Discerning the Lord’s Body

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 things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. (PS 103:1-5) NIV

Just as Jesus bore our sins, Jesus also bore our sicknesses so that we don’t need to bear them ourselves –  paying the price for both.
His body was broken for our healing,  and His blood was shed for our forgiveness.

Gloria and I have realised this is something we ought to remember every time we participate in the Lord’s supper/ communion. And that is something we now do daily. Usually just the two of us, but also shared with other believers when they visit, something that is happening more and more now we’ve chosen to meet with  a local fellowship again.
Fellowship and the nature of it is also relevant to the way we take and receive the Lord’s Supper in remembrance of Him.

Paul wrote to the Corinthians telling them:

…whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord, Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup. For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves. That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep (died). (1 Cor 11:28-30) NIV

I see two aspects to the issue of doing this in an “unworthy manner” – the first clearly dealt with in the Corinthians quote refers to the failure of members of the  body of Christ to recognise and relate with each other, and ensuring that the needs of the less well-off are being met.

When you come together, it is not the Lord’s Supper you eat, for when you are eating, some of you go ahead with your own private suppers. As a result, one person remains hungry and another gets drunk. Don’t you have homes to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God by humiliating those who have nothing?(1 Cor 11:17-22) NIV.

If we return to Psalm 103, following the excerpt I quoted at the top of the page, we read:

The Lord works righteousness
and justice for all the oppressed. (PS 103:6) NIV

The Lord is very clearly concerned with the way His people treat the less well off. Many of the rebukes against Israel found in the prophetic books, relate to their neglect of the poor, and Israel were punished for that neglect.

Paul, in his teaching about the Lord’s Supper restates the dangers of neglecting less well-off fellow body members.

The second aspect relates to what happened to Jesus’ body leading up to His crucifixion.
His execution and shedding of blood was prefigured in the sacrifice of a spotless lamb under the old covenant Law, however under that law the sacrificed animal wasn’t brutally tortured and disfigured prior to sacrifice.

Isaiah prophesied the brutality inflicted on Jesus, and what it was for.

People despised and avoided him,
a man of pains, well acquainted with illness.
Like someone from whom people turn their faces,
he was despised; we did not value him.

In fact, it was our diseases he bore,
our pains from which he suffered;
yet we regarded him as punished,
stricken and afflicted by God.

But he was wounded because of our crimes,
crushed because of our sins;
the disciplining that makes us whole fell on him,
and by his bruises (wounds/stripes) we are healed.
(Isaiah 53: 3-5) CJB

We also need to discern the body in this way – recognising that Jesus bore torturous treatment of His body prior to death and that treatment relates to the provision of healing. Healing provided within the same atonement through which forgiveness of sins were also made available – both being gifts of God’s grace, made accessible through faith.

Satan has very successfully talked the church out of believing God’s word regarding provision of healing and His revelation that HE wants His people to choose life.
Satan’s first tactic is always to get people to doubt God’s word, such as his temptation of Eve (and Adam who was with her).
He took the same approach with Jesus. (see below *)

We need to decide whose word we are going to believe – God’s, the One who came to give full life? Or the distortions and lies offered by the thief who comes only to kill, steal and destroy (John 10:10).

Post Script: Above I said “I see two aspects to the issue of doing this in an “unworthy manner”.  I have now been made aware of a third through some teaching I’ve just heard, so I might revisit this topic after I’ve checked out that teaching against scripture.

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* Note that Satan came to the Lord in the wilderness and started his temptation of Jesus by challenging the very words God had spoken to Him at His baptism: “This is my Son…
Immediately after this Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness where: “The tempter came to him and said, ‘If you are the Son of God…'”

That  happened at the beginning of His ministry. The same thing was tried again at the climax of His ministry – during His death on the cross, this time by demonically inspired mockers.  “ …save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!

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.

 

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)