministry and others.

I thank the Lord for it.

I know that a few weeks ago I probably would have eagerly dismissed and cautioned against ministries like that of Art Thomas and Todd White, not because of anything inherently wrong with the work or the message, but because of alleged associations with others.

Lord, I repent of that attitude and the broad-brush condemnation that it fuelled.

What is the New Apostolic Reformation?

What is the New Apostolic Reformation? Why is it such a big deal to so many people? And what threat does the New Apostolic Reformation pose to the Church?

I want to offer a balanced response to these three questions and hopefully clear up some of the rhetoric and confusion that’s out there. My primary goal here is to give the Body of Christ a reasoned look at a complex topic so that we can be discerning and loving in how we interact on the subject. My secondary goal is to call out false teachers, slanderers, and children of the devil who have built their audiences out of innocent people whose itching ears are eager to hear what they want to hear.

Today I’m going to expose some wolves in sheep’s clothing, prominent theological errors, and divisive lies that are tearing apart the Church.

But it’s probably not going to look like what you expect.

In my best attempt to be like Jesus, I intend to love and defend the innocent while not pulling punches against those who have sown lies, discord, and false doctrine in the Church.

So hold onto your hat!

https://supernaturaltruth.com/understanding-new-apostolic-reformation/

See full article at link above.

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… Fellowship

It’s been several years now since I’ve been involved with a church.

After moving to my current town, I attended a sizeable (by the town’s standards) charismatic fellowship, but found it was too enthralled with a variety of fads, and had an unfortunate, close relationship with teachings and practices originating in the Toronto “Blessing”.

Following that I went to the other extreme and was involved in a traditional denominational church, that was sadly steeped in Calvinism. After a year or so I chose to leave them to prevent the increasing conflict that would have continued had I stayed.

In a small country town, there aren’t many options.

While I, and my faith, survived despite the limited fellowship opportunities – clearly my current situation shows that neither thrived.

Now, with my determination to seek God to turn things around, the church/fellowship issue has become the next thing I need to address. But how?

At the moment I’m following up two options. One local and one in Canberra.

The local fellowship is very small, but conveniently close to home. The Canberra group is quite large but too far away for frequent personal involvement – but even infrequent would be an improvement on nothing.

If both groups show potential, there should be no reason to choose one above the other. Both are affiliated with the same Pentecostal denomination, and I could combine ongoing involvement with the local people, and occasional visits to those in Canberra. If possible that could become a best of two worlds scenario. From experience and observation, having no or little contact beyond an individual group of Christians can lead to an unfruitful insularity.

But all of that depends on a few factors.

Are they in thrall to fads and non-scriptural practices and ideas? Do they look more to “anointed” men instead of to God? Following the latest celebrity preacher, prophet, or claimed miracle worker, without judging the fruit of their ministries?

Are their beliefs and teachings mostly in line with scripture? If not are they so rigidly fixed upon their doctrines that they refuse the possibility of learning something different should the Lord try to correct them?

And how committed will they be to the members of their congregation. Will they be quick to abandon and shun them should  a member leave their group, instead of maintaining ongoing contact?
Sadly EVERY past experience I’ve had has leaned more to the shunning than any ongoing contact, even when I’ve personally tried to keep in contact, it has always been one way and unreciprocated.

There are a several things I consider to be essentials.

  1. Word based – having God’s word, scripture at the heart of their beliefs
  2.  Spirit filled -recognising the necessity of the Holy Spirit’s work in the individual and the congregation through His sanctifying work, and the operation of His gifts.
  3. Faith based – not doubters, waverers or excuse makers.
  4.  Love based – genuinely caring for people, not just seeing them as seat fillers, increasing the size of their congregation. That also includes maintaining an interest and demonstrating genuine concern for the well-being of anyone who might choose to leave them.
  5.  Have a foundation of prayer, including frequent corporate prayer meetings that are more than a token event.
  6.  With committed members interested in more than only attending Sunday services.
  7.  Genuine recognition of each members role in ministry – in other words, not restricted to a one-man-band, or an elevation of “clergy” above “laity”.

Do I expect too much?
From past experience … probably yes.

But I also want to challenge myself to be more accepting and patient, willing to listen. To trust my discernment. To not dismiss everything just because some things may be wrong. To allow others the room to grow and learn, as I know I need to grow and learn.

And I need to maintain a strength of conviction, to take a stand when necessary, but to do so with love and not impatience and without giving any impression of hostility, recognising that I also need to fulfil those expectations I’ve listed above.

Giving Careful Thought to the Paths… Prayer

In my previous article I said: “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 includes believing what is said about prayer.

And prayer is another area of my life that I recognised needs attention and to be addressed in a way consistent with scripture.

In this article I will be going over some ground I’ve covered before, as I come to terms with the essential role for prayer in the life of the believer.

There are some important promises made about prayer, that need to be recognised as having a vital role in equipping us for both Christian living, and Christian service. Both of those aspects of our lives become severely compromised, possibly to the point of complete ineffectiveness if we don’t take those promises seriously.

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 write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. 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

A selection of wonderful promises regarding prayer, that the majority of professing Christians seem to disbelieve.

Unbelief is exposed by the excuses that are made to explain why these promises don’t really mean what they say – that sometimes God doesn’t fulfil those promises, but often says no and therefore we won’t receive, despite the promise.

They clearly don’t believe the following assurance either, that discounts the “no” answer. I’ve written about this previously here in the kind of post that doesn’t attract likes or comments of agreement.
How we love to cling to traditional ideas that help justify the failure status quo of the church.

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

James wrote of two reasons that people fail to receive from God.

You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. (James 4) NIV

  1. A failure to ask, and
  2. A failure of motive: asking for things to fulfil pleasures

The verse following the above gives a hint to the kind of pleasure he meant: those that keep us attached to the world.

You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God

I’ll add a third and perhaps more common reason for not receiving.

UNBELIEF.

I’ll repeat what I said at the beginning of this article:  “Being a doer of the word includes BELIEVING it; having faith in what God has said and living our lives according to its truth.”

There is a serious warning in Hebrews 11 about the potential to displease God. But it also contains a promise at the end.

…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

It’s not enough to believe in His existence, we need to believe in His willingness and desire to reward those who earnestly (diligently) seek Him. And especially believe in His promises to give whatever we ask for in prayer.

Am I wrong?
Have I written heretical nonsense?

Ask God what He thinks, but do it expecting and BELIEVING you’ll receive an answer.

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do. (James 1) NIV

In assessing my own prayer life, I have to confess it has been seriously lacking. I don’t know whether I ever recently prayed with any conviction that I’d have a prayer answered. I didn’t have the fervency, persistence or any assurance that my prayer would lead to anything. Prayer had become a matter of obligation, realising I should be praying, and hurriedly saying a few words I thought appropriate. Or turning to the default of praying in tongues, where no personal thought was required. “For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful. (1 Cor 14. NIV)”.

It hadn’t always been that way. I’d frequently attended church prayer meetings, and especially appreciated those that went for several hours, staying for the full course of an evening. But those kind of meetings also seem to be neglected now. The last ones I attended barely went for an hour and had only a few participants, unlike the well attended, long meetings I had experienced a couple of decades ago.

So that’s another aspect of my life that I’m clearly having to address, making prayer a priority not an afterthought.
The above biblical references to prayer show its importance as a means of receiving from God through asking and believing.
Believing prayer is a demonstration of trust in God, and an acknowledgment of our insufficiency without Him, that we need His provision.

In the past, when I was a prolific letter writer, I found it helpful to write my prayers to God in letter form. Doing that helped to keep me focused.
Maybe that is something I’ll explore again.

Another aid is a prayer journal – something I came across in several YouTube videos. I’m creating one in an A5 sized ring binder, divided into several sections. The basic idea is to follow daily and weekly prayer schedules.

missionsIn the daily section are prayer for self, spouse and family. Then the weekly section has a different focus for each day. In mine Sunday is devoted to “Missions and Ministries”, where the ministries we support can be prayed for – such as the child we sponsor, and organisations supporting persecuted Christians.

friendsMonday is for “Friends and Enemies” – praying for people we know who have special needs, and others we come across who have been antagonistic towards the gospel.

Tuesday is for “Town and Country” – referring to my local community (town) and the nation at large (Country).

Wednesday relates to my blogs, and other personal outreach/ministry ventures.

As my journal is still in its early days, Thursday through Saturday are still open for additional needs that come to mind.

And the final aspect of prayer that I think I need to address is a return to group prayer – assuming there is such a thing in my local community, with a church holding frequent prayer meetings with a good attendance of BELIEVING Christians.

Addressing that leads me on to the next topic.

To be continued…

 

______________________

Thank you Gloria for your creative help with labelling the dividers in my prayer journal (see illustrations above)

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.