Faith is also a grace

Thoughts about grace…

God’s essence and character are love.

Love is expressed to the object of love.

Grace (gift, favor) is an expression of God’s love.

You can’t truly separate out just one aspect of God’s character from all the others.

Consider a red delicious apple – color, shape, aroma, texture, juiciness, flavor, peeling, seeds. It takes all those to make that particular type of apple.

When God extends his word, which contains his creative life, to me – an act of his grace – all his character is wrapped up in that word. (Does he believe his own word? Does he have faith in his own word?)

God’s own faith comes too.

Ephesians 2:8-9, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast.” (NIV)

 

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Curious? Dissatisfied? Hungry? Desperate?

Who told Bartimaeus?

“Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (which means “son of Timaeus”), was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” So they called to the blind man, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.” Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus. “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him. The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.”

“Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.” (Mark 10:46-52 NIV)

Bartimaeus shouted. Not an accepted member of the community, he was a blind beggar, thus considered unclean, unworthy, and not permitted to enter the Temple. People in the crowd rebuked him, trying to shut him up, but he kept on shouting — and he wasn’t just yelling, he was declaring something, something important: “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

Questions:

  • How did he know about Jesus?
  • How did he know who Jesus actually was?
  • Why did he want to get Jesus’s attention?

Well, he was persistent. He got Jesus’s attention. He didn’t ask him for money, he asked for healing so he could earn his own money, and he got it. (Then he became a follower of Jesus. Neat.)

Who told Zacchaeus?

“Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.

When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly. All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.”

But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”

Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:1-10)

“Zacchaeus was a Wee Little Man…”  Remember that children’s song? He was a rich man, a powerful man with a powerful position, but that wasn’t enough to satisfy him completely. He wanted to see this Jesus, to figure out who he was. Unfortunately, he was also an unpopular man, a Jewish man who worked for the Romans. Also unfortunately, he was a short man, and no-one would move out of the way and give him space to see. Undeterred, he did an undignified thing: he climbed up into a tree.

Questions:

  • How did he know it was Jesus coming his way?
  • How did he know Jesus was worth looking at?
  • Did he want something from Jesus?

He was persistent. Not dignified, but persistent. And so he did get to see Jesus, and Jesus also saw him! He didn’t ask Jesus for more power, a better position, or anything… instead he repented of the unjust way he’d been doing his job. He needed salvation, and he got it.

Who told the Syrophoenician Woman?

“Jesus left that place and went to the vicinity of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know it; yet he could not keep his presence secret.

In fact, as soon as she heard about him, a woman whose little daughter was possessed by an impure spirit came and fell at his feet. The woman was a Greek, born in Syrian Phoenicia. She begged Jesus to drive the demon out of her daughter.

“First let the children eat all they want,” he told her, “for it is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.” “Lord,” she replied, “even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.”

Then he told her, “For such a reply, you may go; the demon has left your daughter.” She went home and found her child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.” (Mark 7:24-30)

Although this woman’s name isn’t mentioned, her nationality is: Greek, born in Syrian Phoenicia (part of Lebanon or Syria today). She was not a Jew. Jesus had come into her territory, however, and pretty soon word got out that he was there. She sought him out, determined to find help for her demon-oppressed daughter.

Questions:

  • How did she know Jesus even existed?
  • How did she know he could help her daughter?
  • When he seemed to refuse, why didn’t she just apologize for bothering him and go home?

She was stubbornly persistent. Not on her behalf, but on behalf of her daughter who desperately needed deliverance. And she got it.

Who told the Woman in the Pharisee’s House?

“When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume.

As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them. When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is–that she is a sinner.”

Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.” “Tell me, teacher,” he said. “Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”

Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.” “You have judged correctly,” Jesus said. Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet.

Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven–as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.” Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” The other guests began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?” Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” (Luke 7:36-50)

This woman’s name isn’t mentioned either, but her status in the community is: Sinner. The assumption is that she was probably a prostitute. From her boldness to enter Simon’s house while he had dinner guests, she was probably not just known to Simon, but familiar to him. Perhaps one of her clients? Who knows.

But she wasn’t just bold; she owned an alabaster box of perfume, an expensive item to be carrying around. Some scholars have proposed that it was her life savings, although Luke doesn’t make that clear.

In any case, she didn’t just walk in, she fell down at Jesus’s feet, cried over them, washing his feet with her tears. Then she dried them with her hair, finally anointing them with the perfume. Can you imagine what her hair looked like after that? Or what the room smelled like after that?

Strangely enough, Simon didn’t have her thrown out. He didn’t even rebuke her himself. No, he began to criticize Jesus in his mind, who of course knew exactly what he was thinking.

Questions:

  • How did the woman know who Jesus was?
  • Who told her that Jesus was in Simon’s house?
  • What gave her the courage to invite herself in?
  • What gave her the humility to attend to Jesus’s dirty feet in an act of loving worship, when no servant had bothered to wash them?

She was persistent, throughout this encounter. She was already forgiven, because she already loved the Lord — she wanted to give him the best she had, and she wanted to do it publicly, in the position of a servant. She had needed salvation, and she had got it.

As you can see, I have questions and some possible answers of my own, but to me the most important point is this:

Somebody had told each one of them about Jesus.  Who he was, where he was, what he could do for them.

Whether they were just curious, or dissatisfied and hungry for more in their life, or desperate for help, somebody had told them about Jesus. A  neighbor. A friend or a relative. Maybe even a stranger in the crowd – somebody told them about Jesus. After they heard, they sought Jesus out and they found him.

It’s not the job of the preacher, the teacher, the prophet or the evangelist, only. Telling is every believer’s job. Somebody told us, didn’t they?

What is truth?

What is truth?

“What is truth?” retorted Pilate. With this he went out again to the Jews gathered there and said, “I find no basis for a charge against him.” (John 18:38 NIV)

“Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32)

“Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)

Think on these things.

The true things… the truth.

“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” (Phil. 4:8 KJV)

Why?

Because “Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.” (Prov. 18:21)

And, whatever is in your heart will eventually come out of your mouth. Those words will either create, maintain the status quo, or destroy something: “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.” (Matt. 12:34)

What things are true?

Some of my favorite true things:

  • Jesus’s words are spirit and life – “It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.” (John 6:63)
  • “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.” (2 Peter 1:3)
  • “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have [it] more abundantly.” (John 10:10)  We have an enemy, a thief (and murderer, and accuser, and liar, and deceiver), who does a lot of his destruction with whispered words like half-truths, innuendos, rumors, outright lies:

– You’re not really saved
– You’ll never be any good
– You can’t do it
– God doesn’t love you
– God did all those bad things to you

  • It’s our choice whether to listen to his lies and deceptions or not; we can resist him.  “Neither give place to the devil.” (Eph. 4:27) “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7)
  • We will be judged by the words we speak – “But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.” (Matt. 12:36-37)
  • So don’t repeat any of the devil’s lies to yourself or to anyone else, whether they are about you yourself or someone else. “Do not let any unwholesome talk (corrupt communication, KJV) come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” (Eph. 4:29 NIV)
  • Instead, repeat God’s creative words to yourself, such as the following, as often as needed until they get into your heart / memory banks:
  • “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.” (Eph. 6:10) We have the choice to be strong.
  • “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” (Phil. 4:13)
  • “God shall supply all your (my) need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 4:13, 19)
  • I am the righteousness of God! ” 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.” (2 Cor. 5:21)
  • One more fact that I know is the truth: I am a work in progress! “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” (Phil. 1:6)

There are many more of my favorite true things, but these seemed like good reminders for today.

How to heal the sick

Esther's Petition

HowToHealTheSickJesus healed the sick. He commanded the disciples to heal the sick, and to teach  future disciples (us) to do the same.

“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)

“Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed; and he healed them.” (Matthew 4:23-24; it does not say how, it just says he healed them all. Every sickness and every disease.)

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in…

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What’s in a face?

I was reading 2 Chronicles 7:14 one day, “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”

A phrase in the middle sort of “lit up” from the rest and stopped my reading. I thought I knew that verse by heart – after all, I often referred to it when asking the Lord to forgive our nation and send revival.

But that little phrase in the middle, how had I missed that? What did it mean exactly, “Seek my face?” I soon found several other verses containing that phrase:

  • “Seek the LORD and his strength, seek his face continually.”  (1 Chron. 16:11)
  • “When thou saidst, Seek ye my face; my heart said unto thee, Thy face, LORD, will I seek.” (Psalm 27:8)
  • “Seek the LORD, and his strength: seek his face evermore.”  (Psalm 105:4)

Other passages came to mind. Face to face is how God spoke to Moses, although cloaked in the pillar of cloud. The face of God is always on his people and his ears are always open to their prayers. The eyes of God run to and fro through the whole earth to show himself strong on behalf of those whose hearts are right towards him.

The meanings of the root words are pretty basic and easy to understand. Seek is from the Hebrew word darash, meaning “to resort to, seek, seek with care, inquire, require.” Face is from paniym, “face, presence, sight, countenance; i.e. the front of something, or in front of something. The surface.”

Since that day I’ve given that phrase a lot of thought. What is a face? What’s in a face? Here’s what I have thought, so far.

A way to communicate, one type of body language
Expressive; shows or hides emotions and physical feelings
Thoughts show on your face
Attentiveness, inattentiveness
Interest, boredom, curiosity
Attraction, repugnance, horror
Startle, surprise, fear, fright, terror
Concentration, determination, frustration, irritation, distraction
Meditation, thoughtfulness
Shyness, boldness
Embarrassment, shame
Anger, rage, wrath, anxiety, worry
Slyness

The mouth, ears, eyes, jaw, cheeks and nose; all the face is involved in expression, including the skin
Skin color changes, blushes, blanches
Eyebrows askew
Eyes wide open or squinting
Eyelids blinking; winking
Looking past, up, down, or direct; indicates attention level
Stare, ogle, glare
Wrinkled brow, raised brow
Wrinkled, raised nose
Pursed lips
Open mouth, closed mouth
Clinched teeth, clinched jaw
Smile, grin, or no smile
Frown, grimace
Twitching, tics

Indicates or hides direction of attention or focus
Eyes show focus of view, near or far; into the distance while meditating
Facade, fake face hiding real one
Intelligence personnel are trained to keep a stony face; comedians can tell jokes with a “straight” face

Slang terms / idioms in common usage
Face the facts
Face up to your responsibilities
Face up to it
Face it like a man
Face your fears
Face value
Face the consequences
On the face of it
Just a pretty face

So, “Seek my face.” What do you mean by that? I asked the Lord another night, after meditating on it a while. Here’s what he said:

My presence, my opinion, my feelings, my directions, my conversation, my fellowship, my purpose, my interests, my purposes, aims and goals.

My affection, my forgiveness, my mercy, my teaching, my training, my correction, my advice, my attention, my ear, my assistance, my mentoring, my example.

My face is not like your face. Vision, for instance, like X-ray vision. MRI. Ultrasound. Sonar. Infrared. Not bound by space or time or physics. Multidimensional, physical and/or spiritual, either or both at once.

He stopped speaking at that point and I started thinking about it again then, and often since then. Some of those thoughts, in no particular order, include

  • God has senses… well, of course he does.
  • Humans were created in his image; so were their senses, their computing and feeling abilities.
  • Any senses we have, God had first.
  • Sometimes there is a sweet smell like perfume, the aroma of his presence when you’ve been worshiping and praising him.
  • God has physical and spiritual hearing. Even the deepest thoughts of men are discerned by him.
  • The face of our thoughts is the surface of our soul.
  • But thoughts are not all on the surface. Thoughts are many levels deep, God’s and mine; they are similar in that way.
  • But God’s thoughts are countless levels deep and wide, not bound by time or distance.

There’s much more to learn, I know. More to search for, more to find. The Holy Spirit wants us all involved in that kind of search, I know. I don’t think we’ll ever finish finding out more about his face, his presence, his person.

The Prince of Peace painting is by Akiane Kramarik. It can be downloaded free of charge from https://art-soulworks.com/collections/prince-of-peace. 

Speak the word only

Prayers unanswered?

One reason Christians don’t get answers to their prayers may be that they are only praying and not “speaking the word.”

In Matthew 8, Jesus commended a Roman centurion for his faith. Why? The centurion recognized authority when he saw it.  He acknowledged Jesus’ authority over sickness and disease and he knew the enemy – disease in this case – would also.

He said to Jesus, “speak the word only and my servant will be healed.” So he did – Jesus said “Go, it will be done just as you believed it would.” And it was – “his servant was healed at that very hour.”

James 5:17-18 recounts the story of Elijah, Ahab, drought and rain. These verses talk about prayer and faith. But take look at the original story in I Kings chapters 17 and 18. This shows something unexpected: Elijah didn’t pray for God to stop the rain or to re-start it.

He himself spoke the words that stopped the rain, and three years later re-started it. He said to Ahab “As the Lord God of Israel, lives, whom I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word.” (17:1) And there wasn’t.

Well then, did Elijah pray at all? Obviously he did, but I think his prayer went something like this: “Oh God, what can I do!” (About the evil king Ahab.)

God answered with a set of odd instructions:  Go see  Ahab.  Speak to him about rain…

Odd or not, Elijah obeyed. Now, did it take a lot of faith to go tell King Ahab there would be no rain – or even dew – for several years, unless he himself, Elijah, said so?

I don’t know about a lot of faith, but it would sure take guts!

Yet James 5:17 says Elijah was a man just like us. Human, not superhuman. His faith was demonstrated by his obedience; by the words that he spoke.

Matthew 28:18-20 is the “Great Commission,” Jesus’ instructions to the apostles to make disciples of all nations. Not just converts – disciples. Students. Followers. Obeyers.  And verse 19 is very specific:  “teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”

What does everything include? Look at Matthew 10, Mark 6 and Luke 9:  (1) Preach the kingdom. (2) Heal the sick. (3) Raise the dead. (4) Cleanse the lepers. (5) Cast out demons.

Okay, how were they supposed to do all that? He had already showed them how. For three years they had been observing him do those things.  Seventy disciples already had practice (Luke 10).

So they obeyed Jesus and followed his example in doing so.

No matter what else they did, when confronted with people in need they “spoke the word.” They did not ask God to do what Jesus had plainly told them to do. See these examples:

  • Acts 3:6 –  Peter spoke to the crippled man,  commanding him to walk, and he did.
  • Acts 9:34 – Peter spoke to the paralyzed man, commanding him to get up, and he did.
  • Acts 9:40 – Peter spoke to the dead girl, commanding her to get up, and she did.
  • Acts 13:11 – Paul spoke to the sorcerer, saying “you are going to be blind,” and he was.
  • Acts 14:10 – Paul spoke to the lame man, commanding him to stand up, and he did.
  • Acts 28:8 – Paul prayed first, then laid hands on the sick man and healed him.

Many extraordinary signs, wonders and miracles were done when the apostles and disciples obeyed Jesus.  (Stephen – Acts 6:4, Paul and Barnabas  – Acts 15:12.)

Now, we are instructed to pray and most of us have no problem with that – we do pray. But sometimes we only pray about situations when we should also “speak the word.”

Are you called to be an Intercessor?

Several weeks ago I asked our Intercessory Prayer Sunday School class, How many of you feel called to be an Intercessor? Some raised their hands, some didn’t.

One member said, I don’t have that gift, and I said, It’s not a gift, it’s a calling. I didn’t expand on that statement then but I’d like to do it now, with another question:

How do you know if you’re called to be an Intercessor?

In the beginning of my adventures with Jesus (1972) and the Holy Spirit (1974) I didn’t start out to be an Intercessor, or even much of a pray-er. I started out to be just a student of the Bible. And then to be a teacher of the Bible. And then to be a better student, and a better teacher.

Along the way I began to make prayer lists. After all, I figured that was what every good Christian did. Occasionally I wrote those prayers down in notebooks, which I still have today.

Reading back through those lists it’s easy to see that some prayers were answered, some weren’t. Some answers were almost instant and some were gradual, but some never came. Why?

Discouragement began to plague my prayer time as I tried to understand – What had I done wrong? What had I prayed wrong? So I went back to being a student of the Bible, seeking answers to those questions.

After a while I realized that my interests were changing. I wasn’t interested in reading the same sort of books (murder mysteries and spy novels), or watching the same sort of television programs (cop shows) as I had been. Now, that wasn’t intentional, but gradually the use of my time shifted.

More and more of my time was being spent in seeking the Lord, studying the Bible, asking the Holy Spirit for wisdom, understanding, and information – answers to those “What” questions.

And then I discovered I John 5:14-15… “This is the confidence that we have in him, that if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us: And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him.”

Over a span of some years I discovered more and more of my time was being spent in praying for other people. Family, friends, and strangers. Believers yes, but many non-believers. Prayers for Mercy! My focus was shifting.

More time was being spent online reading reports of the Lord’s work around the globe. News from missionaries, revivalists, ordinary Christian people in Turkey, Libya, Egypt, Israel, Australia, Philippines, Russia, China, Japan – and many others.

Also news reports from mainline media, some Christian, some secular, in the United States and overseas. Reports of events, happenings, situations, chaos, conflicts, disasters, often accompanied by prayer requests from Christians and non-Christians. Many requests for prayer kept showing up in my emails and news feeds.

Pretty much automatically, I found myself praying and praying and praying as I read. Asking the Lord to inspire my prayers, to pray His will through my prayers!

Eventually it became evident that He had answered that particular prayer. He had implanted his desires right in the middle of my desires. Like, other drivers being annoying? Unsafe? “Pray mercy for them,” says the Holy Spirit. “You may be the only person on earth who will pray for them.”

Hitchhikers, bike riders, pedestrians along the road? “Pray they will encounter my presence, my compassion, my mercy,” says the Holy Spirit. Snarky people on Facebook? “Pray mercy for them,” says the Holy Spirit again. “They need Me, not a holier-than-thou attitude.”

A name suddenly pops into your mind? “Pray for them,” says the Holy Spirit. “They need a prayer right now.”

I began researching intercession and the authority of the believer in prayer, and what the scriptures have to say about all that. Wow. Prophetic intercession, prophetic worship, intercessory worship, there’s still a lot to learn! I’m still learning.

Well, being an Intercessor wasn’t what I started out to be. But it’s what the Lord started: an additional assignment. A calling.

Could I tell him No, I don’t want to do this? Certainly. I could refuse to spend my time this way, he wouldn’t send me to hell because of it. He might make me miserable… because my joy is to do what the Lord wants! To go where he wants, do what he wants, say what he wants, and pray what he wants.

See, some years ago I did say No to the Lord. In an unhappy state, I decided that if I just quit teaching the Bible things would get better. I would be happier. So I quit teaching and I quit reading my Bible and I quit praying.

Guess what happened? “Then I said, I will not make mention of him, nor speak any more in his name. But his word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay.” (Jer. 20:9) I was miserable!

Thankfully that phase didn’t last long and soon I returned to what I knew He wanted for me. Now this is what he wants for me.

How about you? Are you called to be an Intercessor? If you are, the Lord will show you. It may or may not be an instant revelation, but your focus will shift, your interests will change, and your use of time will be different.