EKG line fist 'life'

Walking Miracles When God Heals / Spiritual Meditations

I don’t often hear about people being healed by God. Perhaps this is because with modern medicine and the ability of our amazing bodies to heal themselves, it is often difficult to recognize a miracle. But in the two experiences below, it is pretty obvious that healing miracles do happen.

Walking Miracle – Once Totally Paralyzed

My name is Riekie and this is how God healed me.

I gave my life to Christ when I was 11 years old. His love and guidance have always been with me.

The summer after my high school graduation, I came down with Polio. By the time I got to the hospital, I couldn’t move anything – I was completely paralyzed – I couldn’t even swallow.

I was very scared. As I prayed through most of the night, a calm came over me as I felt God’s love and protection [I have found this to be a distinguishing characteristic of God’s presence on the scene]. I kept thinking of Deut 33:27 “The eternal God is your refuge and underneath are the everlasting arms”. I felt those loving arms supporting me and protecting me.

The day they were going to put me in an iron lung, my fever broke and function began to return. Thanks be to God! I gradually began to walk and use my right arm, but the left one was completely paralyzed. However, over time some function returned. God was with me every step of the way.

My favorite Psalm became #139

You have searched me, LORD,
and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
you, LORD, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.
Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.

God’s right hand was holding me fast and healing me.

During 2 months of rehab, my room mates were a young mother of 2 preschoolers (ages 2 and 4) and a 20-year-old member of the Ice Capades. We weren’t allowed visitors because this was before medical science was very knowledgeable about contagion. The mom missed her kids and the skater was going to miss a year of performing and could only return if her legs regained total strength. I was missing my first year of college with a full tuition scholarship. Whenever any of us was sad, we would all name 3 things we were grateful for. It worked every time – you can’t be grateful and depressed at the same time.

Now fast forward 2 years. I was wondering why God had spared me. What was it He had in mind for me? I thought and prayed about it and the answer was always the same ‘Become a nurse. Take care of My people’

Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.” (John 21:16)

Since childhood I had felt a calling to become a nurse, but after the Polio the doctors said it was no longer possible. They said I wasn’t strong enough and I had a pronounced weakness in my left hand and arm.

But I could feel the Holy Spirit nudging me [a feeling of urgency when God is encouraging us to act on something] so I applied to a school of nursing. There were 12 faculty members who did applicant interviews; one of them would decide if I would be admitted.

As it happened, the lady who interviewed me had one leg smaller and thinner than the other and walked with a limp. She said that I might have to do things differently, but that I should be able to find a way. Her final decision was “If I can do it, you can do it”. God sure did send me the right interviewer!

There were periods of challenge and fatigue, but God was always with me; every minute of every day. And I became a nurse.

Prayer:
Let us pray that God may strengthen us through His Holy Spirit, so that Christ may live in our hearts in love. And may we grasp how wide and long and deep is His love. We pray in His name. Amen

I want to share with you this wonderful contemporary song about God’s healing grace. I think you’ll like it.

Entitled “Walking Miracles

Walking Miracle – 7% Chance of Recovery

Hi there, my name is Matthew.

About 20 years ago, I came down with a sudden sickness with much of the same symptoms of Covid19. Within 24 hours, I had respiratory distress diagnosed as double pneumonia. Because my body was laboring so hard to stay alive, the doctors wanted to put me in a coma. I agreed. It was only supposed to be for a week or two. I continued to get worse, with pancreatitis, adult respiratory distress syndrome, and other nasty things. The doctors tried to bring me out of the coma twice but were unable to do so without damage to my heart.

After 25 days the pastor of my church was told by the Spirit to “go lay your hands on Matthew and pray for his healing”. At approximately the same time the youth pastor at my church received the same message. This they did and three days later I awoke.

The doctors had told my wife that I only had a 7% chance to live. And that I would probably not have any more children and may have brain damage because of the high fever. It took several months of rehab to regain my strength but I’ve got three more kids now and the only remaining damage from the whole experience is nerve damage in one foot because the hospital medical staff did not put a boot on it..

While I slept, I was actually walking with the Lord. He had taken me up in the Spirit, and He used my coma to show me things.

I’m going to tell you about Matthew’s spellbinding 28-day vision in the next post. For a while his visions continued after he came out of the coma.  It is very unusual and deserves our attention considering the larger topic of visions, so please stay tuned. You will be amazed.

If you found this article to be interesting, informative, inspiring or useful please share it by clicking the social media icons below.  Thanks.

Relevant Scripture

Then Abraham prayed to God, and God healed Abimelek, his wife and his female slaves so they could have children again, (Gen 20:17)

“See now that I myself am he! There is no god besides me. I put to death and I bring to life, I have wounded and I will heal, and no one can deliver out of my hand. (Deut 32:39)

LORD my God, I called to you for help, and you healed me. (Psalm 30:2)
Heal me, LORD, and I will be healed; save me and I will be saved, for you are the one I praise.(Jer 17:14)

Jesus turned and saw her. “Take heart, daughter,” he said, “your faith has healed you.” And the woman was healed at that moment. (Matt 9:22)

Aware of this, Jesus withdrew from that place. A large crowd followed him, and he healed all who were ill. (Matt 12:15)

then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. (Acts 4:10)

black sky, burst of light, hand of God

(Cosmos + Life + Science) = God | Spiritual Meditations

Do atheists have a scientific basis for their non-belief?

I have been avoiding this subject because the technicalities go far beyond my understanding of science. However, what I know of science may be similar to what you know of science, so I am, hopefully, approaching the topic from our common ground. If you would like to dig deeper, you will find further discussion in the references.

The question of whether science supports the concept of God elicits much discussion and very few answers. Many scientists are backing the idea that there is a Force which created everything needed to produce life. In his book God: The Evidence: The Reconciliation of Faith and Reason in a Post Secular World, Patrick Glynn reveals how the branches of science support the existence of God.

Before 1973, the predominant view of modern philosophers and intellectuals was that human life had come about essentially by accident, the byproduct of brute, material forces randomly churning. over time.

However, in the fall of 1973, the world’s most eminent astronomers and physicists gathered in Poland to commemorate the 500th birthday of the father of modern astronomy, Nicholas Copernicus.

Of the dozens of scientific lectures presented during the festivities, only one would be remembered decades later, echoing far beyond the hall in Krakow where it was delivered, indeed far beyond the field of astronomy or even science itself.

It’s author, Brandon Carter, was a well-established astrophysicist and cosmologist from Cambridge University. His principal says that all the seemingly arbitrary and unrelated constraints in physics have one strange thing in common – they are precisely the values needed to have a universe capable of producing life. All the myriad laws of physics were fine-tuned from the very beginning of the universe for the creation of man. Carter’s principal offered a kind of explanation for one of the most basic mysteries of physics….the existence of an initial creating Force. And that the vast, 15 billion-year-evolution of the universe had apparently been directed towards one goal: the creation of human life.

Science is an amazing, wonderful undertaking: it teaches us about life, the world and the universe. As physicists investigate the most fundamental characteristics of nature, they’re tackling issues that have long been the province of philosophers and theologians. And biological evolution has not brought us the slightest understanding of how the first living organisms emerged from inanimate matter on this planet and how the advanced eukaryotic cells—the highly structured building blocks of advanced life forms—emerged from simpler organisms. Neither does it explain one of the greatest mysteries of science: how did consciousness arise in living things? Where do symbolic thinking and self-awareness come from? What is it that allows humans to understand the mysteries of biology, physics, mathematics, engineering and medicine? And what enables us to create great works of art, music, architecture and literature? Science is nowhere near to explaining these deep mysteries. But let’s get back to the controversy.

The First Cause Argument

Why is there something instead of nothing? Scientists don’t fully comprehend the quantum world yet, and their hypotheses about the first moments of creation aren’t much more than guesses at this point.

The primary argument that theists — those who believe in the existence of God — often first argue is that the simple fact that there is physical matter at all confirms the existence of God, because a tangible thing cannot come into being without it being created in the first place. (In religious-speak, this is the “first cause” argument: If one can explain everything back to the theoretical Big Bang, yet cannot explain what caused it, the universe is still unexplained.) In response, some atheists contend that matter has always existed and that theists cannot prove otherwise. As well, some non-believers argue that it is as equally valid to ask theists where God came from as it is to ask non-believers where matter came from.

Here, both sides present arguments based on phenomena that are scientifically inexplicable. Theists contend that there is a god that is outside space and time, while atheists assert that not only can a physical object exist without ever being created (without causation), it can exist forever. One seems as improbable as the other — and as likely as the other.

The Mathematical Argument

The second-most-used logical argument to prove the existence of God contends that an intelligence that created these perfect conditions for life in fact require far less faith than believing the creation of a life-sustaining Earth happened to beat the inconceivable odds of chance.

The Fine-Tuning Sub-Argument

The most persuasive mathematical argument used to prove there is a God is the “fine-tuning argument,” which essentially says that some variables in a universe’s parameters, if changed, could virtually extinguish the chance that life of any type would form anywhere. This basic claim finds very little controversy.

The fine-tuning necessary for life to exist on a planet, however, is nothing compared with the fine-tuning required for the universe to exist at all. For example, astrophysicists now know that the values of the four fundamental forces — gravity, the electromagnetic force, and the “strong” and “weak” nuclear forces — were determined less than one millionth of a second after the big bang. Alter any one of these four values ever so slightly and the universe as we know it could not exist.

But let’s go deeper and consider just the nuclear forces. To explain the quantum-mechanical behavior of even one tiny particle requires pages and pages of extremely advanced mathematics. It appears that there is a vast, hidden “wisdom,” or structure, or knotty blueprint for even the most simple-looking element of nature.

As if by magic, the “God particle”—that Higgs boson discovered inside CERN’s powerful particle accelerator, the Large Hadron Collider—came into being and miraculously gave the universe its mass. Why did this happen? (I’m going to assume here that you are smarter than I am and will remember more than I do from science class.) The mass constituted elementary particles—the quarks and the electron—whose weights and electrical charges had to fall within immeasurably tight bounds for what would happen next. From within the primeval soup of elementary particles that constituted the young universe, again as if by a magic hand, all the quarks suddenly bunched in threes to form protons and neutrons, their electrical charges set precisely to the exact level needed to attract and capture the electrons, which then began to circle nuclei made of the protons and neutrons. All the masses, charges and forces of interaction in the universe had to be in just the precisely needed amounts so that early light atoms could form. Larger ones would then be cooked in nuclear fires inside stars, giving us carbon, iron, nitrogen, oxygen and all the other elements that are so essential for life to emerge. And eventually, the highly complicated double-helix molecule, the life-propagating DNA, would be formed. (Whew. It took billions of years, but life was created.)

Why did everything we need in order to exist come into being? How was all of this possible without some latent outside Power to orchestrate the precise dance of elementary particles required for the creation of all the essentials of life? The great British mathematician Roger Penrose has calculated—based on only one of the hundreds of parameters of the physical universe—that the probability of the emergence of a life-giving cosmos was 1 divided by 10, raised to the power 10, and again raised to the power of 123. This is a number as close to zero as anyone has ever imagined.

Is there a chance that the atheists are correct? Yes, but according to the mathematical calculations, it’s only a nano-fractional chance.

Or is it possible that the human race has a cosmic purpose after all? Did the universe blossom into an untold number of realities, each containing billions of galaxies and vast oceans of emptiness between them, just to produce a few scattered communities of observers? Is the ultimate goal of the universe to observe its own splendor?

The discussion is extensive, covering every branch of science and filling volumes to explain the scientific technicalities, but I’ve given you the major arguments. Now, the question to you becomes , “Do you believe in math, science, and logic enough to believe in God?”

A Few Quotes from Scientists

German philosopher Gottfried Leibniz described God as “a necessary being which has Its reason for existence in Itself.” It’s interesting to note that Leibniz was also a mathematician and physicist.

One of the world’s most renowned theoretical physicists, Paul Davies, has said that “the appearance of design is overwhelming”.

Even the late Christopher Hitchens, one of atheism’s most aggressive proponents, conceded that “without question the fine-tuning argument was the most powerful argument of the other side.”

Fred Hoyle, the astronomer who coined the term “big bang,” said that his atheism was “greatly shaken” by the developments leading to the fine-tuning argument.

Oxford University professor of Mathematics Dr. John Lennox has said “the more we get to know about our universe, the more the hypothesis that there is a Creator . . . gains in credibility as the best explanation of why we are here.”

Conclusion

Science and religion are two sides of the same deep human impulse to understand the world, to know our place in it, and to marvel at the wonder of life and the infinite cosmos we are surrounded by. Let’s respect both and not let one attempt to usurp the role of the other. No matter how close to absolute proof we get, there will always be room for faith.

Based on my experience, I know that the invisible God speaks to my soul and gives me His guidance through inner urgings and outer activities. I have recorded these events and those of other Christians in the ‘Spiritual Experiences’ category of this blog. Please contact me if you have some to contribute.

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References

New American” article written by Kurt Williamson

“Scientific American” This essay was adapted from the introduction to Saint Joan of New York: A Novel about God and String Theory (Springer, 2019).

The BibleAsk Team

“Time Magazine” article by Amir D. Aczel April 27, 2014

childlike drawing of Garden of Eden

There’s More in the Garden of Eden|Spiritual Meditations

 

Based on one of the visons of the 14th century Christian mystic, Julian of Norwich, Elaine A. Heath writes about what more can be gained by a closer look at the Garden of Eden story. 

(Dr. Heath is McCreless Assistant professor of Evangelism and director of the Center for the Advanced Study and Practice of Evangelism at Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University and an ordained United Methodist minister. She has served several churches and taught at several seminaries.)

Genesis 3 has traditionally been used to teach the doctrine of original sin. In its reading, the narrative demonstrates how each of us moves from a position of blameless vulnerability as children towards becoming persons who are caught in a web of wounds and sin from which we cannot extract ourselves. 

The purpose of the human story unfolds with the complex relationship between vulnerability and sin far more apparent than is the case with what are so often superficial readings of the text, whether fundamentalist, wooden literalism, or a dismissal of the text as mere myth.

Julian of Norwich received a vision from God which she contemplated for years. This contemplation led her to the conclusion that “wounds proceed sin – original wounds – and for this reason the eyes of the Lord look upon the human predicament “with pity and not with blame”.    

Before the fall, Adam and Eve are like children, naked and unashamed, playful and free in the garden of God‘s provision. They live in community with each other and God. The only boundary given to them, according to the text, is the tree of knowledge of good and evil. They are not to eat from its fruit, God warns, or they will die. Adam and Eve cannot know what “die” means, because they have not eaten of the tree. To know is to participate, and they have not “known“ evil. For an unspecified amount of time, they leave the tree alone. They are blameless, naïve, beautiful, and, like children, capable of being deceived. They are vulnerable, capable of being wounded.

Then one day one of the creatures speaks to them. God has not warned them to be suspicious of other creatures or to avoid the serpent. They have dominion over the creatures, including the serpent. The mystery of iniquity in the serpent is present, but its origin is unnamed in the text. Like children, Adam and Eve are trusting of the familiar creature who shares the garden. They are unaware of the danger that lurks before them, so they listen vulnerably to the serpent’s words. They do not “recognize” evil because they have not tasted evil, have not yet eaten of the forbidden tree.

So, as the Scripture tells us, the serpent deceives Eve and Adam, who was with her. The text says that Eve saw that the fruit was delicious and beautiful. (Did she see the serpent take a bite, perhaps, without apparent consequence?) Wanting to be like the God she loved (“you will be like God, knowing good and evil“) promised a good outcome by the confusing but familiar creature that she had no reason to fear. She accepted the fruit and gave some to Adam.

What kind of disobedience was this, on the part of Adam and Eve? Was it pride and willful rebellion, or as is so often claimed? Was it gullibility because Eve was easily duped as a woman, and shame for weakness on the part of Adam who should have known better than to follow his wife’s foolish lead, as in traditionally presented? Or was it the disobedience of naïve children who really cannot understand the enormity of their actions?

Adam and Eve cannot know how this event will forever change their future and the future of others. When they eat the fruit, they swallow a pervasive shame that begins with their sexuality (they make loin clothes) and extends to every part of life. Their previous freedom to trust God, each other, and themselves, and the wonderment and peace between them and creation, are broken, and a sequence of death-dealing consequences is unleashed. No aspect of life is left untouched.

The story of Adam and Eve is your story and my story in our loss of innocence and our wounding and our eventual bondage to sin. It is the universal narrative of original wounds. Sin originates in wounds that come from living in this broken world. Regardless of the kinds of original wounds we receive, the mystery of iniquity is part of the world into which we are born. The world is already marked by sin, by death, and by evil. No life is untouched.

The marvelous good news in the midst of this universal tragedy is that love is God’s meaning -toward Adam and Eve, toward every human. The promise of I Corinthians 15:22–28 (below) is that wounds and sin do not have to have the last word. Love, not death, wins the day. As Julian of Norwich saw, “all manner of things shall be well.“

Relevant Scripture

For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.  But each in turn: Christ, the first fruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power.  For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For he “has put everything under his feet. Now when it says that “everything” has been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ. When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all. (I Cor 15:22-28)

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Reference

The Mystic Way of Evangelism by Elaine A. Heath

 

Jesus' glowing hand reching out

Saved From Destruction: A Testimony|Spiritual Meditations

By the age of 12, I was smoking a pack a day of cigarettes, using drugs & alcohol, was very racist and had my first tattoo (the Nazi “SS”) on my forearm. I had been arrested for drunkenness in public and spent a month in juvenile hall. Also, during that year I drank so much whiskey one day I was home puking in the toilet and lost consciousness. My head fell into the bowl and I would have drowned in my vomit if my little brother had not found me and pulled me out.

I was rushed to the hospital by ambulance with alcohol poisoning and my heart stopped a couple times and I had to be resuscitated. I can still see the EMT over me fading in and out and saying, “Don’t leave me Bobby . . . don’t leave me Bobby!”

I had a father who was physically abusive when he was not in prison. He tried to kill my mother in front of my brother and I. You know, all the standard stuff. As time went by things continued to get worse.

By 17 I had “WHITE POWER” tattooed across my shoulders and a big swastika on my back and I was running around with the Hell’s Angels and using meth every single day. That went on for 25 years with all the crime and things that go with it. As I look back there are several times that I thought I got “lucky” and should have died from overdoses, near motorcycle wrecks at 120 mph+, and violence including armed robbery. Now, I know my Savior wrapped His loving hands around me to spare my life.

How I Was Saved

I have a daughter who went into the Teen Challenge recovery program with a pill addiction. I was so happy for her because I did not want her to live a life in bondage, as I had all those years, and wanted to support her in every way possible. The girls in the program have a choir and go to a different church each Sunday and sing and give testimonies to raise money. I was at every single one. I had an extremely hard heart because my dad would have beaten me if I cried, even as a little boy, so I was not the crying type. But every week I would hear those girls sing and tell their stories and I would sit and sob (while trying to not draw attention).

My daughter wanted me to go into the program, but I would not. At one point she was going to leave the program (she was there voluntarily by the way) and I told her if she stayed and I was not clean by the time she graduated, I would go in. She stayed in and on October 21, 2012, I showed up for a choir outing at a local church. I had an incredible panic come over me like I had to get out of there, but I knew my daughter was counting on me to be there, so I stayed.

God delivered me that night. I knew something happened but wasn’t sure what. I felt different somehow. I used meth for a few more days and then one day just threw it away. I went through hell physically and it was a rough road, but He took away any desire to use meth. My girlfriend got saved also.

My Recovery From Addiction

I slept the majority of the time for nearly 5 months because my body had to adjust to coming off of 25 years of daily use. My now-wife Coleen would stop by on her way to work and wake me up to feed me. On her way home she would wake me up to feed me again and she would go home. The only other times I would get up was to shower occasionally and go to church and watch a little TV.

Because it might help somebody who has stumbled, I want to tell you that after I had been sober for 9 months (although I was awake more, I was hardly able to function), I started using again. I didn’t start because I had a desire to use, but rather because I was so frustrated after 9 months of being helpless and unable to function. I picked up right where I left off and thought “well, that’s it. God delivered me, changed my life, and I failed Him. He will never want me back”. That was a lie from Satan. A year and a half later, God delivered me again and I have been serving Him ever since (5 years clean this month). It is really amazing that it happened like that because, when I do jail and homeless ministry, I witness to people who have fallen and who also think God does not want them back now and have no hope. I AM ABLE TO DEBUNK THAT LIE OF THE ENEMY WITH MY STORY. God has been so good to me.

My Ministry

God changed my heart overnight too. When I was able to get up and around, I started going to the parks to witness to the homeless and pass out food gift cards my church supplied. I have a huge love for the people that are still in the bondage and it is only by the grace of God I didn’t end up homeless too.

I have a heart for people going down that road (especially kids). I have been there and can identify with them. (I went to a bunch of counselors as a kid as part of probation and would never talk to them because they were from a different world than mine.) I would love to find a way to take what the enemy intended for my destruction and use it for the glory of my Savior. These kids have no idea that they are robbing themselves of their future here on earth as well as what God wants for them in eternity. As the saying goes, “Jails, institutions, and death are the three destinations of abuse.”

Coleen and I were married shortly after we got saved as we didn’t want to live in a sinful relationship any longer. We began to pray for unsaved family members and as of today 9 family members have gotten saved and are faithful church members! All of those people were saved, and I was miraculously delivered because my daughter was in a Christ-based recovery program and they were all praying. Only God could do that.

About a month ago I felt the urge to go sit by the side of a very busy road here in town and hold up a big sign that said, “Drive Thru Prayer”. I finally did it. I sat there praying “Lord please send me somebody who is hurting”. After two hours, I was ready to leave when a truck pulled up in the vacant lot next to where I was. A man got out and was kind of wandering around and glancing at me. He finally came up and made small talk. He ended up asking for prayer. It turns out he had been saved and delivered from meth also. He had just recently gone back to using and lost his job and was having problems at home because of it. I was able to share that I had also stumbled and been set free again years ago. I put my arm around him as we sat on the curb and prayed. I believe God sent me there for that one man.

Sorry to go on so long. I just love to tell anybody who will listen what Jesus, the eternal Lover of my soul, has done for me! We are to tell everybody and never be ashamed. “For whosoever shall be ashamed of Me and of My words, of him shall the Son of Man be ashamed, when He shall come in His glory, and in His Fathers, and of the holy angels.” Luke 9:26

Robert

[If you feel that God wouldn’t want somebody like you, you will find more encouragement and Biblical support in this companion post.]

If you found Robert’s testimony interesting, informative, inspiring or useful, please use the social media buttons below.  Thanks.

Relevant Scripture

Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, (2 Cor 5:17-18)

The Lord favors those who fear Him,
Those who wait for His lovingkindness. (Psalm 147:11)

 Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him. (John 14:23)

Photo Attribution

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Jesus praying

Jesus’ Prayers: a Feast for the Soul /Spiritual Meditations

If there is one word to describe the way Jesus prayed, it would be ‘intense”. Before He named the 12 disciples, He prayed all night. While in the Garden of Gethsemane, near the end of His human walk, He spent hours in prayer.

He spoke to God as His Father or “Abba”, a term a child would use for their own father and would go to God really trusting Him to be the divine love and the divine wisdom of this world. He prayed for guidance in where to preach and teach, who to choose, in healing and resurrection and to cast out demons. His prayers were from deep within where there was a hunger, a desire, or a need that was beyond words. When in the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus said to the disciples, “My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death”. There was His connection with God, for God is not found on the surface of a person’s mind or their intellect but in their soul.

With a few exceptions, Jesus prayed in solitude; in the wilderness, in a secluded place, on the mountain. There were reasons Jesus wanted those exceptions heard.

The Raising of Lazarus

In John 11, Jesus spoke to God within the hearing of many as He called Lazarus from his tomb of 4 days. He told God “so that they believe that You sent Me”.

Jesus said to her, “Did I not say to you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”  So they removed the stone. Then Jesus raised His eyes, and said, “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me.  I knew that You always hear Me; but because of the people standing around I said it, so that they may believe that You sent Me.” (John 11:40-42)

Jesus Foretells His Death

In John 12, Jesus spoke His prayer for all to hear so that God would be glorified in His response.

“Now My soul has become troubled; and what shall I say, ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour.  Father, glorify Your name.” Then a voice came out of heaven: “I have both glorified it and will glorify it again.” So the crowd of people who stood by and heard it were saying that it had thundered; others were saying, “An angel has spoken to Him.” Jesus answered and said, “This voice has not come for My sake, but for your sakes.  Now judgment is upon this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out. And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.”  But He was saying this to indicate the kind of death by which He was to die. (John 12:27-33)

This was an important moment. Jesus, in agony, made his final decision of obedience unto death, in servanthood and sonship. Such obedience is indeed the glorification of God. And God answered: I have glorified My name and I will glorify it again. It was judgement; it was the overthrow of Satan; it was salvation. Who comprehended it? Was it merely the sound of thunder or was it the voice of an angel: both material and spiritual perception of revelation were mixed, depending on whether one was in the light or in darkness.

The High Priestly Prayer

This intercessory prayer is the most extensive and profound prayer of Jesus recorded in the Gospels. Jesus prayed this for the benefit of those present, after He finished His final instructions to the disciples and before He was betrayed, arrested, and crucified. Justin Taylor writes that

Jesus’ “high priestly prayer” (John 17) is only about 650 words. It takes only 3 minutes and 30 seconds to read it aloud. But it will take all eternity for us to fully understand it!

One could easily give a full lecture on this chapter, but I will only touch here on points which I do not think are easily noticed. To learn more, I would encourage you to read a full commentary.

In this prayer, as Christ’s crucifixion approached, He told the disciples what was to come for Him and for them. John 17 is often called the “High Priestly Prayer”, as Jesus, the great High Priest, consecrates Himself to His coming death through which He will make atonement for the sin of the world. In the death of the Son, God’s love is revealed most profoundly, for love is the laying down of one’s life.

Yet there is a good deal more to the prayer than just this theme, for it deals with some of the great doctrines of the Gospel – the relationship of Father and Son, (v. 1-5), the relationship of the Son to the disciples and of the disciples to the world (v. 6-19), and the relationship of the Son to later generations of believers and their relationship to the world (v. 20-26)

At the beginning of the prayer, as Jesus turns to address the Father, His speech implies that He is taken up into the eternal presence. He speaks as if His work were already complete (for example, v. 4). Indeed, He even says, “I am no longer in this world” (v. 11, completely obscured in the NIV). But right after that He says, I say these things while I am still in the world (v. 13). He is right there with His disciples just before His death, but He is praying from the realm of eternity.

Jesus’ intercession for his disciples from within God’s presence anticipated His role after His ascension. The disciples’ relation to God had enabled them to recognize the Son and believe in Him. Their knowledge and faith were not as complete as they thought it is, but Jesus affirmed they have reached a decisive point. They had believed in Him and stayed with Him, even when most of His followers abandoned Him (6:60-69). There was still an enormous amount they do not know, and Jesus told them as much when He promised them the Holy Spirit to instruct them (14:26; 16:13).

Father and Son

Jesus spoke these things; and lifting up His eyes to heaven, He said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify Your Son, that the Son may glorify You, even as You gave Him authority over all flesh [sometimes translated ‘all Creation’], that to all whom You have given Him, He may give eternal life. This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do. Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.

Initially, it seems unfitting for Jesus to pray that He might receive glory for Himself. Looking more closely we find there are several observations concerning this request for glory which puts the matter in a different light.

  • Jesus requested the He be glorified in order to bring further glory to the Father
  • Jesus requested the glory which rightfully belonged to Him. When the second person of the Godhead left heaven to become God incarnate, He temporarily set aside His glory (Phil 2:5-8).
  • Christ’s glory was earned at the price of the cross

“I have manifested Your name to the men whom You gave Me out of the world; they were Yours and You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word. Now they have come to know that everything You have given Me is from You; for the words which You gave Me I have given to them; and they received them and truly understood that I came forth from You, and they believed that You sent Me. I ask on their behalf; I do not ask on behalf of the world, but of those whom You have given Me; for they are Yours; 10 and all things that are Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine; and I have been glorified in them. 11 I am no longer in the world; and yet they themselves are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep them in Your name, the name which You have given Me, that they may be one even as We are. 12 While I was with them, I was keeping them in Your name which You have given Me; and I guarded them and not one of them perished but the son of perdition [Judas Iscariot] so that the Scripture would be fulfilled.

The Disciples in the World

13 But now I come to You; and these things I speak in the world so that they may have My joy made full in themselves. 14 I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. 15 I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth. 18 As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. 19 For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth.

20 “I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; 21 that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me.

Their Future Glory

22 The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; 23 I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me. 24 Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, be with Me where I am, so that they may see My glory which You have given Me, for You loved Me before the foundation of the world.

The value of this thought is that it gives solidity to our ideas of a future life. Our Lord said not only ‘that where I am, they also may be,’ but adds ‘with Me.’ That is not a superfluous addition, but emphasizes the thought of a communion which is intimate and blessed.

The crown of this utterance of Christ’s will is ‘that they may behold My glory.’ In an earlier part of this prayer our Lord had spoken of the ‘glory which I had with Thee before the world was.’ But probably the glory ‘given’ is not that of essential Divinity, but that of His future heavenly work. To His people ‘with Him where He is,’ are imparted fuller views of Christ as Savior, deeper notions of His work, clearer perception of His role in providence and nature. This is the loftiest employment of the spirits who are perfected and lapped in ‘pleasures for evermore’ by their union with the glorified Jesus.

25 “O righteous Father, although the world has not known You, yet I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me; 26 and I have made Your name known to them, and will make it known, so that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.”

Jesus Teaches How to Pray

Having highlighted the major prayers of Jesus, spoken for the good of those hearing them, I think it logical that we should consider His instruction on prayer. Here again, I will only address ideas that may not be easily noticed.

So many were the corruptions that had crept into the duty of prayer among the Jews, that Christ saw it needful to give a new directory for prayer. Because “we know not what to pray for as we ought”, He helped by giving a series of headings by which a time of prayer, long or short, may be guided. Not that we are tied to this form because we speak with God as we would to our own father or friend. Note how simple to remember and succinct each heading is, yet it should be prayed with understanding and without vain repetition

There are six petitions; the first three relating more immediately to God and his honor, the last three to our own concerns, both temporal and spiritual; as in the ten commandments, the four first teach us our duty toward God, and the last six our duty toward our neighbor. The method of this prayer teaches us to seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and then to hope that other things shall be added.

11 It happened that while Jesus was praying in a certain place, after He had finished, one of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray just as John also taught his disciples.” And He said to them, “When you pray, say:

[Luke’s Version of the Lord’s Prayer]

‘Father, hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come. [doing God’s will on earth]
‘Give us each day our daily bread.
‘And forgive us our sins,
For we ourselves also forgive everyone who is indebted to us.
And lead us not into temptation.’”

[Matthew’s version of the Lord’s prayer in chapter 6]

9‘Our Father who is in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
10 ‘Your kingdom come.
Your will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.
11 ‘Give us this day our daily bread.
12 ‘And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 ‘And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. [For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.’]

A note about “our daily bread”. Jesus refers here to basic sustenance for today without thought for tomorrow but relying on God’s provision. We pray, “Give it to us”; not to me only, but to others in common with me.

Note also that those that come to God for the forgiveness of their sins against Him, with a plea for grace, must have forgiven those who have offended them, else they curse themselves when they say the Lord’s prayer.

Back to Luke

Then He said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and goes to him at midnight and says to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves; for a friend of mine has come to me from a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; and from inside he answers and says, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been shut and my children [e]and I are in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will get up and give him as much as he needs.

This is often interpreted as indicating a need to keep after God with repeated requests for the same thing. However, Jesus is indicating that if a reluctant man will answer the need, how much more will God do so since He is anxious to meet our needs.

“So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks, receives; and he who seeks, finds; and to him who knocks, it will be opened.

Here Jesus is referring to our request for the Holy Spirit to come into our lives as is seen in the following verses.

11 Now suppose one of you fathers is asked by his son for a fish; he will not give him a snake instead of a fish, will he? 12 Or if he is asked for an egg, he will not give him a scorpion, will he? 13 If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?” Luke 11:1-13

All Things Will be Granted You?

Because these verses are so frequently misunderstood, I will mention Mark 11:24-25.

24 Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted you. 25 Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you your transgressions.

It is a distortion of the intention of these verses to take them to mean that a person can be a powerful magician. God acts through us in accord with His will and not ours. However, even considering only these two verses, while noting that verse 24 is a vital principle in prayer, we must remember that there is a condition in verse 25 that must be fulfilled.

The Essence of Prayer

Prayer should be a desire for spiritual fulfillment.  It is at it’s foundation a contemplative soaking in the infinite love of God.

On our behalf, Jesus prayed “that they [meaning you and I] may all be one, even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us“.  One with God’s Kingdom.

By seeking first the Kingdom of God and being satisfied to let God add other things unto us as He sees is best for us, we open ourselves to fulfillment.  Let our prayers be an inner stillness in which God’s words flow into us reminding us Son all that I have is thine”.

God knows your needs before you do.  it is important that we leave behind all our preconceive notions or ideas of our material hopes, ambitions and desires, because there is no assurance that God will fulfill them on our terms. Trust our loving God to take care of you without telling Him how to do it. We tend to do this about the things we care the most about, when He is in a position to know what is best for us.

It is not the nature of God to withhold from you and then give you those very things because you pray for them and have been good.  The more you realize that God is not a rewarding God or a punishing God, but that the nature of God is infinite love and infinite wisdom, the more clearly you will see that there is little need to repeatedly tell God of your wishes or ask him to fill them. Recognizing His sovereignty and giving our cares to Him shows our trust in God’s hands and allows us to relax in His everlasting arms.  

Yet each heart-felt prayer is a renewal of our connection with God and our most desperate intersessions and thanksgivings are those that generate the hunger, desire, or need that is beyond words and heard the loudest by God.

As Jesus prayed, let us seek to be one with God and Christ and “perfected in unity”. Prayer is the vital breath, the heartbeat of divine energy without which we cannot truly live.

Relevant Scriptures

Then Jesus *came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and *said to His disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be grieved and distressed. Then He said to them, “My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death; remain here and keep watch with Me.”

And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.” (Mark 14:36-39)

Additional Reference

Bible Gateway Commentary https://www.biblegateway.com/resources/commentaries/IVP-NT/John/Jesus-Concludes-Time-Alone

Bible Hub Commentaries-MacLaren Expositions https://biblehub.com/commentaries/maclaren/john/17.htm

Photo Attribution

Photo credit: <a href=”https://visualhunt.co/a5/4e073d2d”>ThiênLong</a&gt; on <a href=”https://visualhunt.com/re7/305fb8fa”>Visualhunt.com</a&gt; / <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/”&gt; CC BY-SA</a>

 

man in surgical mask from shoulders up

Why Does God Allow Suffering? / Spiritual Meditations

In our confusion this question is frequently formed in our minds, if not on our lips, in these crippling times.  Religious commentator, Father Jonathan Morris offers the following brief, but complete, answer in his book The Way of Serenity.

Praying deeply for serenity to except the things I cannot change is nearly impossible if at some level I am still blaming God for not changing these things for me. The temptation to just trust, blame, or resent God’s ways is wholly human. If I were God, I would do things differently. I think I would eliminate hunger, and floods, and earthquakes. I would have thought twice before creating some people who have made so many others suffer. Certainly, mosquitoes would disappear without anybody really missing them. I would change a few things about myself too, airbrushing out a few needless moral and physical blemishes.

Most of us have a good idea about how the world could be made into a better place. So why doesn’t God do it? How to improve things seems so very clear to us. Doesn’t He get it? Doesn’t he care as much as we do about little children who suffer? About poor people who go to bed hungry at night? About people with no jobs?

I have to believe that He does care. In fact, I believe that He cares much, much more than I do. At the same time, He cares so much about us that He is willing to allow our free will to have real consequences. We live in a fallen world because our first parents rejected God and His order for creation in the garden of Eden. They wanted it their way, and God respected their wish. We want it our way, and God respects that too.

Imagine, on the contrary, if every time we try to do evil, God were to intervene and protect us and others from all harm. Would we be glorified robots?

Free will exercised without consequences is fiction.

God was willing to risk the presence of all the evil in this world for the chance of entering into a relationship of love with us. For God, every act of human love is that precious.

God‘s love for us goes even further. Although we have sinned and chosen to do things our way, God makes a promise to us that out of every instance of suffering and sin in this world, He will bring out of it a good even greater than the good that has been lost and that we now mourn. We see the fulfillment of this promise most perfectly in the person of Jesus Christ, who gave up his life so that we might live with him forever in eternity, and where every tear will be wiped away.

For this reason, we can have confidence that God knows what He is doing. If He doesn’t do things my way, I am the one with poor, shortsighted vision, not Him. Someday we will all find out how everything had a purpose and came together in a wonderful symphony of God‘s goodness. Some people would call this a pie-in-the-sky optimism, or a Pollyanna-ish, fairytale faith. I don’t think that’s what it is. My confidence that God knows what He is doing, is not only from the history of Gods dealings with His people, as we read in the Bible, but also from my own experience with God‘s goodness in my life.

When we don’t understand why things are going the way they are, there is good reason to give God the benefit of the doubt.

There are many mysteries in life, and there is perhaps none as troubling as the mystery of evil. In his last published book before his death, Memory and Identity, Pope John Paul II devoted the first six chapters to what he called the Mysterium iniquitatis – The Mystery of Evil. It [evil] has been a stumbling block for philosophers and common people alike since the beginning of time. It is so hard to understand how a God who is all good and all powerful allows bad things to happen in the world. Some of it can be explained as simply Gods respect for human freedom (since much suffering results from people’s bad choices), but much of it cannot be explained this way. What about earthquakes and floods? Little children with horrible birth defects? Terrible diseases and calamities?

There can be only one satisfying explanation for all this. Somehow God must be able to turn evil on its head and bring good out of it. Somehow God must be able to take even the most horrible of tragedies and bring them to a happy ending. In John Paul’s book, what begins as a philosophical study of evil incarnate in history, merges into a broader theological reflection on the roots of evil itself and the victory of redemption. In the mind of this pope, evil has never been total or absolute. It is always, he says, circumscribed by good. “If redemption marks the divine limit placed upon evil,“ he writes, “it is for this reason only: because thereby evil is radically overcome by good, hate by love, death by resurrection.“ Saint Augustine had a great way of expressing this too: “for God judged it better to bring good out of evil then not to permit any evil to exist.“

I often think that this is the great revelation of Good Friday. This yearly commemoration marks the greatest evil in human history: the day we put God to death. It signifies humanity’s rejection of love, purity, innocence, and goodness when we strung up God and nailed Him to a wooden cross. And yet, from the pinnacle of human evil God wrought the greatest good: our redemption. As Joseph Ratzinger once wrote, “In the abyss of human failure is revealed the still more inexhaustible abyss of divine love.” God took evil and exploded it from within, turning it’s venom to nectar and it’s sting into a healing balm.

If God is able to bring forth this immense good from the evil of Good Friday, He can surely turn all the lesser evils of our lives into surprise packages of unexpected grace.

Prayer

Jesus, I don’t know why certain things have happened to me or why people who I love have to suffer so much, but today I reaffirm my faith that you do know why. Lord, I promise to move forward with the assurance that you will bring forth a greater good out of every instance of evil and suffering in my life and in this world. I love you, Jesus.

Relevant Scripture

 When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “What if Joseph bears a grudge against us and pays us back in full for all the wrong which we did to him!”  So they sent a message to Joseph, saying, “Your father charged before he died, saying,  ‘Thus you shall say to Joseph, “Please forgive, I beg you, the transgression of your brothers and their sin, for they did you wrong.”’ And now, please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father.” And Joseph wept when they spoke to him. Then his brothers also came and fell down before him and said, “Behold, we are your servants.” But Joseph said to them, “Do not be afraid, for am I in God’s place?  As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.  So therefore, do not be afraid; I will provide for you and your little ones.” So he comforted them and spoke kindly to them. (Gen 50:15-21)

2 small boys, one has caused the 2nd to cry, ball solic background

Are You Creating Your Own Guilt? / Spiritual Meditations

I’m still regretting a couple of things I said / did while in high school. I’m sure you can think of a couple as well. It is surprising how often we have feelings of guilt. Some say that the moments of guilt add up to about 5 hours a week. With our constant striving for perfection, whether we are Christian, Jewish, Muslin, Buddhist, or Hindu, it is no wonder we don’t always live up to our own standards and moral codes. The guilt can be beneficial or unhealthy depending on the situation.

Just to be clear on what’s being discussed here, let me point out the difference between guilt and shame. They are frequently used interchangeably, but there is a difference.

How are Guilt and Shame Different?

Shame involves feelings about yourself, generally reflecting early psychological damage that impedes positive personality growth. It could be your feelings about who you are or who you aren’t, projected by society, which can become ingrained into your own self-evaluation, whether they are legitimate or not.

Guilt is a common feeling of emotional distress that tells us when our actions or inactions have caused, might cause or we imagine will cause harm to another person—physical, emotional, or otherwise. Because guilt hinges on empathy for others, the capacity to feel guilt could be seen as emotional progress.

When is Guilt a Good Thing?

Healthy feelings of guilt motivate you to live according to your authentic values, which, in turn, can improve your relationships with others, since you are more likely to treat them with respect and do your fair share. Guilt protects our relationships.

In small doses, guilt can benefit us. But when it runs free, it can cause havoc.

When is Guilt Harmful?

Unnecessary or excessive feelings of guilt, even mild guilt, can be a psychological burden that interferes with your emotions and quality of life.

If you feel guilty too easily your guilt alarm goes off when it shouldn’t. As a result, you end up feeling guilty about impacting others adversely, when you haven’t. This is no minor issue; by over-interpreting people’s disapproval when it’s not there, you’re exposing yourself to constant and unnecessary stress and impacting your own quality of life.

On the more serious end of the spectrum, excessive or inappropriate guilt can be a symptom of clinical depression, according to the American Psychiatric Association. Unwarranted guilt has also been associated with a history of childhood trauma with critical, neglecting, or abusive parents. These feelings of guilt can instill a sense of unworthiness and can result in self-punishment.

Unresolved guilt is like having a snooze alarm in your head that won’t shut off. Your attention is constantly monopolized by bursts of guilty feelings which compete for your attention to work, school, and life in general. Guilt usually wins. Studies have found that concentration, productivity, creativity, and efficiency are all significantly lower when you’re feeling actively guilty.

What are Some Causes of Guilt?

Susan Krauss Whitbourne Ph.D. suggests that guilt may occur when “a person believes or realizes—accurately or not—that he or she has compromised his or her own standards of conduct or has violated a universal moral standard and bears significant responsibility for that violation.” This would include stealing, lying or cheating and much more.

Yet much of the unhappiness we experience is due to our own irrational thoughts about situations. We know that our memory of past events is highly unreliable. It’s possible for you to have done nothing wrong at all but misremember and think that you did, particularly when there are highly charged feelings involved.

One typical mental source of guilt is the magical belief that you can jinx people by thinking about them in a negative or hurtful way. Perhaps you’ve wished that a romantic rival would experience some evil twist of fate. Should that evil twist of fate happen, you may, at some level, believe that it was due to your own vengeful wish.  At some level you “know” that you’re being illogical, but it’s hard to rid yourself completely of this belief.

Then there are the accidental social blunders. Perhaps you didn’t realize how much you hurt your friend’s feelings with what you thought was a humorous remark. You wonder how many other people you have offended unintentionally. Beware; it is possible to unwittingly make matters worse by distancing yourself from the person who is the focus of your guilt.

People with eating disorders often feel excessive guilt about eating, putting on weight, or not exercising enough. This guilt often co-exists with a distorted, negative body image.

Women, in particular, are prone to feeling guilty, according to research. A 2009 study by Etxebarria, published in the Spanish Journal of Psychology, surveyed women and men from three age groups (156 teenagers, 96 young adults, and 108 older adults) about which situations most often caused them to feel guilt. The researchers found that habitual guilt was higher for women than men in all three age groups, with the biggest gap in the 40 to 50 year-old range. This age corresponds to the “sandwich generation” years, in which many people juggle taking care of teenagers as well as aging parents.

Especially during those stressful years, you may feel you haven’t done enough to help someone. You’ve given hours of your free time to them, but now you have other obligations or are getting burnt out. You feel guilty because you are pursuing your own life when they are suffering, dysfunctional, or need a lot of emotional care. Adding to the overall emotional drain of the situation, your guilt overlaid on the fatigue, ultimately makes you a less effective helper.

Another study found that women report more guilt than men, overall, when they take work calls or answer work emails in the evening. Finally, research shows that millennial women—and millennials in general—feel guilty about taking vacations.

A more deeply disturbing experience is that of survivor guilt which is addressed by professionals who work with combat veterans who outlive their fellow troops. Survivor guilt also occurs when people who lose families, friends, or neighbors in disasters while remaining untouched, or at least alive, themselves.

Additionally, this kind of guilt characterizes those who make a better life for themselves than do their family or friends. First-generation college students, for example, may feel guilty that they are getting opportunities that their parents or siblings did not. To “protect” their family members, they might engage in self-destructive behaviors that ensure they won’t make it in school.  Logic would dictate that the family truly wants the student to succeed (and thus bring honor to the family), but this logic is lost on the student.

How do I Deal With My Guilt?

Before you start accusing yourself of wrongdoing, make sure that the wrongdoing took place. If you’re distorting your recollection of events to make yourself seem more at fault than you are, it’s time for a reality check. “We assume that others place far more importance on our thoughts and actions than they actually do”, Dr. Whitbourne adds

In the case of excessive guilt, it is important to realize that everyone errs and that occasionally behaving in a hurtful way doesn’t make someone a bad person; it just makes them human.

But if truly at fault, some people may attempt to stave off guilt by rationalizing or minimizing the harmful effect that their actions had on others. More helpful, however, is an acknowledgment of the offense, accompanied by an apology if appropriate.

In the case of survivor’s guilt, or a person who tends to blame themselves for circumstances that are beyond their control, help often involves the person letting go of a false sense of responsibility for what happened, refraining from negative self-talk, and developing greater self-compassion. If you change your thoughts, you can change your emotions

When guilt surfaces because you are doing better than those around you, remind yourself of how proud, glad, and invested those who care for you are. As hard as it might be, your own failure will not make others who love you feel better about themselves. You need to gain your inspiration from the knowledge that your efforts are a tribute to them. And don’t get down on yourself if you can’t reach your loftiest goals (or the ones they have or had for you) but at least know that you’re giving yourself the shot at success that they would want you to have.

If you are prone to feeling the unhealthy kind of guilt—in which you are always beating yourself up for not doing enough—use the tips and tools below, develop by Melanie Greenberg, Ph.D., to set yourself free. It takes a lot of practice and deliberate re-thinking to change an entrenched pattern of guilt, so be patient.

    1. Look for the evidence.

If you feel guilty because you’re “not doing enough” for your kids, partner, or family, list all the things that you regularly do for them. Then, keep the list in your purse or wallet to pull out when guilt rears its head.

    1. Be direct and get more information.

Ask the people you think you’re neglecting whether they feel neglected. Consider whether they have a tendency to expect too much and not take enough responsibility for themselves (e.g., teenagers who expect you to pick up after them). Then, think about how an outside observer would view the situation. If you conclude that you really aren’t doing enough, then come up with some solutions or compromises that balance everybody’s needs.

    1. Appreciate yourself and all that you do.

Write a “self-gratitude” diary at the end of every day, noting at least three things you did that day that furthered your goals or helped someone you care about. At the end of the week, read what you’ve written. Guilt and perfectionism have a negative bias. They make you pay attention to what you’re not doing right. By writing down what you did, you can overcome this bias and force yourself to focus on your accomplishments.

    1. Think how you would see things if the roles were reversed.

Would you think your friend or partner wasn’t doing enough, given all they had going on? We often find it easy to be compassionate and understanding with others but are too harsh on ourselves. By deliberately taking the other person’s perspective, you’ll likely see your situation in a more objective light

    1. Curb the “black and white” thinking.

Are you thinking about the situation in all-or-nothing terms? Do you think that if you’re not the perfect partner (or daughter, or parent) you must be the worst one on the planet? Try to find the gray amid all that black and white. Consider other ways of seeing the situation. Try to judge your efforts in context, rather than always expecting perfection.

    1. Look for the emotions underneath the guilt.

Might the guilt be masking other feelings like anger, intimidation, or resentment? If you’re in a relationship with a very needy person or a narcissist, you or your partner may convince you that you’re being selfish by setting limits and saying no. Over time, your guilt and inner conflict may be masking resentment.

    1. Decide how much you’re willing and able to do.

If you honestly feel that you haven’t done enough for your partner or family member, then make an authentic commitment to take specific caring or helpful actions going forward. If you can’t do all the housework in the evening, decide which pieces you can commit to doing. Then, communicate this willingness to your partner in a proactive way.

    1. Realize it’s okay to take care of your own needs.

Some of us were the family peacemakers who took care of others all the time. Perhaps you had an alcoholic parent who was incapable of properly taking care of you. As an adult, you may still silence your own needs or feel they are less valid than those of your partner, child, or friend. But you don’t have to let this reaction to past trauma shape your relationships in the present.

Guilt is a useless emotion—useless because we don’t need to feel bad about ourselves to take corrective actions. Guilt is useless for three basic reasons:

  1. You can’t change the past, no matter how long or how often you practice feeling guilty.
  2. Rehashing guilt-arousing thoughts in your mind keeps you locked in the past, rather than focused on the present.
  3. Feeling guilty does not help you correct troubling behavior because you expend your mental energies putting yourself down rather than learning to change your behavior.

In cases where guilt is driven by a mental health issue, it is important to seek professional help. Sometimes treating the underlying concern can alleviate strong feelings of guilt or shame.

The Spiritual Person Attempts a Greater Goal

Each person is at a different place in their spiritual journey and this can be seen in how seriously they attempt to fulfill the teachings of Jesus or their spiritual mentor.

The Ten Commandments alone are a challenge. How often do we hear someone exclaim “Oh my God”, or work on Sunday or wish we had a house as nice as so-and-so?

Additionally Jesus asked much more of us; to be humble, generous and merciful, to love our enemies and not resist insult, to not worry ourselves or judge others, and much more – traits we should strive for and the basis for the thinking that we are all sinners. But only Christ and spiritual icons can surpass this threshold.

So these values increase the number of things to possibly feel guilty about. Fortunately, with the help of the Holy Spirit (and possibly some of the helpful hints above) we can reduce our offenses and be forgiven for those for which we feel regret or remorse.

What Did Jesus Say About Guilt?

 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell. Therefore, if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you,  leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.  Make friends quickly with your opponent at law while you are with him on the way, so that your opponent may not hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the officer, and you be thrown into prison. (Mat 5:23-25)

Here Jesus shifts from the external meaning of the law against murder (6th commandments) to the inner attitude of the heart. Hatred and insult toward another are as serious violations of God’s will as the act of murder. It is God’s intention that people become reconciled. To support this, he introduces a parable indicating the wisdom of ingratiating oneself with one’s accuser while they are on their way to court. This could also be a metaphor suggesting how much more a follower should be reconciled with others before their time of judgement.

But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Early in the morning He came again into the temple, and all the people were coming to Him; and He sat down and began to teach them.  The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery, and having set her in the center of the court, they said to Him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in adultery, in the very act. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women; what then do You say?”  They were saying this, testing Him, so that they might have grounds for accusing Him. But Jesus stooped down and with His finger wrote on the ground.  But when they persisted in asking Him, He straightened up, and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.”  Again, He stooped down and wrote on the ground. When they heard it, they began to go out one by one, beginning with the older ones, and He was left alone, and the woman, where she was, in the center of the court.  Straightening up, Jesus said to her, “Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?”  She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “I do not condemn you, either. Go. From now on sin no more.” (John 8:1-11)

In this passage the Pharisees are attempting to trap Jesus into putting himself in conflict with either the Romans (who said only they could carry out a death sentence) or the Jews (because the law of Moses required stoning in this situation). Jesus’ answer avoids the trap by turning the question into a moral challenge to those who are willing to play politics with this woman’s sin and misery.

Jesus came to seek and to save the lost, not to condemn them but to offer God’s forgiveness and acceptance. The story certainly does not mean that Jesus condoned sin. His clemency and compassion indicated his concern for the motives of the woman’s accusers.

Conclusion

We can imagine ourselves in the role of the woman and in the role of the Pharisees. As the woman we have received forgiveness but are told to “sin no more”. As the Pharisees we are reminded that we are no more perfect than the woman and should treat others as we would wish to be treated.

References:

Guy Winch in Psychology Today

Adapted from The Stress-Proof Brain: Master Your Emotional Response to Stress Using Mindfulness and Neuroplasticity by Melanie Greenberg, Ph.D.

“The Definitive Guide to Guilt” Susan Krauss Whitbourne, Psychology Today

Understanding the New Testament by F.F. Bruce

What is Your Purpose in Life? / Spiritual Meditations

One of the sure signs of our continued growth as followers of Christ is that we feel our hearts being broken by the things that break the heart of God. Growing into the likeness of Christ means being drawn more deeply into the compassion of God so that we hear the cries of injustice in our world, see the broken people along the way, and seek with a divine urgency a way to make a difference in places of suffering, injustice, and pain.

As you follow your passion and search for your place to serve, you will also discover that awakening to God‘s call is not a one-time experience but an ongoing process by which the Spirit of God continues to open our eyes in new ways of serving as we grow in our discipleship, as we face major transitions in our lives, and as we become more fully awake to the constantly changing needs of the world around us.

This process is a step along the spiritual journey that John Wesley called “Christian perfection“. It’s the lifelong process by which the Spirit of God shapes our lives into the likeness of Christ. It leads us more deeply into the love of God and guides us to new opportunities to love others the way we have been loved by God.

Service Inspired Joy

Shame our wanton selfish gladness, rich in things and poor in soul. Harry Emerson Fosdick

There are frustrated people who, by world standards, have more than they could ever need but live with a nagging dissatisfaction in their souls. The things they’ve acquired and the success they’ve achieved have not made the difference they were hoping for. They are haunted by a desire for something more valuable and more lasting than anything money can buy. They still feel gnawing desire for their life to make a more significant difference in the world.

I don’t know what your destiny will be, but one thing I know: the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought and found how to serve. Albert Schweitzer

The people Schweitzer speaks of have found an unambiguous joy by discovering that their lives can make a difference. They are faithful disciples who have followed their passion, found their way to serve, and are making a real, tangible, transformative difference in the lives of others. They’ve seen small signs of the impact their witness is having on unjust systems and institutions. Seeing their lives, hearing their laughter, sharing their hopes, and listening to their stories confirms the truth in Schweitzer’s words and the difference it makes for a person to find his or her custom designed place to serve.

If you haven’t found yours, watch the faithful servants of Christ who are like mustard seeds, which, Jesus said, are the smallest of all seeds but which can grow into a flourishing bush. You will often find these “seeds’ in unexpected places where they have found their way to make a kingdom-shaped difference. Ask yourself if, perhaps, your spiritual gifts and desire to serve align with theirs.

God’s Servants are Everywhere

You will find God’s people in likely places doing the kinds of things you might expect: teaching children in Sunday school, serving in leadership to their congregation, singing in their church choirs and playing instruments in the worship band, facilitating small groups for spiritual growth, leading mission teams, visiting in hospitals and nursing homes, arranging flowers on the altar or counting the Sunday offering.

You will also find these difference-making people in unlikely places doing things that you might not expect. You will meet them in homeless shelters and in migrant farm worker camps. You will find them delivering meals on wheels in economically underprivileged neighborhoods; registering voters in neglected communities; tutoring children in low achieving public schools; organizing groups for economic justice and creating bridges for communication between Christians, Muslims, and Jews. You can stand with them in prayer vigils for non-violence and see them risk imprisonment because they refuse to participate in war. You can walk with them between the crowded tin shacks in the sprawling townships of South Africa. Their courageous witness for racial reconciliation is humbling. Wherever they are there is a persistent passion and an incorrigible joy.

Stay Connected

Desmond Tutu once said, “we are only the lightbulbs and our job is just to remain screwed in”. It could have been the archbishops paraphrase of Jesus’s words, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me won’t walk in darkness but will have the light of life”. (John 8:12)

But It’s frighteningly easy to fall asleep and miss out on the way God wants to use our lives to make a difference in the world. It happens when we are not fully awake to the voice of God‘s Spirit within us or the needs of the world around us.

God’s call usually comes to people who practice the spiritual discipline that enables them to hear and respond to God’s Spirit. They are consistent in their practice of worship. They soak themselves in the words of scripture. They develop patterns of prayer that keep them awake and responsive to the new things God is doing and through which they discern the guidance of the Spirit. They live in community with other faithful disciples.

The spiritual discipline of prayer that is grounded in scripture and nurtured in worship is the starting point for our discovery of a life that really makes a difference. It is the sustaining center of a relationship with God that continues to fuel our passion and leads us to our place to serve. It is the renewing source of our vision for the future.

 3 Steps to Successful Prayer

The World Needs You

The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the worlds deep hunger meet. Frederick Buechner

The practical implication of a Biblical understanding of discipleship is that the Christian life is not primarily defined by sitting in the pew on Sunday morning but by the way we live and serve outside the church walls during the week. We live out of our discipleship in the world rather than inside the church. Our experience and worship are like the team gathering in the locker room before going onto the field where the real game will be played. What we do inside the church is intended to equip us to be the servants of God‘s love, grace, justice, and peace on the outside. Paul said that we are reconciled to God in Christ so that we can become the agents of God’s reconciliation of the world. (II Corinthians 5:19)

God can take the activity you love to do and use it to make a Christlike difference in somebody else’s life.

There are people who provide guitars and teach music to underprivileged kids: who like to bake for the homeless street ministry: who extended their love of scripture to prison mates: who like to shop and do so for homebound elderly.

We are sent from worship to become the people through whom God answers our prayer for God‘s kingdom to come and God‘s will to be done in our world. When we see the injustice and suffering of the world and ask, “God, why don’t you do something about this? “ we will probably hear God asking us the same question. God is already out there, and we are challenged to join him in the kingdom work of healing, peace, and redemption.

Listening for the Still Small Voice

Most of us need to stop what we are doing in order to hear God’s voice. The pressure of time and over-commitment is often a barrier to service. We, the church can begin by providing opportunities for faithful disciples to stop, take a deep breath, and be still in the presence of God. It’s the only way to be ready to hear the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

The first work of the spirit in helping us find our calling is to open our eyes so that we begin to see the world around us through the eyes of Jesus. Searching for and finding our places to serve involves looking with spirit awakened eyes at the needs of the world and at the gifts, talents, and opportunities we’ve been given. If you have not discovered your spiritual gift, this link will help you to find it and provides a Spiritual Gifts Survey.

Determine your Spiritual Gifts here.

What Does Hinder You?

One of the unique challenges of our day is that it is frighteningly easy to live in a media defined bubble. Many of us get all our information about the world through the lens of a particular social, economic, and political perspective. We spend most of our time in racial and socioeconomic enclaves in which most of the people around us look, think, and act the way we do. We gravitate towards news sources that constantly reconfirm our preconceived assumptions. It’s not that we are insensitive, mean, or bad people but that we are blinded by our own reflection in the mirror-like glass bowl in which we live.

But disciples who hear God’s call to make a difference in this world intentionally look at the world in a new and different way. They see the world through the lens of the infinite compassion and love of God. They look at people who are struggling and in pain as their “own people”. With Christ like eyes open to the world around us, we look then for the place where our strengths, talents, and availability connect with that need.

Strength in Numbers

The good news is that we are not called to do this alone. Being “born again “means that we are born into the family of God with brothers and sisters in Christ, who share the same vision, burn with the same passion, and live by the same hope. Paul said that our unique talents, passions, and personalities are gifts of God’s grace that are drawn together in the body of Christ to accomplish Gods purpose in this world (I Cor 12:1- 12).

Moses father-in-law, Jethro, said to him “Moses, why are you doing all this by yourself? You will end up totally wearing yourself out. You can’t do it alone.“

The apostles needed to learn the same lesson. The early Christian movement was growing so quickly that the apostles couldn’t handle it. The result was that widows were being neglected in the daily distribution of food. So, the disciples appointed a team composed of Steven and six others to be responsible for the feeding ministry. As a result, “God‘s word continues to grow and the number of disciples in Jerusalem increased significantly“. (Acts 6:7)

When we set out to make a difference, we will soon discover that we cannot do it alone. We need to do it with a team of people who share the same passion and are finding their way to serve together. You can join a team or organize a team.

Focus on the Goal

When a group is centered on a clear, compelling, and commonly held mission, faithful disciples can handle diversity of conviction about practices that are on the circumference of their life together. The mission that unites them is stronger than the differences that would divide them.

John Wesley describe this pattern of life when he said, “though we cannot think alike, may we not love alike? May we not be of one heart, though we are not of one opinion? Without doubt, we may. Here all the children of God may unite, notwithstanding the small differences. These remaining as they are, they may forward one another in love and in good works“.

Walk a Mile in Their Shoes

Being a servant means that we are not in charge here. We enter the lives of others as servants who know that our lives are under the undisputed authority and control of our Lord.

Making a difference in the lives of people who experience oppression, suffering, or injustice begins when we choose to enter their experience, listen to their story, and join them in their pain. In the same way God’s son became one of us to share our human life, we are drawn closer to Jesus by drawing closer to people in pain.

Get In On The Action

Stephen Kobe taught us to “begin with the end in mind“. He sounded like an old testament prophet when he defined imagination as “the ability to envision in your mind what you cannot at present see with your eyes“. He challenges us to “begin each day, task, or project with a clear vision of the desired direction and destination, and then continue by flexing your proactive muscles to make things happen.“

God is inviting us to get in on the action. Eugene Peterson declares, “we are not spectators to a grand cosmic show. We are in the show. But we are not running it. “The coming of God‘s kingdom is only and always God’s work, but we can live now in ways that are consistent with the way thing will be then. By the power of the Holy Spirit, even small, apparently insignificant things can make an eternal difference.

We don’t necessarily need to be looking off in some distant horizon to find our calling. God only calls a few heroic souls to go to distant places. Most of God’s work in this world gets done in ordinary places by ordinary people like us who see our world through the extraordinary perspective of God‘s Kingdom  revealed in Jesus Christ. The task to which God calls us is often the task most closely at hand. At the same time, we remain open to the possibility that God may enlarge our vision and call us to make a difference in ways and means that stretch beyond our immediate boundaries. God has a surprising way of expanding our small efforts to touch the world in ways that go beyond anything we expect.

It’s what Jesus meant when he described the Kingdom of God saying that it is “like yeast, which a woman took and hid in a bushel of wheat flour until the yeast had worked its way through all the dough“ Matthew 13:33 This is us. We are the yeast. We are the mustard seed.

Your Service is the Beginning of the Kingdom on Earth

Disciples who serve the most passionately in the present are people who have a firm grasp of God’s future. The way they serve “now” is defined by the way they envision the world will be “then“.

We care about the environment NOW because THEN the renewed creation will be the place where God will be at home with God’s people. (Rev 21:3)

We work for peace NOW because we know that THEN swords will be turned into plowshares and spears into pruninghooks and people will not learn war anymore. (Isaiah 2:4)

We work to overcome racism and ethnic conflict NOW because we know that THEN heaven will be filled with people from every race, tongue and nation. (Rev 7:9)

We invite others to become disciples of Jesus Christ NOW because we know that THEN every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. (Phil 2:10-11)

We care for one another in Christian community NOW because we know that THEN God will wipe away every tear from our eyes. (Rev 21:4)

We feed the hungry, heal the sick, clothe the naked, visit the prisoners, and seek economic justice for the poor NOW because Jesus said that’s the way every nation will be judged THEN. (Mat 25:31-46)

Conclusion

To find your joy in God’s service, ask yourself these questions and explore your response.

What is my vision of the end towards which my discipleship is leading me?

Where have I seen tangible signs of God’s Kingdom coming on earth as it is in heaven?

Considering the list above, where can I make a difference NOW that is in anticipation of the way things will be THEN?

Reference

Make a Difference: Following Your Passion and Finding Your Place to Serve by James A. Harnish

 

 

wrapped packages and flowers

Unwrap Your Spiritual Gifts / Spiritual Meditations

Every Christian has received at least one spiritual gift through God’s grace, given to them for the edification of the local, regional or global church family and perfectly suited to their situation in life. The central thrust of your ministry depends on the spiritual gifts you have received. You will discover a significant part of your purpose for being on this planet and realize that God has made you competent to produce something that will last for eternity. You will have a sense of fulfillment and joy in the service of others as you become an available instrument through which the Holy Spirit can work. But many of us don’t know what our gifts are.

Maybe you are a young person and you haven’t discovered your gifts or haven’t explored or developed them yet. Spiritual gifts can be abused and neglected, but if they are received as a new believer, it would appear that they cannot be lost as illustrated in the Corinthian church where some believers were highly gifted but spiritually immature. Sometimes it takes years for just the right circumstances to come together before you are aware of what God encourages you to do. And ‘voila’, your gift is there waiting for you to use it. If you have multiple gifts you may start your Christian journey using one dominate gift and in later years a different one may take over. Isn’t it exciting to watch God’s activity in your life?!

How Many Spiritual Gift are There?

There is some discussion as to the exact nature and number of gifts of the Holy Spirit. Don’t get hung up with concern about why one list mentions 9 gifts and another lists 20. That’s not the point. We are all different and God uses those differences for the benefit of His people. There are more possible gifts than those we know of…let’s not think we can limit God in His choices for us. And why put ourselves into categories…. we are unique and a combination of gifts can produce interesting results.

Also, the translations of the Greek can add to our confusion. For instance, one text may say ‘compassion’ is a gift and in another the same gift may be called ‘mercy’.

What Does Scripture Say About Spiritual Gifts?

To get yourself started in this exploration, please watch this video which gives you an introduction to spiritual gifts, than pick up back here to discover your gifts.

Video Introduction to Spiritual Gifts

Besides the scriptures mentioned in the video, the main New Testament verses regarding spiritual gifts are these:

But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. This is why it says: “When he ascended on high, he took many captives and gave gifts to his people.” (What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions ? He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.) So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. (Ephesians 4:7-13)

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully. (Romans 12:3-8)

But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills. (1 Corinthians 12:7-11)

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen. (1 Peter 4:8-11)

Steps to Determine Your Spiritual Gifts

Asking. Begin to ask God to show you your gifts (Phil. 4:6-7; Jas. 1:5). God wants you to discover and implement the gifts He has given you, and this is a request you can make with confidence and expectation.

Awareness. Expose yourself to other Christians who clearly know and use their spiritual gifts. Ask them about their gifts and how they discovered them.

Aspiration. God is committed to your joy, not your misery. Then you will take “delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Ps. 37:4). As you pray and learn about the various gifts, ask yourself what you would most want to do. For it is God who is at work in you both to will and to work for His good pleasure (Phil. 2:13). Your feelings should not be the only test, but they may indicate the direction for you to take. For example, Paul told Timothy, if someone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a good work (1 Tim. 3:1).

Activity. Just as we discover our natural talents by trying our hand at numerous things, in the same way we can discover our spiritual gifts by experimenting with several of the available gifts. If we don’t try, we will never know. This requires availability and a willingness to learn our weaknesses as well as strengths.

Ability. Activity eventually points to ability. Don’t be premature in your personal evaluation, because ability increases with practice. Be sensitive to areas of improvement. Look for opportunities within the community of believers of which you are a part, and seek the evaluation of mature Christians who are familiar with your activities. Because of the danger of self-deception, spiritual gifts are best recognized by other members of the church family.

Affirmation. The final affirmation of a spiritual gift is the blessing that should result from its exercise. As you use your gift or gift-combination in the power of the Spirit, God will confirm and establish you in your ministry, and there will continue to be positive feedback from those to whom you minister. It has been said that desire may indicate it, ability will confirm it, and blessing will accompany it.

In addition to contemplating the steps above, you can take a survey to obtain additional direction.

There are many Spiritual Gift Surveys available. This one was chosen from a list of the best and it is also FREE. It should take 10-12 minutes. I suggest that you print the results page because when I copied it, it put all zeros in the totals per gift.

Spiritual Gifts Survey

Now that you have some idea of what your gift(s) may be, I’ll give you some more information about each.

What are the Spiritual Gifts

THE SPIRITUAL GIFT OF ADMINISTRATION

This spiritual gift, like helps, appears only one time in the New Testament, and it is used outside of Scripture for a helmsman who steers a ship to its destination. This suggests that the spiritual gift of administration is the ability to steer a church or Christian organization toward the fulfillment of its goals by managing its affairs and implementing necessary plans. The gift of administration allows a person to organize people and resources for greater efficiency, effectiveness, and success. Administrators have the natural ability to apply resources where they will do the greatest good. They are good with details and are deeply aware of how all the parts of a group or organization work together. A person may have the gift of leadership without the gift of administration. (1 Cor. 12:28)

THE SPIRITUAL GIFT OF APOSTLESHIP

The gift of apostleship compels people to reach out to new and unfamiliar groups and individuals to invite them into relationship with God and community. Apostles share the story of faith in other lands, cultures, and traditions, as well as welcoming the stranger in their own land. Apostles extend the hand of friendship to those of other generations, nations, and languages. Many apostles desire to be missionaries. (1 Cor. 12:28,29; Eph. 4:11)

In the New Testament, the apostles were not limited to the Twelve, but included Paul, Barnabas, Andronicus, Junias, and others as well (Acts 14:14; Rom. 16:7; 1 Cor. 15:5,7; 1 Thess. 2:6). If the requirement for the office of apostle includes having seen the resurrected Jesus (Acts 1:21, 1 Cor. 9:1), this office ceased to exist by the second century. However, many believe that the gift of apostleship continues to be given.

THE SPIRITUAL GIFT OF COMPASSION

The gift of compassion moves people to action on behalf of those in need and those who are often overlooked. Compassion is not a simple caring about others, but such a radical caring that we have no choice but to make sacrifices for others. Those with the gift of compassion rarely ask, “Should I help,” but instead focus on how to help. Compassion makes us fundamentally aware of the Christ in others and springs from our desire to care for all of God’s creatures and creation. (Rom. 12:8). Your exhortation is Ephesians 4:32.

THE SPIRITUAL GIFT OF DISCERNMENT

Discernment is a gift of deep intuition and insight. Discerning people can separate truth from fiction, in some cases, spiritual versus carnal motives. and know at a visceral level when people are being honest. Deeply sensitive and “tuned in,” those with the gift of discernment are open to feelings, new ideas, and intuition as valid and credible information. Discernment is not irrational, but trans-rational—beyond empirical—knowledge. (1 Cor. 12:10, 1 John 4:6). Your exhortation is 1 John 4:1

THE SPIRITUAL GIFT OF EVANGELISM

The gift of evangelism is the gift of faith-sharing and proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ to those we meet. Evangelism is primarily a one-to-one or small group experience, grounded in building relationships with others and inviting them to make a decision for Christ. Gifted evangelists do not force their faith on others, but offer relationship with God as a gift, and are ready to tell the story of God and Christ in their own lives. (Eph. 4:11) Your exhortation is Acts 1:8.

THE SPIRITUAL GIFT OF EXHORTATION

The gift of exhortation is manifest in people who offer encouragement, wise counsel, unflagging support, and empowerment. Those who exhort stay focused on helping people maximize their own potential and live from their own gifts and skills. Exhorters help people feel good about themselves, build confidence, and not grow discouraged. Often, those with the gift of exhortation make others feel good just by being present. (Rom. 12:8). Your exhortation is Hebrews 3:13; 10:25.

THE SPIRITUAL GIFT OF FAITH

The gift of faith is more than belief in Jesus Christ, but an abiding foundation of confidence that God works all things together for good, and that the people of God can rise above any obstacle. Faith is the bedrock upon which we build lives, congregations, and communities. People with the gift of faith hold fast to the deep conviction that no matter what we see with our eyes, we can trust the promises and plan of God. (1 Cor. 12:9). Your exhortation is 2 Corinthians 5:7.

THE SPIRITUAL GIFT OF GIVING

The gift of giving is the deep commitment to provide whatever resources are needed to support God’s will and plan.  In addition to radical generosity, those who possess the gift of giving have the uncanny ability to discover and channel new sources of money, time, and energy to needs. Money management skills, grant writing abilities, and the easy knack of asking for donations and cultivating donors are among common skills of gifted givers. Christians with this spiritual gift need not be wealthy. (Rom. 12:8). Your exhortation is 2 Corinthians 9:7.

THE SPIRITUAL GIFT OF HEALING

The gift of healing is about the ability to channel God’s grace and healing love to those who suffer physical, emotional, or spiritual pain. The possessor of this gift is not the source of power, but a vessel who can only heal those diseases the Lord chooses to heal. Healers pray for those who suffer, visit those who are ill, and are usually moved to extend a hand of comfort and touch to those who are afflicted. Healers give their time and energy to offering aid and comfort to others. Inner healing, or healing of memories is sometimes associated as another manifestation of this gift. (1 Cor. 12:9, 28, 30)

THE SPIRITUAL GIFT OF HELPING

Helping is a gift of support and behind-the-scenes effort that make groups, families, and congregations more effective. Not everyone is gifted to lead, but many are gifted to follow and handle the tasks that are so essential, but less glamorous. Helpers love to serve others, support others, and assist others in the important work of ministry and mission. Tireless in their willingness to serve, helpers are less interested in receiving thanks and recognition than in doing good, valuable work.

1 Cor 12:28 is the only usage of this word in the New Testament, and it appears to be distinct from the gift of service. Some suggest that while the gift of service is more group-oriented, the gift of helps is more person-oriented.

THE SPIRITUAL GIFT OF INTERPRETATION OF TONGUES

Those who are gifted to interpret tongues help build bridges across cultural, generational, and language divides. People who possess this gift have an innate ability to learn new languages and cultural practices and can help others understand them as well. Foreign speaking people are attracted to those with this gift and feel intuitively that they will be better understood and received by interpreters. Interpretation breaks down barriers. (1 Cor. 14:13, 1 Cor. 14:26-28, 1 Cor. 12:10, 30, 1 Cor. 14:5, 13, 26)

THE SPIRITUAL GIFT OF KNOWLEDGE

The gift of knowledge allows people to automatically convert facts, data, and information into useful and important knowledge for the benefit of others. People possessing this gift can learn in a variety of ways, retain what they learn, and understand how learning can be applied in meaningful and productive ways. Some also associate supernatural perception with this gift. Those gifted with knowledge have a voracious and insatiable desire to learn more, and they seek multiple avenues for deepening their understanding of God’s world, God’s will, and God’s people. (1 Cor. 12:8). Your exhortation is 2 Peter 3:18.

THE SPIRITUAL GIFT OF LEADERSHIP

The gift of leadership is a visionary, and forward-looking gift that enables people to stay focused on where God might be leading us as individuals, congregations, and communities at any given time. Leaders look more to where we are going rather than where we currently are, or where we have been. Leaders motivate others to work together in ways that help them achieve more together than any could on their own. Leaders provide examples of how we should order our lives to honor and glorify God. (Rom. 12:8)

THE SPIRITUAL GIFT OF MIRACLES

There is some difference of opinion regarding the gift of miracles. Some think that it is the ability to serve as an instrument though whom God accomplishes acts that manifest supernatural power.

Other believe the gift of miracles is not about performing miracles, but about living in the miraculous reality of God’s creation. That those gifted with miracles never doubt the power and presence of God in creation and can help others see and believe in God’s power. Living in the spirit of the miraculous, people see God in nature, in relationships, in kind acts, and in the power of love. (1 Cor. 12:10, 28, 29)

THE SPIRITUAL GIFT OF PROPHECY

The gift of prophecy is the ability to speak God’s word to others, or more appropriately to be open for God to speak God’s word through us. Prophets do not predict the future but offer insight and perspective on current conditions and how things might turn out if changes aren’t made. Prophets are incisive, clear, and often controversial, communicators. Prophets see things that others often don’t, and they have the courage to “tell it like it ought to be.” Some maintain that prophecy is still operative in this sense today, while others say that the nearest current equivalent is Spirit-empowered preaching. (Rom. 12:6; 1 Cor. 12:10, 28, Eph. 4:11)

THE SPIRITUAL GIFT OF SERVANTHOOD

Servanthood is the gift of doing for others, sometimes to the exclusion of meeting personal needs.  Servants look for ways to do for others both within and beyond the congregation and community. Servants do not choose to serve but serve from a sense of identity and call. Gifted servants never feel put-upon or taken advantage of but see each opportunity to do for others to be true to self. The Greek word for this gift is the same as that for ministry or deacon, but the gift should not be confused with the office. (Rom. 12:7). Your exhortation is Galatians 5:13.

THE SPIRITUAL GIFT OF SHEPHERDING

The gift of shepherding is the gift of mentoring and providing spiritual guidance to others to help them develop in the discipleship and faith formation. Shepherds take an active and individualized interest in the life of faith of others. Shepherds share from their own faith journey to make the way easier for others. Shepherds are good at asking provocative questions, recommending appropriate resources and experiences, and helping people find their own way to the next level of their development.

The Greek word “poimen” means pastor. In Paul’s spiritual gifts listing in Ephesians 4:11, this term is translated “pastor.” Although the word “poimen” is translated pastor only one time in Scripture it is used sixteen additional times. The remaining sixteen are all translated “shepherd.” Therefore, we are discussing the GIFT of shepherding, not the POSITION of pastor. Though a good pastor must have the gift of shepherding, everyone who has the gift of shepherding is not called to be pastor. The gift can be used in many positions in a church.

THE SPIRITUAL GIFT OF TEACHING

The gift of teaching allows people to transform data and information into life changing knowledge. Teachers do not have to stand in front of a class to teach. Often gifted teachers communicate best in informal, one-on-one settings. Teachers have the uncanny knack of helping people learn effortlessly. People internalize and retain the knowledge and learning they receive from gifted teachers. Good teachers transform more than they inform. (Rom. 12:7; 1 Cor. 12:28-29; Eph. 4:11). Your exhortation is Matthew 28:19

THE SPIRITUAL GIFT OF TONGUES

The gift of tongues is a communication gift that allows people to speak foreign or spiritual languages they had not formally studied. People with this gift “pick up” the ability to communicate across barriers of language, culture, age, or physical limitation (some people with the gift of tongues work with the deaf or blind).  The identification of the gift of tongues as a “secret” prayer language is often misunderstood. This gift is given for the upbuilding of the body of Christ. (1 Cor. 12:10, 28, 30; 1 Cor. 14:1-40; 1 Cor. 14:13; 1 Cor. 14:26-28)

Because of the controversial nature of this gift, here are several observations:

  1. Paul qualified the public use of this gift, stating that in a meeting of the church, two or at the most three could speak in a tongue, it must be done in turn, and a person with the gift of interpretation must be present so that the body would be edified (1 Cor. 14:26-28).
  2. There are several differences between the manifestation of tongues at Pentecost (Acts 2:1-13) and its use in Corinth (1 Cor. 14), and these differences suggest that the two are not identical.
  3. In his list of spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 12:28, Paul spoke of kinds of tongues. This, coupled with the statements in 1 Corinthians 14:2, 4, 14-15, 28, has led many to distinguish a private use of tongues, often called a prayer language (1 Cor. 14:14-15), from the public use of tongues which must be interpreted. Paul wrote that if there is no interpreter, the possessor of this gift should be silent in the church. Let him speak to himself and to God (1 Cor. 14:28).
  4. This gift is easily counterfeited and often abused. It can be a source of spiritual pride, excessive preoccupation, and divisiveness.
  5. Contrary to some teaching, tongues are not the only sign of the filling of the Spirit, and not all believers are to manifest this gift (1 Cor. 12:17-19,30).

THE SPIRITUAL GIFT OF WISDOM

The gift of wisdom allows people to understand deeper meaning and apply knowledge, beliefs, and experience to everyday situations. Wise gifted individuals make connections and help other make them as well — to understand the implications of our beliefs and actions. Those gifted with wisdom often understand root causes of disagreements, conflict, and barriers to growth and development. People with wisdom help others understand and clarify options to make good decisions. (1 Cor. 12:8). Your exhortation is James 1:5

None of the lists in Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, and Ephesians 4 is complete, and it is evident that there are other spiritual gifts apart from those listed above. C. Peter Wagner in Your Spiritual Gifts suggests these additions:

Voluntary poverty (the ability to renounce material comfort and adopt a lifestyle of relative poverty; 1 Cor. 13:3);

Martyrdom (the ability to display an attitude of joy while suffering or even dying for the faith; 1 Cor. 13:3);

Hospitality (the ability to welcome and provide for those in need of food and lodging; Rom. 12:13; 1 Pet. 4:9);

Intercession (the ability to pray for a long period of time on a regular basis for the ministries and needs of others).

Other spiritual gifts (e.g., music, craftsmanship) are also given to members of the body of Christ for mutual edification.

These are Not Spiritual Gifts

Spiritual gifts are not the same as the fruit of the Spirit. Spiritual fruit is produced from within; spiritual gifts are bestowed by the Holy Spirit. Fruit relates to Christlike character; gifts relate to Christian service. The fruit of the Spirit, especially love, should be the context for the use of the gifts of the Spirit. Paul made it clear in 1 Corinthians 13 that spiritual gifts without spiritual fruit are worthless. Fruit is eternal, but gifts are temporal (1 Cor. 13:8); the former is a true measure of spirituality, but the latter is not.

Spiritual gifts are not the same as natural talents. Unlike the natural abilities which everyone has from birth, spiritual gifts belong exclusively to believers in Christ. In some cases, the gifts of the Spirit coincide with natural endowments, but they transcend these natural abilities by adding a supernatural quality. Both are given by God (Jas. 1:17) and should be developed and used according to their purpose for the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31).

All Christians are called to a ministry, but not all are called to an office. Ministry is determined by divinely given gifts and opportunities (Eph. 3:7). Offices (e.g., elder, deacon, evangelist, and teacher) are humanly recognized and appointed spheres of ministry within the body.

Have the Gifts of the Spirit Ceased?

You are probably familiar with the following verses, but do you remember what is says about the gifts of the Spirit?

Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away.  For we know in part and we prophesy in part; but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away. When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known. But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13:8-13)

So now that you’ve possibly just started exploring your spiritual gifts, I give you pause. But fear not.

In the video below, Raymond Goodlett discusses whether the Gifts of the Spirit have ceased to be present or necessary in the modern age. Did all or some of the gifts cease to be given since the time of Jesus? You will need to skip an ad before getting to the good stuff.

Video Discussion of Whether the Gifts of the Spirit Still Exist.

Diversity and Unity in the Body of Christ

When the Holy Spirit descended on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2, a new entity was created. This entity consists of all those who have received the gift of eternal life in Christ Jesus and become sons and daughters of God. The most frequently used metaphor for this new creation is the body of Christ.

The three major New Testament lists of the gifts are all introduced by a description of the unity and diversity in the body of Christ. Paul’s metaphor for the church could not be more appropriate, because both the universal church (all believers) and the local church (geographically localized groups of believers) are unities which are built out of diverse elements. All believers have been baptized by the Holy Spirit into the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:13). Christ is the head, the ruler of the body (Eph. 1:22; 4:15; Col. 1:18), and believers are the individual members or components.

In this analogy, each Christian has been given a special function to perform and the ability to fulfill it in a way that will benefit the other members. There is quantitative and qualitative growth when believers discover and actively use their spiritual gifts. Each part of the body depends on the rest for its well-being, and there are no useless organs. This is why edification through teaching and fellowship is so necessary in the local church. Just as no organ can function independently of the others, so no Christian can enjoy spiritual vitality in a relational vacuum. The Spirit has distributed spiritual gifts to every member of the body, and no single member possesses all the gifts. Thus, growth does not take place apart from mutual ministry and dependence.

Developing Your Spiritual Gift(s)

Having discovered your gift or combination of gifts, you are accountable to yourself, others, and God to develop and cultivate that which the Spirit has implanted within you. In The Dynamics of Spiritual Gifts, William McRae suggests that the gifts of the Spirit are developed in three ways:

By exercise. Like natural talents, spiritual gifts are developed by practice, not just by desire. Without regular exercise, they will suffer from atrophy. Continue to pursue opportunities and persevere in the use of your gift(s).

By evaluation. Be open to the evaluation and counsel of other believers. Periodically ask godly people to evaluate your ministry in terms of strengths, weaknesses, and ways to improve.

By education. More educational and developmental materials are available today than ever before. Take advantage of the best books, classes, tapes, and seminars that can help you improve your God-given abilities.

Danger of Abuse

The mobilization of spiritual gifts is critical to the qualitative and quantitative growth of the body of Christ. For this reason, we must be careful to avoid the many pitfalls associated with this crucial subject. Here are some guidelines:

Spiritual gifts are not merely for personal use. They are designed for the edification of others. Others should benefit primarily; the barer of the gift should benefit secondarily.

Spiritual gifts cannot be useful through your power alone. If they are not used to channel the power of the Spirit and through the love of Christ, they are of no value (1 Cor. 13:1-3).

The discovery and use of spiritual gifts is not a game or an option. Your gifts will determine your ministry, and your ministry can have eternal consequences. God has called us to be committed and faithful to Him, and this is reflected in part by our stewardship of the abilities and opportunities He has given to us.

Spiritual gifts should not be a cause of pride. Since they are distributed according to the grace of God, they ought to be regarded as divinely entrusted responsibilities, not status symbols, achievements, or trophies. Christian character and maturity are measured by the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23), not spiritual gifts.

Spiritual gifts should not be sought as ends in themselves. In some circles, there is a tendency to exalt the gifts above the Giver.

Avoid extreme positions on the gifts that are not warranted by Scripture, like the teaching that we should not seek to discover spiritual gifts, or the teaching that a Spirit-filled Christian can have all the gifts.

Avoid the temptation of projecting your gifts onto others. Our thinking is naturally colored by the gifts we have been given, and if we are not careful, we will take the prescription that works for us and turn it into the norm for everyone. This can lead to a judgmental perspective on our part and a sense of guilt on the part of others who are not gifted in the same way.

Conclusion

Here are four principles that should govern our use of spiritual gifts:

Remember that the Holy Spirit is the true dynamic behind the gifts. They must be exercised in dependence upon His power.

Spiritual gifts function best in the sphere of love (the way that is beyond comparison; 1 Cor. 12:31). Paul placed his great description of love (1 Cor. 13) right in the middle of the most extensive biblical passage on spiritual gifts (1 Cor. 12-14). It is no accident that the two other major lists of spiritual gifts (Rom. 12 and Eph. 4) also include exhortations to love (see Rom. 12:9-10; Eph. 4:15-16).

In your ministry, concentrate your energy in productive areas. It is wise to maximize time in gift-related activities and minimize time in activities for which you are not suited.

On the other hand, Scripture commands all believers to perform certain ministries regardless of individual gifts. Christian roles like intercession, faith, service, helps, mercy, and giving are the responsibility of all Christians, not just those who are specifically gifted in these areas. For example, some have the spiritual gift of evangelism, but all believers have a role of evangelism that corresponds to the opportunities they have been given. Be careful to avoid the spiritual cop-out mentality that says, That’s not my gift!

If you found this post inspiring, interesting, useful or informative, please share it on one of the platforms below. Thank you.

References:

Kenneth Boa in his article “The Gits of the Spirit

Exploring Your Spiritual Gifts” by The Methodist Church

 

 

 

 

 

young boy praying with Bible

What to Know About the Bible / Spiritual Meditations

The Bible belongs to the whole world as no other book does. Phrases from its pages have become common idiom and illusions to its stories are widely understood. Yet relatively few people are familiar with it as a whole, and acquaintance for the most part is limited to a small selection of passages. Much is not easy to understand and not all is equally rewarding for all purposes. What every reader should first understand is the range and variety of the Bible, and what parts can best serve the purpose for which one turns to it.

The Briefest Summary of the Old Testament

The opening chapters of the OT deal with human origins. They are not to be read as history, but neither are they to be dismissed as myths. They teach that God created man to be obedient to him, and that in that obedience man’s well-being exists. By disobedience man turned from the true source of his life, so that before Adam and Eve were ejected from the garden, he hid himself from God. These chapters think of sin not as a theological abstraction, but as something real which recoils upon man. It broke up the first family, brought murder, strife and corruption, and ate into the heart of man.

These chapters are followed by the stories of the patriarchs, which preserve ancient tradition known to reflect the condition of the times, though they cannot be treated as strictly historical. It is for religion that they are preserved and the reader should be alert to understand not merely Gods dealing with the patriarchs, but what he is saying to us through these stories.

In a one illustration, the story of Abraham’s narrowly averted sacrifice of Isaac is more than a memory of times when human sacrifice was common, or of the first awakening of Israel’s ancestors to the recognition that God did not desire it. It is a story of a man who loved God more than all else and who was willing to surrender to God even the son in whose life his own was bound. There are sacrifices which God does not ask; there are none a man should be unwilling to make.

With the story of the exile and the settlement in Canaan we come nearer to the historical, though we are still dealing with idealized history. The main purpose of this narrative is to bring the reader to realize that God chose Israel to be His people and delivered her by His power, thus revealing His own character and laying on her the constraint of obedience. God’s election of Israel was to privilege but it was also to service.

Into this story the legal section of the OT has been fitted, and especially, all the provisions for the sacrificial rituals. Much bears the marks of the social and religious background of the times and not a little is without authority for the Christian. For the Christian, animal sacrifices are superseded by the sacrifice of Christ. The letter to the Hebrews links the death of Christ with the ritual of the Day of Atonement.

Other references in the New Testament (NT) allude rather to the suffering servant of Isaiah 53. This chapter contains the most remarkable thought on sacrifice found in the OT. The Servant was one who willingly gave himself to be sacrificed, a morally blameless man instead of a physically unblemished animal, and his sacrifice was wider in its efficacy than any sacrifice mentioned in the Pentateuch (first 5 books of the OT).

When we come to the books of Samuel and Kings, we have much very good history. The unsurpassed account of the reign of David probably comes from the time of Solomon, and it is without equal as historical writing in the literature of any country at so early an age. All these books, as also in the latter books of Chronicles, Ezra and Nehemiah, are concerned with the lessons of history as much as with the history itself.

The Prophetic books offer special difficulty to the modern reader. They contain utterances of the profits to their contemporaries exposing the political and social ills of Israel without mentioning the context. The reader should seek to penetrate beneath all that belongs to that age to that which is significant to his own life and times.

The prophetic oracles are mostly in poetry, but the poetic book of the OT par excellence is the book of Psalms. Here we have poems which were created for religious use, many of them probably to accompany the rituals of sacrifice and feast and they have continued to serve us, publicly and privately today. Not all the Psalms reach the same height, but as a whole, they still nourish our spirit of devotion.

Of the OT wisdom books I will mention two. The book of Proverbs is mainly a collection of poetic observations used for the instruction of youth. They are governed throughout by the conviction that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and that the way of wisdom is the way of integrity and of obedience to God’s will.

The book of Job carries one of the profoundest messages to be found in the OT. Its story is of a godly man who suffered grievous pain and loss, and who was tormented by his friends who came to comfort him until he was goaded into an appeal both to God and against God. God then answered him out of a whirlwind to remind him of the folly of passing judgment on God out of his ignorance. The author teaches that more important than discovering the reason for suffering is finding God in the suffering.

The Briefest Summary of the New Testament

When we pass from the OT to the new, we move to a different world. Yet the two testaments are bound together in a very real way. In the first three gospels we have stories of Jesus which are linked together by the use of common sources, while in the fourth gospel we have an independent account which is more concerned to interpret the significance of our Lord.

None of the gospels offers a biography of Jesus, yet by their study we may come to know him better than others are known from full and careful biographies. By the intimate study of the gospel we may know much about Jesus; but better than that, we may come to be infused with something of his spirit.

History is represented in the NT by the book of Acts. Yet here again history is not recorded merely for its own sake. The reader is told of the spread of Christianity until, in the person of Paul, it is carried to Rome, so a great deal of what we would like to know is left unrecorded. Yet we see the spirit of the early church and can understand its message. More importantly, we can realize that from the beginning it was perceived that the Christian faith was not something to be enjoyed alone, but was given to the church so that it may be communicated to all men.

In the letters of the NT are reflected some of the churches which were founded by the apostles, and – more importantly – we see the unfolding significance of the Christian message. The death and resurrection of Jesus are seen not simply as the facts of history but are charged with meaning for us.

When the cross of Christ becomes the means of our surrender by faith to him, in a profound sense, we die with him and are born anew in him. His resurrection becomes the means of our renewed life, whose essential character lies in the union of our life with him, so that he lives in us, and we are linked with his character and purpose and live no longer unto ourselves but become extensions of his personality in the world. The son of God lifts us to become the sons of God, in whom our Father is seen, and heirs of God, whose heritage is to share His spirit and purpose.

The final book of the NT came at a time of suffering and persecution, like the book of Daniel in the OT, whose character it so much shares. Neither scripture should be read as a cryptic plan of the ages, but as the expression of an underlying hope in God and a great faith that humble loyalty to him transforms suffering for him into a privilege. The wise reader is less concerned with the intricate symbolism then with the spirit which penetrates it.

The Unity of the Bible

There is a place for the study of every detail of the Bible considering the situation in which it arose with all the illumination of science, archaeology and history. But more important is the recognition that this is a book of the living oracles of God, which may speak to us and nourish our spirit when we approach them in devotion and humility. We should always remember the variety of literary form found in the Bible and should read a passage in the light of its own literary character. Legend should be read as legend, and poetry as poetry, and not with a dull prosaic and literalistic mind.

There are themes throughout the Bible which impart unity despite its diversity. Throughout, God is One and reveals Himself to humanity and who desires their fellowship. He reveals Himself in history and through persons, until He finally revealed Himself in One who is both God and man. In both testaments it is the same God who is revealed, and this above all else gives unity to the Bible.

At the same time, it must be recognized that much of the OT is superseded in the New, and there are ideas of God in the OT which are not to be approved. For though both testaments bring us revelation of God, the revelation came through men who could not always understand it in its fullness. Just as light is modified by the glass through which it passes, while none derives from the glass itself, so revelation whose sole origin is God, is modified and often marred by the personalities through which it comes. That is why the perfect revelation could come only through the perfect Man.

In both testaments God is revealed as compassionate and saving. He had compassion on Israel in her Egyptian bondage, and on those who were in the deeper bondage of sin. Throughout the Bible God is concerned to save humanity from sin, but in the NT we have the supreme expression of that concern when God, in Christ, takes upon Himself the curse of sin, that by the sacrifice on the cross deliverance might be complete. The saving character of God was revealed in bringing Israel out of Egypt; but it was revealed on a new level at Golgotha.

Again, in both testaments, religion is seen in terms of covenant, and the covenant is the response in gratitude for the deliverance that has been accomplished. When Israel was saved from Egypt she went to the sacred mount and there pledged herself in covenant to the God who had saved her. The new covenant in Christ calls for the cherishing of the larger revelation of God given to us in the life, death and resurrection of Christ.

Yet another theme that runs through the Bible and demonstrates its unity is faith. Faith is something more than a belief about God. When the Israelites stepped onto the sand left by the receding Red Sea, they showed more than their belief about God. And Christian faith is more than an intellectual persuasion; it is the abandonment of ourselves to Christ so that henceforth we live in him and he in us.

In both testaments the theme of judgment figures. When Adam sinned and isolated himself from God, his self-judgment lead to the judgment of exclusion from the garden. The prophets announced the coming judgment when Israel, by her disobedience, cut herself off from God. All judgment begins in self-judgment. So, too, in the NT: “he who does not believe is condemned already “ (John 3:18). This is the flip side of the teaching that man’s well-being consists in walking in obedience to God.

Yet the judgment of God is ever tempered with mercy. His mercy is shown in his patience and in sending his servants, the prophets, to warn and to reclaim. It is shown, too, in the sparing of the remnant. Sometimes it is a righteous remnant, spared for its own loyalty, and sometimes it is a remnant spared to preserve for another generation the revelation it so lightly regards.

From the earliest pages of the Bible the thought of the remnant appears. Noah and his family are the remnants spared at the flood, and throughout the prophetic words of judgment there appear promises of the remnant that shall remain – the remnant to whom alone the heritage of the covenant belongs, and through whom it is to be shared with those who do not belong to Israel according to heritage. And in the NT the church consists first of a remnant of Israel. The first disciples were all Jews, who inherited the revelation of the old covenant and the new revelation from the same God given in Christ. They brought the response of faith and obedience, and then shared their heritage with Gentiles who brought the same response.

Conclusion

A rich diversity of types of literature marks the Bible. There is progress in revelation; part of the OT was outgrown before the OT was itself complete, and more was superseded in the NT. Yet amidst the diversity runs a unity, and in all the progress there is the thread of a true continuity which derives from the God who speaks through it all. The goal of true study of the Bible is to hear His voice, and all who have ears to hear may hear it. The wise student of the Bible will welcome every aid to understand its background and meaning, for his supreme need is one no other book can supply: it is a humble desire to find God in His word and hear His word that you may find repose in gratitude and obedience.

Basic Q&A about the Bible

Why is it called the Bible?

By about the 5th century the Greek Church Fathers applied the term biblia – ‘books’- to the whole Christian scripture. Later the word passed into the western church and in Latin became ‘book’. The names ‘Old’ and ‘New Testament’ have been used since the close of the 2nd century to distinguish the Jewish and Christian scriptures. The word ‘testament’ is the Latin translation of the Hebrew word ‘berith’, which meant ‘covenant’ and referenced the covenants God made with His people.

What languages were the Bible originally written in?

The OT was originally written in Hebrew before the Babylonian Captivity. After it, Aramaic was used as it was the language acquired in Babylon. The NT was composed in Greek the common language used in that area of the world at the time.

Why are the Protestant and Catholic Bibles different?

The Protestant Bible consists of 39 OT books and 27 NT books. The 39 books of the OT are the same as those recognized by Palestinian Jews in NT times. The Greek speaking Jews of that period recognized the 39 plus 7 more and additions to Esther and Daniel. These became the Catholic Bible.

The Hebrew Bible and Protestant OT contain the same material, although they are organized a little differently. In the Greek (now Catholic) OT, the number of books and their arrangement is different than the Hebrew Bible. It is evident that the NT writers were familiar with the Apocrypha (the additional material in the Greek/Catholic OT) but there is no quotation from it in their pages. The books of the Apocrypha are all late in date, confirmed by the fact that they were originally written mostly in Greek. The more scholarly of the Catholic Church Fathers did not regard the Apocrypha as canonical although they permitted its use for edification.

All branches of the Christian Church agree on the NT canon.

Is the text in our current Bible the same as the original?

The Bible was written over a period of approximately 1400 years ending during the 1st century AD.   Until the invention of the printing press in the middle of the 15th century all copies of the Scriptures were made by hand, which resulted in some errors by the scribes. However, the Bible has come to us in a remarkable state of preservation. There is evidence that ancient Jewish scribes copied the books of the OT with extreme care. The evidence for the reliability of the NT is large and includes about 4500 Greek manuscripts dating back to about 125 AD as well as quotes taken from the NT material by Church Fathers in their writings beginning at the end of the 1st century.

How did chapters and verses come about?

The books of the Bible originally had no chapters and verses. For convenience of reference, Jews of pre-Talmudic times divided the OT into sections and these correspond to our current Bible. The chapter divisions we use today were made by the Archbishop of Canterbury who died in 1228. The division of the NT into its present verses is found for the first time in an edition of the Greek NT printed in 1551 in Paris. In 1555 the first version to include both chapters and verses as we see today was published by the same printer in Paris. The first English Bible with these divisions was printed in 1560.

When were the first translations of the Bible?

The OT was first translated into Greek between 250-150 BC. Parts of the OT were rendered into to Syriac in the early 1st century and a Coptic translation appeared probably in the 3rd century. The NT was translated into Latin and Syriac c. 150 and into Coptic c. 200.

According to Wikipedia “As of October 2019 the full Bible has been translated into 698 languages, the NT has been translated into an additional 1,548 languages and Bible portions or stories into 1,138 other languages. Thus at least some portions of the Bible have been translated into 3,385 languages.”

What is the Bible’s overall message?

The Bible is a collection of books recognized and used by the Christian church as the inspired record of God’s revelation of Himself and His will to mankind. Although the Bible was written over a long period of time by a great variety of writers, most of the authors of the Old Testament (OT) did not know each other. It has an organic unity that can be explained only by assuming, as the book itself claims, that its writers were inspired by the Holy Spirit to give God’s message to humanity. The theme of the message is the same in both testaments; the redemption of man.

References

The Oxford Annotated Bible revised standard version college edition published by Oxford University Press

Pictorial Bible Dictionary with topical index published by Zondervan