The Epistle to the Hebrews–exalting Jesus Christ

ANNOUNCING A SERIES ON THE EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS

I plan to post insights from a meditative study of the epistle based on the New American Standard Bible, the Modern Young’s Literal Translation, and my own literal translation.

The Epistle to the Hebrews has long been one of my favorite New Testament books. It majors heavily in doctrine and is quite clear about the divinity of God’s Son Who called Himself the Son of Man.  It was a required course for New Testament majors at the seminary I attended. The inspired author also emphasized the importance of faith throughout.

R. C. H. Lenski in his fine commentary The Interpretation of the Epistle to the Hebrews and of the Epistle of James provides a helpful introduction.  Here is a brief summary:

This book exalts the person and work of Jesus Christ and describes His work more than any other book in the Bible (the Gospels portray; this book explains).

It is for all the church, and its truths apply to all Christians.  But it appears to have been addressed to Jewish believers mainly, although there were no doubt many Gentile believers among its readers.

Those believers had endured the terror of AD 64, the year of Nero’s burning of Rome. Peter was dead, and Paul had been removed, and Christianity had been branded as criminal.  Apparently some among the epistle’s readers had advised returning to  the Jewish religion, which itself was still legal in Rome and through the empire and therefore safe.

 Andrew Murray in his exposition of Hebrews, The Holiest of All, described the epistle as an antidote to backsliding , containing “the knowledge and the faith of what Christ and His salvation truly are.” (Pages 22-23)

The next post in this series will delve into chapter one  where not only is the deity of our Lord and Savior explicitly declared, but there are also some fascinating verses on angels and their roles of messengers and ministers to us, the heirs of salvation.

I sincerely hope you find this series both helpful and heart-warming.

Are you in God’s Perfect Will?

photo-courtesy-stuartpilbrow-@-Flickr

Ever heard that?  Or even, Are you in the absolute center of God’s will? Often the person asking such questions thinks she knows what God’s will is for you, what you should be doing with your life, and so on.

Recall Jesus words to Peter when he asked about John’s future.  Jesus told Peter, “If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow Me!” (John 21:22)

There’s a lesson in those words.  Most of us, if not all, have enough trouble figuring out what Jesus wants us to do, let alone telling someone else what He wants that other person to do. Just figuring out what God’s will is for us is plenty challenging.

Let’s take this one step further: Is it really that necessary? Now before you let that statement bother you, let’s think about it a bit.

Is God capable of leading me?  Well, of course He is, you say.  But does His leading always depend on my being able to figure it out?  Or, does He often lead us even when we are unaware of it?  In my experience He does.

I was once in a young adult fellowship gathering and a young lady asked a question.  Someone at work had asked her if she was in God’s perfect will.  Did she really know God’s plan for her life?

Now, I admit that aggravated me a little.  Not that the young lady asked about it during the fellowship gathering, but that the other person was getting meddlesome, or perhaps trying to be manipulative, and this troubled the young lady.

I think I remember correctly that my answer was along these lines.  To me, that is a business or career question.  This whole worrisome thinking about what am I called to do, what career should I pursue, and, yes, am I in God’s perfect will—is really the product of our western thinking.

And how can we really know? Granted there seem to be people who are more confident than others are that they are doing God’s will, that they have found their “calling.”  But in my experience, it’s really not cut and dry, or at least it rarely is.

On the one hand, we know God’s will from His Word.  He wants us to become Christ-like, not to sin, to live caring lives of kindness and generosity toward others, including the poor. Jesus once said, “Therefore, you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48)  He also told His disciples to abide in Him, a message for us too. (John 15:4)  Those two challenges are greater than any career.

But, on the other hand, narrowing things down to a specific career or which college I should attend or if I should date that gal (or guy) or not—can get a lot trickier.  Often in retrospect, I can see that God’s hand has been at work in my life. However, in the heat of the moment, when I have to decide between alternatives, it can be tough.

Listen: God’s plan for your life and mine is not dependent on us figuring it out and knowing it precisely and then making all the correct choices every step of the way.  God can and does lead us in spite of ourselves, our knowledge or wisdom.

If Jesus can change the entire course of Saul’s life on a Damacus road into becoming the dedicated, ardent apostle Paul most certainly was, into being a servant of the Christian church he once persecuted, He can lead you and me.

Dr. Charles Feinberg, past professor and Dean of Students at Talbot Theological Seminary once put it this way: “You either do God’s will or you do God’s will.”  In other words, God is bigger than you and me, bigger than all of us combined.  His will is an omnipotent force to reckon with.  As long as we are willing to obey, and especially if we trust Him to lead, He will.  We can count on Him.

John 7:17: “If anyone is willing to do His will, he will know of the teaching, whether it is of God or whether I speak from Myself.”  Jesus pointed out that the essential requirement for knowing that He, Jesus, spoke from God or not was being willing to do God’s will.   The challenge is being willing to obey, not having everything figured out.  To know is not based on cleverness or IQ, but on willingness.

Photo courtesy Dru Bloomfield – At Home in Scottsdale @Flickr

But I can almost hear you saying, “But how do I decide and get it right?” My advice is fairly simple:

  • Be willing to obey.  Tell God you are.
  • Pray and ask God to lead you.
  • Trust Him to lead you.
  • Fellowship with God daily, share your life with Him.
  • Then, when faced with a decision, make the best decision you can.  And always strive to do what’s right, what you know is right.

And remember: God is not overwhelmed by your decisions. If He wants you do to something, and you’re willing, He will see to it that you do.  Again, God can lead us in spite of ourselves. In fact He does that all the time.

And remember too: God’s will for your life is between God and you.

We walk by faith not by sight. (2 Corinthians 5:7).

The Gospels scare me a little, but the Epistles comfort me a lot.

Courtesy Michael Express @Flickr

I don’t mean that title across the board, totally and completely–at least the “scare” part. But those Gospels are definitely harder on me than the Epistles.
Years back, Watchman Nee in his book on Bible study (Ye Search the Scriptures), mentioned that the Gospels were harder to interpret than the other books of the New Testament.
Jesus showed us God.
But in the Gospels we have Jesus showing us what God is like, and we see in Him that God is both tough on us and loving us at the same time.  To me, Jesus is talking to us directly from God the Father, so His words portray demands that are not easy-street, for sure. that’s the scary part. And the epistles are there to help us understand what the Christian life is all about and provide some comfort along the way. The Gospels are story, the epistles exposition.
And there is the beloved Gospel of John, written in simple Greek but profoundly deep spirituality, and so powerfully conveying love. Both challenging and comforting.
A mixed message?
So we have a seemingly mixed message: God’s tough demands and His profound love.  At times one seems more emphasized over the other. Often both aspects of God’s character are evident in the same biblical passage.   
So what’s the deal?
We are here on this earth, here and now, to become what God wants us to be in Christ.  He created us in His image–a potential that we cannot even imagine completely at this point on earth.  He saved us believers by His power through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, not by our achievement or self-improvement. And He set us each on a journey of every growing intimacy with Him, His Son and the Holy Spirit.
We’re in training.
This life is a forge, a furnace, a gaultlet, and a school. We’re here to learn and become all that we can be, the fullest expression of the grace of God working within us.  So that each one of us brings praise to the glory of God’s holiness, goodness and lovingkindness–in creating us in the first place, in giving us so very much in every way, just taking into account this life alone, and also in giving us an unshakable destiny, which will be wonderful indeed.
Discipline is our friend.
As the writer puts it in Hebrews 12:7 “It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline?” 
Advice from Hebrews.
Course, later on in Hebrews, there’s some excellent advice: “Through Him [Jesus] then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name.” (13:15)
It can be hard.There are times when giving God the praise that He always deserves is a hard thing to do. It just doesn’t seem to make sense.  It takes a rather daring faith to go against circumstances and our doubts and fears. But even when it is at its most difficult, praise is always a good idea.

“Why are you in despair, O my soul? 
And why have you become disturbed within me?
Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him 
For the help of His presence.”  Psalm 42:5
The word “praise” meaning toward God, not counting other forms of the word, is mentioned at least 108 times in the Psalms alone.

Do you feel like a failure at times?

 

Courtesy h.koppdelaney @Flickr

Peter is a giant of our faith.
He was a fisherman, not highly educated. He was a leader and an evangelist and teacher. And with the Holy Spirit‘s inspiration, he wrote the wonderful and spiritually deep epistles in our New Testament.

Yet on the other hand, Peter messed up a lot.
He was outspoken, impulsive, always eager to jump into the action. Jesus could be hard on him at times, but He was always patient and forgiving and accepting.

Often I feel like Peter.
I fail daily, whether it’s at holy living or merely seeking to do what I want to do for God. I’m impulsive at times. I want to jump into things.

I so often feel like Paul’s description in Romans 7:19…
“For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want.”

The Lord commanded us to be perfect…
…as our Father in heaven is perfect. (Matthew 5:48)

Yet He most certainly knows we are not. And that it will be a while before we get there. That’s the end product, the maximum maturity. And our struggle in this life is part of the plan.

But God always loves us, even when we fail, even when we sin. He is never soft on sin, but His love is constant and eternal.

He has the end in view:
“…just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him” (Ephesians 1:4)

And He won’t give up on us
“until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure off the stature of Christ” (Ephesians 4:14).

But this struggle–what kind of struggle is it?
All too often it winds up being a struggle in our own strength, doesn’t it? It’s natural to us to succumb to trying to get by that way. My default action plan is to think “If I can just make up my mind to do this and not to do that, I’ll be a better Christian.” Not good.

Our real struggle is to work more at believing than at trying to be good.  Or, more accurately, at feeling like I am being good.  My feeling good about myself becomes all too easily an ego thing. It’s the beginnings of pride, and pride leads to failure. It says to me, “You earned that.”

Our real struggle has to do with bravery, really.
The courage to believe. Much more than trying to be good.

Back to Paul’s words, Romans 7:24-25:
“Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin.”

There is the solution
The pathway to the victory we all want to travel. Paul points us to God. It’s not my fighting my way out of my failures that works. It’s God rescuing me.

And the rescue comes through faith: “And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:6)

 As Jesus said, “Have faith in God.” (Mark 11:22)
We are to fight against sin, but never in  our own human strength. Our faith must be in God, our rest in Him, our trust in the cleansing of the shed blood of Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary and the enabling power of the Holy Spirit. That’s really the key.

There’s an incredible verse in the New Testament:
“But where sin increased, grace super-increased.” (Romans 5:20B, literal translation) No matter how huge our failures and many our sins, Grace is always bigger. We lay hold of God’s grace through faith, not by earning it.

And what’s really great is that God sees us not just as we are now, but as we will be. He sees the end, as well as now.

And this means, too, that we must walk in the Spirit…
…so that we do not fulfill the desires of the flesh. (Galatians 5:16)

Ah. There’s the answer.
But we cannot walk in the Spirit by becoming self-conscious. “Let’s see, am I walking in the Spirit or not?”

So, it’s a walk that’s accomplished by faith, moment by moment, day by day. Taking one day at a time. That is the only way to escape our carnality, to get beyond walking like mere men in this life. (1 Corinthians 3:3) And to discover in our experience the supernatural and lovely fruits of the spirit. (Galatians 5:22-24)

The moment, the nano-second, I trust God to enable me to walk like He wants me to, He does. For it’s His will to help us. It’s His will for us to live in dependence on Him.

A life that honors God, focuses on God.
It is a walk of daily acknowledging Him as our Source of all that is good, including when we  manage to do good things, when we transcend failure, even when we feel better about ourselves.

And that is a powerful way to live and please Him.

As we face a new year…
 may we learn to live that way daily out of love for all that He has done, and is doing, and will do because of His great love for us.

God is always with us

Sometimes He just doesn’t seem to be around.
But God has said: “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5, Deut. 31:6&8). Jesus put it this way: “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Math. 28: 20)

Sometimes I feel totally alone.
Life here on earth in this age is often tough.  Good times come, but so do hard times.  At times God seems far away.  We can feel so totally alone.

Nature is beautiful but certainly seems indifferent at times.
I can recall times I was alone out in God’s beautiful creation: Hiking up Tahquitz Peak, exploring dark Oregon woods, getting a pounding while body surfing at Laguna Beach.  Nature is beautiful, yes, but it can feel so indifferent.  It’s like those trees, streams, meadows, and ocean waves don’t really care about you and me.

Hiking down was the problem.
I was on a hike with Christian friends up San Gorgonio mountain in Southern California.  It was a long, hard climb to the top.  After several hours and near the top, my breath was coming in gasps.  But we made it and spent the night in our tents and sleeping bags.  Good fun.  But the next day I got into  trouble.

A few hours of pain.
You see my hiking boots were a little bit go big for me, so as I trotted down the trail, my feet kept slipping in them.  My toes repeatedly slammed against the inner tip of those boots.  Soon my toe nails were bruised and sharp pains shot up legs, but I kept descending.  After about a couple hours that way, my friends took my backpack off my shoulders and carried it for me.  That helped.

Out of water and nearly out of strength.
My canteen ran dry. The hike down the mountain was that long.  I was becoming dehydrated and exhausted.  God seemed far away and reachable.  My pain was my reality.

Finally a drink.
Then at the bottom, I came across this lovely, narrow and deep, rushing mountain stream of ice-cold water.  I thanked God, tears in my eyes, and knew He had been with me that whole time.  I knelt and dipped my canteen cup and took a long, refreshing drink.  I didn’t care that it wasn’t pop or fruit juice.  It tasted wonderful.

It doesn’t depend on how we feel.
God is always near, always there for us.  His presence does not depend on us being able to feel that He is there.  It can be discouraging to go by feelings, to give priority to them.  Much better to focus on facts, what God’s Word says–and believe.  The feeling may come then or later. It may not come any time soon.  But those verses are true. Always.

The Throne of Grace is always available.
“Therefore, let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:16. With faith, hope, and better yet love for God, we can always enter in.

One more point…

It’s like that when God speaks to us too.
Of course I don’t mean in an audible voice–at least for me, not yet!  But He can enlighten me in that deep, intuitive part of my mind, with fresh insights and recall key verses.  His voice, like a true gentleman, is quiet, insistent but always gentle.

Hebrews 4:7: “…Today if you hear His voice…” God is speaking today.  He never sleeps, doesn’t need to.  His Holy Spirit is the essence of positive, limitless, creative energy, constantly ready to speak and to bless and to enable us to serve and bless others.

But are we ready to hear?
“Be filled with the Spirit.” (Ephesians 5:18.)
“If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.” (Galatians 5:25. )

An awesome prayer…
Paul prayed for the Ephesians believers: “that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him…that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will  know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe…” (Ephesians 1:17-19).

May we pray for one another.
May that be our prayer for each other too.  And may we walk with God and learn in our experience that He is always there, that we can always count on Him.

What does it mean to be Spiritual?

Opinions abound
There are a lot of opinions on that.  Some of them biblical, others not so much. But it’s a vital topic.

Are we walking like mere humans?
And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men…are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men? 1 Corinthians 3:1-3

Knowing what spirituality actually is, is important
We all need to have a solid grasp of what it means to live as a spiritual believer.  For one thing, it can help us avoid some unhelpful legalistic pathways that just lead to misery.  God want us to live joyfully.

Get the Kindle Version: it’s a bargain
I recently found a helpful book on the subject.  It’s available for a mere 95 cents (US) at Amazon.com in a Kindle version.

Note: even if you do not own a Kindle reader, you can still download a free computer version–and read, take notes, and copy text to your clipboard easily with it. Print versions are also available.  You can find some wonderful spiritual classics for the Kindle, often free or at least at great bargain prices, for example: edifying works by Andrew Murray, A. W. Tozer, Hannah Whital Smith, George Muller, Martin Luther, and others.

The author was a dynamic Evangelical leader
The writer was the late Lewis Sperry Chafer, an evangelist and theologian and co-founder of Dallas Theological Seminary (originally Evangelical Theological College).  So expect this book to be quite conservative.

It’s solidly biblical
Like me, you  will likely not agree with the content of the book one-hundred-percent.  But to me, the teaching contained in it is solidly biblical.  Every major point Chafer makes is derived from the plain sense of a Bible verse and often a number of verses.  And reading this book can give you a solid foundation in no-nonsense spirituality.  I’m getting some helpful-to-me spiritual teaching from reading it.

Some chapter titles
It’s scholarly but a joy to read. Very reader-friendly and understandable.

Here’s some of the meaty chapters:

Three Classes of Men

The Ministries of the Spirit

The Filling of the Spirit, or True Spirituality

Grieve Not the Holy Spirit

Quench not the Spirit

Walk in the Spirit

Recommended  Try it. I think you’ll like it and find it helpful.

Life on a Higher Plane

Courtesy Chun-Sao-Lin aka Taiwan-Mountain @Flickr

Jesus in His Sermon on the Mount, Matthew Chapter 6, said, among other things, these words…

“But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.” (verse 6)

And also…

“But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face so that you fasting will not be noticed by men, but by your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. (verses 17-18)

Don’t seek to impress others
You see, our attitude is to be heavenward primarily. God first. Constantly. We live by Him and for Him in His presence. Seeking to impress other people, even your pastor, is not a good idea. Seeking to impress God is. It is His opinion that counts. Always.

A life that continually relates to God
This life I am seeking to describe is a life of faith that says, God is watching me, He is interested in me and what I am doing. Because what I am doing counts. It is a life of faith that says, Every good thing I have and experience and even do can be traced back to God as the source of all good. It is a life of faith that refuses to worry and determines to trust Him in the small events of the day as well as the larger concerns.

Everything contributes
I have thought about this in this way: Everything we do, think or say contributes in one way or another, either to God’s kingdom or to the God’s enemy’s cause. There is no neutrality. We are part of the plan. We contribute, even though ultimately God is the one source of all good.

We’re God’s ambassadors
So life on a higher plane means I see myself as an ambassador for God (2 Corinthians 5:20), and act accordingly:

Both to people who do not yet believe, and when I speak to them my words should be “seasoned with grace” (Colossians 4:6).

And to fellow believers–because every joint in the Body of Christ supplies God’s grace in mutual ministry (Ephesians 4:16)

Again, we are to set our minds on things above (Colossians 3:1-2). God-consciousness. Heavenly thinking.

The Key
The key, then, is in our thought-life, in what the psychologists call self-talk. Or, even better prayer.  “As a man thinks in his heart so is he,” is a biblical principle (Proverbs 23:7A). That’s the basis of the only psychological therapy I whole-heartedly endorse: cognitive therapy or cognitive behavioral therapy. What we think about is central to victorious Christian living.

“Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise dwell on these things.” (Philippians 4:8)

It’s about sharing
Life on a higher plane is sharing of our life, daily, moment by moment with God, praying without ceasing, and in fact a life that daily enters the holy of holies (Hebrews 4:16; 6:19).

God’s Part and Our Part

Courtesy ElvertBarnes @flickr

“Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling because it is God who is at work in you” (Philippians 2:12).

We have things to do.
Clearly, there are things for us to do. Our efforts are included in God’s plan. However, we are not to place our faith in these things.

Have faith in God (Hebrews 11:6)
We must not depend on (1) our efforts; or (2) the way things look to us; or (3) especially whether we feel like good Christians or not. Have faith in God.

Jesus is all we need.
Salvation is from God, through God and by God—always, whether we are talking conversion, when we come to believe in Jesus Christ, becoming fully sanctified, or eventually glorified. God is our source. Christ is our life (1 John 2:25). He is our reconciliation to God, the basis of our forgiveness. Christ is our righteousness, our sanctification (1 Corinthians 1:30) and our glorification (Colossians 1:27). We have all this because we are in Him and He is in us, in every believer.

When Saul persecuted Christians he was persecuting Jesus Christ.
When Saul was on the Damascus road and the Lord Jesus Christ appeared to him, briefly blinding him, Jesus said to him: “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” (Acts 8:4) But wait. Who was Saul persecuting? He was persecuting the church, believers, people like you and me. Yet Jesus plainly declared to Saul that he was persecuting Him, Jesus. That’s how thoroughly we are one with Jesus Christ Himself! Hit a believer, and you hit Jesus!

A gift we can walk
Salvation is a gift, the gift of Jesus Christ. He became ours and we became His, eternally. But we can grow into our experience of all that involves. Think about this: What if I could give you the gift of great artistic talent, but you never had the faith to act on it? Would it really be yours? Sanctification is making the character of Jesus Christ, Who’s within us, our own character in our experience here and now (Galatians 4:19A). It’s becoming Godlike: “You are therefore to be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matt. 5:48).

What then can we do?
When we believe in Jesus Christ we become sons of God, really and actually sons of God. An awesome thought. And that means we have virtually unlimited potential. So what can we do?

(1) Be obedient to what God leads you to do.

(2) Walk  with God by faith, that is practice the presence of the Lord just like Brother Lawrence advocated so many years ago (Micah 6:8; Hebrews 12:1-2). That means sharing your daily life with Him, praying to Him, fellowshipping with Him.

(3) Find fellow Christians with whom you can share what God is doing in your life (John 21:15-17; Hebrews 10:24-25).

(4) And by all means have faith, trust God to help you grow. We all have our roles within God’s grand plan, but it is always God Who causes the growth, always. (2 Cor. 5:7).

Our only basis for success
“Success” means pleasing Him, and that comes in one way: relying on Him with a faith that results in obedience.

Probably the Best Book ever Written about the Body of Christ

A review of From Eternity to Here by Frank Viola (ISBN #  978-1-4347-6870-4.  Copyright 2009)

The Big Picture of God’s Plan for Mankind from Eternity.
Every generation, often more than once, a man or woman comes along who’s clearly called by God. They see the truth in God’s Word and proclaim it in a fresh way that opens our eyes.

It’s all there in the Bible
It’s not something made up or imaginary. Actually it was there all the time, inspired words waiting to be to be taken seriously, or waiting for discovery by a mind open and prepared to hear the Lord’s instruction.  Prepared to learn at the feet of the Lord Jesus.

And the Kingdom Moves Forward
Sometimes, and especially when that person’s message is heard, understood and heeded, a move of God occurs, and God’s Spirit moves powerfully on people. The progress of God’s Kingdom on earth as a this-world reality is augmented and goes forward.

I don’t often say that a particular person is a gifted Bible teacher. I’m rather hard to please.  But I say that about Frank Viola. His writings are must-reads. All of them.

I recommend all of his books
But this is one of his finest and most enlightening–From Eternity to Here. This book is powerful, can be life-changing, and definitely sets forth in a fresh and newly insightful look at the Church, the Body of Christ. It is solidly Scriptural from cover to cover, and also reading it can be both challenging and comforting at the same time.

The Real church
The real Church is not a building—we all know that. Nor is it a denomination, no matter how big, or this or that sect or an institution, no matter how impressive. The Church of Jesus Christ consists of all true born-again believers in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. And we experience the real thing when we fellowship and pray together. Not socialize or pass the time in casual conversation—although there is nothing wrong per se with causal conversation. But the Church is expressed, realized in visible form, when we share in mutual ministry the life of Jesus who is unfailingly present in the midst of those who gather in His name.

This is a book that should be read by every serious Christian, no matter the denomination or sector of the Church.

Try it. It will warm your heart and encourage your faith.

View from the Twilight Years

So I’m a month and a half from age 70, and what have I learned from my life as a Christian? If, say, I were now on my death bed–and thank God I am not!–what lessons would I seek to share with my grandchildren?

Number 1: God is faithful
I have seen many tough times, troubles, hard places when the future looked dark and foreboding. I have known despair and fear and have felt like giving up, and not just one time. But in His own way and with His own timing God has always come through and rescued me out of the trouble, the danger, the hopeless-looking situation. Time after time. He never failed. I failed many times, but He didn’t.

Life-threatening illness in Seminary
I was in my in my second and busiest year of seminary when I got sick.  But I struggled through the year, getting good grades, just like I had before getting sick. And I experienced what I firmly believe to this day was an unmistakable healing. Days later I heard the news: the  nurse told me that my blood test results showed the sickness was completely gone.

Prayer at the Mental Hospital
I was working in a mental hospital. I was a teenager at the time and worried whether I was doing a good job. So I locked myself in a restroom, got on my knees, told God I needed reassurance and claimed Mathew 7:7: “Ask and it will be given to you…” Then got up, went outside and a patient told me, “The charge (unit boss) is looking for you.” I went to the office, and he turned to me and said, “Oh yeah, I just wanted to tell you you’re doing a good job.” A direct and precise answer to prayer about 3 minutes after I had prayed.

Rock Climbing Peril
I was rock climbing with friends about 1500 feet above the pine trees and ground on Lily Rock at the Tahquitz area of Southern California. I was leading above my fellow climbers and got into trouble. I was definite danger of losing my grip and falling backward and down through a narrow jagged rock opening. Soon my legs and arms began to tremble. And believe me, I prayed very frankly to God. And then, soon, He saw to it that I was able to climb back down to a safe area.

There were many other occasions when God came through for me.  He did not fail to do so, even once. And usually things turned out better than I had anticipated.

So what else would I share?

Number 2: God is The Master-Timer
I would tell my grandchildren that God is the master of timing. He doesn’t always answer our prayers when we want Him to. But He always knows what is best. We may not get healing in time. We may die still sick or broken or of a broken heart. Be He always acts toward us in love. We can count on Him for that.  So we can’t always count on things getting done when we want them done, but He will get them done.

Oh, and one more thing…
In the words of Revelation 21:3-4:
“And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, ‘Behold the tabernacle of God is among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.'”

Related verses:

Related Online Resources:

http://www.whatthebibleteaches.com/wbt_120.htm

http://davidwilkersontoday.blogspot.com/2009/03/have-faith-in-gods-faithfulness_16.html

http://godisalwaysfaithful.wordpress.com/category/gods-faithfulness/

http://www.stevenfurtick.com/spiritual-growth/your-faith-gods-faithfulness/

Photo above courtesy of easylocum @ Flickr Commons