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!!!

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* 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.

Healing Prayer and Proclamation

Father, if I ask anything according to Your will, you hear me, and knowing that You hear me I have the assurance that I have whatever I’ve asked of You.

Your Word makes it clear that Your will for me is healing, health and life. So I ask for those in the confident expectation that I have received them and they will be mine, in accordance to Your Word.

You are the Lord Who heals me.
You will take away disease and give me a full life span.
I called out to You and You sent Your Word of life and healed me of all diseases, so I will not die but live, and will proclaim what You have done.

I choose life so that I may live and love You, LORD my God. I will listen to Your voice and hold fast to You, because You are my life.

Jesus bore my sicknesses and diseases, and by His Wounds I have been healed.
And in Jesus’ name, as one of your children through faith in Him, I believe I have received.

AMEN!!!

Believers or Quenchers?

Sadly the church in the affluent comfortable west is full of unbelief and unbelievers. It is the home of religious game-players instead of disciples.

Christianity has become a religion of convenience, where God is merely another commodity to add to life: a “fire insurance” to save us from a fiery eternity.

It has become a dead religion with no promise of life here and now.
A religion of excuses intended to rationalise our failure to experience what God has promised.
The result has no resemblance to the full life promised by Jesus.

All of the above smothers the gospel. Quenching it of any effect upon the lives of those who identify themselves as “believers” – and as a consequence rob the world of any hope of seeing Jesus as HE really is through their witness.

When Jesus said anyone wanting to be His disciple needs to “deny themselves” – He did NOT mean that we deny ourselves of the benefits God has provided to make us effective and fruitful ambassadors for His Kingdom.
In denying ourselves through excuses and unbelief, we are also denying the world of the gospel it needs to hear and see (in word and deed).

Many who identify as believers have no idea what “believe” means or what they are supposed to be believing. They claim relationship with God and yet have little idea of what God requires of them or what God desires for their lives. God becomes a lifestyle accessory instead of the LORD of their life.

Many have no desire to know or understand God’s will and put more effort into trying to avoid it (or explain it away) than accepting and submitting to it and desiring to grow in spiritual maturity.

For me the days of complacency and avoidance are over.

To live is Christ.

He is my life. I will love Him, listen to His voice, and hold fast to Him.

I will proclaim what He has done.

You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. (Matt 5) NIV

 

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… 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…

 

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

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.

 

Being Transformed: Testimony 9

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12)

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world.”
A simple command, but how seriously is it taken?

Clearly not seriously enough in my case.

We are surrounded by the world. We are in it every day of our lives. Remaining untainted by it is impossible, without taking active measures. We can’t afford to be passive, thinking we’ll remain immune from its effects while casually going with the flow. That’s as likely as staying dry if we are walking into a swimming pool.

While we won’t get noticeably wet at first, (just our feet on the top step), it only needs another step to be taken for our knees to be submerged, and not many more before we find ourselves committed to a full drenching.

Conforming to the pattern of the world is rarely as sudden or intentional as taking a headlong dive into the water. It starts with a dipped toe, then a tentative paddle.

The only prevention is the right kind of change. Transformation. We can’t remain static and expect to escape the effects of the world in which we live.

Paul reveals the MEANS of transformation: the renewal of the mind. Changing the way we think, amending our point of view, to bring us into line with and able to recognise God’s will.

But how do we do that? How is our mind renewed?

Psalm 1 gives a good indication.

Don’t walk in step with the wicked, or stand in the way that sinners take, or sit in the company of mockers, but delight in the law of the Lord, and meditate on it day and night.

Proverbs 4 echoes the Psalmists instructions.

“Do not set foot on the path of the wicked,
or walk in the way of evildoers.

Avoid it, do not travel on it;
turn from it and go on your way.”

And

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.

But we should not be lulled into the false security that may come with church membership, or the fact we are listening to sermons, or reading Christian books.
While they can sometimes be helpful aids, it is only through a personal connection to God’s word that we’ll get the essential mind-renewal leading to the right kind of transformation.
But it needs more than a regular bible reading plan. Meditating on what is read, BELIEVING it and putting it into action is essential.

Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent, and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. (James 1) NIV

If we deny ourselves that personal, active involvement with scripture, we will inevitably expose our thinking to unhelpful, even dangerous patterns, that may not necessarily have a worldly appearance or flavour. They may even seem to be spiritual, and be endorsed by your church.

So if we want our lives to conform to truth, we need to choose to love the truth, and not be satisfied with anything less.

My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. (John 17) NIV