Category Archives: Faith

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The Unchangeable Nature of God

By Peter Amsterdam

free-bible-studies-online-anchorThe immutability of God—or His unchangeableness or constancy—is part of His divine nature. It means that God doesn’t change in His being, His perfections, His purposes, and promises. He doesn’t change in His nature or character.

The universe and all that is in it changes. There is transition, movement from one state to the next. People, for example, age; and as they do, they change. They grow or diminish in size, as well as intellectually and emotionally. Someone can also change morally, going from being a bad person to being a good one, or vice versa. Someone can study and practice a skill, and in the course of doing so, learn and eventually become proficient in what they have studied. These are all examples of change, which is part of life within creation.

However, God transcends creation. He doesn’t change. If He did, He would become either better or worse. He’d either grow in His intelligence and knowledge or diminish in it. He’d become more loving or less loving, more holy or less holy. But as God, He is infinite in all of these things. He therefore doesn’t improve or deteriorate in them. If He did, He wouldn’t be God.

All of creation is “becoming”—it’s becoming something different than what it presently is. God, in contrast to this, is “being.” He is. Always. He doesn’t change. (Malachi 3:6; James 1:17)

God’s character, His attributes or perfections, don’t change. He is always good, loving, just, righteous, holy, all-knowing, all-powerful, etc. There is never any varying in these things. He is constant.

If God’s character varied, then we couldn’t be certain that the God we know to be good and loving would remain that way. If God was subject to change, then at some point He could start thinking that sin isn’t so bad after all; He could eventually degenerate to the point where He would begin to do evil things Himself, and even eventually become an all-powerful evil being. But His character and attributes do not and cannot change. They are constant; there is no variation.

God doesn’t change in His purpose, His will, and His plan. Once He has decided that He will bring something about, He does it. His plan of salvation is something that He determined before the foundations of the world, and He carried out His plan as promised. Prophecies, predictions, and judgments throughout the Old Testament were fulfilled. His purposes of saving people through Jesus, of Jesus’ return, of eternal life for believers, of judgment, of heaven, don’t change; they remain firm. (Ephesians 1:11 ESV)

God doesn’t change in regard to His Word and His promises. If He stopped honoring His promises, if He acted contrary to His Word, then He couldn’t be trusted. The promise of salvation, of eternal life, and His willingness to answer prayer, would all be in question. If God could change, then these bedrock foundations of our faith could change. But His promises and Word remain forever. “Your Word, O Lord, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens.” (Psalm 119:89 NIV)

 
Does God change His mind?

When God’s unchangeableness is presented, the question often arises about the times God seems to have changed His mind, such as when God told Jonah to go to Nineveh to announce that in forty days the city would be destroyed. (See Jonah 3:3–10) Another example was when He gave the ailing king Hezekiah fifteen more years of life, after having told him he was going to die. (Isaiah 38:1–5)

When considering these examples where it looks as if God changed His mind, we must remember that God is a personal being who interacts with humanity. Within this interaction, God responds to man’s choices and decisions. When someone is doing evil, God is displeased with that person’s actions, but if the person repents and changes, then God’s relationship with that person changes. His overall love for the person never changes, but there is a response from God depending on the choices made by the person or people. In the case of Nineveh, because they were wicked, God’s response was that He rightly was going to destroy them. He told Jonah to tell them so. When Jonah did, the people repented, and God’s response to their repentance was mercy.

With Hezekiah, God declared he was going to die, yet when Hezekiah prayed and wept, God responded to his prayer and healed him.

In these cases, God was responding in mercy and love to changes made and prayers prayed by the people involved. In neither example did God change His character or nature, nor His overall purpose and plan. God didn’t change, but the people changed, and God responded in accordance with His divine nature.

Author and theologian Wayne Grudem explains it this way:

These instances should all be understood as true expressions of God’s present attitude or intention with respect to the situation as it exists at that moment. If the situation changes, then of course God’s attitude or expression of intention will also change. This is just saying that God responds differently to different situations. The example of Jonah preaching to Nineveh is helpful here. God sees the wickedness of Nineveh and sends Jonah to proclaim, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” The possibility that God would withhold judgment if the people repented is not explicitly mentioned in Jonah’s proclamation as recorded in Scripture, but it is of course implicit in that warning: the purpose for proclaiming a warning is to bring about repentance. Once the people repented, the situation was different, and God responded differently to that changed situation. (Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids: InterVarsity Press, 2000), 165)

Another factor to keep in mind regarding the scenarios above is that the Bible uses anthropomorphic descriptions of God, such as the mention of God having “relented” in the story of Jonah. These are best understood as descriptive language within human comprehension.

On this matter of anthropomorphic language, William Lane Craig says:

It’s vital that we understand the literary genre, or type, of most of these biblical stories. The Bible is in the form of narratives—they’re stories about God told from the human point of view. So a good storyteller will tell his story with all of the vivacity and color that he wants, to enhance his narratives. And so you’ll find stories in the Bible about God told from a human perspective, where God not only lacks knowledge of the future, but even lacks knowledge of what is going on presently. God comes down to Abraham and says, “I’ve heard the outcry in Sodom and Gomorrah. I’m going to go see if what I’ve heard is really happening there.” (Genesis 18:20–33) Well, that would deny not only God’s foreknowledge but His knowledge of the present. And there are other passages where God is spoken of in other anthropomorphic terms as having nostrils and eyes, arms and other sorts of bodily parts, wings, and if you take all these literally, God would be a fire-breathing monster. These are anthropomorphisms. They are literary devices that are part of the storyteller’s art and shouldn’t be read like a philosophy of religion or systematic theology textbook. (Video transcript excerpts from interview “Can God Change?” PBS “Closer to Truth” show)

In each of these situations, God didn’t change in His nature, character, purpose, or promises. In fact, He was constant in all of these by being just, loving, righteous, and personal, and acting within His overall purpose.

God’s immutability—His constancy and unchangeableness—is central to our faith in Him. If He was inconsistent, if His nature or character was regularly changing, if He improved or deteriorated, then we couldn’t trust Him. We couldn’t trust His Word or His promises.

But God doesn’t change in His Being, nature, character, purposes, promises or plan. He can be counted on, for He is faithful and true. He is the rock that we can build on, the one we can trust in this ever-changing world, because He is the unchangeable God.

 
 

Copyright © 2017 The Family International.

Salvation for a Swindler!

Luke 19:1-10

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Contrary to what many people think, Jesus was not against riches, especially not when they were put to good use. Now, whenever the subject of wealth and affluence is mentioned in the Bible, many people almost automatically remember the sad story of the rich young ruler who went away sorrowfully after having rejected Jesus’ admonition that he share his riches with the poor. (Luke 18:18-25) But have you ever heard about Jesus’ encounter with a certain wealthy business man of Jericho?

Zacchaeus, the man in our story, was quite an infamous character, especially when contrasted with the many devoutly religious figures who walked the streets of Jericho, “the city of priests.”

He was the wealthy head of a large office of government tax collectors, and to the Jews, tax collectors or publicans, as they were called, were the absolute lowest of the low, only to be compared with common prostitutes. Well known for being cheaters, extortionists, and robbers of the poor, these men were also considered as traitors to their brethren, since, though they themselves were Jews, they worked for the much-hated government of Rome.

Here was a man with governmental authority to bleed from the people as much tribute as possible, and anything he could gouge from them above that went straight into his own pocket.

But one day something happened that completely changed all this for Zacchaeus. He had already heard all about Jesus and the many miracles which He’d performed, yet even more fascinating was the fact that, like himself, Jesus also had a bad reputation, and was known to be a friend of publicans and sinners. In fact, one of Jesus’ Own disciples, Matthew, had one time been a tax collector in Nazareth!

For some time Zacchaeus had wanted to meet the “Carpenter-turned-Prophet.” Often he wondered, “How can a man supposedly so religious be a friend of people like myself, when the priests and even many people of my city practically spit at the mention of my name? Would Jesus be my friend too?” he wondered. He had no real friends outside of his immediate family, and more recently he’d begun to feel quite dissatisfied. He’d begun to realise that it took much more than wealth to bring true warmth and satisfaction. After all, he had practically everything money could buy, a fine home and a stable position, but something was missing.–Exactly what, he wasn’t sure.

Then one day Jesus passed through Jericho. When Zacchaeus heard that He was in town, he dropped everything, closed up his office, and hurried off to see for himself. A large crowd with Jesus in their midst, was already moving slowly down the road, but poor Zacchaeus was so short he couldn’t see a thing. Quickly he spotted a large sycamore tree up ahead of the crowd. As Jesus passed by, maybe he could see him from that tree. Completely forgetting about what people would think of him, Zacchaeus ran past the crowd and scurried up into the tree.

When Jesus finally reached the tree where Zacchaeus was, all of a sudden He turned & looked up searchingly. Drawing near and looking straight up at Zacchaeus, Jesus called, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down. I must stay at your house today!”

“Wha … what did He say?” Zacchaeus was shocked! “He called me by my name! He wants to stay at my house?” As Zacchaeus slid down from the tree, it was hard to believe that there hadn’t been some sort of mistake. How could Jesus have known his name? But as soon as he realised that Jesus was serious, he answered, “Why, this is an honor! Please do come to my house! You’re so very welcome!” And Zacchaeus joyfully escorted Jesus to his home.

By the time they arrived, the crowd that followed stood outside murmuring indignantly, saying, “How can this be! Jesus has gone to stay with a man who is a sinner and a publican!” They were ashamed to the point of disgust, thinking, “How could He, Jesus, come to our fair city, a center for religious training, and yet choose to lodge with such a scoundrel as that?” But Jesus knew exactly what He was doing. He had looked beyond Zacchaeus’ outward appearance to see the desperate hunger and emptiness for love and fulfilment within his heart.

In that one moving meeting with Jesus, Zacchaeus had found the answer! now wealth and possessions were not important except to give them to others. Excitedly, Zacchaeus declared, “Jesus, right here and now I want You to know that I’ve made up my mind! I am going to give to the poor one half of all that I own! And to make amends for those whom I have cheated or taken advantage of, I promise to restore unto them four times more than I took from them!” What an amazing commitment, considering that that sum must have been very large!

Here was a man who’d lived luxuriously and selfishly all of his life, but who, after meeting Jesus and hearing the Words He shared, had experienced a dramatic change! Suddenly, for the first time in his entire life, he felt that he understood the true meaning of love and giving.

Then Jesus exclaimed, within earshot of the grumbling crowd outside, “Today salvation has come to this house! For truly the Son of Man came to seek and to save that which was lost!” It didn’t matter how bad Zacchaeus had been before, the Lord’s Love was more than enough to forgive. In fact, there was no mention recorded of Jesus’ having to bring up all of Zacchaeus’ sins, because Zacchaeus had already shown the tangible fruit of repentance by putting his love into action. He had accepted Jesus into his heart and life and home and had become a follower of Jesus’ example and teaching. He had become a new-born child of the Kingdom of God!

This was the beginning of an entirely new life for Zacchaeus! No longer would he be indifferent to the people and the World around him. Now, instead of treating others as mere opportunities for gain, he was going to take a personal interest in using his wealth as a means of helping the needy. And because he “received the Lord joyfully”, his good testimony has echoed down through the ages as an example of what God can do with a man who surrenders his will to Him! He had found that giving, instead of being painful, brought happiness and satisfaction! He was learning the truth of Jesus’ Words: “Give and it shall be given you, heaped up, shaken together and running over!” (Luke 6:38)

FOOD FOR THOUGHT!

  1. You can never be too bad for Jesus, only too good! Jesus got along much better with people who knew they were sinners than He did with the self-righteous and ultra high-minded, religious folks who thought they were so good! “And Jesus said to the priests in the Temple, ‘I tell you that the tax collectors and prostitutes will go into the Kingdom of God before you! For John (the Baptist) showed you the true way of righteousness, and you did not repent and believe, but the tax collectors and prostitutes did!'” (Matthew 21:31,32)
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  3. Jesus had quite a few rich friends who were supporters & members of the Kingdom of God. Take, for example, Joseph of Arimethea and Nicodemus, both well-to-do members of the Sanhedrin, the ruling body of the Jewish church; The Centurion of Capernaum, a top officer in the Roman government, whose servant Jesus healed. Then there was Joanna, who went about with Jesus & who was the wife of King Herod’s steward & lived in the royal palace. And what about Martha, Mary & Lazarus who were among the wealthy families around Jerusalem! (See John 12:1-8.)
     
    Although some of Jesus’ disciples were from humbler classes, Peter, James, John, Andrew, & Matthew had been established businessmen. But one thing is for sure, they placed not only their money, but their very lives in service to the Lord & His urgent cause of winning the World for Love!
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  5. If you can’t be a disciple, then you can support the ones who are! “And you shall have treasure in Heaven!” (Luke 18:22 and Matthew 10:40-42) Although Jesus didn’t tell Zacchaeus to abandon his home & money, it is obvious that through his conversion to Love, instead of “laying up treasures on Earth,” he began to put his resources to good use by helping the poor.

 
 

Treasures. Copyright (c) The Family International

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What Easter Represents

By Maria Fontaine

free-bible-studies-online-anchorAnything so unspeakably priceless as Jesus offering His life in payment for our sins required immense strength of spirit and depth of character and closeness to His Father in order to accomplish such a colossal mission—His ultimate goal.

Even then, in the midst of facing what He had to do for the salvation of humankind, Jesus requested that if it were possible that the Father would let the cup pass from Him. (Matthew 26:39) What was the cup? It was His great agony and the suffering that He would have to endure. We might picture His cup filled with the consequences of the sins of the world!—All that God’s justice had decreed was due for all the sins that had ever been committed—past, present, and future. As a paraphrasing of 2 Corinthians 5:21 says, “For God took the sinless Christ and poured into Him the cost of our sins. Then, in exchange, He poured the pure gift of God’s goodness into us.” He who was without sin bore the weight of punishment for the transgressions of the entire world, in order to free us from them.

Out of love for us, He who knew no sin suffered the price of sin for us and was made a curse for us, so that through His death He could destroy sin’s power over those who would come to Him. (2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 2:14; Galatians 3:13; 1 Peter 2:24)

Our human intellects, no matter how brilliant, can never fully understand these deep spiritual truths. However, physical illustrations of these concepts, even though insufficient at their best and “seen through a glass darkly,” can at least help us to a partial, very limited understanding. Jesus taking our sins and evil into Himself could be symbolically likened to a terminal disease permeating the body and infiltrating the cells. His becoming sin for us was like His taking into Himself the resulting consequence of death.

The Bible says that Jesus poured out His soul unto death, and set us free through His blood. (Isaiah 53:12) The cup now symbolizes new life through His blood shed for us. (1 Corinthians 11:25) Sin, death, ungodliness, and all that is evil is swallowed up in victory. (1 Corinthians 15:54) All of the evil of mankind, and the full settlement for all sin for all time was made. And what does Jesus ask of us? The Scripture says, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20; Romans 5:8–11, 6:6–11)

He who was life and truth and the Word made flesh was destroyed in the flesh, but His spirit could not be destroyed. (Luke 23:46; 1 Peter 3:18) What was destroyed for all who turn to Jesus was the power of sin and death, the spirit of the world, and those spiritual forces bound to them. Their power was broken and conquered by Christ for any who would receive His sacrifice and gift of love. These forces of Satan no longer have any power or authority over His children beyond what Jesus allows for a purpose—to teach us and strengthen us, to cause our witness to shine even brighter, and to draw us closer to Him.

What Jesus did through His death and resurrection to bring us salvation is something so very mysterious and beyond our human comprehension that we won’t be able to fully understand it until we’re liberated from the realm of the flesh into the spirit—and maybe not even then. However, every time we reflect on what Jesus did for each one of us—and for all of us—it renews our sense of reverence and awe.

What, in practical terms, does such limitless love mean to us as Christians? What does it say to us? What is its significance? What does it mean to us personally?

Christian writers throughout the years have tried to explain the essence of Easter in various ways:

  • A demonstration that life is essentially spiritual and timeless.
  • The rare beauty of new life.
  • News of a great victory, the assurance of a great triumph.
  • A declaration that we are immortal children of God.
  • The “out of the grave and into my heart” miracle.
  • A fact of history, without which history does not make sense.
  • The door of the holy sepulcher—the portal through which we enter the kingdom of God.
  • The descent of God to the human level and the ascent of man to the divine level, becoming the sons of God.
  • The thing that turns the church from a museum into a ministry.
  • A second chance.
  • The assurance that the truth does not perish; it cannot be destroyed.
  • The crowning proof of Christianity.
  • The right to live nobly now because we are to live forever.
  • The knowledge that we are living in a world in which God has the last word.

Easter represents all that our salvation is. (John 11:25–26)—And that’s worth celebrating! Easter stands for everything that has been and forever will be possible in our resurrection-empowered lives. It represents:

  • Freedom from condemnation of past mistakes and failures. (Romans 8:1)
  • Liberation from fear of death. (Hebrews 2:14–15)
  • The guarantee of hope for an eternal future in a home that Jesus has gone to prepare for us. (John 14:2–3)
  • An alternative to the temporal, sin-laden, suffering-plagued existence of this world. (John 16:33)
  • The opening of the door of heaven to us.
  • The blind given sight. (1 Peter 2:9; John 9:25)
  • Common men and women becoming kings and queens. (Revelation 5:9–10)
  • The drowning man rescued.
  • The brand snatched from the burning. (Zechariah 3:2)
  • The power to preach good tidings, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; to give beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness. (Isaiah 61:1,3)
  • The paralyzed becoming mobile. (Matthew 11:5)
  • The earth coming to life in the spring.
  • The knowledge that man can live forever. (1 John 2:17)
  • A demonstration that anything wonderful can happen when all hope seems gone.
  • Complete forgiveness. (Isaiah 1:18)
  • Freedom from the law of death. (Romans 8:2)
  • The truth let loose in the world. (John 1:17)
  • The sting taken out of death (1 Corinthians 15:55)
  • The guarantee that there are no illnesses nor pain in heaven. (Revelation 21:4)
  • The promise of eternal life with our loved ones. (Acts 16:31)
  • The assurance of a glorious future, no matter how bad the world gets.
  • The power to conquer all impossibilities. (Luke 1:37)
  • Divine healing power. (Mark 16:17–18)
  • A way of life, not just a religion or a ritual. (John 10:10)

All of the above impossibilities became possible—all the potential of the universe was released—when Christ’s victory over death was won.

The resurrection and its results are worth repeatedly examining, since in this—one of the greatest moments of history—we continue to find Easter wonders.

Like the little girl said when her daddy asked her, “Do you know what Easter means, honey?” The three-year-old, throwing up her arms, shouted at the top of her voice, “Surprise!” Yes, indeed! Death was surprised! Sin was surprised! The grieving disciples were surprised! Modern man is surprised! Jesus is alive—and the whole world is filled with His resurrection miracles!

 
 

Copyright © 2017 The Family International.

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The Message of the Cross

A compilation

free-bible-studies-online-anchorWhen you go throughout the world, you see many churches with steeples. When the Communists tried to outlaw religion in Russia and in Eastern Europe, they forgot that the cross was on many of their churches and cathedrals. The cross is worn on the necks of so many people, but they don’t know what it means. What does it mean to you tonight?

First, the cross shows us the depths of our sins. We don’t realize what sin is in the sight of God—how deeply it offends Him and how it separates us from Him. Before Jesus went to the cross, He prayed in Gethsemane. He was agonizing, sorrowful. He prayed to God, “If it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.” (Matthew 26:39 NKJV) He looked into the cup, and what did He see in that cup? He saw the sins of the whole world! He saw murder, war, racial prejudice, adultery, lying, and fraud.

People ask the question, “What is sin?” Sin is coming short of God’s righteousness. God is righteous and holy. He cannot look upon sin. A diamond may be perfect to the natural eye. But if you take it to a specialist and he looks at it through a glass, he sees a defect in it. And God looks at us that way… The Scripture says all have sinned. We have all come short of God’s requirement…

The Bible says that we are sinners by nature and by choice. James 4:1–3 says: “Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.” We are all that way. Sin has affected our minds. The Scripture says, “The natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Corinthians 2:14 NKJV)

Sin also affects your will. Jesus said, “Whoever commits sin is a slave of sin.” (John 8:34 NKJV) There’s something of which you are guilty. You can’t break this habit. You would like to, but you have no power to do it. You are a slave. You cry for freedom, but there is no escape. But Jesus said, “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:32 NKJV) Then He said that He was the truth. (John 14:6)

Sin also affects your conscience. Every one of us has a conscience. Sometimes it’s a little red light that comes on every time we sin against God. But you can have a conscience that doesn’t work any longer. You have gone against your conscience for so long that it’s dead. You are no longer shocked or offended by sin around you or sin in your own life.

There’s a penalty to sin. The wages of sin is death. The Cross says to the world tonight, “You are a sinner. You are under the sentence of death.” That means spiritual death, eternal death. But not only does the Cross show us our sins, it also shows us the love of God. God is saying tonight, “I love you. No matter what you have done—how bad you have been—I love you.” And the death of Christ is what makes the good news. God is saying to you, “I love you. I forgive you because of what Jesus did on the cross.”

The Cross is a pardon; it’s a reprieve from death for people who don’t deserve it. None of us deserves to be saved. None of us deserves to go to heaven. But God is love, (1 John 4:8) and God is grace and mercy. “Grace” means something that you don’t deserve, something that God just gives you. God offers you a pardon tonight. He offers you forgiveness; He offers you assurance of heaven if you die. And that can happen right here tonight. “God commended His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8 KJV) …

Jesus died on the cross for you, and the Scripture says that you can never be the same once you have been to the Cross: “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” (2 Corinthians 5:17 NKJV)

Do you feel that your life has been a failure? Is your life turned upside down? Do you wonder which way to turn? The choice you make tonight will affect your whole life. It will also affect where you spend eternity. Where will you be a hundred years from now? You won’t be here, but the Cross guarantees a future life. The Cross is followed by the Resurrection. The death of Christ was not the end. There’s a Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

The Scripture teaches that Christ is reconciling the world unto Himself. He’ll reconcile you. You are separated from God by sin. But when you come to the Cross, you are united with God, and you become a partaker of His own nature.

—Billy Graham

 
Symbol of our faith

Why is the cross the symbol of our faith? To find the answer, look no further than the cross itself. Its design couldn’t be simpler. One beam horizontal, the other vertical. One reaches out like God’s love. The other reaches up as does God’s holiness. One represents the width of his love, the other reflects the height of his holiness. The cross is the intersection of both. The cross is where God forgave his children without lowering his standard.

How could he do this? In a sentence: God put our sin on his Son and punished it there. “God put on him the wrong who never did anything wrong, so we could be put right with God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21 MSG) Or as another version reads, “Christ never sinned! But God treated him as a sinner, so that Christ could make us acceptable to God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21 CEV)

Envision the moment. God on his throne. You on the earth. And between you and God, suspended between you and heaven, is Christ on his cross. Your sins have been placed on Jesus. God, who punishes sin, releases his rightful wrath on your mistakes. Jesus receives the blow. Since Christ is between you and God, you don’t. The sin is punished, but you are safe, safe in the shadow of the cross. This is what God did, but why, why would he do it? Moral duty? Heavenly obligation? Paternal requirement? No. God is required to do nothing. Besides, consider what he did. He gave his Son. His only Son. Would you do that? Would you offer the life of your child for someone else? I wouldn’t. There are those for whom I would give my life. But ask me to make a list of those for whom I would kill my daughter. The sheet will be blank. I don’t need a pencil. The list has no names.

But God’s list contains the name of every person who ever lived. For this is the scope of his love. And this is the reason for the cross. He loves the world. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son.” (John 3:16) As boldly as the center beam proclaims God’s holiness, the crossbeam declares his love. And, oh, how wide his love reaches. … It’s nice to be included. You aren’t always. Universities exclude you if you aren’t smart enough. Businesses exclude you if you aren’t qualified enough, and sadly, some churches exclude you if you aren’t good enough. But though they may exclude you, Christ includes you.

When asked to describe the width of his love, he stretched one hand to the right and the other to the left and had them nailed in that position so you would know, he died loving you.

—Max Lucado

 
God’s altar

Moses said that without the shedding of blood, there’s no remission of sins. (Leviticus 17:11) That was the Law, but Jesus said, “This is the new testament in My blood.” (1 Corinthians 11:25)

Jesus died on God’s altar, the cross, believed upon by every Christian, trusted by every son and daughter of God who believes Jesus Christ for their salvation and His blood shed for their sins. He was the final ultimate sacrifice for sin. He was the final ultimate Lamb of God slain for the remission of your sins. He took the punishment of your sins in His own body on that tree, the cross, and that was the last sacrifice of blood for sin as far as God was concerned.

It cost a priceless gift for you to get saved, and that was Jesus and His blood. That’s the highest-priced gift anybody could ever receive, the highest cost anybody could pay for your salvation, and only Jesus could do it. No matter how much you sacrifice and try to pay for it by your own works, the price is too high for you. Only Jesus could pay it! God Himself spared not His own Son, Jesus Christ, but let Him die on the cross in order that He could freely give us all things. Such love!

—David Brandt Berg

 
Revelation of God

The cross of Jesus is the revelation of God’s judgment on sin. Never tolerate the idea of martyrdom about the cross of Jesus Christ. The cross was a superb triumph in which the foundations of hell were shaken. There is nothing more certain in time or eternity than what Jesus Christ did on the cross: He switched the whole of the human race back into a right relationship with God. He made redemption the basis of human life; that is, He made a way for every son of man to get into communion with God.

The cross did not happen to Jesus: He came on purpose for it. He is “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” … The cross is not the cross of a man but the cross of God, and the cross of God can never be realized in the human experience. The cross is the exhibition of the nature of God, the gateway whereby any individual of the human race can enter into union with God. When we get to the cross, we do not go through it; we abide in the life to which the cross is the gateway.

The center of salvation is the cross of Jesus, and the reason it is so easy to obtain salvation is because it cost God so much. The cross is the point where God and sinful man merge with a crash and the way to life is opened—but the crash is on the heart of God.

—Oswald Chambers

 
 

Copyright © 2017 The Family International.

Questions From You!

HOW CAN I KNOW WHAT GOD’S WILL IS?

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Every one of us has countless decisions which we must face every day of our lives. Every time of conflict, of testing and trial is a time of DECISION. But the point is, HOW do you make your decisions? How can you KNOW you are making the right ones, those which will bring the best results and help you achieve your goals?

Putting it simply, for true Christians, MAKING A DECISION IS ACTUALLY FINDING OUT WHAT GOD’S WILL IS; what God knows will be best according to how HE sees the situation. After all, only GOD is way out there in FRONT, and only He knows what is going to happen, and only He is able to lead us.

But the worst thing in the World to do is to keep going ahead when you don’t know what to do. That was the tragic mistake of so many of history’s failures who thought they didn’t need the Lord’s direction. Sooner or later it always proves true that those who SUCCEED in God’s Kingdom are those who look to God’s WORD to lead them, and the ones who fail are those who go without it.

Unfortunately, there are many Christians who haven’t yet discovered that Jesus was serious when He said, “Ask and it SHALL be given you, seek and you SHALL find, knock and the door SHALL be opened for you.” (Matthew 7:7). God means just what He says! It’s a PROMISE!

The following 7 points will help you to more clearly and easily discover the Will of God for your life. As you read them, think about them and APPLY these basic guidelines to ANY DECISION you are faced with. The Lord will NOT fail to show you the ANSWER you need! It is so comforting to know that whatever GOD shows you ALWAYS works out!

 
THE SEVEN WAYS TO KNOW GOD’S WILL!

NO.1 THE WORD is the FIRST place we look to find the Will of God! And when God speaks to you right through HIS Word, then you KNOW it’s right! The Bible is the SURE Word of God and it NEVER fails! In God’s Word you can find the answer to every question and the solution to every problem. When you ask God for answers, let Him speak to you through His Word!

NO.2 THE VOICE OF GOD’S WORD is when the Lord brings to mind a certain verse or passage from the Scriptures, or as you are reading, all of a sudden a verse seems to jump at you as if it were written just for YOU! It’s as if the Lord had whispered it in your ear. It begins to apply to you personally, and suddenly it becomes REAL! It’s no longer just mere words, but you finally get the point of what God is trying to show you!

NO.3 DIRECT REVELATION! Sometimes God uses a dream or vision, a voice or prophetic message to show you what to do. You KNOW it is from God if it AGREES with and DOESN’T CONTRADICT His WORD. It’s so wonderful to get the answers straight from the Lord! When you’ve got the concrete evidence from Him, His WORD on the subject, then you know you’re on the right track & you can go ahead & ACT with CONVICTION–& WITHOUT HESITATION! That settles it! You’ve heard from Heaven!

NO.4 GODLY COUNSELLORS! When finding God’s Will in a decision, it is often wise to ask others for their opinion. However, it is important to WEIGH the counsel you receive, and to prayerfully consider the SOURCE that it comes from! How RELIABLE are their leadings from the Lord? Do they bear GOOD FRUIT themselves and produce good results from their own actions and decisions? “By their fruits,” Jesus says, “you will know them!” (Matthew 7:20).

NO.5 OPEN AND CLOSED DOORS! If something is God’s Will, He’ll usually open the door and make it possible! Which direction is God providing or opening the way and the means to do it? That is one way to find out the direction God is leading. Of course circumstances and conditions are not always the final criteria for finding the Will of God, but they can sometimes be an indication.

Often by closing one door and opening another, the Lord leads and directs us. God has certain set-ups and situations which suddenly become golden opportunities. At times like these we should take decisive ACTION and not miss the Lord’s timing, otherwise what was a golden opportunity could become a LOST opportunity! So after you’ve prayed about any door that opens and perhaps have discussed it with others, and checked it with His Word, then GO ahead.

NO.6 BURDENS, strong impressions or feelings can sometimes be an indication of God’s leading. It isn’t always wise to go by feelings, but if something is really of God you’ll have an inner CONVICTION, what many Christians call the “Witness of the Holy Spirit”! It can be a still small Voice in your heart! In your heart you feel you just have the FAITH. You just KNOW that’s the Will of God and that’s what you’re supposed to do, or not do. His Word says, “You will hear a voice beside you saying, this is the way; walk ye in it.” (Isaiah 30:21).

NO.7 A FLEECE is the term given to a system of CHECK AND DOUBLECHECK with God. It’s like an agreement with God to show you if you are on the right track or not. And if you ask Him whole-heartedly, you won’t be disappointed! Sometimes you can actually specify the kind of revelation you’d like God to give you like the Prophet Gideon did in the Bible. (See Judges 6:36-40.) Gideon laid a fleece (sheepskin) on the ground and said, “Now Lord, if the fleece is wet with dew in the morning, but the ground is dry, then I’ll KNOW it is You talking to me!” But then he wanted to be doubly sure, so the next day he said, “If the fleece is dry and the ground is wet, I’ll believe it!”, and that is just what the Lord did each time! Then Gideon knew that God was with him. If the Lord hadn’t done the miracle, Gideon might have quit entirely and lost heart!

Regarding fleeces: Although they seem like an easy and supernatural way, they are the LEAST RELIABLE of the 7 ways to discover God’s Will, only to be used in conjunction with the other more dependable points shared above. In fact, the more ways you employ in making decisions, the greater the assurance will be that your decision is right.

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What a comfort it is when you know that you’re in God’s Will! It’s the SAFEST PLACE to be in the whole World! No matter if war is breaking out all about you and there is darkness and storm, you’ll be safe in the hands of God as you follow Him to victory.

Just be sure it’s RIGHT, then GO ahead. To the right place, at the right time, with the right people and God will bless it! He will lead you if you’ll follow. But don’t run off on your own just because something LOOKS good to you; be sure to keep in line with His WORD and with His blessings. Any combination of two or three or more of these little guidelines can help to CONFIRM God’s Will for YOUR life.

And that is why we wanted to share with you these guidelines to help you to keep in touch with your Heavenly Commander-in-Chief at all times. That’s one line of communication that can NEVER be broken. You’ll always have a hotline to Heaven and you can get your orders straight from the Lord Himself as He guides you through the many difficult situations you will face. Even when you seem to be all alone, God will always be there by your side to direct your every move. All you have to do is ASK Him, and the answer will come! Whether it be in public, at home or in any situation, God is EVERYWHERE! “He knows, He loves, He cares, nothing His truth can dim! He gives His very best to those who leave the choices up to Him!”

This is actually the FIRST requirement in finding GOD’S Will: Having no will of your OWN! His Word says, “Offer your bodies as LIVING SACRIFICES, holy and acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be NOT conformed to THIS World, but be TRANSFORMED by the renewing of your mind, that you may KNOW what is the good and acceptable and perfect Will of God!” (Romans 12:1,2). SURRENDER your will, your body, your mind to the Lord and let HIM make the decisions, and you will never be disappointed!

Our prayers are with you as you follow God to GREATER VICTORIES, both in your personal life, and as you stand up for His Truth and witness His Love to others! God bless you! And He will as you DO His Will and follow Him!

 
 

Treasures. Copyright (c) The Family International

Anchor

Hope in Suffering

free-bible-studies-online-anchorSuffering is designed to make us better, not bitter. God brings men into deep waters not to drown them, but to cleanse them.

Everyone has tests and temptations and trials and tribulations of some form or another, but it’s how you handle them that makes the difference. We can avoid becoming bitter or resentful about our trials and suffering if we realize that our great heavenly Father, the Spirit of love of the entire universe, will never allow any evil to come into our life unless He can in some way make it turn out for good.

This is the wonderful secret that makes burdens become blessings, and trials become triumphs, and crosses become crowns—the knowledge that no matter what we go through, it will somehow turn out for our good. This is the wonderful plan that God has for us and the gift that He has given us who believe in Jesus and are His children. If we are saved, we can trust through problems and suffering, because we know there’s a good reason for our tests and trials.

Everything that happens to the child of God always has a ray of hope somewhere. The storm always has a rainbow. The night always has its stars. The clouds always have a silver lining. God’s loving care is always present in any circumstance. And even when it cannot be seen, faith knows that God is there. For the child of God there is always a good and wonderful purpose behind suffering—a blessing in disguise.

Nevertheless, problems with all of their advantages and lessons and blessings sometimes do tend to discourage us and weigh us down and often tempt us to despair. One of the best ways for keeping our cheerfulness and our balance in times of stress and adversity is the attitude we take toward our problems.

For an example, let’s take the story of the small boy who sat quietly in a seat of a train running between two of the Western cities in the United States. It was a hot, dusty day, very uncomfortable for traveling, and that particular ride was perhaps the most uninteresting day’s journey in the whole land. But the little fellow sat patiently watching the fields and the fences hurrying by, until a motherly old lady, leaning forward, asked sympathetically, “Aren’t you tired of the long ride, dear, and the dust and the heat?” The lad looked up brightly, and replied, with a smile, “Yes, Ma’am, a little. But I don’t mind it much, because my father is going to meet me when I get to the end of it!”

What a beautiful thought it is that when life seems wearisome and monotonous and burdensome, as it sometimes does, we can look forward hopefully and trustingly, and like the little lad, “not mind it much” because our Father, too, will be waiting to meet us at our journey’s end. The Lord will meet us at the end of life’s journey—thank God!

And let’s not forget that Jesus suffered everything that we suffer. The Bible says that He was tempted in all points just like we are. There were times when He was sick and He was tired and He was hungry and He was thirsty and He was discouraged. Think of that.

Jesus Himself knows what it’s like to suffer. In fact, He suffered more than any of us can ever even imagine! He suffered for all the sins of all the world, because He loves us so much and was willing to even die for us! And someday soon, God’s Word promises us, all the suffering for those who love God will come to an end, and He “shall wipe away every tear from our eyes, and there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying; and there shall be no more pain, for all the evil of this world shall be passed away!”—When Jesus Himself returns to earth to right all wrongs and establish His eternal kingdom of love and peace!

Until that day, we will have to endure some suffering. But if you have Jesus in your heart, if you do your best to love Him and follow His teachings, as written in the Bible, you will find that the joy and happiness that will pervade and fill your life will far outweigh any temporary times of sorrow, suffering, testing, and trial. And that as we have seen, God will work all of these things together for your good.

And when hard times do come, the Lord promises us in His Word, “When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee, and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee. When thou walkest through the fire, thou shall not be burned, neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.” And you’ll find that no matter how deep the floods of pain and sorrow, or how hot the fires of trial and affliction, Jesus is “a friend that sticks closer than a brother,” and if you put your hand in His, trust in Him, and depend upon His Word, He will lovingly lead you and safely see you through it all!

God’s love does not always keep us from suffering and trials, but it is a love that always keeps us through sufferings and trials. Let’s never forget that the trials and storms of life no more indicate the absence of God than clouds indicate the absence of the sun!

 
 

Copyright © 2017 The Family International.

The Power of a Touch!

Matthew 9:20-22; Luke 8:43-48

Based on the writings of David Brandt Berg

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As Jesus taught the multitudes by the Sea of Galilee, a prominent leader of the local synagogue named Jairus came pushing through the crowd, and falling down before Him, pleaded for Jesus to heal his little daughter. “She’s at the point of death!” he cried in desperation! “Please, come and TOUCH her and make her LIVE!”

Jesus, full of compassion, agreed to go with him, and the crowd pressed behind Him. In the midst of the throng was a woman who had been sick for 12 years with a terrible bleeding haemorrhage. All this time she had gone from one doctor to another, but never with any success. She’d spent every bit of her money on doctors’ bills and suffered much from all their treatments, but still the bleeding continued.

Desperate, the woman thought, “Oh, if I could only TOUCH Him, I KNOW I could be healed!” Then, seeing Jesus afar off, she began anxiously making her way towards Him. It wasn’t easy to get through the pushing, shoving mob of onlookers who were trying to get close to Jesus, but that one thought compelled her: She had to TOUCH Him, even if only the hem of His garment!

Finally she came within reach, and stretching out her hand she was able to barely TOUCH His robe with her fingertips. No sooner had she touched Him than the bleeding stopped completely! A warm and wonderful feeling of health and well-being swept through her body and she knew that after all these years of pain and suffering, she was healed at last! Jesus paused for a moment, having felt that healing POWER had gone out from Him. Turning to the crowd He asked, “Who touched Me?” His disciples looked at Him with astonishment, saying, “With all this great crowd pressing around You, You ask who TOUCHED You?” But Jesus, knowing already who had touched Him, smiled and silently, knowingly turned to look upon the astonished woman.

Still trembling at the realisation of what had happened, she came and fell at His feet, telling Him what had happened to her. And Jesus lovingly, tenderly as a father would speak to his child, said to her, “Daughter, thy FAITH has made thee WHOLE! Go in peace and be healed of your disease.” Jesus was making it clear to all the crowd that touching His clothes was not what had healed the woman, but it was “her FAITH in Him that had made her whole”!

That woman had put her tiny grain of faith into action, and the result has echoed throughout the centuries: “Thy FAITH hath made thee WHOLE!”

There is a lesson to be learned from this story which we can APPLY to OUR lives NOW, today. Though many people thronged about Jesus, why was it that only ONE received that powerful healing touch from God? Many had gone to see Jesus out of mere curiosity, they were more interested in the sight of the man. Yet this woman, as soon as she heard of Him, BELIEVED in her heart that He could really help her, when all else had failed. So she pressed toward Him, full of faith, never giving up until she made that divine CONTACT with the Lord!

What an illustration of how PRAYER works! It’s not how LONG you pray or how MUCH you pray, but how much you BELIEVE! It’s like tuning in a radio station on your receiver. When you finally make the right contact, the signal booms in loud and clear and strong! Prayer is making contact between our human needs and God’s divine resources. All we’re doing when we pray is presenting our need and BELIEVING that God will do it. And if you are doing your best to trust the Lord and follow His Word, He will help you in your hour of need!

Anything wonderful can happen in that little margin of time when you don’t give up, but keep on believing and keep on praying! That frail sickly woman had only enough strength to draw close to Jesus, but when she ACTED on her little seed of faith, she made contact with the Lord.

What a blessing it is when we learn to contact God’s power through prayer. It is a spiritual seeking of that contact with His Spirit through OBEDIENCE to the Word of God that gets results!

It’s a shame that so many Christians today find their faith stronger in the men of medicine than in the Great Physician Himself, Jesus Christ. Actually, they haven’t lost FAITH, but they’ve just TRANSFERRED that faith to the MEDICAL profession! It’s not that doctors are bad, but they are not always necessary, or cannot help.

So often one will run to the medicine cabinet for one little ailment, ache or pain, without even considering that a simple prayer of faith could save them all that trouble! Even for a little HEADACHE, just a little faith in God can HEAL you! There’s nothing wrong with taking an aspirin, but why not give God a chance? PRAY that you may be healed, and He can not only HEAL you, but He can even show you what CAUSED it and how to avoid it or correct it!

One of the greatest of healing factors is FAITH, to know that God LOVES you and is going to take care of you no matter what happens. And did you know that faith not only heals, but it eliminates one of the greatest causes of disease and ill health? And that is fear and tension!

God is very willing to HEAL you and HELP you WHENEVER you need it! All you have to do is ASK! He says, “I am the God of all flesh; is there ANYTHING too hard for Me?” (Jeremiah 32:37) Jesus said, “If you abide in Me, and My Words abide in you, you can ask what you will and it shall be done unto you!” (John 15:7) Have you asked the Lord for His healing power in your life?

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  • Prayer is not only CHEAPER than medicine, but it is SURER too!
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  • TRUSTING GOD for your healing keeps you close to the LORD, but trusting the DOCTOR for healing keeps you close to the DOCTOR –and BROKE!
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  • Jesus MADE us, so He can FIX us!

 
 

Treasures. Copyright (c) The Family International