I Found Peace

beach calm clouds horizon
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I am at peace. I am at peace with myself. I am at peace with my circumstances. I am at peace with the past and with God.

I didn’t have a mountain top experience nor was it a sudden revelation, I just came to be. A coworker this week mentioned that I have a different look on my face than I had in recent months. I believe my period of mourning has lifted and new life has sprung forth.

I have to say the last six years of my life have been the most difficult I’ve ever experienced. I have detailed these struggles on this blog and I believe this period of darkness inspired some of my best work. If you’re new to the blog, I briefly recap what the last six years has been like- I left a church I had been apart of for fourteen years and the changing spiritual dynamics left me wandering and questioning God. I was hospitalized with anemia,which I found out a year later was caused by Celiac disease. I was laid off from a job, which sent my career in a tailspin. Recurring flare-ups of my Ulcerative Colitis, my nephew’s suicide, my battles with anxiety and depression, and being blindsided by a divorce after eighteen years of marriage.

I was a broken man. My mind, body, and spirit were broken. I felt so hopeless and alone. I know that I wasn’t alone because I had the support of my family and my family of coworkers. I went back to church and joined a men’s group and heard the stories of men who were in my same situation. I sold the house my ex-wife and I built together, which was a burden off of my shoulders and a boost to my mental and financial health.

When I think about my struggles, I’m reminded of two Bible verses, Philippians 4:7 and Romans 8:28. To summarize, Philippians 4:7 discusses a peace that transcends all understanding, while Romans 8:28 talks about how God uses all things to work together for our good. These Scriptures don’t say that everything that happens to us will be good, but we can have a peaceful heart in the worst of times. I memorized Romans 8:28 and Philippians 4:7 when I first became a Christian, but the truth of those verses have really sank into my heart.

At the beginning of the year, I posted about this year being a year of restoration, and it has become that, a period of restoration. Being at peace doesn’t mean that everything has worked out and is resolved like a sitcom, drama or movie. Finding peace means that no matter what happens, you’ll be okay. You’ve made it through previous hard times and you’re going to get through this.

 

Someone Else’s Bible

antique bible blur book
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Whenever I go to someone’s home, especially for the first time, I tend to look at their book, music, and film collection. I don’t judge them, I’m looking to understand who they are while trying to find common ground. If the conversation gets slow, I can always interject, “Hey, I noticed you’re a big Spielberg fan.”

I decided in recent weeks to find a new Bible translation. I’ve alternated between the King James and New International Version for twenty years, I just wanted something different. I’ve read some of the New American Standard Bible and I thought I would give that a try.

I contacted a large chain of used book stores in my area to save a few bucks and the Bible was shipped from one store to my local store. I picked up the book, paid for it, and walked out of the store. As I took the book home, I began to look through it and saw the Bible was given as a gift to someone. However, it doesn’t appear to have been used.

When it comes to my Bibles, I write in them, I underline, and make side notes. I’ve always tried to use the Bible as a study tool, something to combat the harsh reality of life. I enjoy studying Scripture and these notes serve as good reference.

I don’t know anything about the lady who received the Bible, and I don’t presume to judge. However, I couldn’t but help wonder about her Bible that I bought. Did she not believe? Did she not like the translations? Did she not believe in writing in books? Did she no longer have a relationship with the person who gave her the Bible and it was a reminder of said relationship?

I’m just reminded of how we attach memories to objects. No matter what it is- a Bible, a dish, a painting, we tend to attribute sentimental value to these objects, almost making them sacred idols in the process. In this case though, this Bible is a sacred object because it is God’s Word, but it was treated like it was just a common book- a previous bestseller sold of for a fraction of what was paid for it.

In my case, the Bible someone else didn’t want has become a blessing to me. To the person who owned the Bible before me, I hope you find happiness and fulfillment.

The Politics of Jesus

The Lord Jesus Christ is the most influential figure to have ever lived. From His sacrificial death and resurrection to His teachings, billions of lives have been changed. The principles Jesus taught and exemplified have also been sources for great social and personal change. If our salvation in Christ is supposed to influence every aspect of our lives, how does this influence our political beliefs for the upcoming Presidential election?

In this post, we will examine the politics of Jesus. However, I will not make the Lord out to be a card carrying member of any political party nor will I be pushing for any particular agenda or platform. Also, keep in mind that there are no perfect candidates nor are there any perfect elections. This current election cycle has a lot of people holding on to their affiliation’s ideological extremes, perceiving to vote for the lesser of two evils, or just tuning out in general. But if Christians are to vote along biblical principles, what exactly does the life of Jesus illustrate in this regard?

For an examination of how a Christian is to respond biblically to their government, I would encourage you to check out my post, “A Christian’s Civic Duty.” https://triumphantinchrist.wordpress.com/2015/09/19/a-christians-civic-duty/

When Jesus walked the earth, Israel was a territory of the Roman Empire. However, Jesus’ harshest criticism was not directed at Caesar, but against the Pharisees, Scribes, and Sadducees- the religious leaders of the day. Jesus openly exposed their hypocrisy in placing barriers in front of so many people, while neglecting the teaching of the most important aspects of the Law. Jesus came to earth to die for our sins; He did not seek to start a theocracy. Jesus’ kingdom was as He said, “Not of this world.” Jesus also downplayed the political ramifications of Him being the Messiah. In the Old Testament prophecies, there are no clear distinctions as to the verses that mark the first and second coming of the Messiah. Many people believed the conquering Messiah would come first and overthrow Rome, when the suffering Messiah came first.

Political power can corrupt, but Jesus could not be swayed by the allure of political power. Jesus emphasized devotion to God over allegiance to worldly things and agendas. Jesus crossed cultural barriers, as the Gospels record Him ministering to Gentiles. Jesus also elevated the status of women, as with the examples of the Samaratian woman at the well, the woman with the issue of blood, and the woman who anointed Him with the alabaster jar of perfume. Jesus also welcomed and cared for children.

Jesus also ran social programs, as He feed the hungry, treated the disabled, the sick, and the mentally ill. Jesus believed that we should love and treat each person with dignity and respect. Jesus emphasized blessing (speaking well of) our enemies, or those who seek to criticize us. Jesus broke down social conventions and man-made traditions to reach people with the Gospel or healing. Jesus reached out to those who were cast off by society- prostitutes, lepers, tax collectors, the possessed, and other “sinners.” Jesus also taught fulfilling our civic duty and pay taxes to our earthly government. Jesus’s teachings and deeds are vast, and as John put it, “And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written.” (John 21:25, KJV).

Who or what you vote for is between you and God. I just want to emphasize that as Christians, we must be spiritually discerning of the things that go on inside and outside of the church. We must not be swayed by false promises or fear-inducing rhetoric. We must no longer demonize our political opponents or those whose life choices are different from ours. Jesus taught us to love and forgive all people as He has loved and forgiven us. As this election nears, let us all pray for God’s will to be done and that He would give us the wisdom to go forward. God bless you all.

The Emphasis of Healing in the New Testament

In the previous post, “Healing in the Old Testament,” the subject of healing was discussed from the perspective of Israel’s constant backsliding and rebellion against God. The Lord, through His prophets, spoke of Israel’s sin as a terrible wound or incurable disease, which served as a metaphor for Israel’s spiritual state. The four gospels and the Book of Acts, discuss the healing ministries of the Lord Jesus and the Apostles. Healing is a controversial subject in the Church and brings up a lot of questions, such as “Is healing for today?” “Is healing in the atonement?” and “Why don’t we see miracles today?”

I believe the spiritual gifts are for today. I believe that if God in His sovereignty chooses to heal a person, He will heal them, whether through supernatural or natural means. Gifts of healings are mentioned in the New Testament (1 Corinthians 12:9 and 12:30). However, the spiritual gifts are bestowed upon believers as deemed by the Holy Spirit. Thus, not every believer will be gifted with the gift of healing nor will every church flow in the gift of healing. After studying healing in the New Testament, there are certain principles that must be understood.

The Word must first be preached

The gospels and Acts show that Jesus and the Apostles first preached the Gospel before healing took place.

“And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people.” (Matthew 4:23, KJV).

“And they [the Disciples] went out, and preached that men should repent. And they cast out many devils, and anointed with oil many that were sick, and healed them.” (Mark 6:12-13, KJV, brackets mine).

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He hath anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He hath sent me to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord.” (Luke 4:18-19, KJV).

“The Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them. And the people with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spake, hearing and seeing miracles which he did. For unclean spirits, crying with loud voice, came out of many that were possessed with them: and many were taken with palsies, and that were lame, were healed.” (Acts 8:5-7, KJV).

Salvation must be emphasized before healing

Matthew 9:2-8, Mark 2:3-12, and Luke 5:16-26 all tell a story of a paralyzed man who was brought to Jesus. The first thing Jesus said to the man was that his sins were forgiven. Of course, this caused a stir with the religious leaders who witnessed the event. Neither the paralyzed man nor his friends made any comment concerning his spiritual condition. However, Jesus being God in the flesh, saw the man’s need for forgiveness and salvation as more important than his physical healing. Jesus also healed the paralyzed man and he walked away from the gathering. As believers, we must always keep in mind that God is more concerned about our long-term spiritual growth than our short-term comforts. There are times believers will struggle with a sickness, disease, or affliction, and may not receive physical healing. God can use these difficult times to draw us closer to Him and teach us to rely on Him. Just like the paralyzed man, Christ wants us to know that our sins are forgiven, for that alone God is worthy to be praised. Multiple New Testament writers wrote about the healing that comes when we confess our sins and accept Christ as Lord and Savior.

“Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as they soul prospereth.” (3 John 2, KJV).

“Is any sick among you? Let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him. Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” (James 5:14-16, KJV).

“For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow His steps…Who his own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.” (1 Peter 2:21, 24, KJV).

The Word must be put into action

As the Church, it is important that we study the Word of God to show ourselves approved of God and teach the truth (2 Timothy 2:15). It is doubly important to put the Word into action. Just as Paul emphasized to the Philippian church, we must apply and share what we have been taught. At various times during His ministry, Jesus sent out His Disciples and gave them authority to preach the Word and heal sicknesses, thus the Disciples applied what they learned. Jesus is the Living Word who came to bring salvation and freedom to all people in all nations. Maybe one of the reasons the Church in the United States does not see miracles take place because we are not correctly studying the Word, not properly representing Christ, or not putting the Word into action. Miracles, however, are taking place all over the world. From my own personal experience, when I went on a missions trip to Thailand and saw many mighty miracles and tens of thousands come to Christ because Jesus was declared as the way to salvation and signs and wonders followed the message. In New Testament times, the miracles took place to validate the ministries of Jesus and the Apostles, spreading the Gospel all around the world. I believe the same thing can happen for the Church in these last days and cause the reaping of a great harvest.

Healing in the Old Testament

The subject of healing is a controversial topic. Some churches teach that healing and the other spiritual gifts are for today, while others teach that the gifts ended with the death of the Apostles. To those outside of the Church, the word healing may bring to mind images disgraced televangelists with their theatrics and “miracle” products such as oils and cloths. I believe that God in His sovereignty can heal someone supernaturally or through modern medicine- instantly or over time. It may also be God’s will for someone not to be healed, which could result in death or lifelong illness. We as mere people cannot begin to understand the ways and thoughts of God because His ways and thoughts are higher than our ways and thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9). The purpose of this post is to simply show what the Bible teaches on the subject of healing. More specifically, this post will examine healing in the Old Testament. 

Our Relationship with God and His Word

Before we go any further, let me state that not all physical sickness is a direct result of sin. Though sickness came into the world because of sin, not everybody is sick because they sinned. As we know from modern science and medicine that sicknesses are caused by germs, bacteria, and viruses. There are also genetic and environmental factors that can play a role in sickness. People may also be afflicted with sickness so they glory of God can be revealed (John 9:1-3).  However, all of us are sick with the sickness of sin. God has sent us the cure for our sin sickness when His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ came to earth to pay the penalty for our sins on the cross. Once we accept Christ as Savior, we come into relationship with God. The best way to get to know God is through His Word. Though we may not be able to avoid all germs, bacteria, and viruses, we can avoid major problems if we study the Word of God. For example, if we study what the Word says about sex outside of marriage, gluttony, drunkenness, etc., we can avoid health problems that are associated with such sins. What does the Bible say about God’s Word and our spiritual and physical health?

“Bless the Lord, O my soul; And all that is within me, bless His holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul, And forget not all His benefits: Who forgives all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases, Who redeems your life from destruction, Who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies, Who satisfies your mouth with good things, so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.” (Psalm 103:1-5, NKJV).

“He sent His word and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions.” (Psalm 107:20, NKJV).

“In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and depart from evil. It will be health to your flesh, and strength to your bones.” (Proverbs 3:6-8, NKJV).

“My son, give attention to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. Do not let them depart from your eyes; keep them in the midst of your heart; For they are life to those who find them, and health to all their flesh.” (Proverbs 4:20-22, NKJV).

The Hebrew word used the most to describe healing is the word Raphah (Strong’s #7495), which means to heal or restore to normal. Of course there are examples in the Old Testament of people who were healed and even raised from the dead, but we will focus on the relationship between Israel and God.

Sickness and the Spiritual Condition of Israel

Throughout the Old Testament, especially in the Prophets, Israel’s constant backsliding and rebellion towards God is compared with an incurable sickness.

“Return, you backsliding children, and I will heal your backslidings. Indeed we do come to You, for You are the Lord our God.” (Jeremiah 3:22, NKJV).

“For thus says the Lord: ‘Your affliction is incurable, your wound is severe. There is no one to plead your cause that you may be bound up; you have no healing medicines. All your lovers have forgotten you; they do not seek you; for I have wounded you with the wound of an enemy, with the chastisement of a cruel one, for the multitude of your iniquities, because your sins have increased.’” (Jeremiah 30:13-14, NKJV).

“Your injury has no healing, your wound is severe. All who hear news of you will clap their hands over you, for upon whom has not your wickedness passed continually? (Nahum 3:19, NKJV).

God’s Desire to Restore Israel

Through sending His word to the prophets, God desired for Israel to repent of their sins, just as He desires for us to repent of our sins and accept Christ.

“If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14, NKJV).

“’Therefore all those who devour you shall be devoured; and all your adversaries, every one of them, shall go into captivity; those who plunder you shall become plunder, and all who prey upon you I will make a prey. For I will restore health to you and heal you of your wounds, says the Lord, ‘Because they called you an outcast saying: ‘this is Zion; no one seeks her.’” (Jeremiah 30:16-17, NKJV).

The Messiah

God’s ultimate healing for the sickness of sin for Israel and all of the world was to send His Only begotten Son, the Messiah Jesus Christ into the world. The Old Testament prophets looked forward to the day of Christ because of the healing and restoration.

“Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:4-5, NKJV).

“Come, and let us return to the Lord; for he has torn, but He will heal us; He has stricken, but He will bind us up. After two days He will revive us; on the third day He will raise us up, that we may live in His sight.” (Hosea 6:1-2, NKJV).

“But to you who fear My name the Sun of Righteousness shall arise with healing in His wings…” (Malachi 4:2a, NKJV).

Though we will battle physical bouts of physical sickness while we are in these bodies and in this sin-stricken world, we must make sure that are spiritual health is in order by allowing the sacrifice and shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ to heal us of our sins. Grace and peace to you all.

A Revelation of the Blood of Christ

I was hospitalized earlier this month (August 2015) for a low hemoglobin count in my blood. Hemoglobin carries the oxygen in our red blood cells. After three days in the hospital, two blood transfusions, and two bags of iron, my hemoglobin levels came up enough for me to go home. I believe the Lord used these transfusions to save my life. A few days after I came home, the Lord gave me a revelation about the blood I received. This is the revelation: if the two pints of blood helped save my life, how much more does the blood of Jesus Christ save us from our sins and give us new life in God? The donors volunteered a pint of their blood but the Lord Jesus Christ sacrificed and shed all of His blood for all of the sins of humanity.

There have been countless hymns, songs, and sermons written about the blood of Christ, yet the importance of the blood may not be emphasized in a lot of churches. In our modern world, especially in the Western world, the idea of blood sacrifice can make us uncomfortable. Is it because the shed blood of Christ makes us face the magnitude of our sins? Does it bring us to the realization that we cannot live for God for two hours on Sunday and live like the world the rest of the week? We have been bought with a price and our lives must reflect the sacrifice of Jesus. In order to do this, we must have a revelation of what Jesus’ shed blood means for us.

The Sacrifice of Christ is Greater than the Old Testament Sacrifices

 “Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. For if the blood of bulls and goats, and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? (Hebrews 9:12-14, KJV).

Apart from the Blood of Christ, there is no Forgiveness

 “In whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.” (Ephesians 1:7, KJV).

“Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of His dear Son: In whom we have redemption through His blood, even the forgiveness of sins.” (Colossians 1:13-14, KJV).

“But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin.” (1 John 1:7, KJV).

The Blood of Christ allows us to draw near to God

“That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.” (Ephesians 2:12-13, KJV).

“And, having made peace through the blood of His cross, by Him to reconcile all things unto Himself; by Him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven. And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath He reconciled.” (Colossians 1:20-21, KJV).

The Blood of Christ gives spiritual authority to us and the Church

“And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood. And He hath made us kings and priests unto God and His Father; to Him be glory and dominion for ever and ever.” (Revelation 1:5-6, KJV).

“And they sung a new song, saying, ‘Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for Thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by the blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation.” (Revelation 5:9, KJV).

The Blood of Christ gives us victory over sin, death, and Satan

“Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He also Himself likewise took part of the same; that through death He might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.” (Hebrews 2:14-15, KJV).

“And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.” (Revelation 12:10-11, KJV).

Brothers and sisters, whether it be trials and tribulations or just the ordinary battles of everyday life, we must always carry with us the sacrifice of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. God’s grace is free to all, but we must never cheapen God’s grace to indulge in the pleasures of sin for a season. The blood of Christ justifies us, saves us, redeems us, and gives us our new life in Christ. Just as donated blood is stored until needed, the blood of Christ is available to all, for all sins, past, present, and future. Do not neglect such a great salvation.