Sunday, August 27, 2006

Discovery, not attainment

Jesus told His disciples: "If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, then you shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free."
Fallen human nature cannot help but strive. And Christians, who should know so much more and so much better because our Lord told us not to strive in this way, seem always to be striving.
We are to "die daily." 1 Cor 15:31
We are to "stand still and see the glory of the Lord."

In our weakness, God’s strength and power is made perfect because His grace is sufficient to do wonders and is made perfect in our weakness.

Jeremiah tells us in 10:23 "O Lord, it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps."
Paul tells us, "When we are strong, then we are weak."
When we strive, and attempt to do things in our own will and strength, the power of God cannot flow.

Psalm 127 states, "Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it. Except the Lord keep the city, the watchman wakes but in vain."

Jesus tells us often in the Scriptures to "repent and believe." He wants us to repent from the lesser sins, yes, but the GREAT sin he wants us to repent of – the Sin the Holy Spirit will convict the world of– is the Sin of unbelief. This is the father of all sins: we do not believe a word God says to us. It is the same sin Adam and Eve encountered when Satan said to them, "Has God said?" Deep in our hearts we are at enmity with God and we don’t trust Him or believe His promises and His good will toward us.
The gospel is God’s good news to humanity, and the gospel is primarily about what God has done for us. The Bible is full of God’s precious promises, and these promises are about God’s perfect will for us. We are to strive in faith, not by doing our own strength, and not in our will. We are to strive to rest and stand in the truth we have discovered in His words.
The Bible is full of God’s promises waiting to be discovered. The theme of discovering the truth is everywhere in the Bible:

Thy words were found and I ate them.
O taste and see that the Lord is good
"Precious Promises."
"A treasure found in a field."
But because fallen human nature cannot help but strive, we forget that it is the discovery of truth that sets us free. We can work and work to our heart’s content, but if we do not discover a truth, and rest in that truth, the truth cannot work in us.

St Paul tells us, "Not I, but Christ."
God tells us that "without me, you can do nothing."
He tells us to "take no thought for our life."
He tell us to "trust in the Lord with all our hearts and to lean not unto our own understanding.
God tells us "Come unto me all who are heavy-laden and I will give you shall find rest for your souls."
He tells us to "Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him."
He tells us that "God watches over His word to perform it."
The promises of God, therefore are discovered and believed in. All the blessings of God – health, prosperity, spiritual growth– are to be discovered and accepted. They are not to be accepted by faith, and attained through reliance on God’s spirit working within us.

God has given us all things that pertain to life and godliness.
God has blessed us
God has given us favor
God has set us free.
We shall not want.
God supplies all our needs.
God gives seed to the sower.
If we "know the truth" the truth sets us free. Consider electricity and gravity. These truths existed since the beginning of time but could not be applied to our lives until they were discovered. One of the great truths of the Bible is that "All things are yours." These things – healing, prosperity, blessings– are ours already. Just as Jesus has already saved all men, but in order for people to accept that salvation, they must hear about it and accept it.
We are told to
"bring every thought captive to the knowledge of Christ." 2 Corinthians
"not be conformed to this world but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds."
"fight the good fight of faith."
that "the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but are spiritual and pull down mental strongholds."

We know that we must work out our own salvation with fear and trembling. But, at the same time, we don’t understand that this work consists in "only believing." We work by reading the Bible and discovering a promise or truth and setting our hearts to believe in it and to storm heaven with our trust. The kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force. The violent are those who with a trusting heart decide they will rest in the promise and in no other truth. The striving work we must do is to be careful what we hear. We must trust God’s spirit within us and within His work to make us holy. And we must meditate on and live in God’s word in order that we will not be pulled into the worldly way of thinking. God’s ways are not our ways. And the more we listen to the world, the more unconvinced we become about God’s ways. When this happens, we allow ourselves to become enslaved to sin, sickness and death. We stop believing that the blood of Jesus, the word of God, and the spirit of life in Christ Jesus has freed us from sin, sickness, poverty, and death.
So then, let us strive to enter into God’s rest. In the day when we hear God’s voice, we are not to harden our hearts as the Israelites did when they saw God’s works and disbelieved. We are not to harden our hearts as Pharoah hardened his. We are not to harden our hearts as the disciples did when Jesus performed the miracles of the loaves. (Mark 6) We are to trust God, open our hearts to his power and love, and rest in His truth. We are to enter into God’s rest and to cease from our own works.

God tells us, "Not by might, nor by power, but by my strength."
The Word tells us, "The flesh profits nothing."
He tells us that all the wonders of salvation are the gift of God lest anyone should boast.
This means that just as we accept salvation of our souls by faith, so we accept the salvation of our bodies, emotions, and all aspects of our lives by the same faith. When we first accept Christ, we trust that He will sanctify us wholly. Indeed, the Bible states that Jesus was wounded for our iniquities, the chastisement of our peace was upon Him and by His stripes we WERE healed. God calls those things that are not, as though they were. And even when our godparents accept salvation for us as children, they are believing by faith that we are already saved adults.

Jeremiah 9:24: Thus saith the Lord, "Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches: But let him that glorieth, glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the Lord which exerciseth lovingkindness, judgement, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight."
All this is summed up in these words from our Lord: "If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, then you shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free."
If you abide in me
Blessed is the man whose delight is in the law of the Lord...and in God’s law he meditates day and night.
This one thing I do forgetting what’s behind I press toward the high calling of Jesus Christ.
I am the true vine...abide in me
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your mind and all your strength
We love him because he first loved us

and my words abide in you
Take heed how you hear
For they considered not...
He who has little, the little he has shall be taken away
The Seed is the word of God...the sower comes to take the seed

then you shall know the truth
My people perish for lack of knowledge
Where there is no vision the people perish
the word did not profit them because of their unbelief
Your father knows what you need before you ask him.
My word is truth
I am truth

and the truth shall set you free.

If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.
The promises of God are yea, and Amen.
The Word of God is alive and active and sharper than a two-edged sword
The words of God are health to all your flesh
Whom the son sets free is free indeed.
That we might serve Him without fear all the days of our lives.
Jesus, who has freed us from the law of sin and death
Perfect love casts out fear
If he gave us his son freely, how will not freely give us all things?
Godliness profits in this life as well as the next

Moral: Read your Bible and be blessed by meditating on the Scriptures and the Promises of God.
Lord, let me trust in your love, care and power in my life and rest in them. Amen.

Carole McDonnell’s fiction, devotionals, poetry and essays have appeared in many publishing venues, in print and online. She lives with her husband, their two sons, and their ferocious tabby Ralphina in upstate New York. Her novel, Wind Follower, will be published in June 2007 by Juno books.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Every Bible story is unique

Every Bible miracle is unique. Often we feel that the main point of the story is to show us that we must have faith. But if we study each miracle carefully, we will see that while faith is present, other occurrences in the story also teach us about how to receive miracles in our lives.
Yes, there is more besides faith.
Here are a few examples of other lessons we can learn from these miracles. I’ll only deal with the miracles done by Jesus.
The raising of the widow’s son
Here is a case where God healed simply because he was compassionate and his heart grieved for someone. The widow didn’t even ask for her son to be healed. Perhaps she was wondering in her heart about how she would live without a son in her old age, but she didn’t expect such a divine appointment. If we understood God’s love, and how faith works by love, what miracles we would have!
The woman with the issue of blood
She had heard that Jesus was healing people and she knew that some considered him to be the Messiah. She searched the Scriptures to see if what she heard about him was true and decided to touch the fringes of his garments – which symbolized the Malachi promise of the Son of Righteousness rising with healing in his wings. Continue confessing the word: She believed what she heard about Jesus and from that moment she kept saying "If I touch him, I will be healed." We don’t know how long she said this, but she didn’t only think this, she spoke this over and over. The law of healing works for all who fall in line with it. She was healed without Jesus being aware of her. This reminds me of the keys to the kingdom can be used by any who understand it. Such laws such as tithing, speaking positively, etc have been used by those outside the kingdom. The gospel is preached to the poor and if one has neither money nor medical help, there is still a savior. Don’t care about other’s people’s opinion of your faith.– She could have been killed because she was unclean because of the issue of blood, but she didn’t have the fear of man that brings a snare.
The friends of the crippled man
This teaches the power of intercession. This paralyzed man doesn’t say anything. His healing comes because of his friends. This certainly teaches that in some cases, a sick person doesn’t have to speak to God about his illness. The prayer of a loving and interceding church can do wonders. What a challenge it is to most modern churches! When someone is sick among us, we should show our love and our faith by going all out to intercede for the person. This doesn’t mean judging the person or exhorting them or trying to get the person to acknowledge his sin. Just simply being obsessed with getting our brothers and sisters well. This story also teaches that sometimes a sin is behind a disease. Jesus told the man to go and sin no more. We assume the man didn’t sin again.
The man beside the pool of Bethesda
This is a miracle about a man who was waiting for one kind of miracle and received a higher form of miracle. This man was always looking for an intercessor to help him, and for a supernatural agency to bring about his healing. This man was in a rut and could only see one way out of his healing. I have no doubt there are supernatural ways of being healed that has nothing to do with Jesus, but some of these are so far-fetched and the person is so alone we must look to Jesus. Jesus wanted him to look to the source of healing. Jesus. Perhaps this would heal the man and make him feel less forgotten and rejected. He was also among other sick folks and in his own mind, there were other folks as sick or sicker than he was. The ones who were sicker had family to help them. The ones who weren’t so sick could help themselves. There is nothing worse than thinking healing has a time or quantity limit and one has to fight with other sick people for the universe’s attention. When Jesus called to him, he must have been surprised to see that God had not forgotten him. This miracle also challenges us to ask ourselves if we really do want to be healed. Some people have gotten used to their sickness because the illness has been with them long. Some people can’t be healed because in their heart they really want to die. This man had been in such a state for so long that he needed to know that God saw him. Like the woman with the issue of blood, and like Lazarus, we understand that it is never too late to have a miracle.

The man born blind (without eyes)
This man was born with a disability and from childhood had been told all the supposed reasons why God made him sick. In many countries even now people think some people are born sick because of something they did in the womb or in a past life or because of family generational sins. Whatever the reason, Jesus told the man that the man was not born to be disabled all his life; the man was born to be healed.
The blind man outside Bethsaida
This is the only healing where Jesus actually asked the sick person if it worked, and where Jesus had to pray twice. Bethsaida is one of the cities Jesus cursed because of their hardened hearts. This shows that sometimes a sick person must be taken away from an atmosphere of unbelief in order to be healed, and after they’ve been healed they must be careful about returning to unbelievers lest they lose their healing.
The raising of Lazarus
This healing shows that Jesus often delays most when helping those whom he loves most. It shows also that delay doesn’t mean denial. It is never too late for Jesus to help. Like the raising of the widow’s son, this healing would seem to be unnecessary. After all, we are taught to believe that if someone dies we simply bury them, but the early church didn’t think so. When someone died, they often prayed for them to become alive again. How wonderful it would be if whenever we hear that someone has died, the first thing we would do as Christians is to pray for them to be returned to us!
The few sick folk in Jesus hometown
This is another case of unbelief. But this is the unbelief of people who think they "know" Jesus. They are like people who have "grown up knowing all about Jesus" and so they don’t want to be enlightened or to see him in a new way.
Carole McDonnell is the author of a How to Write and Teach Bible Studies which is available for free download from See her other articles at

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