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Sunday, February 28, 2016

The Saint Must Walk Alone

The Saint Must Walk Alone

A.W. Tozer |
The Saint Must Walk Alone Tuesday, February 17, 2015
Most of the world's great souls have been lonely. Loneliness seems to be one price the saint must pay for his saintliness.
In the morning of the world (or should we say, in that strange darkness that came soon after the dawn of man's creation), that pious soul, Enoch, walked with God and was not, for God took him; and while it is not stated in so many words, a fair inference is that Enoch walked a path quite apart from his contemporaries.
Another lonely man was Noah who, of all the antediluvians, found grace in the sight of God; and every shred of evidence points to the aloneness of his life even while surrounded by his people.
Again, Abraham had Sarah and Lot, as well as many servants and herdsmen, but who can read his story and the apostolic comment upon it without sensing instantly that he was a man "whose soul was alike a star and dwelt apart"? As far as we know not one word did God ever speak to him in the company of men. Face down he communed with his God, and the innate dignity of the man forbade that he assume this posture in the presence of others. How sweet and solemn was the scene that night of the sacrifice when he saw the lamps of fire moving between the pieces of offering. There, alone with a horror of great darkness upon him, he heard the voice of God and knew that he was a man marked for divine favor.
Moses also was a man apart. While yet attached to the court of Pharaoh he took long walks alone, and during one of these walks while far removed from the crowds he saw an Egyptian and a Hebrew fighting and came to the rescue of his countryman. After the resultant break with Egypt he dwelt in almost complete seclusion in the desert. There, while he watched his sheep alone, the wonder of the burning bush appeared to him, and later on the peak of Sinai he crouched alone to gaze in fascinated awe at the Presence, partly hidden, partly disclosed, within the cloud and fire.
The prophets of pre-Christian times differed widely from each other, but one mark they bore in common was their enforced loneliness. They loved their people and gloried in the religion of the fathers, but their loyalty to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and their zeal for the welfare of the nation of Israel drove them away from the crowd and into long periods of heaviness. "I am become a stranger unto my brethren, and an alien unto my mother's children," cried one and unwittingly spoke for all the rest.
Most revealing of all is the sight of that One of whom Moses and all the prophets did write, treading His lonely way to the cross. His deep loneliness was unrelieved by the presence of the multitudes.
'Tis midnight, and on Olive's brow
The star is dimmed that lately shone;
'Tis midnight; in the garden now,
The suffering Savior prays alone.
'Tis midnight, and from all removed
The Savior wrestles lone with fears;
E'en the disciple whom He loved
Heeds not his Master's grief and tears.
- William B. Tappan
He died alone in the darkness hidden from the sight of mortal man and no one saw Him when He arose triumphant and walked out of the tomb, though many saw Him afterward and bore witness to what they saw. There are some things too sacred for any eye but God's to look upon. The curiosity, the clamor, the well-meant but blundering effort to help can only hinder the waiting soul and make unlikely if not impossible the communication of the secret message of God to the worshiping heart.
Sometimes we react by a kind of religious reflex and repeat dutifully the proper words and phrases even though they fail to express our real feelings and lack the authenticity of personal experience. Right now is such a time. A certain conventional loyalty may lead some who hear this unfamiliar truth expressed for the first time to say brightly, "Oh, I am never lonely. Christ said, `I will never leave you nor forsake you,' and `Lo, I am with you alway.' How can I be lonely when Jesus is with me?"
Now I do not want to reflect on the sincerity of any Christian soul, but this stock testimony is too neat to be real. It is obviously what the speaker thinks should be true rather than what he has proved to be true by the test of experience. This cheerful denial of loneliness proves only that the speaker has never walked with God without the support and encouragement afforded him by society. The sense of companionship which he mistakenly attributes to the presence of Christ may and probably does arise from the presence of friendly people. Always remember: you cannot carry a cross in company. Though a man were surrounded by a vast crowd, his cross is his alone and his carrying of it marks him as a man apart. Society has turned against him; otherwise he would have no cross. No one is a friend to the man with a cross. "They all forsook Him, and fled."
The pain of loneliness arises from the constitution of our nature. God made us for each other. The desire for human companionship is completely natural and right. The loneliness of the Christian results from his walk with God in an ungodly world, a walk that must often take him away from the fellowship of good Christians as well as from that of the unregenerate world. His God-given instincts cry out for companionship with others of his kind, others who can understand his longings, his aspirations, his absorption in the love of Christ; and because within his circle of friends there are so few who share inner experiences, he is forced to walk alone. The unsatisfied longings of the prophets for human understanding caused them to cry out in their complaint, and even our Lord Himself suffered in the same way.
The man who has passed on into the divine Presence in actual inner experience will not find many who understand him. A certain amount of social fellowship will of course be his as he mingles with religious persons in the regular activities of the church, but true spiritual fellowship will be hard to find. But he should not expect things to be otherwise. After all he is a stranger and a pilgrim, and the journey he takes is not on his feet but in his heart. He walks with God in the garden of his own soul - and who but God can walk there with him? He is of another spirit from the multitudes that tread the courts of the Lord's house. He has seen that of which they have only heard, and he walks among them somewhat as Zacharias walked after his return from the altar when the people whispered, "He has seen a vision."
The truly spiritual man is indeed something of an oddity. He lives not for himself but to promote the interests of Another. He seeks to persuade people to give all to his Lord and asks no portion or share for himself. He delights not to be honored but to see his Savior glorified in the eyes of men. His joy is to see his Lord promoted and himself neglected. He finds few who care to talk about that which is the supreme object of his interest, so he is often silent and preoccupied in the midst of noisy religious shoptalk. For this he earns the reputation of being dull and overserious, so he is avoided and the gulf between him and society widens. He searches for friends upon whose garments he can detect the smell of myrrh and aloes and cassia out of the ivory palaces, and finding few or none, he, like Mary of old, keeps these things in his heart.
It is this very loneliness that throws him back upon God. "When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take me up." His inability to find human companionship drives him to seek in God what he can find nowhere else. He learns in inner solitude what he could not have learned in the crowd - that Christ is All in All, that He is made unto us wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption, that in Him we have and possess life's summum bonum.
Two things remain to be said. One, that the lonely man of whom we speak is not a haughty man, nor is he the holier-than-thou, austere saint so bitterly satirized in popular literature. He is likely to feel that he is the least of all men and is sure to blame himself for his very loneliness. He wants to share his feelings with others and to open his heart to some like-minded soul who will understand him, but the spiritual climate around him does not encourage it, so he remains silent and tells his griefs to God alone.
The second thing is that the lonely saint is not the withdrawn man who hardens himself against human suffering and spends his days contemplating the heavens. Just the opposite is true. His loneliness makes him sympathetic to the approach of the brokenhearted and the fallen and the sin-bruised. Because he is detached from the world, he is all the more able to help it. Meister Eckhart taught his followers that if they should find themselves in prayer and happen to remember that a poor widow needed food, they should break off the prayer instantly and go care for the widow. "God will not suffer you to lose anything by it," he told them. "You can take up again in prayer where you left off and the Lord will make it up to you." This is typical of the great mystics and masters of the interior life from Paul to the present day.
The weakness of so many modern Christians is that they feel too much at home in the world. In their effort to achieve restful "adjustment" to unregenerate society they have lost their pilgrim character and become an essential part of the very moral order against which they are sent to protest. The world recognizes them and accepts them for what they are. And this is the saddest thing that can be said about them. They are not lonely, but neither are they saints.

Does God Ever Change His Mind?

Does God Ever Change His Mind?

Sam Storms | Senior Pastor, Bridgeway Church
Does God Ever Change His Mind? Wednesday, February 25, 2015
All people are fickle, in varying degrees. I suspect we’d be shocked to learn how many times in the course of a normal day we change our plans, reverse course, or pull out an eraser to delete an appointment or a task we had set for the week. Changing our minds feels so natural to us as humans, it’s hard to envision life without it. In most instances the changes are harmless and typically result from unforeseeable circumstances, as well as the alterations that other people make that directly affect us. But what would it mean for God to change his mind? Does he? Could he? Or are all his plans and purposes immutable?
The importance of defining our theological terms with precision is most evident in the case of divine immutability. Here is a word that in contemporary evangelical circles evokes either protest or praise. Some see it as a threat to the biblical portrait of a God who does indeed change: he changes his mind (“repents”) and he changes his mode of being (“the Word became flesh”). Others are equally concerned that a careless tampering with this attribute of God will reduce him to a fickle, unfaithful, and ultimately unworthy object of our affection and worship. It is imperative, therefore, that we proceed cautiously, and yet with conviction, in the explanation of the sense in which God both can and cannot change.
Immutability as Consistency of Character
The immutability of God is related to, but clearly distinct from, his eternity. In saying that God is eternal, in the sense of everlasting, we mean that he always has existed and always will exist. He was preceded by nothing and shall be succeeded by nothing. In saying that God is immutable we mean that he is consistently the same in his eternal being. The Being, who eternally is, never changes. This affirmation of unchangeableness, however, is not designed to deny that there is change and development in God’s relations to his creatures. Consider the following:
  • We who were once his enemies are now by the grace of Christ his friends (Romans 5:6-11).
  • The God who declared his intention to destroy Nineveh for its sin “changed” his mind upon its repentance (more on this below).
  • Furthermore, this affirmation of immutability must not be interpreted in such a way that “the Word became flesh” is threatened (John 1:14). We must acknowledge (our salvation depends upon it!) that he who is in his eternal being very God became, in space-time history, very man. Yet the Word who became flesh did not cease to be the Word (no transubstantiation here!). The second person of the Trinity has taken unto himself or assumed a human nature, yet without alteration or reduction of his essential deity. He is now what he has always been: very God. He is now what he once was not: very man. He is now and forever will be both: the God-man. It is a simplistic and ill-conceived doctrine of immutability that denies any part of this essential biblical truth.
Thus, to say without qualification that God cannot change or that he can and often does change is at best unwise and at worst misleading. Our concept of immutability must be formulated in such a way that we do justice to every biblical assertion concerning both the “being” and “becoming” of God.
Clearly, then, to say that God is immutable is not to say that he is immobile or static, for whereas all change is activity, not all activity is change. It is simply to affirm that God always is and acts in perfect harmony with the revelation of himself and his will in Scripture. For example, Scripture tells us that God is good, just, and loving. Immutability, or constancy, simply asserts that when the circumstances in any situation call for goodness, justice, or love as the appropriate response on the part of the Deity, that is precisely what God will be (or do, as the case may be). To say the same thing, but negatively: if God ought to be good, just, or loving as the circumstances may demand, or as his promises would require, he will by no means ever be evil, unfair, or hateful.
Immutability means that the God who in Scripture is said to be omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent has not been, is not, and never will be—under any and all imaginable circumstances—localized, ignorant, or impotent. What he is, he always is. To be more specific, God is immutable in respect to (1) his essential being (which is to say that God can neither gain nor lose attributes); (2) his life (God neither became nor is becoming; his life never began, nor will it ever end); (3) his moral character (God can become neither better nor worse); and (4) his purpose or plan (God’s decree is unalterable). Let’s look briefly at each of these in turn.
Constancy of Being, Life, Character, and Plan
Immutability is a property that belongs to the divine essence in the sense that God can neither gain new attributes, which he didn’t have before, nor lose those already his. To put it crudely, God doesn’t grow. There is no increase or decrease in the divine Being. If God would increase (either quantitatively or qualitatively), he would necessarily have been incomplete prior to the change. If God were to decrease, he would be, necessarily, incomplete after the change. The Deity, then, is incapable of development either positively or negatively. He neither evolves nor devolves. His attributes, considered individually, can never be greater or less than what they are and have always been. God will never be wiser, more loving, more powerful, or holier than he ever has been and ever must be.
This is at least implied in God’s declaration to Moses, “I am who I am” (Exodus 3:14), and is explicit in other texts:
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. (James 1:17)
I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed. (Malachi 3:6)
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. (Hebrews 13:8)
When we talk about the immutability of God’s life, we are very close to the notion of eternality or everlastingness. We are saying that God never began to be and will never cease to be. His life simply is. He did not come into existence (for to become existent is a change from nothing to something), nor will he go out of existence (for to cease existing is a change from something to nothing). God is not young or old: he simply is. Thus, we read:
Of old you laid the foundation of the earth,
and the heavens are the work of your hands.
They will perish, but you will remain;
they will all wear out like a garment.
You will change them like a robe, and they will pass away,
but you are the same, and your years have no end. (Psalms 102:25-27)
Before the mountains were brought forth,
or ever you had formed the earth and the world,
from everlasting to everlasting you are God.
(Psalms 90:2; cf. Psalms 93:2)
Immutability may also be predicated of God’s moral character. He can become neither better (morally) nor worse than what he is. If God could change (or become) in respect to his moral character, it would be either for the better or the worse. If for the better, it would indicate that he was morally imperfect or incomplete antecedent to the time of change, and hence never God. If for the worse, it would indicate that he is now morally less perfect or complete than before, and hence no longer God. It will not do to say that God might conceivably change from one perfect Being into another equally perfect Being. For one must then specify in what sense he has changed. What constitutes God as different in the second mode of being from what he was in the first? Does he have more attributes, fewer attributes, better or worse attributes? If God in the second mode of being had the same attributes (both quantitatively and qualitatively), in what sense would he be different from what he was in the first mode of being?
To deny immutability to God’s purpose or plan would be no less an affront to the Deity than to predicate change of his being, life, and character. There are, as I understand, only two reasons why God would ever be forced or need to alter his purpose: (1) if he lacked the necessary foresight or knowledge to anticipate any and all contingencies (in which case he would not be omniscient, contrary to the claims of open theism); or (2) if, assuming he had the needed foresight, he lacked the power or ability to effect what he had planned (in which case he would not be omnipotent). But since God is infinite in wisdom and knowledge, there can be no error or oversight in the conception of his purpose. Also, since he is infinite in power (omnipotent), there can be no failure or frustration in the accomplishment of his purpose.
The many and varied changes in the relationship that God sustains to his creatures, as well as the more conspicuous events of redemptive history, are not to be thought of as indicating a change in God’s being or purpose. They are, rather, the execution in time of purposes eternally existing in the mind of God. For example, the abolition of the Mosaic covenant was no change in God’s will; it was, in fact, the fulfillment of his will, an eternal will that decreed change (from the Mosaic to the new covenant). Christ’s coming and work were no makeshift action to remedy unforeseen defects in the Old Testament scheme. They were but the realization (historical and concrete) of what God had from eternity decreed.
The Lord brings the counsel of the nations to nothing;
he frustrates the plans of the peoples.
The counsel of the Lord stands forever,
the plans of his heart to all generations.
(Psalms 33:10-11; cf. Psalms 110:4)
The Lord of hosts has sworn:
“As I have planned,
so shall it be,
and as I have purposed,
so shall it stand. (Isaiah 14:24)
I am God, and there is no other;
I am God, and there is none like me,
declaring the end from the beginning
and from ancient times things not yet done,
saying, “My counsel shall stand,
and I will accomplish all my purpose,”
calling a bird of prey from the east,
the man of my counsel from a far country.
I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass;
I have purposed, and I will do it. (Isaiah 46:9-11).
Many are the plans in the mind of a man,
but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.
(Proverbs 19:21)
But he is unchangeable, and who can turn him back?
What he desires, that he does. (Job 23:13)
“I know that you can do all things,
and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. (Job 42:2)
So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath. (Hebrews 6:17)
Can God Change His Mind?
No treatment of the doctrine of immutability would be complete without a discussion of the problem posed by God’s alleged “repentance.” If God’s plan is unalterable and he is immutable, in what sense can it be said that he “changed his mind”?
The Hebrew word typically translated “change his mind” or “repent” is nacham. This word actually has a rather wide range of meanings, including everything from experiencing emotional pain such as grief or sorrow (cf. Genesis 6:6-7; Exodus 13:17; Judges 21:6, Judges 21:15; 1 Samuel 15:11, 1 Samuel 15:35; Job 42:6; Jeremiah 31:19), to the experience of being comforted (cf. Genesis 24:67; Genesis 27:42; Genesis 37:35; Genesis 38:12; 2 Samuel 13:39; Psalms 77:3; Psalms 119:52; Isaiah 1:24; Jeremiah 31:15; Ezekiel 5:13; Ezekiel 14:22; Ezekiel 31:16; Ezekiel 32:31), to the more extreme notion of relenting from or repudiating a course of action previously embraced (cf. Deuteronomy 32:36 = Psalms 135:14; Judges 2:18; 2 Samuel 24:16 = 1 Chronicles 21:15; Psalms 90:13; Psalms 106:45; Jeremiah 8:6; Jeremiah 20:16; Jeremiah 42:10), as well as retracting a statement or changing one’s mind regarding a course of action (cf. Exodus 32:12, Exodus 32:14; Numbers 23:19; 1 Samuel 15:29; Psalms 110:4; Isaiah 57:6; Jeremiah 4:28; Jeremiah 15:6; Jeremiah 18:8, Jeremiah 18:10; Jeremiah 26:3, Jeremiah 26:13, Jeremiah 26:19; Ezekiel 24:14; Joel 2:13-14; Amos 7:3, Amos 7:6; Jonah 3:9-10; Jonah 4:2; Zechariah 8:14).
This compels us to acknowledge the ambiguity of the English word repent and cautions us to be careful in ascribing it to God. Human beings repent of moral evil. We transgress God’s law and acknowledge our sorrow for having done so and our determination to change how we behave. Obviously, whatever else God’s “repenting” might mean, it does not mean he has sinned and is changing his ways. If that were the case, he would hardly be worthy of the title God; still less would he be worthy of anyone’s worship. This is why most English versions (except the KJV) use the word “relent” or “retract” or something similar.
Let’s look specifically at two passages, both of which use the word nacham.
God is not man, that he should lie,
or a son of man, that he should change his mind.
Has he said, and will he not do it?
Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it? (Numbers 23:19)
And Samuel said to him, “The Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel from you this day and has given it to a neighbor of yours, who is better than you. And also the Glory of Israel will not lie or have regret, for he is not a man, that he should have regret.” (1 Samuel 15:28-29)
Note well that 1 Samuel 15:11 and 1 Samuel 15:11 say that God “regretted” making Saul king. Yet here in 1 Samuel 15:29 and Numbers 23:19 it says that God cannot repent, “change his mind,” or “regret” an action he has taken. Scholars have generally said that there are four possible ways of responding to these texts:
  • The statements in 1 Samuel 15:11, 35 and 1 Samuel 15:29 (as well as Num. 23:19) are contradictory.
  • The statement in 1 Samuel 15:29 (and Num. 23:19) must be interpreted in light of 1 Samuel 15:11, 35.
  • The statements in 1 Samuel 15:11, 35 must be interpreted in light of 1 Samuel 15:29 (and Num. 23:19).
  • The statements in 1 Samuel 15:11, 35 use the word nacham to mean “regret” or “feel emotional sorrow,” whereas in 1 Samuel 15:29 it means “deviate” from or “change one’s mind” concerning a stated course of action; thus, in point of fact, there is no inconsistency between verses 11, 35, and verse 29.
Open theists contend that Numbers 23:19 means that whereas God generally can repent, in this particular case he chooses not to. However, were that true, Bruce Ware asks, “does it not follow from this text [Num. 23:19] that, while it is generally true that God can lie, in this particular case he chooses not to? That is, the parallelism of lying and repenting indicates that just as God cannot lie, he cannot repent. The question becomes, then, can God ever lie?”1 Assuming that all would answer the latter question no (cf. 2 Timothy 2:13; Titus 1:2; Hebrews 6:18), it would appear that “the parallel relation of God’s repentance with lying would lead one to conclude that this passage is teaching more than simply that in this particular historical situation God chooses not to lie or repent. Rather, just as God can never lie, so He can never repent.”2
One should also take note of the contrast made between God and man. God is said not to be like humans, who both lie and repent. Ware observes:
Does not the force of this claim evaporate the instant one reads it to say, in this particular situation God is not like a man and so does not repent? Do men (i.e., human beings) always repent of what they say they will do? If so, the contrast can be maintained. But if human beings sometimes carry out what they say and sometimes repent and do otherwise, and if God, likewise sometimes carries out what he says and sometimes repents and does otherwise, then how is God different from humans? The only way the contrast works is if God, unlike men, never repents. It is generally true, not merely situationally true, that God does not repent.3
This applies as well to the texts in 1 Samuel 15. In other words, “to say that God sometimes repents (e.g., 1 Samuel 15:11, 1 Samuel 15:35) and sometimes doesn’t (1 Samuel 15:29) would be to argue that he sometimes lies and, in the same sense as with ‘repent,’ sometimes doesn’t. But the truth is that God never lies, and so this text requires also that he never repents.”4
Two additional observations are in order. First, many have appealed to a common figure of speech known as anthropopatheia or anthropopathism (from the Greek anthropos, “man,” plus pathos, “affection, feeling”). Thus, an anthropopathism is a figure of speech in which certain human passions, feelings, mental activities, and so on are predicated of God. This, of course, is related to the more well-known figure of speech called anthropomorphism (again, from the Greek for “man” plus morphe, “form”), in which there are ascribed to God human body parts (e.g., eyes, mouth, nostrils, hands). Ware defines anthropomorphism as follows: “A given ascription to God may rightly be understood as anthropomorphic when Scripture clearly presents God as transcending the very human or finite features it elsewhere attributes to him.”5 Thus, God is figuratively portrayed as “relenting” from a course of action or “changing his mind,” but in literal fact he does not. Open theists often contend that we adopt this approach to the problem because of an extrabiblical presupposition concerning the nature of God derived from the Greek ideal of perfection. This alien, philosophical criterion is imposed on Scripture rather than allowing God’s Word to shape our concept of God himself.
However, contrary to this assertion, most evangelicals appeal to anthropopathism because of what they believe Scripture explicitly teaches concerning the omniscience and immutability of God. It is the “analogy of faith,” Scripture’s harmonious interpretation of itself, not Greek philosophical presuppositions, that governs their treatment of such problem texts. Passages such as Numbers 23:19 and the others cited earlier are unequivocal: God is not a man. Therefore, he does not lie. He does not change his mind the way people do. He does not promise and then fail to fulfill. Those who appeal to anthropopathism insist that we are justified in interpreting the unclear in the light of the clear and utilizing a figure of speech generally acknowledged as entirely legitimate.
Second, and even more importantly, we must recognize the difference between unconditional divine decrees and conditional divine announcements (or warnings).6 The former will occur irrespective of other factors. The latter may occur dependent on the response of the person or persons to whom they apply. Occasionally something explicit in the context will indicate which of the two is in view. Most often, however, statements of divine intent are ambiguous. That is to say, one must determine from other data whether the declaration or determination of God is unconditional or conditional. For example, what we find in the case of Jonah and the Ninevites is most likely not an unqualified and unconditional declaration of purpose. Consider carefully the nature of this passage from Jeremiah (Jeremiah 18:5-12):
Then the word of the Lord came to me: O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter has done? declares the Lord. Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel. If at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom, that I will pluck up and break down and destroy it, and if that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I intended to do to it. And if at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom that I will build and plant it, and if it does evil in my sight, not listening to my voice, then I will relent of the good that I had intended to do to it. Now, therefore, say to the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem: “Thus says the Lord, Behold, I am shaping disaster against you and devising a plan against you. Return, every one from his evil way, and amend your ways and your deeds.”
But they say, “That is in vain! We will follow our own plans, and will every one act according to the stubbornness of his evil heart.”
That God declared his intention to destroy Nineveh, only to withhold his hand when they repented, is thus no threat to the doctrine of immutability. On the contrary, had God destroyed Nineveh notwithstanding its repentance, he would have shown himself mutable. William Shedd explains:
If God had treated the Ninevites after their repentance, as he had threatened to treat them before their repentance, this would have proved him to be mutable. It would have showed him to be at one time displeased with impenitence, and at another with penitence. Charnock... remarks that “the unchangeableness of God, when considered in relation to the exercise of his attributes in the government of the world, consists not in always acting in the same manner, however cases and circumstances may alter; but in always doing what is right, and in adapting his treatment of his intelligent creatures to the variation of their actions and characters. When the devils, now fallen, stood as glorious angels, they were the objects of God’s love, necessarily; when they fell, they were the objects of God’s hatred, because impure. The same reason which made him love them while they were pure, made him hate them when they were criminal.” It is one thing for God to will a change in created things external to himself and another thing for him to change in his own nature and character.7
All this is simply to say that God’s immutability requires him to treat the wicked differently from the righteous. When the wicked repent, his treatment of them must change. Therefore, according to Strong, God’s immutability “is not that of the stone, that has no internal experience, but rather that of the column of mercury, that rises and falls with every change in the temperature of the surrounding atmosphere.”8
Thus we see that it is a principle of God’s immutable being (as revealed by him in Scripture) that he punishes the wicked and recalcitrant but blesses and forgives the righteous and repentant. If God were to reveal himself as such (as, in fact, he has done), only to punish the repentant and bless the recalcitrant, this would constitute real change and thus destroy immutability. God’s declaration of intent to punish the Ninevites because of their sinful behavior and wickedness is based on the assumption that they are and will remain wicked. However, if and when they repent (as they did), to punish them notwithstanding would constitute a change, indeed reversal, in God’s will and word, to the effect that he now, as over against the past, punishes rather than blesses the repentant.
What all this means, very simply, is that God is dependable! Our trust in him is therefore a confident trust, for we know that he will not, indeed cannot, change. His purposes are unfailing, and his promises unassailable. It is because the God who promised us eternal life is immutable that we may rest assured that nothing, not trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword, shall separate us from the love of Christ. It is because Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever that neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, no not even powers, height, depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:35-39)!

Thursday, February 25, 2016

One Hundred Bible Lessons by Alban Douglas - Chapter 14


                                 LESSON NUMBER 14 - THE TEACHINGS OF CHRIST


In this lesson, we attempt to summarize the main teachings of Christ while on earth. Christ, in His earthly ministry, gave three long discourses:
1) The sermon on the Mount, Matthew chapters 5-7;
2) Olivet Discourses, Matthew chapters 24-25; and
3) The Discourses in the Upper Room, John chapters 13-16, and probably 17; plus many other shorter messages.
Someone has said that Jesus touched on 18 subjects in the Sermon on the Mount.
Matthew 7: 28, 29 "The people were astonished at His doctrine, for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes."
Luke 4:32 "And they were astonished at His doctrine for His word was with power."
Luke 4:22 "And all bear Him witness, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of His mouth." In some ways, His teachings were new, revolutionary and contrary to human reasoning.

                                   JESUS TEACHING ABOUT SALVATION

In His conversation with Nicodemus, He told him that he had to be born again, John 3: 1-15.
In His talk with the Samaritan woman, He made her thirsty for Himself, the living water.
In John 6, He revealed Himself as the true bread that could satisfy true soul-hunger.
In Luke 7: 47-48, Jesus taught that He had the power to forgive sins of the penitent.
In John10, the discourse on the Good Shepherd, Jesus revealed that He was the only door to salvation, and that no man could be saved except through Him.
In Matthew 11: 28-30, Jesus gave an invitation for the laborers and the weary-laden to come to Him for salvation and soul-rest.
This wonderful salvation invitation is further expanded in Luke 14: 16-24 to include the wanderers on the highways and byways- the poor, maimed, faltering and the blind.
The best loved of all salvation stories is the recovery of the Prodigal son in Luke 15.


In Matthew 5: 33-48 we are taught: 1) not to swear; 2) to turn the other cheek and 3) to love our enemies.
In Matthew 6: 1-4; 19-21, about giving- 1) to be done secretly 2) an eternal investment.
Jesus taught a great deal about prayer- Matthew 6: 5-13; Luke 11: 1-13; John 14: 13-14; 16: 23-24; It was to be: 1) done in secret; 2) continuous; 3) unlimited in scope and power.
Jesus taught that we must forgive others before He will forgive us: Matthew 5: 23-24; 6: 14-15.
Jesus practiced fasting and taught it: Matthew 6: 16-16; Luke 4: 2 before the temptation.
Jesus cautioned against setting attentions on the necessities of life but taught that these (daily needs of food, clothing and shelter) will be provided by the Lord if we sought first the kingdom of God, Matthew  6: 25-34.
Jesus taught that it was necessary to confess Christ as Lord openly, Matthew 10: 32-33; John 9: 38.
Jesus instructed His converts to go home and witness to their relatives first, Mark 5: 19.
Jesus' teaching rang with assurance of salvation to the saved, John 3: 16, 18, 36; John 5: 24.
A great deal of the Upper Room discourses speak of the ministry of the indwelling Holy Spirit who guides, conducts, energizes and strengthens the believers, John 14: 16-26.
Jesus did not promise His believers and disciples an easy time but mentioned persecution freely and promised help and grace for every trial, John 16: 1-6; Luke 12: 11-12.


Jesus was very loud in His denunciation of false teachers and hypocrites.
In Matthew 23: 13-36 He says, "woe unto you, scribes, pharisees and hypocrites" eight times, verses 13, 14, 15, 16, 23, 25, 27 and 28, calling them blind guides and fools.
In John 8: 44, Jesus told them that they were of their "father the devil" - strong language.
In Matthew 16: 6, Jesus warned His disciples to "beware of the leaven of the pharisees and of the sadducees" who taught false doctrine denying the resurrection, etc.
Jesus taught that these false church leaders did their utmost to make converts but these were "twofold more the child of hell" than they were: Matthew 23: 15.
Matthew 7: 15-20 is a warning from the Savior to beware of false prophets that are ravening wolves dressed in sheep's clothing.
Luke 20: 45-47 is a clear warning to the disciples to beware of the scribes.


Jesus taught the right use of money and treasure in Luke 12: 16-34. The treasure was not for the rich man's personal gratification for he was a "fool," the true treasure (verses 33, 34) was that which was sent to the Lord ahead of time.
When the woman gave two small coins in Mark 12: 41-44, Jesus commended her very highly because she was not rich: she had given in spite of being very very poor.
In Matthew 25: 14-30, Jesus taught us to use our God given talents for His glory.
In Luke 19: 11-27, Jesus gave to His disciples the command to "occupy till I come," we are to use the money that He gave us for the Lord's glory and extension of the kingdom.
Christians are stewards of their money, time, talents, gifts and opportunities.


Our Lord spoke of hell and eternal punishment as least 70 times in the Gospels.
Matthew 25: 41 "Depart from Me , ye cursed, into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels."
It was Jesus who gave us the clearest picture of the torments in hell in Luke 16: 19-31, Mark 9: 42-48 in a solemn warning to avoid hell.
In the Upper Room discourses, Jesus left the reassuring word that He was going away for a little while to prepare the mansions and return to receive us, John 14: 1-3.
To the dying repentant thief Jesus said, Today shalt thou be with Me in paradise."
Jesus pictured heaven as a home with the Father God, Matthew 6: 9, Luke 11: 2.
Jesus came from heaven to die and bring many sons home to heaven, Hebrews 2: 10.


John 15: 1-17, the heart of the Upper Room discourse deals with the vine and the branches; with the desire that we should bear "fruit", "more fruit"; "much fruit."
In the parable of the barren fig tree in Luke 13: 6-9, the tree (Christians) that does not bear fruit was to be cut down, destroyed and cast into the fire.
In Matthew 7: 16-20 Jesus teaches that "by the fruits ye shall know them."
In the parable of the sower and the seed in Matthew 13: 1-23, Jesus expressed His desire that each Christian should bear fruit- some thirty fold, others sixty fold and others one hundred fold.
As Christians we should be purged in order that we will bear more fruit, John 15: 2.
The purging is a bitter experience of 'digging and dunging" Luke 13: 8, but essential.
Luke 6: 43-46, we as Christians are to bear the fruit of the Spirit and win souls for Him.


The Olivet discourse in Matthew 24 to 25 deals mostly with prophetical subjects.
Matthew 24: 1-3 deals with the destruction of Jerusalem which took place in A.D. 70.
Matthew 24: 4-14 deals with the deteriorating career of this age in which we live.
Matthew 24: 15-26 deals with the Great Tribulation, the time of Jacob's trouble.
Matthew 24: 27-31 tells of the return of the Lord in glory. Further details are added in the parable of the fig tree, verses 32-51, and the ten virgins of Matthew 25: 1-13.
Matthew 25: 31-46 tells of the judgment of the nations, the separation of sheep and goats.
The seven mysteries of Matthew 13: 1-52 are different views of the kingdom of heaven.


I suppose the teaching of Christ could be summed up in one word- love.
He summarized the 600 commandments that the orthodox Jew lived under two commandments; 1) love the Lord and 2) love your fellowman, Matthew 22: 37-39.
Love has been the supreme mark of a Christian: John 13: 35, "By this shall all men know that ye are My disciples, if you have love one to another."
In John 15: 13 Jesus, referring to His substitutionary death on the cross, says that He was demonstrating the greatest love possible to an individual.
Jesus prayer of intercession in John 17 is a plea for unity. See verses 11, 21, 22, 23. Not necessarily organic union but unity in purpose in winning lost souls.
Jesus left the church, His body, on earth to witness in His absence, Matthew 28: 19; Mark 16: 15.
Jesus' doctrine tells us not only to love the lovely but to love everyone, even our enemies, for He already loves them: Matthew 5: 44; 1 John 4:19; Romans 5: 8.



Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Why Do Bad Things Happen To Good People?

Why do bad things happen to good people?

Make sense of the senseless and order of chaos during family and global tragedies. Learn reasons why bad things happen to good people. Because pain is inevitable, but misery is optional, find ways to feel and share peace with your family.

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  • Just like most of you, at a very difficult time for my family, one of the most pressing questions in my heart was, "Why us?" Why were bad things happening to us? After all, I was a good person and my children certainly didn't deserve it.
    When bad things happen to us, we often wonder, "Why us?" What have we done to deserve this? We may have done our best to follow Christ's teachings, always been kind or good and still, we are suffering.
  • Bad things do happen to good people

    When it comes to suffering, it seems there is no such thing as a, “Get out of trials free,” card. No family is exempt. We will eventually experience our own tragedy, whether it is death, divorce, financial disaster, abuse, illness, natural or man-made disaster. Tragedy becomes tragedy based on our perception and ability to cope.
    Even Christ suffered in our name and understands whatever pain you may have experienced, are experiencing or will ever experience. He volunteered to guide you, and walk through life beside your family because he loves you and your children. He does everything he can to balance the scales of justice when we do everything we can to keep his commandments.
    Tim Hansel, a mountain climber who suffered lifetime pain, after falling into a crevasse during a climb, said, “Pain was inevitable, but misery was optional.” He encouraged others to choose joy.
    Lately it seems that natural disasters are escalating, as is the violence perpetrated by man, including war and crime. Children want to know what we all want to know, why do bad things happen to good people. Parents may be hard pressed to answer their children’s questions.
    Gene Cook, a religious leader, spoke about the reasons for personal and global suffering shortly after the 2004 tsunami in Indonesia which killed 280,000 people. He quoted the bible scriptures in Luke, Chapter 21. We read, “And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring.
    Certainly the Tsunami’s in Japan and Indonesia qualify as the sea and waves roaring. Do tornadoes and earthquakes call your family closer to God or lead you to question his existence and ask, "Why us?" How will your family respond to tragedy?
  • Cook shared some of the reasons for suffering including the following

  • "Suffering is to prove oneself."

    When we are abused, or suffer, the Heavens witness our response. Will we retaliate or forgive? Will we rise and lift others with us? Will we sink in selfishness and self-pity or serve as the Savior did?
  • "Suffering creates a witness against sin."

    When Cain slew Abel in the Old Testament, the Lord said in Genesis, Chapter 4, “… What hast thou done? The voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto me from the ground.”
    God's greatest gift to us is the freedom for everyone, good or bad, to choose right or wrong. There cannot be joy without pain, or abuse without a victim.
  • "Suffering teaches obedience."

    Just as we allow our children to suffer natural and logical consequences, the Lord allows us to suffer consequences for our actions. If the stove is hot and you touch it, you will get burned.
  • "Suffering teaches patience and faith."

    The book of Psalms, Chapter 37 reminds us to, “Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him: fret not thyself because of him who prospereth in his way, because of the man who bringeth wicked devices to pass.” Prayers are answered in the Lords time and way.
  • "Suffering assists one to repent and be forgiven."

    Cook said, “Isn’t it wonderful that the Lord’s motive in allowing suffering truly is love, and He will even prepare a way for our deliverance? Truly He has loved us during these serious trials, in spite of what some may think.
    …the Lord will use tragedy and sorrow to help humble His people and thereby cause them to repent and be saved. Listen carefully to this: _He loves you more than your being perfectly happy day by day, and thus He will do what is required to purify you so you can return to Him.”_
  • "Suffering can occur from the Lord hedging up your way."

    When we do good things and are headed in the right directions we experience blessings. When we do not, or the Lord wishes to steer us in a different direction, he may hedge up our way to direct us.
  • "Suffering brings forth righteousness."

    My mother loves to remind me that as it says in Hebrews chapter 12, “For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth... .” There are days when I feel far too loved.
  • "The Lord sews a spiritual tapestry into all our lives."

    Cook said, “How little does man understand the purposes of God! How true these words: For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. [Isaiah 55:8]”
  • "Men can bring suffering upon themselves

    ." For every choice there is a consequence. We have been given a set of commandments, with prayer and other means to guide us. If we choose to leave the map home and go off the grid, our family might suffer.
    We may never know the reason for our family's suffering. Perhaps we are simply victims of someone’s choices, or perhaps we are part of a grand design — the scope and detail of which are beyond our understanding.
    Whatever the reason for your family's suffering, remember the Lord loves your children and family more than you can imagine and always has their best interests in mind. Your family's pain may be inevitable, but your misery is optional. You can choose joy and faith. You may now know what his plan is, but know he has one for your family.

4 Ways To Rely On God During Tough Times

4 ways to rely on God during tough times

By relying on God, we can make it through the "spiritual whirlwinds" with faith and strength.

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  • The world is full of opposition: Good vs. evil, happiness vs. sadness, joy vs. sorrow or pleasure vs. pain. No one on earth is immune from suffering some sort of trial in their life. However, no matter the trial, God has not left us alone if we will just rely on him.
    In a recent address, religious leader Neil Anderson, spoke about "spiritual whirlwinds." These whirlwinds are often the result of our own poor choices, but "some come because of the wrong choices of others, and some come just because this is mortality."
    Read: Be still and know that I am God: 10 ways to recognize God's power in times of trouble
    When we put our trust in God and rely on him, these challenges will strengthen our faith and build up our lives. Here are four ways to rely on God in the midst of the whirlwinds.
  • Make God the foundation for your life

    Just as a home needs a firm foundation to last, the same goes for us. We need to be firmly planted on an unmovable source to outlast the storms of life. God is unchanging and immovable. If we build our foundation upon him we, too, can be immovable.
  • Stand up for what is right, even if you're alone

    It can be difficult to remain true to what you know is right, especially when all of your friends share a different view. However, if we rely on God, we must stay true to his teachings even when they become unpopular. William Penn stated, "Right is right, even if everyone is against it, and wrong is wrong, even if everyone is for it." God remains unchanging in what is right or wrong, even when it seems the whole world has decided otherwise. Your faith in him will strengthen as you recognize his supporting influence in your life.
  • Trust in God's teachings, his example and his commandments

    The number one source for correct information is God. He is the author of truth. As you follow him, you will understand more fully his plan for you on this earth. With this understanding, you will be strengthened and become more resolved to do what he has asked. God is able to help those who seek him easier than those who don't. He is waiting to help, with hands outstretched, we just have to be willing to come to him and use his help. Those who are following him are more likely to seek his aid.
    Read: 7 things to remember if you feel like God has abandoned you
  • God's atonement is for every person on the earth

    He is waiting to extend mercy to those that seek it. He wants us to feel his love that he has for each of us. In the times of spiritual whirlwinds, his offer is the same. Where there is sin, there is repentance. Where there is hurt, there is healing. Where there are trials, there is support. But, he can't give us help we are not willing to accept. Rely on God in your struggles, and he will sustain and support you. You will feel his love and know how to improve and heal. The atonement is the antidote to pain, suffering, hurts and sin.
    We have many trials, temptations, life tests, difficulties and sorrows to help us grow and achieve our full potential. We can find the necessary strength to overcome anything by relying on God. As we seek him, we can experience an increase in faith, hope and understanding. The "spiritual whirlwinds" cannot destroy us when our strength comes from God.

4 Tips For Real Communication With God

4 tips for real communication with God

We have a role in the success of our communication with God, just as much as we do when we communicate with our families. These tips will help you to do your part to have more purposeful, interactive communication with your Heavenly Father.

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  • Prayer is an essential part of a religious, spiritual life. As we acknowledge our own fallibility and the greatness of God, our prayers can be more meaningful. They can give us strength when times are hard, like when a child has a chronic illness, or when our spouse needs our forgiveness. Our prayers can allow us to rest from our day-to-day struggles like early morning feedings, demanding schedules, and rebellious teens.
    However, we still need to put the work into having effective prayers. We have a role in the success of our communication with God, just as much as we do when we communicate with our families. These tips will help you to do your part to have more purposeful, interactive communication with your Heavenly Father. Believe me: He will do his part, too.
  • 1. Ponder your life and what you need

    My husband and I have frequent conversations where I ask, "What do you think we should do about this?" His answer is inevitably "I don't know." This frustrated me until I realized that I hadn't even thought about what we should do. It was, in essence, a lazy question.
    Likewise, when we talk to God we need to know what it is we're actually asking for. So ask yourself, "What does my life look like right now?" There are times when the kids are doing great at school, our spouses are excited about being home, and we even managed to do a Pinterest project or two. These are the times we need to know where we can be of the most help. Other times, our prayers are more of a cry for help. Think about your life so that you can be specific in your prayers. Knowing where you are on the spectrum right now will help move you to a better place when you pray.
  • 2. Reflect on your divine identity and your relationship with God

    Did you know that you are a child of God? The all-knowing ruler of the universe eternal being is the literal father of your spirit. He loves you perfectly, 10 million times more than any earthly parent could. Sometimes he asks you to forego things that are temporary and mediocre, but only because he sees things from an eternal point of view. He wouldn't want you to settle for less than the best, which is what his precious child deserves. Remembering that, changes everything about prayer.
  • 3. Visualize God listening to you pray

    When I pray, I try to think of myself as a princess approaching her father's throne. I imagine myself reporting on the assignment I have been given and receiving counsel and encouragement. In my mind's eye, I can see the love on God's face. Try it the next time you pray. It's a sweet experience, especially when you pray for your spouse and children.
  • 4. Ask inspired questions

    Believe it or not, you can pray about your prayers. This is often the first step to finding out your obstacles to having meaningful conversations with God. It is also the first step to asking the right questions. Recently, I have been asking for a grateful heart. This is very different from my prayer a few weeks ago, which was worn out and frustrated and confused. After I prayed about what I should be asking for, I realized that happiness is something God can help me seek, not something that just finds me. I wouldn't have realized this without changing my question from "why me?" to "what can I do differently?" If you're struggling to receive answers, try rethinking your question.
    When it comes down to it, God really wants to talk and listen to us, especially about our families. However, our ability to talk and listen to Him can often use some work. When we are self-aware, both in knowing what our life looks like and knowing who we really are, we can ask useful questions. We can also have the humility necessary to change our lives in the way that pleases Heavenly Father. Praying in this way takes courage, but it is always worth it in the end.

4 Things God Wants You To Remember When Life Is Hard

4 things God wants you to remember when life is hard

We've all had them — those days (or years) when nothing works out.

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  • We've all had days (and maybe even years) when life just doesn't seem to be going our way!
    I've had long seasons of life where I felt like nothing was working and everything was out of whack, and I've had frustrating days where I just can't seem to get anything accomplished. This morning was one of those times…
    I was getting all three of our boys ready for school which is a massive undertaking and makes me respect my wife even more because she is normally the one doing it! Amidst the screaming infant and complaining gradeschoolers, there was a mess in the kitchen, a dirty diaper on the floor, toothpaste on the sink and stress in the air. When we FINALLY got out the door, Connor had forgotten something and had to run back in. The door was open just long enough for (I'm not making this up) a bird to fly in the house.
    Read: Be still and know that I am God: 10 ways to recognize God's power in times of trouble
    Now, I've got to figure out a way to get the bird out of the house and all the kids loaded up as fast as I can. I eventually got the bird out (unharmed) and the kids loaded and just before I pulled out onto the main road, a garbage truck cut me off and started driving about five miles per hour and stopping at every other house. I wasn't sure whether to scream or laugh at the irony of it.
    In the grand scheme of things, a stressful morning doesn't impact life or eternity all that much, but in those longer seasons of joblessness, sickness, financial stress, marriage strain and other ongoing life events, the stress and frustration can seem overwhelming. Below are four things I've learned to remember in those challenging seasons of life that have helped me and I pray they help you as well!
    Struggles in life are inevitable, but destruction is optional. Remembering these four principles can make all the difference.
  • 1. Remember that your Character should always be stronger than your Circumstances

    We can't always control what happens to us, but we can always control how we choose to respond. In those moments when I choose to stop complaining and instead give thanks to God for the good in my life, the parts that seem bad start to seem much less significant. Choose to keep a positive attitude and thankful heart regardless of what you're going through.
    "Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
  • 2. Remember that your Struggles always lead to Strength

    Every difficulty in your life, whether big or small, is something God will use to produce more strength, faith and perseverance in you if you let Him! All your pain has a purpose.
    "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." Romans 8:28
  • 3. Remember that God's timing is always perfect

    God's plans are almost always different from our plans, but His plans are always perfect! Have the patience to wait on His timing instead of forcing your own.
    "For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord; plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11
    Read: 7 things to remember if you feel like God has abandoned you
  • 4. Remember that God will never leave your side

    You may feel like you're going through this struggle all alone, but from the moment you ask Jesus to bring you into God's family, He will be by your side to the end so never lose hope!
    "Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you." Deuteronomy 31:6

6 Ways To Know That God Is Speaking To You

6 ways to know that God is speaking to you

In a world of constant noise and chaos, it is sometimes difficult to recognize God's voice and understand what he is trying to say. Here are six ways we can recognize and understand when God is trying to talk to us.

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  • Families today need the ability to know and understand God's voice in their life. Husbands and wives need to recognize God's voice so that they may learn how to build their marriage on a foundation of faith and selfless service. Mothers and Fathers need God's voice to help guide them when raising and teaching their children and to help their children gain righteous values and moral character. Children need to recognize God's voice so that they may be warned of danger when it arises and to help keep them from temptation when they are put in difficult situations.
    Read: 10 incredible blessings that God never wants you to forget
    In a world where fast-paced and high-tech living is the everyday norm, it can sometimes be difficult to hear the still small whisperings of the Spirit, which is one of God’s preferred ways of communication. Often times, even when we do hear it, it is difficult to distinguish among the many worldly voices drowning him out. If God’s voice is sometimes difficult for you or your children to recognize, remember, God most often speaks to the mind and heart. So, as you search your thoughts and feelings, here are six ways you can know if God is speaking to you.
  • Does it persuade you to do good?

    If you’re suddenly inspired to do a good deed or you feel inclined to make things right by doing the right thing, then you can know that you are receiving communication from God. Everything good comes from God, and that includes thoughts of doing good.
  • Does it promote feelings of love?

    Are you prompted to show kindness when indifference would be so much easier? Are you compelled to clothe the homeless, feed the hungry, or help a family in need? If your heart is full of love and concern for others, then you can know that God is speaking to you. It is his way of helping his children in need through you.
  • Does it enlighten your mind?

    Are you inspired to create something beautiful, to learn something new or to gain further understanding? Does your path seem clear, is your mind quickened or do you see life in a new light? If so, then your mind has been enlightened by the spirit of God and he is communicating his light to your mind and heart. This is how God brings beauty, joy and pure understanding into the world.
  • Does it build you or someone else up?

    Are your thoughts and feelings positive? Are they affirmative in nature? Are they uplifting and do they edify? Do they bring you to a higher place to stand? If they do, then you can be certain that you are hearing God’s voice speaking to your heart. God’s voice will always uplift and edify. He will never speak thoughts of doubt, discouragement or fear. God’s voice will always be a voice of hope.
  • Does it bring peace?

    Do you feel at peace with a decision? Do you feel calm in a time of trial? Do you feel comforted in your sorrows? If you do, then God is with you speaking peace to your heart and bringing solace to your soul. This is how God comforts his children.
    Read: Be still and know that I am God: 10 ways to recognize God's power in times of trouble
  • Does it inspire you to be better than you are?

    Are you motivated to be better today than you were yesterday? Do you desire to create goals and work toward fulfilling them? Do you see the goodness in others and desire to create that goodness in yourself? If you have a desire to improve, then you are being driven by the voice of God as he molds you into the person he knows you can be. This is how God perfects his children.
    God speaks to his children in many ways, and if you are listening, you can know when he is speaking to you and your children. If it invites you to do good, then you can be certain that it is from God. If you are doing your best to make the right choices in your life and you strive to live worthy of God’s spirit, you can know in your heart exactly what God is saying to you.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Love Your Neighbor As Yourself

                                          LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF

Can we actually do that? Can we really love our neighbor as ourselves? It seems that this is a very hard thing to do. But that is exactly what God wants us to do. Asked by a religious leader what were the greatest commandments of God, Jesus answered, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and  greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments" (Matthew 22: 37-40). Now do you think you can do this? Loving your neighbor as yourself seems an impossible thing to do. But with God, nothing is impossible. Loving God with all our hearts, with all our soul and with all our mind open our hearts for the agape love of God to flow into our hearts until we realize we cannot truly love God without loving our neighbors as ourselves. We become partakers of God's agape love to mankind. (God's agape love is unmerited, gracious, and constantly seeking the benefit of the ones He loves). Thus those who become united with God in spirit, mind and soul begin to manifest this kind of love. This was the kind of unselfish love exhibited by the saints and religious giants of old like St Francis of Assisi, St Claire, St Bernadette and others, and this was the same kind of love exhibited by Mother Teresa of this century. The very first step to love our neighbor as ourselves is to develop selflessness in ourselves. Sometimes we have to sacrifice our own interest for the sake of others. It may be difficult at first but with constant prayers and great intimacy with God, we start to develop this trait until it becomes second nature to us.

Love Your Neighbor As Yourself, Part 2

Love Your Neighbor as Yourself, Part 2

by John Piper

[Editor's Note: While both parts can stand alone, see Part 1 for the beginning of this series.]
Matthew 22:34-40
A Very Radical Command
"Love your neighbor as yourself" is a very radical command. What I mean by "radical" is this: it cuts to the root of our sinfulness and exposes it and, by God's grace, severs it. The root of our sinfulness is the desire for our own happiness apart from God and apart from the happiness of others in God. Let me say it again: the root of our sinfulness is the desire to be happy apart from God and apart from the happiness of others in God. All sin comes from a desire to be happy cut off from glory of God and cut off from the good of others. The command of Jesus cuts to this root, exposes it, and severs it.
Another name for this root of sinfulness is pride. Pride is the presumption that we can be happy without depending on God as the source of our happiness and without caring if others find their happiness in God. Pride is the passion to be happy contaminated and corrupted by two things: 1) the unwillingness to see God as the only fountain of true and lasting joy, and 2) the unwillingness to see other people as designed by God to receive our joy in him. If you take the desire to be happy and strip away from it God as the fountain of your happiness, and people as the recipients of your happiness, what you have left is the engine of pride. Pride is the pursuit of happiness anywhere but in the glory of God and the good of other people. This is the root of all sin.
Now Jesus says, "Love your neighbor as yourself." And with that commandment he cuts to the root of our sinfulness. How so?
Jesus says in effect: I start with your inborn, deep, defining human trait—your love for yourself. This is a given. I don't command it; I assume it. All of you have a powerful instinct of self-preservation and self-fulfillment. You all want to be happy. You all want to live and to live with satisfaction. You want food for yourself. You want clothes for yourself. You want a place to live for yourself. You want protection from violence against yourself. You want meaningful or pleasant activity to fill your days. You want some friends to like you and spend some time with you. You want your life to count in some way. All this is self-love. Self-love is the deep longing to diminish pain and to increase happiness. That's what Jesus starts with when he says, "as yourself."
Everyone, without exception, has this human trait. This is what moves us to do this or that. Even suicide is pursued out of this principle of self-love. In the midst of a feeling of utter meaningless and hopelessness and numbness of depression the soul says: "It can't get any worse than this. So even if I don't know what I will gain through death, I do know what I will escape." And so suicide is an attempt to escape the intolerable. It is an act of self-love.
Now Jesus says, I start with this self-love. This is what I know about you. This is common to all people. You don't have to learn it. It comes with your humanity. My Father created it. In and of itself it is good. To hunger for food is not evil. To want to be warm in the winter is not evil. To want to be safe in a crisis is not evil. To want to be healthy during a plague is not evil. To want to be liked by others is not evil. To want your life to count in some significant way is not evil. This was a defining human trait before the fall of man into sin, and it is not evil in itself.
Whether it has become evil in your life will be exposed as you hear and respond to Jesus' commandment. He commands, "As you love yourself, so love your neighbor." Which means: As you long for food when you are hungry, so long to feed your neighbor when he is hungry. As you long for nice clothes for yourself, so long for nice clothes for your neighbor. As you work for a comfortable place to live, so desire a comfortable place to live for your neighbor. As you seek to be safe and secure from calamity and violence, so seek comfort and security for your neighbor. As you seek friends for yourself, so be a friend to your neighbor. As you want your life to count and be significant, so desire that same significance for your neighbor. As you work to make good grades yourself, so work to help your neighbor make good grades. As you like to be welcomed into strange company, so welcome your neighbor into strange company. As you would that men would do to you, do so to them.
In other words make your self-seeking the measure of your self-giving. When Jesus says, "Love your neighbor as yourself," the word "as" is very radical: "Love your neighbor as yourself." That's a BIG word: "As!" It means: If you are energetic in pursing your own happiness, be energetic in pursuing the happiness of your neighbor. If you are creative in pursuing your own happiness, be creative in pursuing the happiness of your neighbor. If you are persevering in pursuing your own happiness, be persevering in pursuing the happiness of your neighbor. In other words, Jesus is not just saying: seek for your neighbor the same things you seek for yourself, but also seek them in the same way—the same zeal and energy and creativity and perseverance. The same life and death commitment when you are in danger. Make your own self-seeking the measure of your self-giving. Measure your pursuit of the happiness of others, and what it should be, by the pursuit of your own. How do you pursue your own well-being? Pursue your neighbor's well-being that way too.