Does God Categorise Us?

‘Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others (Philippians 2:3, 4).’

Categorisation

There’s a natural tendency to categorise people. I suspect all of us are prone to this, but should we as Christians do it?

Certainly there are two categories of people: those who are born again of the Spirit (John 3:3-8), and those who are not. Sometimes it is difficult to spot the difference; for the goats mingle with the sheep, and unless one looks very carefully at the flock, they can appear to be very similar. However, God is sovereign and He is not deceived. He knows exactly who is who, and at the end of time He will judge and separate the sheep from the goats (Matthew 25:32, 33). He knows His sheep by name and they know His voice (John 10:3).

As we consider and pray for members of our church, what things come to mind? Are we spiritual in our thinking, or are we stuck in our old worldly ways? We may be shocked to discover that there’s still quite a bit of the old in us, because we limit what God can do. We doubt, and that’s a very serious sin (cf. James 1:6). We must repent of it, and seek Him for the strengthening of our faith (Mark 9:24), and for the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2). 

Worldliness, Carnality and False Assumptions 

‘Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven (Luke 6:37).’

This sort of worldly or carnal thinking leads us to categorise people. For example, we might think of Mrs ‘X’ as being a dear, elderly and frail lady who can’t do much, but in fact she spends hours praying for members of the church, and for Christians around the world, and for the preaching of the Word, governments etc.. She knits quilts and children’s clothing for a Christian charity in Bangladesh.

We might think, Wow! There’s Mr ‘X’ who prays so wonderfully at prayer meetings; but in his private life he has sinful habits. By contrast, there’s Mr ‘J’ who can hardly string together a few words, and yet his desire is only to seek and to do the Lord’s will. We might question why ‘P’ never smiles. Why is he always so somber? Does he really know the joy of the Lord? And ‘A’ is married to ‘B’, and they breed like rabbits. Don’t they know when to stop? Then there’s Miss ‘C’ who is really kind. She helps the old folk, does their shopping and collects their prescriptions. Outwardly she is a light to the world, but she does these things for her own gratification, and for her own standing among her church friends.

All of this type of thinking and categorising is worldly and judgmental.

We might be guilty of making assumptions about our brothers and sisters that are far from the truth. For example, we may assume ‘D’ has a better understanding of the Scriptures than ‘E’, on account of his cogent exegesis, but at the same time we are ignorant of the fact that ‘E’ has always suffered from a speech impediment which hampers him from expressing himself. He actually knows the Scriptures better than ‘D’.

The truth is that by thinking in this way we categorise and compartmentalise our brothers and sisters. We are guilty of pigeonholing them on account of false suppositions. We judge, when we should not.

Judgmental Thinking

We may attune to a person because they have a similar theological viewpoint. Perhaps we are both dispensationalists, or we are supporters of New Covenant Theology. We may not care much for ‘O’ because she’s a strict Calvinist and she’s not at all motivated to evangelise. She says God calls whom He has predestined, irrespective of what she or anybody might do – so why evangelise? ‘F’ looks down on ‘G’ because she considers he is a liberalist, and she doesn’t go much on ’H’ because she is a complementarian. ‘J’ is all for ecumenicalism, whereas ‘K’ abhors it, and says we should have nothing to do with charismatics and fundamentalists. Another says I’m a strict Baptist; therefore I won’t go near any of them. Besides, I only use the King James Bible, and these other people use all sorts of rubbishy bibles.

By categorising our brothers and sisters in this way we judge them, and if we are not careful we can become conceited. We can think we are superior, better and cleverer than them. This should never be, because we should always consider others to be better than ourselves (Philippians 2:3).

Conclusion

God does separate us into one of two categories: those who are born of the Spirit (John3:3-8) or those who are not, i.e., the sheep and the goats.

God is the Judge of all the earth (Genesis 18:25), and He always does what is right (cf. 2 Thessalonians 1:5, 6).

‘But when the wicked turns from his wickedness and does what is lawful and right, he shall live because of it (Ezekiel 33:19).’

“Father, Help us not to judge our brothers and sisters. Help us not to categorise them. Please give us pure and clean hearts. Help us to always seek, act, and pray for the good of all people. Amen.”

*Equality

https://thebiblicalway.blog/2019/07/06/equality/

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Does God Punish His People?

‘For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him (1 Thessalonians 5:9).’

Back in September 2018 I published an article with the title, *’Does God Discipline His People?’, and as a complement to it I’m writing this today. I’m inspired to do so because in these times of Covid19 some of God’s saints may be asking the question, “Is God punishing us?”

We can very easily accept that He punishes people who disobey Him (cf. Deuteronomy 28:18-68); for in the Old Testament we read that He repeatedly punished His own chosen people on account of their disobedience (Leviticus 26:14-17). Apart from two of the parental generation of Israelites, only Joshua and Caleb made it from Egypt into the Promised Land. They all died along the way. 

We also note that God punished people who fought and overcame His own people, even though they were the means He used for inflicting His just wrath upon them (Judges 3:12-30). It’s a difficult concept to come to grips with, but both sets of people deserved God’s righteous wrath on account of their disobedience. In God’s predestination we should rejoice in His enactment of His justice (Psalm 101:1). He does what is right and just.

The question I’m asking is, “Does God punish His New Testament saints today?”

What New Testament narratives, teachings and insights are there that can help us answer the question?

I purposely confine myself to the New Testament, because today’s saints of the new Israel of God (Galatians 6:1 6) live under the New Covenant in Jesus’ blood (1 Corinthians 11:25). They are not subject to the Mosaic Covenant, which was a covenant of works; instead, they live by faith (Hebrews 10:38) under the New Covenant. They are not required to obey laws set forth in the Torah. Jewish tradition has it that there are 613 of them, comprising both positive and negative imperatives. Christians will, of course, endeavour to obey the Ten Commandments, apart from the fourth, which is to keep the **Sabbath holy. For Christians every day is holy. Every day is set aside for worshipping God, and, at the same time, every day is a Sabbath rest in His salvation (Hebrews 4:1-13).

So as we search the New Testament, what do we find?

Well, in fact, the word ‘punish’ is only mentioned once, and that’s in 2 Corinthians 10:6. Here the Greek word ek-dik-eh’o is used, which means punishment in the sense of vindication. Those who obey God are not punished, but those who disobey Him will be punished.

Nowhere in the New Testament is there any mention that God punishes believers.

Whenever punishment is mentioned it always applies to unbelievers; take for example Hebrews 10:29, 30: ‘Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know Him who said, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. And again, “The LORD will judge His people.”’

Although the writer wrote his letter to the church of the Hebrews, within that church there were unbelievers, just as there are in churches today, and it is to them this passage applies. They pretend to be followers of Christ, but inwardly they do not trust and obey Him. In so doing they insult ‘the Spirit of grace’. They do not honour ‘the blood of the covenant.’ Therefore they are worthy of God’s judgment, because while knowing the truth, they wilfully trample ‘the Son of God underfoot’. God does judge them, and unless they repent and believe, they are condemned to everlasting punishment in hell (Matthew 25:46).

So it is not God’s saints who are punished, but those who reject Him.

God will also punish in the same way those who trouble His saints (2 Thessalonians 1:6); for ‘These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power (v 9).’

The Apostle Peter tells us:  ‘…. the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust under punishment for the day of judgment, and especially those who walk according to the flesh in the lust of uncleanness and despise authority (2 Peter 2:9, 10).’

Conclusion

From this I conclude that God does not punish His New Testament saints. He certainly *disciplines them, but He does not punish them. Why? Because He loves them, and He punished His Son in their place. Jesus bore the full penalty and punishment for their sins (1 Peter 2:24); thus absolving them.

*Does God Discipline His People?

https://thebiblicalway.blog/2018/09/14/does-god-discipline-his-people/

**Christian Sabbath?

https://thebiblicalway.blog/2018/10/01/christian-sabbath/

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The Body

‘Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually. And God has appointed these in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, and after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrators, varieties of tongues (1 Corinthians 12:27, 28).’

Christians are not ignorant of the fact that together they are the mystical body of Christ. This body is comprised of millions of local churches that are located in different countries around the world. Together they are described as the holy catholic church – This is not the church of Rome that venerates the virgin Mary, but the *church of Christ, in which His Spirit dwells.

Each member of a local church has a part to play in the functioning of the body, and in playing their individual parts they work together in the unity of the Spirit. Together with other churches they are the functioning body of Christ. Paul explains it this way: ‘For as we have many members in one body, but all members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another (Romans 12:4, 5). This is the miraculous, living body of Christ.

Chosen by Him and united in Him (Ephesians 1:4-6), He is their Head (5:23), and members are His body that works in accordance with His will and is led by His Spirit. Paul in his letter to the Ephesians wrote: ‘And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fulness of Him who fills all in all (1:22, 23).’  Thus the riches of His fullness fills the church, and members experience and know: ‘the riches of the glory of His inheritance (v 18).’

So the church is VERY special (Titus 2:14). It is a living **organism – a body that breaths and moves by the power (Ephesians 1:19) of the Spirit. Each part is related to the others. If one part suffers, the others feel it (1 Corinthians 12:26). Members love one another (John 13:34). Each of them work for the good of the others, and they all pull together for the purpose of carrying out the Head’s will, which is to dispense His love, point people to Him (cf. Isaiah 45:22), and to be His disciples for the making of more disciples (Matthew 28:19, 20).

Recent Happenings

Well, what’s been happening to Christ’s physical body here on earth over the past three or so months of enforced segregation, and in some cases complete isolation on account of the Coronavirus?

This virus surely has been a powerful tool of the devil, for it has been remarkably efficient at keeping the saints apart from one another, and hence not being able to function properly as an integrated body. In some instances the only way Christians have been able to communicate is by using a telephone or by writing letters. Those who have had access to Zoom, FaceTime and WhatsApp have been more fortunate. For them this technology has been a blessing. On a personal level I’ve very much missed not been able to meet in person, to shake hands and to hug those who need hugging.

There’s a saying, ‘Out of sight, out of mind’, and I’m pretty certain the devil is very happy that church members haven’t been able to meet together. He’ll be hoping they’ll lose heart and lose interest in their mission of proclaiming the gospel. Indeed, division and separation has always been his strategy from the very beginning when in the Garden of Eden. There he persuaded Eve to disobey God and to disobey her husband, which resulted in their separation from sweet communion with God. He threw them out of the garden into a cursed world.

The Future

One of the beautiful things about meeting in person is being able to encourage one another in our walk with the Lord. Physical separation makes this difficult. Not being able to break bread as the body of Christ is extremely hard, but the time will come when once again we’ll be able to share in remembering His death and resurrection. We can have hope of this because churches in parts of the world have succeeded in doing it as they’ve come out of lockdown. That’s a great encouragement.

However, it is unlikely things will ever be the same, because of the impact of the virus. We’ll have to rethink how we do things. Some traditional practices may need to go. We’ll need to question things like meeting twice on a Sunday for praying, singing, praising God, hearing sermons, breaking bread, fellowshipping and encouraging one another in our walk and service for God’s glory. Are there better ways of doing these things, perhaps by using the Internet more, and by meeting at different venues, maybe at members homes? Do we really need to own a permanent building where we can gather for worship?

Coronavirus is not going away for long time, unless an effective and cheap vaccine can be made available on a massive scale. Therefore, we are going to have to adjust to a new normal.

The building where I meet to worship with others is rather cramped, which means adhering to the current social distancing rule of two metres would be difficult. Only a few would be able to worship at any one time; and ensuring strict hygiene in the toilets and the kitchen would also be difficult. Keeping children apart would be asking a bit much.

Most importantly, whatever we do, we must do it in accordance with God’s word. Do we prioritise the preaching of the gospel to the world where it needs to be heard? Preaching it as we currently do to the converted, was not the practice of the early church. Like them we should be preaching the gospel on the streets and proclaiming it from the rooftops for the world to hear. Are we geared up to making disciples, and are we serving one another in love as Jesus has commanded?

Answers to these questions should reshape the nature of our local churches. We must be astute in the use of our resources and be wise in how we function as Christ’s body.

All of the above makes me conscious of the importance of being united in the Spirit as Christ’s body.

We are to be a light to the Gentiles (Acts 13:47), and we are to ‘make disciples (Matthew 28:19, 20),For ‘There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all (Ephesians 4:4-6).’

*Who are the Church?

https://thebiblicalway.blog/2017/11/28/who-are-the-church/

**The Organic Church

https://thebiblicalway.blog/2018/03/18/the-organic-church/

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Was Jesus an Extremist?

‘For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16).’

This is extreme love. God is love (1 John 4:8).

‘We love Him because He first loved us (v 19).’

The Concise Oxford English Dictionary defines the word ‘extremist’ as: n. chiefly derogatory a person who holds extreme political or religious views. My online dictionary defines it as: a supporter or advocate of extreme doctrines or practices.

Was Jesus an extremist? Well, according the above definitions He surely was. He said there is only one way to the true and living God, i.e., His Father; there is no other way of approaching Him or of being in His presence. He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me (John 14:6).’ 

Now, if that’s not extreme, then I don’t know what is! But Christians believe it is true. My faith hangs on this truth.

It’s extreme and controversial, because those of other faiths and religions deny His claim. People hate Him because He says He is the Son of God (10:35-37), and the only way to His Father is to believe in Him.

Speaking to His disciples on the night of His betrayal He said them, “He who hates Me hates My Father also (John 15:23).’ Prior to that at a private meeting with Peter, James and John on the Mount of Olives, He warned and encouraged them saying: “And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But he who endures to the end shall be saved (Mark 13:13).

Historical Extremists

When we look back over history we discover that it is the extremists who have made the most impact on society – for better or for worse. Those who have changed it for the better, have, on the whole, been non-violent extremists, people like Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi. Both of them were pacifists who lobbied for representative enfranchisement and better living conditions for the poor and disadvantaged. The establishment was not pleased with them. Both were imprisoned and both were assassinated.

At the other end of the scale there are violent extremists who are ideologically motivated. Their actions of violence are deemed to be terrorism. One such person was Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who was the leader of ISIL. Ostensibly he was motivated by his interpretations of the Quran, which to me makes no sense; for as far as I understand it, the Quran teaches tolerance and respect, not murder and repression, as was carried out by members of ISIL. To avoid arrest during a raid by the US 75th Ranger Regiment, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi committed suicide.     

One of the most fanatical violent extremists of modern history was Adolf Hitler, who was responsible for heinous crimes against humanity, which brought suffering and death for millions of people during the Second World War. He wanted to create a super *master race in which eugenics would play a major role in the promotion of Aryan progeny. With no prospect of escape from allied forces, while trapped in his Berlin bunker, on 30th April, 1945, he committed suicide. Just eight days later, the Axis powers agreed to an unconditional surrender, bringing the war in Europe to an end.

Should Christians be Extremists?

Extremism, therefore, can bring good and bad.

As Jesus was undoubtedly an extremist, should His followers also be extremists?

The answer must depend upon the nature of Christ’s extremism and His call for action. 

So what was His extremism about? The answer is LOVE. He died and gave His life because of His love for the world (John 3:16). He loved the people He had created for the purpose of loving Him and one another (1:3; 13:34).

He was a pacifist, and He taught His followers to be like Him (13:15). In the extremity of His pacifism He gave His life to bring peace to the world. He said, “Peace I leave you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid (14:27).’

Don’t be confused because He also said. “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword (Matthew 10:34).

This must be understood within its context; for He went on to explain (vv. 35-39) that people who love and believe in Him should be prepared to suffer as a result. Even some of their own family members would be against them. Some would love Him and others would not; hence there would be conflict between siblings and their parents, on account of Him.

Followers who put into practice their extreme love of Jesus, must be prepared to pay the price of bearing their own cross (v 38), even to the extent they may be required to lay down their lives. Whatever happens, they must lay down their self- life, and take up their new life of selflessness. This can only be done by the power of the Holy Spirit (1 Thessalonians 1:5) and by God-given faith in Jesus (Ephesians 2:8).

Jesus laid down His life for others, for them to know and experience His love and the love of His Father. He told those who love Him to follow Him, but there would be a price to pay; for ‘He said, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me (Luke 9:23).’

Christians must be followers of their Master (Ephesians 6:9), and be extremists of love who love Him because He first loved them (1 John 4:19).

“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world (John 16:33).”

*Master Race

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Master_race

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The History of the Heavens and the Earth

‘This is the history of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens, before any plant of the field was in the earth and before any herb of the field had grown. For the LORD God had not caused it to rain on the earth, and there was no man to till the ground; but a mist went up from the earth and watered the whole face of the ground.

And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life. and man became a living being (Genesis 2:4-7).’

Man doesn’t make history; for it is made by God. The creation of ‘the heavens and the earth’ was all of His doing. He upholds His creation (Hebrews 1:3), and through His upholding, in accordance with His workings out of all things (Ephesians 1:5), He continues to make history.

History, as we are able to appreciate it, started at the very moment God set about creating the universe. A vital element of His creation was the formation of Adam from ‘the dust of the ground’, and into whom He breathed ‘the breath of life (Genesis 2:7).’ This was the beginning of the history of mankind.

Scrutinising History

There are several definitions of history, but I like to define it as the unfolding of countless millions of events that occur over time, some of which have been recorded and deposited in ‘memory’ banks of one kind or another; places like museums, libraries, film archives, and digital storage repositories. In addition to these records, history leaves it’s own trail of archaeological evidence that helps to paint a picture of the lives of previous generations.

It may be a simplification, but there are two categories of historical events: those that come as a result of the actions of living creatures, especially humans, and those that occur ‘naturally’ in the cosmic realm. Of course, none of them happen by chance, because both types are predestined by God. He is in total control, and He never loses His grip.

Inquisitive and learned people have enquired into these matters of God, but many have failed to acknowledge Him as the Master Designer and the Creator of the universe. Although they may see the beauty and grandeur of His creation, they doubt, and they dismiss the *evidence of His word.

When scrutinising history it is essential to establish the veracity of the facts – what actually happened and why. It is important to understand the moral and ethical values of the times, because these determined the justification of people’s actions. Such values change over time from generation to generation. Furthermore, if it is found that the presentation of history was ideologically selective for promoting certain agendas, it must be questioned, and not brushed under the carpet.

This is pertinent to the current debate about the history of slaves as presented over past generations. An examination of the facts reveals that those with power and privilege could do as they wish. By means of government they imposed laws based on their distorted views of morality and ethics. Those who disagreed with their inhumane treatment of slaves were severely punished, and some were deported and made slaves themselves.

Today, the horrendous and unjust history of slavery has been exposed, and there is a call for an acknowledgement of the truth of what happened, and for changes to take place in our society to eliminate institutional racism of whatever bent. White supremacy and black subordination must no longer be tolerated. With this all Christians will agree, because God made all people in His own image (Genesis 1:26), and Jesus is the Saviour of people from all nations.

Evidence of God’s Creation

‘For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse (Romans 1:20).’

Christians believe in the inerrancy of the Bible; therefore they believe in the historic account of the creation of the earth as described in the Book of Genesis. Sceptics and unbelievers have repeatedly challenged the foundation of their beliefs, particularly the creation account. They quote Darwin’s theory of evolution, which he put forward in his treatise, ‘On the Origin of Species’. They also quote the views of the prominent atheist, Richard Dawkins.

So, in answer to agnostics and atheists who are supporters of evolution, I do not deny that dinosaurs existed. It is an historical fact they did, because their fossilised remains provide tangible evidence. They have literally left their mark in the formations of the earth, but that doesn’t prove Darwin’s theory, or make Dawkins right.

I do not contend with scientists like professor Brian Cox who provide evidence that the majority of stars and planets were formed about 4.5 billion years ago. Their research reveals that these heavenly bodies have, over their lifespans, undergone changes, and they continue to change. Some stars are old, and others are not so old. Some of the older ones have morphed to become black holes.

This knowledge instills in me a greater awe of God who made the galaxies. His power and creativity is clearly seen (Romans 1:20) in the splendour of the night sky. It is there for all to ponder and to wonder, and to realise that God is the Author of creation (Psalm 19:1).

Instead of jousting with unbelievers, I trust in God who speaks to me through His word, and by the Holy Spirit. He has given me faith and eternal life in His Son (John 3:16) whom He raised from the dead (Romans 4:24). It is my belief, therefore, that God brought history into being from the moment He spoke, and said, “Let there be light (Genesis 1:3).

God, through Jesus Christ, formed the heavens and the earth (John 1:3), and He gave life to every creature (Genesis 1:30) – each according to their kind (Genesis 6:20) to reproduce and undergo **change on account of the ageing process. This is the pattern He gave to all living things, and life as such will continue until the end of time, when God will destroy the earth and create a new one (Revelation 21:1).

Arguments regarding the time it took to ***create the earth have little significance in light of the fact that He created all things (John 1:3), and He has determined their end (Matthew 24). Likewise the timing of the end is irrelevant; for no one knows except God (Mark 13:32).

What is exciting and relevant is that He is in control of history, and the Maker of it. He will replace the old heaven and earth with a new heaven and new earth, and there will be a new beginning (Revelation 21, 22) for His redeemed people (Isaiah 62:11, 12) who will live with Him forevermore.

*Historical Evidence for the Raising of Jesus

https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/historical-evidence-for-the-resurrection

**God’s Tapestry of Change

https://thebiblicalway.blog/2018/10/26/gods-tapestry-of-change/

***God’s Creation

https://thebiblicalway.blog/2019/04/05/gods-creation/

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Christ Will Judge the Nations

‘“And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their pre-appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.’ Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising. Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead (Acts 17:26-31).”’

In the current climate of unrest with passions raging over the perceived differences between people of different nations, the above passage from Scripture is dynamite! Because it blows the debate apart, and reveals the truth.

Although there are contrasting circumstances between the haves and the have nots, injustices, exploitation, oppression, cruelty and all sorts of inhumane acts, God rules the nations (2 Chronicles 20:6), and He is a God of justice (Deuteronomy 32:4). In His own time He will make all things right. Our role is to love one another (John 13:34; Romans 13:8; 1 John 4:7), and those who hate us (Luke 6:27), and not to judge (Matthew 7:1).

*Equality is a concept and an ideal, which is not possible in the reality of this fallen and cursed world (Genesis 3:17-19). There has never been equality, and there never will be in this life; for we are born unequal. We enter life in different circumstances, and each one of us is different. However, in the sight of God we are all of equal worth (Matthew 20:1-16), but we shall not fully experience that equality until after our resurrection (Luke 20:36).

What these words from Acts 17 tell us, is that we are the offspring of one person, namely Adam, and God has determined (v 26) the circumstances of our lives, where we shall live, the people we shall meet and all aspects of our lives. Crucially, and importantly, He has made us in such a way that we can ‘grope’ for Him who is not far off (v 27).

God is within our reach. In fact we ‘live’ in Him, and we are ‘His offspring (v 28).’ We are made in His image (Genesis 1:26). The colour of our skin, our gender, our sexual orientation, our likes and dislikes, our philosophies and beliefs, none of these things change the fact that all of us are made in the image of God.

Although the Book of Acts was written some 2,000 years ago, the words of the passage above from Chapter 17, are bang up to date, because we are living in ‘times of ignorance (v 30).’

People are oblivious of God. Most don’t want to know or acknowledge Him, and they are not at all motivated to search for Him, but He has graciously ‘overlooked’ (v 30) the sins of past generations, because it is His will of decree and desire to bring a full harvest into His kingdom (Revelation 14:14-16). Not one of the redeemed shall be left out.

Acts 17:31 confirms, ‘He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained.’ On that day, no unrepentant sinner will be overlooked. None shall escape His judgment of condemnation(cf. Isaiah 66:16; 24; Revelation 14:17-20).

God’s Preordination and Judgment of the Nations

God from before the creation of the earth predestined(cf.Romans 8:29, 30;(Ephesians 1:5;) a sequential order for the unfolding of history, and part of that order was and is the rise and fall of nations (Genesis 10 and 11). Sometimes I think we overlook the importance and significance of nations; for if God had not brought them into being He could not have chosen one for Himself, i.e., the nation of Israel, His **special people (Deuteronomy 7:6).

On the great day of the Lord (Zephaniah 1:14; Joel 2:31; 2 Peter 3:10), people of God’s special nation will be found not guilty of treason and rebellion against Him, but those outside will be judged (cf. 1 Corinthians 5:12) and condemned, as Joel has warned them: ‘Let the nations be awakened, and come up the Valley of Jehoshaphat; for there I will sit to judge all the surrounding nations. Put in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe. Come, go down; for the winepress is full, the vats overflow – for their wickedness is great (Joel 3:12, 13).”

In the fleeting moments left for the devil before his demise (Revelation 12:12), he is jubilant as he works havoc among the nations (Ephesians 2:2). We see and experience the misery, pain and death he brings (1 Peter 5:8). He sows seeds of discord and of hate, and his followers scatter their sinful ‘whispers’ (cf. Psalm 41:7; Romans 1:29) to the winds of dispersion. These murmurings of deception (cf. 2 Corinthians 11:3) and lies are disseminated through the ether of the Internet, TV, radio and other media, and they bear the fruit of destruction (cf. Job 2:3). They come from evil tongues (James 3:6).

However, God’s pure and holy word stands: ’The nations shall see and be ashamed of all their might; they shall put their hand over their mouth; their ears shall be deaf. They shall lick the dust like a serpent; they shall crawl from their holes like snakes of the earth. They shall be afraid of the Lord our God, and shall fear because of You (Micah 7:16, 17).’

A Way Out

There is a way out from being under the fear of God; for He has provided a way (John 14:6) of escape from hell. It is to believe and trust in His Son (3:16; 20:31) who gave Himself as a sacrifice to pay for the sins of the world, and to set His nation of believers free (8:36).

He said,‘“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you (Matthew 6:33).’”

Has God called (1 Corinthians 1:24) you into His kingdom, a nation of nations (Revelation 21:24), the real Israel of God (Galatians 6:16), the true church of Jesus Christ (cf. 2 Thessalonians 1:1), in whom His blessed and holy saints dwell (Revelation 21:23-26)? Jesus is the kingdom! He invites you to come to Him (Matthew 11:28).

His Justice Will be Done.

King Solomon wrote: ’He will judge Your people with righteousness, and your poor with justice (Psalm 72:2).’ 

Isaiah prophesied, “He shall judge between the nations, and rebuke many people; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore (Isaiah 2:4).”

God’s word gives us the good news there will be a new heaven and a new earth (Revelation 21:1) where righteousness will reign and His nation of nations will walk in His light there (vv. 23, 24). 

The devil, the beast, the false prophet, and all the wicked will be thrown into the lake of fire (20:10, 15), but those who love God will dwell with Him forevermore (John 3:16; 17:24).

*Equality

https://thebiblicalway.blog/2019/07/06/equality/

**Biblical Perspective – God’s People

https://thebiblicalway.blog/2019/04/26/biblical-perspective-gods-people/

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Prayers of the Bible

How? When? Where? Why? These are some of the questions reporters like to ask. If we apply them to the prayers of the Bible, we should gain some insight into their nature. But there is one very important question to answer before we proceed, and that is, to whom are prayers directed?

That’s not a stupid thing to establish, because, unless the true and only God is the One (Galatians 3:20; 1 Timothy 2:5) to whom our prayers are directed, what hope is there they will be answered with truth, power and effect? He may not answer in a way we like, but we know He will always answer in accordance with His will.

God’s people from the past until the present, have addressed their prayers to Him, while their understandings of Him have differed according to the extent of the *revelation He has given them. Thus they have approached Him in prayer in a variety of ways, but in this variety there can be found shared common factors, particularly the content of their prayers.

How Have People Prayed?

The mode of communal prayer when people have gathered together to worship God has changed according to the historical settings of their times, but generally those praying, have been in awe of His glory, majesty and might. They have trusted Him to meet and satisfy their requests.

Whether in communal or individual prayer, those praying have often acknowledged their unworthiness before Him, and they have been obeisant. Characteristically they have bowed their heads (1 Chronicles 29:20), kneeled, and in some instances, they have prostrated themselves (Deuteronomy 9:25, 26). Others have stood with their hands held out in adoration and when making supplications (Lamentations 2:19; Nehemiah 8:6; 1 Timothy 2:8).

For them He was not a distant, impersonal God who didn’t care about them, but an all-powerful, all knowing God, gracious and forgiving (Exodus 34:6). They understood Him to be a God of mercy, love and justice. 

The OT Israelites prayed to Him as their LORD, their Jehovah God. They called Him the LORD God of their fathers (2 Chronicles 30:19). He was the “I AM WHO I AM” who spoke to Moses (Exodus 3:14).

When the OT scribe and priest, Ezra, asked for His help, he kneeled before Him. ‘At the evening sacrifice I arose from my fasting; and having torn my garment and my robe, I fell on my knees and spread out my hands to the LORD my God. And I said: “O my God, I am too ashamed and humiliated to lift up my face to You, my God; for our iniquities have risen higher than our heads, and our guilt has grown up to the heavens (Ezra 9:5, 6).’

Ezra was distressed and concerned for the iniquities of the people, particularly for their sin of intermarriage with pagans. Nehemiah 9 describes how Israel fasted in sackcloth, with dust on their heads.

The practice of fasting in times of repentance or sorrow was also followed by the early church. It is recorded that they fasted and prayed before making major decisions regarding the ministry of the church (Acts 13:1-3).

These early New Testament saints may have been inspired by prophets of the past – characters like Daniel, who set his ‘face toward the Lord God to make request by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes (Daniel 9:3).’ 

And there was Ezra, who proclaimed a fast (Ezra 8:21-23) and called the people to humble themselves, for the hand of God to be upon them. They prayed because they wanted His protection while on the way to Jerusalem. They were taking with them gold and silver for the purchasing of animals to be sacrificed on the altar of the house of God (7:17). Therefore they would be a prime target for marauding robbers.

New Testament Christians prayed to God as their Father, in accordance with the teaching of Jesus (Matthew 6:9; 23:9).

He, Himself, in the Garden of Gethsemane, fell on His face and prayed, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will (Matthew 26:39).” 

Prior to that when praying to His Father at the last supper, He ‘lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You, as You have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him (John 17:1, 2).”

Paul made an appeal for ‘men’ to pray everywhere, and for them to lift up holy hands (1 Timothy 2:8). It would seem that Paul customarily knelt when praying (Acts 20:36), as he prayed ‘with the spirit’ and ‘with understanding (1 Corinthians 14:15).’

The observable attitudes and postures of those praying were indicative of their affections: their inward emotions and feelings – the desires of their hearts. The words they used revealed their relationship with God. They were His children by adoption, and He was their Abba Father (Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:6).

When Have People Prayed?

Daniel, one of the four great prophets, although not named as such, prayed three times a day. He would kneel in his upper chamber with his window open toward Jerusalem and pray with supplications and thanksgivings (Daniel 6:10).

Naturally, people turn to God in times of need, Nehemiah, for example, prayed an ‘arrow’ prayer when the King invited him to make his request known (Nehemiah 2:4).

The psalmist Asaph prayed: ‘“O God, how long will the adversary reproach? Will the enemy blaspheme Your name forever? Why do You withdraw Your hand? Take it out of Your bosom and destroy them (Psalm 74:10, 11).’ 

The enemy had damaged the sanctuary and set fire to it, and they were oppressing God’s people (v 8). Asaph wanted God to intervene and to take action against against the enemy on account of their reproaches of Him (vv. 22, 23).

Isaiah 37:15-17 gives us another example of a prayer request for God’s help on account of reproaches to Him: ‘Then Hezekiah prayed to the LORD, saying, “O LORD of hosts, God of Israel, the One who dwells between the cherubim, You are God, You alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth. Incline Your ear, O LORD, and see and hear all the words of Sennacherib, which he has sent to reproach the living God.”

People pray when they seek action by God; for example, in the book of Daniel we find his prayer: ‘“O LORD, according to all Your righteousness, I pray, let Your anger and Your fury be turned away from Your city Jerusalem, Your holy mountain; because for our sins, and for the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem is a reproach to all those around us (Daniel 9:16).”’

Habakkuk 1:1-4 gives us another example: ‘“O LORD, how long shall I cry, and You will not hear? Even I cry out to you, “Violence!” and You will not save. Why do You show me iniquity, and cause me to see trouble? For plundering and violence are before me; there is strife, and contention arises. Therefore the law is powerless, and justice never goes forth. For the wicked surround the righteous; therefore perverse judgment proceeds.”’

Where Have People Prayed?

People have prayed everywhere in all sorts of situations, individually and collectively – even day and night (Nehemiah 1:6). Jesus frequently prayed on a mountain. Luke says of Him: ‘Now it came to pass in those days that He went out to the mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God (Luke 6:12).’

Paul wrote to Timothy saying: ‘I desire therefore that men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting (1 Timothy 2:8).’

Certain leaders of the early church set themselves aside for the ministry of prayer and for the teaching of the word. We find this in Acts 6:3, 4 ‘Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business, but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word.’

Peter prayed at Joppa when he sought God to perform the miracle of restoring life to Tabitha: ‘But Peter put them all out, and knelt down and prayed. And turning to the body he said, “Tabitha, arise.” And she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter she sat up (Acts 9:40).’

Most often Christians pray in designated places at appointed times when they come together as a local body of Christ’s church. In the early Christian church, their meetings usually took place in the homes of members, or in the open air. The practice of meeting in homes continues today. More traditionally, meetings take place in designated buildings set aside for the purpose of worshipping God. Mistakenly, these buildings are called **churches.

Why Have People Prayed?

This is not a stupid question; for God has made it clear that He **exists, and it is His desire for people to worship Him (John 4:23, 24). In fact He commands people to worship Him and Him only (Matthew 4:10). Therefore He loves their prayers of praise, thanksgiving and exaltation (Psalm 100:4). Their sacrifices of praise (Psalm 27:6; Hebrews 13:15) are very acceptable to Him.

Prayers are the direct means of communication with Him, and He answers prayers in various ways: perhaps by speaking though His Spirit or through His Word. In some instances He has responded with visions (Daniel 9:20-27) and with miracles (Acts 2:22).

As He is the Father of His people, and it is His pleasure and joy to give them His love (John 14:21) He honours their prayers (Matthew 7:8).

If believers in faith ask Him for His help (cf. James 1:6-8), guidance or protection, He will hear them (John 9:31). He will respond, ultimately for their good (Romans 8:28).

The Necessity of Prayer

Prayer is the only way in which a person can communicate with God. Without it, there would be no reconciliation or forgiveness; for we have to confess our sins in order to be forgiven (Romans 10:9; 1 John 1:9), received, redeemed, justified and raised up in Christ. Without it there would be no ***hope of eternal life.

*How does God reveal Himself to His Creatures?

https://thebiblicalway.blog/2017/11/25/how-does-god-reveal-himself-to-his-creatures/

**Who are the Church?

https://thebiblicalway.blog/2017/11/28/who-are-the-church/

***Our Hope

https://thebiblicalway.blog/2020/05/25/our-hope/

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The Ultimate Tabernacle

‘Then Peter answered and said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if You wish, let us make here three tabernacles: one for You, one for Moses and one for Elijah (Matthew 17:4).’

What an amazing experience it must have been for Peter, James and John. Standing before them was the transfigured, glorified Jesus; His face shining like the sun, and His clothes as white as light.

Jesus had separated them from the other disciples, and He took them ‘up on a high mountain by themselves (v 1) to be present and to witness this miraculous revelation. Peter, the spokesperson for all three disciples, there and then, had a desire for Jesus, Moses and Elijah to sojourn on the mountain, each with their own tabernacle; so he asked Jesus if he and the other disciples could set about making them. Jesus did not respond to his question.

Peter had acted impulsively, but with good intentions. He told the Lord that it was good for them to be there. Indeed, for them everything was good, and at that point they didn’t appear to be afraid. It wasn’t until ‘a bright cloud overshadowed them,’ and they heard a voice from the cloud saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!” that fear came upon them, and they were ‘greatly afraid’. They fell on their faces. Then Jesus touched them and said, “Arise, and do not be afraid.” On looking up they saw only Him; for Moses and Elijah were no longer present.

On their way down the mountain Jesus explained that they had seen a vision (v 9), and He commanded them to tell no one about what they had witnessed in the vision until after He risen from the dead.

We might assume they were curious to know how all this fitted in with the prophesy of Malachi who had prophesied, “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD (Malachi 4:5),” when the ‘proud’ who acted wickedly would be burnt as stubble (v 1).

Jesus explained that John the Baptist was the promised Elijah who had already come and suffered (cf. Mark 6:15-28). People had not understood that John was the ‘messenger’ who would ‘prepare the way of the Lord (Mark 1:2, 3),’ and that Jesus was the Lord. He too, would suffer (Matthew 16:21) in accordance with prophecy (Isaiah 53). Then they realised they had witnessed the Lord in His glory, just as He had promised they would (Matthew 16:28).

The Greater and More Perfect Tabernacle

And, of course, they would be witnesses to His death, resurrection and ascension to the heavenly tabernacle (Acts 1:9-11), just as the writer of Hebrews explained: ‘But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption (Hebrews 9:11, 12).’

He went on to say, ‘For Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us (9:24), and, ‘so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly await for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation (v 28).’

The apostle John wrote in the book of The Revelation of Jesus Christ, ‘And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, they shall be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God (Revelation 21:3; cf. Exodus 25:8; 29:45).’

God’s resurrected nations (Revelation 21:24) shall walk in the light of the Lamb(v 23), who along with God Almighty will be their living temple (v 22; cf. John 2:19-22) and their God.

Thus God is the ultimate tabernacle in whom the redeemed shall forever live while serving Him, their God (22:3).

‘For we know that if our earthly house [physical body], this tent [tabernacle], is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens (2 Corinthians 5:1).’

Some References to Tabernacles in God’s Word

Exodus 29:42, 43 “This shall be a continual burnt offering for your generations at the door of the tabernacle of meeting before the LORD, where I will meet with you to speak with you. And there I will meet with the children of Israel, and the tabernacle shall be sanctified by My glory.

Exodus 25:8, 9 “And let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them. According to all that I show you, that is, the pattern of the tabernacle and the pattern of all its furnishings, just so you shall make it.

Exodus 33:7 Moses took his tent and pitched it outside the camp, far from the camp, and called it the tabernacle of meeting which was outside the camp.

Exodus 33:9 And it came to pass, when Moses entered the tabernacle, that the pillar of cloud descended and stood at the door of the of the tabernacle, and the LORD talked with Moses. 

Exodus 40:33, 34 And he raised up the court all around the tabernacle and the altar, and hung up the screen of the court gate. So Moses finished the work. Then the cloud covered the tabernacle of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.

Exodus 40:38 For the cloud of the LORD was above the tabernacle by day, and fire was over it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel, throughout all their journeys. 

Numbers 1:50 “but you shall appoint the Levites over the tabernacle of the Testimony, over all its furnishings, and over all things that belong to it; they shall carry the tabernacle and all its furnishings; they shall attend to it and camp around the tabernacle.”

Numbers 9:15 Now on the day that the tabernacle was raised up, the cloud covered the tabernacle, the tent of the Testimony; from evening until morning it was above the tabernacle like the appearance of fire.

2 Samuel 6:17 So they brought the ark of the LORD, and set it in its place in the midst of the tabernacle that David had erected for it. Then David offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the LORD.

1 Chronicles 21:29 For the tabernacle of the LORD and the altar of burnt offering, which Moses had made in the wilderness, were at that time at the high place in Gibeon. But David could not go before it to inquire of God, for he was afraid of the sword of the angel of the LORD.

Psalm 15:1, 2 LORD, who may abide in Your tabernacle? Who may dwell in Your holy hill? He who walks uprightly, and works righteousness, and speaks the truth in his heart.

Hebrews 9:1, 12 But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.

Revelation 21:3 And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, they shall be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God.

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Biblical Definitions of the Word ‘Power’

‘Then Pilate said to Him, “Are you not speaking to me? Do you not know that I have power to crucify You, and power to release You?” Jesus answered, “You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above. Therefore the one who delivered Me to you has the greater sin (John 19:10, 11).”

‘”‘But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins”  – He said to the man who was paralysed, “I say to you, arise, take up your bed, and go to your house (Luke 5:24).”

Six New Testament Words for Power

In English there is one word for ‘power’, but in the Greek of the New Testament there are six. Therefore when studying the text it’s good to know which word is being used, because then we shall have a better understanding of what is being said. The word must also be understood within the context of what is being stated, because the context can change its meaning.

In the above quotes from the Gospels of John and Luke, the Greek word for power is pronounced ex-oo-see’ah. It means ‘freedom to act as one with authority’. Clearly it is seen that any authority or power that Pilate had was given to him by God.

In the Luke account, Jesus, as God Himself, had the authority and power to forgive sins, and He proved it by healing the paralytic.

One of the most inspiring verses in the Bible for me is to be found in Ephesians 1. It goes as follows:

‘And what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places (Ephesians 1:19).’

In this verse the words for power are different. The first is pronounced doo’-nam-is, and the second krat’-os. The meaning of doo’-nam-is, within its context, is ‘miraculous force’, and it can also mean ‘ability or might’. The second word, krat’-os, in its context, means ‘strength’, but krat’-os can also mean ‘dominion’.

Therefore, one might have a better understanding of Ephesians 1:19 when nuanced.

It would look something like this: ‘And what is the exceeding greatness of His miraculous force toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty strength which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places’.

This can give one an insight and a depth of understanding that may not have been appreciated if one’s only knowledge of the word power was from the English dictionary. An online dictionary [dictionary.com] defines it as: ‘the ability to do or act; capability of doing or accomplishing something; strength, might and force.’

Another word for power in the NT Greek is is-khoos’, which means ‘ability, force or strength’. It can be found in 2 Thessalonians 1:9: ‘These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power.’  But because of its context, it probably means ‘strength’.

In the NT doo-nat-os’, possibly the least frequently used word for power, can mean ‘might or strength’.

We can find an example of its use in Romans 9:22: ‘What if God, wanting to show His wrath and make His power known, endured with much long-suffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction.’  Here it probably means ‘strength’.

There is one more little used word for power in NT. It is the expression ar-khay, and it can be found in Luke 20:20: ‘So they watched Him, and sent spies who pretended to be righteous, that they might seize on His words, in order to deliver Him to the power and the authority of the governor.’ 

ar-khay is defined as ‘the first rank of power’, and appropriately so, because the governor held the highest office of authority and of power.

It’s interesting to note that in Romans 13:1, 2 the word authority in the New King James Version, means ‘freedom to act as one with authority’. It is the the same word ex-oo-see’ah, which means power or powers.

‘Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves.’

Paul, through the power of the Holy Spirit (1 Thessalonians 1:5), exhorts us in our times of the Coronavirus to be subject to the authorities who supervise us.

Any power they have is given to them by God (Romans 13:1-7). God works His power through them and us, ‘according to His good pleasure (Ephesians 1:9).’

Other Articles on the Subject of Power

God’s Power

https://thebiblicalway.blog/2019/08/14/gods-power/

Power of the Spirit

https://thebiblicalway.blog/2017/11/20/power-of-the-spirit/

Some NT Texts Featuring the Word ‘Power’

Luke 5:24 But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins” He said to the man who was paralysed, “I say to you, arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.” [ex-oo-see’ah]

Luke 6:19 And the whole multitude sought to touch Him, for power went out from Him and healed them all. [doo’-nam-is]

Luke 9:1, 2 Then He called His twelve disciples together and gave them power and authority over all demons, and to cure diseases. He sent them to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick. [doo’-nam-is]

Luke 10:19 Behold, I give you authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over the power of the enemy, and nothing by any means shall hurt you. [ex-oo-see’ah]

Luke 12:5 But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after He has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I say to you, fear Him. [ex-oo-see’ah] 

Luke 21:27 Then they shall see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. [doo’-nam-is] 

Luke 22:69 “Hereafter the Son of Man will sit on the right hand of the power of God.”  [doo’-nam-is] 

Luke 24:49 “Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high.” [doo’-nam-is] 

John 19:10, 11 Then Pilate said to Him, “Are you not speaking to me? Do you not know that I have power to crucify You, and power to release You?” Jesus answered, “You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above. Therefore the one who delivered Me to you has the greater sin.” [ex-oo-see’ah]

Acts 1:8 “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” [doo’-nam-is] 

Acts 3:12 So when Peter saw it, he responded to the people: “Men of Israel, why do you marvel at this? Or why look so intently at us, as though by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk?” [doo’-nam-is] 

Acts 4:7 And when they had set them in the midst, they asked, “By what power or by what name have you done this?” [doo’-nam-is] 

Acts 4:33 And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all. [doo’-nam-is] 

Acts 6:8 And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and signs among the people. [doo’-nam-is] 

Acts 10:38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him. [doo’-nam-is] 

Acts 26:17, 18 “I will deliver you from the Jewish people, as well as from the Gentiles, to whom I now send you, to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me.” [ex-oo-see’ah]

Romans 1:4 and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead. [doo’-nam-is] 

Romans 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also the Greek. [doo’-nam-is] 

Romans 1:20 For since the creation of he world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse. [doo’-nam-is] 

Romans 9:21 Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honour and another for dishonour? [ex-oo-see’ah]

Romans 15:13 Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. [doo’-nam-is] 

1 Corinthians 1:18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. [doo’-nam-is] 

1 Corinthians 2:4, 5 And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God. [doo’-nam-is] 

1 Corinthians 6:14 And God both raised up the Lord and will also raise us up by His power. [doo’-nam-is] 

2 Corinthians 4:7 But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. [doo’-nam-is] 

2 Corinthians 13:3, 4 since you seek a proof of Christ speaking in me, who is not weak toward you, but mighty in you. For though He was crucified in weakness, yet He lives by the power of God. For we are also weak in Him, but we shall live with Him by the power of God toward you. [doo’-nam-is] 

Ephesians 6:10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.[krat’-os]

Colossians 1:16 For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. [ex-oo-see’ah]

Philippians 3:10, 11 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. [doo’-nam-is] 

2 Timothy 1:7 For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of sound mind. [doo’-nam-is] 

Revelation 11:6 These have power to shut heaven, so that no rain falls in the days of their prophesy; and they have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to strike the earth with all plagues, as often as they desire. [ex-oo-see’ah]

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Leaders of Churches

‘And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for equipping the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:11-12).’

As I peruse web pages, websites, social media, etc., I come across articles by church leaders, and leaders of associations and denominations of churches, and I’m amazed that many of them are overwhelmed with their burdens. They are tired, worn out, and despairing. Often these people see themselves as the linchpins of the ‘organisations’ they are paid to be in charge of. They find it difficult to delegate, or even to trust those ‘under’ them. More amazingly, some see themselves as being a cut above those whom they ‘supervise’. 

They say they have a good CV. They went to a university, they completed a training course at a seminary, and they believe their administrative skills, their leadership qualities, organisational ability, general knowledge will get them through. They are well qualified, so they are perplexed why they are suffering from burnout, depression, and on the brink of a mental breakdown.

“Why am I having such a difficult time?” they ask God.

From observations of the things they do and say, the observer might conclude they are being worldly. They are no different to those who don’t believe in God. They show it by telling other people that they are quite ‘normal’, because they love football and support such and such a club. They socialise at their pub [pre Coronavirus lockdown] where they can keep in touch with what’s happening in the world, and where they can make friends. After all, it’s a good place where they can show people what a Christian is like. It’s a place where he can make friends and he can introduce them to the gospel. He might even invite them to the festival of flowers at His church, where they can rub shoulders with other people who come along on Sunday mornings. Maybe the Holy Spirit will do a miracle, and bring them in?

Somehow, he misses the point, that he, as a Christian, is markedly different, because he is spiritual (1 Corinthians 2:14-16), and he has been born of the Holy Spirit (John 3:3-8). Because the Spirit lives in him he lives in a different world: the kingdom of God, where Jesus is his King (cf. John 1:49). Therefore, although he is in the world, he is not of the world (Romans 12:2). This should be his true state.

I ask myself do these ‘Christian’ leaders really hear and understand (Matthew 13:23) the gospel of the good news of the kingdom of God? Nothing could be more simple, and yet so profound.

No Longer Distressed and Overwhelmed

Jesus, the eternal God, came to earth to die in the place of sinners to bring them eternal life (1 John 3:16). This completely transforms believers (2 Corinthians 5:17), although it may take some time for them to mature, for them to grow more and more in the knowledge of Christ, as they devote themselves to living completely for Him. They read His word, pray, and serve the fellowship. As they grow in God’s wisdom they work out their salvation (Philippians 2:12) and prove God’s love for them. They depend upon Him for absolutely everything (cf. Philippians 4:19). They relax in Him and know His peace (John 14:27).

This should be the state of the mature Christian and of those who lead in God’s church. Let them remember that Jesus is the Head (Ephesians 5:23), and the Spirit is the Helper (John 14:16).

No longer are they distressed (Philippians 4:6, 7), but they accept and revel in their difficulties and count them as pure joy (cf. James 1:2). They don’t take the whole world on their shoulders, because Jesus has done it for them (cf. Matthew 11:28-30). Whatever happens, they are comforted in the knowledge that Jesus knows what is happening to them, and He works things out for their good (Romans 8:28). He is with them, even when He seems distant, but in their faith and in the strength of the Holy Spirit they have joy (Romans 14:17). Their goal is the glory of the kingdom – the hope of their inheritance in Christ (Ephesians 1:18). They can ‘press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God, in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:14).’

God will not let them down. Unlike men (Psalm 146:3-5), God is ever faithful (1 Corinthians 1:9). He is true, He is just, and He is loving. He will never desert them (Hebrews 13:5).

My Prayer

So my prayer for these ‘leaders’ is that they will turn to God and ask for His enabling. Yes, I know they have already done it. I know it is tough and not easy, but if there are battles, let God fight them (2 Chronicles 32:8); for He surely will conquer the enemy.

Let them serve as Jesus did (Matthew 20:28). He humbled Himself as a Servant (Philippians 2:8). Just think about it. The Maker of heaven and earth, the King over all, humbled Himself. How astonishing is that! It could be that instead of ‘hogging’ the preaching ministry, leaders may allow and encourage others to preach. In this way they humble themselves.

Leaders sometimes fail to appreciate that God ‘gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers (Ephesians 4:11).’  These are distinct roles. Pastors are not one-man bands that do everything. Why don’t they submit to the Holy Spirit for Him to guide them in the fostering of these callings? 

‘Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give you. Let not your heart be troubled; neither let it be afraid (John 14:27).’

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