Monday, 19 May 2014

Divine Control: The Accident that Wasn't?

Credit: Sarah Spaulding, Flickr Creative Commons
Do you ever chase a theme through the Bible just to see what else it says on a related subject? I do sometimes. This morning I was reading Proverbs 19 and came across the following verse that I had previously underlined.
Many plans are in a man’s mind, but it is the Lord’s purpose for him that will stand.” (Proverbs 19:21)
I then noted that there were half a dozen references listed, so I took time out to look at each of them. They are as follows:
But He is unchangeable, and who can turn him? And what He wants to do, that He does.” (Job 23:13) 
 The Lord brings the counsel of the nations to nought; He makes the thoughts and plans of the peoples of no effect. The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the thoughts of His heart through all generations.” (Psalm 33: 10-11) 
 This is the [Lord’s] purpose that is purposed upon the whole earth [regarded as conquered and put under tribute by Assyria]; and this is [His omnipotent] hand that is stretched out over all the nations. For the Lord of hosts has purposed, and who can annul it? And His hand is stretched out, and who can turn it back?” (Isaiah 14: 26-27) 
 Declaring the end and the result from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure and purpose.” (Isaiah 46:10) 
 But if it is of God, you will not be able to stop or overthrow or destroy them; you might even be found fighting against God!” (Acts 5:39) 
 Accordingly God also, in His desire to show more convincingly and beyond doubt to those who were to inherit the promise the unchangeableness of His purpose and plan, intervened (mediated) with an oath.” (Hebrews 6:17)
While not listed in my Bible among the previous list of references, I then remembered another proverb I read a couple days earlier. It says,
The lot is cast into the lap, but the decision is wholly of the Lord [even the events that seem accidental are really ordered by Him].” (Proverbs 16:33)
Taken together, I then started wondering if perhaps we don’t have a lot less influence upon our world and circumstances than we typically think. Is God ultimately in control, or is He not? Depending upon how one answers that question, raises a whole plethora of other potentially divisive questions. And then there is the amplification of the previous verse: “even events that seem accidental are really ordered by Him.” What are we to do with that? Are accidents then not really accidents at all? Most of us will no doubt struggle with that thought, yet it’s there. What do you make of it? Hmm.

Anyways, there you have some of my Monday morning ramblings and musings. Have an awesome day. Peace & Blessings to you and yours.

All Scripture taken from the Amplified Bible.

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Are We Killing Ourselves?

Credit: sleepinyourhat, Flickr Creative Commons
“He who is loose and slack in his work is a brother to him who is a destroyer and he who does not use his endeavors to heal himself is a brother to him who commits suicide.” (bold emphasis mine)

So reads Proverbs 18:9 in the Amplified Bible, which also contains the following footnote: “This verse so reads in The Septuagint (Greek translation of the Old Testament). Its statement squarely addresses the problem of whether one has a moral right to neglect his body by ‘letting nature take its unhindered course’ in illness.”

Do we have the moral right to ignore our health and physical wellbeing? When people do so, especially in illness, are they essentially committing suicide? What a horrible thought, and yet, that does seem to be what this verse from Proverbs is saying. What do you think? Here are a few of my humble musings on the subject as I meditated on this Scripture.

Most of us believe in taking reasonable care of our physical bodies. While from time to time we can easily become couch potatoes and eat too much of the wrong foods, most of us also believe that some measure of exercise and a proper diet are the way to go. We believe that we shouldn’t smoke, or drink too much alcohol, and when we get sick, we believe that visiting our doctor is the right thing to do. After all, who wants to stay sick?

But as I read this verse, I was reminded of some folks who are known for their rejection of certain medical procedures (such as blood transfusions) on faith and religious grounds. So-called “faith healers” also come to mind. I am not suggesting that we should not have faith for healing; of course we should. I would even argue that it is to the Lord that we should turn first for healing, but I also recognize that His way of healing, while sometimes miraculous, is also often through the guidance of the medical practitioner.

Having said that, there is an interesting story of King Asa who was chastised for only going to see the doctors about his ailment, and not to the Lord. It reads, “In the thirty-ninth year of his reign Asa was afflicted with a disease in his feet. Though his disease was severe, even in his illness he did not seek help from the Lord, but only from the physicians” (2 Chronicles 16:12; NIV). Soon afterwards, he died.

So much for the doctor’s help! Would he have lived had he gone to the Lord for healing? The Bible doesn’t tell us that, so we don’t really know.

There was another Old Testament king by the name of Hezekiah. He too had a life-threatening illness. The prophet Isaiah went to him and told him to put his house in order because he was about to die. Hezekiah cried out to the Lord for healing, and God answered his prayer for healing and added fifteen more years to his life. God then directed Isaiah with the preparation of medicine through which to bring about the healing (2 Kings 20: 1-7).

It seems clear that God expects His children to come to Him first with their health concerns, but He also brings healing through the medical community and the prayerful intervention of His saints.

Fast forward to the New Testament.

The Apostle Paul said, “Do you not know that your body is the temple (the very sanctuary) of the Holy Spirit Who lives within you, Whom you have received [as a Gift] from God? You are not your own. You were bought with a price [purchased with a preciousness and paid for, made His own]. So then, honor God and bring glory to Him in your body” (1 Corinthians 6: 19-20; Amplified)

Going back to Proverbs, are we toying with suicide when we deliberately ignore our health? Perhaps more importantly, are we desecrating the temple of the Holy Spirit when we simply let nature take its unhindered course with regards to our health?

Are we killing ourselves? Maybe that's a little extreme, but then again ...

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Healing Oil?

Credit: James Bradley, Flickr Creative Commons
Have you ever wondered about the New Testament's use of oil as a part of healing? Is "anointing with oil" still for us today? Like many things in christendom, the answer would probably depend on who you talk to. One dear brother of mine strongly believes and regularly practices anointing with oil as a part of his praying for others. Still, not everyone does.

Today I would like to welcome back to Rethinking Faith and Church my brother Waldo Rochow as a guest blogger as he shares his heart in praying for the sick, and ponders the use of oil in it. I am joining you in regularly praying for your friend, Bro. Thanks for sharing.

Let me begin with a few background details. I have a dear friend and sister in Christ who has been battling cancer for some time. When the cancer spread to her brain she had to undergo radiation therapy to zap the cancer cells before they spread further. This radiation therapy had the expected effect of causing her hair to fall out. She was distraught and shared her grief on Facebook. I was moved to my knees and asked God what I could do. He said to join her. So, I shaved my head. Since then, I have had the unexpected benefit of a greatly enhanced walk with Christ. I have found myself praying constantly. Every time I touch my head (which, I have come to realize, I do a lot) or see my bald reflection, I pray for my friend and for all those who battle cancer. This new way of living has been a real blessing for me. I have my own challenges: health, finances, relationships; but they are no longer all consuming.
Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. (James 5:13-16; NIV)
Now, to the subject of healing oil. My friend asked me a while back what I thought of her approaching the deacons at church about a James 5 prayer. As I mentioned above, I am believing more and more in the power of prayer, so naturally, I encouraged her to go ahead. As I meditated on the above verses, the words “anoint them with oil” hit me and I started wondering what that meant. For some time now, these words keep coming back to the front of my mind. Today I was reading Mark 6 and cross referencing it with Wuest's Word Studies from the Greek New Testament.  On page 125 of Volume I, Wuest expands on Mark 6:13 “They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them.” Brother Wuest writes:
Anointed with oil many that were sick. The word is aleiphō. The papyri give us examples of its usage. We have a letter from the second century in which a man whose wife had gone away a month before, writes that he has not bathed or anointed himself. There is a third-century inscription in honor of a gymnasiarch (head of gymnasium) which speaks of him as the beloved anointer. In James 5:14, directions are given for the elders to anoint the sick person with oil. In Luke 10:34, the Samaritan treated the wounds of the man with oil and wine. Olive oil was a common remedial agent of the ancients and was used internally and externally. At a time when the healing art was at its infancy, and medicines were few, olive oil was a panacea for many ills. Here, the disciples are directed to use it in the healing of the sick. In the case of James 5:14, it is prayer and medicine, God working directly, and through the medicine, which resulted in the healing of the sick person. In this instance in Mark it is the same, but with this difference, that up to the time of the close of revelation with the writing of The Book of the Revelation, God performed miracles of healing through the apostles. This was for the purpose of attesting their messages as from Him. Since then, there is no need of this. Hence, God heals directly in answer to prayer now, not through individuals. The normal procedure now is prayer, the doctor, and the use of medicine and other means as God may direct. Where the two latter are not obtainable, God does heal without means when it is in His wisdom to do so.
So the oil was medicine, it does not possess a mystical quality. Now I’m no physician, but it makes sense if you think about it. If you are fighting an infection, you might not have enough strength to eat, but a bit of oil would be easy enough to swallow, and the fat it contains would provide you with some much needed energy for your body to continue to fight that which ails you. If one has an open wound, I would expect that a layer of oil might help to keep bacteria from settling on it. To those living in the generations leading up to that time, the effects may have seemed quite remarkable.

In the book Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes, E. Randolph Richards describes a common incident that took place while he was working as a missionary in Indonesia. On page 171, he tells the following story:
When I (Randy) was living in a remote part of Indonesia, I was often awakened in the middle of the night by grave news: “Quick, come to the dormitory, so-and-so is dying.” That will wake you up in a hurry. The first few times it happened, I nearly killed myself dressing and running full speed through the dark to rescue a student from the precipice of death… only to discover that he or she had a cold. The old “take two pills and call me in the morning” approach literally was the best treatment. Hundreds of students were sped toward recovery by the thousands of ibuprofen tablets I distributed. 
A few years later, I discovered that students considered me a man of little faith. All I did was give them medicine! They would always pray for the student after I had left.
He goes on to discuss how in the modern western world, headaches and colds are understood and we tend to rely only on the medicine… it’s as if God is no longer needed.
And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering. 
At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?” 
“You see the people crowding against you,” his disciples answered, “and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?’ ” 
But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.” (Mark 5:25-34; NIV)
So what do we do with the healing oil? What I hear God saying to me is take your medicine, by all means. Just remember that Jesus is the real physician, the human counterparts are merely His assistants. When we pray for healing, we must have the faith of the woman in Mark 5:25. She touched Jesus’ clothes even though she knew that, as someone who was unclean, this was forbidden. Regardless of the consequences, she believed that only He could heal her.

Perhaps, because we have fallen out of the practice of praying for healing of the “little things”, we don’t really see God’s hand in healing. Not seeing Him as the healer of the little things makes it much harder to believe that He is the healer of the “big things” too. Next time you reach for that bottle in your medicine cabinet to heal that headache, tooth ache, back ache or whatever; remember to both pray that God will use it to heal you, and thank Him when it does. You never know when you will need Him to heal something big, and as we see in Mark 6:5-6, it is only through faith that healing can take place.

May God bless you.

Sunday, 4 May 2014

The Peculiar People of God

Credit: Werner Kunz
Flickr Creative Commons
Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.” (Titus 2:14; KJV)

Recently I acquired a four-volume collection of books that are destined to be a prized and treasured possession. It is called “Word Studies in the Greek New Testament” by Kenneth Wuest. The fourth volume is his own translation of the New Testament that he calls simply, “An Expanded Translation.” In a previous post we took a look at how he translated a passage from John’s gospel. You can read it here.

Today I found myself meditating on a chapter in Volume 3 (Golden Nuggets), entitled “The Peculiar People of God.” It blessed me immensely, so much so that I couldn’t keep it to myself and thought of sharing it with you. May it be a blessing to you as well, my “peculiar” friend. Here is Brother Wuest:

The word “peculiar” is found in Titus 2:14. Christians are the peculiar people of God. We use the word sometimes when we speak of something odd or strange. But that is not its use here. The word is translated from a Greek word which is made up of two words, one which means “around,” as a circle, and the other which means “to be.” It can be charted by a dot within a circle. This will help us to understand the meaning of the combined word. As the circle is around the dot, so God is around each one of His saints. The circle monopolizes the dot, has the dot all to itself. So God has His own all to Himself. They are His own private unique possession. He has reserved them for Himself. The expression in 1 Thessalonians 1:1, “The church of the Thessalonians in God,” has in it the same idea, for the Greek case is locative of sphere. That is, it is in the sphere of God, circumscribed by God, surrounded by Him.

This is a place of high privilege. In 1 Peter 2:7, the Greek has it, “Unto you who believe, is the preciousness.” That is, the preciousness of Jesus is imputed to us. He becomes our preciousness in the eyes of the Father as He becomes our righteousness before the law. The Son dwells in the bosom of the Father, closet to the Father’s affections. Marvelous grace, that we sinners saved by grace are brought into that favored place closest to the Father’s affections. The Father loves us as much as He loves His only begotten Son. What a pillow on which to rest our weary hearts when going through a testing time.

This is also a place of protection. Place a dot outside of the circle, and draw an arrow from that dot to the dot inside the circle. Label that dot a temptation. As the arrow cannot reach the dot except it go through the circle, so no temptation can reach us except it go through the permissive will of God first. As we walk in the center of God’s will, He will not permit the Devil to confront us with a temptation too great for us, but will provide us with the necessary faith and spiritual strength to overcome it. Victory over sin is a guaranteed fact when we are in the center of God’s will. Put another dot outside the circle. Run an arrow to the dot inside. Label the outside dot as “a trial or testing time.” As the arrow cannot reach the dot unless it goes through the circle, so no time of testing, no sorrow, can reach the child of God who dwells in the center of His will, unless it comes through the permissive will of God, and when it reaches us, God sees to it that all needed grace is given to bear that trial. He is the God of all grace who comforts us in all our afflictions. And this is what Paul means in 1 Corinthians 10:13 when he says, “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way of escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” The Greek word translated “temptation” has two meanings, first, “a time of testing or trial,” second, “a solicitation to do evil.” We are the peculiar people of God, all His own, closest to His affections, under His protecting care, the recipients of all needed comfort and grace.

God in His wisdom plans the test, and limits the temptation. God in His love sends the test, and permits the temptation. God in His grace meets the test, and overcomes the temptation. In His wisdom He plans and limits. The purpose of Christian suffering is that it is a means whereby sin is put out of our lives and likeness to Jesus produced. “We must be grounded between the millstones of suffering before we can become bread for the hungry multitudes.” In His love He sends and permits. Christian suffering shows God’s love for that saint. God wants him more to Himself. In His grace He meets and overcomes. The grace of God is sufficient to surmount every difficulty, comfort any sorrow, overcome any temptation.
Postscript: Thanks for stopping by. If you want to read more from this fine Kenneth Wuest collection, it is available from our friends at Christian Book Distributors. Peace and Blessings.

Saturday, 3 May 2014

Divine Justice?

"The God of peace will soon crush Satan ..." (Romans 16:20)

Divine justice? Maybe. Photoshopped? Most likely. Amusing? I thought so.

But whatever this picture is or isn't, it did make me think of a more serious side as well.

While sin may be rampant in our fallen world, the cross of Christ means that God has already won and Satan's days are numbered. For the true Christian, that is good news!

"Because He has fixed a day when He will judge the world righteously (justly) by a Man Whom He has destined and appointed for that task, and He has made this credible and given conviction and assurance and evidence to everyone by raising Him from the dead" (Acts 17:31; Amplified).

The sin of the world got you down? Be encouraged, it's just a matter of time.

Photo Source: Unknown (via Facebook)