356. Pentecost. Motivation and Empowerment for Living. Acts 1:6-8. [Part 1 of 2.]

 We are normally motivated to do good things in life rather than that which is obviously bad. But we have to qualify that by admitting that humans are not always motivated to do some of the good things in life. Obeying the two Great Commandments of Jesus would indeed be a very good thing to do but very few people are willing to love God with all their heart and mind and soul and strength. Neither are they willing to love their neighbours as themselves.  We are increasingly becoming an “I” and “My” and “Mine” generation, rather than living in willing subjection to God and in a sacrificial loving service to our fellow humans. If we don’t have the motivation to do what God wants us to do, then we will not receive His empowerment to do so either.

People With Motivation But No Power

As we read Acts 1 we see that even the early disciples of Jesus who had been motivated to follow Him, realised they lacked power in their lives.  It’s probably one of the reasons why they asked the Risen Jesus, Acts 1:6  “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” Nothing much had changed for the disciples in spite of their commitment to Jesus.  The Roman occupation forces were still in control of the country in spite of the current expectation that the Messiah, the Christ, the Anointed One would raise up an army and drive the Romans from the land. Then Israel would be a mighty nation again. It wasn’t happening as they thought it might. Nor were they radically changed personally. Personal belief had not been accompanied by personal power.

How wonderful it would have been for them to hear the Risen Jesus promise them,  Acts 1:8  But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

Jesus’ Disciples Should Have Known Better

Jesus’ early followers didn’t just suddenly appear from nowhere. Many had been brought up in the Jewish faith and had probably been exposed to the Jewish sacred writings from their youth.  They would have known of many Bible passages that spoke of the New Covenant God would make with His people. In this New Covenant there would be a greater motivation and empowerment to live for God than ever existed before.

Old Testament Passages About Motivation And Empowerment For God’s People

i).    Jeremiah 31:31-33. Jeremiah predicted a New Covenant. Jeremiah 31:31  “Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, 33  But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”

The law of God would be internalised, rather than being “out there”. As Paul later wrote, the law was good but gave no power to humans to obey it. But in this New Covenant God would write His law on their hearts. There would be a deeper, more personal intimate relationship between a forgiving God and His people.

ii).   Ezekiel  11:19-20.  Jeremiah predicted that God would soften people’s hearts   enabling them to obey Him.  Ezekiel 11: 19), And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, 20  that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God. (See also Ezekekiel 36:26). God would give His people a heart transplant.  The new heart of flesh He would give them, would make them more sensitive to Him and to His will for them. He could motivate and empower His people to obey Him.

How would He do it? In Ezekiel 36:27 He tells us.  God would place His own Holy Spirit within them,  And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. The word for “cause” is (asah) which can mean to accomplish, achieve, bring about, fulfil, produce, work and many other meanings. It describes God enabling His people to walk in His statutes.  His Spirit would indwell them. The Spirit would motivate and empower them to do what God wanted them to do.

Instead of there being just a few people who would receive God’s Spirit to perform certain tasks for certain times, all of God’s people would receive His Spirit. That truth was emphasised in a later prophecy in Joel 2:28-29, “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. 29 Even on the male and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit. It meant that in the new age when the Spirit was to be poured out on all believers, they would be inwardly motivated and empowered by God’s Spirit to walk in the way God wanted them to live.

  At the end of the Old Testament era there was an expectancy that things would be different when the Promised Messiah, the Christ, the Anointed One came. It just needed the Messiah to come and establish the New Covenant so that God’s Spirit might be poured out on all who responded to Him.

The Disciples In Jesus’ Day. Motivation but no Power. Acts 1:6

Jesus came and established His Kingdom. He preached, taught and He healed.  Many people rejected Jesus and His ministry. They had no motivation to live as God wanted them to live. Others like the disciples did have the motivation having been with Jesus. But they didn’t have the power to live as God wanted them to live.  Even after His resurrection there was little change in them.  They were probably thinking, “Hey, things are supposed to be changing. When is it going to happen Lord?” Jesus answered their question.

 The Promise Of Power For The People Of God. Acts 1:8               

Power was about to be released. Jesus said in Acts 1:8, But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”9 And when he had said this, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. Peter said later on the Day of Pentecost that when Jesus ascended into heaven he “received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit” to pour out on the church on the Day of Pentecost.

Power Was Released On The Day Of Pentecost.  Acts 2:1-4,   1  When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. The gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out. The New Age of the Spirit had begun. Now the disciples of every age and throughout the ages could be Motivated and Empowered to do the will of God.

In the next blog, we will look at how believers today can know God’s motivating and equipping power to live for Him in today’s world. We will look at some “mind-blowing” truths that will challenge and encourage us deeply.

[An earlier form of this article was published as Blog No 023 in 2011. The truths are still relevant for today and are published here in this form for new readers.]

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355. The Holy Spirit Who Came At Pentecost Is Just Like Jesus. Who He is! What He does!

WE sometimes look at words and fail to notice their real significance for us. It can happen even as we read the Bible. Every now and then a word “pops out” and we become fascinated by its meaning. One such word was the word “advocate” in John 14:16 which I knew from other translations was called “Comforter.” The 2 translations seem to be different in concept, so I decided to have a look to see what the difference was, if any. Here is the NIV translation.

Joh 14:15 “If you love me, keep my commands. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever 17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.”

The first clue came as I looked up the word for “another.” John had a choice of two words to use. One was [allos] the other was [heteros]. John chose [allos] which means another of the same kind. [Heteros] means another of a different kind. So John had shown that the coming advocate or comforter was another of the same kind, a comforter just like Jesus.

How about the terms “advocate” or “comforter?” They come from the same Greek New Testament word [paraklētos; παράκλητος] from para = beside and kaleo to call. So it means someone called to the side of another person. Thus Comforter, Strengthener, Advocate, Helper, Encourager, Exhorter and Counsellor are all suitable translations for the word.

We see how it is used in John’s gospel. Jesus had told them He was about to leave them but the Father would be sending another Person just like Himself.

* Joh 14:26 “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” The Holy Spirit would be sent from God to represent Jesus, to be their teacher and to remind them of all His teaching.

* Joh 15:26  “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father—he will testify about me.” In this verse Jesus said that He would send the Holy Spirit to them from the Father, proceeding from the Father and the Holy Spirit would bear witness to Jesus.

* Joh 16:7-15. “But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. 8  When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: 9  about sin, because people do not believe in me; 10  about righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; 11  and about judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned. 12 “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. 13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. 14 He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. 15 All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.”

In this longer passage Jesus gave more detailed teaching about the person and work of the coming Holy Spirit.

  • His coming was dependent on Jesus’ going.
  • Jesus would send him to the disciples.
  • His ministry would be to prove the world to be wrong in three areas. The verb here is [elegchō; ἐλέγχω meaning to convict, convince, tell a fault, rebuke, reprove.]
    1. Verse 9 “about sin, because people do not believe in me.” The world was at fault for not believing in Jesus.  [As they are today!]
    2. Verse 10 “about righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer.” The fact that He was going to the Father showed that God had seen Jesus as righteous and had accepted all He had taught and done in His ministry on earth. Humans might have rejected Him but God Himself was going to accept Him. Righteousness is according to God’s values not [unbelieving] human values.
    3. Verse 11 “about judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.” The sin of the human race was about to be judged in Jesus’ imminent death on a cross, as He bore the sin of the whole world. Satan as the prince of the world had been defeated in Jesus’ death and now stood condemned. As Paul later explained, “And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.” Col 2:15.
  • His Ministry with also be to the disciples.
    • To guide them into all the truth.
    • To speak only what he hears, and to tell them what is yet to come.
    • 14 To glorify Christ from whom he would receive what he would make known to them. 15 To make known all that Christ would make known to Him [as the Father’s eternal heir.].

SUMMING UP:

The Holy Spirit was and is eternally a co-equal Person in the Holy Trinity.

His ministry is to take the place of Jesus so the disciples were not to be seen as orphans after HE left them, but are blessed by His abiding presence with them.

He came to prove the world wrong in its estimation and subsequent rejection of Him

He came to guide the disciples into all the truth Jesus had taught and to tell them of future things.

He came to glorify Christ. He came to be the same sort of comforter that Christ had been, as it were to continue His ministry of comforting, strengthening and guiding the disciples of Christ.

He is indeed, as Jesus said, A comforter of the same kind, just like Him!

The Creed of St Athanasias says of the Holy Spirit

The Holy Ghost is of the Father and of the Son: neither made, nor created, nor begotten, but proceeding.

So there is one Father, not three Fathers; one Son, not three Sons: one Holy Ghost, not three Holy Ghosts.

And in this Trinity none is afore, or after other: none is greater, or less than another;

But the whole three Persons are co-eternal together: and co-equal.

So that in all things, as is aforesaid: the Unity in Trinity, and the Trinity in Unity is to be worshipped.

He therefore that will be saved: must thus think of the Trinity.

[Note: There is one other reference in the New Testament to this word translated “advocate” in 1 John 1:21. However, this is a reference to Jesus Himself and not to the Holy Spirit. That will be for a future study to consider.]

Blog No.355 posted on Sunday 17th May 2020

 

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354. “Praying In” The Truths of Romans 12:1-2. Total Commitment To God! Which Every Human Needs To Make!

Many moons ago I posted this prayer as article No 051 on this blogsite. However, I thought that for the convenience of readers throughout the world, I should add it here next to the 2 articles I have written on Romans 12:1-2. 

THE TEXT

Romans 12:1  I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2  Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (ESV)

THE PRAYER

 Heavenly Father, I thank You for all the mercies You have bestowed on me.

I thank You for the forgiveness of my sins and for the gift of eternal life You have given me in Your Son Jesus Christ.

I thank You that He gave Himself for me, so that I might give myself to You.

I now present to You, all I am and all I have, as a living sacrifice to You. It’s my logical response to Your love for me. It’s my spiritual act of worship to You.

Transform me as a person by renewing my mind by Your Spirit, so that I think the way You want me to think about everything, especially about You and about Your will.

Give me discernment by Your Spirit, as I seek to put Your will into practice in my everyday life. Enable me to recognise Your will, and discover as I seek to do it, that it truly is good, acceptable and perfect.

I ask these things so that You may be honoured and glorified, in and through my life, in Jesus’ name I pray. AMEN.

Posted on http://www.jimholbeck.blog on Sunday 17th May 2020

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353.The Decision That Every Human In Every Age In Every Place Has To Make. Conformation or Transformation? Romans 12:1-2. [Part 2 of 2.]

In the previous article [click] I gave a brief summary of the challenge of this passage. It expresses God’s desire for all humans to break free from the binding nature of the world to which they are conformed and be transformed by presenting all they are and have to God. If humans do that, there follows a transformation within them as their minds are renewed. It means that with their newly renewed minds they can begin to put into practice what they now understand the will of God to be, and in the process find that His will is good and acceptable and perfect. 

This is the text, Romans 12:1] “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

A Closer Look At The Significant Words In This Passage.

A].       THE APPEAL TO PRESENT OURSELVES FULLY TO GOD.

i].         The Appeal. Rom 12:1, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers. “ [“Appeal” is parakaleō; παρακαλέω, means literally to call alongside. It can be translated as to comfort, encourage, exhort, beseech, strengthen and similar words.] The same phrase is used also in Rom. 15:30  where Paul appeals to his readers “to strive together with me in your prayers to God on my behalf” and in Rom. 16:17 where he appeals to them to “watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them.”

The only other reference in Romans 12:6- 8 where Paul encourages those who have the gift of exhorting or encouraging, to exercise that gift, “6 Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: …8 the one who exhorts, in his exhortation.” 

Paul is appealing to all his readers in this passage to present all they are and have, to God, so that His will might be done in and through them. 

ii].        The Reason Why They Should Respond To The Appeal. “The Mercies Of God.” 

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God.” We noted in Part 1 that Paul does not exhort them on the basis of the terrors of hell. Quite the opposite. It is based on the mercies of God. The word is [oiktirmos; οἰκτιρμός which is the noun form of the verb [oikteirō; οἰκτείρω ] meaning to show compassion or mercy. So the mercies of God are the evidences and acts of God’s grace he has been writing about in Romans chapters 1 to 11. They stem from the outward expression of His grace towards sinners because He is merciful, James 5:11, “You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.

In fact, God is called “the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort“ in 2 Cor 1:3. [NOTE 1].

iii].       To What Action Is The Appeal Directed? “to present your bodies as a living sacrifice”  “Present” is the verb [paristēmi; παρίστημι] which means to stand, establish, put in place, set up, as well as present. As you look at how Paul had previously used this word in Romans, we see the following. In 6:13, he commanded them to cease presenting their members to sin, but rather to present them to God as instruments of righteousness. They were to present themselves to God. He added to that in 6:19 that they were to present themselves to God in obedience as instruments of righteousness. Also in 6:19 they were encouraged to present their members as slaves to righteousness leading to salvation.

What is envisaged here is the complete surrender of the believer to God in body, mind and spirit. They were offering themselves to him as a living sacrifice. 

“living sacrifice.” This looks like an oxymoron, a contradiction in terms. The picture in the minds of many of us as we think of sacrifice, is that of animals and birds being killed to be offered as sacrifices in the temple. However, the sacrifice we are to offer, is that of ourselves as living human beings making ourselves available to God, to live for Him, to fulfil His purposes. 

“holy” [hagios; ἅγιος ]. The meaning of holy is to be separate. There are a lot of other words based on the root ‘hag’. These are some of the words we find in the New Testament. Hagnos =pure. Hagiazo = to sanctify or separate. Hagiasmos = sanctification.  Hagiosune = holiness. Hoi hagioi = the saints. There are numerous others. “Holy” means being separated from the world to belong exclusively to God. That is what God wants for all peoples, and He has made it possible for humans to become the “saints,” the separated ones, by turning from the world, to trust in Him alone. It is the gift of the Holy Spirit to believers as they put their trust in Him who allows that transformation to take place and who brings them into the people of God known as [οἱ άγιοι] “the saints.”

acceptable to God,” “Acceptable” is [euarestos; εὐάρεστος. ] It is made up of [eu meaning good or well] and [arestos meaning agreeable or pleasant. The word is used of pleasing God in 2 Corinthians 5:9, Ephesians 5:10 and Col 3:10. The writer of Hebrews 13:21 reminds us that when we offer ourselves to God as living sacrifices, He equips us to do His will by actually working within us to do the things that are pleasing or acceptable to God.  Heb 13:21  … working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.”

“which is your spiritual [logikos; λογικός ] worship.  []latreia; λατρεία ]. 

Other translations have, “is your reasonable service.”  

The word for spiritual “and “reasonable “is [logikos]. This is where our English word “logical” comes from. It is a “spiritual” act to present ourselves completely to God as a living sacrifice offered in worship to Him. It is a “reasonable” thing to do in response to what Christ is done for us. It makes sense [it is entirely reasonable ] that if He did everything described in Romans 1 to 11 for us in Christ, [sacrificed His life on our behalf]  that we should sacrifice our lives to Him as willing participants in what He wants to do in and through us for His good pleasure.

The word [latreia] is used of serving someone but is also used of worship.

Jesus in Jn 16:2 warned of those who would mistakenly kill believers thinking they were serving God by doing so. It is sad to recall that so many people in Jesus’ time on earth thought they were serving God in rejecting Jesus and seeking to destroy Him!

Paul in Rom 9:4 wrote about the inheritance the Jews had received, “They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises.”

The writer to the Hebrews in Heb 9 used the word to describe worship “Now even the first covenant had regulations for worship and an earthly place of holiness” 9:1. But the writer also wrote of ritual duties using the same word, “These preparations having thus been made, the priests go regularly into the first section, performing their ritual duties.” Heb 9:6.

Summing up verse 1. In verse 1, Paul has been exhorting his readers to make a decisive presentation of their bodies to the Lord in response to what God has done for them in Christ [the mercies of God]. It was to be an ongoing commitment to Him, [a living sacrifice] and not a once for all sacrifice to Him. This presentation of themselves to God would be pleasing to Him and would be seen as a reasonable thing to do in serving Him. Offering themselves to Him in this way would be see also as being spiritual worship directed to Him.  

But how were they to do that? And what benefits would derive from such a commitment to Him? Paul continues in the next verse to show them that a choice was needed. They could go on as they were [which God didn’t want them to do], or they could choose to give themselves to God and allow Him to transform them from within as He renewed their minds. Then and only then could they come to know the will of God and be able to do it. 

B].       THE CHOICE THEY HAD  TO MAKE. 12:2. Ongoing Conformation To The World Or A New Transformation By God For God?

An Ongoing Conformation?

Paul wrote, 2] “Do not be conformed to this world.”  [Conformed = syschēmatizō; συσχηματίζω and students of the Greek New Testament will recognise this as being a present tense, passive, imperative form of the verb.] It could be translated as “Do not keep on being conformed to the world.” One translator JB Phillips put it like this, “Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mould.” I really enjoyed that translation but felt that it could have been improved by altering it a little to these words, “Don’t let the world around you keep on squeezing you into its mould.” All humans, even born-again believers have the world around them continually seeking to squeeze them into the world’s mould. 

The “world” of course means more than the physical universe. As David Guzik wrote, the “world system” – the popular culture and manner of thinking that is in rebellion against God – will try to conform us to its ungodly pattern, and that process must be resisted.” [NOTE 2]

The only other occurrence in the NT is in 1 Peter 1:14 where Peter commands, “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance.”

That’s why at Baptism and Confirmation services we heard the question being asked of the candidates, “Do you renounce the world, the flesh and the devil?” The “world” is always a present reality to be renounced at all times. 

OR An Ongoing Transformation By God? [Not “Conformation” but “Transformation!”]

“but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

What an incredible change is being envisaged here! Described in powerful words! 

“but be transformed “ [The word is metamorphoō; μεταμορφόω meaning a change in form or appearance]. What is so amazing about this word, is that is used to describe the transfiguration of Jesus in Matt. 17:2 and in Mark 9:2, “And He was transfigured before them.”

The only other use in the New Testament is in 2 Corinthians 3:18 where the meaning is similar to here, in Romans 12. It reads, “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.” It is an ongoing transformation into the likeness of Christ wrought in them by the Holy Spirit!

But how does this inner transformation take place? Paul describes the process in Rom 12:2. 

“by the renewal of your mind.” [“Renewal” is anakainōsis; ἀνακαίνωσις where [ana ] can mean “again” or “up” or “from above.” And “kainos” means new, brand-new! ]

The only other reference in the NT is in Titus 3:5, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit.”

What does this transformation lead to? [Being able to understand and do the will of God!]

“that by testing you may discern” [both words are from dokimazō; δοκιμάζω] meaning to test and to approve after testing.] The verb is seen in both its uses in 1Thess 2:4, “but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts.” King David knew that God was the searching God who knew everything about everybody. He expressed it like this, “Search me O God and know my heart” in Psalm 139:1. However he wanted to be open to God’s scrutiny so he prayed at the end of the same Psalm, “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts!” Psalm 139:23. In both verses the word for “search” is our word “dokimazō” in the LXX, the Septuagint, the Greek version of the Old Testament. As God reveals His will to us by His Spirit, we attempt to try it out in practice, and we discover in the process that it is indeed “good and acceptable and perfect.” What does that mean in practice? 

“good “ is  [agathos; ἀγαθός]. This word implies not being just good in itself but it benefits others. It is essentially good but also helpful. His will is beneficial. 

“acceptable “ is [euarestos; . εὐάρεστος]. This is the same word as in verse 1. The offering of our bodies to God, according to the will of God, is an acceptable sacrifice in the sight of God. However it also brings about the discovery for the person who makes that sacrifice, that the will of God is indeed acceptable in the experience of those who do so and who “test” it out.

“perfect” is [teleios; τέλειος]. It has the meaning to be complete, wanting in nothing.  There is nothing that anyone can add to the will of God that could ever improve it. That was King David’s experience as he wrote Psalm 40:8, “I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.”

SUMMARY.  We see from the above that these two verses contain some deeper meanings which help us to realise the significance of the choice  that lies before every human on this planet.  Are they going to go on in the way of the world with its inbuilt resistance to God or are they going to make the sacrifice of presenting all they are and have to God in order to come to understand the will of God and be able to do it. They have a choice because they have freewill. But only God can enable them to carry through the choice once they make it. 

Some years ago I composed a prayer based on these 2 verses. If you would like to pray it, then it can be found as article 051 among my early articles. I would love you to do so,  so that you too might find that God’s will for you is indeed “good and acceptable and perfect.”

Blog No.353. posted on http://www.jimholbeck.blog onThursday 14 May 2020

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[NOTE 1]   There is another interesting link in these verses 3 and 4 between the verb to appeal, parakaleō], exhort, strengthen, comfort, etc and the mercies of God.  It is the God as the Father of mercies and God of all comfort [the noun paraklēsis] 12:3, who comforts [the verb parakaleō] us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort [the verb parakaleō] those who are in any affliction, with the comfort the noun [paraklēsis] with which we ourselves are comforted [the verb parakaleō] by God. 

[NOTE 2]  David Guzik’s Enduring Word Commentary. 

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352. The Decision That Every Human HAS To Make. The Challenge Of Rom 12:1-2. From Conformation to Transformation! [Part 1 of 2].

There are lots of things we can safely ignore in life, but this command is not one of them. Every human is challenged to become the person God meant them to be. He has a purpose for the world and He wants to use us in fulfilling His purpose. God used St Paul to outline the challenge that faces every human and how that challenge can be met with His help.

What follows is a brief outline of what is involved, followed in the next article in Part 2 by a deeper look into the meaning of the words and phrases for those who [like myself] like to dig deeper into God’s revelation of His will for us in His word, the Bible.

THE TEXT

Romans 12:1-2. “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

COMMENTS ON THE TEXT OF Romans 12:1-2

  • The passage is an appeal by God for humans to recognise His great love for humankind and to respond accordingly. 
  • The appeal is based on what He has done for them in Christ [His mercies]. So it is based on the mercies of God and not on the terrors of hell [though they do exist for those who thumb their noses at Him and ignore His purposes for them.]
  • The appeal is that they turn from the binding power of the world with all its attractions which holds them in its grip [they are conformed to it] and present all they are and have to Him so that they can be transformed by Him to be able to know and to do the will of God. In brief, conformation to the world has to cease, and transformation by God to do His will, must begin and continue throughout life. 
  • In the process of making that total presentation of themselves to God, something incredible happens. They become transformed people by having renewed minds which are able to learn to recognise the will of God for them. They then find that as they attempt to put that will into practice, that His will is “good and acceptable and perfect” not only in the sight of God [as it has always been] but now in their sight as well.
  • God as the Creator God could have made humans like robots already programmed to do His will at all times. But He didn’t. He chose to give them freewill so that they could freely choose to love Him and to obey Him in doing His will, which would always be best for them and glorifying to the Creator God. 

Why would anyone ever choose not to respond to God’s merciful initiatives in sending His Son into the world to make the riches of His grace available to us [which include forgiveness, the gift of His life in us by the Holy Spirit, eternal life and the joy of being used in the purposes of God for His world?] Oh, that’s right. They are still conformed and not yet willing to be transformed!

In the next article in Part 2, I will attempt to look more closely at the words used in this passage, to help us see the deep meanings behind the words of Rom 12:1-2 and their significance for us today.

Blog No.352 posted on www.jimholbeck.blog on Monday 11th May 2020

Posted in BIBLE PASSAGE OUTLINES, Bible verses. Comments, Creation, Evangelism, Forgiveness, Glorification, Judgement, Justification, Mini Reflections, Prayer, Salvation, Sanctification | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

351. The Challenge of Coronavirus. Ready? The Challenge of Jesus’ Second Coming. Ready?

It is amazing how so frequently we fail to notice the things around us. Even simple words which we have used for decades, whose meanings we overlook until one day we suddenly see something significant behind the words. Just a couple of examples. 

“Alphabet”

Some months ago I was thinking about the word “alphabet.” We think of it as a term expressing the letters from A to Z. Of course when we eventually get around to thinking about it, we notice that the word ‘alphabet’ is made up of two parts, Alpha, [ἀ] [ἄλφα] and Beta, [β]. They are the first two letters of the Greek alphabet. There is a similarity to the Hebrew alphabet where the first two letters are Aleph and Beth. It’s amazing how often we use words without noticing their significance.

Another thing I hadn’t really noticed as one who has studied some New Testament Greek over the  years, was the connection between the Greek letters Omicron and Omega. In English we can see them as both having the letter “O” with “micron” and “mega” following it. “Micron” of course means small and “mega” means great. It helps to understand that ‘omicon’ has a short [small] sound like the ‘o’ in ‘cot’. ‘Omega’ has a long sound like the final ‘o’ sound in ‘lego.’ I had used the words for decades without noticing how their word structure emphasises their meaning. Thinking about two of these words [alpha and omega] got me thinking about their relevance for today.

 “Alpha” and “Omega”

Someone once joined these two letters together in short sentences in Revelation 1:8, 21:6 and 22:13. His name was Jesus. This is what He said in Rev 1:8, “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” He is the eternal, all powerful one who has existed from all eternity. 

But the significant verse before that described a future event concerning Him, Rev 1:7 “Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen.” It is obviously a reference to Jesus, the One who was crucified on the cross and whose side was pierced as He hung on the cross. His second coming will be a public, world-wide event that no one will fail to notice. 

The event described is more certain to occur than the possibility that any of His numerous critics [or any of us] will be alive tomorrow. “History” is “His Story” to be fulfilled according to His timetable, not ours.  “Coming ready or not” was the cry in our childhood game of “Hide and Seek.” But Jesus is playing no game. He came and died so that we might be forgiven and have eternal life as we trust in Him. That was no game 2000 years ago! It was deadly serious! It cost Him His life, willingly given up for us, on our behalf, for our eternal benefit.

It has great implications for all of us. We are implicated in that death whether we like it or not, and whether we like it or not, our response to that death is obligatory for all of us. As St Paul wrote, “He died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.“  2 Cor 5:15. In simple terms, He died for us so that we might live for Him! We need to be ready, for He is “Coming, ready or not!” Not a game, but a coming reality. In His love, He graciously gives us warning. 

The final reference to Alpha and Omega is found at the end of the Bible in its closing verses. Jesus again is speaking, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” Rev 22:13. But this is not just a declaration about His identity. He follows those words with an explanation of what His identity [who He is] means for every human ever born. He is the origin of all things and He also is the One who brings human history, as we know it, to an end. It is no use anyone proclaiming, “I am an atheist!” or “I am an agnostic, none of this applies to me.” Clearly it does. No one is exempt! Proclaiming “There is no God!” frequently and loudly in lectures and in books by an avowed atheist, doesn’t make Him cease to exist! He is the eternal “I am!” 

Jesus went on in this passage to give both promises and warnings. Here are the promises, “Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates.” Rev 22:14. In other words, they have come to trust in Jesus’ redeeming death for them [His blood shed for them on the cross as the lamb slain from the foundation of the world, Rev 13:8.] Through that faith they had gained access to God [to the tree of life] and were able to enter the gates of heaven. 

There follows a severe warning. It describes those who have not washed their robes in the blood of the lamb and who thus fail to gain access to God or to enter into heaven, “Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and the sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.” Rev 22:15. 

Humans, in the first chapter of the Bible, lose their access to the tree of life through their rebellion against God and become spiritually dead!

Humans in the last chapter of the Bible still having no access to God or to the tree of life through their ongoing rebellion against Him. In spite of all God,   has done for humans through Jesus’ life, death, resurrection, ascension, session at the right hand of God, and His life-giving bestowal of the Holy Spirit into the lives of all who turn to Him in faith and love, some humans still resist His love and remain spiritually dead! Such people would fail to hear and act on the cry if He were to give it, “Coming ready or not!” The truth is that He is coming at a time when no one expects it and there will be no such warning cry from His lips.  He promises that He is coming, and we have to be prepared at all times for that certainty. 

The cry of some humans, “Come!” 

Jesus’ second coming is certain, but no one knows exactly when. It is the cry of every believer of every age that He “come” [and hopefully in their lifetime.] John the writer alludes to that as he writes, “The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.” Rev 22:17.

The bride of Christ consists of all those who have come to Christ and are bound to Him in a covenant relationship. They and the Spirit through them, cry out for His promised coming. In the meantime all who are thirsty can find satisfaction in Him. 

There is a final warning that Jesus words be taken seriously. These prophecies of Jesus through John were not to be despised or rejected or altered in any way [verses 18-19]. They were meant to be acted on.

The prophecy and indeed the final chapter of the Bible ends with a promise of Jesus that He is coming soon, “He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Rev 22:20. 

John ends his book with these words, “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! 21 The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen.”  Most believers at some time in their lives have said the same words, “Come Lord Jesus” especially when they were going through difficult times. We read in 1 Corinthians these words from the lips of believers in those challenging days, “Maranatha!” meaning, “Come Lord Jesus.” 16:22.

The challenge of the coronavirus and the challenge of Jesus’ Second Coming

It is amazing when you think about it, how we make such great preparations for avoiding the coronavirus which is challenging many nations at this time. We change our lives completely by being willing to live in isolation and to live under strict restrictions, lest we or our loved ones be affected. However this virus, like other viruses, will eventually cease to be a challenge. By contrast the promise of Jesus’ Second Coming will never go away. It needs to be prepared for. What a wonderful promise then is one of the last verses in the Bible where this incredible invitation is offered to those who realise they are spiritually empty or thirsty, “The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let the one who hears say, “Come!” Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes, take the free gift of the water of life.” Rev 22:17. 

It only needs a step of faith to “come” to Jesus and to take hold of the free gift of the water of life in Him. Every day is one day closer to His sudden coming. Are you ready?

Blog No.351 posted on www.jimholbeck.blog on Thursday 23rd April 2020

Posted in BIBLE PASSAGE OUTLINES, Bible verses. Comments, Creation, Evangelism, Faithfulness, Forgiveness, Glorification, Healing, Judgement, Justification, Prayer, Salvation, Second coming of Jesus | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

350. Because Jesus Rose, Our Hopes Can Rise As Well. Easter Day And Its Rich Meaning For Those Who Grieve Loved Ones. [John 13:1-6 And Other Verses on Jesus’ Resurrection and Second Coming.]

Easter! Death and resurrection! Sadness and happiness! Sorrow and joy! Every Easter season is a time for sharing greetings with loved ones, and where possible, spending quality time together. We can all look back over many years with happy memories of the occasions when this took place.  Unfortunately, there comes a time in all families when some family members are longer present. We experience a deep sense of loss for them. But praise God, a death took place that was followed by a resurrection to life, [the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ the Lord.]  Because of that death and resurrection, we can have a sure hope of the resurrection of our loved ones. Not only that but we can have a deep assurance of our reunion with them, for eternity, when Jesus returns.

The following are some of the verses that mean a great deal to me as one of those, who like many of my friends, lost a loved one since last Easter. Many of us admit that though we believe that our loved ones are safe and secure in the arms of the Lord, there still remains a deep sense of loss in our hearts. How precious then are these verses that remind us of our Christian hope.

Jesus Promise To All His Followers. Jn 14:1-6.

A promise that they would live with Him forever. During His ministry on earth, He had told His disciples that He would soon leave them. Seeing their distress He promised the following, which applies to all His disciples throughout human history.

“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. 2 In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. 4 And you know the way to where I am going.” 5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” 6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Jn 14:21-6.

A PLACE FOR YOU! WHERE I AM, YOU MAY BE ALSO!

Jesus’ Promise To A Sinner Nearing Death.  Luke 23:42-43. 

Someone, who with another rebel, initially mocked Jesus, Mat 27:38 “Two rebels were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left.” AND “In the same way the rebels who were crucified with him also heaped insults on him.” Mat 27:44.

But one of the rebels changed his mind about Jesus, and rebuked the other rebel. “But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? 41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” Lk 23:40-43. 

TODAY!  WITH ME!  IN PARADISE! 

A Promise To Jesus’ Followers Who Die And To Their Loved Ones Who Die In The Lord. 

To be absent from the body and present with the Lord was Paul’s deep desire. It is the desire and the certain hope of every believer.

“We are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord.” 2Cor 5:8. 

What a joy to know that just 2 hours after I left my beloved wife Carole in the Palliative Care ward to drive home, she was indeed absent from the body and already at home with the Lord. What a blessed assurance that was, and remains for me every day.

ABSENT FROM THE BODY! AT HOME! WITH THE LORD!

The Promise Of Reunion With Our Loved Ones When Jesus Returns. [As He Certainly Will.] 

1 Thessalonians 4: 13-18. “Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. 14 For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. 15 According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16  For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words. 

DEATH IS SLEEP, NOT THE END! NO NEED FOR ONGOING GRIEF! HAVE HOPE! TO CATCH UP WITH DECEASED LOVED ONES! IN THE CLOUDS! TO MEET THE LORD IN THE AIR! TOGETHER TO BE WITH THE LORD FOREVER!

The Promise Of Sharing Eternity With Loved Ones When Jesus Returns 

1 Corinthians 15: 50-58. “I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— 52 in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53 For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. 54 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” 55 “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 58 Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labour in the Lord is not in vain.”

THE DEAD ARE RAISED IMPERISHABLE! DEATH HAS BEEN SWALLOWED UP IN VICTORY! THANKS BE TO GOD! OUR LABOUR WILL BE REWARDED! THANKS BE TO GOD!

At a time this year when all our movements world-wide have been severely restricted it is good to reflect on the Lord’s goodness to us and to our loved ones over perhaps many decades. Having to undergo some restrictions on our liberty and having to go through some form of suffering during this year should make us appreciate even more the sacrifices that many have made on our behalf.  But in this Easter season our minds go to the greatest sacrifice that was ever made, and the benefits that are available to those who yield their lives to the One who made it on their behalf. As I was typing this the following words filled my mind, which are from a song “Amazing Love” by Graham Kendrick.

And so they watched Him die

Despised, rejected

But oh, the blood He shed

Flowed for me

Amazing love, o what sacrifice

The Son of God given for me

My debt He pays and my death He dies

That I might live

That I might live.

JESUS! SON OF GOD! CREATOR! SAVIOUR! LORD! Sacrificed His life on the cross so that we might live. JESUS ROSE FROM THE DEAD to give us victory over sin, over death and over the devil, so that we might live in victory and pass through death into glory to be with Him, and with our loved ones, who beat us into His presence!

I pray that your heart may be filled with love for Him and for all He accomplished on the cross and made available to us in His resurrection. We love, because He first loved us, as John wrote in 1 John 4:10, “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” 

The implications of His love for us become evident in the next verse, “Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.“ 1Jn 4:11.

This is a time for loving, and as I pointed out in my previous article, love is the best defence against the horrible threat of the Coronavirus.

Love for God enables us to be more healed in body, mind and spirit.

Love for our neighbours means that we will support them and protect them by living lives that pose no risk to them because of our own self-imposed restrictions during this Coronavirus threat.

Praying that you have a very blessed Easter and for those who miss loved ones, that you [and I] will know the Lord’s comfort and strength in His presence and in the experience of His love [as our departed loved ones already are experiencing, in His perfection.]

Blog No.350 posted on www.jimholbeck.blog on [Maundy] Thursday 9th April 2020.

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349. Responding To The Coronavirus Threat. Faith Can Overcome Fear. The Better Way Of Love! A Personal Note.

There have been many helpful articles published over the last few weeks which have suggested that it is much better to have faith than to have fear. Especially in relation to the threat of the Coronavirus. Most of the articles have included very good reasons for thinking that way. Faith in God means trusting God as a person and trusting in His promises as promises of a truthful person who can fulfil His promises. Particularly it means trusting in Jesus His beloved Son whom He sent into the world to die on a cross so that sinners [all of us] could be forgiven and be graced with eternal life. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16. I have often taught on the promises of God in answer to prayer, because such promises are based on His love and faithfulness.

It is a bit surprising, even to me, that I should now be suggesting that the best answer to overcoming the fear that the coronavirus presents to all of us, is love. But I do so for two reasons.

The first reason is that I have seen many folk with a possible over-emphasis on faith in their thinking. I once removed a book from our Healing Ministry Centre bookshelf with a title similar to “Have faith in Faith” because I thought the title gave a wrong message. It is never a matter of having faith in faith, whether it is faith in MY faith, or faith in a particular Bible Teacher’s faith, or faith in the faith of OUR ministry or faith in the faith of our particular church. It is ALWAYS a matter of having faith in God Himself.  I would often bellow out at seminars, “It is not having GREAT FAITH in God that matters. Rather it is having a mustard seed-sized faith in a GREAT GOD that makes all the difference.”  Our faith should not depend on the Quantity Of The Faith we think we possess. Rather it should depend on the QUALITY OF THE PERSON in whom we have faith, the incomparable Lord Jesus.

Having exercised some form of healing ministry since my ordination over 51 years ago [including being Leader of the Healing Ministry at St Andrew’s Anglican Cathedral in Sydney for 18 years] I have been involved with many other believers in praying in faith for the healing of the physically, mentally and spiritually ill. Together we have seen some remarkable if not miraculous [suggested by some medical folk] answers to prayer.  I have taught that we should aim to develop our faith by soaking ourselves in the word of God, knowing that faith could increase. Paul wrote about faith, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” Rom 10:17. He looked forward to His friends in Corinth growing in faith, “We do not boast beyond limit in the labours of others. But our hope is that as your faith increases, our area of influence among you may be greatly enlarged.“ 2 Cor 10:15. He wanted their faith to grow and he believed it could.

 We need to note however, that faith is not a person. I sometimes described faith like this, “Faith is a key that opens the door to the power of the kingdom of God being released into our human situations.” I would illustrate that by taking out my set of keys and holding up one insignificant key and saying “This little key is the master-key to the resources of this whole Cathedral. A small key opens great resources. A mustard seed-sized faith can move mountains. Let’s pray that our faith may grow and grow and grow until it reaches the size ….. of a grain of mustard seed, and then we will really begin to see things happen.” The resources lie in God Himself, not in the faith through which it may be released, sometimes through the most unlikely people.

The Second Reason Is Much More Personal. [And Deeply personal to me!]

I have been thinking recently about this verse, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.”  1 John 4:18. It had impacted me the more I meditated on it. I think I know why.

My late wife Carole had faith in the Lord for the healing of our children from serious health issues in their infancy and childhood.

She had faith for healing for herself for serious thyroid cancer many years ago.

She had faith for healing for breast cancer during 2 operations and many bouts of radiotherapy.

The biggest challenge to her faith came just a few years ago when her GP looked at her recent tests and said, “Carole, you have advanced uterine cancer.” When she didn’t react as he supposed she should, he replied with, “Carole, you might have only two weeks or two months, or two years at the most to live. You could die anytime.”  After a few moments she replied, “Doctor, I’m in a win-win situation. If I keep on living, I have a wonderful Christian and church family here to love and support me. If I am to die, I have a lovely Christian family to go to, in heaven.” He was taken aback. Perhaps as an avowed professed atheist, he had never come across someone who had taken such horrible news so peacefully and calmly.

It meant of course that Carole then placed herself in the hands of dedicated, knowledgeable medical specialists for surgery, radiation [with some success] and later, of necessity, chemotherapy.  But all the time she had faith to believe she could be healed. Even when the treatments were not bringing the results we had hoped and prayed for.

Together we would affirm that God is in control of all things and that nothing was impossible for Him, even healing her cancer. We would pray that God’s will might be done in her life and perhaps on my part, a little naughtily suggesting to the Lord that news of her spectacular divine healing might lead to a powerful move of the Holy Spirit in our city, which would bring glory to His name.  I knew of course that He could not be spiritually blackmailed, nor does He ever need any prompting to be loving and compassionate.

Carole launched herself even more deeply into the Lord by obeying to the best of her ability, the Two Great Commandments [to love God with every fibre of her being and to seek to allow God’s love to be poured out through her to neighbours and friends.] She began to read aloud whole passages of the Bible every day and to pray in, the truths that she had read. She also began to phone people the Lord had placed in her heart and mind as she meditated on the Lord, following her Bible readings. People throughout Australia and overseas began to get cheery phone calls from her on a regular basis. Many of the calls which had begun on a very serious note ended with peals of laughter. She maintained a deep sense of love, joy and peace even as the cancer appeared to be increasing, but her faith in the power of God to heal, never diminished.

[A bit more personal.] Just a couple of days before I took Carole on what was to be her last trip in our car from home to Emergency at the Hospital, I was helping her walk towards her favourite chair at the far end of the lounge. Suddenly she stopped, looked up into my face and said with great emotion, “Thank you for loving me. Thank you for caring for me.” The words impacted me greatly. I was undone. I think I replied, “It’s because I love you.” There was something special about that moment. It was like a mutual recognition that the Lord who had brought us together and had been with us throughout our whole marriage would be there with us to the end of our days. It was like a mutual surrender into the depths of His love and a mutual surrender into His purpose for us. All would be well, no matter what the future might hold.

As I thought about that incident that day I realised that we had both come to a growing conviction over the years, that God Himself had brought us together in marriage almost 54 years before, and that we had tried to fulfil to the utmost, the vows we made to each other before Him on that day. When I was asked by the priest on our wedding day, “WILT thou have this woman to thy wedded wife, to live together after God’s ordinance in the holy estate of Matrimony? Wilt thou love her, comfort her, honour, and keep her, in sickness and in health; and, forsaking all other, keep thee only unto her, so long as ye both shall live?” I had replied that I would, and I meant it with all my heart. Similarly, Carole had replied with a similar understanding of the deep import of those words as she said, “I will” to the similar set of questions.  From that moment on we had committed ourselves to love and care for each other for as long as we both should live.

As we grew closer to the Lord and to each other as our marriage progressed, we realised that God had indeed brought us together and had been with us in the many wonderful and not-so-wonderful experiences we had shared together in ministry. [It was amazing and comforting that so many friends have remarked over the years that we were “made for each other.” We certainly thought so!]  If it was a marriage planned in heaven then it should be lived out on earth for His purposes and to His glory. We both continued to enthrone Jesus as Lord, on the throne of our lives and of our marriage. Our preference was that we would be alive to rise hand in hand to meet the Lord in the air when Jesus returns again. Now it seemed as though that was not going to happen unless the Lord worked a mighty miracle [which we still believed He could.]

After 2 difficult nights in hospital in a noisy crowded mixed ward, Carole was admitted to a restful Palliative Care ward in an adjacent town. On the second day there, the specialist doctor came with a group of young doctors. She told Carole their aim was to try to get her home as soon as possible and have Palliative care nurses call on her at home. However, just a week later she came with a different group of young doctors and said, “Carole, you won’t be going home. You will die in a few days.” Carole nodded. They all looked at me. I nodded. Carole and I knew that the Lord would have the final say!

Just two days later Carole was totally unresponsive, just lying curled up and having some difficulty breathing. As I left before it got dark [as she had previously ordered me to] I kissed her and said quietly into her ear, “Carole if you want to go home to Jesus and to your Mum and Dad, I will miss you terribly, but I will be Ok. I love you!” As I left her room, I paused and looked back to see if the Lord had already done a miracle. There was no change. It was about two hours later the phone rang and it was a nurse from the Palliative Care ward. Would the news be miracle or death? She told me that they had attended to Carole and had left the room for a few minutes and when they returned she had passed away peacefully. Our prayers had been answered. But not exactly the way I hoped they would be. The Lord had taken her home, to be with Him. The phrase flashed into my mind, as they told me the news, “Absent from the body, present with the Lord.”

 Why have I bothered to write all this and in such a personal way? It is probably good therapy for me to do so. But there is a far more important reason.  When Carole and I first became involved with some people involved in healing, they said that if people had enough faith they could be healed of anything. Some of them explained that there were 2 main reasons why people didn’t get healed. One was because they didn’t have enough faith. The second was because there must have been some secret sin in their lives. I thought they were playing at being God and lacked humility and compassion. Life is much more complicated than that, and so are people. Only God knows the answer to why some are not healed, and when their death will take place. His word teaches in Psalm 139,  “My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. 16 Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. “Ps 139:16-17. God alone knows the number of days we will live. Of course, throughout my ministry, I taught that our faith could and should grow. Of course I taught that we must let God reveal to us every sin in our lives so that we might confess them, receive His forgiveness and thus become more open to His healing power. But faith is not a person. Jesus is! Our trust is meant to be in Him and not in the amount of faith we imagine we possess.

 So as we face any threat in life and there are many, I believe we are meant to be encouraging everyone to enter into a love relationship with Jesus and not just to have more faith.  As Neil Anderson wrote in one of his daily devotions about a young man who was having trouble with his faith, “This young man was trying to live by faith in faith. But faith itself is not a valid object. The only valid object for faith is God and the revelation we have of Him in His Word. Faith is the operating principle of life. The only difference between Christian and non-Christian faith is the object. God must be the object of our faith.” [NOTE 1]

St Paul had described love in strikingly beautiful language in 1 Corinthians 13. He also stressed the primacy of love in the same  passage when he wrote in these verses,   1Cor 13:2  “And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.” and  1Cor 13:13  “So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”

 In this article, I am not trying to hold up my beloved Carole as some hero of extraordinary faith or the exemplar of the most deeply committed love. I am saying that she is another example [albeit my closest and dearest example] of those who totally commit themselves to Jesus in a love relationship and trust Him with their whole future, come what may! It is certainly true that in spite of the faith she had in Him, to bring answers to her prayers, she continued to trust Him, even when it appeared as though her prayers were being answered in a different way to what we expected. There was never any fear [or any other negative emotion] on her part as her condition deteriorated. Natural apprehension sometimes, but always a secure love relationship with the Lord whose love she had experienced over many years and whom she sought to love with her whole being, even unto death. “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” 1jn 4:18. What motivates those who love God and who love and trust Jesus His Son? John gives us the answer in the very next verse, “We love because he first loved us.” 1 Jn 4:19. Responding to love with love!

Still feeling fearful? Of the Coronavirus? Of many things? Wondering if you could ever build up enough faith to get you through difficult and threatening times? Why not try the better way of entering into a deep relationship of love with the Lord Jesus Himself and learn to experience the peace of God that does pass human understanding, even in the face of present and future threats?

Here is a suggested prayer you might like to pray to enter into that relationship of love.

“Dear Lord, I confess that I have sinned against You in my thought life, and in what I have said and done during my life. I haven’t loved You with all my heart. I haven’t loved my neighbours as myself as You commanded me to do. In Your love and mercy, please forgive me of all my sins. I invite You to come into my heart and life to be my Saviour from sin and to be the Lord and Master of every part of my life.

Please heal the past, strengthen me for the present and equip me for the future by filling me with Your Holy Spirit. By Your grace, enable me to the person You want me to be, doing and saying the things You want me to do and say, and praying the prayers You want me to pray. I long to experience Your kingdom love and power being poured into my life, and also being expressed through me, to a needy, fearful world. Please accept the love of my heart as I offer myself completely to You in Jesus’ name. AMEN!”

                                   ……………………………………….

NOTE 1.  From the reading for March 31 in “Daily in Christ.”

Blog No.349 posted on http://www.jimholbeck.blog on Friday 3rd April 2020

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348. Some Biblical Material To Read And Listen To During The Coronavirus Lockdown

It is very seldom in life that we find we are actually forced to take time off work or from our normal activities. The coronavirus has made it compulsory. So we may as well make the most of it.

Because the Bible Study I lead has been suspended indefinitely due to the coronavirus threat, I decided to pass on to its members some links to material we could read or listen to privately until we can once again join in face to face sharing and discussion. I started by suggesting my own material which can be found as blogs on WordPress and as audio recordings on YouTube. I decided then to make the material more widely available.

I had a choice. I could put up a single post on a single topic from time to time. Or, I could put up a post with many links to a larger number of suggested posts that people could read or listen to at their leisure. I chose the latter. So what you have here is a depository of documents and audio recordings that can be turned to, time after time. Hopefully, this blog No 348 will be sitting there on the web, well after the Coronavirus threat has ended and into the months and years ahead. It is yours to peruse freely and to recommend to others if you find them helpful.

YouTube can be accessed by a computer connected to the internet or seen on a Smart television set also linked to the internet.

In this enforced change to our usual way of living I hope you will take advantage of this compilation of resources here and be richly blessed as you do so.

Sincerely,

Jim Holbeck

THE COMPILATION

A].       BLOGS  [Documents to be read]

I have written over 340 articles as blogs to be found on my Blogsite www.jimholbeck.blog

These are mainly on Healing but include other topics as well, including examining many Biblical texts. There is an excellent Index on the side and a Search space where you can type topics or Bible passages etc and it will display those topics or texts.

This is one example to click on so you can see what the blogsite is like and some of the contents of the whole site.   https://wordpress.com/view/jimholbeck.blog

 ON YouTube

B].       SERMON.  [Audio only.]

Sermon on Romans 12:1-2.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DTo4zY15qtE&amp=&t=25s

C].        SEMINAR TALKS ON THE PERSON OF JESUS. (Audio)

  1. Jesus the Creator.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_GYb8fv2otc&t=199s
  2. Jesus the Saviour. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KQnTxCguw9c&t=605s
  3. Jesus the Lord. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JYTFg4FDT3s&t=13s
  4. Jesus the Judge.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aYzs2G9CG_Q&t=7s

D].       SEMINAR TALKS ON OVERCOMING DEPRESSION. (Audio)

  1. Overcoming Stress.  Christian Enemy No1. The World. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YDz30pTjn7k&t=472s
  2. Overcoming Stress. Christian Enemy No 2. The Flesh. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XiiDmeKAXtU
  3. Overcoming Stress. Christian Enemy No 3. The Devil. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jRh1YulH8kY&t=1s

Blog No.348. Posted on www.jimholbeck.blog on Wednesday 25th March 2020.

 

 

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347. TRIBUTES TO SOME GODLY WOMEN ON ST VALENTINE’S DAY. [Giving Thanks Where It Is Due!]

What do you do on Valentine’s day when your loved one has entered into glory to be with the Lord? One thing you can do is to pay tribute to some remarkable women who contributed greatly to her life on earth but who are now present with her in glory. It is quite amazing when you reflect on it, that these women who had been her close friends for over 40 years have all passed away in the space of just 5 months.

September 2019 saw the death of Maree Anker whom we first met when we moved from Brisbane to Armidale when I was appointed the Dean of St Peter’s Cathedral, Armidale NSW in 1978. Maree was highly intelligent as a graduate of Melbourne Uni and a very keen believer. In later years she helped foreign students prepare their theses for submitting to the University of New England in Armidale for higher degrees. Her love for languages also meant that she studied online to understand more of the depth of the scriptures by studying their Hebrew and Jewish backgrounds. Being multi-talented she was a gracious hostess and could have excelled at all sorts of artistic pursuits. She encouraged me as Dean of the Cathedral to allow her to introduce Christian dance in the Cathedral. I was a bit hesitant, but when I saw how the dancing she introduced was a good and faithful expression of the scriptures, it became a greatly valued part of our worship in the Cathedral. When Maree was diagnosed with cancer in latter years, she did a lot of research and would often ring Carole to pass on valuable insights she had discovered.

October 2019 brought another sadness. Our dear friend Lettie Watson went to be with the Lord. She and Carole would ring each other often several times a week to encourage each other. Lettie came into our lives when she came into our church at Mt Gravatt for a morning service. She and her husband Jeff and their good friends John and Merle had been to an agricultural show in Northern NSW and had come on to Mt Gravatt to check out the Bishop’s suggestion for me to be the next Dean of Armidale. [Parishioners later good-naturedly said that if they had known they were there to pinch their Rector they wouldn’t have greeted them so warmly.] From that moment in 1977 Lettie became a close friend of Carole. Jeff, even though he was the Shire President was willing to become my Dean’s Warden and together Jeff and Lettie contributed so much to Cathedral life and to our lives personally. Gifts of food and milk from their farm would often arrive at the Deanery to our delight. Our friendship continued when they retired to Dorrigo and we would always go to Brisbane via Dorrigo mountain to meet up with them. After Jeff’s death, Carole decided to increase her phone contact with Lettie and so there would be several calls back and forth each week until Lettie was unable to call or receive calls. That was a very sad time for Carole, losing contact with a beloved friend.

At the end of October it was my beloved Carole’s time to go to be with the Lord. Even when she was put into Palliative Care and growing weaker day by day, she continued to ring her friends. I have written before in previous articles about what a beautiful, caring wife, mother, grandmother, aunt and friend Carole was, and you can read in those articles about this amazing woman, whom all of us who knew her, miss so much today.

Another of Carole’s close friends came down from Brisbane to her Thanksgiving Service in Port Macquarie in November. Beverley Littler and her husband Roley and family, came to our Mt Gravatt parish in the early 1970’s. They both grew quickly as new believers and we became very close friends. I will always remember Bev giving her testimony at a morning service and a friend who had been absent overseas for several months remarking on what a remarkable depth had come to Bev’s faith in such a short time. She loved people and it was not surprising that we remained in close contact when we moved to Armidale.  She and Rol would come to stay with us in Armidale and we would stay with them whenever we went to Brisbane. Bev had lots of friends and loved ringing them. She became known as “Have A Chat Bev,” a title she loved. The friendship didn’t lessen even when we moved to Sydney for 18 years and then retired to Port Macquarie in 2006.

We had a wonderful touring holiday together some years ago as we traversed through much of NSW, and to Kangaroo Island in South Australia and then back home through Victoria.  A highlight for us was seeing the sheer delight on Bev’s face as an accomplished painter herself, as she stood in exactly the same spot in his studio at Hahndorf, as the famous Australian artist Hans Heysen had stood, as he painted some of his famous paintings. She was deeply appreciative of God’s universe and of the God of this universe. She was sensitive to the Lord. I well remember one Monday morning sitting at my desk in the Deanery in Armidale and praying, “Lord please guide me today as I read your word.” I had come under attack by some of the hierarchy because the Spirit of God was moving powerfully in the parish and some did not understand what was happening and felt threatened. As I finished praying and opened my Bible, the phone rang. Initially, I hesitated because I had asked the Lord to speak to me through His word and was about to read the Bible. But I decided to answer the phone. It was Bev who said that she had been praying in the kitchen that very morning and a passage of scripture had come into her mind. The more she thought about it, the more she felt she should share it with me, not knowing that I was waiting to hear from the Lord.  When I asked her to share it with me, I was amazed because it spoke directly to my situation. He had indeed spoken to me through His word—through Bev.

She and Rol came all the way from Brisbane by coach to attend Carole’s Thanksgiving Service in November last year in spite of all the road closures and the smoke because of the bush fires. Then they left at 2am by coach to travel home a few days later. We all appreciated the effort they made in coming to farewell Carole. Sadly it was only a few weeks later that Bev tripped at home and fractured her sternum. She was healing well until complications set in and she too passed on to be with the Lord. Just over a week ago I attended her Thanksgiving service in Brisbane where a massive congregation gave thanks to God for the impact she had had on their lives as one of God’s godly women.

Godly women. United in Christ on earth for over 40 years. Now united with Him and with each other in heaven, all in the space of just 5 months.

So what do you do on Valentine’s Day when you no longer have a Valentine into whose ears you can express your love? Do something that she would have approved of wholeheartedly. And that is, thank the Lord for the friendships she enjoyed which He planned on earth and now fulfilled in His presence in heaven. So I “dips me lid” in tribute to these remarkable women who blessed Carole and me by their friendships and whom Carole was privileged to bless in His love. None of them may have been featured in Australia Day Honours or in Nobel Peace prize listings, but their life stories are written forever in heaven and many of us on earth relish such wonderful memories of them. I am sure that as they all entered into heaven in these last 5 months, there was a great cry to welcome each one of them, “Well done, good and faithful servant!”

A Grateful Tribute to Godly Women! Maree. Lettie. Carole. Beverley.  The earth was richer for your presence and remains blessed in your absence, because of your faithfulness to the Lord and to one another [and to others] for those 40 plus years!! To God be the glory! Great things He has done! And through you all! For us!

Blog No.347. Posted on www.jimholbeck.blog on Friday 14th Feb 2020. (Valentine’s Day)

 

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