Comfort / Comforter

Comforter ComforterRescuer

What kind of comfort do you need?

The origin of the English word comfort from the Oxford online dictionary: “Middle English (as a noun, in the senses of strengthening, support, consolation; as a verb, in the senses of strengthen, give support, console): from Old French confort (noun) or conforter (verb), from late Latin confortare, strengthen, from com- (expressing intensive force) + Latin fortis, strong. The sense of something producing physical ease arose in the mid 17th century.”

Thus scriptural comfort is a reinforcement of strength – mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical.

In 2 Corinthians 1:4 the Apostle Paul said this about comfort:

  • “who (i.e. the God of all comfort, v. 3) comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.” (KJV)
  • “who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” (NIV)
  • “who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” (NASB)
  • “who comforts and encourages…” (AMP)

Note: The KJV word tribulation in this verse is from the Greek word thlipsis, meaning pressure, oppression, affliction, distress, straits; it’s translated trouble or affliction in other versions.

Comfort here is from the Greek word paraklesis (G3874, noun), defined in Strong’s as meaning:

– a calling near, summons, (esp. for help); importation, supplication, entreaty; exhortation, admonition, encouragement
– consolation, comfort, solace; that which affords comfort or refreshment
– thus of the Messianic salvation (so the Rabbis call the Messiah the consoler, the comforter)
– persuasive discourse, stirring address
– instructive, admonitory, conciliatory, powerful hortatory discourse

John 14:16-17 (NIV) says, “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever — 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.”

Advocate here in the NIV is translated Comforter in the King James Version. It is from the Greek word paraklatos (G3875, noun), defined in Strong’s as:

– one who is summoned, called to one’s side, esp. called to one’s aid
– one who pleads another’s cause before a judge, a pleader, counsel for defense, legal assistant, an advocate
– one who pleads another’s cause with one, an intercessor
– of Christ in his exaltation at God’s right hand, pleading with God the Father for the pardon of our sins
– in the widest sense, a helper, succourer, aider, assistant
– of the Holy Spirit destined to take the place of Christ with the apostles (after his ascension to the Father), to lead them to a deeper knowledge of the gospel truth, and give them divine strength needed to enable them to undergo trials and persecutions on behalf of the divine kingdom

John used this word to describe the Holy Spirit. It is translated Comforter in KJV, Advocate in NIV, Helper in NASB, and Helper (Comforter, Advocate, Intercessor—Counselor, Strengthener, Standby) in the Amplified Version. He is all that, in every imaginable variation and circumstance.

What kind of comfort did Peter need?

  • Understanding, wisdom, speaking ability, revelation knowledge
  • Angel for a jailbreak…

5 So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him. 6 The night before Herod was to bring him to trial, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries stood guard at the entrance. 7 Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him up. “Quick, get up!” he said, and the chains fell off Peter’s wrists. 8 Then the angel said to him, “Put on your clothes and sandals.” And Peter did so. “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me,” the angel told him. 9 Peter followed him out of the prison, but he had no idea that what the angel was doing was really happening; he thought he was seeing a vision. 10 They passed the first and second guards and came to the iron gate leading to the city. It opened for them by itself, and they went through it. When they had walked the length of one street, suddenly the angel left him. (Acts 12:5-8 NIV)

What kind of comfort did Paul need?

  • Understanding, supernatural information, healing from beatings, resurrection from stoning, deliverance from mobs
  • Earthquake for a jailbreak…

25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. 26 Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose. 27 The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. 28 But Paul shouted, “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!” 29 The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:25-30 NIV)

See the Book of Acts for these and many other examples. Also see I Corinthians 12 for Gifts of the Holy Spirit, i.e. God’s power tools, equipment, supplies, inside information, wisdom and weaponry.

God the Holy Spirit, the believer’s indwelling Comforter / Helper / Assistant / Intercessor / Strengthener does more than just bring emotional calmness and peace of mind which is what most people today tend to think of as comfort, although he certainly does that.

And he isn’t just called alongside to help, he’s INSIDE to help.

So – what kind of comfort do you need?

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Antioch Christians

AntiochAncientCityThe disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.

“Meanwhile, the believers who had been scattered during the persecution after Stephen’s death traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch of Syria. They preached the word of God, but only to Jews.

20 However, some of the believers who went to Antioch from Cyprus and Cyrene began preaching to the Gentiles[f] about the Lord Jesus. 21 The power of the Lord was with them, and a large number of these Gentiles believed and turned to the Lord.

“22 When the church at Jerusalem heard what had happened, they sent Barnabas to Antioch. 23 When he arrived and saw this evidence of God’s blessing, he was filled with joy, and he encouraged the believers to stay true to the Lord. 24 Barnabas was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and strong in faith. And many people were brought to the Lord.

“25 Then Barnabas went on to Tarsus to look for Saul. 26 When he found him, he brought him back to Antioch. Both of them stayed there with the church for a full year, teaching large crowds of people. (It was at Antioch that the believers were first called Christians.)” (Acts 11:19-26, NLT)

Antioch was the Roman capital of Syria and the third greatest city in the Roman Empire after Rome and Alexandria, at the time of Paul and Barnabas. It was located on the banks of the Orontes River and at the junction of two mountain ranges. Antioch had grown to be a major Roman crossroads of civilization and power.

AncientAntiochA metropolis of between 200,000 and 400,000 people at the time of Christ, Antioch was called the Queen of the East, a sophisticated political, commercial, cultural – and religious center. “About five miles distant from the city was the suburb of Daphne, a spot sacred to Apollo and Artemis. This suburb, beautified by groves and fountains, and embellished by the Seleucids and the Romans with temples and baths, was the pleasure resort of the city, and ‘Daphnic morals’ became a by-word.” (BibleHub.com)

This great city was home to many pagan religions and housed many pagan temples. A great deal of money was to be had catering to the frequent traveling worshipers through the area.

At the time of Paul and Barnabas, those religions included Judaism and a new religion initially thought of as an offshoot of Judaism, followers of Jesus Christ – their worshipers enjoying relative peace, being tolerated by the multi-cultural Roman Empire of the day.

The word Christian means “Christ follower, of the household of Christ, or a partisan of Christ.”

But those who called them that didn’t mean it as a compliment, but as an insult. People using that term may never have seen Jesus themselves. They didn’t know him, but obviously they had heard something about him. Things like:

“How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.” (Acts 10:38 NIV)

“And his fame went throughout all Syria: and they brought unto him all sick people that were taken with divers diseases and torments, and those which were possessed with devils, and those which were lunatick, and those that had the palsy; and he healed them.” (Matthew 4:24 KJV)

So, what did the people of Antioch see? They saw the acts of people who did know Jesus, people like Paul and Barnabas.

  • The blind could now see.
  • The deaf could now hear.
  • The dumb could now speak.
  • The crippled were now strong and healthy.
  • Liars no longer lied.
  • Robbers no longer robbed.
  • Cheaters no longer cheated.
  • Idol worshipers no longer worshiped idols.

The people of Antioch no doubt asked, “What happened?” The people who had been changed could answer that question. Jesus happened!

When Jesus saves a person, he inhabits them by way of the Holy Spirit, and he changes their behavior and character from the inside out.  (John 14:23, II Corinthians 5:17)

Now the disciples in Antioch were doing the same things that Jesus had done – healing the sick, casting out demons, cleansing the lepers and raising the dead. Jesus had taught the disciples how to do those things themselves, empowered them and sent them out to do them.

And so they did, in Antioch and elsewhere. Paul’s own testimony includes, “… by the power of signs and miracles, through the power of His Spirit. So from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum, I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ.” (Romans 15:19 NIV)

When the people of Antioch saw believers doing the same things that Jesus the Christ had done, they mockingly called them Christians. Soon enough that insult became a badge of courage.

Because it became obvious that the lives of these new believers were very different from everyone else’s in Antioch. Wouldn’t you think that was wonderful? Well, not if you made your living off of sin… the worship of idols, for example. And so persecution soon followed.

People today may not recognize a Christian the same way Antioch did. While they may see changed habit patterns and changed character, they may not really expect to see today’s believers doing supernatural things.

But Jesus is the same now as he ever was. (Hebrews 13:8) When he is allowed to, he does the same things through his disciples today that he did then. (Matthew 10:7-8, 28:18-20) And more and more around the world, people are seeing those things.

I truly want to be an “Antioch” Christian.

To read more about this key city of the early Christian faith, click on these links:
http://www.pbs.org/empires/peterandpaul/footsteps/footsteps_3_1.html
http://biblehub.com/topical/a/antioch.htm
http://libaniusredux.blogspot.com/2010_05_01_archive.html

High things, anti knowledge of God

Acrocorinth_And_Temple_of_Apollo

Acrocorinth mountain fortress (one Temple of Aphrodite was located there), with the Temple of Apollo below. Both were in ruins at the time of Paul’s visits.

“Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.” (II Cor. 10:5)

Paul was quite familiar with “high things” in Corinth, high places such as the walled summit of Acrocorinth as well as the various temples to gods like Aphrodite, Apollo and Poseidon. Their worshipers sought love, peace, and protection with many forms of worship, including temple prostitution.

Worshipers sought success in life, whether it was good weather and good crops for farmers, safety in sailing the seas, excellent sales for merchants, the right mate, healthy children, good government, peace and calm, freedom from war.

Whatever the need, there was a temple to that god. Right worshiping, right offerings, right behavior – those were sure to produce right results. Right? Maybe not.

For “high things” Paul used the Greek word  hýpsoma, meaning an elevated place, height or high thing. Specifically it referred to an elevated structure, a barrier, rampart, or bulwark, high things such as walls built for protection around cities, temples, or castles. They were barricades to keep people out.

Only one other New Testament verse uses this word and there it is translated height: “Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:39)

Temples made with hands were everywhere in Corinth, just as in Athens, Rome, and Ephesus. Operating these temples was big business in this prosperous Roman colony. Who did this foreigner think he was, saying they were fakes? False? Phony?

Paul preached “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands.” (Acts 17:24) Persecution was the inevitable result for Paul and the new Christians, then as it is today. Truth isn’t popular when it comes to big business, big money from immoral worship.

Everyone I know wants love, peace, protection and provision, including me. And they are indeed available, but not from false believing, not from false gods or false worship. Believing the wrong things puts up a barricade to experiencing and knowing the true God, his love, mercy, forgiveness, grace and power.

Paul warned about those wrong “high things” everywhere he went, including Corinth.

corinthThe following is from PBS (In the footsteps of Peter and Paul) about the city of Corinth and Paul’s visits there: http://www.pbs.org/empires/peterandpaul/footsteps/footsteps_6_1.html

“After this he went to Corinth. Here he met a Jew named Aquila, who, with his wife Priscilla, had come from Italy recently because Claudius had ordered that all Jews leave Rome.”

“Paul approached them and, because they were of the same trade, he stayed with them and worked with them. They were tentmakers. He also engaged in discussions in the synagogue each Sabbath, attempting to win over both Jews and Greeks.” (Acts 18.1-4, 11)

Paul could have approached Corinth from Athens by land or by sea. After settling in, he spent his days in Corinth plying his trade and preaching in the synagogues with his hosts Aquila and Priscilla. The couple had left Rome with the Jews expelled by the emperor Claudius, and like Paul they were tentmakers. The tents they made or repaired would have been in demand for soldiers, travelers, and market stalls. Large, heavy and colorful, the tents were usually made from leather and heavy canvases.

The rhythm of city life in the Mediterranean would have found Paul at work from early morning until midday, leaving off work in the hot hours of the afternoon, and resuming later in the day. For eighteen months he built his community in Corinth, and he would return to Corinth more than once over the next years. When he left, he was joined by his friends Priscilla and Aquila. Paul was headed back to Antioch, but the couple would stay in Ephesus, and found a fledgling Jesus community there.

Located on the south side of the isthmus connecting the Peloponnese to the mainland, at the foot of a mountain fortress, Corinth was the capital of the Roman province of Achaia. A great lighthouse and Temple to Poseidon guided ships into the harbors, to fill the city markets and the warehouses down on the wharves with merchandise from the around the empire and beyond — spices from India, silk from China, linen from Tarsus, local Corinthian marble and variegated marble from Turkey, Greece, and North Africa, timber from Italy, and wine and olive oil, fruits and vegetables from fertile fields of Corinth.

Ships were dragged across the isthmus on a road called the diolkos, and in 67, Nero would begin to build a canal — using the labor of 6,000 Jewish prisoners from Judea — though it was never finished in antiquity. The city had made a remarkable comeback after its total destruction at the hands of the Romans in 146 BCE. The entire city had been razed-its people killed or enslaved.

Julius Caesar revived the city as a colony in 44 BCE, and by the mid-first century CE, Corinth had the largest population in Greece, a population that would swell with visiting sailors and merchants to the ports, and tourists attending the festivals of athletic games. Corinth served the nearby Isthmian games, an ancient international athletic festival held every two years. Dedicated to Poseidon, the victor’s prize was a crown of wild celery. Contests included chariot and foot races, and literary contests.

The games were revived in the Roman period, and added to with games in honor of Caesar. Two days journey from Corinth was the city of Epidauros, which had one of the most important sanctuaries to Asklepios, the god of healing. Pilgrims would come from around the empire in hopes of healing.

Because of its great wealth and transitory population, Corinth had a reputation for luxury, and uninhibited pleasures. This reputation was further bolstered by the city’s association with Aphrodite — her image appeared on the city’s coinage, and Corinth had at least three temples to the goddess of love, including one on the very high summit of Acrocorinth, where she held a shield before her like a mirror.

In addition, the harbors had their own temples to the goddess of love. In pre-Roman times, one temple of Aphrodite was served by temple prostitutes, and, though modern scholars debate whether ritual prostitution had ceased by the time of Paul’s arrival, there is little doubt that prostitution would have thrived. Brothels have been excavated in several Roman cities, including Pompeii and Ephesus.

But Aphrodite was important to the city in other ways, too. Born out of the sea, she could protect the sailors and ships on which the city’s economy depended. And Julius Caesar, the city’s colonial patron, claimed descent from Venus, the Roman form of Aphrodite.

The new city of Corinth is located east of the ancient city. A canal was finally built through the isthmus in the late 19th century, but sections of the diolkos are still visible. The excavations at ancient Corinth give some idea of the city’s former prominence; a Temple to Apollo has standing columns, and some streets and market shops can evoke the flavor of the trade city.

Along one side of the Forum is a bema – a platform from which Roman officials would address the public. Here the governor may have refused to arrest Paul. There is a museum onsite.

The mountain fortress Acrocorinth still looms over the site, and the view from the summit is well worth the hike. Also on the summit are ruins of the Temple of Aphrodite, among others.

The fortifications on the mountain are, in the main, much later than the Roman period, but indicate the continued strategic importance of the site for centuries. The harbor town of Cenchreae is largely underwater, but warehouses and a sanctuary of Isis are visible.

Nearby Isthmia, site of the biannual athletic contests, has a museum and remains of the stadium, city walls, and the sanctuary of Poseidon. In Epidaurus, the sanctuary of Asklepius is undergoing excavation and some restoration. The well-preserved theater at Epidaurus presents live theater in the summer.

For more, also see http://www.padfield.com/2005/corinth.html

The Filling of the Holy Spirit

HolySpiritMatt311There is a difference between drinking a glass of water and taking a bath – and there’s a difference between receiving the Holy Spirit at salvation (drinking a glass of water) and receiving the Baptism of the Holy Spirit (taking a bath).

Without the power of the Holy Spirit, believers simply can’t live the successful Christian life. Jesus told the disciples, who were already believers and had already received the Holy Spirit (John 20:22), to wait until they received power from on high before beginning their ministry.

Even then, they were filled (refilled) with the Holy Spirit several times. D.L. Moody was asked why he said he needed to be filled continually with the Holy Spirit; he replied, “Because I leak!”

Telling church members what to do without telling them how to get the power to do it (i.e. receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit) is cruel. The following article is from CBN online.

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THE FILLING OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
Joel Comiskey

For two years, I lived in Pasadena, California, the home of the famous New Year’s Day Rose Parade. One year during the parade, a beautiful float suddenly sputtered and coasted to a halt. It was out of gas. The whole parade was held up until someone could get a can of gas over to the float and get it moving again. The amusing thing was that this float represented the Standard Oil Company! Even with its vast oil resources, the company’s truck had run out of gas.

In much the same way, Christians often neglect their spiritual maintenance, and although they have been filled with the Holy Spirit, they need to be refilled. When the greatest evangelist of the nineteenth century, D.L. Moody, was asked why he said he needed to be filled continually with the Holy Spirit, he replied, “Because I leak!” Like Moody, we all run out of gas and need the power of the Holy Spirit to recharge our lives. This article will clarify how to be filled continually with the Holy Spirit.

The Power of the Holy Spirit

In Ephesians 5:18, Paul wrote: “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.” In the original Greek, the phrase be filled is a present-tense verb. To signify a “one-time filling,” Paul would have used the past tense or a future verb tense; instead, he chose the present tense to denote that the filling of the Holy Spirit is not a one-time event, but a continual experience. Scripture says that we must be continually filled with the Spirit, not just once or twice.

The word filling seems awkward when referring to the Holy Spirit’s entrance into our lives. The Spirit of God is not a liquid, like water. He does not fill a person the way cold milk fills a cup. The Holy Spirit is God—He is one in essence with the Father and the Son—but He is also a distinct Person and has all the attributes of a person. That is why we refer to the Holy Spirit as the third Person of the Trinity. Many Scripture passages point to these facts.

  1. Like a person, the Holy Spirit searches, helps and guides.
  2. He knows; He feels; He wills. Scripture speaks of the Holy Spirit’s mind, His love and His instruction.
  3. In Ephesians 4:30, Paul wrote: “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” The only way we can grieve someone is if the one we are grieving is a person.

Because the Holy Spirit is a Person, it makes more sense to talk about the Holy Spirit’s control or compulsion in our lives, rather than His filling of our lives. Holy Spirit-driven is a good way to look at our response to His control. A person who is filled with the Spirit is driven by the Spirit—driven in a gentle, loving way. A Spirit-driven person allows the Holy Spirit to direct and guide every decision, plan and activity. Because the world, the flesh and the devil oppose the Spirit-controlled lifestyle, we need to be filled and renewed continually.

I was first filled with the Holy Spirit in early 1974. In September 1973, approximately four months earlier, I had received Jesus by praying the prayer of salvation in my bedroom, yet I lacked power in my life. During those initial months as a Christian, I was afraid to proclaim to others my newfound faith in Christ. I was in my last year of high school and desperate to become bold about my faith. My lack of spiritual power led me to attend a miracle service of Shekinah Fellowship that gathered in a Foursquare church in downtown Long Beach, California.

Although I responded to the general altar call after the service, I knew exactly what I needed. I longed for power and boldness so that I would not be ashamed of my Christian faith. The elders at Shekinah prayed for me to receive the fullness of the Holy Spirit. I knew that they hoped I would immediately receive the gift of tongues as a sign that the Holy Spirit had fallen upon me.

I did not speak in tongues that night, but change was evident the very next day. My mom and I went to Pastor Chuck Smith’s church, Calvary Chapel, in Costa Mesa, California. All I could do was talk about Jesus—I witnessed about Jesus to everyone I saw that day. I even grilled my mother repeatedly about her faith. (She graciously overlooked a lot of zealous behavior in those days!)

My life was totally transformed from that night onward. I began to carry my Bible with me everywhere, setting it down on the right corner of each classroom desk at Millikan High School. I wanted people to know that I was a believer—and I had the confidence to prove it. The Shekinah Fellowship experience, however, was not enough. I needed repeated fillings of the Spirit’s grace and power.

Later, I did speak in tongues: I stepped out by faith and spoke in an unknown prayer language to God. Speaking in tongues was not a grand emotional experience for me, but it has helped me greatly during times when words cannot express my yearnings and petitions to God. I am thankful for the gift of tongues.

Some would call what happened to me at Shekinah Fellowship that night in 1974 “the baptism with the Holy Spirit.” Other would classify it as Joel Comiskey’s “first filling after conversion.” The most important point, however, is that I desperately needed His fullness in 1974, and I need it just as much today. I believe that my first filling in 1974 was not sufficient—it was only the first in a long line of subsequent encounters with the Holy Spirit.

Even in the book of Acts, those who experienced the Pentecostal outpouring with tongues of fire in chapter 2 still needed a fresh wind of the Holy Spirit in chapter 4. Only two chapters later, those same apostles prayed to the Lord and the place was shaken: “And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly” (Acts 4:31).

It seems to me that our debates over terminology have often prevented us from seeking the Spirit’s continual fullness. All Christians can come together under the banner of eagerly desiring the Spirit’s fullness, even though not all believers label that experience in the same way. Craig Keener, a Southern Baptist professor at Eastern Seminary who had an experience of Holy Spirit similar to my own, said:

“If we could get past some semantic debates in our discussions about the timing of the baptism of the Holy Spirit, we would have more time available for the more practical questions surrounding the Spirit’s empowerment. Nearly all Christians agree, for example, that all Christians have the Spirit by virtue of being born again. We also agree that we all should regularly experience a Spirit-filled life, walk in the Spirit, depend on the Spirit’s power in our behavior and witness, and be open to experiences from God’s Spirit subsequent to conversion.”

Before leading a small group seminar for Southern Baptist missionary leaders in Prague, Czech Republic, in 2003, I was approached by one of the missionary leaders who told me: “The only way to reach Eastern Europe with the Gospel is to seek the fullness of the Holy Spirit and operate in all of the gifts of the Spirit.” This missionary leader understood that heathen, demonic forces are too powerful for us to minister effectively apart from yielding completely to the Holy Spirit’s working. He wisely guarded his terminology, but he was speaking the same language that I hear repeatedly around the world.

This Southern Baptist missionary wanted what other hungry believers across Christendom have desired throughout the ages: the power and fullness of the Holy Spirit’s presence in life and ministry.

http://www1.cbn.com/biblestudy/the-filling-of-the-holy-spirit

Joel Comiskey holds a Ph.D. from Fuller Theological Seminary and is an internationally recognized cell church consultant. He has served as a missionary with the Christian and Missionary Alliance in Quito, Ecuador, and is now the founding pastor of Wellspring, a small-group-based church in southern California. Joel has written bestselling books on the worldwide cell-group movement, and he teaches as an adjunct professor at several theological seminaries.

Justice? I just don’t get it…

The Equalizer

“Got a problem? Odds against you? Call the Equalizer!”

Leverage

“The rich and powerful take what they want. We steal it back for you.”

The Shadow

“Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows!”

Superman

“The never ending battle for truth, justice, and the American way.”

Underdog

“Never fear, Underdog is here!”

Even Underdog! Then there’s the Lone Ranger, Hopalong Cassidy, Green Hornet, Red Rider, Zorro… not to mention my all-time favorite, the A-Team.

What do all these have in common? The demand for justice. Fairness. “What’s fair is fair.” Because people know what is right, what is fair, what is equitable.

From the very beginning, they knew that some things were wrong. Like killing, stealing, lying, destroying.

How did they know? They were created to know, and they were given to know. “He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” (Micah 6:8)

Along the way (beginning in the Garden), God’s definitions of right and wrong were questioned, then perverted by some. And people still cry out for justice, as they have from the beginning. God himself said that Abel’s blood cried out from the ground (Genesis 4:10). The perversion of justice demanded a penalty – death. (Genesis 2:17, Romans 6:23)

The oldest of civilizations devised codes of laws and systems of justice, attempting to get back to the beginning, to the Garden, perhaps.

Back in the 1980’s when Tim and I first got involved in politics, an irate woman shouted at us in a meeting, “You can’t legislate morality!” She was angry at our stances on various issues. Especially our pro-life stances. (We were actively, vocally opposed to removing the pro-life plank from the state and national Republican Party platforms.)

“Sure you can,” I answered, when I could get a word in. “That’s what legislation does.The question is, whose morality are you going to legislate?” I may not have persuaded her that day, but I hope she thought more about my question. Whose morality? Whose justice?

In the scriptures, the words justice and righteousness come from the same root word. Justice is a principle and a system of right and wrong as defined by the Creator. Righteousness is a state of being right in God’s eyes, in his opinion.

God gets to define “right,” and he gets to decide who is right. (When the word is translated justice, another word – judgment – is often found in that verse, meaning the decision and legal declaration of justice.)

Is justice always doing the right thing, never doing the wrong thing? But I couldn’t live up to that standard, no matter how hard I tried. So then, what is justice, to God? What is righteousness?

“Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.” (Romans 4:3) Hebrews 11 lists the “Heroes of Faith,” men and women who believed what God said to them and thus were considered righteous by God.

Now, I believe, “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” (II Cor. 5:21). Jesus took the penalty of sin, instead of me.

Consider:

  • Having their conscience seared as with a hot iron – I Timothy 4:2
  • Having their senses exercised to discern good and evil – Hebrews 5:14
  • Let justice roll – Amos 5:24
  • There is none good but God – Matthew 19:17
  • There is none righteous – Romans 3:10
  • Vengeance is mine, I will repay, said the Lord – Romans 12:19.

And he did. Jesus got the penalty in my place, satisfied God’s requirements of justice, and I get his grace instead.

Already an interesting year

Some new readers may have missed the following post, originally published on December 25, 2015:

2016 – what will it be like?

Praying before sleep one night last week, I asked the Lord about next year. “What will it be like? Worse than 2015? More disasters, chaos, tragedies? More wars?”

“Appointments met,” he said. “Promises kept. Prophecies fulfilled. A year of kairos moments.”

Kairos – the appointed time, in due season, the fullness of time, at a fixed and definite time, for a certain time only.

It’s going to be an interesting year.

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2016 has already been an interesting year. I’ve met many new people online, read many interesting articles and blog posts, had the privilege of praying with many people in person, on the phone or online, and seeing God at work everywhere. Almost every day…

Thinking about that, the Lord reminded me of an occasion some weeks ago that was way MORE than just interesting.

A routine appointment with my cardiologist was scheduled for 1:30 on a Friday afternoon. As usual, I arrived a few minutes early and checked in with the receptionist. She looked a little “frowny,” so I asked how she was doing.

“Not too good,” she said. “I have a terrible stomach ache. I couldn’t even eat my lunch.”

So, I reached my hand across the counter, she took it, and looking straight into her eyes I smiled and said, “Stomach, be healed in Jesus’ name.”

She thanked me and I turned into the waiting room, found an empty chair and sat down. The only other patient nearby looked over at me and spoke hello with a big smile on his face. He had seen my interaction with the ailing receptionist.

Dropping my purse onto the floor, I leaned back to get comfortable when I heard my name called. I’d been there five minutes! That never happens… usually there is a lengthy wait time.

In a little room off the main hall, a very overweight medical technician took my weight and checked my blood pressure, pronouncing both of them excellent.

“Wish I could say that,” she commented. “I can’t seem to lose weight and I know my blood pressure’s too high.”

“Would you like to know how I do that?” I asked her. “Sure,” she said.

And so I told her about the power of the Holy Spirit to stick with a healthier lifestyle. She said she and her husband were both Christians and he was doing okay, but she had a hard time eating right.

“Would you like me to pray for you?” When she said yes I held out my hand and she took it. With a smile I simply prayed, “Father, please give my sister the desire and the ability to take better care of her health, especially with what she eats, in Jesus’ name.”

Thanking me, she walked me straight to an examining room – which never happens! Usually patients go into an intermediate waiting room first, but this time we skipped right past it.

The young cardiologist and his physician’s assistant came in within a very few minutes – which never happens either! He read through my chart, listened to my heart and lungs and said, “You’re doing fine, just keep doing what you’re doing and come back in six months or so.”

As he prepared to leave the room, I asked him, “Can I pray for you?” (I already knew he was a believer from previous appointments.)

“Oh yes, I’d love for you to pray for me,” he answered, then put his arm around my shoulder and bowed his head.

I asked the Lord to bless him, to meet every need for him, his family, his staff and his practice, and especially to bless his relationship with the Lord. He hugged me, thanked me and turned to leave the room.

His physician’s assistant still stood there. She looked a bit glum, so I asked, “Would you like me to pray for you too?”

She teared up and began to cry. “Oh yes, please,” she said. “I’ve been having a really hard time lately and I need somebody to pray for me.”

I didn’t ask her for any details. I just took her hand, she bowed her head, and I asked the Lord to touch her life, to make Himself very present to her, and to let her know how very much God loves her and wants to help her.

I have no idea what words I said specifically. I just let the Holy Spirit use me to speak directly to her heart. She hugged me and thanked me, I got dressed and went back out to the receptionist’s desk.

The receptionist was smiling and cheerful as I asked, “How’s your stomach?”

“It quit hurting the second you prayed!” she exclaimed. She told me how much she appreciated the fact that I cared enough to pray for her. I smiled and said “Be blessed!”

Walking to my car, I glanced at my watch. I had been in the doctor’s office for about thirty minutes – that never happens!

Since that afternoon, I’ve had multiple opportunities to lay hands on the sick and see the Lord heal them – including laryngitis that instantly vanished, and a broken foot that was instantly healed, confirmed the next day with x-rays.

There have been many chances to see the Lord at work, to pray with and for people with a wide variety of problems, some serious – like the young father of four whose truck and his wife’s car both broke down at the same time. The Lord marvelously provided a replacement vehicle and truck repairs at very little cost.

Some of those chances have been at church, some in grocery stores, some in other businesses, and some online. Jesus went about doing good. He told us to do what he had been doing. A disciple isn’t just someone who reads about another person – his master – and tries to do what they did. A disciple is someone in training to be LIKE his master.

In our case, that’s Jesus. Being his disciple is doing what he did, how he did it. It’s listening to the Holy Spirit and doing what he says, with the dunamis power he provides to do it. If we’re not doing what Jesus did, how are we to do the “greater works than these?”

2016 is indeed going to be an interesting year. It already has been!

Acts 10:38, “How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him.”

John 14:12, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.”