376. Perfect Love Casts Out Fear. Reading 1 Jn 4:13-21. My Sermon preached at the Healing Service in St Andrew’s Cathedral Sydney on Wed 9th August 2000.

[NOTE: While I was searching for a file on my computer I came across this sermon from August 2000. In light of the huge build up in fear of various kinds throughout the world in recent years, I thought it might be helpful to consider the truths it contains for today as well. Here it is as preached on that occasion.]

THE SERMON

Who or what do we fear? Fear comes so easily to us as humans. But there are many different types and degrees of fear. Is fear always a bad thing? In fact fear can be a positive emotion. It prevents us taking risks that could be destructive or fatal. Fear of crashing our car, prevents us from driving flat out on greasy roads. Fear of going bankrupt prevents us from gambling all our money. Fear in a positive sense can be appropriate in certain situations.

1. THE POSITIVE ASPECT OF FEAR.

Mainly throughout the Bible, the one we need to fear is God Himself, or God’s representative. eg., in Deut 6:2, Moses warned the people, “fear the LORD your God as long as you live by keeping all his decrees and commands that I give you, and so that you may enjoy long life.” In Deut 31:13, he added that the children had to hear the law and obey it, and in this way, would learn to fear the LORD their God as they prepared to cross the Jordan to possess the promised land.

To fear God meant to give Him His rightful place . It meant to live with a sense of awe about Him. It meant to obey Him as part of one’s commitment and love for Him. In Deut 10:12, Moses joins both fear of God and love for God, in the one verse “And now, O Israel, what does the LORD your God ask of you but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul. “

This fear of God is not some pathetic cringing dread that we might have as we approach God. Rather it is a healthy sense of respect and awe we have as we realise we are approaching the Holy One, the Creator, the majestic Lord of the Universe and who has shown us that He loves us.

2. THE NEGATIVE ASPECT OF FEAR.

There is a fear that is inappropriate and wrong. Let’s look at a couple of examples where it was said to be wrong.page1image51328320

When the Israelites had come out of bondage in Egypt, they were afraid to go into the land the Lord had promised them, because they heard that the inhabitants of the land were big and strong. The Lord had promised them victory, but they were afraid to go in. Only Joshua and Caleb amongst the Israelites didn’t fear the people of the land. They feared God more than they feared the people in Canaan. The others Israelites feared people more they feared God, and did not obey Him. They missed out on the promise of God, of entering the Promised Land.

After the feeding of the 5000, Jesus sent His disciples in a boat across the lake. As the waves got bigger and they got more scared, Jesus came walking to them on the water. Their fear turned to sheer terror, and they cried out, “It’s a ghost.” But they didn’t need to be afraid. Jesus told them, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” Peter was so inspired by what he had experienced that he asked Jesus if he could walk across the water to Him. When Jesus told him to come to Him, Peter began to walk on the water. He was doing well until he looked away from Jesus to the waves. Fear came in and he began to sink, crying, “Lord save me.” Jesus caught him and said, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” He had stepped out in faith, but had begun to look at the problem, the power of the wind and the seas, rather than to fulfilling the promise of Jesus to him, and fear took away his victory over the difficulties around him.

That’s the problem with fear. It makes you focus on the thing you are afraid of, rather than on the One who can overcome our fears. Job said something that we can readily identify with. He said in Job 3:25, “What I feared has come upon me, what I dreaded has happened to me.” The more we fear something, the more power we give it in our own lives. If we fear cancer, we can get so focussed on the possibility that we can bring it upon ourselves. If we fear becoming mentally ill the stress of watching for any symptoms of it can help produce it. Someone being introduced to another person can become so fearful of forgetting their name that they can’t focus on retaining the name in the first place. Fear paralyses us so that we don’t function properly.

We can get so afraid of failing that we get stressed out and do fail. We can program ourselves for failure. We can get so afraid of dying that we can get ill and perhaps even prematurely die. The writer to the Hebrews wrote that Jesus came to set free those who were held in slavery all their lives through their fear of death.

How many marriages must be bound up because a woman fears her mother in law, or a man one of his in-laws. How many spouses must be bound up because they fear rejection if they were to give themselves completely to their wife or husband. How many people hold back on a deeper commitment to God because they fear the consequences of a deeper commitment. In fear, they hold back and miss out on blessing.

3. GETTING FEAR INTO ITS RIGHT PERSPECTIVE.

We’ve been saying that there is a right kind of fear in which we have a healthy respect and a sense of awe towards God. When people don’t have that positive sense of fear, they can muck up their lives terribly. Think of the passage in Rom 1, where Paul writes that those who don’t fear God in the sense of giving Him respect, and who ignore His laws, place more importance on the creation than on the Creator. They do their own thing in rebellion against God. The end result from that lack of fear for God means that God lets them do their own thing. Thus 1:24ff, “God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. … even women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.” A right fear of God with respect for His laws and obedience to them, is a counter against evil.

In brief, we are to fear God and those who represent Him, such as in Rom 13 where Paul writes that if we do the right thing in life in obedience to God we have nothing to fear. However if we do the wrong thing, then we need to be afraid, “Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.”

How can we get rid of the wrong sort of fear?

i. By having the right fear of God and His representatives. When we try to get into the centre of God’s will we can build up a real confidence in God and in His love and protection for us. As the writer to the Hebrews put it, Heb 4:16) Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

(Heb 7:25) Consequently he is able for all time to save those who approach God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.

(Heb 10:22) let us approach with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.

Or as St Paul wrote about what Christ accomplished on the cross, (Eph 3:11) This was in accordance with the eternal purpose that he has carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord,(Eph 3:12) in whom we have access to God in boldness and confidence through faith in him.

Or St John, in 1 John 3:21 Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have boldness before God;

ii. By letting perfect love cast out fear.

What is perfect love? It is the love shown by those who live by the word of God. (1 John 2:5) but whoever obeys his word, truly in this person the love of God has reached perfection. By this we may be sure that we are in him:

Here John says it is the love shown in loving one another. (1 John 4:12) No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us.

It is that agape love of God for us in Christ, and it means responding to that love, by receiving Christ as Saviour and Lord. There is no place for the wrong sort of fear, which is fearful of punishment, because Jesus took the punishment for our sins, not us. In Christ we are forgiven, we are free, not condemned, not expecting punishment. Where once there was fear of punishment, now there is love for God, because of His mercy and grace. As John wrote in (1 John 4:17-18) Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness on the day of judgment, because as he is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love.

Perfect love is that agape love of God flowing into us and through us as God fills us with His Holy Spirit. Rom 5:5, for the love of God has been shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who is God’s gift to us.

iii. By asking Christ to be Lord of every situation in our lives. Instead of facing situations in our own strength, we ask Him to be our strength. Instead of relying on our own wisdom, we ask Him to give us the wisdom we need in every situation. Ps 25:14, “The LORD confides in those who fear him; he makes his covenant known to them.” He wants to share His plans with us.

David was one who feared the Lord, and he wrote in Ps 27:1, “The LORD is my light and my salvation– whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life– of whom shall I be afraid?” If God was on his side, he had nothing or no-one to fear.

Isaiah tells us how to tap into all the resources of God that we need, Is 33:6, “He will be the sure foundation for your times, a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge; the fear of the LORD is the key to this treasure. “

The right sort of fear, the fear of God brings life and health, Prov 10:27, “The fear of the LORD adds length to life, but the years of the wicked are cut short.” Prov 14:27, “The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life, turning a man from the snares of death.”

The fear of the Lord leads to contentment in life, Prov 15:16, “Better a little with the fear of the LORD than great wealth with turmoil.” Prov 19:23, “The fear of the LORD leads to life: Then one rests content, untouched by trouble.”

The fear of the Lord leads to being able to receive God’s wonderful provision for our needs, Ps 34:9, “Fear the LORD, you his saints, for those who fear him lack
nothing.” 
Ps 145:19, “He fulfils the desires of those who fear him; he hears their cry and saves them.”

Why is God so gracious to us, and why does He promise to meet our needs? Ps 103:11, “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; … Ps 103:13, “As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him.”

What’s your need tonight? Is it to be free of fear of people or situations? Then Christ can set you free.

Is it to receive some blessing or healing? Then God has promised to bless those who rightly fear Him, love Him, trust him and obey Him. As St Paul wrote of God’s willingness to give, (Rom 8:31) “What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? (Rom 8:32) He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all–how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?”

Blog No.376 posted on Monday 04 January 2021.

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375. Ephesians1:3. Thanking God For What We Have In Christ. [Part of the Epistle reading for this Sunday 03 January 2021]

Back in 2016 my wife Carole and I had just received the results of tests regarding an occasional mild haemorrhage she had experienced over several weeks which showed that her condition was extremely serious and indeed life-threatening. Our doctor gave us the news that Carole might live perhaps another two years but could die anytime! My response to this shattering news was to pray, and I began praying through Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. I began with the passage which is set for this coming Sunday 03 January 2021. Following his greeting to the believers in Ephesus, Paul wrote one long sentence in the Greek text that goes from verses 3 to 14. ( I originally thought that I would look at the following passage from verses 3 to 6. But as you will see I was impacted by incredible truths just in verse 3.)

(3) “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, (4) even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love (5) he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, (6) to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.” 

SOME AMAZING TRUTHS in Ephesians 1:3.  God has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.

Paul began verse 3 with a blessing – to God! He is about to describe the blessings God has bestowed on His people. However he begins the passage with his focus on God as the One who blesses, before he begins to elaborate on the blessings God bestows. (It’s always a good thing in prayer to focus on the Lord in praise and adoration before we begin to speak to others about His blessings.)

We see a wonderful link in this verse.

* “Blessed” in “Blessed be God” is the Greek adjective (eulogētós).

*The phrase “Has blessed us” is from the verb (eulogéō) and

*The “blessing” in “every spiritual blessing” is the noun (eulogia). The words all come from a common root. What a blessed verse this is! We are blessing the One who has blessed us with blessings!

Does this sound familiar? We find a similar expression used in the call of Abraham in the Septuagint Greek version of the Old Testament.  Gen 12:1 “Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. 2 And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you (eulogéō) and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.” (eulogētós, an  adjective from the verb (eulogéō). The people of God are blessed by Him to be a blessing to others. We note that they are the same Greek words used in Ephesians 1:3.

God had another promise of blessing for His people in Gen 12:3, “I will bless those who bless you (both are from the verb eulogéō) and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (eneulogéō from en = in and eulogéō, meaning to bless in or through someone). He was promising to bless those who blessed His people and that through His people the whole family on earth would be blessed.  That was God’s declared purpose. It meant on the other hand that those who frustrated His purpose by dishonouring His people would come under His curse.

We see that it is incumbent on the people of God throughout all the ages to fulfil their God-given responsibility by living for God in the way He intended them to live. If they do, God can bless them by working through them to bring blessing to the nations. If they fail to live as they should, multitudes miss out on His blessing.

St Paul had also painted a cosmic responsibility for the people of God in the letter to the Romans. Twice he wrote that the gospel message was to be spread throughout the world so that people of all nations could come to the obedience of faith. Rom 1:5 “through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations”, and Rom 16:25 “Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages 26 but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith.”  If the people of God shared the gospel message throughout the world and the people of other nations accepted the message, then they would all be able to participate in the promises of blessings God has prepared for His people throughout the world and throughout the ages.

Blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places!

What sort of blessings are “spiritual blessings?” They contain, in the spiritual realm (as we have seen above), the incredible privilege of belonging to the people of God. They include all the other blessings that flow from that relationship. (More about that in possible later articles.)

Paul uses the word “spiritual” as a contrast to “material” in these verses. Rom 15:27  For …  if the Gentiles have come to share in their spiritual blessings, they ought also to be of service to them in material blessings. AND 1Cor 9:11  If we have sown spiritual things among you, is it too much if we reap material things from you? Recipients of spiritual blessings should feel obligated to make some material contribution to those who shared those blessings with them.

Another spiritual blessing is to be able to receive a deeper spiritual knowledge of the will of God. Eg., Col_1:9  And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, AND 1Cor 2:13  And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. 

Spiritual songs are part of the spiritual blessings God gives to His people. Eph_5:19  addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, AND Col_3:16  Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Such songs are inspired by the Spirit and are used in expressing our praise to God and to encourage others in worship.

Spiritual gifts are also part of the spiritual blessings. Paul mentions them in these verses, Rom 1:11  For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you— AND 1Cor 12:1  Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed”. AND 1Cor 14:1  “Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy.” A spiritual gift enables us to live and to minister beyond our natural resources. God gives us gifts to enable us to fulfil His purpose for us as we seek to live for Him. He also gives them so that others are blessed through our exercise of those spiritual gifts.

It seems that even in this one verse Eph 1:3, we have enough to turn into prayer. We will have lots of opportunities to look further into the blessings God has given us in Christ as we journey through this the rest of this epistle. But now is the time for prayer.

A SUGGESTED PRAYER BASED ON Eph 1:3

“Heavenly Father, we thank You for all You have done for us in Jesus. We thank You for all You have given us in Him. We thank You that You have blessed us in Him with every spiritual blessing. We thank You that through faith, we are the children of Abraham and that we have been blessed by You to be a blessing. 

Help us Lord to realise that this world is not about us, but that it is about You. It’s about Your purpose to bless the world in Your love. We thank You that not only are we the recipients of Your love but that we also have the wonderful privilege and responsibility of being instruments of Your love and blessings to others in this world.   

Grant us the wisdom to know Your will and the power by Your Spirit to do it so that we might fulfil  Your purpose for us. We ask these things in Jesus’  name. AMEN!”

Blog No.375 Jim Holbeck. Posted on Sat 02 January 2021.

{This is a modified version of the original post in August 2016. For those who not know my beloved wife Carole Ann Holbeck, nee Tapsell died of uterine and cervical cancer on 31st October 2019 but was wonderfully used by the Lord in the years from 2016 to her death in 2019.]

Posted in BIBLE PASSAGE OUTLINES, Bible verses. Comments, Creation, Evangelism, Faithfulness, Forgiveness, Holy Spirit, Lectionary Readings Year B 2021, OUTLINE OF EPHESIANS, Prayer, Praying our way through Paul's letter to the Ephesians, Real Life Stories | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

374. A Prayer Based On 2 Peter 3:8-14. Being Prepared for Jesus’ Coming. [From the Epistle for 2nd Sunday of Advent, 06 December 2020.]

Nine years ago I wrote a blog containing a prayer based on the Epistle for the coming Sunday, the Second Sunday of Advent. [NOTE 1] Seeing the same reading is set again for Sunday 6th of December 2020, I thought I would revise the blog and the prayer.

In this passage from verses 8 to 14, St Peter outlines a number of important truths.

The Coming Day Of God May Appear To Humans To Be Delayed

 One great truth is that the “apparent” delay in the second coming of Jesus means that God is giving people a chance to repent of their sins and turn back to Him, “The Lord is not slow to fulfil his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.”3:9. One of the truths you learn as you grow older in the Christian faith is that God’s timetable is not the same as ours. God’s delays [according to our timetable] are part of His eternal purpose in His grace and love. His desire is that all should come to repentance and miss out on perishing for their sins.

The Coming Day Of God Is Certain To Come

Another truth is that the second coming is sure to come, and people need to be prepared for it. “Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness. 3:11. “Lives” is [anastrophē; ἀναστροφή] meaning a manner of life or behaviour and such lives are to be based on holiness [hagios; ἅγιος ] meaning being set apart for God. “Godliness” is [eusebeia; εὐσέβεια which has the sense of being godly, like God in character. 

As they prepare for His coming His people need to be diligent to be found by Him without spot or blemish, and at peace. All these characteristics require a closeness of walk with God as they are not natural human characteristics. 

The Coming Day Of God Can Be Hastened As Believers Live As They Should.

There is also a surprising truth in these verses. “Waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! 3:12. How can we as believers ‘hasten’ the coming of the King? The word for hasten is [speúdō; σπεύδω] which mean to hasten in time, to come more quickly, to come sooner or to hasten towards some objective, such as in this verse, the coming day of God. 

If all believers were to live as they should, it could have a greater impact of the unbelieving world and more of God’s elect could come into His kingdom sooner than otherwise might have been the case. However God being omnipotent knows the exact day and hour of His coming. Nothing takes Him by surprise. 

How can we play our part in becoming more holy and godly? How can we become more without spot or blemish and at peace? By asking God in prayer to make us more like that, and cooperating with His Holy Spirit as He seeks to make the necessary changes within us. One verse which helps us to understand what is involved in this inner transformation to become more like God is this from 2 Corinthians 3:18, “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.” This means getting our focus right in life by focusing on the Lord Himself and beginning to reflect in our own lives, the object of our adoration and praise. As we do so, God Himself by His Spirit, begins to transform us more and more into Christ’s likeness. As Jesus was transfigured on the mountain before His disciples, so we can know an ongoing transformation by the Holy Spirit for the same word [metamorphóō; μεταμορφόω ] is used for transfiguration and for transformation. 

The final part of the verse [For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.] reminds us that to accomplish the will of God in our lives and to live for Him, requires that we allow His Holy Spirit to do His transforming work in our hearts as we open them wide to Him.

A Prayer To Pray

“Heavenly Father, I thank You that at His first coming, Jesus came and died, so that I might have forgiveness and eternal life by receiving Him. As I prepare for His second coming in power and glory, enable me to become the person You want me to be.

Fill me with Your Holy Spirit, so that I might become more holy, more godly, more at peace with You as I live for You in Your world.

Fill me with Your love, so that I might be motivated and empowered by Your Spirit to live the life, to talk the talk and to walk the walk You want me to.

Enable me by Your Spirit to help others come to repentance and faith in You, so that they too might be ready for His coming in glory. In Jesus’ name I pray. AMEN”

—————————————————————–

NOTE 1. Blog No.052. Posted on Saturday 17th December 2011

Blog No.374 posted on Friday 06 December 2020.

Posted in BIBLE PASSAGE OUTLINES, Bible verses. Comments, Evangelism, Faithfulness, Forgiveness, Glorification, Healing, Holy Spirit, Judgement, Justification, Lectionary Readings Year B 2021, Prayer, Salvation, Sanctification, Second coming of Jesus | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

373. Failing To See The Obvious. Again! The Words Solstice And Armistice. And A Personal Note!

When you reach 85 years it is nice to have some warmer weather and longer daylight hours. That got me thinking about the summer “solstice” when the sun “pauses” over the Tropic of Capricorn [thus the day with longest daylight hours here in Australia] before it begins its northern journey to the Tropic of Cancer which brings our day of shortest daylight hours or the winter solstice.

Funny word that, “solstice.” What is its origin? “Sol” is obviously “sun,” but “stice?” Fancy that! It goes back through different forms in different languages to a primitive form in Greek [stao] meaning to stand. So the solstice is the time when the sun appears to “stand still” before it reverses its journey northward again. Oh dear! A quick investigation revealed that words like staunch, staunchion, stadium and even the Greek word for the cross [stauros, a stake] seem to come from that same primitive [sta] root. [Perhaps the father of the bride in “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” was right after all!]

But the word “Armistice” came to mind as I entered Armistice or Remembrance Day. Could there be a connection? Guess what! The “arm” means arms or weapons and the [stice] means standing still. At 11am on the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918 the Armistice was signed and the arms [weapons] stood still, they ceased to fire. What a joy that must have been for my father as a soldier in the Australian Army who had been engaged in bloody warfare in France and Belgium since 1916, and to millions of other people as well throughout the world.

A bit more personal

All this was going through my mind as I posted online another blog No 372 on my blogsite [www.jimholbeck.blog] moments after Armistice [Remembrance] Day arrived today. It was called “Remembering Remembrance Day. A personal note.” I mentioned in it that Remembrance Day is of special significance to me, for Carole’s Thanksgiving Service was held at 11am on Remembrance Day last year and we observed the customary one minute’s silence as we began her Service of Thanksgiving after her death from a long term cancer just 11 days previously.

[Perhaps an added significance for Remembrance Day occurred just now [11th November] for me for all future Armistice or Remembrance days on the 11th November every year. I just answered a phone call a few moments ago from my daughter in Victoria to say that her father in law passed away today in Melbourne after a massive stroke a short time ago. He was greatly loved and like Carole will be deeply missed!]

In the providence of God, there are just so many things and such wonderful loving people for which and for whom we should be deeply grateful in life! It pays to remember! We WILL remember! We shan’t forget!

Blog 373. Failing To See The Obvious. Again! The Words Solstice And Armistice. And A Personal Note!73 posted on http://www.jimholbeck.blog on Monday 16th November 2020.

[This was previously posted on my Facebook page on Armistice {Remembrance} Day on 11th November 2020.]

JIMHOLBECK.BLOGholbeckReflections on life in general and on healing in particular

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372. Remembering Remembrance Days. A personal memory.

WE stood for a minute’s silence on Remembrance Day [Armistice Day] to remember! 

To remember all those who had fought for their country in all the conflicts and wars since the early part of the 20th century, and how so many never returned home.

I remembered that my own father had left Australia in 1916 to fight in the trenches in horrible battles in France and Belgium during the First World War and how he was one of those who was able to return home in 1919, whilst many of his fellow soldiers’ bodies lay buried on those battlefields.

I remembered that my wife Carole’s uncle Clifford Carol Tapsell whom she was never to meet, who had gone from India to join the British Army, being killed by a sniper in Europe just a few days before the end of the war in 1918 and later reading how his family in India longed to know more about the circumstances of his death.

I remembered that my nephew Matthew who was standing in front of me in this service,  had served two tours of duty as a medical doctor as a Major in the Australian Army in Afghanistan and I wondered what he would be remembering about his time in Afghanistan, on this particular Remembrance Day.

A personal memory

But this particular Remembrance Day in 2019 was deeply personal for me. We were standing in our local church and the Remembrance Day service was taking place as part of the service as we began the Thanksgiving Service for my wife Carole who had gone home to the Lord just 11 days previously. It seemed to be so appropriate that on a day when millions of people throughout the world take time to remember loved ones who had gone to war and how so many had never returned home and families had been so traumatised as a result, that we as a family could remember with deep thanksgiving the love that Carole had poured out on us all. We had been the recipients of God’s love flowing through her to us, for me for almost 54 years and for all their lives for our children and grandchildren.

Every Remembrance Day in the future will have for me, this added dimension of deep, deep  thanksgiving to God for the beautiful godly young woman he brought into my life all those years ago, and for the love, meaning and purpose she imparted into the lives of perhaps thousands of people around the world during her time on earth. 

What a privilege it is to have loved ones who were willing to die for us, and so many did make that ultimate sacrifice for us. Lest we forget!

But what a privilege it is also for us to have those who were willing to live their lives for us, sacrificing so much in seeking to bring God’s love and blessing into our lives. We will never forget! 

Blog No.372 posted on www.jimholbeck.blog on Remembrance [Armistice] Day 11th November 2020.

Posted in Coping With Personal Grief, Faithfulness, Glorification, Mini Reflections, Prayer, Real Life Stories, Salvation, Tributes | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

371. What do you think of Joe Biden as the President-elect [and probably President] of the USA?

That’s not a good question to ask of me! What I think of Joe Biden is of little significance in the grand scheme of things. But the big inescapable question is, “What does Joe Biden think of Jesus?” Will he and his followers live and seek to govern by the principles that Jesus taught, or will they ignore Jesus and His words?

This is a question of immense significance for not only the USA, but for the whole world. The wrong answer to the question could signify a possible coming destabilisation of societies throughout the world and the placing of communities and even nations in imminent danger.

But, hey, it is also the big inescapable question that every person ever born has to face, including you and me. In the haunting words of the old Authorised version, Mat 22:42 “What think ye of Christ?” No one is exempt from having an opinion about Jesus, nor exempt from the choice of receiving Him or continuing to reject Him. There is also the choice of obeying Him and His words or rejecting Him and His ideas on how life should be lived and how the world should be governed!

We are all accountable to Him, not to Him just as some first century prophet but as He really is, as The Creator of the world, as The Saviour of the World, as The Sustainer of the world, and ultimately as The Judge of the world. [NOTE 1]

 Jesus both encouraged and warned His followers in this challenging passage from John 12:46-50. First the encouraging words, “I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.” 12:46.

Then the warnings, 47 “If anyone hears my words and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. 48 The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day. 49 For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak. 50 And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told me.” 12:47-50.

It is an astonishing privilege for any human of any political background to become the leader of the free world. But it is also involves gigantic responsibilities. The President must seek the best interests of all Americans, but also take into account the best interests of all the inhabitants of the earth because God has allowed this person to become a leader whose government can indeed make a difference for good throughout the world. However the President must be humble enough to also personally obey this command, “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things [God’s abundant provision] will be added to you.” Mat 6:33. He must seek these things for himself and for his own nation whilst understanding this truth, “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.” Proverbs 14:34.

If Joe Biden is officially declared as President of the United States then we have a duty [and privilege] to pray for him. We may not know at this moment what Joe Biden thinks of Jesus, nor what Jesus thinks of Joe Biden, but we need to pray nevertheless. What to pray? We can take some appropriate Scripture verses as a basis for prayer, for in this way we are praying the Father’s revealed will and purpose back to Him. Or we could pray a prayer such as this one,

“Lord, may YOUR KINGDOM come and YOUR WILL be done, in and through Joe Biden, in and through the whole US government and people, and in and through the leaders and peoples of the nations of the world. We ask this so that Your people may be blessed and especially that the name of Jesus may be honoured and exalted throughout the world as His word is learned and obeyed. For Jesus’ sake. AMEN.”

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[NOTE 1] I have written articles on these 4 truths about Jesus in previous blogs under the numbers [260 Creator] [261 Saviour] [262 Lord] and [263 Judge]. You can click the numbers to be taken to the articles or use the Index when the blog site is opened.

I also have some audio talks on these 4 subjects on YouTube if you would care to listen to them. The audio talks given at the seminar are to be found under the same headings on You Tube under “Jim Holbeck”.

Blog No.371 posted on http://www.jimholbeck.blog on Sunday 08 November 2020.

Posted in BIBLE PASSAGE OUTLINES, Bible verses. Comments, Creation, Forgiveness, Judgement, Justification, Politics, Prayer, Salvation | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

370. Life’s Unforgettable Moments. A personal Reflection. Coping with Personal Grief

There are moments in our lives that we will never forget. Sometimes they just happen out of the blue and at other times they occur as part of a process we are going through. One such moment was way back in 1964 when in an unplanned moment I proposed to my beautiful gorgeous girlfriend Carole, and she answered “Yes!”

Another was when she said “I do!” to become my wife during our wedding ceremony some 17 months later. I saw both as part of God’s wonderful timing and His gracious provision to me of a gracious dearly loved life-partner. What love we shared and what blessing we received over those almost 54 years together in Him!

Just one year ago today, on the Friday after my 14 October birthday, came another unexpected unforgettable moment. I was helping Carole move slowly to her favourite chair in the lounge. Her legs were massively swollen because of the uterine and cervical cancers she had been battling. Suddenly she stopped, took hold of the top of a chair, turned to face me, looking up into my eyes with her soft brown eyes that always melted me as I looked into them and said softly, “Darling, thank you for loving me. Thank you for caring for me.” This was different to the frequent affirmations of love between us every day, “Darling, I love you so much!”

It may have been that she realised that she had lived much longer than the medicos expected but that her body was now succumbing rapidly to the ravaging cancers. Her words touched me deeply. I realised that I had cared for her physical needs since she was recovering from breast cancer in 2008. No one else had ever come to our home to help her with her ablutions, dressing, bandaging etc etc when she needed help. It had been my privilege alone. But caring was always a part of loving the wonderful creature God had given me to love, as part of loving Him.

Just 24 hours later Carole said, “Darling, I think I need to go to Emergency.” We felt we were life-members of Emergency because we had been there so often! But as I wrote recently, this would be the last time I would drive my beloved Carole anywhere before the Lord took her home just 12 days later.

Unforgettable moments! Reflect on them! Treasure them! The memories of God’s grace at work in our lives in those moments helps sustain us through those difficult times we all have to face!

Blog No.370. Posted on http://www.jimholbeck.blog on Saturday 17th October 2020 but previously posted on my Facebook page on Friday 16th October 2020

Posted in Coping With Personal Grief, Mental Health, Real Life Stories, Salvation, Sanctification, Tributes | 1 Comment

369. Reflecting On Birthdays. A Personal Note Written On My Own Birthday. Coping With Personal Grief.

Every birthday we have, has a different form. Things can happen even on birthdays. Last year when I turned 84 I had an early morning radiotherapy hit [number 44 of 45 scheduled for treatment for prostate cancer] and later my wife Carole and I rejoiced that this daily nine-week treatment was almost over.

Later in the day it was a rush trip to Emergency as Carole was having difficulties in breathing. This time her lung was only 1/3 filled with fluid and she was allowed to come home without treatment. [A few weeks before it had been 3/4 full of fluid and she had been admitted for several days.]

So last year it was a quiet evening at home to finish the day. Little did I know that just 5 days later I would again drive Carole to Emergency for the very last time I would drive my dearly beloved anywhere.

How wonderful it was today, 14 October 2020 on my birthday, to be taken out to lunch by friends to join other friends in a beautiful home-prepared meal and together reflect on God’s goodness to all of us over the past year. They were all praying people whom I knew had been supporting me in prayer throughout the year since Carole went home to the Lord on 31st October last year.

How wonderful it is to have friends who genuinely care, especially on one’s birthday when one is remembering with joy the life one enjoyed with one’s life partner for almost 54 years and also reflecting with a deep sense of sadness, her absence from us. But praise God, her presence now in a place of sheer bliss and joy in the presence of Jesus and so many of her loved ones.

[So a reflection for today, “In relationships, every moment counts! Every moment in relationships is priceless.” ]

My late wife, Carole Holbeck [1943 to 2019] would say about birthdays as one who memorised the birthdays of almost every family member and close friend over the years, “One’s birthday marks the individuality of every person ever born. On their birthday we honour their uniqeness.”

Blog 369. Posted on http://www.jimholbeck.blog on Friday 16 October 2020 but posted on Facebook on 14 Oct 2020

Posted in Coping With Personal Grief, Faithfulness, Mental Health, Mini Reflections, Prayer, Real Life Stories, Salvation, Sanctification, TOPICS, Tributes | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

368. A Modern Problem Of Hatred, Discrimination And Judgmentalism. A Reason and the Answer! God’s Plan For A Peaceful World Where Everybody Matters.

In recent days we have heard and seen a lot of words that were hardly used, if ever, in journals, newspapers, live TV or in general conversations. Sometimes they are uttered with such vehemency that you feel that there must be a whole “narrative” or “agenda” behind the words. Words such as white supremacist, colonialist, misogynist, toxic masculinity are used by some speakers and writers to seemingly refer to the male species as a whole. But females are not spared either, with terms such as hormonal, neurotic, bitchy, cow and baggage and many other terms used in a derogatory fashion. There is also a tendency to discredit others, both male and female as being “racist” or homophobic if they do not agree with the opinions of those who are classifying them.

What is happening it seems to me, is that we are reverting to a form of “tribalism” where we see others as being different from ourselves, and put them into various races, tribes, groups or categories of our making that we look down upon. Instead of seeing people as individuals, we immediately put them into a category we despise and ascribe the worst features of that supposed category to them. We can then go on to discriminate against them because they belong to a despised “category.” However I was a little alarmed recently when reading the Greek New Testament to discover that there is a word [katēgoréō; κατηγορέω which means to speak openly against, to condemn or accuse mainly in a legal sense.] It is the root behind our English word “category.” It was used particularly of the hateful accusations being directed towards Jesus and His followers. In fact Satan is called “the accuser” [A noun. katēgoros; κατήγορος] who “accuses” [A verb. katēgoréō; κατηγορέω] the people of God. Rev 12:10  “And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers  has been thrown down,  who accuses them day and night before our God.”

How sad it would be, if we were seen to be, in God’s eyes, doing the work of Satan in putting people into our despised categories by the way we think about them, address them or or even write about them.

We would do well to take seriously the words of Jesus when He warned against putting others down or assigning them to some despised category or other, Mat 5:22 “But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.” Strong language from The One who knows the future! Of every individual! Jesus was warning that present inappropriate attitudes can have eternal consequences.

What Is The Problem With The Human Race? Why Are We Sometimes So Nasty To Each Other?

Someone once said to me, “I don’t think the description of the Fall of humankind in Genesis 3 is relevant for today. Humans are basically good.” I felt like saying, “Brother, what planet have you come from? It’s certainly not planet Earth!” When you have had to deal (as I have done in full-time ministry for almost 45 years) with all the messes humans get into, there can be no other explanation than the truths in Genesis 3. Because of the Fall, humans have an inward bias towards evil. It needs the power of God to stop them going more deeply into even more evil.  So the question is, “Are humans basically good or are they prone to evil?” It’s not just a theoretical question for philosophers to discuss ad nauseam. It hits us in the face every day as we drive our cars. I saw some time ago someone driving irresponsibly and if I had not braked hard to let his speeding car into a narrow space in front of me there may have been a serious head-on collision on a narrow two direction two lane road at a combined speed of close on 200km/h. How selfish can you get to want to be seen as a “skilful driver” (or having a FAST vehicle) passing car after car, but at the same time endangering the lives of many people? [Admittedly I was not purely altruistically driven. There was a huge mass of self-preservation involved as well, as the resulting smash would have wiped out a number of vehicles including mine!]

The dilemma we face. Should I trust people or not? Are they basically good or could they do evil?  The dilemma for one person might be, “Can I leave my child with that man or woman? They seem to be nice. But can I really trust them?” The decision is made to do so. Another child is sexually abused.  Or “Should I go into business with that person? They seem trustworthy enough.” Another business is liquidated as the new partner skips off with the money and/or the clients. Or as one woman sorrowfully told me, “I married this lovely fellow and we went on our honeymoon. He said he would just go downstairs for a drink before we retired. He took some time. Later I discovered that he had met a young woman in the bar and had gone back to her room and had sex with her.” She almost screamed at me as she painfully said, “ON OUR WEDDING NIGHT!” But that was the first of many similar occurrences during her marriage. Apparently a “nice” man in the view of most people who knew him but with a fatal flaw that brought so much hurt and pain to his wife.

Are we humans basically good or basically evil?  We need to know in terms of whether we can implicitly trust people. Jesus didn’t always trust people. We read in The Message version of John 2:23-25, … many people noticed the signs he was displaying and, seeing they pointed straight to God, entrusted their lives to him. (24)  But Jesus didn’t entrust his life to them. He knew them inside and out, knew how untrustworthy they were. (25)  He didn’t need any help in seeing right through them. We may not have the same depth of perception He had. But we do need to have the same caution about relationships, knowing what people are capable of doing.

 Jesus Has The Answer For Our Dilemma. Mark 7:20-23.  In this passage Jesus said that it was not what went into a person that made them unclean. It was what came out of them. He continued, Mar 7:20 And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him.(21)  For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, (a word meaning inner dialogues or reasonings or deliberations, planning what to do. ) He then spoke about the form those evil thoughts took in human behaviour, in the verses that follow.

  1. Sexual immorality. Sexual sins or immoral acts both within and outside of the marriage.
  2. Theft.  Taking or using unlawfully something that belongs to someone else.
  3. Murder.  Begin with thoughts in the mind. The actions stem from the thoughts. Jesus went deeper and said that to have hatred in one’s heart towards someone was to be guilty of murder.
  4. Adultery.  Where a spouse is unfaithful to his or her partner. I tried once to get a man to face up to the fact that he was committing adultery with a friend’s wife.  I said to him, “You didn’t just wake up and suddenly find yourselves in bed together, did you? You thought about it (which was wrong) and made a decision to go further in the relationship. You are accountable for what you have done. It wasn’t accidental.”  Again as Jesus said, for a man to look lustfully at another man’s wife is to make him guilty of adultery even though the action hasn’t happened.  This leads on to the next wrong way of thinking that leads to actions. Coveting.
  5. Coveting.  This is mentioned in the Ten Commandments in Deuteronomy 5:21  “‘And you shall not covet your neighbour’s wife. And you shall not desire your neighbour’s house, his field, or his male servant, or his female servant, his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbour’s.’” Coveting often leads to further action to take hold, for oneself, of the thing or person coveted.
  6. Wickedness.  All sorts of evil. A similar word is used of the devil as the wicked one. These are the sorts of bad things the devil would deceive us into doing to other people.

Then Jesus added a number of evil attitudes in the same verses

  1. Deceit. It is the outward expression in speaking or acting out what is false.
  2. Sensuality.  Lacking self-control in sexual matters.
  3. Envy.  Wanting what is not ours. Not grateful to God for what we have.
  4. Slander.   The word is blasphemy. Evil speaking = speaking evil of others.
  5. Pride.   Self-focussed attitudes looking down on others.  Thinking and acting as though others were inferior to oneself. Eg., the scribes and the Pharisees.
  6. Foolishness. Sums up all the previous evil attitudes.

Jesus concluded, (23)  All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” The import of what Jesus was teaching was that every person ever born [except for Jesus] is born with that inward disposition or bias towards evil. That’s why He told Nicodemus an outwardly very righteous respected person, [whom most people of the day would have considered an automatic entry to heaven], “You must be born again!” John 3:7. A far deeper degree of righteousness [which only God could provide], was needed for entry into God’s kingdom.

It means from what Jesus said, that it is not a case of some categories of people who are evil who will miss out on heaven, and other categories of people who are good who will be able to enter. ALL will miss out if entry is based on goodness. The people living in most desolated places on earth, all have a bias to evil. The people living in primitive cultures all have that bias towards evil. The wealthy living on harbourfront mansions all have an inner disposition to sin. The greatly admired scholars living in theological colleges or in the Vatican all have an inner bias towards evil. No one is exempt. Every time we point the finger at other people in condemnation, we condemn ourselves because we do the same things to a greater or less degree. As St Paul wrote, Rom 2:1  “You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.”

King David loved and obeyed God and was described “as a man after God’s heart.” Acts 13:22, “After removing him [Saul], God raised up David their king. He testified about him: ʻI have found David the son of Jesse to be a man after my heart, who will accomplish everything I want him to do.ʼ” No wonder David cried out to God after he had sinned against God in his sin with Bathsheba, Psalm 51:10  “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.”  He saw that his heart needed to be recreated lest he do the same again.  He had discovered how capable he was of deliberately doing evil and of trying to conceal it.

What do Anglicans believe?  Anglican belief is found in the 39 Articles of Religion to be found in the back of most Prayer Books. Article 9 is titled, “Of original or Birth sin”.  It has these words. Man … is of his own nature inclined to evil. … This infection of nature doth remain in those who are regenerate (born again). In other words this proneness to do evil is characteristic of all people. All born-again people still possess this old nature with its bias towards evil and can give way to it unless they are careful. That’s why they are to sow to the Spirit and not to the flesh (the old nature). Gal 6:8  “For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.

A question to consider regarding this. Have you ever wondered why many men and women who have been in active service in wartime hardly ever speak of their experiences? There is one obvious reason. Because they saw man’s inhumanity to their fellow humans in war. They saw and heard despicable things. It had a terrible effect on them. They don’t want to recall the memories. But there may be another far deeper reason for some of them. I discovered this when counselling many men over the years. Many of them have opened up enough to say that during active service they thought about and did some terrible things themselves. Now they find it almost impossible to talk about them.  They were horrified at their thoughts at that time. They were even more horrified at some of the things they did.  They detested the evil they saw in others. They detested even more the evil they saw in themselves. They felt there was no place for them back among the “good people”. I’m sure that there is a whole lot of healing that needs to happen for such men and women. But they need to find people who won’t be shocked at what they hear about the experiences of those veterans.

William Golding. The challenge of the book and the film “The Lord of the Flies”.   The story is of “innocent” schoolboys alone on an island without any adult supervision or presence. Golding shows that the increasing violence in the boys came from within them. It was not due to some external factor. He portrays the characters in the film to show that there is innate evil in humans. He is correct in what he portrayed. Human experience confirms it. The Bible has always taught it. Philosophers and theologians ignore it at their peril. There is no other satisfactory answer to why the world is as it is. God knew what He was doing in giving such a simple explanation in Genesis 3 for why humans function (or malfunction) as they do. As has been said before, We are not sinners because we sin. We sin because by nature we are sinners.

A deeper type of praying for people

It means then for Christians that they need to change their prayers from praying that nice people become even nicer, to something much deeper than that. They need to pray for people that they get soundly converted; be born again, that they get switched on to the Lord; that they are turned around by repenting of all evil and turning to God for forgiveness and His wisdom and strength. They need to be born again of the Spirit of God so that they become new creatures in Christ and can have victories over that old or flesh nature that still resides within them that is attracted to sin. People need it. The world needs it. Every individual needs it.

A New Beginning. A New Creation. A New Humanity. A New Way Of Thinking. A New Way Of Living. St Paul had known a radical change in his life. He saw himself as a new creature in Christ. He saw that other people could know the radical change he had experienced. He expressed that in 2 Corinthians 5:17 “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” New creatures could become new in character due to the indwelling Spirit who came upon those who believed in Jesus. They would be given a new nature through the presence of the Holy Spirit in their lives. In fact he described this new nature in Galatians 5 as the spirit nature being opposed to the old nature (flesh) which they had from birth.

That contrast is spelt out in the difference between the “works of the flesh” and the “fruit of the Spirit” in Galatians chapter 5. The “works of the flesh” are those characteristics that are common  to all people because they are like that in a fallen world.  It affects every area of life. It is in the area of sex, (19)  Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality. It is in the area of religion, (20)  idolatry, sorcery.  It is in the area of social sins such as enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions,(21)  envy. It is in the area of drinking, drunkenness, orgies. It is in everything associated with these things,  and things like these. That pretty well covers most of life’s experiences. The problem with this life-style is that it is self-defeating. It misses out on life with God in heavenas St Paul wrote, “I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”

The New Life In Christ. It is full of opposite characteristics. It is not “works” (frenzied activity) but “fruit” (the quiet outward expression of the life within), the expression of the life of the Holy Spirit within each believer. It is seen to be operative in the area of one’s attitude to God who shares His love, joy and peace with us. (Jesus spoke of His followers are having His love, His joy, His peace.) It is in the area of relationships with others in society, possessing “patience, kindness, goodness.” They are nice thoughtful people to have around! It is in the area of one’s relation to oneself, “faithfulness, (23) gentleness, self-control.”  They are honourable and trustworthy people.  While they are living according to the Spirit that is!  Paul wrote in Gal 5:25 “If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.” If the Spirit had brought people new life then they had an obligation to continue to live life being continually guided and empowered by the Holy Spirit.

 If it is true that all humans have a bias towards evil (in St Paul’s terms, a flesh nature) then that explains why there is so much evil in the world. People who are out of touch with God are doing what comes “naturally” to them. In various degrees. How can that change? They need to know and to experience God’s power in their lives. 

The Danger Of Putting People Into Boxes!

There are many dedicated folk who are seeking to serve their fellow humans in various health and mental services, who need to avoid the temptation of putting people into categories such as white supremacists, misogynists etc and getting people they have never met to admit to having “white privilege”, [whom they see as being captives of the cultures they were brought up in.] Rather it is a much more serious situation than that simplistic approach. Some folk may attempt to change the outward structures or cultures as much as they like and may produce great changes. But human nature itself does not change. The change that God wants and that humans long for in a world where love, not hate,  abounds and where peace, not anxiety or chaos, reigns can only come when individuals discover the transforming power of God in their lives as they are inwardly transformed by the Holy Spirit of God and grow into His likeness. As St Paul wrote, when people know God they can know the power of the Holy Spirit to give them victory over their fallen nature, Gal 5:16  “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.” Victory is possible for those who are strong enough to know they need the power of God in their lives!

This is how I sometimes pray for everyone I know, those who are my friends and the same prayer for those who aren’t interested in being my friend.

“Lord, I ask that you might work in (so and so’s) life to bring them to yourself. Open their eyes to see that they need You and may turn to You to receive forgiveness for all their sins and to receive a new life in Jesus. Set them free from the power of the evil one who had blinded their eyes and who holds them captive to do his will. I pray that they may be born again of Your Spirit and be released to be the people of God You want them to be. Fill them with Your Spirit so that they might know and experience Your wisdom and Your power to live in Your way. May they show forth the fruit of the Spirit in their lives day by day. Please protect them and bless them that they might be a blessing in the lives of other people. AMEN

Your prayer for people doesn’t have to be the same. But it does have to take into account that what is required for people is that they become new creatures in Christ and not become just slightly nicer people in the world.

Blog No.368 posted on http://www.jimholbeck.blog on Thursday 08th October 2020

Posted in Bible verses. Comments, Creation, Evangelism, Faithfulness, Forgiveness, Healing, Holy Spirit, Judgement, Justification, Mental Health, Prayer, Salvation, Sanctification, Sexuality, spiritual warfare, Temptations | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

367. Reflecting On The Changes In The World In The Light Of The Truth Of Romans Chapter 1.

Over seven years ago [2013] I posted a blog which summarised a previous large number of articles based on Romans chapter 1. At that time, I had been concerned about what was happening in the world and I looked to see what answers we could find from Romans chapter 1 to explain such changes. There were, in my mind, many answers in Romans 1 to the problems I was witnessing.

Since that time many of the “bad” things that I thought might happen, have indeed happened. [Unexpected were the steepness of the “slippery slope,” the stunning reversal of values and the accelerated restriction of freedom of speech and religion.] I recently thought I should do an update to see how the world has changed since then and to do another analysis of how these changes are explained by the truths in Romans chapter 1. Especially how the powers of darkness opposed to God and to His people have taken a tighter grip on the world. This was through people whose anti-God attitudes demonstrated the acrid bitterness and burning hatred that have poisoned the minds of other people who were unaware of spiritual realities.  I hope to do another such article in the future. However I decided it might be helpful, for the moment, to republish the original article to remind us of the magnitude and rapidity of those changes since 2013. 

[REMEMBER All the following words were written in 2013. Blog number 129 summarising article numbers 124 to 128 all posted in 2013.] 

What has got into some of the world leaders in recent months? Some have taken gigantic strides in directions that were not expected. Some seem intent on changing the world as we know it, into an image they have created in their own minds. Now they want to see this vision reproduced in their own countries and even in other nations. Are we looking at world-changing visionaries in our midst? Or are we seeing the results of human wisdom gone mad? Humans out of control?

Once again chapter 1 of St Paul’s letter to the Romans has some answers for us. Recently I wrote some material on this chapter where I showed that three of the major factors in today’s world can be explained from its message. It is a description of human rebellion against God in three main facets of life.

1).  In Rom 1:17-23, we saw that human rebellion against God leads to idolatry in which God is replaced by aspects of His creation. It means that Jesus, His agent in creation, is also not accorded His God-given position as Creator and Lord of His universe.  One of the factors I noted in the articles was this. If folk reject God, they also reject His declaration that humans are made in His image. If people are merely different bits of this world structure then they (particularly the foetus or near-born or newly-born) can be disposed of at will because they are expendable “bits” with little present significance. There are many national leaders actively supporting almost unlimited abortion on demand. But some of them are not content with that. Now they want to have that particular concept of abortion on demand extended to other countries as well. There is talk that some of these leaders might want to make the acceptance of wide-spread abortion a qualification for receiving aid from the “richer” country! To stop “populution”? Or to extend their longed-for “power”?

God (YHWH) doesn’t see this “option” as wise management of human resources. He has a name for abortion done purely for the convenience of the person or the family or the nation. It’s called “murder”. Jesus once warned about putting stumbling blocks in the way of the young, Luke 17:1 “He said to His disciples, “Offenses will certainly come, but woe to the one they come through! 2 It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea than for him to cause one of these little ones to stumble.” If causing the young to stumble brings such condemnation, then what does the supporting of the extinguishing of the young, merit?

We need to wake up! Humans in rebellion against God are destroying fellow humans who are made in the image of God. He says they are! As such the vulnerable are to be protected and valued! Not destroyed!

 2). In Rom 1:23-25 we read that this rebellion takes on a sinister turn. Humans created by God reject their Creator AND begin to worship and serve “something created”. This is what false religion is all about, when humans begin to take their eyes off God as the pre-eminent One in the universe and begin to exchange the truth about Him for a lie. The lie is this; that something or someone can take His place. Such people put their focus onto something or someone else, a part of God’s creation.  Instead of following God’s commandments and His revelation of His will in the Scriptures, they place their allegiance in things or people.

We noted in a previous article that Jesus as the Creator-Redeemer of humans was called “the truth” and that His teaching is to be followed and not rejected nor added to. He was called also the “wisdom of God” for His words were the Father’s words.  His wisdom was obvious to all who heard Him. We read in Mat 13:54, He went to His hometown and began to teach them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished and said, “How did this wisdom and these miracles come to Him? Paul called Him the “wisdom of God” in 1Cor 1:23-24,   but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.  Similarly in 1Cor 1:30  And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption

True religion is based on the wisdom of God rather than the wisdom of the world.  One way of assessing all the present day religious movements is to look at how they operate and what are the ideologies and the motivations behind their actions. The wisdom of God (YHWH) in James 3:17 is described like this, …the wisdom from above is first pure, then peace-loving, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, without favouritism and hypocrisy. What a wonderful peaceful world it would be if we lived by the wisdom of God! As we examine all the current religious movements are they marked by these qualities? If they are, then they appear to be elements of true religion operating with God’s wisdom especially when they exhibit true love knowing “God is love” (1John 4:16  So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.) 

If the religious bodies today are not characterised by these qualities, they may not be of God. Religions or ideologies operating from a human source of wisdom rather than a divine source have these features seen in James 3:14-16, bitter envy, selfish ambition, bragging, defying the truth. James writes here that this “wisdom” it is not from above, from God. It has to do only with the dimension of the human senses. It may be demonic, influenced by the powers of darkness. The outward expression of worldly wisdom is disorder and every kind of evil. A quick glance at our daily papers sees the evidence throughout the world of disorder, murder, the absence of love and utter evil in some of the religious movements. It would seem that false religion is alive and expanding on planet earth. It is false religion that brooks no rivals. True religion looks to God for wisdom on how to behave and to live in the peace of God that passes human understanding.

We need to wake up! Humans in rebellion against God are worshipping and serving the lie that you can replace Him with something or someone! He brooks no rivals. However He offers all people a relationship of peace with Himself through His Son Jesus Christ.

3).  In Romans 1:26-27. We saw in the previous article that this passage speaks quite openly about same sex activity and God’s attitude to it.  In Leviticus chapters 18 and 20 He declared His repugnance. “Abomination” and “detestable” are never pretty words. How much more when they come from the mind of God Himself! If He used such words to describe these activities, it is sad that His people today are being labelled as homophobic for simply expressing what He said. But people in rebellion against God will reject His words especially when they come through fellow humans.

Recently we have seen that some national leaders are not only in favour of same sex practice, but are pushing for same-sex marriage. One leader even wants to send expert teams out to other countries to help facilitate the acceptance and legalisation of same-sex marriage in those countries. Foreign aid with a twist! Again is it a case of such leaders being world-leading-visionaries who are taking the world into whole new expressions of freedom and liberty? Or something quite different!

But what if? What if there is a God who has revealed Himself in the Bible and through Jesus, and whose revelation we have in the Holy Bible, the Scriptures?  What if He told us almost 2000 years ago that He had dealt with people in rebellion against Him and delivered them over to “do their own thing.” What if people presume He doesn’t exist or isn’t concerned when they do things He had forbidden,  and are not struck down dead as a result? What if the words of 2Peter 3:9 are true, “The Lord is not slow to fulfil his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” What if His apparent failure to deal with human sin is not a sign of His pathetic weakness, but of His incredible patience and amazing grace and astonishing love in giving them time to turn from their rebellion against Him, to seek His forgiveness and to find true peace with Him as the true God?

We need to wake up! Humans in rebellion against God are encouraging practices that God has strongly condemned in unmistakeable terms! He isn’t going to change His mind! He isn’t going to adapt to cultural changes! He isn’t going to water down His word to gain more acceptance or to elicit a greater following! He has spoken! Clearly! Definitively!

A realistic appraisal of the whole human situation. Romans 1:29-32 

God’s appraisal! We have seen in a previous article that these verses apply to every human ever born who has been rebellious against God. That’s all of us except for Jesus. We may look at these verses and pat ourselves on the back that we are pretty good in comparison with some notorious sinners in this world. But when we come to words such as greed, envy, disputes, deceit, gossips arrogant, proud, boastful, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, and unmerciful, we realise that we ourselves have failed to get a perfect score in those areas of life.  It means that we are sinners just like the ones we have judged as being guilty of sin.

Only one way for all of us

There is only one way out of our predicament for all of us because we are all sinners in the sight of God. And that is by accepting His offer of forgiveness and salvation in Christ. It is a free gift to us in Him. It is an offer coming from His grace and love. But it is not cheap grace! It meant that Jesus the Son of God, the Messiah, had to die for the sins of all the peoples of the world throughout the ages. His death brought the possibility of forgiveness and new life for every person who would receive them in Christ. But “receive them” is the operative phrase. What is happening in today’s world is that people are making their choice. To seek truth in the God of truth, or to turn their backs on Him and to continue on in their rebellion.

Perhaps when St Paul wrote Romans chapter 1 at the inspiration of the Spirit of God he did not envisage a world as rebellious as it is now. But God did!  In His love He has warned us through St Paul in this chapter that human rebellion would always take the form of idolatry, false religion and sexual inappropriateness. In His love He has warned those rebelling against Him in this way. However He also warns each and every one of us in the latter verses of the same chapter that we can’t criticise others, for we too are guilty before Him. The fact that we seem to be free to do whatever we wish without punishment may be an indication that the words of 2 Peter 3:9 are true, “The Lord … is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” Repentance from all of us! No exceptions!

A Prayer for someone to pray who feels they are not right with God, in order to get right with God.

Dear Lord. You have shown us so clearly in Your word that none of us can stand before You, trusting in who we are or in what we have done. We have all rebelled against You in many and various ways. I confess that I am guilty before You and I need Your forgiveness and love. 

I have learned that Jesus, the Son of God, died on the cross so that I might have forgiveness. I have learned too that He rose from the dead and is alive today.

I invite You Lord Jesus to be my Saviour from sin and to be the Lord and Master of my life. Come into my life to make me a new creature and to guide and strengthen me to live as I should, from this day forward. 

I thank You by faith for the victories I shall experience in life with Your help. Please accept my thanks in Your precious name of Jesus. AMEN

Blog No.367 posted on www.jimholbeck.blog on Saturday 03 October 2020.

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