Tuesday, July 16, 2019

By Grace Through Faith: What is Faith?

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, Ephesians 2:8 NKJV

16 Therefore it is of Faith that it might be by Grace Romans 4:16a KJV

We are beginning a new study on New Covenant Faith. Faith is often misunderstood in some Christian circles. When one says Faith they mistakenly think of the denomination one is a part of. Are you of the Baptist faith? Are you of the Lutheran faith? Are you of the Methodist faith? That is not what Faith is.

 Faith is also often mistakenly referred to as blind faith. That Faith simply blindly trusts in something without any evidence of whatsoever. That it trusts without knowledge. Again this is a wrong concept about Faith. Let's explore the truth about Faith. 

What Faith Is...

What is Faith? It's not blind trust. It is not someone's religious practices. It is not a spiritual detecter revealing "superior" and "inferior" Christians. It is also not someone who is "wishing and a hoping" for some positive turn out in the circumstances of their life. 

 New Covenant Faith is determined. It is specific. It isn't sporadic in its focus. It is single-minded. It is purposed and unwavering and unswayed. How do we define Faith? The Amplified in my view gives the absolute best definition of Faith.

11 Now faith is the assurance (the confirmation, the title deed) of the things [we] hope for, being the proof of things [we] do not see and the conviction of their reality [faith perceiving as real fact what is not revealed to the senses]. Hebrews 11:1 AMP

  Let this definition sink in, get rooted deeply in your spirit. Faith is the assurance that what we hope will come to pass. Faith gives substance to hope. Hope is positive expectation based on what Jesus, God's Grace made available, what God promises we have because of Jesus. 

 Faith is the confirmation of the promise of God. Faith is the title deed. This is an awesome truth. In this world, we who are old enough will understand a title deed. Each nation runs a little differently but this principal of the title deed is the same the world around. 

 If one buys a car from someone, and they get the title deed that paper is proof enough that they have a car. They can tell their friends look I have a new car. They make look upon that one in bewilderment, saying we don't see a car. All that person need do is show them the title deed. See I have a car, it's mine, you may not see it but I have a car this deed is proof enough.

 Maybe you'd say I have never bought a car or house this illustration is lost on me. Ok, I will make it even clearer. Faith is the confirmation. You bought that item online. Your friends may not see that item. All you need do is show them the confirmation number and they will know you do in fact have that item.

 Faith is our confirmation number that all God provided in the Finished Work is ours. Faith is the title deed, revealing to us when presently possess all Grace procured for us. Faith is being fully persuaded by unseen evidence in the spiritual realm. Faith is the conviction that it is settled in the Heavens, that what God said is ours because of the Cross is in truth fully ours. 

 So what is Faith? It is being fully persuaded by unseen evidence. It isn't blind. It isn't trusting without evidence. Faith perceives as real facts what is not revealed to our natural senses. As Paul said we walk by Faith not by sight. The evidence is revealed to us in the spiritual arena not this natural. God declared us righteous and holy once for all time. Yet we don't always look like it, but we aren't focused on the evidence we can see with our physical senses but with what we see with our spiritual sense, what God accomplished in the Finished Work.

 Again Faith is the belief of our hearts, our spirit man, not our heads, that is our mental assent, our intellectual thoughts. Some try to insinuate that Biblical Faith is mere mentally agreement with what the Bible says, not a heartfelt agreement. Look, Faith is of the heart, not our intellect, for there are truths in God that supersede the natural order and scientific fact. Disagree?

 Under the Old, God did many mighty miracles. The prophet Elisha operating in a manifestation of the Spirit caused an iron axe head to float in water. How many realize that iron doesn't float on top of the water? That is not something we can intellectually make sense of. That is a change in the natural order of things. Jesus, God in the flesh was conceived by the Spirit in Mary's womb. Scientific fact, it takes a fertilized egg for conception to occur. Yet Jesus was born of a virgin. That supersedes science fact.

 In summation, Faith is being fully persuaded that what Grace provides and what the Father promises because of the Finished Work we can reach out and take and receive. In order to walk in Faith, sometimes we have to turn off our minds and just do what God says to us. 
Image by reenablack from Pixabay

Monday, July 8, 2019

Gifts of Grace: Are the 9 Charismatic/Sign Gifts still active today?

But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: 1 Corinthians 12:7 NKJV

He therefore that ministereth to you the Spirit, and worketh miracles among you, doeth he it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Galatians 3:5 KJV

 When you think of Grace, have you ever thought about the Gifts Grace has provided? Throughout the New Covenant Paul speaks of gifts from God. We see Ministry giftings, we see spiritual giftings many scholars call the motivational gifts that all believers have. We also see the Charismatic Gifts mentioned, the nine manifestation gifts. 

 What are these manifestation Gifts you may ask? Allow the Spirit through Paul to answer;
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, 10 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. 11 But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills. 1 Corinthians 12:8-11 NKJV

 These are the powerful manifestations of the Spirit in our midst. The question many have is are these Gifts for today? Ministers of religious tradition attempt to convince us unequivocally that they have in fact ceased. That God gave us gifts but then took them back. 

That God is in Heaven and we are on our own down here until we get to Heaven. That God doesn't move in our lives in supernatural ways any longer. That believers in Christ cannot expect God's hand to move in their lives in healing, or prophetic words, or supplying provision. Now, of course, they say you can pray generally for God to bless you, but He is "sovereign" and whatever will be will be. God may be teaching you through hard times. Does this sound like Jesus, the Person of Grace?

 Whenever Jesus encountered lack, He brought provision. When He encountered sickness and disease He brought forth healing. When He encountered infirmity, He brought strength. When He encountered oppression He brought deliverance. When He encountered sin and condemnation, He brought forgiveness and mercy. Whenever He encountered brokenness He brought wholeness. The Good News is Jesus is the same, yesterday, today and forever! Jesus hasn't changed.

 So if Jesus is the same, has the Spirit and His operations in the Church somehow ceased because of the passage of time? Tradition says it was the Apostles who worked miracles and since they've passed on, hence the Gifts ceased. Is this correct?

 If so what do we do with Peter's own words? What am I referring to? You can see Peter's words in Acts completely destroy this narrative. Peter declared it wasn't his power that brought forth that miracle healing. If the miracle was simply because He was an Apostle that God healed the man why didn't he attribute that to the root cause? 

 Peter doesn't take any credit for the healing. He doesn't attribute his apostleship. He doesn't even take into account his personal holiness or goodness. He attributes God's goodness and the God kind of Faith in Jesus name with this miracle.

The problem with religion only attributing signs and wonders with apostleship is they omit the goodness of God. They are omitting the love of God. They are forsaking the mercy and compassion of our Good Father. Instead of God ministering life, healing and wholeness because He loves His creation, He is a cold diety merely endorsing the ministry of 12 men. He isn't concerned with afflictions humanity suffers. Love looking to alieve suffering isn't the heart behind miraculous healing, rather it's just God endorsing titles of a few men until the Bible can be fully written. 

One other point to ponder. Acts records that people other than the Apostles flowed in signs and wonders. Stephan was no Apostle, he was merely a Deacon, yet he was full of faith and flowed in signs and wonders. Look at Philip. He was an Evangelist. He was not an Apostle and he flowed in powerful signs and wonders. We still have Evangelists today, and Deacons, so why couldn't the Gifts still be active?

The Gifts haven't ceased But Faith for the Gifts have ceased

 If we go back to Peter's words, what other principle does he attribute that miraculous healing too? The authority of Jesus name, and Faith in that name. Yes, the Faith that comes through Him. Faith brought forth the sign and wonder. 

 Uncertain, doubtful, unconvinced and unbelieving prayer didn't bring about this miracle. The reason some like this idea of the Gifts ceasing, and that it was only through the original Apostles, that Gifts manifested because it gives them an opportunity to make excuse for their unbelief and lack of Faith. Though it is lack of Faith and the presence of unbelief, there is still hope.

 When we relinquish the traditions of men and listen to truth instead of tradition Faith comes. The cure for unbelief is no longer feeding on doubt and instead focusing on and feeding our spirit God's Word, seeing who Jesus is. It's believing Jesus is who He said is. This means not just seeing Jesus as Savior, but also as Healer, Deliverer, Provider, Baptizer in the Spirit, and Triumphant, Victorious King of Kings, the One who already soundly, perfectly defeated the enemy! 

 In Summation, have the Gifts ceased? Are they no longer active today? Is Jesus still who He said He is? Has the Spirit changed? Not one single passage in Scripture states these Gifts will not continue year after year. Not one passage states when the Bible is complete or the last Apostle dies these signs and wonders will cease to function. 

 These Gifts are also called the Charismatic Gifts. Charismata means Gifts of Grace. His Grace is definitely still active today. God's Love is still active today. God's Goodness is still active today. God's power has not waned or grown inactive. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. These Gifts have not ceased nor will they ever in the life of the Church.
Image by annca from Pixabay

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

The Suffering Question: God Why? Trials...Tragedies...Trauma....Triumph!

 The Lord is good, A stronghold in the day of trouble; And He knows those who trust in Him.
Nahum 1:7 NKJV
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever. 
Psalm 107:1 NLT
The Lord is gracious, and full of compassion; slow to anger, and of great mercy. The Lord is good to all: and his tender mercies are over all his works. 
Psalm 145:8-9 KJV
Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good;
Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!
Psalm 34:8 NKJV

We've been in an extended study examining God's Love, mercy, and all the time Goodness in light of human suffering and tragedy. We've looked closely at God's role in the adversity, difficulty, and distresses we've all experienced in some form or fashion living in this fallen world. We've explored extensively God's Word on this subject.

 In this series, we've seen God is always good no matter the circumstance. We've seen God post-Cross is not sending wrathful judgment on nations. We've seen the truth that God is not the author of our sickness or disease or our troubles. We've thoroughly examined Job and all the traditions birthed from it. 

 Today, I sense the leading to conclude this series by simply asking God why. More clearly stated, concluding this study by addressing the questioning of God many of us have done at some point in our walk with God. All of us have experienced things that we can't always understand. There are people who have gone through things and they can't make sense of it. What do we do in these times?

Don't run from God, don't quit talking with God, run to God!

 When trouble arises that's not the time to abandon our walk with Jesus. It's not the time to listen to the lies of traditional religion. It's not the time to forsake the assembly of the brothers and sisters in Christ. It's especially never the time to listen to the lies of the enemy the accuser. 

 Listen, when the enemy can't convince you of your unworthiness, or unrighteousness, when he can't push you into accepting his accusations about your standing with God, he will immediately attempt to persuade you to accept accusations about God. He begins to accuse God to you. He tries his hardest to get you to accept his lies about the Father. He impugns God's Goodness, His justice, His will for you. He tries to get you to question God's faithfulness toward you. 

 He works to get you to accept religious lies about God;
 "God's willing to heal some but not you."
 "God's goodness and mercy only go so far."
"God's putting this on you to punish you."
"God brought this in your life to better you if you resist it you're rebelling against God."

 Resist these tactics from the enemy. The Word promises when we resist the enemy he will flee. When the enemy comes in, like a flood the Spirit will lift up a standard against him. Rejoice the enemy is defeated.

Troubles of our own making

There are two aspects of this I want to address. First, if we are experiencing difficulties, sometimes we need to take a moment to see the source of the trouble. Sometimes just knowing the source affords us the opportunity to bring a quick end to the negative.

 For instance, take the financial arena, now this isn't about condemning anyone but just about covering all our bases when it comes to answering the suffering question. Again, look at the financial arena. If struggles of insufficiency plague you ensure you're not living beyond your means. Ensure you're using wisdom in finances. Sometimes we can make poor choices and then see the result. 

 Now this works the same in all areas of life. Our health, our employment, our relationships, etc. It's not about guilt and shame ridden self-introspection either. It's about ensuring there isn't something you may be doing that is the cause of the trouble and seeing if there are ways to rectify it.

 Now when it comes to troubles of our own making the other aspect is the reality of His great Grace. What can we expect from the troubles of our own making? That is what is God's response to us? Are His hands folded in disgust and disapproval? Does He say, "this is your fault, you made this mess, deal with it, I am not going to help you"? 

 No! God is a Good Father! He sought after Peter after he denied Christ. He declared David was a man after His own heart. He said Abraham was the friend of God. All these men were imperfect vessels. 

 No matter the cause, God is always willing and ready to turn it around for your good. He is always there to turn a mess into a message of hope and deliverance. He's even ready to turn your sin into a win, turning what was darkness to light bringing redemption and wholeness and effecting change to all. He is our ever-present help in times of trouble. 

 Some would read this and think I am saying God is ok with our sins and wicked deeds. That we should sin so Grace may abound. If you don't get accused of this then you aren't preaching the Gospel that Paul preached. What I am saying is God is amazing in His Grace that He turns around even the most wicked situation and redeems everyone involve. For instance, we've seen well-known people, who were involved in criminal activity, sang music that uplifted self and wickedness, those who performed in pornographic films later in life give their life to Christ and due to their former notoriety, they have a larger platform to share their testimony. God indeed turned their sin into a win!

In the middle of the mystery

 Now that we have settled the issue that God is good and only does good we can address some of the situations and circumstances many have gone through and they just can't seem to make any sense of it. These hard times create questions. They make us sometimes doubt God's goodness. 

 This is what I like to call living in the middle of the mystery. That there is a promise given, there is a response of belief yet the answer seems not to be manifesting. Do we conclude that God lied? Do we conclude God says one thing and reserves the right to do another?

 I won't accept that God is partially good. I won't accept that God says one thing and won't fulfill His Word. Before I continue, don't think I don't know what it's like living in the mystery. I can share this, my wife and I have wanted children for many years now. Yet, we have not seen this come to pass.

 We've conceived twice and in both cases, we lost the child due to ectopic or tubal pregnancy. Now as a believer in Jesus, the One who knows us before we were born, I believe life begins at conception. So yes those were two lives lost in the womb. Sadly, both of my wife's tubes were lost in the process. Now aside from a recreative miracle, we cannot conceive naturally. Again, so we know what it's like living in the mystery.

 My heart hurts sometimes when I think about having children, yet I have a peace that surpasses human understanding. Why? Because I know who Jesus is, this is Jesus;
38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him. Acts 10:38 NKJV
 Jesus is always good. I have a Father in Heaven who loves me. A Father that is good and only does good! That is my conviction, and I have seen His goodness over and over and over again in my life and in those around me.

 Ok, you may say, I get it God is good, but I am going through some really hard times. I can't see His goodness. What now? What do we do in the middle of the mystery? I am glad you asked.

 What do we do in the middle of this mystery? When I was going through the worst of it, we just went through this last December, I had the same reactions and many questions. The answer came as I was listening to a worship song.

 There was a line that spoke of being in the middle of the mystery. The answer went off in my spirit like a nuclear bomb! I saw it and it brought me so much joy and refreshing. I was renewed with this simple truth. That is we praise Him even more in the middle of the mystery.

 Singing His praises in the middle of the mess, in the middle of the trial, in the middle of the hard times brings supernatural peace and refreshing. So whatever you're going through, turn your eyes to Jesus. Put Him in remembrance. No matter how bad it seems, His goodness and Grace are greater. Raising a praise is your weapon, it's the solution.

 In summation, concluding this series, we know and understand God is always good. We know that He is the healer and the One who makes us whole. He is not the One bringing destruction. He is the One who brings life and turns our situation around. In the midst of the worst scenarios, let praise be your response. Let a melody of praise and worship be the weapon you raise against the enemy. The suffering question? Jesus is the answer! 
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Monday, June 17, 2019

The Suffering Question: Suffering and Sovereignty

The Lord is good,
A stronghold in the day of trouble; And He knows those who trust in Him.

Nahum 1:7 NKJV
Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good;
Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!
Psalm 34:8 NKJV

We've been in an ongoing study examining the suffering question. We are exploring human suffering in light of the Finished Work and God's Grace and all the time Goodness. So far we've seen God is not the author of sickness, disease or the one sending you trouble. We've looked closely at the concept of "hyper-control" that is, God, controlling and ordaining all events on Earth.

As of late, we've been on a journey through the book of Job. The reason being, whenever Christians begin discussing either human suffering or God's goodness the book of Job will be mentioned. You will hear Job mentioned even more if you speak of the God who heals and sets free and brings blessing and wholeness. 

 You see when the fullness of the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is proclaimed, that is His all the time Goodness and willingness to save, heal and deliver, traditional religion will inevitably ask well, what about Job? The response? What about Job? Well, what about Jesus? What about the Finished Work? What about His perfect redemption purchased and paid for? What about His unconditional love and mercy? What about His Grace? What about His healing power? As one minister said, Job may be the question but Jesus is the answer!

I want you to see from the New Covenant what we are to take away from the story of Job.
 Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy. James 5:11 KJV

 In this passage, we are exhorted to look at the end of the Lord. How God was full of compassion and merciful. Interesting we are not told to focus on Job's suffering or why it even happened. We are told to look at God's compassion and Goodness. 

Who was Elihu?

 Last week we looked at some of the theological debate between Job and the three "comforters." We saw that the main point of this long discourse between all these people was to reveal what man does when he tries to understand and interpret God in light of feelings and circumstance and rather the credible source of His eternal, infallible Word. 

 This week it seems good to address the discourse of Elihu and then see the end of the Lord. When studying Elihu we have some school of thought that says he was some divine spokesperson. That he was a prophet and even a type and shadow of Jesus. Then other schools think he was a young fellow who was just nobody to pay attention to.

 I like what one minister said about him, the truth is somewhere in the middle. He couldn't be a spokesperson for God, a prophet, or a type of Jesus because if he was why did God basically interrupt him and address Job and all five generally? Some create these ideas because God is not recorded to have rebuked Elihu.

 Does that mean all he said was right and proper? I refuse this view for one major reason. When we talk of Elihu we are merely speculating. Because the truth is we are arguing from a place of silence. 

 We can't with definitive certainty make claims about Elihu because the Word never speaks of why God didn't rebuke him. It also doesn't confirm that as Elihu claimed to be God's mouthpiece. What we can see is the entirety of his words or his arguments. 

 Look at the entirety of Elihu's words. Not a snippet. His whole discourse from Chapter 32 onward. It's not good to just take a portion here and there to argue what was said. 

 Elihu did make some right points about God. That God is just and doesn't necessarily afflict people. However, Elihu does promote a theology that is seen today in many religious quarters of the Church today. The idea that perhaps the suffering isn't because of your sin but because God is chastening you, that is teaching you and God can do this because He is sovereign and how dare we question God, the supreme ruler.

 Elihu in light of the New Covenant does proclaim a performance-based faith. That God punishes us when we don't produce fruit. He claims if we obey and serve Him we will spend all our days in blessing but if we fall we will suffer for it. He teaches suffering is God's training method. That God with pain will chasten you

 Elihu's point is that God is God and you are not and who are we to question Him? What Elihu was right about is the fact that Job was questioning God's justice and righteousness. In other words, Job knew He hadn't sinned so why is God punishing him or putting him through so much he questioned. 

 Where all these people missed it by miles is the basic foundation of all the debate. The premise all five are operating on is this idea or concept that God is behind this suffering. That God was punishing Job for some sin. That God is testing and perfecting him through this suffering, that God is in charge and can do what He wants. 

When God shows up, see His first words
“Who is this who darkens counsel
By words without knowledge? Job 38:1 NKJV

 What God did is remind all of us that all five were debating without full knowledge. What we also know is that Job had not sinned causing God to punish him for his sins.  We also know God wasn't exercising His sovereignty by killing Job's family and taking away his possessions. What do we know for certain?

 What we know for certain is that God was not an agent in the suffering of Job. When God speaks He begins to reveal the existence of the wicked one, the enemy, satan.  He reveals the work of the enemy to Job. 

 The point is Job wasn't suffering because of anything he had done, as in sinful deeds. He wasn't suffering because God was chastening him. He wasn't suffering so God could teach him or humble him. He wasn't suffering because God was sovereign, he certainly wasn't suffering just so God could win a "wager" with satan. Job was an upright man who began to fear, which comes from trusting in our works and not in God alone, and in this state the enemy simply came in doing what he loves to do, to steal and kill and destroy. 

 In summation, God's sovereignty isn't an answer to why bad things happen. We live in this fallen fractured creation. God has given us His Word, His Spirit within, the whole armor of God, His great Grace, His goodness and mercy that follow us always and His Gifts to overcome in this world. 

 What we should take away from Job's life is the fact that Job didn't quit, and that God showed up in His love and all the time Goodness. God turned the captivity of Job. God gave him double for his trouble. God turned the tragic situations around and blessed and restored Job.

 Why we are told to look to the end of the Lord in the New Covenant is because one, there can be no New Covenant Jobs. We have an intercessor, we have a mediator, we have the Finished Work of the Cross and God's Spirit within. Secondly, I believe the exhortation to look to the end of the Lord, is because God is showing us if He can turn around one of the most extreme cases of personal suffering humanity has seen, surely He can turn your situation around for you good. Because of this, we know God is with us always and therefore we can completely trust Him no matter what we're experiencing. 
Image courtesy of iosphere at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

The Suffering Question: The "Gospel" of Job

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever.                      Psalm 107:1 NLT
The Lord is gracious, and full of compassion; slow to anger, and of great mercy. The Lord is good to all: and his tender mercies are over all his works      Psalm 145:8-9 KJV

 We've been in an extended study of the suffering question. We've been focusing on God's role in human suffering. In light of Grace, the New Covenant, His love and the Finished Work, what is God's hand in tragedy, disaster or death?

 So far, we've seen God is not sending firey judgment on nations. We asked and answered questions like, is God in control, is God the author of sickness and disease, is God the source of our troubles. As of late, we've been focusing on the Book of Job. 

 We've addressed the traditional view that God gives and takes away. That God gives the devil some form of permission or access to your life to wreak havoc. Today, I sense the leading to head into the fray that was the theological debate between Job, his three friends, and the young man. If you study this long drawn out debate, you will find some of these same arguments made today in traditional religious quarters of the Church. 

Why the debate?

 When studying the debate phase of Job there are two principles you must understand. One why the debate was included in the Book of Job. As you can see this debate takes up most of the 42 chapters of Job. Why was it given so much attention? 

 This debate phase was included because of the infinite wisdom of God. He wanted a source we could all readily see as what happens when men debate about God without knowledge. God wanted us to see the concepts mankind comes up with when they attempt to understand, reason, and interpret God in light of their circumstances, their experiences and not the Word of God.

 The second principle you must understand when studying this debate is knowing that this debate occurred between five people who had little to no information about God. That God Himself in a general sense rebuked all of them and said they had spoken wrong about Him. So to get a better understanding, know that none of these men knew anything, God corrected them, and only included this debate to illustrate what happens when ignorance about God meets more ignorance about God.

“Who is this who darkens counsel
By words without knowledge? Job 38:2 NKJV

Wrong concepts of God

 Let's begin looking at this debate and see if you have heard some variation of these concepts taught in churches before? Now I am not going to give exact chapter and verse. I know it is a great benefit to study the Word for yourself. I will, however, give the chapter where the idea is spoken about and you can go and study it further.

 1. God is an angry God, God is a God of judgment and wrath. God is judging you for your sins. Your sins are why you are suffering. 
 In Job 4, we see this concept being argued for. If you are suffering it must be because you've sinned and God is punishing you. If you didn't get the promotion it must be because you sinned too much. If you lost a loved one, your sin opened the door. 

 We've addressed this idea that God is sending judgment on nations or cities. Yet so many believe and teach that God is punishing you when you sin. Does sin cause problems?

 When we sin, there can be natural consequence. Cheat on your taxes and you could go to prison as an example. However, God didn't cause this or punish you. God punished Jesus' body on the cross for your sin and mine. He isn't punishing us also when we blow it. Let go of this lie of tradition that God is sending destruction because we sinned.

2. God chastens us with tragedy. God uses destruction and calamity to instruct us or mature us. 
 In Job 5 we see this concept. This is a lie that is so often repeated by tradition it is nauseating. When one goes through a difficulty or experiences loss, tradition will say God was trying to teach you something. Is this God's method of instruction?

 Is God killing your children to teach you? Is He causing your business to go bankrupt to instruct you? Is God taking away your health to make you a better believer? 

 God has given us His Spirit. God has given us His Word. God has given the keys to growth and maturity by following His Spirit within and knowing and understanding His Word. God doesn't bring destruction to make you wiser or more spiritual, reject that religious notion.

3. How can a man be just? How can a man be righteous? Man is but a worm. Man is so unworthy
 In Job 25, we see this concept. Man is nothing but a worm. Man is a sinner. Man has no right but to accept what comes. He is so unworthy before God. 

 How often does traditional religion deny the truth of Christians being in perfect right standing with God? Our righteousness seemed easily revokable by our words or actions according to tradition. Religion likes us seeing ourselves as mere worms in the dust in respect to God.

 This is that suffering "gospel" so many preach. That we shouldn't expect any good this side of Heaven. A parking lot at the mall? How dare you ask for that? Don't you know all God cares about is you being more holy and submitted? 

 If you dare believe God has a plan for your life or has a desire to increase you in any way then you are said to be preaching a false gospel. If you say God wants us to live in victory and walk in blessings and to enjoy life this side of eternity we are told how that is merely a "prosperity" gospel and God wants us to suffer and struggle here on Earth.

 God is a good Father. He has a perfect plan and purpose for your life. He has called you and given you gifts and talents and abilities He wants you to grow in so you can be a light to this World. Contrary to religion, He does want you to enjoy life and be a blessing to those around you.  

4. God purposes you to suffer. God has preordained your calamity. God has predestined this tragedy. God has appointed you to suffer.
In Job 23, we see another traditional lie. God ordains you to suffer. God has appointed you to go through this hardship. 

 God's plan and purpose for you is not cancer. It's not loss of a loved one. It's not the dissolving of your marriage. Reject this lie. We have already dealt with this lie extensively. This is the insidious lie that God is controlling everything. 

 In summation, we can see that when pressed with circumstances we don't understand, we can form traditions to try and bring clarity. Many have suffered things they just don't know why or can't make sense of. We don't have all the answers as finite humanity. What we do know for absolute certain is that God is good and not the author of our troubles or sorrows or tragedy. With that foundation, we know God is always with us, and He isn't the source of our trouble, so we can trust in Him.

The Lord is good,
A stronghold in the day of trouble;
And He knows those who trust in Him. Nahum 1:7 NKJV

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Sunday, June 2, 2019

The Suffering Question: the Lord Gives and Takes Away?

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever.                      Psalm 107:1 NLT
The Lord is gracious, and full of compassion; slow to anger, and of great mercy. The Lord is good to all: and his tender mercies are over all his works. 
                                                                          Psalm 145:8-9 KJV

   We've been in an extended study of the suffering question. Living in this World there are situations that we encounter that leave us with concerning questions. There are circumstances we may have experienced or see others walk through, that we just can't seem to make sense of. Hence the purpose of this study. We are examining the suffering question in light of God's goodness and Grace.

 So far we've seen God is a Good Father. He isn't judging nations with catastrophe. He isn't the author of sickness or our troubles. He isn't controlling every facet of human behavior on this Earth. Last time we saw God isn't giving the enemy permission or access to your life. Today, I sense the strong leading to answer another traditional stronghold.

The Lord giveth...and then taketh?

 The concept that God gives and takes away is a long-standing tradition in many quarters of the Body of Christ. Little "Johnny" was playing near the road and tragically was hit by a vehicle and killed. The response? "well, the good Lord gave and took away..." 

 Young "Sally" was stricken ill and suddenly passed. The response? "The Lord giveth and hath taken away..." Brave "Jimmy" went off to serve his country but was killed in action. The response? "The Lord hath given and hath taken away..."

 Next to there will be "peace in the valley someday" and the 23rd Psalm, "the Lord giveth and taketh away" are staple traditions at funerals, or spoken about tragedies, or any event we can't seem to understand. This phrase is a traditional stronghold with so many. Where does it originate? 

What about Job?

 This famous phrase was spoken by Job right after his initial attack from the enemy, see here. What's interesting to note is that when he spoke it out he was speaking from a place of ignorance, that is a lack of knowledge. Today, this phrase is spoken for the same exact reason, ignorance of the Word. 

 Once you understand the truth about the first and second chapter of Job the whole book makes more sense in keeping in step with who God is. Who Jesus revealed the Father to be. In order to do this, we must interpret Job with the light of the New Covenant. 

 Brother, doesn't the Bible say all Scripture is inspired by God? Whenever we challenge the traditional view of Job this is the usual response initially. I did the same when I first began exploring the truth of God's goodness in light of what I saw written in Job. 

 I began to gain a better understanding of the Father's all the time goodness. I saw that He was a Savior and healer and provider and deliverer. Yet, I'd hear sermons about tough times and tragedy and they use Job as some "excuse" for it all. 

 Then others I'd read after or a sermon they taught, would challenge the traditional narrative. I would revert back to the traditional religious default setting. It couldn't be true. These people are attacking the validity of Scripture I would say to myself. 

 What they really challenged me with was who was speaking in Job 1:21? Did God say He gave and took away or did Job? This was one of the most difficult truths I had to discover. The Word of God is given by inspiration of God, that is, all Scripture was truly stated, but not all Scriptures are a statement of truth. 

Truly stated but not a statement of truth?

This sounds like we are attacking the validity of Scripture or its inerrancy, but holdfast, we are actually defending it. You see the Word records accurately times that the devil spoke. We can see where it records satan saying he will ascend above the Most High God. Is that a statement of truth? No, because God said no devil and kicked him out. 

 So who said God gave and took away? God or Job? Job said it not God. It was truly stated that Job said that but that wasn't a true statement. Once I saw this the house of cards of tradition fell. God is a good God. He isn't taking away life, He is giving life!

You give and take away?

 The phrase Job said is found in many Christian slogans and even in worship songs. What we are doing is slowly reinforcing a wrong concept of God in our thinking. Is God taking away your health? Is God taking away your marriage? Is He taking away your job or children?

 Religious Tradition sees it as God's discipline program. You like spending time on a lake? God will "take" that boat. You like watching TV? Sports? Well, He will "take" that TV or interrupt service. This will teach you to enjoy life!

 Religious tradition uses this concept to make God more than just a harsh taskmaster. He is the brutal tyrant who demands attention nonstop or He will decimate your life. Is it any wonder the lost want nothing to do with God? Is it any wonder young people as they grow older flee from regular Church attendance?

 Go back to Job 1. He said God gave and took away. Is that a true statement? In context, no, we see the enemy taking from him, not God. What is really Good News is in the back of the book God speaks to Job. He gives him some insight he desperately needed.

 Let me share a passage to further explain.
10 And the Lord turned the captivity of Job, when he prayed for his friends: also the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before. Job 42:10 KJV

 God turned the captivity of Job. If He had him captive how could He "turn" it. This is revealing our Father is the God of the turnaround. He takes what the enemy is doing and turns it around for your good. God turned the tables on the enemy, and where he was bringing destruction, poverty, and sickness and death, God came and brought healing, deliverance, and total restoration. 

 God didn't give and then take away. No God gave and then the enemy came in and took away. The enemy came in bringing death and loss and God came in bringing life and restoration. 

 Well if what Job said wasn't true why does the next verse after the famous phrase state that Job didn't sin or charge God foolishly? Some translate that He didn't blame God. Yet, you're saying Job didn't speak the truth.

 The key is found in the verse. Job didn't sin or charge God foolishly. Job was living in the light he had. He was faithful to that light and knew of only God and His mighty power. 

 What God did when He showed up was point Job to the existence of the enemy. You see the whole book of Job can be divided into three phases. The destruction phase, the debate phase and finally deliverance. 

 The majority of the book basically operates on the presupposition that Job committed some sin and was receiving the just "reward" for his sins. The three friends basically try to convince Job that he was in sin and God was punishing him. Even the young man Elihu comes on scene trying to convince Job he was in some secret sin and God being just wouldn't punish Job for no reason.

 The problem is all five people in Job were operating on limited knowledge. All that happened was the enemy attacked Job, hoping he'd have a mere superficial relationship with God that had little to no trust whatsoever. When God showed up, gave insight into who the enemy was, Job changed his mind and admitted he was wrong about God. 

 In summation, is God giving and then taking away? No! Remove that religious tradition from your thinking. Job occurred when there was no intercessor on our behalf. When there was no Bible to consult for truth. No Holy Ghost on the inside and no Finished Work were Jesus totally defeated the devil. There are no New Covenant "Jobs". 

 God is your Good Father. He gives and doesn't change His mind. The gifts of God are irrevocable. He can't give and then take it away. That would make Him a liar, and He isn't! You can fully trust Him. He is with you and will never forsake you. Even when we don't understand it all, the one truth we must always remember is that God is good and not the author of evil or the One ordaining trouble. Deliverance, freedom, life, and wholeness are always found in Him. He is for you not against you!
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