400 SOME THOUGHTS ON THE MEANING OF EASTER

It has been difficult to write articles lately so I thought I would bring up some of the articles I have written over the years on the meaning of Easter.
You can click on the links below or you can type any of these numbers into the Search box at the top of the right-hand column to bring up that particular article. I trust you find this helpful.

No 350. Because Jesus Rose, Our Hopes Can Rise As Well. Easter Day And Its Rich Meaning For Those Who Grieve Loved Ones. [John 13:1-6 And Other Verses on Jesus’ Resurrection and Second Coming.]

No 276.“FROM GLORY. THROUGH GORY. TO GLORY!” The Easter story in 6 words. (Expanded version!) Part 2 of 2.

No 275.“FROM GLORY. THROUGH GORY. TO GLORY!” The Easter story in 6 words. (Micro version!) Part 1 of 2.

No 207. A Sermon Outline For Easter. Luke 24:13-35. “THE JESUS WHO BRINGS HOPE.” What Easter means.


No 160. Easter! We Are Risen! We Are Risen Indeed! Ephesians chapters 1 and 2

No 069. Easter Day. “The Resurrection of Jesus. A New Life With New Possibilities”. Acts 10:34-48

No 021. Easter Day. “Christ Is Risen!”

Blog No.400. Posted on http://www.jimholbeck.blog on Saturday 16 April 2022

Posted in Forgiveness | 3 Comments

399. A Loving Warning and a Gracious Invitation

Luke 13:1-9. The Gospel Reading for Sunday 20 March 2022

[This blog has been audio recorded as a podcast on the free platform Spotify and can be found there under “holbeck” No.399]

Throughout history humans have been curious creatures. They longed to know what lay over the next hill or broad river. In Australia this curiosity led many to become explorers setting out to discover more of the country in which they had begun to live. Many made wonderful discoveries of wonderful lands that were later able to be used for grazing animals or for agriculture. For a few, it led to premature death as some of the land was inhospitable or dangerous. 

In Jesus’ day, there were also curious people. In this gospel passage we read of some who asked Jesus about two recent incidents and perhaps wanting His thoughts on the meaning behind them. The first dealt with the violent deaths that Pilate had inflicted on some Galileans while they were offering sacrifices in the temple in Jerusalem. It was a deliberate act of murder of those who at the time were seeking to worship God. It was both cruel and unnecessary! The second incident concerned what seemed to be an accidental death of eighteen people who were killed when a tower fell on them. In both cases, the people involved had done nothing to deserve the deaths they suffered. Jesus’ questioners may have been raising the question, “Did they suffer because they were more guilty than others?” 

Jesus’ answer was both a loving warning and a gracious invitation. “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”

All of a sudden, their questions about the guilt of people “out there” who had suffered, had been turned into a personal challenge to them. Twice Jesus told them, “No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” They must have been amazed that Jesus saw them as “perishing.” That was the warning they heard from His lips. But at the same time He issued them a gracious invitation, namely that if they repented, they would not perish. 

It may have been that they had previously heard that word “repent” from the lips of John the Baptist as he began his ministry “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Matthew 3:2, and also from the lips of Jesus Himself at the beginning of His own ministry, “From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’” Matthew 4:17.

What did it mean to “repent?” It is seen as one of the essential truths in the presentation of the gospel. That was seen in the very first sermon on the day of Pentecost at the beginning of the Christian church as Peter preached, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. … And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, ‘Save yourselves from this crooked generation.’” Acts 2:38, 40. Repentance was needed for salvation to occur, for everyone. 

To “repent” is the Greek word [metanoeō; μετανοέω]. It is made up of 2 words [meta] meaning “after” and [noeō; νοέω] meaning to “think.” The idea is that having said or done something we have an “after-thought” about it which changes our minds as to its value. So repentance involves a change of mind accompanied by a change in behaviour. In Christian terms, it means changing our minds about our previous words and deeds and seeing them as God sees them, as being imperfect in His eyes. We also change our attitude towards God and instead of seeing Him as outside or on the periphery of our lives, we change our minds about His claim on our lives and enthrone Him as the Lord and Master of every aspect of our lives. So not only is it a radical change in our thinking but it is also a radical change in our behaviour and way of life. 

“Perish” is a strong word. There was an urgency in Jesus’ message to His enquirers. Unless they repented they would perish. The apostle John brought out that truth in John 3:16 where he wrote, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” The choice was between perishing or having eternal life. How did one gain eternal life and miss out on perishing? By both repenting of sin and believing in Jesus. That’s exactly what Jesus had preached earlier, saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” Mark 1:15. The gospel is the good news about Jesus, about Who He is, and about what He has done for a sinful humanity. However, there were many who had rejected Jesus and the salvation He had come to bring as the Christ. Jesus went on to share a parable with His listeners. But it is a story where we are left hanging for an answer to the problem it posed.

The Parable of the Barren Fig Tree

“And [Jesus] told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. And he said to the vinedresser, ‘Look, for three years now I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it down. Why should it use up the ground?’ And he answered him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and put on manure. Then if it should bear fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’” Luke 13:6-9.

The fig tree was often used as a symbol for Israel. There had been little response to Jesus among the Jewish people to this point. Jesus used the parable to show the urgency for His people to repent and believe in Him. God expected fruit from His people but if they failed to produce it, then destruction must follow. We would have loved for Jesus to provide a “nice” finish to the parable where the fig tree did indeed blossom in the fourth season and was saved. But the fate of the fig tree is left “hanging” in the parable. The hearers had to provide their own ending to the story. Salvation or destruction? 

We too have to provide the ending to the story of our own lives. Are we headed for salvation or destruction? The answer lies in our hands by the grace and mercy of God! Repenting of our sin and trusting in Jesus means we are saved. Failing to respond to the gospel message, indeed to the Person of Jesus, means we forfeit what Christ offers us in Himself, namely forgiveness of our sins and the gift of eternal life.  The parable shows us the loving patience of our God in wooing us to respond to Him but it also shows the urgency of the need to decide to “repent and believe.” As Peter wrote, “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9. Every individual ever born needs to repent and believe.

This passage of scripture in Luke 13 leads us to the decision we must make about Jesus, whether to accept Him as Saviour and Lord or to continue to reject him. But let us not presume on God’s kindness, patience and love, as Paul challenged his readers, “Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?” Romans 2:4. Has His kindness had that effect on you?

Blog 399 posted on Wednesday 16 March 2022.

Posted in BIBLE PASSAGE OUTLINES, Bible verses. Comments, Creation, Evangelism, Forgiveness, Glorification, Healing, Holy Spirit, Judgement, Justification, Lectionary Readings Year C 2019, Prayer, Salvation, Sanctification, TOPICS | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

398. BE ANXIOUS! FOR NOTHING! GOD SAYS! Philippians 4:6-7

Be anxious for nothing,” is the translation in the King James Version of the Bible of Philippians 4:6. KJV. At first sight that might mean for some people that we should be anxious. But the verse goes on to say, “Be anxious for nothing.” A more modern translation is easier to follow, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. “ [English Standard Version.]

In other words, anxiety should never become a part of the Christian’s concerns in life. God is able to do something about the things that could cause anxiety in our lives. 

What is anxiety? The word for “to be anxious” in the original Greek version of the Bible is [merimnaō;μεριμνάω].  The word can mean “care” and the noun merimna is translated as such in the KJV. However when one is troubled by the care one has for someone or something, it can cause anxiety levels to rise in that person, and that is what anxiety is all about. 

What is God’s answer to the rise of anxiety in people? This is what Philippians 4:6 indicates.

1]. ANXIETY IS UNNECESSARY.  

“Do not be anxious about anything “ is God’s command through St Paul. The positive attitude of caring must not be changed into an anxious state of mind. “Anything” means what it says, “all things.” There can be no situation nor circumstance in which it is not possible for God to deal with the concerns or cares we have. So anxiety is unnecessary for the believer! God is willing and able to make a difference as we pray!

2]. ANXIETY CAN BE OVERCOME. The steps to follow. 

Philippians 4:6 continues, “but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”

a]. We need to share our concerns with God.  “but in everything … let your requests be made known to God.”

Paul commands that our concerns should lead to requests to God for His help. “Requests” are  [aitemata αἰτήματα]. Requests are expressions indicating that we need assistance in some way. So in letting our requests be known to God we are acquainting Him with the concerns we have with the view to receiving His help. In a very real sense it is the same as we saw in our previous article No.397 where Peter writes, “Cast all your burdens on the Lord and He will sustain you.” We are to make our requests known to God [Philippians 4:6], so that He may take the burdens from us. 

b}. We share our concerns in 3 ways.

“but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving.”

“Prayer” [proseuchē; προσευχή] is used 35 times in the ESV version of the New Testament and is the usual word for prayer directed to God. 

“Supplication” [deēsis; δέησις]. This is the request for particular benefits from God for oneself or for others. It is for specific help for expressed needs asking God to supply our need.

“With Thanksgiving” [eucharistia; εὐχαριστία]. This is the word used to describe the Lord’s Supper as the “Eucharist” as it is a Thanksgiving service remembering all that Christ has done for us in His death, resurrection, ascension and His sending of the Holy Spirit upon all believers. There is certainly a great place for giving thanks to God for answered prayer. All answers to prayer stem from the grace and love of God in caring for His followers, and His desire to meet their needs.   

However there may be a deeper meaning here as well. We are giving thanks to God for the fact that God is willing to hear our prayers. But we are also thanking Him for the answers we will eventually receive from Him. Matthew records Jesus as saying, “And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.” This puts the receiving of answers as being assured, but coming in the future.Matthew 21:22. {Matthew uses the same words as Paul in Philippians 4:6, namely, [aiteo] for ask or request and [proseuchē] for prayer.}

 However Mark has slightly different wording, “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” Mark 11:24. What that seems to indicate is that believing prayer brings immediate answers to prayer. But the actual reception of those answers will be in the future, literally ”it will be to you.”

What a relief it is to know that believing prayer according to the will of God brings immediate answers to prayer. But the timing of the reception of those answers will be in the future. Sometimes those answers are immediate, surprising us with their speed and completeness. At other times we see a gradual releasing of those answers as the situation gradually improves or the health of the sick person for whom we have prayed, gradually improves. At other times the improvement comes in significant stages after we have prayed. They are all answers to prayer by the grace and mercy of God who heals in His way, in His time and through whom He wishes. 

3]. GOD’S PEACE CAN BE EXPERIENCED IN HUMAN HEARTS. Philippians 4:7.

“… And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.“

“Peace” is a wonderful feeling to experience. But especially is the “peace of God” a wonderful gift to receive. It is part of the nine-fold gifts of the Spirit [Galatians 5:22] but can be experienced at any time in the believer’s life.  As we have just seen, it can come as we make our requests to God in prayer and learn to trust Him for the answers to come in His way and in His time.

We notice here 2 things about the peace of God.

a]. God’s peace is beyond human understanding. 

It has to be experienced to be believed. God’s peace is much more than the absence of strife. It is the sure and serene hope we have when we hand our situations over to God in believing prayer. Outwardly there may not appear to be any change in the situation we brought to God in prayer, but we can experience a deep sense of internal peace knowing God is on our case and will bring an answer beyond the limits of our rational thinking.

b]. God’s peace will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

The word “guard” had a special significance for the people in Philippi. It is the Greek word [phroureō; φρουρέω]. It could be used to describe the protection the inhabitants of Philippi enjoyed knowing that Philippi was a Roman garrison city. The city was always protected by the soldiers of the Roman empire.  The inhabitants could rest secure in the knowledge they were protected day and night and could never be surprised by sudden attacks upon them by foreign forces. 

That is the significance of the word for “guard” here. As the citizens knew peace because of the protecting Roman garrison, so believers could know peace by the peace of God they could experience inwardly as they handed their concerns over to God in prayer. 

SUMMING UP

One of the earliest terms I heard as a new Christian was this one, “When in a fix, Philippians 4:6.” I soon learned to understand the meaning behind the term as I found myself in difficult situations over the years. That led me to studying the promises of God in answer to prayer and experiencing a real sense of the peace of God as I made known my requests to Him and cast my burdens upon Him. The truths of Philippians 4:6 as I have applied them, have certainly made anxiety disappear.

Blog No.398. posted on Monday 07 March 2022

Posted in Bible verses. Comments, Evangelism, Faithfulness, Forgiveness, Healing, Holy Spirit, Mental Health, Prayer, Salvation, Sanctification, STUDIES IN PHILIPPIANS | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

397. Living Without Anxiety. God’s Answer! 1 Peter 5:6-7.

1 Peter 5:6-7. Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.

Since Covid 19 hit our shores there has been a massive increase in anxiety levels in many younger and older people, according to health professionals. That is perfectly understandable as it is a new disease with no known previous treatments and it has been highly contagious. 

However there are lots of other reasons why anxiety is on the rise because of the changing political situations throughout the world. There is the threat of more personal restrictions and the financial implications that flow on from that. So if anxiety has become the result of the impact of Covid 19 and other factors throughout the world, what can we do to lessen it? 

It seems that there are two things that are necessary to get rid of anxiety. 

Firstly, we are to humble ourselves before God so that we are recognising our dependence on Him for everything in our lives. We enthrone God to be the Lord and Master of our every aspect of our lives. Both James and Peter indicate that such humbling brings the promise of being exalted by God for those who do so. [NOTE 1]

What does it mean to humble oneself? It can mean to have a modest opinion of oneself; to behave in an unassuming manner; to lose any sense of arrogance and haughtiness. It is something we need to do, as it does not come naturally to the human race. We are to humble ourselves, not just leave it to God to do so! It is much less painful when we do the humbling of ourselves than when God is forced to humble us, for our own sakes. As Jesus said, Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted. Matthew 23:12.

It can mean not having a high opinion of ourselves. This was seen in my previous article No 396 where I wrote about Romans 12:3, “For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.” It means seeing ourselves in all our weaknesses and strengths as God Himself sees us.  God dislikes pride and arrogance as Peter reminds us in 1 Peter 5:5 where he wrote, ‘Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”’ It is the humble who receive His grace and help to live in a way pleasing to Him.

Secondly, we need to actively and deliberately pass the burdens we are carrying onto God. The word for “cast” involves deliberate effort as seen in its use in the Septuagint [LXX] the Greek Old Testament. For example it is used in Joshua 10:11 where it is said that the Lord Himself Lord cast down large hailstones upon the enemies of His people. Or it is used to describe casting a garment over the slain Amasa or of Elijah casting a cloak over his successor, Elisha. It is used in Job 27 of God acting powerfully against the unrighteous person, hurling the east wind in punishment on him, Job 27:21 The east wind lifts him up and he is gone; it sweeps him out of his place. 22 it hurls at him without pity; he flees from its power in headlong flight. 

In the New Testament it is used in Luke 19:35 where Luke describes Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem seated on a donkey and the response of the people to His entry, And they brought it to Jesus, and throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it.

It is the deliberate and determined casting of the object with the intention of not taking it back upon oneself. When we cast our burdens on the Lord we leave them with Him to sort out and we don’t try to wrest them back from Him to work out solutions in our own wisdom and strength. [NOTE 2].

So the words of 1 Peter 5 verse 6 are not only a command but they also have a promise based on the character of God. His character is that He cares for us. We cast our burdens or anxieties on God because He commands us to, and we have the assurance that He will remove those burdens from us in His loving care for us. As we do so, we take the pressure off ourselves and we allow Him to work on those burdens we have in our lives. Thus, we can know His peace [which is beyond human understanding Philippians 4:7] and receive answers to our prayers. [NOTE 3].

Summing up then, we note that our verses in 1 Peter 5:6-7 are a command from God through St Peter to humble ourselves under God’s mighty hand. There is the accompanying promise that as we do so, He will lift us up. There is also the invitation from God to deliberately cast our burdens or anxieties on Him for Him to deal with instead of us. The reason for doing so is also given, “because He cares for you.” He will not ignore our needs or concerns. HE will deal with them!

What an invitation! What a promise! What a loving Heavenly Father we have, Who cares for us so deeply!

NOTES:

{NOTE 1}. “Humble” is from [tapeinoō; ταπεινόω].  It can mean to gratefully take a lower position offered to us when we might have expected more. Or it can mean seeking to be a servant to all people and not just to our superiors. It can involve the changing of our mindsets so that we see everyone as being of equal value in the sight of God and none of them as being of less value than ourselves. We should really see ourselves as their servants treating them as Christ Himself would.

[NOTE 2]. “Cast” is from [epirríptō, ἐπιρρίπτω] from epí, upon, and rhíptō, to cast. It involves real effort to get rid of a burden.

There is a similar word in the Old Testament which is translated “commit.” It is from the Hebrew word used in Prov 16:3. Commit your work to the LORD, and your plans will be established, and in Psalm 37:5  Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act.

It is the word gālal, a verb meaning to roll, to remove, to commit, to trust. The root idea of the word is to roll. There is a burden in life in trying to do the right thing with all the complexities of making the right decision. The idea behind this expression is that we roll off the burden from our back and lay it at the Lord’s feet for Him to guide the decisions we make with His help. As Derek Prince once wrote, “Roll that responsibility off your back. Dump it at the Lord’s feet and ask Him to take charge of it. …You don’t need to be wondering and pondering all the time if things are going to work out. Just commit your works to the Lord. “

As we commit ourselves to love and serve God in this life, we have the privilege of being able to cast all our burdens on Him, knowing that He cares for us. 

]NOTE 3]. “anxieties” or burdens is from [merimna; μέριμνα].

The word can have a positive meaning of care and concern as we see in three verses in the New Testament. For example, in 1Corinthians 12:25 where Paul says that every member of the church should have the same care for one another. Again in 2 Cor. 11:28 Paul describes the daily pressure on him in caring for all the churches. Also in 1 Corinthians 7 Paul told the Philippians that he was sending Timothy to them because “… I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare.” These all express the idea of genuine care for people.

However most of the references are in the negative. Jesus taught that believers should not be anxious about the material things of life, in verses such as in Matthew 13:22, As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. See also Mark 4:19 and Luke 8:14. He also taught them to be ready for the end times, “But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap. Luke 21:34.

According to Jesus anxiety was needless for the believer. If He cared for creation would He not care even more for His own people, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? “Matthew 6:25 and 6:28, 6:31, 6:34. 

Perhaps the most well-known verse is that written by St Paul in Philippians 4:6 where Paul wrote, “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” It involves the deliberate decision to rid ourselves of anxiety by making our concerns known to God in prayer and with thanksgiving to Him for His willingness to hear and respond to our expressed needs. 

Blog No.397 posted on Tuesday 22 February 2022

Posted in BIBLE PASSAGE OUTLINES, Bible verses. Comments, Creation, Evangelism, Faithfulness, Mental Health, Politics, Prayer, Salvation, Sanctification, Second coming of Jesus, TOPICS | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

396. Thinking As We Should About Ourselves. Romans 12:3-4

We all have different ways of regarding ourselves. We dislike those who seem to act as superior to others and make us feel like second class citizens. It is true that so many people are focussed on themselves and their own interests and pay scant attention to the interests of others. It is one of the marks of pride which Jesus said was one of the things that come out from a person to defile them. Mark 7:22.

There are many warnings in the Bible that tell us about the dangers of pride in humans, for example Proverbs16:18, Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. AND Proverbs 29:23, One’s pride will bring him low, but he who is lowly in spirit will obtain honour. Obviously God does not like pride in His creatures and warns them not to be proud.

What God has done through the writings of St Paul is to show us how we are able to have the right opinion of ourselves. We see that in Romans 12:3, “For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.”We see here these truths,

1]. We are not to have too high an opinion of ourselves. 

“not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think.” The word for “to think of himself more highly’ is from [hyperphrone, ὑπερφρονεῖν] which means to esteem oneself overmuch, that is to be proud, vain or arrogant. It means ignoring God and His demands on His creatures and choosing to do one’s own will. It means setting ourselves up as the lord and master of our lives and forgetting that we are creatures who are meant to be always dependent on our Creator God. 

2].We are to think with sober judgment about ourselves. 

“but to think with sober judgment” [from sōphroneō; σωφρονέω]. This word comes from sōzō; σώζω meaning to save or heal and from phroneō; φρονέω meaning to think or to exercise the mind. Combined it means to think soberly or healthily.

In other words to think godly thoughts which reflect the nature of God and are not severely limited by human powers of reasoning.

That means in practice that I am not to consider myself above what God has made me to be nor by how He has renewed me by His Spirit. Rather I am to remember that my entire existence is a given by God in His grace and mercy and that it is by His grace alone that I can make the right judgments about myself and about others as a new creation in Him. 

On the other hand it reminds me that I should not consider myself of no worth or of little value in the kingdom of God. God has called me to belong to His body the church [the ecclesia], the ones whom God has “called out” from the world to belong to Him to fulfil His purpose. I am to recognise that that God has a purpose and plan to fulfil in and through me. That is how St Paul saw his life before God in 1 Corinthians 15:10, “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.” We are who we are by the grace of God and it requires that we remain in close fellowship with Him so that His grace can accomplish what He wants to do in and through our lives. 

3]. We are to think “according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.”

St Paul began this section by writing “For by the grace given to me.” He wasn’t relying on his own human wisdom gathered over the years. Rather he was describing what God in His grace and wisdom had given him to share with the believers in Rome. 

Now he demands that his readers use their minds according to the faith that God had gifted them in His grace and mercy, to be able to think correctly. That faith had equipped them to be able to see things as God sees them, to access His wisdom as His Spirit enlightened them and to see themselves and others in a new light. 

That is borne out in what Paul continued to write in this passage. His readers were to see themselves humbly as individual members of one body, 

4]. We are humbly to play our part with others in the body of Christ, the church.

St Paul wanted his readers to understand that as believers they were dependent on others in the body of Christ. They were individuals but individually members of one another. Different members had different functions, having different gifts. Romans 12:4. “For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, 5. so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. 6 Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them….. .”

What St Paul is reminding us here is that God in His grace has gifted individuals with different gifts to be used for His purposes. It means that none of us has all the gifts and so we need to be dependent on others in the church for God to do what He wants through the church. It is all due to the grace of God at work through His people whom He has called in His grace and mercy to live and work for Him. They may have different gifts but they are all to use what gift they have, according to the grace given to them.

Where then is there any place for pride or arrogance in any believer? There is none! It is God who has called them to belong to Him. It is God who has equipped them by His grace with the gifts they need to do the work He has for them to do.

Perhaps our humble prayer should be, in the words of the hymn

“All to Jesus I surrender

All to Thee I freely give

I will ever love and trust you

in your presence daily live.”

BlogNo.396. Posted on Saturday 26 January 2022. [Australia Day].

Posted in BIBLE PASSAGE OUTLINES, Bible verses. Comments, Creation, Evangelism, Faithfulness, Holy Spirit, Mental Health, Prayer, Salvation, Sanctification, Spiritual Gems in the New Testament, TOPICS | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

395. TAKING ADVANTAGE OF THE OPPORTUNITY TO RECEIVE HEALING

[A Sermon on Mark 0129 I preached in the Healing Service at St Andrew’s Cathedral in February1990.]

James wrote, “You have not because you ask not.”

A hymn has these words. “O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear, all because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.”

We need to act on the opportunities we have to receive the grace of God or we may miss out!

In this passage are 2 accounts of opportunities taken to receive healing from Jesus.

  1. Peter’s Mother in law

Jesus returned from the synagogue in Capernaum to Peter’s house where they found Peter’s mother in law ill with a fever.  She was probably in no fit condition to reach out to Jesus for healing.  However Peter and the others brought her need to Jesus, something she was not well enough to do for herself. We read how Jesus took her by the hand and restored her to greater health so that she was able to get up immediately and make them a nice hot cuppa.

It may be tonight that you’re here to receive prayer for someone who is unable to be present either because of distance, or through illness. It’s our privilege to pray with you for God’s blessing on that other person, and we hear every week of wonderful answers to prayer in this way.

Like the people in Peter’s home, we simply join together to tell Jesus about the one who is sick, and leave it to Him to reach out to them in His love, and in His way and in His time.

2. The Sick of Capernaum

Good news can sometimes travel as fast as gossip. Within hours of the man being delivered, and of Peter’s mother in law being healed, people came to the home where Jesus was, bringing all their sick and those with evil spirits. In fact the whole town was outside to see what was going to happen.  They witnessed many being healed and delivered of evil spirits.

We’re not told whether it was the people who brought the sick, who had faith, or whether it was the sick folk themselves. It would appear that those who were sick and were able to make it on their own, got there, whilst those who weren’t well enough to make it, were brought by others.  What is true, is that all the people took the opportunity that was provided, and wonderful healing took place.

Many of us who have been involved in the Healing ministry have seen both of these things happen. There have been occasions when someone has come and asked for prayer for another person who was too ill to be present.  Hands were laid on the person who brought the request, and prayer offered for the other person, and later news is brought of that other person’s wonderful healing.

Or on other occasions, the sick person manages to come for prayer, and prayer and the laying on of hands is ministered, and the person receives a healing.  Whichever way it happens, it is still the same God who has brought the healing. The risen Christ is the Healer, and He can heal the person who is present, or the person who is geographically distant.  The reason is, that though you and I can only ever be in one place at one time, Christ isn’t limited like we are.

Let’s notice what happened just a few hours after Jesus ministered in Capernaum. Mark says that He drew aside to pray in the early hours of the morning.  But His quiet time was disturbed by His disciples who followed Him. They told Him that everyone was looking for Him.

His response may seem surprising. Instead of returning to Capernaum and continuing His teaching and healing ministry, He told His disciples that it was now time for Him to leave to go to minister in other towns.  And He did, going throughout all Galilee preaching and casting out demons.

The opportunity to receive the Lord’s healing had only been offered for a short time in Capernaum, and then it was withdrawn for some time.  But praise God, many took advantage of it and knew the Lord’s touch on their lives.

What if, what if there had been some in Capernaum who heard that Jesus had the power to heal but didn’t act upon it. Some could have said the same sort of things that people say today and fail to come to Him for healing. 

Some could have said, “I’m always suspicious about healing ministries. There are some funny people involved in healing ministries so I’ve heard. I don’t want to get involved with some weirdos. I’ll just hang back a bit and wait to see if the people who receive prayer actually live through it.”

Or others could have said, “I’m still working out my theology of healing, to see whether the scriptures actually indicate that healing might be a possibility in today’s world. “That’s not a bad attitude in some ways, for we need to search the scriptures to see whether these things are so. But when are we going to be convinced? The religious leaders and scholars of Jesus’ day saw firsthand His healings. They were confronted with Lazarus, a man whom Jesus had raised from the dead, yet they still wouldn’t believe.

In fact their unwillingness to believe in Jesus’ healing power made them look away from the proof before their eyes, and made them try to wipe out both Jesus and Lazarus.  Such is the strength of religious prejudice.  It refuses to be convinced and tries to destroy the evidence. It often tries to do so through character assassination.

{ ILLUSTRATION. The founder of this Healing Ministry Canon Jim Glennon  had a funny eye and a different sort of walk. Many scoffed at him and at his apparent physical difficulties. But God chose him to raise up this ministry to His glory and blessed it over all these years. It’s as though God said, “I’ll exalt him internationally, through a wonderful healing he’ll perform, knowing I can trust him to exalt Me.” He did perform a marvellous healing recently overseas which made national papers.  How wonderful that even the paper recorded his words, “Sometimes there are remarkable results. At other times there are not. We just have to leave it to God. “

What are the factors that would inhibit anyone from receiving prayer for healing?

Hopefully, not unbelief or religious prejudice. But there could be other factors. 

Fear of what people might think is one factor.  What would my friends in my church say?

Or pride. “I don’t need other people to pray for me. I’m a mature Christian! ” You may also need to be a humble one, letting God minister through other people to you.

Or it could be that you would feel a hypocrite for asking for help from God, when you’ve not really had much time for Him up to the present. It’s true that God wants to be the Lord of your life, but it’s possible to give your life to Him and ask for help at the same time.

The opportunity to ask Jesus into your life, to be your Saviour and Lord, or to receive prayer for healing and blessing, is here now.  

But I don’t know, and you don’t know, how many other opportunities you will have.  Certainly in Jesus’ day, there were many who missed out on His blessing.

Don’t be among those who in Feb 1990 had the opportunity but missed out. Be encouraged as you reach out to the Lord for your healing, by this fact, that God loves you and wants to bring you blessing, more than you want to receive it.

Blog No.395 posted on Monday 24 January 2022.

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394. In all things God works for the good of those who love Him. Romans 8:28.

These words from Romans 8:28 have meant a great deal to believers of all ages throughout history. Many have seen His hand at work in their very difficult situations as they faced inevitable danger. They cried out to Him and He worked in their situations to release them from those dangers. Others faced life threatening illnesses and their cries for help were marvellously answered as they were healed.

However God works for the good of His children as they ask Him for guidance for their lives. especially is this so as they mature and begin to think about their lives in serving the Lord in living for Him for the rest of their lives. We see that in this verse and in the verses surrounding the truth this one. Rom 8:28 describes those who love God as “those who are called according to His purpose.” In other words God has a plan and purpose in life for those who come to love Him and it is a joy and delight for those people to discover what that plan and purpose in life entails for them personally.

Personal truth

That became very personal for me in 1964 when I returned to QLD from Melbourne [over 1600 Km apart] during university holidays in August. In that time I had caught up with my dear friend Carole whom I had been courting before I left in January to attend college in Melbourne. We were returning from a long trip to visit my sister’s family in Central Qld when we pulled up outside a small country town for a brief rest before we completed the journey home. Knowing I was shortly to return to Melbourne and that we would not be together again for several months we began to discuss our future. What seemed to be certain for both of us was that we believed that God in His goodness had brought us together in the same parish and had seemed to have smiled on our relationship. We both felt that we would be serving the Lord together in Christian ministry in the days ahead. What was uncertain was where and when!

In spite of knowing that we could not get married for at least 18 months and that we would only have a very limited time together before then, it seemed right for me to ask Carole to marry me if she believed it was the right thing to do before the Lord. Imagine my delight when she replied, “Yes, of course!” At that moment our futures were set. We would continue what we were doing as the Lord had guided us already so that Carole would fulfil her obligation to the Education Department and we could be married at the end of January some 18 months in the future. Our parents were delighted with the news of our engagement and so were all our friends. It just seemed to be so right before the Lord! I was glad later that we had become engaged on that day because only a few days later my father became ill, was admitted to hospital and died of a brain tumour shortly after.

In the goodness of God I was able to take my mother with me back to Melbourne where she stayed with my sister and her new husband for the rest of the year. When we returned to QLD it was sad to see how upset my mother was as we approached our home. But in the weeks ahead and with the support of Carole and her mother, she began to be comforted and strengthened to begin a new life as a widow.

In other articles I have expressed my gratitude to the Lord for how He used Carole in so many ways in her work and ministry as a PhysEd teacher and youth group leader whilst supporting my mother. His love flowed through her in every relationship she had and many were blessed by her love and concern for them.

Just 56 years ago on 22nd January 1966 Carole and I were married in our hometown and within a few days Carole and I drove to Melbourne to begin our married life. In the goodness of God Carole gained immediate employment in a new High School as a Phys Ed teacher and formed warm friendships with both staff and students. I continued in my studies. At the end of 1968 we returned to QLD where I was ordained for ministry in Coorparoo parish.

Again in the goodness of God we were able to form rich friendships with many who are still friends today. Later we moved to Mt Gravatt parish where we saw the Lord move in power in bringing many into His kingdom through our ministry and a new church and Rectory were built. It was a wrench to us when we felt led to accept an invitation to become the Dean of the Cathedral in Armidale in northern NSW. Again the Lord was faithful and worked for the good of His people in bringing His blessings to so many.

It was a surprise to be invited to take over the leadership of the Healing Ministry at St Andrew’s Cathedral in Sydney where Canon Jim Glennon had become a world leader in the Healing Ministry of the church. But again the Lord gave us the assurance that we should accept the invitation and we experienced His blessing during the 18 years we ministered in Sydney. It was His ministry after all and He used many people in that ministry to impart His blessings and healings.

In the providence of God He allowed Carole to work in Sydney and she knew His guidance and blessing in building up the most successful department of its kind in the nation. She received many awards during her time as a Senior Head Teacher in TAFE but she saw all this as the Lord’s blessing on her ministry in this area.

In 2006 Carole felt it was time for her to retire and I made the same decision after leading the Healing Ministry for 18 years. We had prayed about where to retire and it seemed right for us to move to Port Macquarie in NSW where we found many wonderful believers in our church. Again God had worked all things together for good even for our retirement.

During our time in Sydney God had worked all things together for good to meet up with folk who had come from Florida and Alabama to learn more about the Healing Ministry. That had in turn led to Carole and I being invited to minister in the USA for a month at a time over a period of 13 years and we saw the Lord’s hand at work in blessing those times for the benefit of those who invited us and to our own eternal benefit as well. This was the Lord’s doing and it was marvellous in our sight.

The Lord overcame many difficulties in allowing us to be blessed with His gift of our three children and now we have 4 grandchildren and 3 step grandchildren. What a blessing from the Lord! Carole as an only child had really appreciated our growing family.

As our friends in Florida often said”God is good, all the time!” That was so even when Carole’s health began to deteriorate in recent years. In His goodness she was able to receive the best of attention at our local hospital and she knew His healing as she went through operations, radiation and chemotherapy over several years. When chemo no longer worked and the cancer advanced through her body I saw how the Lord strengthened Carole in her final days as she continued reading out aloud passages of the Bible as she maintained her close relationship with Him. Never did she ever doubt His love for her and her final days were full of peace for her. It made it so much easier for us when He took her home to Himself in October 2019.

So throughout the 58 years since Carole said “Yes, of course!” to my marriage proposal we have experienced this truth in Romans 8:28 that God works all things together for good for those who love Him! What a privilege it has been to marry my very best friend ever and to share in ministry together for all those years to so many people. What a privilege if has been to share together in bringing 3 wonderful children into the world and through them to share the joy of being grandparents. What a privilege it has been for Carole and me to be used as part of the good things He was working in the lives of so many people.

Praise God from whom all blessings flow! Praise Him all creatures here below! For He is the God who does work all things together for good for those who love Him! Eternally grateful!!!

Blog No. 394 posted on Friday 21st January 2022. (Just one day before Carole and I would have celebrated 56 years of a blessed marriage!)

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393. SOME CHRISTMAS ARTICLES TO READ AND LATER LISTEN TO ON SPOTIFY

I found that I had written a number of articles regarding Christmas over the last few years and thought that what I had written might be helpful for others to look at in their own preparation for the Christmas season. For example, many preachers preparing sermons for their Christmas services at the busy time leading up to Christmas. Or some folk might like to share the articles with family and friends this season.

So what I have done is to put them all on the one page in this article with a link to each of the articles to click on to open.

I am hoping I might get time also to post them on Spotify as audio files that anyone can listen to freely. So here they are:-

May the Lord Jesus Christ of Christmas bless you richly as you read or listen to these articles.

Blog No.393. Posted on Sunday 06 December 2021

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392. How God Sees Us As His Children. 2Thessalonians 2.

This is also available as an audio talk on the free plat

When Paul wrote to the church in Thessalonica he wrote to assure them that Jesus had not yet returned to the earth. He wrote to assure them they had not missed out on Jesus’ coming which was still in the future, but they would have to go through trials and persecution until that time.

In the letter he recognised that their faith was growing and their love for one other was increasing. In fact he told them he boasted about them in God’s churches about their perseverance in faith in all the persecutions they were enduring.

As he encouraged them to stand firm in their faith, he reminded them of what God had already done in bringing them to Himself. 

A Thanksgiving To God For His Work In Them. 13-14. 

13. But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters loved by the Lord, because God chose you as firstfruits to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth. 

  • God loved them, “brothers and sisters loved by the Lord”. They were growing in love for one another but that was motivated by the incredible truth that God’s love had touched their lives and that they were all recipients of God’s undeserved love and grace.
  • He had chosen them to belong to Himself, “because God chose you.” As Paul reminded the Ephesian believers, Eph1:4, “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.” Chosen by God to belong to Him before the world was even made! That’s grace!
  • They were chosen to be “first fruits to be saved.”  The believers in Thessalonica had been among the first to respond to Paul’s preaching of the gospel and had been saved as they responded to the message in faith. 

God’s Method In Calling Them To Himself. 13

Through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth. 14. He called you to this through our gospel.  

  • They were to remember that God had taken the initiative in calling them  to belong to Him. That call came to them as they heard the preaching of the good news of the gospel. They had realised that God was offering them forgiveness and a new life if they believed in the truth of the gospel message about Jesus. They had believed.
  • But the love and grace of God was also to be seen in their acceptance of the gospel message. It had been the ministry of the Holy Spirit in opening their eyes to the truth about Jesus. He had “sanctified” them.  The word “sanctify” from hagiasmos, ἁγιασμός means the process of making holy but it also refers to the fact that God by His Spirit had “set them apart” from the unbelieving world, to be saved as they believed in the gospel message.  What amazing grace they had experienced in the whole process as they responded to the gospel. 

God’s Purpose In Calling Them To Himself. 

“that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

  • God’s grace was not only to get them saved but something much deeper. They were to share in the glory of the Lord Jesus. The word here for “share” is peripoiēsis, περιποίησις from peri meaning around and poieo to make or do. That is, “to make around oneself” or to “purchase” or “preserve.” They had obtained for themselves Christ’s glory. As Paul wrote to the Ephesian believers, “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” 2 Corinthians 3:18. That glory they had received could increase as they were more and more transformed by the Holy Spirit. 

The Exhortation To Stand Firm. Vs 15.

15. “So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold fast to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter.”

  • “Stand firm” is from stēkō; στήκω and is in the perfect tense of the verb. That is, you are already standing firm, but keep on standing firm!
  • “hold fast to the teachings.” “Hold fast” is from krateō; κρατέω meaning to seize, take hold of,  retain and is present tense, “keep on holding fast.”  
  • “Teachings” here is from paradosis; παράδοσις meaning that which is handed over, such as tradition or a body of teaching. 
  • “Passed on” is from didaskō; διδάσκω to teach. 
  • Paul is commending the Thessalonian believers for their firm stand for the Lord but encouraging them to continue on in the teaching they had brought to them by word or by epistle.
  • He then turns to prayer as he prays that the Lord would encourage and strengthen them in their faith.

The prayer for encouragement. 16-17.

Paul describes God as “God our Father who loved us.“ Not only that but he again refers to God’s grace in giving them eternal encouragement  and good hope. 16. “May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope” God’s grace is not just His unmerited favour towards us but is also His enabling us to do the things we want to do. He is able to do it eternally and because of that we have a good and sure hope. 

The prayer concludes with Paul writing, 17. [May our Lord Jesus Christ and God our Father] –“encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.”

He is praying that God would continue to do what He had already done in bringing them encouragement and strength in everything they said and did. 

It is a shame that a magnificent passage such as this one is often overlooked as we read the Bible. But it reminds us of so much of our Christian faith. For in it we see the wonderful love that God has for His children and the effort He made in Christ to bring them to Himself in His mercy and grace.

How great it is to realise that God had an eternal purpose for us before we were born, that we should be saved and come to share in the glory of Christ.

How humbling to know that our hearing and responding to the gospel message was only made possible through the ministry of the Holy Spirit in setting us apart from the unbelieving world in order that we might believe and enter into the Christian family.

How blessed we are to know that God will not leave us alone as we seek to live for Him but will keep on strengthening us in His eternal grace and love in our every good deed and word.

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me!

Blog No.392. Posted on Wednesday 01 December 2021

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391.Thoughts on Remembrance [Armistice] Day 2021

[This can be found in audio format on Spotify under Jim Holbeck]

Over the years I have often had sad thoughts on Remembrance Day as I thought about the very young men and women who went to war for Australia and for other nations and who never returned home. Such a tragic loss for so many families around the world. Oh, why don’t people seek peace rather than resort to the stupidity of war! No wonder Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. “Mat 5:9. I suppose that saying of Jesus has motivated me to attempt to be a peace-maker throughout my life.

Just 2 years ago today [11thNovember] it was an especially sad Remembrance Day for me because at 11am the Thanksgiving funeral service for my late wife Carole was about to begin at St Thomas Anglican church in Port Macquarie NSW.  That was the exact time the nation stops to remember those brave men and women who served our nation during so many military conflicts. 

The Rector had arranged for someone to take part at the beginning of the service who led us in prayer for those who had served in military service. My mind went to my father who at 19 years of age had sailed to England in 1916 to fight in the trenches of France and Belgium in World War 1. A fine man, humorous, hardworking and fair. I remembered thinking of Carole’s uncle who had travelled from India to also fight in that war in the British army. With just a few days to go before the war ended, he had been fatally shot by a sniper and never returned home to India. He was never to know that his much younger brother [and Carole’s father] would become a legend in field hockey history with 2 Olympic Gold medals and perhaps the best in his position ever. In front of me in the church was my nephew who had served 2 tours of military duty in the Australian Army as a medical doctor in Afghanistan and praise God, had survived those battles. 

Then my mind returned in the thanksgiving service for my wife beloved Carole. She had passed away from a long bout with cancer just 11 days before. They had been very sad days missing her so much after 53 years of a wonderful fulfilling marriage for both of us. I realised as tributes were read to her which had come from all over the world, that she had been admired and loved by so many people. She in turn had poured out her love to a multitude of people in different situations. I had been the recipient of her very special love and I had begun to feel the emptiness of my life without her. She had been the most special person in my life for over 55 years and it was difficult to imagine living without her. However we had produced 3 wonderful children who had loved her so much and were there with me in the service. 

The world changed on that Remembrance Day 2 years ago. Many people had been unable to get to the funeral service because the disastrous bush fires had cut off access to the town for people outside our area. When the fires ceased there had been a massive flood and it not long after that, that the Covid 19 virus arrived forcing people to isolate. We have been living in a different world since then with little access to friends and family. Now we are beginning to live with Covid 19 in the world but I think I will find it still hard to live without my beloved Carole as we get back to “normal.” But I do so with a tremendous sense of gratitude to God for having brought her all the way from her birthplace Kharagpur in India to meet and marry me in Australia, to enrich my life and the lives of so many people for so many years. 

Memories are often wonderful and humbling as we remember the love and graciousness of our God in His blessings to us. I can identify with King David as he wrote in Psalm 143:5, “I remember the days of old; I meditate on all that you have done; I ponder the work of your hands. I stretch out my hands to you; my soul thirsts for you like a parched land.” What wonderful memories so many of us have, as we reflect on the Lord’s loving kindness to us throughout our lives!

Blog No.391. Posted on Friday 12 November 2021.

Posted in Bible verses. Comments, Coping With Personal Grief, Creation, Evangelism, Faithfulness, Glorification, Healing, Mental Health, Prayer, Real Life Stories, Salvation, TOPICS, Tributes | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment