God’s Gifts

You don’t look a gift horse in the mouth. Apparently you can work out the age of horse by the size and quality of its teeth. If you are given a horse, are you equipped to look after it? The expense of looking after one is high; not only do you have to feed and stable it, but you have to care for it, and when it dies you have to dispose of it through the proper channels. A horse needs grooming, mucking out, and it likes to be worked.

So we can come across problems with receiving gifts, because they are not always wanted, and they may not be appropriate. Furthermore, they can involve one with additional, unplanned expenses. A mobile phone is an example of this sort. Therefore the giver should research the likes, dislikes and needs of the person to whom he wishes to give a gift.

God gives His people gifts (1 Corinthians 12:11). He knows all about the people to whom He gives them, and why He gives them – principally for the profit of all (1 Corinthians 12:7), and for the extension of His kingdom, i.e., the bringing of new converts into His church (1 Corinthians 14:24, 25).

The principal gift of God is Jesus (John 4:10). The Father gave Him as a substitute to bear the penalty for our sin. In so doing He makes us righteous through the shedding of His blood (Romans 3:21). Christ died to make us whole, to make us without blemish and to present us to His Father (John 17:24). This is only possible through the gift of faith (Ephesians 2:8).

God ensures that every Christian has a gift, and many have multiple gifts (1 Corinthians 12). The gifts of the Spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22). The  greatest and most desirable gift is love (1 Corinthians 13:13). 1 Corinthians 12 outlines other gifts, and they are all of the Spirit for unifying the church.

God’s gift of forgiveness is never refused. It is irrevocable (Romans 11:29). God’s election is sure (Ephesians 1:5). All is of Him and for Him (Colossians 3:11). Jesus orders those who labour and are heavy laden to come to Him to take His yoke and learn from Him. He doesn’t meekly ask them to choose to take His yoke. This is His gift to them for the resting of their souls (Matthew 11:28-30). His burden is light (1 John 5:3).

The giving of a gift is pleasurable to the giver, and the recipient gives pleasure to the giver by receiving it graciously with thanks. That is the great privilege of the believer, for he receives the greatest gift of all, Jesus Christ, and thereafter he has pleasure being in Him (Ephesians 1:3). The Holy Spirit imparts new life to the believer (John 3:3), and the believer rejoices (Romans 5:2, 11), having been given the gift of eternal life (1 John 3:16).

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The Lord’s Indwelling Presence

We can’t rely on our feelings. We can’t rely on physical happenings, no matter how comforting they may be, but we can rely on God’s word, the Bible (2 Timothy 3:16). The words we find in it are His words for us. They reveal Him to us. We come to know Him through His Son, Immanuel, who is, “God with us (Matthew 1:23).” He came to show us who He is and to reveal His glory, His grace, His love, His power, His transforming power, His forgiveness, His healing, and most importantly, His salvation.

The Bible contains His words and many promises, all of which, if they haven’t yet been fulfilled, will come to pass in the course of (His) history; for He created the earth and all that is in it (Genesis 2:4-7): the universe, heaven and hell; the angels, archangels – even satan, which may seem strange, but without him there could be no evil. Without evil there would be no sin, no suffering, no crucifixion, no forgiveness and no need for reconciliation with God, and the expression of love from God would not have the depth it has through the suffering of Christ for His people (1 Peter 3:18). The price that was paid by Jesus as He hung on the cross was the greatest expression God’s love. It demonstrated His wonderful, sacrificial love for us. We cannot grasp the enormity of Jesus’ suffering, anguish, torment, ignominy and abandonment. The Man Jesus endured hell; He was forsaken (Psalm 22:1; Matthew 27:46) by His Father and made a curse for us (Galatians 3:13) – we who believe in Him, to set us free from the second death (Revelation 20:6) and everlasting hell.

As we ponder and meditate upon these things, our heart is full of gratitude and we give Him sacrifices of praise (Hebrews 13:15). His love brings us great joy (Galatians 5:22) and assurance for the future. As we suffer, we draw strength from Him, knowing He has suffered beyond our understanding; knowing that He is with us at all times; knowing that He feels our pain, anguish, and despair, just as the psalmist declared (Psalm 25).

In Old Testament times God visited His people on many occasions. His Angel went before them in a pillar of cloud whenever they wandered in the desert (Exodus 14:19; Numbers 9;15-17). They were afraid of His presence at Mount Sinai (Exodus 19:16), and they were awed when He came to Solomon’s temple at Jerusalem. There He made His presence felt by filling it with the cloud (2 Chronicles 5;13, 14; 7:2, 3) and with the glory of the Lord.

At the inauguration of the second temple, God did not fill it with cloud and with His glory (Ezra 6:15, 16). Jesus Himself entered Herod’s temple and twice cleansed it, reminding the authorities that the temple was God’s house of prayer, and it should be respected as such, instead of being used as a market place for dishonest gain (Matthew 21:12, 13; Mark 11:15; Luke 19:46; John 2:15).

After His resurrection Jesus appeared to His disciples in the upper room (John 20:19-29), where he comforted them. Before ascending into heaven He promised that His Father would send them the Helper, the Holy Spirit (John 14:26), who would reside with each of them, and all believers. This same Holy Spirit indwells believers today. He empowers them, enabling them to overcome sin, to live holy lives, and to proclaim the gospel of salvation through Jesus Christ (John 7:37-39).

At the beginning of this article I mentioned that we could not rely on our feelings, i.e., our emotions. On the other hand, we can rely upon God’s Word, the Bible. However, there are times when we reflect and meditate upon God’s Word, and we ‘feel’ His presence. Inwardly we ‘experience’ His peace (John 14:27), and we rest in Him (Hebrews 4:1-13). We know His reality which is more real to us than things tangible. Our hearts ‘burn’ within us, just as did the hearts of the two disciples when they had an encounter with the risen Lord Jesus, while on their way to Emmaus (Luke 24:32).

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Choices and Decisions before God

An old friend of mine keeps in touch by email. He recently gave me news of his family and enquired about this blog. I was especially pleased about his enquiry, because he had obviously visited the blog, since he wanted to know if I had ‘quoted from a religious affairs author.’ I replied that the blog was entirely of my making, and I was responsible for what appears on its pages. I also said I was directly accountable to God for what I wrote. Most importantly, I explained that the Bible was my authority, and I write the blog, as far as I am able to, without making references to other sources.

Continuing with my rationale I pointed out that the writers of the Bible were all inspired by the Holy Spirit (2 Timothy 3:16), and they had penned their letters, books, prophesies, psalms, poems etc., with the purpose of helping us in these latter times, come to know that Jesus is the prophesied Saviour. All biblical Scriptures point to Him (Luke 24:27) and His fulfilment of the Law and the Prophets (Matthew 5:17) and the ordinance of the New Covenant in His blood (Matthew 26:28; Hebrews 9:15). His was the once-for-all sacrifice (Hebrews 10:12) acceptable to His Father, sufficient for the reconciliation of the elect in Him (v 13).

Because my friend had given me news of his family and what his siblings were doing, I thought it good to speak to him about ‘choices’. His offspring, along with my offspring and the progeny of every couple who procreate children have to make choices. Not only do they have to make choices, but they have to act in accordance with them. Decisions when acted upon can have huge ramifications; such is the case of a woman who replies in the affirmative to a man proposing to marry her.

It so happens that in less than twenty-four hours of me writing these words I am hoping to attend a wedding of a nephew’s son and his fiancée. On the day of their wedding, the officiating minister will ask each of them if they will have the other to be wedded to them. He will ask them if they will love, comfort and honour one another. He will also ask them if they will keep their marriage relationship when they are sick and when they healthy, while forsaking all other, for as long as they shall live.

In the case of a marriage before God with two Christians, male and female (Genesis 1:27); their marriage commitments to one another are expressed as holy oaths to Him. This is of special significance, since God instituted marriage (Genesis 2:24) for the propagation of children and for the multiplication of human beings (Genesis 1:28). Adam and Eve were the progenitors of all of us. Together with their children, they were the first family. As we know, sin reigned in them (Romans 3:23), which was manifestly demonstrated when Cain killed his brother Abel (Genesis 4:8).

Cain chose to murder Abel. He could have chosen not to. He was not forced or coerced into killing him. He made a conscious decision to murder him. As a consequence, God placed a curse upon him by restricting the earth from yielding its strength to him. He also made him a fugitive and a vagabond for as long as he would live (Genesis 4:10-12).

Choices for action are first weighed before decisions are made whether to carry them out. After the guillotine blade has fallen, nothing can stop the inevitable happening. The head is severed from the body. The outcome is irrevocable. It cannot be changed.

However, those who sin can be forgiven by God. They may have committed murder; they may have been responsible for heinous crimes – whatever the case, if a sinner is penitent, being truly sorry for his sins and confesses them while seeking forgiveness, God will forgive him, and cleanse him from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). God is gracious and merciful (Psalm 86:15; 103:8; 145:8); as such He will judge with righteousness those who are guilty, sparing those who truly repent.

There’s not a single choice or decision made by any of us that is not known by God; therefore we should be conscious that our choices and decisions are taken before Him who is all-seeing and all-hearing (Psalm 139), the righteous Judge of all the earth (Genesis 18:25).

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Jesus is Personal

Jesus came to the earth to save sinners (1 Timothy 1:15). These are individuals who God chooses (John 15:16) and adopts into His family, making them His sons and brothers of Jesus (Romans 8:14,15; Ephesians 1:5).

Nothing could be more personal than the conversion of Zacchaeus, who was ‘a chief tax collector (Luke 19:1-9)’. He had a desire to see Jesus as He was passing through Jericho, but because he was ‘of short stature’ he was unable to see Him on account of the crowd. So he climbed a sycamore tree to get a good view of Him. Jesus saw him and told him to come down quickly because He had to stay at his house.

None of this was by coincidence, as it had been foreordained from before time (1 Peter 4:20). Nevertheless, Zachaeus had a genuine desire to see Jesus, and having seen Him he repented and welcomed Him into his home. More importantly Zachaeus welcomed Him into his heart – into his inner being. He was totally transformed (2 Corinthians 5:17). No longer did he want to steal from the poor, but he wanted to restore ‘fourfold’ all he had stolen.

‘And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham; for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost (Luke 19:9, 10).”’

Every conversion is a personal encounter with the Lord Jesus. He visits them, speaks to them and they are convicted of their sin and of the righteousness of Jesus and of His judgment upon, ‘the ruler of this world’ i.e., satan (John 16:8-11).

The conversion of Saul [Paul the Apostle] was startling, unexpected and illustrative (Acts 22:6-16). It was illustrative because, as he was on the road to Damascus a great light from heaven shone around him and Jesus spoke to him personally. He said, ‘“I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting.’ Paul replied, ‘“What shall I do, Lord?” Jesus said he was to go to Damascus where he would be,‘“told all things which are appointed for you to do (v 10).’” The people accompanying Paul saw the light, but they did not hear Jesus. His revelation of Himself was not for them, but specifically for Paul (Acts 22:14). Jesus said of Himself He was the light of the world (John 8:12), and at Paul’s conversion He was that very Light. Paul was initially blinded by the Light, but his spiritual eyes were opened by the Light, and his physical sight was later restored (Acts 22:13).

Jesus doesn’t just meet people; He involves Himself with them. He wants them to love Him as He loves them (John 14:21; 16:27; 21:15-17). He builds relationships with them and He expects them to remain loyal to Him, as He is faithful to them (John 14:23). He never leaves them (Hebrews 13:5), and forever He is their Friend (John 15:15). He gave Himself for them so that they may live with Him and His Father in their kingdom (John 17:24) in this present age and in the life to come.

Jesus is personal by having a relationship with every believer (1 John 2:3-5), and He is collectively personal with His Church (1 Peter 2:4, 5, 9), in that He is the Groom and the Church is His Bride. At His coming again, He will be joined to the Bride and He will present her perfect before the Father (Ephesians 5:25), having been washed clean in His blood (Revelation 1:5). They will have an everlasting relationship when the New Jerusalem descends from heaven to the New earth (Revelation 21:2, 9).

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A Christian’s Concern for the Well-being of Others

Well-being – what is it? My dictionary defines it as, ‘a good or satisfactory condition of existence; a state characterised by health, happiness, and prosperity.’

It has a single mention in the New Testament: ‘Let no one seek his own, but each one the other’s well-being (1 Corinthians 10:24 NKJ).’  In the Authorised version, ‘well-being’ is translated ‘wealth’. The words ‘well-being’ and ‘wealth’ are in italics, which mean they have been added to the original Greek texts to help with their understanding.

In the Authorised version’s Old Testament the word for ‘well-being’ is ‘welfare’, e.g.,‘And he asked them of their welfare, and said, Is your father well, the old man of whom ye spake? Is he yet alive (Genesis 43:27)?’

This age in which we live, particularly in the western world, is a materialistic one. The aim of many is to acquire as much wealth and possessions as they possibly can. However, there are people who by nature are altruistic. They are concerned for the welfare of others. Such people may initiate a conversation with the words, “How are you?” The question is genuine, with the purpose of finding out how the addressee is – Is he happy? Is he well? Is he in need? Is he prosperous?

If a non-Christian is concerned for the well-being of a stranger, friend or relative, how much more should a Christian be concerned? What does the Bible have to say about it?

Material prosperity in itself is not a desirable objective (Matthew 6:33). It is far better to have an inward contentment with the peace of Christ (Romans 1:7; Philippians 4:7; 1 Peter 5:14; 2 John 1:3) and an assurance of salvation (Hebrews 18:19-22). It is better to know one is loved by Jesus (John 15:9), for He gave Himself for His elect, so that they may live in His Father’s kingdom of love.

‘God is love (1 John 4:8).’ If we do not keep His word, we do not truly love Him (1 John 2:5),’ and we are not Christ’s. He does not reign in our hearts. We might be concerned for our relatives, our friends and for those who are suffering, those who are poor etc……… We might work for this and that charity, but if we are not Christ’s we cannot share His love with others. And this love is the very reason why we have concerns for others. It is not of us, but of Christ, and of His Spirit – the Holy Spirit.

Being concerned for the physical and mental well-being of others is natural, especially if there is a bond of affection between them. For example, in the case of a mother for her children, more often than not, she will have a maternal affection for them. She will want to protect, encourage and teach them. In the course of time she will want them to be able to stand on their own two feet. Subconsciously she may want them to practise her ethical and moral values. On the other hand she may want them to discover ‘who’ they are, and for them to be ‘themselves’ with an understanding of their uniqueness.

That’s all very well, but how is the Christian different? A Christian is not of this world. His or her main desire is to ‘*do all to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31).’ As Christ gave His life for His sheep (John 10:15), a Christian should be willing to lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13; 1 John 3:16). In laying down his life, that is actively being unselfish, putting others before themselves, losing their life and gaining another, they are constantly concerned for the welfare of others. They are motived by the love of Jesus who unselfishly gave His life for them so that they may have new life in Him by the transforming power of the Holy Spirit (John 3:3-8, 16; 2 Corinthians 5:17).

* Do All to the Glory of God

https://thebiblicalway.blog/2018/01/05/do-all-to-the-glory-of-god/

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The Humility of Jesus

‘“Now do not be stiff-necked, as your fathers were, but yield yourselves to the LORD; and enter His sanctuary, which He has sanctified forever, and serve the LORD your God, that the fierceness of His wrath may turn away from you. For if you return to the LORD, your brethren and your children will be treated with compassion by those who lead them captive, so that they may come back to this land; for the LORD your God is gracious and merciful, and will not turn His face from you if you return to Him.”

So the runners passed from city to city through the country of Ephraim and Manasseh, as far as Zebulun; but they laughed at them. and mocked them. Nevertheless some from Asher, Manasseh, and Zebulun humbled themselves and came to Jerusalem. Also the hand of God was on Judah to give them singleness of heart to obey the command of the king and the leaders, at the word of the LORD.’  (2 Chronicles 30:8-12)

Today, humility is frowned upon. It is seen as a weakness of character. To humble yourself and make an apology for having done something wrong, some people find impossible to do. They will not admit their error. If they have caused an offence they will not stoop so low as to admit it! They are proud, and want to justify themselves. What they did wasn’t wrong – so they convince themselves. They had good reasons for doing what they did. They deceive themselves, or they have hard hearts.

What a contrast we find in the Lord Jesus!

‘And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death. even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:8-11).’

The above words of Paul the Apostle remind us of the words of Jesus (Matthew 23:11, 12) when speaking to the multitudes about the scribes and the Pharisees who thought they were superior and more holy than the common people. They liked to show off by wearing broad phylacteries and large borders of their garments, and by sitting at the best places at feasts and in the synagogues. They loved to be called, ‘Rabi, Rabi.’ They exalted themselves, and Jesus pointedly said about them and their like, ‘“But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”’ (Matthew 23:11, 12)

‘Jesus, knowing the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was going to God, rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself. After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded (John 13:3-5)’.

No greater example of humility can be found than that of Jesus.

Humility, then, is a characteristic Christians should strive for. Unlike the majority of the people of Ephraim, Manasseh and Zebulun who laughed and mocked the runners who brought the word of the LORD, Christians are to be like the few who did as the LORD commanded in 2 Chronicles 30:8-12.

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God’s Gravity

When I was at school in the early 1950s, my physics teacher explained to me a few things about gravity. He mentioned Isaac Newton and the proverbial apple that was supposed to have fallen off a tree and hit him on the head. It is said this is what got him thinking about gravity – a force that causes objects to be drawn towards the centre of the earth. The pull of gravity is in proportion to the mass; for example, gravity on the moon is about one sixth of that on the earth. My teacher told me that if objects are drawn to the earth by gravity they travel at approximately 32 feet per second per second.

I’m no mathematician, nor am I a physicist, so I don’t really understand much about it, but I know it keeps me to the earth and it prevents me from hurtling off into space. If I stumble, gravity may cause me to fall to the ground, just as it did to my wife a few days ago. She was taken to A and E where it was confirmed she had a broken elbow. Such happenings cause me to wonder why God allows them to take place, but I know He has all things under His control, because He is a *sovereign God.

As far as I am concerned, gravity is a force that He has built into His wonderful universe. Without it His universe would not function as He decreed from before time. Since He has determined how it will be sustained I don’t have to worry about how it works. I simply put my trust in Him.

I used to have negative thoughts about gravity, because I disliked having to pick up things that I accidentally dropped. If things like eggs and sugar are dropped they make horrible messes that have to be attended to. If it happens to be a glass object, care has to be taken to ensure the minutest splinters are put where they can do no harm.

I no longer have negative thoughts about gravity. Instead, I thank God for having created it (Colossians 1:16). Why? Because I am reminded of Him every time I drop something. Quite often I am so occupied with the things I’m doing I forget He is there with me (Matthew 28:20). It is as if He ‘clicks His fingers’ to wake me up and to remind me who I am.

I am His servant, and I should always be attentive to Him. When I forget Him I am failing in my service. He needs nothing, but He expects me to be His wide-awake ambassador (2 Corinthians 5:20). He has appointed me to be a light to the world (Matthew 5:16), and I’m conscious that I can only do this by His enabling. He is the Light (John 8:12) who gives light to men (John 1:4), and in Him there is no darkness (1 John 1:5).

* The Omniscience, Omnipotence and Omnipresence of God

https://thebiblicalway.blog/2018/04/14/the-omniscience-omnipotence-and-omnipresence-of-god/

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