319. The God Who Can Do More Than We Ask Or Imagine. Ephesians 3:20-21. [Praying our way through Paul’s letter to the Ephesians.]

Is anything too hard for God? It is a question that often comes to our minds when we are faced with seemingly impossible situations. It was a question asked very early in human history. It was verbalised by the Lord Himself when Sarah laughed to herself at the prospect that she would have a child with Abraham when they were both old, even though God had promised that was to happen.  We read, “The LORD said to Abraham, ‘Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?’ 14 Is anything too hard for the LORD? At the appointed time I will return to you, about this time next year, and Sarah shall have a son.” Obviously in the sight of the Lord, nothing was impossible for Him to accomplish according to His plan and purpose.

Jeremiah the prophet later affirmed the power of God to do whatever He wished, as he prayed to the Lord, “Ah, Lord GOD! It is you who have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm! Nothing is too hard for you.” Jer 32:17. He recognised that YHWH was a God of ultimate power and a God of perfect righteousness. The Lord responded to Jeremiah saying, “Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh. Is anything too hard for me?” Jer 32:27.  

Much later still, Paul was finishing his letter to the Ephesians and as he did so, he encouraged them to see the Lord as Someone for whom nothing was too hard. He put it in these words in his doxology, “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen” Ephesians 3:20-21.

 “far more abundantly than all that we ask or think!”  That sounds like a powerful lot! Can it be really be true?

  1. GOD CAN DO FAR MORE ABUNDANTLY THAN ALL THAT WE ASK

3:20, “ to Him who be the  power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine”

What did Jesus Himself teach about prayer? He encouraged His followers of every generation to ask great things in prayer.

In Matthew’s Gospel alone you find these promises from the lips of Jesus.

God is motivated to give to those who ask

(Mat 7:7 )  “ASK, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. 8 ) For everyone who ASKS receives, and everyone  who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.”

(Mat 7:11 )  If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ASK him!

The promise of His provision and the promise of His presence with His people

(Mat 18:19)  “Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ASK, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven.”

The promise that we have what we asked for

Mat 21:22 )  “Whatever you ASK for in prayer with faith, you will receive.”

Mark put it this way,  (Mark 11:24)  “So I tell you, whatever you ASK for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”

Did Matthew AND Mark get it wrong? Did they misunderstand what Jesus taught? How did John hear Jesus?

John heard and recorded the same sorts of promises from the lips of Jesus.

(John 14:13-14)  “I will do whateveryou ASK in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If in my name you ASK me for anything, I will do it.”

(John 15:7) “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ASK for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.”

(John 15:16) “You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ASK him in my name.

(John 16:23) “On that day you will ask nothing of me. Very truly, I tell you, if you ASK anything of the Father in my name, he will give it to you”

(John 16:24) “Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. ASK and you will receive, so that your joy may be complete.”

John summed it up in his epistle when he wrote in 1 John 5:14-15.) “ And this is the boldness we have in him, that if we ASK anything according to his will, he hears us.  And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ASK, we know that we have obtained the requests made of him.” Here is a twofold confidence. A confidence that the Lord hears prayer. And a confidence that He answers prayer.

James gave an indication as to why we don’t receive answers to prayer.

We don’t ask in prayer or we ask from wrong motives. We want what we want, rather than what He wants for us. (James wrote in James 4:2-3 “You do not have, because you do not ask.” God respects our God-given free will. He will not impose on us what we are unwilling to ask for or receive.

Neither will He give us what He knows would be harmful for us. “You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, in order to spend what you get on your pleasures.”

Obedience to God and the desire to please Him are the keys to receiving answers to prayer. We receive when we want God’s will and not our own. John put it this way, “and we receive from him whatever we ask, because we obey his commandments and do what pleases him.” 1 John 3:22.

Progressing from saying “Please,” to saying “Thank You”.

If we believe what Jesus said our prayers should go from keeping on saying “Please” to asking and then immediately saying “Thank You.” That is taking Jesus seriously. God is not honoured when we fail to act on the promises of His Son. If Jesus as the Son of God said it, then it is true whether or not our experience of prayer might suggest otherwise.  Our experience, our understanding is limited. His word, His promises are eternally true for those who fulfil His conditions.

Abundantly More Than We Can Ask

Not only can Jesus give us what we ask, but He can give us immeasurably (abundantly) more than we can ask.

In our prayers sometimes, we are asking for peanuts when God wants to give us a whole plantation. We are asking for drops of blessing when He is wanting to pour on out on us the whole Pacific Ocean of blessing.  We have no human resources to understand or to measure what He longs to bestow on us.

  • It means that as Almighty God there is no illness He cannot cure. However not all prayer for healing is answered in exactly the way we expect.
  • There is no situation He cannot change. However, He never imposes change on those who are unwilling to be changed.
  • There is no person who wants His help that He cannot help. Provided that they are open to receive the help He wants to bring!

We need to think about all these things as we pray and ask God for His answers to our prayers. We need to be honest with ourselves by asking ourselves, “Am I being a blockage to answered prayer because deep down I believe He is unwilling or unable to answer my prayers?” If so we may need to adopt the humble attitude of the father of the boy with an unclean spirit in the following story,  “And they brought the boy to him. And when the spirit saw him, immediately it convulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth. 21  And Jesus asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. 22 And it has often cast him into fire and into water, to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” 23 And Jesus said to him, “‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.” Mk 9:20-23.

The father humbly exclaimed that he really did believe but he wanted to be free of any pockets of unbelief, “Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” Mk 9:24. We too should want to be free of any unbelief that the Lord sees in us.

  1. GOD CAN DO FAR MORE ABUNDANTLY THAN ALL THAT WE … THINK

The word to think or imagine means to exercise the mind, comprehend, perceive, understand.

  • We might imagine incredible things happening by the grace and power of God. However, God says we have no understanding, no perception, no comprehension of what He is able to do in His power. As it is written in Isaiah, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. 9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Is 55:8-9.
  • Notice that it’s not just God’s power “out there” in the world that Paul is writing about. It is God’s power “that is at work within us.” [Eph 3:20.] He means that God’s power is at work within the individual believer and also within the church.

Paul wrote previously in Eph 1:19, that he prayed that his readers might know God’s power in their lives, and reminded them that that same power was used in raising Jesus from the dead. It is nothing less than resurrection power that is available to His people.

  • That same power is now available to enable us to be what He wants us to be in terms of Christian character. We can be different by the grace of God.
  • That power enables us to know what He wants us to know, so that we can know His will for us by His Spirit.
  • That same power enables us to do what He wants us to do, in the power of His Spirit.

Prayer that derives from faith, coming from an intimate relationship with God, is able to release the power of God into the situations for which we pray.

  • He can do more than we ever possibly ask for.
  • He can do more than we could ever possibly imagine or comprehend.

Let’s think about the implications of what Paul wrote in Eph 3:20-21.

  • No matter what we ask, God can do more. That should encourage us to ask for more than we’ve ever asked for before. Not just the power to cope, but the power to conquer. Not just healing to take away the pain, but complete healing.
  • If we use our greatest imagination, could we imagine our illness being healed. If we can imagine that, we still can’t comprehend how much more He can do in answer to prayer.

Because our God is the God who can do more than all we ask or imagine, we may need to allow Him to put into our hearts what He would have us pray. Then let’s ask Him for those things and immediately thank Him that they are ours in Christ, to be released in His way, in His time and importantly, through whom He wishes.  To His glory!

Blog No.319. Posted on jimholbeck.blog on Sunday 14thJuly 2019

Posted in BIBLE PASSAGE OUTLINES, Bible verses. Comments, Faithfulness, Forgiveness, Healing, OUTLINE OF EPHESIANS, Prayer, Praying our way through Paul's letter to the Ephesians | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

318. Recalling Some Healings. [A podcast of a talk at a Men’s Breakfast at Grace Church Port Macquarie, June 2019.]

[The following link is to a podcast of a talk I gave at a Men’s Breakfast at Grace Church, Port Macquarie in June 2019 and which they later posted on their website.]

I had been asked to speak on tips for healing. Because healing is something that God alone can do, I spoke on some of the healings we had observed over the years where God worked sovereignly to our amazement or where we saw Him work in answer to prayer.

The best tip for those who want to be involved in praying for healing is to believe that He can heal today and then to trust Him to do it in the lives of those for whom we pray! He is THE HEALER! Not us, though He may use us, or others,  in His healing of people today.

Encouragements for all of us today

I concluded the talk with the challenges that come from passages in Ephesians chapter 2 and the next epistle Philippians chapter 2.

Ephesians 2:8-10 (ESV) “8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

I mentioned that every believer has been created by God to do the good things He has prepared for them to do. Our responsibility is to find out what they are and to ‘walk in them.’ What an amazing truth that God from all eternity had a plan and purpose for us to accomplish for Him.

The next passage is very reassuring. When we discover what is it that God has planned for us to do, we might become fearful or overawed. But we can have confidence as we look at these verses.

Philippians 2:12-13 (ESV) 12 “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”

In working out our salvation [not working for it, because salvation is a free gift to us in Christ] we have the assurance that God both motivates us and empowers us to do what He has planned for us to do. He works in us to give us the willingness to do His will. AND He works in us to give us the ability to do what He has given us the willingness to do.

So one might say that the Christian life is so simple. Having received Christ into our lives as Saviour and Lord all we need to do is to allow Him to do in us and through us what He longs to do, [what He has eternally planned for us to do]. The only problem is that He has given us free will and often our Agenda is quite different to His.

What might happen if we gave ourselves completely to Him, allowing Him fill us with His presence by His Holy Spirit and allowing Him do in and through us what He wills!

A prayer like this based on Romans 12:1-2 might allow Him to become more active your life. “Heavenly Father, I offer to you all I am and all I have, that You might work through me to Your glory. I no longer want to be controlled by the world, the flesh or the devil. Rather I want to be transformed by Your Spirit as You renew my mind so that I can know Your will and experience Your power in doing it. In Jesus’ name. AMEN.”

OR more simply, “Lord do in me and through me what You wish, to Your glory. In Jesus’ name. AMEN.”

This is the link to click on to hear the talk. I trust it may be of some help to you as you seek to live for Him and to serve Him.

https://www.gracechurchpm.org.au/podcast/2019/6/3/mens-breakfast

Blog No.318. Recalling Some Healings. [A podcast of a talk at a Men’s Breakfast at Grace Church Port Macquarie, June 2019.]318. Recalling some healings. [A podcast of a talk at a Men’s Breakfast at Grace Church Port Macquarie, June 2019.] 

 

Posted in Bible verses. Comments, Evangelism, Forgiveness, Healing, Holbeck Helpful Hints, Prayer, Real Life Stories, Salvation, Sanctification, spiritual warfare | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

317. THE MISSING “FACTOR” IN THE CLIMATE CHANGE DEBATE. What if….. Jesus?

We have seen many different changes in the debate about the human contribution to climate change and there have been many suggestions given as to how to “save the world.” Our Chief Scientist in Australia as well as many other climate experts throughout the world, have suggested that a small country [in population] like Australia contributes little to the global emissions and that it could do virtually nothing to make any measurable difference to climate change.

Other well -qualified scientists throughout the world seem to suggest that unless something radical is done to combat global warming then the situation for humans could be disastrous within 20 years or so. One of their suggestions is to radically reduce the amount of Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The way some of them have approached this ‘problem’ is questionable to say the least.

A good beginning

It is helpful to remember that God created this world as a “good” place where everything was in order and submitted to Him. However, Satan tempted Adam and Eve to disobey God in a vain attempt to be like God. They wanted to be powerful like Him and to be free to live as they pleased. As a result of their sin, order became disorder and the whole world suffered as a result.

Sin and death had entered the world through their sin, as Paul wrote in Romans 5:12 “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.” Not only that, but the creation itself was affected. It was no longer “good” but had become corrupted because of human sin,  “For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.” Romans 8:20-21.

An imperfect world

The result is that we live in an imperfect world which is ‘out of order’ with God’s original intention. Often the creation seems to be out of order as major floods, earthquakes, typhoons, tornados and cyclones occur, but He is always in control. We see in the Old Testament that God controlled the weather.  That is seen in the history of Israel. There were times when He used aspects of His creation to accomplish His purposes for His people. For example, at the Exodus from Egypt, when He delivered His people by holding back the waters for His people to cross over safely, miraculously as on dry land.

The Lord promised His blessing of abundant rain on those who loved Him and served Him, in Deuteronomy 11:13-15, “And if you will indeed obey my commandments that I command you today, to love the Lord your God, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul, 14 he will give the rain for your land in its season, the early rain and the later rain, that you may gather in your grain and your wine and your oil. 15 And he will give grass in your fields for your livestock, and you shall eat and be full.”

However if they failed to love and serve Him, such blessing would be withheld from them, “then the anger of the Lord will be kindled against you, and he will shut up the heavens, so that there will be no rain, and the land will yield no fruit, andyou will perish quickly off the good land that the Lord is giving you.” Deut 11:17.

God warned Solomon about the danger of falling away from Him, with these words, “When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people, 14 if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:13-14.  Obedience to God brought blessing. Disobedience to Him brought disaster. But if His people repented of their sin and turned back to God, blessing would follow.

There are many other passages in the Old Testament where it is shown that God rules over His universe and over its weather.

A change in the New Testament

However when we come to the New Testament we discover an interesting encounter. Jesus once faced a sea that was out of order until He took authority over it and it settled immediately, “He got up, rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Silence! Be still! ” The wind ceased, and there was a great calm. 40 Then he said to them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith? ”41 And they were terrified and asked one another, “Who then is this? Even the wind and the sea obey him!” Mark 4:39-41.  A very good question to ask! And there is an answer!

In the gospel of John we are told that Jesus was the creator of the world and of everything in it,“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.” John 1:1-3.  The same concept is found in Colossians 1:16-17, “For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”

The writer to the Hebrews expresses the same thought about Jesus as the creator of all things,  “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.” Hebrews 1: 1-2. But the writer also takes up the thought of Col 1:17, [“…. and in him all things hold together]when he or she writes of Jesus, Hebrews 1:3 “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.”

In other words, Jesus is seen as the Creator of the universe and also the One who keeps it going as the Sustainer of the universe! Now! And always will!

WHAT IF? [What if Jesus IS the Creator AND the Sustainer of the universe?]

This has tremendous implications for the way in which we view the world. As one reads the articles of some of those concerned about global warming or climate change, one gets the impression that we humans are the custodians of the world we inherited and in which we live and that we alone are responsible for its upkeep. There is much truth in that concept. But many go on from there and believe that we must make every effort to deal with what we perceive to be the the dangers to our world, otherwise the earth is doomed. [Within 12 years some tell us!]

However, this is God’s world, created by Jesus and sustained by Him, though we must play our part in being good stewards of the resources we share in the world in which we live.

What is lost in discussions about climate change however, is this.

  • It is not our ultimate responsibility to care for the universe we live in. It is Jesus’ responsibility, not ours!
  • Our ultimate responsibility as creatures, is to come into a right relationship with Jesus, our Creator, and to live responsibly before Him in every aspect of our lives.
  • It means making Him to be the Lord and Master of our lives, playing our part in what He wants us to do IN His creation. It also means playing our part in what He wants us to do FOR His creation. The latter has to be His plan, not ours.
  • It is a fantasising about our responsibility as creatures, to think that we in Australia can make a massive difference to the control of the weather by anything we do. Virtue signalling by imposing heavy restrictions on our own country doesn’t really help either when bigger nations have no intention of reducing their outputs!
  • It is an abrogation of our responsibility as creatures to our creator to leave Him out of the equation. He is THE climate expert! He knows what He is doing with the climate!
  • Some have argued that if the focus of humans is taken off Jesus as the Creator-Sustainer of this universe, then we are in fact setting up a new religion in which “climate change” becomes the new god to be served.

Making creation our God, instead of worshipping Jesus as the Creator-Sustainer

Paul wrote about human rebellion in Romans 1:18-25 and revealed His view of the fallen world as He sees it. He made the point that God has revealed Himself in His creation but humans fail to acknowledge Him for who He is. Rom 1:24 states that God handed them over to do what they wanted to do in their free-will, because as verse 25 puts it, “because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen”. Rom 1:25.

 It seems in the thinking of many today that the creation has to be appeased by making all sorts of personal, national and international sacrifices lest we stress the creation in some way or other by misuse or by excessive production [for example of gases.] If we don’t play our part, then we are told that nature will not treat us well. This is a personification of nature. It has become a new religion.

HE [JESUS] IS THE MISSING FACTOR!

We need to remember that Satan’s temptations are to get us to seek to become more powerful by rejecting God’s control over us so that we can control our own world, to do our own thing apart from Him.

However ,Jesus is not only the Creator-Sustainer of the universe. He is also its Redeemer through His sacrificial death on the cross. He now offers all humans forgiveness of sins and a new life in Himself as their Saviour. Such an offer of grace cannot safely be ignored or rejected.

What is often not appreciated is that He also wants to be Lord and Master of every human life as well. He wants to lead us into making all the decisions He wants us to make as we live for Him in this world. Decisions about what we do in His world. Decisions about what we do for the sake of the world and for the peoples of the world. Making every effort to fulfil His plan and purpose for us in His world. And that means becoming a wise steward of all we are and have in His world as we live under His Lordship.

Jesus is the missing factor in today’s discussions about the world and about the climate of the world. Unfortunately many ignore Him and want us to follow a new religion with its focus on the creation rather on the Creator!

How much better it would be if we creatures got into a right relationship with Jesus our Creator by accepting Him as Saviour and Lord and trusted Him to care for His creation (whilst allowing Him to show us what part we are to play in caring for the world ultimately under His control).

Blog No. 317 posted on www.jimholbeck.blog on Saturday 11th May 2019.

Posted in BIBLE PASSAGE OUTLINES, Climate change, Creation, Evangelism, Forgiveness, Politics, Prayer, Salvation | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

316. Was The Australian Rugby Union Star, Israel Folau guilty of “hate speech?”

In his article posted on Instagram, Israel Folau posted a coloured warning notice which was based on the Bible passage of 1 Corinthians 6:9-11. It read, “WARNING.  Drunks, Homosexuals, Adulterers, Liars, Fornicators, Thieves, Atheists, Idolaters. HELL AWAITS YOU. REPENT! ONLY JESUS SAVES”  He then added a comment, “Those that are living in Sin will end up in Hell. ”  He then addressed his readers, “unless you repent. Jesus Christ loves you and is giving you time to turn away from your sin and come to him.”

A difficulty

Part of the difficulty in the situation is that in the one sentence he made a statement based on the Bible passage, but then challenged his readers directly. The Warning notice also ended with a challenge to his readers, “Hell awaits you.” It is one thing to make a statement that people can accept or reject if they wish. It is another to address them directly as “you!” Many people don’t like to be preached at! Even from a distance! Even in a general article addressed to a wide group of people perhaps unknown to the writer!

To what extent were his words “hate speech?” Was he motivated by hate?

A possible motivation for posting what he did, could be seen in the remaining words in his post on Instagram.  He went on to quote a passage from Galatians 5:19-21 which spells out the characteristics of unregenerate human nature. [The nature we were all born with.] It includes some of the behaviours mentioned on the Warning sign. The passage ends with the phrase, “they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.”

However, Folau did not leave it there. He also added to his post, an answer as to how people could be forgiven of their sins, in the words of Peter in Acts 2:38, “Then Peter said unto them, ‘Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost’.” The final part of the post was a direct quote from Acts 17:30, “And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent.”

Summing up

It seems then that Folau has taken the opportunity while enjoying some personal time out,  to share part of his Christian beliefs on Instagram. His language was not simple to follow but his intention, judging from the gentle self- deprecating manner for which he is known, appears to have been a genuine concern on his part to help others. It could be argued that far from being “hate speech” it was a demonstration of “love speech” as he tried to be helpful to those who might read his article.

Was Folau correct in what he wrote?

Yes and No! Yes, in the sense that he wrote about God’s revelation of Himself and His will in which He declares through the apostle Paul that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23. Folau was right in listing the characteristics of those who would end up in hell if they failed to repent of their sin and turn to God. But he was wrong to list only those mentioned on the Warning sign. It is true from the teaching of the Bible, that every single person faces the danger of being hell-bound unless they repent and believe.

That is brought out in the passage from John 3:16-18. This passage reads, Jon 3:16  “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” This tells us that people are already perishing, but by believing in Jesus they can have eternal life. Or in other words in the verse, they are already condemned but the condemnation is removed when they trust in Jesus. That is the good news!

Was he wise in what he wrote?

Unfortunately he failed to give the full extent of the good news. He failed to quote the next verse [1 Cor 6:11] which gives an encouragement for people to change their behaviour to be able to please God. “And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” Paul was reminding his readers in the church in Corinth that, by the grace of God, they had changed. Whereas many of them were once guilty of such behaviour, they were now different. They had heard the gospel message. They had come to trust in Jesus and God had done a work on them by the power of His Holy Spirit. Paul described that work as being ‘washed’, ‘sanctified’ and ‘justified.’ He had washed them, meaning He had cleansed them of their sin. He had sanctified them. In other words, He had set them apart to belong to Himself and had begun the process of making them more and more like Himself. He had justified them in the sense that He had brought them into a right relationship with Himself. He now saw them as righteous in His sight.

It would have been better if Israel had added this following verse to show that people in Paul’s day had changed as they responded the gospelcmesssage about Jesus and that change is possible in today’s world, for those for those who wish to live different lives.

We need to remember that the concepts behind the words he used [based on 1 Corinthians 6] have been circulating among humans for about 2,000 years. Folau didn’t invent them. He simply quoted them, as countless other people have done over many centuries.

Motives are important

Paul’s motive? In writing to the believers in Corinth Paul sought to encourage them to remember what God had done for them in His love and power. Once they had not been acceptable to God, nor had their behaviour, but now that had all changed because of their response to His love. They had changed as they repented and turned to God for forgiveness. They became different people with a different mind-set and a vastly different behavioural pattern.

Folau’s motive? One cannot say for sure what his motive was in publishing his post. There seems to be no attempt on his part to put people down. He was speaking generally and not picking on any individual or any particular individual group. He was not seeking to incite violence [which is one of the purposes of hate speech]. It may have been a sincere attempt on his part to warn people that failure to repent of sin and turn to God, has disastrous consequences for humans. If that were so, then he may have been acting in love, in sharing that warning with those who perhaps didn’t know they were in danger. That would mean that his post on Instagram could have been seen as ‘love speech.’ It could be seen that he was seeking to bring a good outcome to those who read his posting. But who can know his or other people’s deepest motivations?

Unfortunately some critics seem to think they do! The responses of some people to his article could be construed as hate-speech as they wrote disparagingly about him as a person in besmirching his character. Some actually wished that harm might come on him, not just in losing his job as a player but wanting physical harm to come upon him. That is hate speech!

The Future?

Folau feels he should attempt to keep alive his career as a Rugby professional playing for the Waratahs and for Australia. I am not qualified to write on the legalities of the situation. One commentator put it simply, “He was under contract and broke the contract, so he is out!” Another questioned whether it is legally possible to draw up a contract that restricts freedom of religion or freedom of speech on social media for the individual being contracted. Especially when Clause 116 of The Australian Constitution contains these words, “The Commonwealth shall not make any law for establishing any religion, or for imposing any religious observance, or for prohibiting the free exercise of any religion ….”  The Folau situation may be more legally complicated than many imagine. I humbly leave it to the experts in the field to resolve the issue!

It is a sad story and there are no simple answers. Much damage has already been done. Some people have already said too much and in the process revealed possible disturbing aspects about their own characters. Some players, being pushed by the media, expressed opinions that may have better been left unsaid.

When “inclusion”becomes “exclusion.”

What is sad to see, is how many people have become involved in virtue-signalling by criticising or even condemning Folau from their own sense of self-righteousness. Others have suggested that Folau would not be welcome in their particular group or establishment. Why? Because He was guilty of hate speech in their opinion! But is he really? Or some suggested that he was not being inclusive enough. Their response to Folau’s supposed lack of inclusiveness? “Let’s exclude him! For ever!” Hypocrisy and double standards abound!

Did Folau use threatening language?

It was sad to read that some folk had seen Folau as guilty of using threatening language in his post. In reality he was not threatening people. Rather out of concern  for his fellow humans, it seems that he took the time to warn people that they were already in a perilous situation from God’s point of view, not just from his own viewpoint. He encouraged them to take the steps necessary for being “saved’ from that certain peril. It is love, not hate, to attempt to save people from danger.

A statement that is often being quoted these days expresses this concept, “Offence is not given, it is taken!” There appears to be much truth in the saying as numerous folk “play the victim.” They take offence when none is intended by the speaker. How tragic it would be if “offence takers” were to shut down any speech or writing that offended them! That is already happening in our world today and it is stultifying any robust good natured discussion on many subjects.

An article by Chris Merritt in the May 11th Weekend Australian makes this point. “In the rest of the world there is no right to be free from offence, as was made clear by Jim Spigelman, a former chief justice of NSW, when he delivered the 2012 Human Rights Day address.” Spigelman’s words were these,  “The freedom to offend is an integral component of freedom of speech. There is no right not to be offended.” 

What is unchanging in a changing world?

The Bible is God’s revealed word to His creation. It is His eternal word which tells us about THE ETERNAL WORD, Jesus the Son of God.  It means when Israel Folau has long gone, and all his destructors are gone, and we are all long gone, that the words of the Bible will still exist. The passage Folau quoted from 1Corinthians 6, and many other Bible verses will still stand in judgment on all people of every generation. But still existing also will be the verses describing God’s incredible love for humankind. For the person living in 2100 and the person alive in 3000, the gospel truths will still be there for them to receive and to act upon,  especially the verse described as “the gospel in a nutshell,” John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

It is God’s word that sits in judgment of us and not vice versa. It tells us how God sees us in our need and what He has done to meet that need in His love, mercy and grace. He has made it possible for all people to be forgiven of their sin, to be given a new life with a renewed mind and a new way of living that is extremely meaningful and advantageous for them and also pleasing to Him.

Many may not agree with how Folau formulated his post on Instagram, nor understand his motive in writing what he did, but it has certainly made some people aware that there are important decisions to be made in life. The decision about what to do with Folau is one of those difficult questions for many people. But the decision about what to with the Jesus of whom he writes, is infinitely more important. The consequences of that decision are eternal!

NOTES

NOTE 1. The Instagram website of Israel Folau is https://www.instagram.com/p/BwEWt2uHcLI/

BlogNo. 316. Posted on http://www.jimholbeck.blog on Wednesday 8th May 2019

 

 

 

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315. Striving for significance? You don’t need to as a believer! The truth of Ephesians 1:4

There are many believers today who are earnestly striving for significance. They feel they are insignificant as people in the world. Others feel that the contribution they try to make to the world is insignificant. The problem is that when one begins to believe that one is of no value and that everything one does is of no value either, then it becomes very difficult to have any confidence in one’s value as a person or in the work one tries to do for God.

The truth is that every human being is significant in the eyes of the Lord. That’s why Jesus died for every person whilst knowing that many people would ignore or reject His death for them. 

The question then is this. When did the believer become significant in the eyes of the Lord? Was it as baptism or confirmation? Was it when one received Christ as Saviour and Lord into one’s life? Was it when one yielded his or her life completely to the Lord?

The answer is quite amazing. Paul expressed it  like this in Ephesians 1:4, ” 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 to himself 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.”

What an incredible truth revealed to us by the Lord Himself! He chose every individual believer to belong to Himself BEFORE THE WORLD WAS MADE! In other words we were, as believers, in the mind and purpose of God before the world even came into being! We are people of eternal significance! God says so!

His purpose in doing so? That we should live to praise Him as verse 6 states, “to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.”  We are significant in His sight as His people even though others may consider us to be insignificant nobodies!

What about the work we try to do for the Lord as we live for Him? That is significant as well. Having realised our significance as people who have been chosen to belong to Him and who have been saved by His grace,  we can live by faith trusting Him to guide us and to lead us into doing what He wants us to do. But what should we do?

God has already taken care of that as well! Paul expressed it in the next chapter, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:8-10.  

Instead of driving ourselves crazy wondering what we are mean to do for the Lord, we have the assurance He has re-created us to do what He has eternally planned for us to do! These works have always been in His mind for us. Now we are to walk in those good works He has already prepared for us to walk in.

People chosen by God and prepared and equipped by Him to do the significant work He has prepared for them to do

Significance indeed! Eternal significance!

Blog No 316 posted on http://www.jimholbeck.blog on Wednesday 20th March 2019.

 

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314. “Praying for Spiritual Strength.” Ephesians 3:14-19. [In the Series, ‘Praying Through Ephesians.’]

My turn to preach the Student Sermon in the Ridley College Chapel in Melbourne, Australia! What will I preach on? That was the question! Preaching in front of world-renowned Biblical scholars and fellow students at a theological college was never going to be easy! Best to preach on a passage that fascinated me personally! Ephesians 3:14-19 would be the passage!

It’s hard to recall some 51 years later what I said or what members of the teaching staff said in their “carving up” [aka ‘constructive criticism’ of the sermon] later that night. But I did survive! The fascination also survived! What a magnificent passage it is! It’s a prayer I have prayed countless times since that Monday afternoon Chapel service.  It is a prayer for spiritual strength that ends with the petition that we might be filled to the measure of all the fulness of God! What a great prayer to pray for oneself and for family, friends and especially for one’s “foes!” [Jesus did command, “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Mat 5:44!] Someone remarked many years ago that the best way to get rid of an enemy is to turn them into a friend! Sincerely praying this prayer for them might indeed eventually turn that enemy into a friend.

THE NIV TEXT OF EPHESIANS 3:14-19

Eph 3:14  “For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God”.

A SUGGESTED PRAYER BASED ON EPHESIANS 3:14-19

No suggested prayer this time! My suggestion, rather, is that you pray the prayer using the verses in the text above. Paul described in these verses how he prayed for his readers. I couldn’t improve on the prayer especially as it part of the inspired word of God. You could pray it though, using the words of many of the numerous translations that are available to us these days.  What I will do, is to bring out some of the meanings in the verses above, to help in understanding the depth of meaning in what we are praying.

A].     HOW PAUL PRAYED. [Verses 14-15]

1].   He Prayed Earnestly. Eph 3:14 “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father.” The word for “bow” [kamptō, κάμπτω] is only used 4 times in the New Testament. It is used to represent total submission and is used in Romans 14:11 and Philippians 2:10 to indicate the total submission of people to God when Christ returns. In the other verse [Romans 11:4] God told Elijah that He still had seven thousand men who had not “bowed” the knee to Baal. They had remained loyal to the God of Israel. In our Australian lingo Paul was “Fair Dinkum’ [that is, really, really sincere] in his prayers for the saints in Ephesus.

2].    He Prayed To The Heavenly Father. 15 “from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named.” Paul had spoken of God as Father in verse 14 where the word is “patēr”. In verse 14 he uses a cognate of the word in using “patria” for “family.” Paul is inferring that all fatherhood derives its origin from God as Father. Fatherhood, indeed parenthood, was His idea, not a human construct!

B.}     WHAT PAUL PRAYED. [Verses 16-19]

1].   That they might know inwardly the Spirit’s power. 3:16  “that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being.”

We note that the phrase is “according to the riches…”.  Not “out of” so that there is a diminishing supply of riches. Rather according to the measure of His riches, which we saw in Ephesians 3:8, are “unsearchable.”  His riches are inexhaustible. Enough for everyone! All the time!

“Strengthened with power..” . Paul often combines different words for power in the same verse. He uses here, “krataioō” from “kratos” dominion, for ‘strengthen.”  Here it is coupled with “dunamis” which was often used of the mighty works or miracles of Jesus.  He has in mind the power of God being imparted to the inner being of his readers by the Holy Spirit. Power indeed! God’s power! In us! By His grace!

2].  That Christ might be “at home” in their hearts. 3:17 “so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith– that you, being rooted and grounded in love.”

“May dwell”.  If believers are already indwelt by Christ why does Paul pray for Christ to indwell them?  The answer is in the word he uses for “dwell”. The usual word for “dwell” is “oikeō”.  Here the word is an intensified form of that word.  It is “katoikeō” which means to abide, settle down, make one’s permanent home in. He prays that Christ might take up full residence in human hearts as they are opened wide to Him. [One prays that Christ might not only dwell in human hearts but also “feel at home” in the hearts which are opened wide to Him.]

3].  That they might have power to comprehend the fulness of the love of Christ. 3:17-19

Verse 17 was a reminder to his readers that their Christian pilgrimage was based on love, “that you, being rooted and grounded in love.”   “Rooted” is [rhizoō] which is only found twice in the New Testament. [The other occurrence is in Colossians 2:7]. But verse 17 could be translated “that you having been rooted and having been grounded in love” because both verbs are in the Perfect tense indicating a past action with a present abiding result.  They were rooted and grounded in love in the past by a past action of God [both verbs are also in the passive, meaning something was done to them] and that state continues for the believer.

Verse 18 builds on that concept that having been based on love they might go on to experience a greater measure of all the dimensions of that love. Paul prays that they “may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth [of Christ’s love].” The phrase “with all the saints” is significant. No one can grasp the immensity of the love of God. But in fellowship with other saints we can be enriched by hearing of their grasp and experience of God’s love in the experiences they have been through in life.

Christ’s love is beyond measure, “what is the breadth and length and height and depth [of Christ’s love].” So is the knowledge of that love. Paul goes on to pray that they might have a greater knowledge of that love.

4].   That they might be able to know [the ultimately unknowable] Christ’s love. 3:19  “and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge.” Knowing the unknowable. Paul wants his readers to know more and more about the love of God whilst realising that they cannot fully comprehend or appropriate such love. It is surpassing knowledge where “surpassing” is a present participle of the verb [huperbállō].  His love is a surpassing knowledge sort of love.  The English word “hyperbole” comes from the Greek word [huperbolḗ; ὑπερβολή] derived from the verb [huperbállō meaning to throw beyond, surpass.]  In English a hyperbole is an extravagant exaggeration but there is no extravagant exaggeration to Christ’s love. It is far beyond any measure. It is far beyond any knowledge. It is far beyond any person’s capability to understand it. It is far beyond any person’s ability to experience it in full. There is always more to be experienced of His immeasurable love!

C).       THE ULTIMATE PURPOSE OF PAUL’S PRAYER FOR THE EPHESIANS.  Verse 3:19.  

That they might be filled with God’s presence.   3:19 “…. that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” What does “filled with all the fulness of God” mean? King Solomon said in 1Kings 8:27 “But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you; how much less this house that I have built!” If it is true that the heavens cannot contain God, how can believers be filled with the fulness of God?

Some indication is given in Colossians 2:9-10 where Paul writes, “For in him the whole fulness ( noun “plērōma”) of deity dwells bodily, 10 and you have been filled (verb “plēroō”)  in him, who is the head of all rule and authority”. We need to see that the fulness of God is associated with Christ and that our being filled with the fulness of God is dependent on our relationship with Christ. The more He is allowed to occupy His home in our hearts, the more access He has to every part of our lives and our personalities, the more of the fulness of God we will receive.   Paul expressed it well when he wrote of his Christian experience in Galatians 2:19-20, “For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me”.

Living in the fulness of the fulness of God means nothing less than allowing Christ to live His life unhindered in and through us as His people.

What a great prayer to pray for ourselves and our loved ones! But it takes someone filled with the fulness of God, with the love of God,  to pray it for their enemies. We cannot remain filled with the fulness of God until we repent of our unwillingness to love others, especially those whom we see as our enemies! After all, God’s love can only be poured out by His Spirit into and through loving hearts, Rom 5:5 “And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”

Blog No.314 posted on http://www.jimholbeck.blog on Thursday 14th February 2019.

( A love message to the beloved saints on St Valentine’s Day 2019)

 

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313. A Tribute To A Humble Servant of God. Bruce Robert Moon. 1941 to 2019.

It was a great privilege for us as a retired clergy group in Port Macquarie [called the Amigos], to ask Bruce Moon to join our group. Some of us had known Bruce for many years and had ministered with him or for him over previous decades. I remember taking an all-day session on Healing that he arranged at Wahroonga in Sydney when I was in charge of the Healing Ministry at St Andrew’s Cathedral. It was very obvious how much he and Julie loved the Lord and how they both desperately longed for people to experience the saving and healing touch of Jesus. Bruce was not an ordained clergyman but had perhaps more experience in ministry than many ordained folk. His experience in setting captives free from the occult and from other forms of the powers of darkness was highly valued in developing countries and churches. It was only natural he should join us and share his experience and spiritual wisdom with us. He certainly did that and he was a great blessing to us since his retirement to Port Macquarie.

His ministry was especially valued by those to whom he ministered in overseas countries as part of [and later the head of] SOMA Sharing of Ministries Abroad outreach teams. That was obvious in the warm messages of thanks he received from those to whom he ministered who are now Archbishops and Senior Clergy of some of the biggest Anglican churches in the world. Some have expressed profound sorrow at his passing whilst continuing to be very grateful for the contribution he made to their personal lives, to their churches and to their dioceses.

I have asked permission of someone who knew him very well over many years and who ministered together in the past, to share in this article a tribute he posted on Facebook.  The permission was granted. This is the tribute.

“BRUCE MOON, a long-term, close friend, a beloved fellow-servant of our Lord Jesus and a faithful witness to the power of the Gospel, was the Australian leader of SOMA Ministries and invited Frieda and me to serve under his leadership in a SOMA mission under the oversight of Bishop James Wong and the Anglican Diocese of the Seychelles.

Two weeks ago God called Bruce “home” most unexpectedly. Bruce and Julie, his sweet, devoted and delightful “help-meet” of 52 years, have made Port Macquarie home for the past 6-7 years.

Frieda and I give praise to God for the privilege He gave us not only to have Bruce and Julie as close Christian friends but also to be fellow-travellers with them in their and our journeys of faith.

Bruce, by profession an engineer of international standing in the pharmaceutical world, was a man of the Spirit, wisdom and faith. God used him to pray for the healing of many sick and the deliverance of many demon-afflicted people in many places and different countries, often giving him the joy to witness wonderful miracles of deliverance and healing.

Then around ten years ago, Bruce himself was suddenly struck down with a devastating eye problem which overnight left him legally blind. But he and Julie – together with a team of faithful intercessors – refused to accept this as his “fate.” He – and we – began to pray for Bruce’s healing. Over the following months, we witnessed a miracle of healing unfolding – first from 5% vision, Bruce reported an improvement to 10%, then to 40%, until God gave him back close to 90% vision – all because Bruce and Julie believed and encouraged us to believe with them in the God who heals.

Then several years ago, Julie suffered a life-threatening illness. Again Bruce and Julie went to prayer and together with them we have been witnessing more of the same – God’s healing touch in the face of the doctor’s very negative prognosis.

Bruce is no longer with us but he has left us a legacy of strong and persevering faith in a God who is alive and at work through His Spirit in and through the lives of His people who trust in Him. We honour Bruce and Julie for their genuine, enduring love for us, their strong support for our Equip & Encouragement International ministries, their clear and practical words of encouragement and occasionally correction and their example both of a husband and wife truly one in life and faith and of believing prayer in the face of human impossibilities.

Well done, my good friend, Bruce, faithful servant of our Lord Jesus. We’ll meet again soon around the Throne! Hallelujah!” Graham and Frieda Roberts.

WE would add a very loud “AMEN!”

Bruce was highly regarded in the secular world as well. The International Society of Pharmaceutical Engineers awarded him a “Distinguished Service Award” in 2007. International awards like that don’t come easily. Especially for Australians! It showed a recognition of the value of his work in that industry over many years. It also showed the huge personal respect he gained amongst his peers as a person from “down-under” on the international stage.

WE extend to Julie and to all the family our deep sadness at Bruce’s passing but rejoice with them for the kind, loving and deep legacy he has left with all of us who knew and respected him for his decency, integrity and personal support.

Blog No.313 posted on http://www.jimholbeck.blog on Sunday 10th February 2019

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