Our Hope and Comfort in Christ Archives 2012

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  • When We Hurt by Joseph Cassimier
  • The Snowbird (poem) 
  • What Saves Us? by Richard Thetford
  • We Shall Not All Sleep But We'll All Be Changed by Jon Quinn 
  • Do Not Be Afraid, Fear God by Jon Quinn
  • Jesus is Always There by David Maxson
  • Suffering by Richard Thetford
  • "All Things Work Together for Good - Controversy or Comfort?" by Wayne Jackson 
  • Baptism and the Blood by T. Doy Moyer
  • What Does It Mean to Submit by David Maxson
  • Like a Tree by Jesse Flowers
  • King chooses best artist representation of peace

When We Hurt

by Joseph Casimier

 

Whether you've a Christian or not, there comes a time when all of us will suffer. We hurt because we're human. Whether male or female, all may experience physical and emotional pain.

The pain, tears, heartache, loneliness, grief, sorrow, broken hearts, dysfunctional and broken homes, and all that's gone wrong in this world is the result of sin. There are times it seems when the devil will make every effort to bring harm to us, especially the faithful (remember Job 1:9-12?).  

If we're not careful, we may hurt ourselves, others may hurt us and the devil may lead us down into the valley of despair, discouragement, discontentment, and self pity. So, when we hurt, we need to be careful. Problems in life can be used to make us learn to trust God more and become better people. Remember what God said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you, so we may boldly say: The Lord is my helper..." (Heb 13:5-6).

 Peter wrote to Christians who were going through a "fiery trial" and saw the need to prepare them so that they might overcome whatever persecution that would come their way (1 Pet 1:5-7; 4:12). What Peter told these Christians can help us, especially when we hurt. Peter told them they needed to be impressed with the fact that Jesus suffered and they needed to follow His example. "For to this were you called because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His step" (1 Pet 2:21; cf 1 Pet.  3:18). Jesus suffered for us so that we would not have to suffer forever (Rom. 6:23; 1 Cor 5:21; Rom. 8:18). He took our place! Jesus knows when we hurt and you know what? He cares! He can feel our pain (Heb. 2:14-18; 4:14-16).

When we hurt we need to be mature and not give in to anger, bitterness or distrust. We need to resist the tempation to murmur or complain and recognize the potential and opportunities that come as a result of suffering.

It's possible that through our suffering we may lead someone to Christ. We must never forget why Jesus came and remember, too, that when we follow Him, we will hurt too, but not forever (Rom 8:18). 

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The Snowbird
by Caroline Spencer

He sits in winter's sleet, and the snow is round his feet,
But he cares not for the cold;
For his little cheerful heart thinks the snow as fair a part
As the summer's green and gold. 
On the branches bare and brown, with their crystals for a crown,
Sits the tiny winter bird;
In the dark and stormy days lightening the lonely ways
With its constant cheery word.
To his mission he is true; God has work for him to do--
With his happy song to cheer;
In his sweet life's simple speech lessons high and glad to teach
In the dark days of the year.
Oh his little heart is strong, and he never thinks it wrong
That to him this lot is given;
Never envies birds that sing in the summer or the spring
Underneath a sunny heaven.
So he is a teacher sent with a lesson of content
To all spirits that are sad;
And his song, with richest freight, comes to all the desolate,
Bidding sorrow's self be glad.
"Wouldst thou choose thy time or way?" seems the blithesome tune to say--
"God hath ordered these for thee;
Where thy life can praise Him best He hath set thee; only rest
And His purpose thou shalt see."
Ye around whose life the snow lieth heavily and low,
Take a lesson from the bird;
As God giveth you to say, strive to charm the gloom away,
Whether heeded or unheard.
God hath singers, many a one, that can praise Him in the sun,
As the happy cherubim;
But I think the songs they raise who are toilers in dark ways
Are a sweeter sound to Him.
 Not by outer joy and sweetness does He judge of life's completeness,
But by surer test of worth;
It may be he gives the grace of his heavens highest place
To the lowest of the earth. 

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What Saves Us?

by Richard Thetford

It is very interesting to note that the Bible mentions several things that man is saved by. We are saved by baptism, but that is not the only thing that saves us. Baptism is a piece to the overall puzzle of those things which God says saves us. The Bible teaches that man is saved by:


hope (Romans 8:24
grace (Ephesians 2:8)
faith (Acts 16:31)
mercy (Titus 3:5)
words Acts 11:14)
baptism (1 Peter 3:21)
the word (James 1:21)
the truth (John 8:32)
hearing (John 5:24)
obedience (Hebrews 5:9)
the gospel (Romans 1:16-17)
knowledge (1 Timothy 2:4)
belief and baptism (Mark 16:16)
repentance and baptism (Acts 2:38)
calling on the name of the Lord (Romans 10:13)
the washing of regeneration (Titus 3:5)
being born of water and the Spirit (John 3:5)
faithfulness (Revelation 2:10
God (1 Timothy 2:3-4)
Jesus Christ (Matthew 1:21)
the Holy Spirit (2 Thessalonians 2:13-14)
the blood of Jesus (Matthew 26:28)


Jesus stated very plainly “Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven” (Matthew 7:21). All of the things above “saves us.” Are we ready to accept what Jesus said and do the will of the Father? Our eternity (heaven or hell) will be determined by Christ (John 12:48). It is important that we make the right choice and listen to and then obey the words of God!
http://richardthetford.blogspot.com/

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"We Shall Not All Sleep, But We Shall All Be Changed"

Jon W. Quinn

1 Corinthians 15:50-52

The Lord revealed much about the life to come, but certainly there are many things left unrevealed about it as well. We'll just have to wait until that day our faith becomes sight and we see for ourselves the magnitude of what God has planned for us. For now, we glimpse into eternity through the Scriptures, and await with anticipation our departure for new horizons.

The Holy Spirit revealed through the apostle Paul something that we may well have surmised even if He hadn't. But because it is a matter of revelation, we do not need to guess about it. It concerns the nature of our bodies.

Heaven is eternal. The bodies we have now are not. Flesh and blood just does not hold up very well... what would we look like after ten thousand years? Have you seen pictures of King Tut's mummy? And he's a young three thousand years old.

I don't think that flesh and blood would do all that well in heaven. But not to worry. Paul wrote the following concerning this:

"Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor the perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold, I tell you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed." (1 Corinthians 15:50-52).

God's spiritual children, the redeemed of the ages who have lived by faith, will rise to meet the Lord in the air clothed in changed bodies. No longer flesh and blood, but something far superior in nature and glory. The dead will be changed and rise, followed by those who are alive at Christ's coming (1 Thessalonians 4:14-17). Our spirits will be dressed in appropriate attire when we enter into eternity.

What will we look like? We do not know, but we do know we will share Jesus' glory; we'll be like Him (1 John 3:2). Jesus described the righteous as shining "forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father." (Matthew 13:43). But I cannot really tell you what size of shoes to buy, or even if you'll need any. That's okay though, because this world's shoes, like our bodies, wear out too.

Consider the limited, but revealing description of our new bodies as given by Paul in this context:

"So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown a perishable body, it is raised an imperishable body; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body." (1 Corinthian 15:42-44).

Raised Imperishable

"It is sown a perishable body, it is raised an imperishable body." (1 Corinthians 15:42).

When we enter into heaven, it will be with imperishable or incorruptible bodies. No longer flesh and blood, these bodies will be indestructible. Ten thousand years will have no effect on them at all.

Once when Paul was describing our eternal reward, he used athletic games as an illustration. Instead of a gold medal, the victor in first century games won, in addition to fame, a crown of olive branches, which was placed on his head by the presiding official at the awards ceremony. But it would not be long until the crown faded as the leaves crumpled and fell off. All that would remain would be the memory of the thrill of victory (1 Corinthians 9:24,25).

But our reward, or "crown" does not whither away. It is everlasting. So, to enjoy it, our bodies need to match. We are therefore raised imperishable, and those who are alive are simply changed "in a twinkling of an eye" (cf. Romans 2:6,7; 1 Peter 1:4).

Raised In Glory
"...it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; (1 Corinthians 15:43).

The word "glory" means "splendor", "radiance" or "honor". In this text, it is contrasted with the word "dishonor" which means "disgrace" or "shame". Our physical bodies, when lowered into the ground, are but empty shells no longer capable of sustaining our spirits. Jesus once described the hypocrisy of the Pharisees as "whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanliness." (Matthew 23:27). It would be no great reward to for these bodies to be raised if they were not also to be changed.

But they will be changed into new, radiant bodies. We have already noticed Jesus' description of them "shining forth as the sun." We now live in "the hope of glory" which is to one day "gain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ." (Colossians 1:27; 2 Thessalonians 2:14). In our resurrection we will be "set free from its (the physical realm) slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God." (Romans 8:21).

Raised In Power
"...it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; (1 Corinthians 15:43b).

The word for "power" means "might", "ability" or "force". This suggests a body with greatly increased capabilities. If given the option, most of us would agree with the song that said, "I'd rather be a sparrow than a snail" for this precise reason.

There are probably things in heaven to enjoy that we could not even begin to grasp in our present state. We are much too frail and weak. I am certain that this is so. For example, if I were to look upon the face of God with these eyes I would perish (Exodus 33:20; 1 Timothy 6:16). But with our new bodies which will possess far greater abilities, we shall look upon God's face with new eyes and rejoice (Revelation 22:4,5).

I suppose it is somewhat like a donkey listening to a beautiful music arrangement. There is not much appreciation for it. It's not the donkey's fault. He just is not equipped with what is necessary to enjoy good music. It does not lift his spirits and make him happy. He does not say to himself, "I wish I could play the piano like that!" Neither are we presently equipped to exult in all the glories of heaven, but with our change at the resurrection, we shall be because we shall be like Jesus.

Raised A Spiritual Body
"...it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body." (1 Corinthians 15:44).

Again, a contrast is made between what we are now and what we shall be. We live in a natural system now. This creation has many limitations, as we observed earlier (re: Romans 8:18-25). There is a new system on the way, and we will need spiritual, not natural, bodies to experience it.

Peter spoke of this new system of order. After describing the destruction and removal of this present natural system (2 Peter 3:8-12), he says, "But according to His promise we are looking for a new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells." (2 Peter 3:13). This is a whole new system. The new earth is not this old natural earth; for it will be destroyed with intense heat". John said it will "pass away" (Revelation 21:1). The Hebrew writer said that the earth will be removed" so that other, eternal things may take its place (Hebrews 12:26-29).

This new system is spiritual in nature, and so, God will replace our natural bodies with spiritual bodies. With these new bodies, not of flesh and blood, we shall be ready, at long last, to go home.

From Expository Files 5.12; December 1998

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Do Not Be Afraid... Fear God!
by Jon Quinn

Moses said to the people, "Do not be afraid; for God has come in order to test you, and in order that the fear of Him may remain with you, so that you may not sin." (Exodus 20:20). This is an interesting verse, and the one from which the title of this article is taken. At first glance, the title suggests a paradox in the counsel Moses gave to the people. "Do not be afraid" and "fear of Him" almost seems to be at odds with one another. They are not; rather, they compliment one another.

"Afraid" Versus "Fear"
It helps to understand that there are different kinds of "fear". Sometimes it means to be cowardly. At other times it means to be terrified. At other times it means to have a reverent respect. When it comes to fearing the Lord, usually the Bible is using "fear" in the sense of reverential fear; to stand in awe of God. We need this kind of fear to be pleasing to Him. The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; A good understanding have all those who do His commandments; His praise endures forever. (Psalm 111:10; see also Ecclesiastes 12:13). However, the Bible also tells us that to face God in judgment after a life of unrepentant sin will cause us to have "fear" in the sense of terror (Hebrews 10:26-31). This is a fear we should seek to avoid, and by God's grace through our faith, we will avoid.

Practical Fear
Practical fear is understanding the consequences of certain actions and therefore avoiding them. As an old song says, "That's why you don't tug on Superman's cape" and "You don't pull the mask off the ole' Lone Ranger". A lack of this kind of fear can cause people to behave recklessly. A park ranger at the Grand Canyon once explained to a group of tourists why they should not show off by letting their legs dangle over the sides of the cliff, "We lose several a year" , he said. This kind of fear is not a negative thing at all. It is the fool who "has no fear" in this regard. And when it comes to the Lord and His commandments, again, it is foolish to "have no fear" in this sense. Practical fear comes hand in hand with knowledge. A baby has to be watched because he or she has not learned the consequences of dangerous behavior. On the spiritual side concerning our relationship with God, one who has fear understands the consequences of disobeying God and is not willing to, so to speak, "dangle his/her legs over the cliff" by testing God with sinful behavior. Instead, one who has practical fear seeks to avoid sin and neglect, and walk the path that God has appointed. Such a one appreciates God's mercy and obeys His covenant (2 Peter 3:9,14,15; Romans 11:33-36).

Anxiety
Anxiety is also a type of fear. Anxiety is stress which comes from a lack of trust in God. Many times, it expresses itself in terms of hopeless despair and is often self incriminating. One may hold that he is inadequate for the tasks of life, and especially during times of difficulty become cynical and defeatist. Jesus said that there was no room for this kind of fear in the lives of His disciples. "For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? " (Matthew 6:25; see 6:25-34). A better comprehension of God's plan, what things are most important, the setting of higher goals and an unswerving trust in the love, care, power and wisdom of God to bring our lives to their very best possible conclusion here and to glory in eternity will help overcome anxiety.

No Fear
Fearlessness is often thought of as a very positive trait. It isn't, at least not always. We have already discussed the dangers of having no fear when it leads to reckless and thoughtless actions. It also brings disaster when one has no fear of the Lord. When one ignores the warnings of living with contempt for God's word, he or she is inviting disaster. How accurate is the Psalmists portrayal of such a one! Transgression speaks to the ungodly within his heart; There is no fear of God before his eyes. For it flatters him in his own eyes concerning the discovery of his iniquity and the hatred of it. The words of his mouth are wickedness and deceit; he has ceased to be wise and to do good. He plans wickedness upon his bed; he sets himself on a path that is not good; He does not despise evil. (Psalm 36:1-4). Such a one is quite willing to flirt with disaster because of a lack of fear. Without repentance, the disaster will become permanent.

Holy Fear
One who has proper respect for Almighty God possesses a holy and righteous fear which is good, clean and right. It brings about a proper regard for the will of God in everyday living. In times of trouble, it leads one to flee to the Rock of refuge we have in God. Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear Him, on those who hope for His lovingkindess, To deliver their soul from death and to keep them alive in famine. Our soul waits for the LORD; He is our help and our shield. For our heart rejoices in  Him, because we trust in His holy name. Let Your lovingkindness, O LORD, be upon us, according as we have hoped in You. (Psalm 33:18-22).This kind of fear lives and speaks according to the Lord's will. It may or may not be popular in society to take a moral, doctrinal or spiritual stand based on the Bible's teachings on a certain issue, but that is where one who fears the Lord chooses to stand (2 Timothy 4:2). In whatever culture and time, the Bible tells us who is acceptable unto God. Opening his mouth, Peter said: "I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him. (Acts 10:34,35).

Love is a motivator in choosing to live our lives for God, but so is the right kind of fear. In fact, the right kind of love will cast out the wrong kind of fear. By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. (1 John 4:17-18).  Fear God. Keep His commandments.

From Expository Files 10.8; August 2003
http://www.bible.ca

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Jesus is Always There 

Opening the Door Daily Devotion/May 17, 2012

David Maxson

Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. Hebrews 7:25

I read an article about customer service which revealed that two thirds of the respondants in a survey said that in the past year they had hung up the phone while waiting on customer service at least one time.

You know this frustration. You call with a simple problem; are directed to an endless phone tree that seems to get you not a bit closer to answering your questions; work through a mindless FAQ list; and then finally give up on speaking to a live person after waiting on hold for what seems like an eternity!

And as frustrating as waiting on hold can be, what is even worse is when you finally talk to a live person, you realize this person can't really help at all. They are both incompetant and powerless. They lack the knowledge to inform you on what to do, and even if they did have some knowledge they don't have the authority to make the changes necessary to help you out.

 What a comfort to know that you have Jesus, the Son of God, who is always there for you and me, sitting at the right hand of God interceding for us. He does this with no time off. He's busy 24-7-365. He's never indifferent. He'll never stop listening. He never gets tired. And He'll never, ever put you on hold.

 What a friend we have in Jesus! Thank You, Father, for giving us that friend!

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Suffering

Richard Thetford


Job 5:7 tells us: "Man is born to trouble as surely as sparks fly upward." Yes, suffering is the burden of humanity.


Perhaps, your heart is aching today, and you say, "What can I do with this burden?" Often God allows us to have burdens to exercise our faith. People who run from problems, for example, those who try to fill the valleys in their lives with drugs or alcohol, are really missing a blessing.


God works to make us more valuable through difficulties and hardships. A bar of iron may be worth $5.00. Make it into horseshoes, and it will be worth $10.00. Make it into needles, and it might be worth hundreds of dollars. Make it into balance wheels for watches and its value might run to tens of thousands of dollars. To be worth more, it has to be refined, superheated, drawn out, and purified.


Our faith is like that; it grows under pressure (disappointments, trials, difficulties) far more than when things are comfortable. Paul underlined this in Romans chapter 5 where he tells us to rejoice in our sufferings because they are good for us. They teach us patience, and patience develops strength of character and helps us to trust God more each time we exercise it until, finally, our faith and hope are strong and steady.


Accordingly, we're able to hold our heads high no matter what happens. We know all is well because God loves us. Therefore, strengthen your faith, bear your burden gracefully; trust in God, and He will see you through to the end.

via http://www.thetfordcountry.com

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“All Things Work Together for Good…”—Controversy or Comfort?

By Wayne Jackson

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28 KJV).

This passage is surely one of the most precious to the child of God, fondly embraced in times of trial. And yet, it appears to be seriously misunderstood by many—in a host of particulars. Restoration scholar Moses E. Lard once described it and its companion verses as a battlefield upon which the conflict has been waged “hot and long” (n.d., 279).

The careful student will notice that the text varies slightly in some of the newer translations. The New International Version, for example, renders the passage this way:

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose (cf. The New American Standard Bible, William Beck’s An American Translation, and Hugo McCord’s New Testament Translation).

The difference in the renditions lies in the fact that some of the ancient Greek manuscripts vary. It is beyond the scope of this article to probe that issue; however, the reader can find a brief and lucid discussion of the data in Ralph Earle’s, Word Meanings in the New Testament (2000, 181). The differences are of no practical moment.

God’s Providential Activity

Romans 8:28 is a key biblical passage having to do with the exalted theme of God’s providential activity in this world. It is only appropriate, therefore, that we introduce this study with a brief comment on that theme. Elsewhere we have discussed the subject in much greater detail (see A Study of Divine Providence ; Jackson 1983, 135-145).

The English word “providence” derives from a compound Latin term that means “to see beforehand.” Theologians employ this word to represent the biblical truth that God was able see the ultimate accomplishment of his goal for the human family, even before the foundation of the world. Accordingly, he has worked in the events of history to effect the ultimate realization of the divine purpose.

In providence Jehovah works through natural law. This stands in contrast to the extraordinary manifestations of the Lord via miracles. A miracle suspends natural law in a given circumstance; providential activity utilizes natural law. God is at work, however, in either instance. A simple illustration will reveal the difference.

For forty years Jehovah fed Israel in the wilderness of Sinai with manna that was dropped directly from heaven (Exodus 16:15). That was a miracle. Today, God provides our food (Matthew 6:11; Acts 14:17; Philippians 4:19), but he does so through natural processes. That is providence.

It is sometimes convenient to classify providence under the following headings:

General Providence – By this expression we refer to the general maintenance of the universe for the welfare of humanity (cf. Matthew 6:26; Colossians 1:17; Hebrews 1:3).

Special Providence – In cases of special providence, the Lord works particularly on behalf of his people—collectively or individually. He used Esther as a means of preserving the nation of Israel (see Esther 4:14), and he employed a Persian king, Cyrus, as an instrument for the deliverance of the Hebrews from Babylonian captivity (Isaiah 44:28; 45:1-7).

Having made these preliminary observations, we must note that it is the view of most conservative Bible scholars that Romans 8:28 is a passage that significantly fits into the theme of God’s providential activity. We will now examine several key elements within this important passage.

“We Know”

The expression “we know” exudes an air of confidence. In a context where suffering is a major portion of the discussion, it is important that the apostle establishes the truth that hardships in the life of the Christian do not imply that God is unconcerned with his plight. One of the major points of focus in the narrative seems to be this: how does one reconcile the seeming discrepancy between the status of being children of God and the reality of Christian suffering (v. 17)? The truth of the matter is, the Lord is pursuing a plan that is far above our limited ability to comprehend. In spite of life’s hardships, we must be able to say we know he is a providential companion in our lives.

We know that Jehovah is working in our lives because divine revelation testifies of such. The examples of biblical history establish it, and this glorious truth is set forth emphatically in such passages as the very one under consideration.

Many expositors would cite experience as well (cf. Hendriksen 1980, 279). But to argue providence on the basis of experience is a slippery slope—because experience is so subjective. Even in a case where providence is certain (from a consideration of the divine record), Mordecai could only ask of Esther: “Who knows whether or not you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14). And Paul could but comment to Philemon—of mysterious events in the life of Onesimus: “Perhaps he was therefore parted from you for a season, that you should have him for ever” (Philemon 15).

Confident knowledge, therefore, is grounded in objective revelation—not subjective speculation.

“All Things”

Let us attempt to put into balance one of the more crucial phrases of the text: “all things.” What does this include? What does it not include?

(1) It is not necessary to conclude that the “all” of “all things” is absolutely unlimited in scope. Frequently it is the case in biblical literature that the use of “all” is a figure known as a synecdoche, whereby the whole is put for a part. When Matthew records that the people of “all” Judea, and “all” the region in the vicinity of the Jordan were immersed by John (Matthew 3:5), it is obvious that the term “all” is not to be pressed literally. Elsewhere we are told that “all the people” received John’s baptism, and thereby “justified God” (Luke 7:29-30). And yet, within the same context the reader is informed that the Pharisees and the lawyers did not accept John’s baptism. “All” does not always mean “all.”

In 1 Corinthians 2:15, Paul affirmed that the “spiritual man,” i.e., the man who possesses a supernatural measure of the Holy Spirit, is able to “judge all things.” The Greek verb is anakrino, which suggests the idea of determining the true value of an object. Does this mean that the man so described was supernaturally qualified to judge livestock, the value of precious metals, or a variety of other objects? Or is the expression “all things” limited to the immediate context (cf. Colossians 1:20; Ephesians 1:11)? The answer is too obvious to require expression.

(2) Similarly, the “all things” of Romans 8:28 must be qualified by the context in which it is found. The portion of Paul’s Roman letter in which this phrase occurs focuses upon the presence of suffering in the saint’s life. The apostle notes, for example, that if “we suffer with him,” such is of no abiding import, because, ultimately, we also will be “glorified with him” (8:17). Paul mentions that the “sufferings [the plural suggesting a diversity] of this present time [earthly existence] are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed” eventually (v. 18).

The apostle observes that the entire creation, in the divine scheme of things, has been subjected to a “vanity,” i.e., a bondage characterized by corruption (vv. 20-21). There is groaning and pain associated with this current state of man’s existence (v. 22), and from that groaning the Christian is not exempt (v. 23). The child of God, therefore, must exercise patience under these circumstances (v. 25), praying for Heaven’s blessings in the meantime. In his distressed state, the Christian’s prayer efforts may be pursued in pain and without precise knowledge. Never mind; the Spirit of God will assist the stumbling petitioner (vv. 26-27). (See The Intercession of the Spirit.)

It is out of this background that Paul then says: “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to his purpose” (NASB).

(3) But the sacred writer continues. He asks: What then shall we say about “these things”? (v. 31). He argues that if God has not held back the greatest gift of all—his own son—does it not stand to reason that he will provide for us “all things” necessary for our spiritual welfare, thus providentially caring for us? (v. 32).

Then, in a series of pointed questions, Paul asks: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ [i.e., the love Christ has for us]?” Shall tribulation, or anguish, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? No; none of these hardships—no force, visible or invisible—can frustrate the divine plan of Almighty God (vv. 35-39).

This is the meaning of “all things” in context.

We must now raise this question: is there anything in the view here set forth that is at variance with information contained elsewhere in the sacred writings? We respectfully suggest there is not. Rather, there are multiple texts that buttress our affirmation.

Before we are prepared to discuss some of these cases, a brief observation is in order. It should be noted that Romans 8:28 does not affirm that God causes afflictions to occur. The Lord is not the source of earth’s ills, or those that befall his people. He permits them, but he does not generate them, necessarily. There is a difference. (There were times, of course, in the Old Testament when the Lord brought hardships upon his own people because of their sins [cf. Judges 6:1]. But even these episodes were designed to be benevolent in nature.)

But we must comment further regarding the limitations of the “all things.” Note several items:

(1) One should not interpret everything that happens as an instance of providence. There are thousands of trivial things that may not result necessarily from divine activity, or work to one’s good. The prospect of providential activity is an exciting potential, but providence is not a rote, mechanistic process that is an automatic cause-and-effect situation.

(2) Providence does not overrule one’s free will. If a person chooses to rebel against the Creator and he turns away from the Savior, God will not coerce him, even through providential means, into submission. One must be honest, open, pliable, and submissive to Heaven’s will. Jehovah respects the volitional constitution with which he has endowed—even honored—us.

(3) One could never rationalize: “Since God works ‘all things’ for my good, I do not need to refrain from sin, for the Lord will use even evil for my ultimate welfare” (cf. Romans 6:1). A denominational preacher, some years ago, in attempting to defend the Calvinistic dogma of “once-saved, always-saved,” declared that he could commit adultery, and God ultimately would work it out for his good. This is a corrupt misapplication of Romans 8:28.

(4) The good that Jehovah works may not be apparent immediately. It may be years before one realizes the benefits that result from heart-breaking events. In fact, one may never—in this life—see the effect of Heaven’s beneficent hand. The patriarch Job passed through many trials as he was used as a pawn of Satan to challenge God’s integrity. Though he was delivered of his afflictions and blessed richly at the conclusion of the ordeal, we actually do not know whether or not he ever was privy, while still on earth, to why all those terrible calamities came upon him. God is still working good—whether we ever realize it or not!

(5) Finally, we must add this note: We believe that some well-meaning students have attempted to assign a forced meaning to the “all things” of this passage. They allege that the phrase refers merely to the combined elements of the plan of redemption, e.g., prophecy, types, Bible facts, commands, promises, etc. This view, we feel, is unnatural. It divorces the passage from its immediate context, and reflects, perhaps, a reactionary mode against certain erroneous ideas associated with human tragedy and the operation of God. In our judgment, this viewpoint is not supported by the evidence.

“Work Together”

The verb “work together” (sunergeo) is an active voice, present tense form, which indicates that the activity orchestrated by God is ongoing. The Lord is as providentially active on behalf of his people today as he was in biblical times.

Too, the compound elements of the verb suggest an intricate plan whose components are harmoniously operating toward a grand conclusion. (For a discussion of the success of this heavenly plan, see the author’s comments published elsewhere [Jackson 2000, 197-200].)

“For Good”

Jehovah allows adverse circumstances to work together “for good” for his people generally. The term “good” is the Greek agathos (used 112 times in the New Testament). One aspect of the word has to do with that which is “beneficial in its effect” (Vine 1991, 352), and this seems to be the thrust of the expression in this passage. God is working out things for his people that will result in their ultimate “good,” i.e., heaven. “The Christian’s career must have a good ending, because at every step in it he is in the hands of God and is carrying out the Divine purpose” (Sanday and Headlam 1902, 215). Moule says that the reference is to “the final Good . . . the fruition of God in eternal Glory” (1977, 155).

While it is not necessary to contend that God orchestrates each instance of adversity in the Christian’s life so as to bring good out of it, we do believe the Scriptures indicate that, ultimately, Heaven’s purpose will be realized—even in the hard features of life, e.g., persecutions.

We are confident that there is an encouragement in this passage which prompts the child of God to entertain a positive attitude toward the straits of life, viewing them as character building, and as mere steps to an everlasting glory.

Let us now consider some examples which we believe illustrate the principle that God, as ruler of the universe, is able to take painful circumstances, even when initiated by evil men, and work them for the good of his people.

(1) There is the case of Joseph. As a lad of seventeen years, he was sold by jealous brothers into Egyptian slavery. An evil woman lusted for him, and when he refused her advances she bore false testimony against him. He was thrown into prison where he languished for several years. But because Jehovah “was with him” (Genesis 39:21), eventually Joseph was elevated to a place of great authority. By and by, of course, he became the instrument by which the family of Jacob was received into the safety of Egypt, having been spared from a terrible famine in Canaan. All of this intricate maneuvering was providential—in view of the coming Messiah.

There were many evil attitudes and actions in this amazing chain of events—none of which God was responsible for; and yet, astoundingly, the sovereign Lord was able to implement his sacred purpose in all of these distressing matters. One of the most breathtaking verses in the entire book of Genesis is that which records the words of Joseph at the twilight of his life. To his brothers, he confided: “And as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive” (Genesis 50:20).

(2) In the divine scheme of things, it was the will of God that the Messiah should descend from the tribe of Judah—a tribe that was to wield the “scepter” of a kingly administration (Genesis 49:10). And yet, in the waning days of the judges, when Israel grew weary of Jehovah’s theocratic reign over them, they sought a ruler of their own fashion (1 Samuel 8:6-7), that they might be more heathenish than divine.

The first man to be elevated to the role of king was Saul, the son of Kish. However, he was not from the tribe of Judah; rather, he was of Benjamin (1 Samuel 9:1). God selected him as Israel’s ruler, acceding to their demands (8:22), not because he was ideal, but because he was the very sort of man they wanted—a strong and courageous military leader who could do for them what they felt the Lord had not done! But the prophet Hosea later puts the matter into clearer focus when, on behalf of Jehovah, he enunciates this principle: “I have given you a king in my anger, and have taken him away in my wrath” (13:11).

That does not mean that God is impulsively “angry,” as men sometimes are. No, this reflects a figure of speech known as anthropopathism, whereby a human emotion is attributed to deity in order to emphasize a point. The term is designed to highlight the Lord’s intense disapproval of humanity’s desire to be free of divine restraint.

Even before Saul received his anointing as monarch, Jehovah, through Samuel, warned the Hebrews of the dark days that lay ahead—those distressing times that would be characteristic of Saul’s reign (see 1 Samuel 8:10ff—especially note the phrase “the manner of the king” [v. 11]).

Now here is a crucial point: God was not responsible for bringing a king to the throne. Nor was he responsible for the wicked, headstrong temperament of the surly ruler. Nevertheless, the Lord was able to use even the weaknesses of a man like Saul so as to prepare the way for David’s eventual ascension to the throne. It was, at this historical point, that a lineage from Judah was set in place that would facilitate the fulfillment of Genesis 49:10. And so the less-than-desirable administration of Saul was brilliantly employed by the all-powerful God to bring about a higher good.

(3) The New Testament record contains similar examples. For instance, following the martyrdom of Stephen, a vicious persecution was unleashed against the newly established family of Christ. It was led by no less of a foe than Saul of Tarsus, whose unholy ambition was to exterminate the cause of Jesus the Nazarene (cf. Acts 8:3; 9:1). Disciples fled from Jerusalem and went throughout Judea and Samaria. But everywhere they went, they were “preaching the word” (8:4). God turned adversity into victory. Trials can fuel evangelistic fervor. Checkmate!

(4) When Paul concluded his third missionary campaign, he went to Jerusalem, bearing a collection of money from Asian and European churches to be conveyed to needy folks in Judea (Romans 15:25ff; 1 Corinthians 16:2ff; 2 Corinthians 8-9).

While in the holy city, the apostle was falsely accused of defiling the temple (by escorting a Gentile into the sacred area which was for Jews exclusively). Paul was arrested and abused. He was subsequently taken to Caesarea where he was imprisoned for two years. Eventually, he appealed his case to Caesar and, after a harrowing voyage, finally arrived in Rome. For two years he labored under house arrest, awaiting the disposition of his case (Acts 28).

During his two-year confinement, he continued to proclaim the gospel—quite obviously with considerable success. The apostle’s influence reached even into Caesar’s “household” (Philippians 4:22). Some of the details of these days may be learned from incidental references in the books of Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon—which he penned during this two-year span.

From the first chapter of Philippians it becomes apparent that, during this time frame, some of the brethren in Rome became envious of Paul’s successes and, incredibly, sought to “raise up affliction” for the noble apostle (1:17).

It is at this point that we must remind ourselves again that God was not responsible for any of these evils that befell his ambassador to the Gentiles. God did not cause the riot in Jerusalem. God did not have his apostle thrown into prison. God did not generate the malicious accusations against Paul. And God did not instill within certain brethren this unconscionable desire to create hardship for Paul in Rome. Yet, somehow, the Lord was able to “work” all these “things” so that they accommodated the “progress of the gospel” (1:12).

Two words are of special interest in this passage: First, Paul says that the things which happened to him have “fallen out” (ASV), or “turned out” (KJV), to the progress of the gospel. The verb is erchomai, which literally means “to come.” Here the sense is “resulted” (Arndt and Gingrich 1967, 311). The perfect tense form suggests an abiding blessing.

Second, there is the interesting term “progress” (prokope). The word is a compound form consisting of pro (toward) and kopto (to cut). Barclay described the term as depicting the work of “cutting away” the trees and undergrowth, as in the case of the preparation necessary for an advancing army (1959, 24-25).

What Paul is suggesting in this text, therefore, is this: In spite of the fact that many seemingly adverse elements have conspired to deter his ministry, these events have not frustrated the divine plan for dispersing the gospel. Rather, they have actually facilitated the growth of the Christian movement. They worked not for evil, but for good. How very thrilling are the providential operations of the Almighty. Who can stay his hand? (cf. Daniel 4:35).

And so as a sort of summary of this section of our essay, we might ask: how is God working good by means of the heartaches and disappointments that come to us in life?

(1) He is working good in helping us to build character.

Count it all joy, my brethren, when you fall into manifold temptations; knowing that the proving of your faith worketh patience. And let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and entire, lacking in nothing" (James 1:2-4).

(2) He does us good by opening doors of service.

But I will remain at Ephesus until Pentecost; for a great door and effectual is opened unto me, and there are many adversaries (1 Corinthians 16:8-9).

(3) He does us good by allowing us to glorify him. The case of Job is a prime example. “Jehovah gave, and Jehovah has taken away; blessed be the name of Jehovah” (Job 1:21).

“For Those Who Love God”

The apostle now speaks to the issue of who it is that is in receipt of this divine favor. It is to those who “love God,” and who “are called according to his purpose.” Actually, to use a figure of speech, these are two sides of the same coin.

Considering the human side of the equation, the promise of the passage is to those who “love” God. The term is a participle form of the verb agapao. It has been observed by scholars that the New Testament use of this word raises it to a level beyond that which was employed in secular Greek, and even in the Greek version of the Old Testament (LXX). Agapao has been described as “a calculated disposition of regard and a pious inclination.” Nigel Turner says that in the teaching of Jesus it implies “being unconditionally available; it may demand the sacrifice of all that is humanly dear” (Turner 1982, 263, 265). Other scholars have noted that agapao “has God for its primary object, and expresses itself first of all in implicit obedience to His commandments, John 14:15, 21, 23; 15:10; 1 John 2:5; 5:3; 2 John 6. Self-will, that is, self-pleasing, is the negation of love to God” (Hogg and Vine 1997, 79).

The present tense form in this text indicates that those who live in the hope of this passage are the habitual God-lovers. Love is not a fleeting emotion; it is a way of life. The bottom-line truth is simple: loving God means doing what he says. The faith that avails is that which works through love (Galatians 5:6). Or, as the thought might be expressed otherwise: availing faith is that which is constantly energized (a present participle) by love.

“Called According to His Purpose”

The opposite side of this coin reveals the divine perspective. In apposition to the phrase “those who love God” is this expression: “who are called according to his purpose.” Several things are implied:

(1) The Christian’s hope is grounded in God; it is he who initiates the “call” (cf. Acts 2:39).

(2) Heaven’s call is by means of the gospel message (2 Thessalonians 2:14).

(3) Acceptance of the call must be in a spirit of deep humility (1 Corinthians 1:26).

(4) The “calling” is answered when one, in penitent faith, responds to the command to be immersed in water. At this point he enters the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:13), thus becoming a member of Christ’s church (Colossians 1:18, 24). The church is, in fact, “the called-out” (ekklesia) body.

(5) One must persistently walk “worthily” of that noble calling (Ephesians 4:1).

All of this, of course, is in harmony with the divine purpose, which was planned from the very commencement of time (Ephesians 3:11).

Conclusion

There is great practical value in savoring the flavor of Romans 8:28.

(1) An understanding of this text helps the Christian to avoid the murmuring mode, into which it is so easy to slip. The child of God must ever seek to remember that the Lord allows suffering as a means of refining human character.

(2) The wounds of life are “working together” to educate us and to bring us closer to God. (For further study, see the author’s material, "Getting a Grip On Suffering [Jackson 1998, 97-106].)

(3) The “nudgings” of this vale of tears help us keep our focus on eternity—if we are wise enough to decipher the language.

(4) The day will come eventually when the redeemed saint will look back upon the “bruises” received in the “university of hard knocks,” and thank the Creator for the discipline rendered, acknowledging that without it, heaven might never have been gained.

http://www.christiancourier.com

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Baptism and the Blood 

by T. Doy Moyer

The blood of Jesus saves us from our sins: the blood was "shed for many for the remission of sins" (Matthew 26:28). What does baptism have to do with the blood?

Peter preached, "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost" (Acts 2:38). Note that the expression "for remission of sins" is the same as in Matthew 26:28. Jesus shed His blood for the remission of sins. How can both be true?

The answer is in Romans 6:3-4: "Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life." This tells us that when we are baptized into Christ we are baptized into His death. We contact Christ's blood when we obey the gospel and are baptized into Christ.

What saves us? The blood of Jesus. How do we avail ourselves of the blood? Through baptism into Christ. Is baptism a work of our own merit? No. We simply must submit to the will of God. Now, how can anyone deny the necessity of baptism?

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What does it mean to submit?

 

"Which commandment is the most important of all?" Jesus answered, "The most important is, 'Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.'" Mark 12:28-30

What does it mean to submit?

The story is told about a farmer who gave his son plans for a farm. A house, a barn, a fence, and a well were included in these plans. Where all these things were to go on the property was clearly marked in the plans.

The son took those plans and put the house, fence, and barn right where his father asked him, but when he looked at the location of the well, it seemed to be too far from the house, so he dug the well right next to the house.

The question is, When did the son submit to his father?

The answer is, NEVER! When he put the house, the barn, and the fence where his father asked he was not submitting to his father's will, he simply agreed with what him in those cases.

Are we submitting to God or do we just happen to agree with him sometimes? Have we submitted to God's design for worship, organization, and work in the church or does God's way just happen to suit our preferences? Have we submitted to God's will concerning patience and forbearance? Turning the other cheek? Meekness? Forgiveness? Do we follow God only when he agrees with what we want to do anyway? Do we obey only when it is convenient?

The bottom line is this: What do we do when God's instructions just don't make sense?

Lord God, give us a submissive heart. Help us to trust your wisdom in everything.

David Maxson from "Opening the Door Daily Devotion"

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Like a Tree

Jesse Flowers

In three very important areas the Bible reveals that the godly individual is "like a tree."

1) The man who meditates day and night in God’s law "shall be like a tree" (Psalm 1:2-3). When we consistently spend time studying and reflecting upon the Word of God it makes us stronger in our faith and knowledge (2 Tim. 2:15; 2 Peter 3:18).

This regular meditation in inspired Scripture will cause fruit to be born in our lives (v. 3; Luke 8:15; John 15:2). Reading and applying the Bible will cause our way to prosper (v. 3; James 1:25). So are you "like a tree" in this way? Do you have spiritual strength and deep roots of faith because your "delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law" you meditate "day and night"?

2) The man who trusts in the LORD "shall be like a tree" (Jeremiah 17:7-8). God stated in the previous verse that "the man who trusts in man...shall be like a shrub in the desert" (vv. 5-6). What a difference it will make in our lives if we make flesh our strength or the God who created all things! We need to heed the admonition given in the Book of Proverbs.

"Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths" (3:5-6). Are you "like a tree" or "like a shrub" in the desert? It depends on where you’ve placed your trust.

3) The man whose hope is in the LORD "shall be like a tree" (Jeremiah 17:7-8). To hope in anyone or anything else in this life is futile. There is only "one hope" (Eph. 4:4). It is a hope that will not disappoint (Romans 5:5). This hope is "an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast" (Hebrews 6:19). This hope that we have in the Lord will help us to maintain purity in our lives (I John 3:3). Heaven is the most important goal of all, so let’s "lay hold of the hope set before us" (Heb. 6:18). Is your hope in the Lord? If it is not, then you are without hope!

May each one of us be "like a tree" in these three vital areas!

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There once was a King who offered a prize to the artist who would paint the best picture of peace. Many artists tried. The King looked at all the pictures, but there were only two he really liked, and he had to choose between them.

One picture was of a calm lake. The lake was a perfect mirror for the peaceful towering mountains all around it. Overhead was a blue sky with fluffy white clouds. All who saw this picture thought that it was a perfect picture of peace.

The second picture had mountains, too. But these were rugged and bare. Above was an angry sky from which rain fell, and in which lightning played. Down the side of the mountain tumbled a foaming waterfall. This did not look peaceful at all. But when the King looked further, he saw behind the waterfall a tiny bush growing in a crack in the rock. In the plant a mother bird had built her nest. There, in the midst of the rush of angry water, sat the mother bird on her nest... a picture of perfect peace.

Which picture won the prize? The King chose the second picture. Why? "Because," explained the King, "peace does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work. Peace means to be in the midst of all those things and still be calm in your spirit. That is the real meaning of peace."

Author unknown




http://ourhopeonline.com

November 2017