What Did Jesus Look Like? / Spiritual Meditation

Jesus Christ is one of the most painted figures in Western art. But what do we really know about his appearance?

Visions of Jesus

Two friends have seen visions of Jesus, one during a coma, the other in an awakened state.  Their descriptions indicate that Jesus was surrounded by a very bright light and had white shining hair and clothing.  He was seen to smile and have compassionate eyes.  One friend, Matthew, said Jesus was much like what is described in the book of Revelation with bronze feet and hands.  You can watch his full testimony at

A Testimony – Witnessing Jesus Face to Face – YouTube.

A description of my friend Timothy’s vision is described in

India Pilgrimage Yields Vision of Jesus.       

Although, most of us will not see Jesus until we enter the pearly gates, Sarah Pruitt shares with us how history and archeology portray Jesus.

For centuries, the most common Western image of Jesus has been that of a bearded, fair-skinned man with long, wavy, light brown or blond hair and (often) blue eyes. But the Bible doesn’t describe Jesus physically, and all the evidence we have indicates he probably looked very different from this portrayal.

What Does the Bible Say About Jesus’ appearance?

The Bible says little about Christ’s physical appearance. Most of what we know about Jesus comes from the first four books of the New Testament, the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Because Jesus was a Jewish man born in Bethlehem and raised in the town of Nazareth during the first century A.D., we can assume that he looked like a Jewish Galilean of that time.

We know Jesus was about 30 years old when he began his ministry (Luke 3:23), but the Bible tells us virtually nothing about what he looked like―except that he didn’t stand out in any particular way. When Jesus was apprehended in the garden of Gethsemane before the Crucifixion (Matthew 26:47-56), Judas Iscariot had to point him out to the arresting soldiers, as he was indistinguishable from the disciples―presumably because they all appeared similar to each other.

For some scholars, Revelation 1:14-15 offers a clue that Jesus’s skin was a darker hue and that his hair was woolly in texture. The hairs of his head, it says, “were white as white wool, white as snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined as in a furnace.”

How Have Depictions of Jesus Changed Over the Centuries?

Some of the earliest known artistic representations of Jesus date to the mid-third century A.D., more than two centuries after his death. These are the paintings in the ancient catacombs of St. Domitilla in Rome, first discovered some 400 years ago. Reflecting one of the most common images of Jesus at the time, the paintings depict Jesus as the Good Shepherd, a young, short-haired, beardless man with a lamb around his shoulders.

The restored fresco depicting Jesus and his apostles in the Roman catacomb of Santa Domitilla. (Andreas Solaro/AFP/Getty Images)

Another early portrait of Jesus was discovered in 2018 on the walls of a ruined church in southern Israel. Painted in the sixth century A.D., it is the earliest known image of Christ found in Israel, Though exposure to the sun over centuries has reduced the image found in the ancient village of Shivta to little more than faint outlines and smudges of color, discoverer and art historian Maayan-Fanar describe the image as a young man with “short curly hair, a prolonged face, large eyes and an elongated nose.” a depiction that was common to the eastern region of the Byzantine empire―especially in Egypt and the Syria-Palestine region―but disappeared from later Byzantine art.

The long-haired, bearded image of Jesus that emerged beginning in the fourth century A.D. was influenced heavily by representations of Greek and Roman gods, particularly the all-powerful Greek god Zeus. At that point, Jesus started to appear in a long robe, seated on a throne (such as in the fifth-century mosaic on the altar of the Santa Pudenziana church in Rome), sometimes with a halo surrounding his head.

“The point of these images was never to show Jesus as a man, but to make theological points about who Jesus was as Christ (King, Judge) and divine Son,” Joan Taylor, professor of Christian origins and second temple Judaism at King’s College London, wrote in The Irish Times. “They have evolved over time to the standard ‘Jesus’ we recognize.”

Of course, not all images of Jesus conform to the dominant image of him portrayed in Western art. In fact, many different cultures around the world have depicted him, visually at least, as one of their own. “Cultures tend to portray prominent religious figures to look like the dominant racial identity,” explains Robert Cargill, assistant professor of classics and religious studies at the University of Iowa and editor of Biblical Archaeology Review.

What Is the Shroud of Turin?

Of the many possible relics related to Jesus that have surfaced over the centuries, one of the most well-known is the Shroud of Turin, which surfaced in 1354. Believers argued that Jesus was wrapped in the piece of linen after he was crucified, and that the shroud bears the clear image of his face. But many experts have dismissed the shroud as a fake, and the Vatican itself refers to it as an “icon” rather than a relic.

A negative image of the Shroud of Turin.  (Fine Art Images/Heritage Images/Getty Images)

“The Shroud of Turin has been debunked on a couple of occasions as a medieval forgery,” says Cargill, “It’s part of a larger phenomenon that has been around since Jesus himself, of attempting to acquire and, if they can’t be acquired, to produce, objects that are part of Jesus’ body, life and ministry—for the purposes of either legitimizing his existence and the claims made about him, or in some cases, harnessing his miraculous powers.”

What Research and Science Tell Us About What Jesus Looked Like

In 2001, the retired medical artist Richard Neave led a team of Israeli and British forensic anthropologists and computer programmers in creating a new image of Jesus, based on an Israeli skull dating to the first century A.D., computer modeling and their knowledge of what Jewish people looked like at the time. Though no one claims it’s an exact reconstruction of what Jesus himself actually looked like, scholars consider this image—around five feet tall, with darker skin, dark eyes, and shorter, curlier hair—to be more accurate than many artistic depictions of the son of God.

In her 2018 book What Did Jesus Look Like?, Taylor used archaeological remains, historical texts and ancient Egyptian funerary art to conclude that, like most people in Judea and Egypt around the time, Jesus most likely had brown eyes, dark brown to black hair and olive-brown skin. He may have stood about 5-ft.-5-in. (166 cm) tall, the average man’s height at the time.

Conclusion

While Cargill agrees that these more recent images of Jesus—including darker, perhaps curlier hair, darker skin and dark eyes—probably come closer to the truth, he stresses that we can never really know exactly what Jesus looked like.

“What did Jewish Galileans look like 2,000 years ago?” he asks. “That’s the question. They probably didn’t have blue eyes and blond hair.”

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Relevant Scripture

The hair on his head was white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. (Rev 1:14-15)

References

The Ongoing Mystery of Jesus’s Face by Sarah Pruitt What Did Jesus Look Like? – HISTORY

How God Speaks to the Brokenhearted / Spiritual Meditations

Admit it.  Sometimes you think God is unaware of what is happening with you.  You imagine He has big things in the world to contend with and your difficulties are small by comparison.  You are told that God loves you and knows every hair on your head, but it doesn’t always feel like it. This story will give you hope.

The following recounts an experience of my friend Rev. Dr. Timothy W. Ehrlich, excerpted from his book The Long Road to Eternity.  He tells of Gods immediate reply to his hurt and frustration.


I doubt it has changed much, but when I lived in Sherburne a friend of mine used to say that there are more pigeons on the feed store roof than there are people in the town. The town is a cute little upstate New York town that came into existence in the 1820s as a stop on the former Chenango canal which connected the Erie Canal with the Hudson River in the days before the railroad reached central New York. Sherburne’s claim to fame in the region is its annual pageant of bands parade in the summer, which attracts marching bands and fire departments from upwards of forty surrounding towns and counties.

While the Sherburne church was built around 1820 the parsonage at Sherburne was built in 1872. It looked pretty on the outside, but it had been cheaply made: if you slammed the front door the whole house shook. Since it was built before electricity, when the house was electrified all the wires for the outlets and fixtures were laid on top of the walls. If the Sherburne congregation had ever been wealthy in the past, that time ended many decades before I got there. The parsonage was furnished with tables, couches and chairs that were decades old discards from congregation members. Each room’s walls were covered with whatever wallpaper happened to be on sale at that time, so each room had a different pattern, and all of it was ugly.

When we got there the house was in bad repair: the laundry room / half bathroom on the first floor had a six-foot-long gap along the wall behind the toilet where the floor and the wall should have met. The gap was caused by the wood rotting away from many years of a leaky toilet I suppose, and it was wide enough that you could look down into the basement through it. I was only able to convince the church trustees to repair the floor by telling them that our district superintendent (who was a very large man) was planning to visit the parsonage, and that if he used the potty there was a good chance he and the toilet would wind up in the basement. The carpets were all a generation old; there was asbestos covering the hot water pipes in the basement and the roof leaked.

The parsonage was pretty humble accommodations, but the town was really beautiful, and we were happy and our children found it to be a good place to grow up.

One Thanksgiving Day it was time to start getting ready for the meal. Our dining room table was covered with the week’s mail and with other papers related to the running of our household. Anna, my wife,  asked me to clear the table so that it could be set for the Thanksgiving meal. As I was clearing the table, I found a letter from the Norwich office of the New York Department of Social Services; it was addressed, “to the Pastor of the Sherburne United Methodist Church.”

The letter said they were writing to every pastor in the county asking us to pass on to our congregation information about a government food help program that was available to low-income families. They said they thought the county’s pastors would have knowledge of which families might benefit from the program. The letter said something to the effect that they knew how hard it was for low-income families in our area to make ends meet, and the county government was sponsoring a food assistance program for families whose income was low enough to qualify depending on the number of children they had.

As I read the letter, I realized that with my income and our three children our family qualified for government food assistance. This news hit me hard. All I could think of was, “I graduated with a Master’s degree from Duke University that had required a total of 7 years of college. I have been serving God as a full-time pastor for nearly four years, and my income is still so low I qualify for government aid!” I was embarrassed, I was humiliated, I even felt a little sick to my stomach. I thought, “How can I possibly be thankful on Thanksgiving when I feel like a failure and a fool?”

So, I just stopped what I was doing and began to pray. I poured out my heart to God, I said, “God, I am sorry that I am so sad on Thanksgiving Day! I know that I should be thankful, but I am feeling depressed and so sad. I wish serving you was not so difficult.” I ended my prayer, “Please Lord, help me with this terrible sadness because I want to feel thankful on this day. Never-the-less, I trust in you and I am putting all of this in Your hands.” And so, I gave it up to God and went back to clearing the table, but I was still hurting.

Just as I finished clearing the table the phone rang. A young woman was on the line; she said, “I would like to speak with the pastor please.” I said, “This is the pastor,” she asked me, “Are you the pastor of the Sherburne United Methodist Church?” I said I was. She said, “This might sound funny; this has never happened to me before, but I was just in my room praying, and I heard God speak to me. He said, ‘Call the pastor of the Sherburne United Methodist Church and tell him, “I am watching you and everything will be fine.’ So, I am calling you. I know this sounds strange, but that is what happened. Does that message make sense to you?” I thanked her and told her that was just what I needed to hear at that time. I asked her where she was calling from. She lived in a town about 15 miles away.

Do I need to say that my sadness was immediately turned to thankfulness?! This was the second time, and last time so far, that God spoke to someone on my behalf, the first telling Anna to marry me and now telling this woman to tell me to trust in Him. This experience is another reminder that God is always watching us, really hears our prayers, and is as concerned with our feelings and what is going on with us as any loving father is.

Conclusion

This experience also helped me to realize the accuracy of Psalm 34:18: “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.” I have found again and again that God responds to us when our hearts are broken for any reason and we turn to God with faith. The Lord truly is close to the sorrowful!

Relevant Scripture

You know what I am going to say even before I say it, LORD.(Psalms 139:4)

 Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.  (2 Corinthians 6)

womans eye with tear

How We Endure Persistent Pain / Spiritual Meditations

Being physically ill and in pain is no small trial. It is a heavy burden that we must bear as long as we live on this planet.

The Emotional Impact of Pain

People who suffer from chronic pain carry an extra burden that healthy people may not fully comprehend. For many, pain is a life sentence. Whether the pain is due to arthritis, fibromyalgia, a car accident, or an old football injury, those who suffer can find the simplest tasks overwhelmingly difficult.

As a result, pain can produce  self-centeredness. When you are enduring a sickness, it so easy to only think about yourself and allow your world to be consumed only with your own personal feelings and struggles.

As you can see, pain is influenced by emotions, and the cycle of pain and emotions are interrelated. Some common emotional responses to pain can include anxiety, depression, anger, feeling misunderstood, and demoralization.

Our bodies are fading, and we can expect suffering, but we must not let our internal joy be governed by our external circumstances.  Believing that you have control over your life and can continue to function despite the pain or subsequent life changes has been shown to decrease depression.

Several studies have shown that spiritual belief can help reduce pain. We have a powerful resource in Christ and he is ever-present, in control,  loves us and will help us endure.

Wisdom is nothing more than healed pain - Robert Gary Lee  

God created everything that goes into medicine and healthcare has made huge strides toward alleviating pain. 

”Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.” – Khalil Gibran

What Scripture Tells Us About Pain

God created everything that goes into medicine and healthcare has made huge strides toward alleviating pain.  Although you must continue to look for remedies, there are some levels of suffering that medicine has yet to reach. Sufferers may wonder if God even cares, so let’s investigate what scripture says about pain.

The briefest glance at the Bible reveals that God is aware of our suffering and is eager to help us (Psalm 50:15Numbers 21:8–9). He made us from dust and knows how our bodies function Psalm 103:14; 139:13–16). He created the nerve endings that communicate pain to our brains, so He well knows how they affect us. We know that God is ultimately in charge of everything, even chronic pain (Isaiah 45:7). Those who know, love, and trust Him need never worry that God is unaware of their suffering or that their requests for relief are being ignored (Matthew 6:31–33Luke 12:6–7).

When Jesus began His earthly ministry, He gained renown for healing the crippled and the ill (Matthew 4:23). He sometimes went out of His way to alleviate the pain of an individual, revealing His compassion for the suffering (Luke 13:10–12Matthew 9:20–22). Jesus said that He did nothing of His own accord, but only what He saw His Father doing (John 5:19; 14:10), so from this we learn that the Father also has great compassion on those who suffer and can heal them.

But pain relief was not Jesus’ main mission; nor is it the Father’s. Sometimes pain is the result of sin or foolishness. Sometimes it is merely the fallout from living in mortal, imperfect body. Whatever the case, our suffering is not wasted. God has a purpose in it. This link is to a related post:

Why Did God Make Me ____?

When Jesus’ disciples asked Him about a man born blind, Jesus replied,

It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him (John 9:1–7).

He then healed the man, but only after the man had suffered from blindness his whole life up to that point. So, Jesus’ attention to the chronically ill shows us that God knows about our pain and cares that we suffer. However, for reasons known only to Him, He often allows what He hates to accomplish what He loves.

Many times God brings good from our pain by teaching us to rely more on Him. The more acutely we see our need, the more likely we are to seek His face.

Also, God may use pain to help us learn endurance and patience. James describes a life of perseverance as one “not lacking anything.” With patience, endurance and perseverance, our perspective changes because we have matured. We develop a resiliency born from the discovery of our inner strength.

We then can help other sufferers with what God taught us:

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God” (1 Corinthians 1:3–4).

Yet chronic pain can be an opportunity to learn to suffer well before the eyes of the world. When those with no hope watch the patient endurance of a child of God, they may yearn for that kind of strength. By their silent testimony, chronic pain sufferers may be storing up mountains of treasure in heaven as they refuse to doubt God’s goodness (see Matthew 5:166:6).

Sometimes God miraculously heals people from pain; other times He does not. Neither instance is an indication of God’s love or the worth of the person. God states clearly that He is sovereign over everything and His plan will stand (Isaiah 46:9–11). Sometimes that plan includes suffering, even for those who love Him and serve Him faithfully (Acts 9:161 Peter 4:13).This link provides an example of a miraculous healing:

An Astonishing & Undeniable Spiritual Healing

The apostle Paul was an example of someone totally devoted to Christ, yet he had to suffer many things in order to remain obedient to God’s will for his life (2 Corinthians 11:23–27). It goes without saying that Paul must have lived with chronic pain from his many beatings and imprisonments. We are not told what his “thorn in the flesh” may have been, but it is entirely possible that it was chronic pain of some sort. He pleaded with the Lord to take it from him, and God’s response has become a source of strength for many sufferers of chronic pain: “My grace is sufficient for you. My power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Paul’s strength, no doubt, came from his years of prayer and meditation while in prison.  Recent studies have shown that mindful meditation helps decrease stress and pain. It involves focusing the mind to increase awareness of the present moment. This method, to help cope with pain, can be easily done anywhere, even on the bus.

An example of mindful meditation would be to sit up straight, close your eyes, and put aside all thoughts of the future and past. Stay present and focus on your breathing.

This exercise could be done for just a couple of minutes, letting your thoughts come and go while being aware of your current state. Through performing this kind of exercise, you can create a sense of control, which is crucial in making your pain experience more manageable.

This link provides full information on how to meditate:

How to Meditate to Reach Higher God Consciousness

Paul also wrote that “this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Corinthians 4:17, ESV). If Paul could call the abuse he suffered “light momentary affliction,” then we can all take heart and follow suit. He seemed to be saying that those who learn to suffer well will be rewarded grandly for all eternity. God is not standing idly by while His children suffer. He promises to draw near and comfort us when we call to Him (Psalm 34:18; Hosea 6:1). Although chronic pain is exhausting and disheartening, we have God’s promise that it will be worth it when we see Him face to face (Philippians 3:8–111 Corinthians 13:12). Our pain is not pointless when our lives are devoted to God’s will. We can rest in the confidence that He is allowing it for His greater purposes (Romans 8:28) and that soon we will be with Him and free from pain forever (Revelation 21:4).

”Pain has its own noble joy, when it starts a strong consciousness of life, from a stagnant one.” – John Sterling
No pain, no palm; no thorns, no throne; no gall, no glory; no cross, no crown.” – William Penn

Conclusion

The solution for your pain may be waiting for you to discover it, so don’t give up.  Continually pray for relief while putting yourself in God’s hands and accepting His will.  Your pain may be meant to strengthen or teach you something that you can use for yourself, for others or that God can use for His purposes.  If you are healed miraculously, it will certainly strengthen your faith. The following link discusses how and when God performs miracles.

Why Doesn’t God Perform More Miracles?

To get everything you need for life, pain, both physical and emotional, is an absolute necessity. Without pain, you would never truly appreciate what hope is. Without pain, you would too easily forget your need for God. Without pain, you would neglect your need for saving and salvation. Pain heightens your senses and gives you a greater awareness of the more important things in life: love, God, family, hope. If you lived a life completely without pain, there would be a void in your life, a void only filled through the experience that pain gives you.

If you found this post interesting, inspiring, informative, or useful, please follow us and share.  Many more posts to feed your soul can be found on the Navigation Menu.  God bless you.

Relevant Scripture

If we are not joyful in God, we will be weak. But even if we our physically weak because of a sickness, when our joy is in the Lord, we will be strong (2 Corinthians 12:8-10).

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything (James 1:2-4, NIV).

Therefore, we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. (2 Corinthians 4:16-17, NIV).

References

What Does the Bible Say About Enduring Pain by Mark Ballenger

10 Powerful Principles to Endure Suffering by Nancy Leigh DeMoss

What does the Bible say about dealing with chronic pain?

6 Ways Your Pain Has a Purpose By Josh Daffern

The Emotional Impact of the Pain Experience (hss.edu) by Maris Pasquale, LMSW

justice scale weighing questions marks

You Choose What’s Right-Ethical Relativism / Spiritual Meditations

I believe people are good for the most part.  So how is it that some believe that women should be quiet and submissive while others have women preachers?  How is it that some believe the LGBTQ community is defined by their genetics and should be allowed to choose whom they love while others think they should be killed or imprisoned?

Where we stand on these polar opposites, and everything in between, is based on what our cultures have taught us is right or wrong.  It’s known as ethical relativism.

What is Ethical Relativism

Ethical relativism – In ethics, the belief that nothing is objectively right or wrong and that the definition of right or wrong depends on the prevailing view of a particular individual, culture, or historical period.

Does that raise some major concerns for you?  It does for me but it warrants consideration.

When it comes to determining what is ethical, many of us rely on our religious upbringing or that of our parents.  Why not, what else do we have to base them on?  It is interesting to apply ethical relativism to a few controversial scripture verses and see where it takes us. I encourage you to search your own heart and expand on these thoughts.

Scripture Worth a Modern Review

A woman must not wear men’s clothing, nor a man wear women’s clothing, for the Lord your God detests anyone who does this. (Deut 22:5) 
  • This truly depends on the cultural definition of what constitutes men’s and women’s clothing.  Does this include theatrical costumes?
A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet (1 Timothy 2:11–12, NIV)
  • Some societies are matriarchal.
  • Some have women preachers with God-given inspiration to share.
  • Some have women CEOs.
  • These do not separate anyone from God.
[In worship] Every man who prays or prophesies with long hair dishonors his head. But every woman who prays or prophesies with no covering of hair dishonors her head—she is just like one of the “shorn women.” If a woman has no covering, let her be for now with short hair; but since it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair shorn or shaved, she should grow it again. A man ought not to have long hair. (1 Corinthians 11:7) 
  • Praying women internationally have been cutting their hair for centuries.
  • and the long-haired man that comes to my mind is Samson, one of God’s own people. 
  • God cares more about what is in a person’s heart than what they look like; hair length has nothing to do with reverence.
We know that the law is good if one uses it properly. We also know that the law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers,  for the sexually immoral, for those practicing homosexuality, for slave traders and liars and perjurers—and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine  that conforms to the gospel concerning the glory of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me. (1 Tim 1:8-11)

Historical cultures exhibit much diversity in what is covered in this verse, but here are a few jumping off points.

  • Have you ever run a red light or parked illegally? 
  • Let us thank God for Jesus the rebel. 
  • Are we not all sinful?
  • God gives us free will to be irreligious or not. 
  • Some societies have practiced human sacrifice as normal.
  • Where people draw the line defining sexual immorality fluctuates between cultures and periods in time.
  • Recent history has not been kind to homosexuals but there were periods of ancient history when it was quite acceptable, and some societies are moving in that direction today.
  • The slave trade in the Southern USA in the 18th and 19th century was common-place and rationalized as acceptable, even by some professed Christians. 
  • I don’t know anyone who doesn’t lie occasionally, even if only to avoid hurting someone’s feelings; some lie to themselves.
There are some that only chew the cud or only have a divided hoof, but you must not eat them. …Anything living in the water that does not have fins and scales is to be regarded as unclean by you. (Lev 11:4,12)
  • Here is an example of the Old Testament law that was retracted by God in a dream to Peter in the New Testament.  Did God change His mind, or did humanity find healthy ways to prepare the ‘unclean’ food?

Time and Place Matters

So, here’s the point-we can’t always apply Biblical statements to every culture but must understand them in the context of the time and place they were written. Then apply that understand to our current time and place.  Too often we cling to our well-ingrained dogma, thoughts, and behaviors, searching in spiritual texts for those fragments that support our position, that of our friends or what is generally socially acceptable.   

Jesus said

“Things that cause people to stumble are bound to come, but woe to anyone through whom they come.”  (Luke 17:1 NIV)

Leading someone astray from God includes being a poor example in how we correct, undermine, or denigrate their life, behavior or personality, as well as, leading them into addiction, prostitution or numerous other degrading behaviors. 

So, we have a conundrum; do we allow our culture to define what is right and wrong? Do we allow scripture to define it?  Do we just do whatever seems right to us at the time?  My thought is to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit.

As thinking,  believing adults, we need to question whether our heart and actions hurt or undermine another person. As you may have heard, whenever possible, it is better to be kind than to be right.

Scripture to Live By

Following are a few scriptures that remind us to implement kindness in our lives. The principles they express are universally accepted by the 5 major world religions.

If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. (1 Cor 13:2)
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.  Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.  And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. (Col 3:12-14)
“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.  The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

I have heard people redefine who their neighbors are to fit their biases.  However, if we look at the context of this verse, we find that the neighbors of Jesus’ time included Romans,  Greeks, other Gentiles, Sadducees, Pharisees, Samaritans and those of various peoples who were often present in Israel. Our ‘neighbors’ are everyone.

More thoughts related to this topic can be found at these links:

Are You Smart Enough to Judge Others?

Who are Your Neighbors

Relevant Scripture

In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy…Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy,” (Acts 2: 17–18)

2 intersecting hearts like puzzle

God’s Love-A Rhapsody of Particulars/Spiritual Meditations

How many ways does God love you? There are so many, is it possible for you to count them?  In Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s famous poem, “How do I Love Thee?.”  she speaks of a deep and everlasting love.  Much of her sonnet could be written by God to us or by us to God.  Yet it only scratches the surface of God’s love for you.

How Do I Love Thee? (Sonnet 43) By Elizabeth Barrett Browning

 How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. 
 I love thee to the depth and breadth and height 
 My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight 
 For the ends of being and ideal grace. 
 I love thee to the level of every day’s 
 Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light. 
 I love thee freely, as men strive for right. 
 I love thee purely, as they turn from praise. 
 I love thee with the passion put to use 
 In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith. 
 I love thee with a love I seemed to lose 
 With my lost saints. I love thee with the breath, 
 Smiles, tears, of all my life; and, if God choose, 
 I shall but love thee better after death. 

My friend Dr. Frank Leeds III shares an enlightening explanation of the multitude of ways that God loves us as unveiled in the Old Testament. You may never have realized what he reveals but you will surely recognize it.


The Universal Elohim & the Particular Hashem

We have all heard the admonition to love. To love one another. To love God and love our neighbor as ourselves. We have all heard definitions of love. What I wish to share with you is what I have learned about God’s love from the Hebrew Scriptures in general and the Torah in particular. It is Rabbinic thinking at its best and most profound to my understanding of the Scriptures.

I wish to use two words that are common in philosophy and are not new to us. They are ‘Universals’ and ‘Particulars’. Please bear with me. When the Bible speaks of the Hebrew word ‘God’ it uses a variety of terms which have different conditions. For example, is uses the term ‘Elohim’ when it refers to the understanding of the Lord as universal. A universal is something that applies to everyone, and equally. An example might be that “The sun shines on the Just and the Unjust alike.” Another example would be Justice. Justice is a Universal. It needs to be applied equally to all people. Whatever your age, sex, nationally, race, etc. “Justice is justice”. Getting a good deal because you are friends with the judge is not justice. It is a perversion of justice.

Hebrew uses another word to refer to God – Hashem. This is God of the particular. It is God being selective. Here we will apply these two concepts, the universal and the particular, to God’s love for us.

Princess Diana Received Only One Kind of Love

Let me give you an example of Universal and Particular love. My wife and I recently watched the TV series entitled “The Crown.” It was about the Royal Family of Great Britain. A great show. I loved it. When it got to Princess Diana, the word ‘love’ can be split into two different kinds. One is universal, the other is particular. Wherever she went in the world, and she did travel extensively, she was universally loved. Everyone in the world seemed to love the princess and at her funeral service she was known as the ‘People’s Princess’.

But she was void of being loved in the ‘particular’ sense of the word. The father of her children did not love her. When she was home, besides her young children, no one cared how she felt. No one appreciated her. No one seemed to care. She was an object to be used, not a person to love. Do you see the difference in these two kinds of love?

Particular Love is Selective

Let me give you another example. Are you married or have ever been married? If you are, or were, you were either chosen or selected by someone to be the special person in their life. Or you were the one who chose or selected someone else to be the special person in your life. Marriage in not universal. One does not marry everyone [although I have some friends that seem to be trying that]. Marriage is particular. It is by design a limiting process. One narrows the choice down in order to love.

Look at the biblical story of Jacob, we see he had two wives. One he chose to marry but his first wife was forced on him by his father-in-law. He second wife, was the first wife’s younger sister. As per the father, it was important that the older sister marry first, therefore Jacob ended up with two wives. The older one Leah and the younger one Rachel. The story also makes it clear that he loved both of them…but…he loved Rachel more. He married Leah out of a ‘universal’ ethical standard. He married Rachel out of the ‘particular of love’.

People tell me the same about being on Facebook. A person has a 1,000 Facebook Friends, but may have no one that really cares one way or the other about them. It is one thing to have a thousand friends, it is another to be blessed with one good friend.

As Jacob’s story develops, he fathers a dozen sons but only one, Joseph, is Rachel’s child. Jacob loves his sons, but Joseph is his favorite. People are often quick to say, “one should not have a favorite child” but that is a distraction to the story. The fact remains, Joseph was his favorite son. He was the favorite for two reasons: He was the son of his old age and he was the son of the wife Rachel whom he loved the most.

Now, if we look at the Song of Solomon, you will notice that the lover notices everything about his loved one. He notices her hair, her eyes, her ears, her neck, etc. Because the lover loves, he notices all things about his loved one. He can recite a Rhapsody of Particulars about his her.

Many years ago, when I was managing a large hospital, one of my elderly board members after a meeting said it was time to go home and “to look his wife over”. That made absolutely no sense to me so I said to him “what does that mean, is she ill?” “Oh no” he said, “I thought I told you the story. When I was a young man about your age, one night a week I played poker with my friends. After one night of playing, poker and having a little too much to drink, I walked into our apartment and said to my wife, who was sitting in a chair, that I was tired and going straight to bed. Shortly thereafter, I received a woman’s scorn that I never want to go through again.

While I was out with the boys, she had fallen and broken her leg. After a visit to the hospital, an ambulance brought her home and she was sitting in a chair with a big cast on her leg, which I failed to notice. So, after that event, as soon as I get home, the first think I do is to check her out! I suggest you do likewise.” I tell you that story because particular love ‘checks her out.’

Our Relationship With God is Particular Love

Our relation to the Lord, and the Lord’s relation to us, is not universal, it is particular. The Lord is interested in “YOU” not merely mankind. How interested in you is the Lord? How checked out are you? The Bible tells us that even the ‘hairs on your head are numbered” which is a metaphor saying God knows all about you. What I am trying to explain in all this is that the love of God is not a floating fog, but a very focused laser that is focused on you.

Appreciating God’s Universal Love

Likewise, our love for the Lord needs to take notice of all that we see and to notice the Lord’s handiwork in all of life, the sunrise in the morning, the food that we eat, the medical experiences that enrich our lives,  etc., etc., and etc., to the sunsets that kiss us goodnight.

Lives Full of God’s Universal and Particular Love

My wife and I have recently moved. It was a move just around the corner. In the first home we saw the sun sets, and now we see the sun rises. And in-between these two universals, we carry with us God’s Rhapsody of Particulars. I now carry my blessings like a bouquet of flowers, ever increasing in gratitude for the way my life has been blessed and that list gets longer and longer, wider and wider, deeper and deeper…and I hope your life is that way too. My hair may have turned gray. My ears do not hear as well. I just had eye surgery to help me see better. The body is falling apart. But the Rhapsody of my blessing is stronger every day.

I hope I have conveyed to you a little of the difference between God’s love as universal and God’s love as a particular. How does our Lord love you? Even the hairs of your head are numbered.

Relevant Scripture

But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? (Matt 5:44-46)

The story of Jacob and his wives and children (Gen 29-30)

Solomon’s Song of Songs

man praying

Why Doesn’t God Perform More Miracles?

The recent pandemic has surfaced a theological question that many of us have at least considered.  Will God protect us if we don’t protect ourselves? Are we testing God or trusting God when we ignore recommended precautions and treatments against CoVid19 or other illnesses?  The following is written by my friend Rev. Dr. Timothy W. Ehrlich in his recent book The Long Road to Eternity. In it he lays out the reasoning and experience behind his answer to these questions.


Behold! The Old George Is Gone.

In the summer of 1989, I was invited to provide a communion service at a large nursing home in the nearby town of Norwich. I was to meet with the administrator of the facility at 11:30, get a tour of the facility, and then have time for lunch and come back and perform the service at 1:30. This was to be another amazing mystical day; I woke up that morning feeling spiritually buoyant. Feeling very close to God, I wrote in my morning diary, “I’m ready for another miracle.”

After arriving at the facility and speaking with the administrator, his assistant followed me out of the office to talk about a problem. I counseled her and her husband for an hour and they both thanked me multiple times for relieving their minds. I was happy to be used by God so effectively and marveled at the set of circumstances that brought the three of us together at that time on that day.

The nursing home was located on top of a hill overlooking the city of Norwich. Since I had half an hour before the start of the service and it was a sunny afternoon, I decided to sit outside in front of the nursing home on the side of the hill facing the sun and the city of Norwich to pray and to think about the message I was about to deliver. As I began to pray, I thought about how low my spirituality had been over the previous month and it caused me to begin to cry. I had been so busy moving and doing the Lord’s work over the last month that I neglected the number one job of a pastor – stay close to the Almighty. My tears were because of my failure to pray regularly, and because of my gratitude for the amazing contrast between that low point of the previous month and how buoyant I now felt. I could feel God with me so powerfully at that moment.

As I prayed, I was also praying for my friend George who was the Lay Leader of one of the churches I pastored; he was battling kidney cancer. He also was a saintly person, a salt-of-the-earth, wonderful guy, full of the fruits of the Spirit. Some months earlier he had a small amount of blood in his urine, but instead of getting it checked out, or even telling anyone about it, he decided that faith required him to let God take care of it. Then one day in the end of May there was suddenly a tremendous amount of blood in his urine. He told me what was going on with him as I was packing to move to a new church. I was upset that he waited to seek medical attention, but I was relieved that at least now he was seeing a doctor.

Unfortunately, the blood in his urine was there because George had an aggressive form of kidney cancer in both kidneys and it was spreading rapidly. George was in the hospital and, as I sat overlooked Norwich, I prayed for George and his wife Olive.  “My prayer for George, Lord, is that he recovers if it is your will.” Suddenly, the sun seemed to be extra bright and time froze just for a moment. I had my head bowed in prayer and, looking up, saw the same beautiful transparent golden substance I had seen in my attic room in Fire Island. It rapidly approaching me until it was right in front of me. This time it did not settle on me or pass over and through me. It was like a curtain – about six feet high and six feet wide and a foot thick, transparent yet like a golden shimmering fog. I heard God’s voice speak from the square, “Behold, the old George is gone; the new George is!” and then the golden substance faded away. I looked at my watch; it was 1:10 p.m. I prayed some more and went in and led the communion service for the retirees.

Coincidently my sermon for that service was entitled, “Holy Fire.” When I arrived to preach and serve communion, the altar candles were not lit. No one there was a smoker so I told the group we could not light the candles. A woman in the service said, “You will have to be our fire today.” Little did she know I was filled with holy fire.

That afternoon at about 3:00 I called Olive.  She said, “George died today.” I asked her what time he passed, she said it was about 1:10 in the afternoon. I told Olive what I had seen and heard that afternoon, but she was only minimally comforted as she was already convinced George was going to heaven.

George had been the main income earner in the household and Olive was confronting both the loss of her husband and the economic turmoil she was going to have to deal with. The rapidity of the progression of the cancer caught everyone by surprise – George went from healthy and seeming fine to gone in a little over two months. Heaven’s joy was Olive’s great loss.

The Theological Lessons

God Happily Awaits Our Arrival in Heaven

The theological lesson in this experience is to realize how happy God is about us having and receiving eternal life. God’s choice of words and the way it was proclaimed, “Behold!” showed how happy He is to receive us into His eternal home.

God Will Not do for Us What We Can do for Ourselves.

George’s flawed decision to not seek medical help until it was too late, based on the belief that God would take care of it, is also a lesson. It is a reminder of one of God’s operating principles – God does not do for us those things which we can do for ourselves. So, if we have blood in our urine, or some other ailment we need to get medical attention. God gives us brains and he wants us to use them, both to obtain healing or to get anything else we need.

It is not a part of God’s plan to be a cosmic lifeguard, jumping into action to miraculously save every believer from every situation, especially when He has already made a way for us to be saved through science, medicine, or technology. God will not save us if we can save ourselves from whatever situation we are in and God will not save us if we have chosen to reject an already established path to safety from whatever calamity is facing us.

When We Can’t Do It, How Much Does God Do?

That goes together with another one of God’s operating principles – God always does the minimum possible to bring about His desired results. He will not send an angel to save you if He can motivate a person to save you. He will not motivate a person to save you if He can reach you through other means like your prayers, Bible readings or the words of another person.  These may cause you to alter your path, so you don’t need saving in the first place.

Why Doesn’t God Perform More Miracles?

It is clear that God loves us, cares deeply about each of us and especially appreciates those who truly love Him. Considering the miracles God is performing, why does He not just do a few more and do all the things that I ask Him to? Why does God not save all His people all the time? It doesn’t seem very loving of God at first glance. The answer is somewhat paradoxical: God limits the use of His power precisely because God loves us and wants to allow us maximum freedom to choose to love Him in return. (See Longing to Reciprocating God’s Astonishing Love)  Stick with me here for a moment; it is a complex answer, but I will make it as clear as I can.

  • God wants us to have faith, to trust and believe in God.
  • If we knew that God would always save us or always give us what we want, then our need for faith would be removed.
  • Doubt and faith live in the same place inside us. How do we know? You can’t have faith if you are filled with doubt and you can’t doubt if you are filled with faith.
  • God wants us to love Him, and love is not real love if it is not given in freedom. True love cannot be compelled.
  • If we could not doubt or question the existence of God, if we knew for absolute certain the reality of God, including fully recognizing His omnipotence and omniscience, then it would take away our freedom to choose to love God: we would be terrified not to obey God. And love is not real love if it is not given freely.
  • Faith itself is a choice. We choose to either give in to doubt or to push doubt aside and trust “where we cannot see.” Thus, faith allows us the freedom to choose to love God or not to love God. So, when we love God in faith our love is not coming from a place of fear or compulsion but out of appreciation, respect, and admiration.
  • God creates the freedom we need to be able to love God freely by creating a space or distance between us. This space inside us is where both doubt and faith live. The separation or distance between God and us reflects the reality that God is Spirit and we are matter. There is a natural divide between these two.
  • Sometimes the freedom to choose God means God needs to keep His hands off things and allow stuff to happen to us that we perceive as negative. If He didn’t keep His hands off, if he saved us every time,  we would know for sure with no doubt that He exists in all His godliness, and again that would remove our ability to love God freely. The things that we perceive as negative that God allows to happen  includes allowing us to receive and experience the consequences of our bad decisions, the consequences of the bad decisions of others, the impact of natural disasters, and the weakness or fragility of our humanity.
  • But God allows these bad things because they are of a small significance compared to the blessing of knowing, experiencing, and loving God in this life, and to the promise of eternity with God in heaven in our life to come.

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Relevant Scripture

Do not put the Lord your God to the test as you did at Massah. (Deut 6:16)

Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” (Matt 4:7)

On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. (Matt 9:12)

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. (Heb 11:1)

seedlings in pots

How to Grow Your Faith / Spiritual Meditations

We read that ‘faith can move mountains, yet many of us find we are unable to move anything at all.  How do we increase our faith to the point where we can confidently call on God for the good of others, as well as ourselves, and see results?  How do we develop enough faith to trust and follow God’s direction in our lives?

I wanted to find the Greek meaning of the word we translate as ‘faith’, so I turned to Greek scholar,  W. E. Vine.  He writes that:

The main elements in ‘faith’ in its relation to the invisible God, as distinct from faith in man, are especially brought out in the use of this Greek noun. The elements are (1) a firm conviction providing a full acknowledgement of God’s revelation or truth (2) a personal surrender to him (3) the conduct inspired by such surrender. Emphasis is given to one or other of these elements according to the Biblical context. All this stands in contrast to ‘belief’ in its purely natural exercise, which consists of an opinion held in good faith without necessarily reference to its proof.

In the Old Testament the word ‘faith’ occurs only twice.  It is never just acceptance of a set of doctrines or outward acceptance of the law but is utter confidence in the faithfulness of God and a loving obedience to his will.

The New Testament tells us that the promised Messiah had come, and that Jesus of Nazareth was that Messiah. To believe him meant to become a Christian and was pivotal in the experience of the individual.  Jesus offered himself as the object of faith and made plain that faith in him was necessary for eternal life. He promised to send faith as a “fruit of the Holy Spirit” after he went to the Father. This may be seen in the reborn person’s spirit even at difficult times, not just on their best days.

‘Faith’ may also refer to the body of truth which constitutes the whole of the Christian message, such as in Jude 3:3.

Beloved, being very eager to write to you of our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.

Faith the Size of a Mustard Seed

Like us, the disciples wanted more faith to be able to forgive as they should. Jesus responded by saying that the faith the size of a mustard seed was enough to move a tree into the sea. His response made it clear that only a small increase in faith was required to forgive as He commanded. (Luke 17:1-4)

The same is often true in our own desire to grow in faith. We think we need a giant increase in faith to obey God, but He indicates that simply obeying Him with small steps of increasing faith is more than sufficient.

How Do We Increase Our Faith?

Read the Word

We receive a measure of faith from God, through receiving the Word of God — by studying the Bible.

So then faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. (Rom 10:17)

Reading or hearing God’s Word is like planting a garden. God’s Word is the seed that grows our garden of faith. Knowing His promises, what God says about you, about life, and about Jesus’ plan for eternal life are the Biblical basis for your faith.  Meditating on its contents will give you the groundwork for growing your faith.

Practice the Word

If we fail to implement our Bible teachings and ignore what God is telling us, then our faith grows stagnant. It took faith for us to become children of God in the first place. Therefore, to grow and increase our faith, we need to use that “measure” of faith, the Bible, which God gives to everyone, and apply it.

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. (James 1:22)
What does it profit, my brethren, if a man says he has faith but has not works? Can his faith save him? If a brother or sister is ill-clad and in lack of daily food,and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what does it profit? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead. (James 2:14-17 NIV)

We increase our faith by how we serve God. In Hebrews 11 we read of many great biblical leaders who were known for their faith. In each case, they faithfully served God. Abraham was willing to leave his homeland for a place he did not know. Moses returned to Egypt to free the Israelite slaves. To increase our faith, we are called to serve God in both large and small acts.

Look for practical ways in which you can increase your faith by applying what you know is true.

Associate with Other Christians

Being surrounded by others who are also seeking to grow in faith and recalling examples such as the people mentioned in Hebrews 11, can be of great help to increasing our own faith. Hebrews 12:1-2 says,

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Earlier, the writer of Hebrews exhorted, 

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near" (Hebrews 10:24-25).

Pray to Increase Your Faith

Prayer is a great way to increase our faith as it helps us maintain an active relationship with God. In prayer we can also ask God to increase our faith. God knows our heart and longs to answer according to His will. Our growth in faith is certainly His will for our lives and a prayer He will grant.

Martin Luther shared some very useful insights on how prayer is more effective when supported by faith and how prayer increases faith:

Prayer is a special exercise of faith. Faith makes the prayer acceptable because it believes that either the prayer will be answered, or that something better will be given instead. This is why James said, “let him who asks of God not waver in faith, for if he wavers, let him not think that he shall receive anything from the Lord.” This is a clear statement which says directly; He who does not trust will receive nothing, neither that for which he asks nor anything better. 

Jesus himself has said, “therefore I say unto you. What things so ever you desire, when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you shall have them.” (Mark 11 )

James said ”you ask and you do not receive because you ask amiss“ (James 4: 3). For when this faith and confidence is not in the prayer, the prayer is dead.

Refer to post on unanswered prayer & waiting on God.

No one can believe how powerful prayer is and what it can affect, except those who have learned it by experience. It is important that we have a need to go to God in prayer. I know, whenever I have prayed earnestly, that I have been heard and have obtained more than I prayed for. God sometimes delays, but he always comes. 

There is no Christian who does not have time to pray without ceasing. But I mean the spiritual praying, that is no one is so heavily burdened with his labor, but that if he will, he can, while working, speak with God in the heart, lay before him his need and that of other men, ask for help, make petition, and in all this exercise and strengthen his faith.

Praying to God with humble, sincere and heartfelt words and thoughts;  Praying throughout your day as you have reasons for praise, guidance or help.  This is when you will see your prayers answered and thus experience a great boost to your faith. The following 2 posts will be help you deepen your connection with God.

Why Doesn’t God Answer My Prayers

3 Steps to Successful Prayer.

I like to keep a journal of the times God has directed me or answered prayer.  If you do the same, you can look back and see the tracks of God’s faithfulness. He truly keeps His Word.  Trusting Him with smaller problems builds our faith and gives us confidence in Him for the harder issues.

Conclusion

As believers, our desire to grow in faith should be accompanied by actions that match this desire. We can grow through applying what we do know, growing in God’s Word, serving God, surrounding ourselves with others who are growing in faith, and prayer. Even a small increase in faith is significant and worth the effort in our walk with God.

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Relevant Scripture

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. (Heb 11:1)

The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!”

He replied, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you. (Luke 17 5-6)

Then Jesus said to her, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed at that moment. (Matt 15:28)

Neither do we go beyond our limits by boasting of work done by others. Our hope is that, as your faith continues to grow, our sphere of activity among you will greatly expand, (2 Cor 10:15)

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. (Heb 4:14)

References

Three Ways to Increase Your Faith (crosswalk.com) by Rebecca Barlow Jordan

What should I do to increase my faith? (compellingtruth.org)

Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words.

young man and baby girl

Your Joy in Loving A Little Girl! /Spiritual Meditations

You love our children, but what was your first thought when you heard you were going to have one…or another?  It may not fit into your life as you planned it; adjustments need be made; it may not be convenient.  My friend, Rev. Dr. Timothy W. Ehrlich describes this struggle with God in his book The Long Road to Eternity, now available on Amazon.  Here is that excerpt:


Anna waited to break the news until halftime of the Superbowl when the Giants, my favorite team, were winning. She hoped I would be in a good mood for what she knew I didn’t want to hear. “Tim,” she said, “I have something to tell you.” I took one look at her and somehow, I knew. I said, “You’re pregnant!” She said, “Yes, how did you know?” I didn’t know how I knew, but I did know that hearing that news made me angry; the football game was forgotten.

I was angry for several reasons: this was the third time Anna had gotten pregnant faster than I wanted. I had wanted to wait two full years after we were married to make our first child, but Anna got pregnant 5 months ahead of schedule; then I wanted to wait a full two years before she got pregnant a second time, but she got pregnant 9 months ahead of schedule. This time I had not wanted another child for a long time, if at all.

These were some reasons, but the main reason was that I was convinced we would have another boy. I dearly loved our boys, but it is a vast understatement to say that they were ‘very active’. They never stopped moving, and they were strong willed, which is a polite way of saying they were frequently a giant pain in the posterior.

So, I was really angry. I was angry at Anna, and at myself, because I had something to do with it; but mostly I was angry with God. I felt very strongly that this was His doing because we were using two kinds of birth control and this pregnancy had defeated them both. So, I got up, left the Super Bowl in the living room, and went into the spare bedroom of the house to pray.

I gave God an earful. I said, “God I am really upset, why did you do this to me? I only wanted to have two kids, and now I won’t be able to sleep past 6:30 for the next five years. Now I have to worry about college for three kids! I am so angry; I know you were behind this. It had to be you. Why did you do this to me?”

I continued to complain to God about the same things but in different order. Finally, after at least half an hour of pouring out the reasons for my anger and concern, I stopped. Knowing I should not be angry with God and remembering to accept whatever He had in store for me,  I apologized to God, but was still hurt and upset. However, with acceptance my tone changed; instead of asking God, “Why did you do this?!” I reverted to trusting God and asked with genuine curiosity, “Why did you do this?”   

As soon as my question was asked not with anger but with humility, I heard His clear deep voice speak clearly to answer me. He said, sounding slightly angry or impatient with me, “Because I wanted you know the joy of loving a little girl.” Instantly I went from hurt and upset to thankful and overjoyed. I said, “Wow, I’m going to have a daughter!” As funny as it sounds, it had not occurred to me that the baby could be a girl.

As soon as I heard that we were having a little girl my mood underwent the kind of miraculously rapid and thorough transformation that only a direct intervention from God can do for you. In an instant I went from angry to joy filled, and from unhappy to thrilled. I was caught up in the great good news that I was going to have a daughter, and in the amazing miracle of being spoken to by God again. The passing of time has not decreased my appreciation for the experience of being spoken to by God, and for the good news that he had chosen to bless my life by giving me a daughter. My daughter Hansie has been and continues to be a huge blessing in my life; and I thank God daily both for speaking to me and for the gift that Hansie has been and continues to be for me.

I did not realize it at the time, but God speaking to me was also equipping me to face a huge challenge in my life. As Anna’s pregnancy progressed, she developed preeclampsia, but her doctor somehow didn’t catch it. Anna delivered Hansie by caesarean and while we were still in the delivery room, as soon as the baby was born and before they stitched her up, Anna’s blood pressure began to shoot up until it hit 240. I was watching the monitor; the doctor was not. I said to the anesthetist – “Look her blood pressure is spiking!” He said, “The machine is broken.” I said, “No its not, I have been watching the monitor, it has gone up and up and up!” He gave Anna a shot of something and her blood pressure came down quickly.

A little over two hours later we were in her room, they brought in the baby for her to nurse, and Anna said, “I don’t feel good.” She started nursing anyway; it seemed to be going well. This was the third time we had been through this and a baby breastfeeding was not new to me, so I started reading the newspaper. Just two or three minutes later I heard something hitting the metal side railings of the bed; I looked up and saw that the noise was made by our baby. Anna had dropped the baby because she was having a grand mal seizure.  Scooped up the baby, I quickly pressed the nurse call button about 10 times, and then put my finger in the back of Anna’s jaw to keep her from swallowing her tongue.

Putting my finger back there turned out not to be the right thing to do, both because there was a newer procedure, and because I had a nasty bite mark on my finger for about 2 weeks. Anyway, they called a code on her and the room filled with doctors and nurses. They took the baby from my arms and issued me out the door. Within a few minutes Anna stopped convulsing, but she was unconscious and she remained in a coma for three days. During that time, her kidneys and liver shut down.

At one point I asked the doctor if she would recover and he told me he didn’t know if she would pull through or not, but he said, “she is young and was very healthy before this so her chances of recovery are very good.” I guess if there is anything worse than hearing the doctor say your wife might die, it might be hearing this just after she has given birth. So, I was potentially a widower with three children under 5. But I was completely calm and at peace. The experience of having heard God speak to me so clearly just a few months before and knowing that God had sent me this daughter because he wanted to bless me made me trust in him completely. Whatever he had in store I was going to trust him. I prayed  that God would heal Anna, and said that I was trusting in Him and putting Anna and everything going on with her in His hands.

Fortunately, after three days Anna’s kidneys and liver started working again. First the catheter that had not produced anything for three days suddenly came to life, and soon Anna came out of her coma and became oriented again. Anna quickly recovered from that point. I was so grateful that God blessed me with the wonderful experience of speaking to me which helped me so much in that terrible time. Our baby Hansie is living a wonderful life and we are so proud of her. 

Conclusion

The theological lessons from this experience were:

  • God desires to bless even his most imperfect servants if they are fully committed to giving their life to Him.
  • Trust God especially when we don’t understand what He is doing.

How ironic that not only did I not trust where I did not understand, my first response was anger in the face of this huge blessing that God was giving to me. As I sat in the hospital room with my unconscious wife, whose prognosis was uncertain, I was completely at peace because God had spoken to me, and what a great gift it was.


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Relevant Scripture

And God said to Abraham, “As for Sar′ai your wife, you shall not call her name Sar′ai, but Sarah shall be her name.  I will bless her, and moreover I will give you a son by her; I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of peoples shall come from her.” Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed, and said to himself, “Shall a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?” And Abraham said to God, “O that Ish′mael might live in thy sight!”  God said, “No, but Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him. As for Ish′mael, I have heard you; behold, I will bless him and make him fruitful and multiply him exceedingly; he shall be the father of twelve princes, and I will make him a great nation. But I will establish my covenant with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear to you at this season next year.” (Gen 17: 15-21)

In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechari′ah,[b] of the division of Abi′jah; and he had a wife of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years.

Now while he was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty, according to the custom of the priesthood, it fell to him by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense. And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. And Zechari′ah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him. But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechari′ah, for your prayer is heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John….

And Zechari′ah said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.” And the angel answered him, “I am Gabriel, who stand in the presence of God; and I was sent to speak to you, and to bring you this good news. And behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things come to pass, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time.” (Luke 1:5-20)

girl child hidden face in hair bruised hands over ears.

Your Witness to Black Market Slavery /Spiritual Meditations

We hear of child abduction and feel helpless to improve the lives of the victims.  However, your reaction to this crime of worldwide scope can save a lost child without putting yourself in jeopardy; it is a crime hidden in plain sight.

Again, I saw all the oppressions that are practiced under the sun. And behold, the tears of the oppressed, and they had no one to comfort them! On the side of their oppressors there was power, and there was no one to comfort them. And I thought the dead who are already dead more fortunate than the living who are still alive; but better than both is he who has not yet been, and has not seen the evil deeds that are done under the sun. (Ecclesiastes 4:1-3)

Human Trafficking – a Global Blight

  • Human trafficking is a global problem affecting people of all ages.
  • It is estimated that approximately 1,000,000 people are trafficked each year globally. 
  • It is the fastest growing criminal industry in the world. Enslaving an estimated 45 million, human trafficking generates more than 150 billion dollars each year.
  • Worldwide, almost 20% of all trafficking victims are children. However, in some parts of Africa and the Mekong region, children are the majority (up to 100% in parts of West Africa). Shockingly, the average worldwide age of entry is 12.

Between 20,000 and 50,000 people are trafficked into the United States, which is one of the largest destinations for victims of the sex-trafficking trade. In its 2019 report, the US State Department found the top three nations of origin for human trafficking victims were the United States, Mexico and the Philippines.  Slavery was abolished 150 years ago in the US yet there are more enslaved there today than any other time in history, many in the multibillion-dollar illicit massage industry and more in agriculture. 

The United Nations (UN) divides human trafficking into three categories:

  • sex trafficking,
  • labor trafficking, and
  • the removal of organs.

The UN defines human trafficking as the induction by force, fraud, or coercion of a person to engage in the sex trade, or the harboring, transportation, or obtaining of a person for labor service or organ removal. 

According to the Report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the most common form of human trafficking (79%) is sexual exploitation. The victims of sexual exploitation are predominantly women and girls. Surprisingly, in 30% of the countries which provided information on the gender of traffickers, women make up the largest proportion of traffickers. In some parts of the world, women trafficking women is the norm. 

The second most common form of human trafficking is forced labor (18%), although this may be a misrepresentation because forced labor is less frequently detected and reported than trafficking for sexual exploitation.

According to the US National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, 1 in 7 of the more than 23,500 runaways reported to the nonprofit organization were likely victims of child sex trafficking.  A report from the Human Rights Project for Girls, Georgetown Law Center on Poverty and Inequality, and Ms. Foundation for Women supports that finding. Their report entitled “The Sexual Abuse to Prison Pipeline,” states that girls who grow up in the instability of the child welfare system, particularly those placed in multiple homes, are “vulnerable to the manipulation of traffickers who promise to love and care for them. Indeed, some traffickers purposely troll for youth in certain group homes because they are aware of this vulnerability.”

The Trafficking Scheme

Traffickers look for victims that are susceptible such as young women, children and refugees. They look for the forgotten. Although a  high percentage come from foster homes or are runaways, others could be trafficked and still live with their families.

Human traffickers often create transnational routes for transporting migrants who are driven by unfavorable living conditions to seek the services of a smuggler. Human trafficking usually starts in origin countries where recruiters seek migrants through various mediums such as the Internet, employment agencies, the media, and local contacts.

Middlemen who recruit from within the origin country commonly share the cultural background of those migrating. Migrants view the services of a smuggler as an opportunity to move from impoverished conditions in their home countries to more stable, developed environments.

Because such circumstances make it difficult for victims to obtain legitimate travel documents, smugglers supply migrants with fraudulent passports or visas and advise them to avoid detection by border-control agents. Transporters, in turn, sustain the migration process through various modes of transportation: land, air, and sea. Although victims often leave their destination country voluntarily, the majority are unaware that they are being recruited into a trafficking scheme. Some may be kidnapped or coerced, but many are bribed by false job opportunities, passports, or visas.

Transporters involved in trafficking victims from the origin country are compensated only after they have taken migrants to the responsible party in the destination country. Immigration documents, whether legitimate or fraudulent, are seized by the traffickers. After this, victims are often subjected to physical and sexual abuse, and many are forced into labor or the sex trade to pay off their migratory debts.

Although trafficking seems to imply people moving across continents, most exploitation takes place close to home. Data show intra-regional and domestic trafficking are the major forms.

So Many Complications Dealing with Human Trafficking

It is impossible to ever reach a consensus on the true scale of the problem but, regardless of the figures, what matters is that human trafficking is big and getting bigger and every number represents a human life destroyed. It is happening on every continent and in almost every country: whether the place we live is a source, destination or transit point for trafficking, none of us can claim to be wholly unaffected by this crime.

It must be emphasized that the essence of trafficking is the forced exploitation of individuals by those in the position to exert power over them. Moving people may take a variety of forms. If they have been tricked or deceived, a person may even willingly transport themselves into a situation of exploitation. But unlike those who pay to be smuggled into another country, victims of trafficking have no prospect of making a new life for themselves.

International trafficking will inevitably raise issues of immigration, but its victims cannot simply be treated as illegal migrants, nor can the efforts to tackle it be reduced to stricter border controls. We can find sex trafficking abhorrent without taking a particular stance against prostitution, and policies to reduce or control the sex industry are just one approach to end the trade of human flesh. Finally, despite the similarities between the organized trafficking of drugs, arms and humans, which may require comparable police tactics to combat, we commit a grave injustice against the victims of human slavery if we reduce them in our minds to the status of commodities.

The first step to preventing human trafficking and prosecuting the traffickers is therefore to recognize the complexity of the crime which cannot be tackled in a vacuum. Anti-trafficking strategies must be embedded in every policy area, from improving female education in source countries so that girls are less vulnerable to trafficking, to increasing police pay in destination countries so that officers are less susceptible to bribery. We cannot allow ourselves to marginalize the issue of trafficking, viewing it as something that can be ended with a few extra taskforces or dedicated units. We need everyone to be aware of how it affects them, and what they can do to stop it.

How the Average Person can Recognize Human Trafficking

Often victims are people we walk by every day but unless you know what to look for you won’t notice them.

For example, when you’re passing through an airport, you’re usually focused on getting to your destination as quickly as possible.  But glancing around and noticing your fellow passengers could help save a life. It’s not just vacationers who travel on planes; airports are also hubs for human trafficking — when adults or children are transported into forced labor or commercial sexual exploitation.  Seeing something and reporting it could potentially keep someone from becoming a victim of modern slavery.

The red flags of identifying victims of human trafficking:

Lack of control – Victims are continuously monitored with little control over their money or IDs. They may not be allowed to speak for themselves, or a third party may insist on being present. They are not free to come and go at will.

A ‘girlfriend’ or ‘boyfriend’ who is significantly older will control who the victims will associate or correspond with.

Poor mental and physical health or abnormal behavior. Victims may have a sudden change in mood or fashion choices.  There may be a negative impact on grades and a change in the friends that they keep. They may be anxious, fearful, and avoid law enforcement and won’t look you in the eye. They may also show signs of substance abuse or addiction, poor hygiene, malnourishment, physical or sexual abuse or physical restraints (especially at wrists ankles necks and arms).

Tattoos – Commonly used are roses, dollar signs, crowns, barcodes or QR codes which are especially common in the United States.  These designate whose property they are.

Other signs – They have few or no personal possessions.  They ae subject to verbal or physical abuse by their supervisor.  They may live and work at one site with high security measures at work and/or living locations.

How You can Help Reduce Human Trafficking

Human Trafficking Hotline Numbers

The following information is derived from internet searches as of January 2021.  Over time some numbers may change.  Please confirm for your area.  If no hotline number is available contact local law enforcement.

In Australia, if you are a victim of trafficking or know someone who is, contact the AFP on 131AFP (131237) or email NOSSC-Client-Liaison@afp.gov.au

In the USA, if you suspect human trafficking you can call the National Human Trafficking hotline at 888 373 7888 or text “help” or “info” to  233733  (be free).  Or call law enforcement at 911.  The National Human Trafficking Hotline is confidential, toll-free and available 24/7 in more than 200 languages.  You can also chat @ humantraffickinghotline.org.

In Europe, if you suspect human trafficking you can call your national hotline as listed alphabetically by country in this link: National Hotlines | Together Against Trafficking in Human Beings (europa.eu)

If you live in Kazakhstan, The Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, or Uzbekistan, contact the corresponding numbers listed at the bottom of this link. Surviving Human Trafficking | Program Update | Kazakhstan | U.S. Agency for International Development (usaid.gov)

To report a potential trafficking situation in Singapore, please contact the local authorities at: Police hotline 6435 0000 or email SPF-Report-rafficking@spf.gov.sg
Ministry of Manpower 6438 5122 or email mom_fmmd@mom.gov.sg
All information provided will be kept confidential.

0800 222 777 is the South African National Human Trafficking Hotline

Another alpha listing by country can be found on How to help: Global hotlines – The CNN Freedom Project: Ending Modern-Day Slavery – CNN.com Blogs  

Financial Support for Organization Fighting Human Trafficking

If you would like to support an organization that is fighting human trafficking in the USA, the following link lists those organization by state and provides their phone numbers.  Sex Trafficking Prevention and Intervention Organizations – Child Welfare Information Gateway 

If you do not live in the USA and would like to support an organization in your country that fights human trafficking, the following link provides their names and location.  Scroll down to find an alpha listing by country.  Anti-trafficking organizations around the world – CNN 

Conclusion

The extent of human trafficking is overwhelming when we consider the numbers, but we can make a huge impact on the life of an individual victim.  Our choice to recognize the red flags of trafficking and report what we see, is to follow in the footsteps of the Good Samaritan.  It is our natural impulse to help – it is fear that keeps us from doing so. But faith and trust in God pushes us past the fear, to free a man, woman or child from slavery and abuse.

For he delivers the needy when he calls,
    the poor and him who has no helper.
He has pity on the weak and the needy,
    and saves the lives of the needy. (Psalm 72:12-13)

If you see a child, woman or man being trafficked, God has put you there for a reason.

Relevant Scripture

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. (Matt 5:7)

Behold, the wicked man conceives evil,
    and is pregnant with mischief,
    and brings forth lies.
He makes a pit, digging it out,
    and falls into the hole which he has made.
His mischief returns upon his own head,
    and on his own pate his violence descends. (Psalm 7:14-16)

The Lord tests the righteous and the wicked, and his soul hates him that loves violence. (Psalm 11:5)

Give me not up to the will of my adversaries;
    for false witnesses have risen against me,
    and they breathe out violence.  (Psalm 27:12)

but these men lie in wait for their own blood,
    they set an ambush for their own lives.
Such are the ways of all who get gain by violence;
    it takes away the life of its possessors. (Proverbs 1:18-19)

O Lord, thou wilt hear the desire of the meek;
    thou wilt strengthen their heart, thou wilt incline thy ear
to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed,
    so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more. (Psalm 10:17-18)

References

Seeing the Unseen: How to Recognize Human Trafficking – YouTube by Brittany Ketter

5 Common Types of Human Trafficking – Public Health by Public Health Nigeria

Prevention, Prosection and Protection – Human Trafficking | United Nations by Ruth Dearnley

13 trafficking statistics that enormity of the global sex trade (usatoday.com) by Cara Kelly published July 29, 2019.

You Can Be God’s Called Chosen Elected Faithful Saint /Spiritual Meditations

Have you been called to be a Christian?  Are you one of the Chosen, Elected, Saints or one of the Faithful?  If you don’t know, this post is for you.

One of the largest groups to which many of us belong is that of Christian.  There are more than 2.5 billion Christians in the world.  Yet when we look through the Bible, we find mention of the Called, the Chosen, the Elected, the Saints and the Faithful.  Who exactly are these people and how do they fit into overall Christianity?  Some groups duplicate each other, while others line up in a spiritual progression.

Who are the Called?

In the Greek language of the New Testament, the word for “called” is kletos. It is related to the noun klesis, which means “a calling” and is used “especially to God’s invitation to people to accept the benefits of salvation” (Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, “Call, Called, Calling”).

It is important to understand that one’s calling is an act of God. Only He calls (invites) someone. That is quite evident in John 6:44 when Jesus told the crowds, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him.” So, the Called are those who are invited by God to understand His plan, to repent of their sins and to receive His Holy Spirit.

There are several scriptures that speak of a Christian’s calling.

When the apostle Paul wrote his epistle to the Romans, he referred to his audience as “the called of Jesus Christ,” and the “beloved of God, called to be saints” (Romans 1:6-7).
Later, when writing to the Corinthian brethren, Paul wrote: “God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord” (1 Corinthians 1:9).

How were the Disciples Taught about Their Calling?

As you know, Jesus often taught in parables.  Jesus taught about God’s calling in the parable of the sower.

Behold, a sower [a farmer] went out to sow [plant seed]. And as he sowed, some seed fell by the wayside; and the birds came and devoured them. Some fell on stony places, where they did not have much earth; and they immediately sprang up because they had no depth of earth. But when the sun was up they were scorched, and because they had no root they withered away. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up and choked them. But others fell on good ground and yielded a crop: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears to hear [who can understand] let him hear! (Matthew 13:3-9).

How to Interpret the Parable of the Sower

Like the disciples, not everyone who heard this parable understood what Jesus was talking about. Although the entire multitude heard the same words, different reactions were taking place in those who heard the message.

In the parable, a farmer planting seed is likened to the work done by Jesus Christ and His Church. The seed is the gospel of the Kingdom.

Notice how Jesus explained it:

When any one hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in his heart; this is what was sown along the path. (Matt 13:19)

Some people hear the gospel message  and receive it joyfully but without conviction, only to let go of it as soon as it creates a conflict in their lives. Others hear it but neglect to give it the time and attention it needs to thrive.

In other words, not everyone hears the gospel of the Kingdom. And of those who hear it, not everyone understands it. And of those who understand it, not everyone accepts it.

You Can Know if God is Calling You

If you understand what you are learning from the Bible and you see the need to change your life, God is beginning to work with you. If you see a need to obey His Commandments while you see how hard it is for you to do so, God is working with you.

If you do not respond, God will eventually stop working with you. If you respond, God will open your mind even more, and you will begin to build a stronger and stronger connection with Him.  Choosing to respond to God’s calling means embarking on a life of personal spiritual growth. 

The seed only grows in those God is calling and who choose to follow His way of life. 

Who are the Chosen / Elected and how did They Make the Cut?

The word for “chosen” in the Greek language is eklektos, meaning “chosen out, select.” It can also be translated as “elect” (Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, “Choice, Choose, Chosen”).  This tells us that the Chosen and the Elected are the same people.

Election refers to the concept of how people are chosen for salvation.  Election is based on God’s foreknowledge of those who would believe in Him through faith. In other words, God elected those who would choose Him of their own free will. Conditional election is based on a person’s response to God’s offer of salvation.  You become the Chosen by choosing God; it is a reciprocal relationship.

This is what Christ was telling us when He said,

Many are called, but few are chosen. (Matt 22:2-3).

This may be understood as ‘many are called, but few choose to follow the teachings of Jesus’.  God will not force anyone to respond to His calling against his or her will. It is up to you whether you will respond to His invitation.

This is further explained in Ephesians 1:13:

In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise.

Of all the people who hear God’s calling, only those who respond with belief, repentance, baptism and receive the Holy Spirit become His Chosen people—His Elect. Then they embark on the Christian life in which they are changed to become more and more like Jesus—being converted.

Responding to God’s Calling is a Lifelong Commitment for the Faithful

Being faithful comes from the Greek word pistos. There are two senses in which this word can be understood. It means “to be trusted, reliable” and, secondly, “active, signifying believing, trusting, relying” (Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, p. 402).

The chosen must be faithful. They must continue to actively believe, obey and rely on God.  The spiritual life is truly a process that requires time, prayer, study, effort, change—and more.   The chosen will need to faithfully endure, both in good and in bad times. But every step taken is greatly rewarding!

Once chosen of God, you may still receive a calling for a particular ministry.  I have friends who have made huge commitments to which God called them.  One lives in Kenya, building a dormitory and school for disabled children.  Another will be going to Sierra Leon to improve the living conditions, including clean water access, for a community.  Another is fostering children.  And another became a minister. Not everyone is urged in such life-changing directions, but everyone has a part in God’s overall plan and their response may play a greater part than they can imagine or will ever know.

As Peter implied, one’s calling must not be neglected. Since the called and chosen have “exceedingly great and precious promises”, it is “for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, … knowledge, … self-control, … perseverance, … godliness, … brotherly kindness, … love” Peter continued, “For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:4-8).

The hope of the chosen and faithful is to receive eternal life. It is a belief and trust that is deep within each one of us. Paul reminded Timothy to

lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called (1 Timothy 6:12).

All Christian Believers are Saints.

Saint originates from the Greek word meaning “holy” or “set apart.”  Christians are referred to as saints because, as believers,  they are set apart from the corruption of the world and they are called to be holy.

The New Testament uses the word saint or saints 67 times. In every instance, the reference is to all believers. Never is the word used for a special group of believers who serve God better than others.

And I did so in Jerusalem; I not only shut up many of the saints in prison, by authority from the chief priests, but when they were put to death I cast my vote against them. (Acts 26:10)
To all God’s beloved in Rome, who are called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (Rom !:7)
To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours: (I Cor 1:2)

Conclusion

If you are not sure if you have been called, pray to God continually for clarification until you know.  If you are not sure if you have received the Holy Spirit, pray to God to send the Comforter to you. “Seek and you shall find. Knock and the door will be opened” and continue to knock until you know the Counselor has arrived. Once you have received the Holy Spirit you can be assured that you are Chosen/Elected. Then your connection with God begins and will be for you to nurture.  By continuing Bible study, prayer, meditation and listening for God in your daily life, you will gradually have peace, joy and the experience of being one of God’s beloved. You are a saint.

Relevant Scripture

But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth, to which He called you by our gospel, for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions you were taught, whether by word or our epistle (2 Thessalonians 2:13-15).

Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful (Colossians 3:12-15).

But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you (1 Peter 5:10).

Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:10-11).

He is Lord of lords and King of kings; and those who are with Him are called, chosen, and faithful” (Revelation 17:14).

 but as he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in all your conduct; since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”(1 Peter 1:15-16)

References

Many Are Called, but Few are Chosen by Harold Rhodes

Called and Chosen by John Foster 

 What does the Bible say about Christian saints? What are saints? by Compelling Truth