God’s Healing

All of us require healing, both physical and spiritual (Romans 3:23). No one can go through life without injury or illness, and none of us can escape death (Ecclesiastes 8:8).

In the process of dying, body parts fail to function properly, and in old age atrophy sets in before death. However, there is one Saviour, Jesus Christ, who can raise the dead (John 11:1-45) and heal both body and soul (Romans 12:1, 2). Those raised in Him by the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:11) are given new life, i.e., their spirit is enlivened (John 3:3) by God’s life-giving Spirit. God will, in His own time, unite them with their new resurrected bodies when His Son comes again (1 Thessalonians 4:16; 2 Thessalonians 1:7) with His angels.

Bruises, scratches and grazes miraculously heal themselves – although in fact, they are healed by God; for all healing comes from Him (Deuteronomy 32:39). He upholds all things according to His will (Hebrews 1:3). He gives physical healing to believers and non-believers alike, and His grace extends to both.

God doesn’t always heal physical ailments – even those of whom He loves, as was the case with Paul the Apostle who had a ‘thorn’ in his flesh which he described as ‘a messenger of Satan’. Instead, God told Paul that His grace was sufficient for him (2 Corinthians 12:7-9).

Injury and illness bring pain, and if the pain is to go away, healing must take place. So when it comes to life-threatening and serious illnesses most of us seek the help of a doctor. Of course, if we are disciples of Christ we look to Him for our healing – that’s not to say we ignore doctors. Most likely we’ll accept their diagnosis and take the medicine they prescribe.

On looking to Christ for healing we place our trust in Him, and we are heartened by the numerous *miracles of healing He performed (Matthew 4:23-25; Luke 4:40). More often than not Jesus healed people instantly. He didn’t keep them waiting around. He cast out demons, and He healed thousands of ill people (Matthew 8:16, 17).

However, the question must be asked, “What is more important – His healing of bodies or of souls?”

When He forgives sins, He heals souls, and He transforms them by imparting to them new life (2 Corinthians 5:17). The transformation is spiritual, and it is of the Holy Spirit. Although souls are transformed, bodies remain unchanged, and they are subject to decay and death. However, the resurrected bodies of the redeemed will never experience illness or pain (Revelation 21:4) and the redeemed will live for ever in the new heaven (22:5) Therefore in man’s first state of sin (Romans 3:23) God’s healing of his soul is of greater importance than the healing of his body, because without God’s healing of the soul he cannot inherit eternal life.

How are souls healed? By God-given faith in His Son (Romans 10:17; Ephesians 2:8, 9) who died on the cross and was raised to life to sit at the Father’s right hand (Hebrews 1:3). Jesus bore the sins of those for whom He died, that ‘they might live for righteousness (Isaiah 53:4, 5; 1 Peter 2:24)’,

All men and women everywhere are commanded by Jesus to, ‘Repent, and believe (Mark 1:15).’ Have you obeyed His command?

* The Miracles of Jesus

https://thebiblicalway.blog/2018/01/09/the-miracles-of-jesus/

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New Testament Martyrs

Christians must expect to be persecuted for their faith in Jesus (Matthew 5:10-12). While bearing their cross (Mark 10:21) they will suffer for Christ (Philippians 1:29), and yet they count it all joy (James 1:2-4). The Old Testament prophets were persecuted (Matthew 23:35; Luke 11:51) for their faith and obedience to God, and post-resurrection followers of Jesus were also persecuted (Acts 8:1).

Persecution can take many forms: prejudicial harassment, the purposeful infliction of troubles; the loss of income through being sacked; the destruction or confiscation of personal property (Hebrews 10:34); and, in extreme cases, being put to death for witnessing to the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ (Hebrews 11:37).

Death on account of being faithful to Jesus is Christian martyrdom. Such martyrs bear witness to the lordship of Christ in their lives. They hold fast to their confession of faith (Hebrews 10:23), even when being tortured in an attempt to make them recant. Many have been burnt at the stake, as was the case with two 16th century protestants who suffered death in this way not far from where I live in Essex.

Today they are remembered by having their names recorded on a *memorial at Rayleigh where they died. The names of two other martyrs who suffered death by burning at Smithfield, London, are also recorded on the memorial. This barbarism took place when Catholic Queen Mary (Bloody Mary) was on the throne, at which time protestants were forbidden to read or preach the bible. They were treated as heretics.

Notable examples of Christians who were martyred can be found in the New Testament, of which John the Baptist was the first (Mark 6:27). Stephen, a deacon of the Jerusalem church (Acts 6:5), was next:

‘And when the blood of Your martyr Stephen was shed, I also was standing by consenting to his death, and guarding the clothes of those who were killing him (Acts 22:20).’ These were the words of Saul [Paul], who was converted when had a miraculous encounter with the Lord, whilst on the way to Damascus to persecute Christians (Acts 22:6-16).

Acts 7:58-60 sheds more light on the death of that faithful saint: ‘and they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul. And they stoned Stephen as he was calling on God and saying, “Lord Jesus receive my spirit. Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not charge them with this sin.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.”

Acts 12, verses 1 and 2 tell us about the martyrdom of James: ‘Now about the time Herod the king stretched out his hand to harass some of the church. Then he killed James the brother of John with the sword.

Hebrews 11:37 describes some of the brutal and cruel acts that were perpetrated against the saints: ‘They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. ……’

From Revelation, Chapter 2, verse 13 we learn that Antipas, a member of the  church at Pergamon, was martyred for his faithful witness:

‘“I know your works, and where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is. And you hold fast to My name, and did not deny My faith even in the days in which Antipas was My faithful martyr, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells.”’

The Bible does not record the martyrdom of Peter and Paul, but tradition has it that Peter was crucified upside-down, and Paul was beheaded – both deaths occurring in Rome.

Christian martyrdom **continues today. Vast numbers of believers have been killed for their testimony of Jesus.

* Martyrs Memorial, Rayleigh, Essex

https://historicengland.org.uk/services-skills/education/educational-images/martyrs-memorial-rayleigh-5985

** Are there really 100,000 new Christian martyrs every year?

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-24864587

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Riches in Christ

‘But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows (1 Timothy 6:9, 10).’

Here we have a forthright warning not to seek worldly riches, and Matthew 6:33 exhorts us, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.”’ Furthermore,  Philippians 4:19 assures us, ‘And my God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory by Jesus Christ.’ This brings us to the crux of the matter. True and lasting riches are found in none other than Jesus Christ Himself! In Him there are, ‘all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Colossians 2:3).’ He gives us His ‘riches in glory’.

From Colossians 1:27 we learn that, ‘To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.’  We are already rich when Christ dwells in us, and we look forward to the time of His coming again, when His full glory will be revealed (Matthew 16:27; 25:31).

Ephesians 3:14-19 sums it up: ‘For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in our hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height – to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with the fulness of God.’’

The heart of the matter is, ‘to know the love of Christ.’ Nothing can surpass the love of Christ (John 15:9). No experience can excel the riches of His love. The overflowing fulness of His love will be experienced in the ultimate kingdom, the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:2), where God and the Lamb are its temple (v 22) in which we [believers] shall dwell.

Our Lord explains, ‘“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Matthew 6:21).”’ You can see then, that if your heart is set on gaining riches in this world, you will not inherit riches in the world to come. Jesus tells us bluntly, ‘“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal (Matthew 6:19, 20).”’

Jesus gives a further warning not to look for earthly riches, for those who amass treasure on earth will have great difficulty in attaining heavenly riches in Christ: ‘Then Jesus said to His disciples, “Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 19:23).”’ Luke 18:25 reiterates this, ‘“For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”’

If we are to have riches in Christ we must seek Him in His kingdom (Matthew 6:33), this is the kingdom of great worth, the pearl that outshines all pearls:“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it (Matthew 13:45).”’

Finally, ‘For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich (2 Corinthians 8:9).’

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Thanksgiving

It is my habit each morning to read passages from my ESV Bible. I usually start with a chapter from an Old Testament book, then I read a psalm before reading from the New Testament. Today, I found a common theme of thanksgiving in all three of my readings.

Here are three relevant extracts:

‘When all the people of Israel saw how the fire came down and the glory of the LORD on the temple, they bowed down with their faces to the ground on the pavement and worshipped and gave thanks to the LORD, saying: “For he is good, and his steadfast love endures forever (2 Chronicles 7:3).”’

‘The LORD is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him (Psalm 28:7).’

‘For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving (1 Timothy 4:4);’

A characteristic of believers is their thankfulness to the Lord for all that He has done for them and for all that He promises He will do for them. In gratitude they never want to stop praising and giving thanks to Him.

We find this with saints throughout the Bible. Daniel is a notable example from the Old Testament:

‘Now when Daniel knew that the writing had been signed, he went home. And in his upper room, with his windows open toward Jerusalem, he knelt down on his knees three times that day, and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as was his custom since early days (Daniel 6:10).

Asaph, a leader in King David’s choir, is another example from the OT. In Psalm 50:14 he wrote, ‘Offer to God thanksgiving, and pay your vows to the Most High.’

Psalm 100 has the description, ‘ A  PSALM FOR GIVING THANKS’:

‘Make a joyful shout to the LORD, all you lands!

Serve the LORD with gladness;

Come before His presence with singing.

Know that the LORD, He is God;

It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves;

We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.

Enter into His gates with thanksgiving,

And into His courts with praise.

Be thankful to Him, and bless His name.

For the LORD is good;

His mercy is everlasting,

And His truth endures to all generations.’

In the New Testament we find the Lord Himself giving thanks to His Father:

And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me (Luke 22:19)”’

Paul wrote in Colossians 4:2, ‘Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving;’

We find him in Colossians 1:3 telling the church that: ‘We give thanks to the God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you.’

Thanksgiving is in the Christian DNA; it is part and parcel with walking in the Spirit (Acts 9:31; Romans 8:1, 4; Galatians 5:25). 

The Christian’s immediate and forever response to Jesus for his salvation is to praise and thank Him (Colossians 3:17; Hebrews 13:15).

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Proclamation of the Gospel

What is the Bible about? Essentially it proclaims the salvation of the elect (Colossians 3:12) – the chosen of God (1 Peter 2:4). This is the good news of a new life in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17) and of an eternal future in heaven for those who believe and trust Him (Ephesians 1:12).

How is this salvation achieved? By faith in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8, 9), the Son of God who suffered death on a cross. He was buried and rose to life again. He ascended into heaven, where He sits at the right hand of God the Father. Jesus was and is the fulfilment of the Law and the Prophets (Matthew 5:17).

Paul in 2 Corinthians 1:20 speaks of this fulfilment, ‘For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us.’ Those promises are the ones made by God in His word, the Bible.

The risen Jesus told of these things about Himself to two disciples whom He met as they were on their way to Emmaus. This is what He said, “These are the words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me.” And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures. Then He said to them,”Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And you are witnesses of these things. (Luke 24:44-48)”

The good news, the gospel of salvation, was spoken of by the Prophets of the Old Testament (Isaiah 61:1). Matthew 3:3 tells of John the Baptist, the one whom Isaiah prophesied would affirm Jesus as the Messiah: ‘For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah, saying, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the LORD; make His paths straight.’”’  (cf Isaiah 40:3)

Malachi also prophesied of John the Baptist who would herald the coming of Jesus: ‘“Behold, I send My messenger, and he will prepare the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple, even the Messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight. Behold He is coming,” says the LORD of hosts (Malachi 3:3).”’

John said there was ‘One mightier’ than he who would come and ‘baptise with the Holy Spirit and fire (Luke 3:16).

Jesus, Himself, started His active three year ministry by proclaiming His gospel: ‘“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand (Matthew 4:17),”’ and before ascending to heaven He commissioned His disciples to teach others to be disciples teaching them to observe all things He commanded them (Matthew 28:19).

At the coming of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:2-4) many heard the gospel (vv 14-37), and in turn they enthusiastically told others, so that thousands believed their testimony and were baptised (v 41, 47). The church grew rapidly and the gospel was proclaimed throughout the known world.

Today, that same gospel of the good news of Jesus Christ is being broadcast far and wide by churches, missionaries and millions of individual Christians. Countless books have been written about Jesus, and the Bible is the best selling book of all time, with over 5 billion copies sold. Today, there are thousands and thousands of sermons readily available on the WWW for people to download and to hear. Christian radio broadcasters make known the good news of Jesus Christ to the world, and they send their messages to places where knowledge of the Lord is scant, and where confessing to being a Christian could result in their death at the hands of those who hate Jesus.

Martyrs praise Him for His infinite mercy! They loose their life and gain eternal life with the Lord (Matthew 10:39; 16:25). They suffer death for their testimony and attain perfection, the glory of God (John 17:22).

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Encouragement

And Joses, who was also named Barnabas by the apostles (which is translated Son of Encouragement), a Levite of the country of Cyprus, having land, sold it, and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet (Acts 4:36, 37).’

If only we could all be encouragers the world would be a far better place. I think of my own schooling where some of the teachers were encouragers, and in their classes I enjoyed learning. I remember there were three such teachers: one taught art, another physics and my class teacher, who taught French.

Encouragement bolsters confidence and stimulates one to press on with whatever task is to be done. Deuteronomy 1:38 is a good example:

‘Joshua the son of Nun, who stands before you, he shall go in there. Encourage him, for he shall cause Israel to inherit it.’

Moses spoke the above words to ‘all Israel’  (v 1), and he narrated the history of their journey in the wilderness. By so doing he encouraged them and motivated them to enter the land the LORD had promised to them (v 8). Moses himself would not enter the land on account of his disobedience at the rock (Numbers 20:11).

We all need encouragement because we get ‘downs’ as well as ‘ups’. There are always difficulties to overcome. Joshua needed to be encouraged to enter the land, and God put words of encouragement into the mouth of Moses: ‘But command Joshua, and encourage him and strengthen him; for he shall go over before this people, and he shall cause them to inherit the land which you will see (Deuteronomy 3:28).’

One of the great things about being a member of a church is the shared fellowship in our Lord. The body of the church (Colossians 1:24; 2:19) is wonderfully linked together in such a way that each part works with the others for the benefit of all. Encouragement is an element of loving, and we are all called to love God (Deuteronomy 6:5), to love one another (John 13:34) and to love our neighbours (Matthew19:19).

There are hundreds of situations presented in the Bible where encouragers have inspired, motivated and given confidence for collective action. Here are a few: Judges 20:20; 2 Chronicles 30:22; 35:2; Ezra 1:6.

Moving on to the New Testament, we find Barnabas was a great encourager. Originally called Joses, he was given the name Barnabas by the apostles, and it’s meaning is, ‘Son of Encouragement’. Here’s the relevant text:

‘And Joses, who was also named Barnabas by the apostles (which is translated Son of Encouragement), a Levite of the country of Cyprus, having land, sold it, and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet (Acts 4:36, 37).’ Another translation is ‘Son of Consolation’.

Paul the Apostle was a great encourager. When he wrote to the Roman church he said he wanted to impart to them a spiritual gift so that they might be established and encouraged together by the mutual faith of the church, including his own faith (Romans 1:12). Their shared faith would encourage them the more.

He had a similar message for the church at Colossi:

‘That their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, and attaining to all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the knowledge of the mystery of God, both of the Father and of Christ (Colossians 2:2).’

Encouragement is for the building up of the church (1 Thessalonians 5:11). It can be collective or individual. Whatever way, it is for the good, by inspiring, strengthening and giving confidence.

Here are a few more examples of encouragement found in the Bible:

1 Kings 22:13 ‘Then the messenger who had gone to call Micaiah spoke to him, saying, “Now listen, the words of the prophets with one accord encourage the king. Please let your word be like the word of one of them, and speak encouragement.”’

Ezra 7:27, 28 ‘………..  So I was encouraged, as the hand of the LORD my God was upon me; and I gathered leading men of Israel to go up with me.’

Acts 11:23 ‘When he came and had seen the grace of God, he was glad, and encouraged them all with the purpose of heart they should continue with the Lord.’

Acts 15:31’When they had read it, they rejoiced over its encouragement.’

Acts 16:40 ‘So they went out of the prison and entered the house of Lydia; and when they had seen the brethren, they encouraged them and departed.’

Acts 20:2 ‘Now when he had gone over that region and encouraged them with many words, he came to Greece.’

Acts 27:36 ‘Then they were all encouraged, and also took food for themselves.’

1 Corinthians 14:31 ‘For you can all prophesy one by one, that all may learn and all may be encouraged.’

Philippians 2:19 ‘But I trust in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you shortly, that I also may be encouraged when I know your state.’

The question is – Are we encouragers?

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Time

‘To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven.’ (Ecclesiastes 3:1)

Time is one of the mysteries of God’s creation. God created all things, including time (Genesis 2:1-3). God has always existed. He doesn’t change. He exists in time and outside of time. He is eternal (Psalm 90:1, 2; 1 Timothy 1:17).

Philosophers and scientists over the ages have come up with their theories as to the nature of time. Without a universal means of accurately measuring time it would be impossible to organise life as we practise it today. The extremely accurate and reliable atomic clock has made this possible.

In-built within us there is an unconscious rhythmical time clock that regulates the functions of mind and body (Psalm 139:13-16). We are not nocturnal. We do not function at our best during the hours of darkness. God made us to be active during daylight hours, and to be inactive at night while we sleep (Psalm 104:23). Rest and sleep are necessary for our wellbeing and our general health.

From conception in the womb a lifetime clock is activated. A newly born baby has soft and delicate skin, and as he or she matures, their skin begins to show signs of ageing. In old age their skin becomes wrinkled and their hair goes grey. Such features give an indication as to the age of a person.

We can measure time by generations. In Abraham’s time a generation was an hundred years (Genesis 15:16). In Deuteronomy 2:14 a generation is recorded as being 38 years. Psalm 90:10 states: ‘The days of our lives are seventy years; and if by reason of strength they are eighty years; yet their boast is only labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.’

We can also measure time by memories. We remember certain events and have rough ideas as to when they occurred. Some events may be etched on our minds, so that we precisely remember the day, the year and the time. Memory recollection is useful for appreciating the continuum of our lives from the time of our first memory to the present.

Time is precious to all who live. There is one life to be lived while on the earth, and afterwards another, either in heaven or in hell (Hebrews 9:27). The author of Ecclesiastes points out there are seasons for doing certain things in our lives (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8), and in another section he poetically and graphically describes what happens to us in old age (Ecclesiastes 12:1-5).

Ephesians 5:15-21 tells Christians they are to ‘redeem the time’ (Colossians 4:5), because the days are evil, and the call of a believer is to understand the will of God; accordingly they are to live holy, loving and thankful lives in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 5:20).

‘Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man’s all. For God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil (Ecclesiastes 12:13,14).’

Time as we know it, will come to an end (2 Peter 3:10).

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