IS OUR SUFFERING POINTLESS?

Perhaps the greatest test of whether we believe the following Scripture is to identify the very worst things that have happened to us and reflect on whether we believe that God has or will use them for our good.

“In all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose”. Romans 8:28

Invariably, if you have lived long enough so that enough time has passed since some of those “worst things” happened to you, then you’ll almost certainly find that God has used those circumstances to stop you from relying on your own efforts, grieving the Holy Spirit in the process and quenching His work in your life.

And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.Ephesians 4:30

Do not quench the Spirit.” 1 Thessalonians 5:19

Jesus made it possible for God. our Father to send the third person of the Trinity to indwell our Spirit. As Jesus Himself said to His disciples, it is far better I go so the Father can send the Holy Spirit to be your counsellor, comforter, and teacher. If you let Him, He will direct your every step. Until you truly die to self and say to the Holy Spirit, not my will but your will be done this day and every day you truly cannot live the Christian life. The fruit of the Spirit, love, joy, peace, patience, faithfulness, gentleness, goodness, kindness, and self-control will not be evident in your life nor the gifts of the Spirit available for ministry, words of wisdom, words of knowledge, gift of prophecy, gift of faith, healings, miracles, discerning of spirits, gift of tongues, interpretation of tongues. I would venture to say that until you realise the Holy Spirit’s presence and submit to Him, God will continue to bring painful experiences into your life. When you finally realise the immensity of the gift God has provided you will rejoice that God has brought those painful experiences into your life so that you eventually came to experience His wonderful truth. Experiences labeled as the worst things that ever happened to you become some of the best from an eternal perspective. That’s because God uses the painful, difficult experiences of life for our ultimate eternal good.

How is this possible? Because God is both loving and sovereign. Our experiences provide persuasive proof that while evil and suffering are not good, God can use them to accomplish immeasurable good. This knowledge should give us great confidence that even when we don’t immediately see any redemptive meaning in our suffering, God can see it—and one day we will too. Therefore, we need not run from suffering or lose hope if God doesn’t remove it. We can trust that God has a purpose for whatever He permits.

BEING SAVED AND BEING A CHRISTIAN

Who will live with God on the new earth and heaven that He creates for His children? This is a valid question and we know it is not only Christians. Some will be taken back, as I was when I first read this statement. However, I quickly realised that Abraham, Moses, Job, David would not strictly come into the category Christian.

There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job, and that man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil.Job 1:1

Think about the one thief upon the cross that simply asked Jesus to remember him when He came into His Kingdom, What was Jesus’ response?

Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.” Luke 23:43

I think therefore that the thief put his heartfelt trust in Jesus as the Messiah of God and that was enough to get him saved.

Roger Olson in his excellent article “Answer to the Question: What must a person know/believe to be saved or to be a Christian” raises the story of Paul and Silas and the time God opened up the prison doors for them. Paul stopped the jailor from killing himself as he thought the prisoners had escaped. The jailor knew there was something different about these men who had been praising God in their chains and were now free of those chains. He asked them this question.

Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” And they said, “Believe on (trust) the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” Acts 16:30-31

Roger makes the point that from this statement, for the jailer and his family to be saved they had to believe that Jesus Christ is Lord and they must put their trust/faith in Him. This is the simple rule of faith for salvation.

To be a Christian there is more and Roger points out that Paul and Silas then went on to say:

And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house.Acts 16:32

Roger’s interpretation and I have to agree with him, is that the jailer, like the thief on the cross, was saved the moment he believed on (trust) the Lord Jesus Christ as his Lord. However, to be a Christian there is more, Jesus gave His disciples the Great Commission; repent, be baptised, and receive the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit enables believers to comprehend the Word of the Lord. He sanctifies us over time and produces the fruit of the Spirit in our lives. He will guide our every step if we allow Him. Therefore, He enables us to live the Christian life.

SAVED

God knows the condition of our heart and it is a heart issue that gets us saved. This Scripture from Exodus reinforces the issue of having a heart/spirit for God.

“And they came, every one whose heart stirred him, and everyone whose spirit moved him, and brought the Lord’s contribution to be used for the tent of meeting, and for all its service, and for the holy garments. So they came, both men and women. All who were of a willing heart brought brooches and earrings and signet rings and armlets, all sorts of gold objects, every man dedicating an offering of gold to the Lord.Exodus 35:21-22

CHRISTIAN

To live the Christian life you must have the Holy Spirit which is given once you repent of your sins (prepared to die to your old life) be baptised (signifying death to the old life and arising as alive in Christ) at which time God the Father sends the Holy Spirit, the enabler, to be your counsellor, your teacher, and comforter. He enables you to live a Christian life.

ETERNITY

For me, this understanding gives me comfort in knowing that there will be many people who have never heard the Good News of Jesus Christ who will be saved because they had a heart after God. Moreover, I am sure you like me have heard of many stories of Jesus appearing to Muslims and they have come to saving faith in Him. Jesus answered their heart cries. We can trust God to ensure that all those that should be in His Kingdom will be there.

CHRISTIAN MATURITY

And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.” Philippians 1:9-11

This prayer by Paul is important because it outlines what spiritual maturity should look like. A Christian grows in proportion to His love for Jesus. Notice it also says our love should abound more and more. Moreover, Christian love is sacrificial, giving love. In addition to being abounding love, it is also discerning love. The heart and mind work together so that we distinguish what really matters, right priorities, striving for excellence but pure and blameless. Christian love must be rooted in wisdom from God’s Word if we are to love God and man in ways honouring to God.

But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.” John 6:22

Good works must be an outcome of our love for God “filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Christ Jesus”. Jesus said it like this:

I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in Me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:5

Jesus made it possible for God, the Father to send the Holy Spirit to enable us to do good works, to “bear much fruit” and apart from being in Jesus and empowered by the Holy Spirit “you can do nothing“. How often do we quench the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives and thereby grieve Him? I fear it is much more than we like to admit.

Finally this prayer acknowledges that Christ is going to return and that we should be pure and blameless for that day: “so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ“.

TESTIMONIES ARE POWERFUL

And they have conquered him (The Accuser/Satan) by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.” Revelation 12:11

Brian Ivie
Brian Tetsuro Ivie

Young Christian filmmaker Brian Tetsuro Ivie says Christians are losing relevancy in modern-day society for not speaking to people’s spiritual and physical needs as Jesus did. To change that, Ivie has teamed up with NBA all-star Steph Curry to create films with original content that will inspire Christians to do both.

Ivie’s testimony is inspiring and is typical of how God works with His new children:

“When I became a Christian, I thought I was gonna leave the film industry entirely because I figured once you became a Christian, you had to go to Africa, or you had to give up all of your dreams,” Ivie told The Christian Post in a recent interview. “I think, in some ways, that was good because it taught me how to just walk with God and not look at my career as something that was going to ultimately fulfill me because it’s not.”

At the beginning of his faith walk, Ivie took part in philanthropy and social work for a few years, a season he pegged as a “desert.” He worked in South Korea and other parts of the world, which is how his film “The Drop Box” came about. The movie, made in partnership with Focus on the Family, told the story of South Korean Pastor Lee Jong-rak, who, after gaining a reputation for his willingness to care for disabled children, built a box into his home’s wall because he did not want any babies to be discarded and left for dead.

Years later, Ivie was asked to make “Emanuel,” which tells the story of the 2015 church shooting in Charleston, South Carolina. It was then that he and Steph Curry became acquainted, and soon after, Curry joined the film as an executive producer. 

So when the famous athlete thought about launching his own production company, he brought in Ivie to help create the faith content that would be overtly Christian and inspiring to viewers. 

It felt like it was the realization of the dream — the new dream and the new vision God had put into my heart when I became a Christian. It felt like the moment where the old dream and the new dream came together. And it felt like, ‘OK, this is God’s plan for my life,’” Ivie said.

LET US CELEBRATE PENTECOST SUNDAY 2021

With Pentecost Sunday coming up, it is an appropriate time for us to reconsider what Jesus made it possible for our Heavenly Father to do when He went to the Cross and died on our behalf.

Our Heavenly Father sends the Holy Spirit to indwell every believer to make it possible for us to live the Christian life.

“Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words.1 Corinthians 2:12-13.

If we have the Spirit, our hearts will be gentle and kind. 

If we have the Spirit, our intentions will be pure.

If we have the Spirit, our words will show compassion and not judgment.

If we have the Spirit, our lives will exhibit the fruit of spirit: love, joy, peace, faithfulness, gentleness, goodness, kindness and self control.

And God will give us the right words if we heed His SpiritHe will guide and guard our every step.

When we allow God’s word and His Spirit to shape our actions and our words, we are walking in the Spirit and pleasing God.

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.Galatians 5:16-17

Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” Galatians 5:19-21

How are you living your life? According to the works of the flesh or will you follow Jesus and commit your life to walking in the Spirit.  It is never too late to make the right decision! 

“The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.” – Mathew 20:28, Mark 10:45.

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.Philippians 2:5-8

TO DIE IS GAIN

Let us look at a few Scriptures relating to life on God’s earth. This first Scripture makes it clear that God knows each one of us before we were born and He knows how we will live out our days.

Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.Psalms 139:16

So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.” Psalms 90:12

David asked God to teach Him. We need to have prayer filled lives and teachable hearts. Note: David wanted a heart of wisdom.

For if, because of one man’s (Adam) trespass, death reigned through that one man , much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.” Romans 5:17

There is only one way we can reign in this life. It is when we receive through Jesus Christ the abundance of grace (Holy Spirit) and the free gift of righteousness.

For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.Philippians 1:21-23

It really does come down to how much do we treasure our Lord Jesus Christ. Do we treasure Him above all life’s earthly pleasures? Note the two life options for Christians: fruitful labour for Jesus on this earth which Paul obviously enjoyed or to depart and be with Jesus Christ which he acknowledged was the better option.

And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.Hebrews 9:27

We all face death but how different is the fate of those that reject God’s offer of eternal life through His Son. Judgement, the Lake of Fire, punishment and eternal death. Unbelievers should be fearful of the fate that awaits them after death. If they knew perhaps some would repent. Let us do our best to reach as many as God brings across our path with the Gospel of Christ.

ARE WE WORKING OUT OUR SALVATION WITH FEAR AND TREMBLING?

Paul tells us “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” Philippian 12-13

“With fear and trembling” sounds daunting and certainly not pleasurable. In fact, is it even possible?

Working out your salvation is not possible if you have not accepted Christ as your Savior. But once you have, the Holy Spirit comes to live inside of you.

With His partnership you can “work out” your salvation. You can experience practically in your everyday life the unlimited resources of peace, joy, and hope that accompany the Holy Spirit’s presence inside of you.

Sadly, you have to question how many people in our churches today are born again and have received the Holy Spirit as their counsellor, teacher and comforter. It is only the Holy Spirit that produces the fruit of the spirit in our lives: love, joy, peace. patience, faithfulness, gentleness, goodness, kindness and self control. It is only the Holy Spirit that provides the gifts of the spirit for ministry: word of knowledge, word of wisdom, prophecy, faith, healing, miracles, discerning of spirits, tongues and interpretation of tongues.

The “fear and trembling” Paul is referring to is the attitude Christians are to have in pursuing this goal. We are to have a healthy fear of offending God through disobedience and an awe and respect for His majesty and holiness.

How we act right now as followers of Jesus will greatly impact our internal peace. Fear and trembling simply means, approach God with humility and ask him for His peace to be increased to a greater measure than the anxiety you are experiencing. Say to Him, “Lord, I humbly ask for your peace to be increased in me. I need it Lord to get through my day. Please help me Lord.”

And guess what? God will. God promises us in Philippians 2:13 that “He is at work in us both to will and to work for his good pleasure“. This is a promise.

Obedience triggers greater peace in our lives and greater peace triggers greater effectiveness for us as witnesses for Christ. Paul tells us in Philippians 2:15 that obedience brings blamelessness into our lives in the midst of a crooked and twisted world and this enables our light for Him to shine brighter.

We have to hold on to God’s Word, be in God’s Word, and apply God’s Word to our lives if we hope to maintain any sense of peace in this world. If we hold fast to God’s Word we are fixing our gaze on God by reading His Word and applying it to our lives regardless of our circumstances.

Much of this article was taken from a post by Pastor Kelly a Guest Contributor to http://www.patheos.com entitled Working Out Peace In Your Life In 2021

COVID-19 RAISING THE BIG ISSUES OF LIFE

Researchers have found Australians say they have been praying more during the COVID-19 crisis, suggesting the pandemic has led many to reassess their priorities in life.

Social researcher Mark McCrindle surveyed 1002 people between July 24 and 28 and found more than a third (35 per cent) said they were praying more and 41 per cent were thinking about God more. A quarter said they were reading the Bible more.

Nearly a half (47 per cent) said they had thought more about their mortality and the meaning of life.

“The research is showing that this COVID situation has rattled Australians and got them thinking about the big purpose of life,” Mr McCrindle said. “It’s got them re-prioritising their life.”

Charles Sturt University Associate Professor Ruth Powell, who studies Australian spirituality said she was not surprised by the survey results. Her own research as director of the National Church Life Survey has shown a third of Australians pray or meditate “in normal times”.

“In this context when a proportion say I think I am praying more …. it’s not surprising if it has been heightened at this time,” she said. “What we know from our own research is that Australians are already moderately religious or spiritual. “It’s often in times of crisis that you do go to the big spiritual questions.”

Macquarie University Professor Marion Maddox, an authority on the intersection of religion and politics, said it was not surprising many people would be thinking more about their spirituality and mortality during an existential crisis.

“The bushfires would have had similar effects of making people think about the meaning and purpose of life or …. questions about environmental concerns and our relationship to the human world,” she said.

“It’s at the same time that churches and places of collective worship are closing, so people aren’t able to gather and do their spiritual reflection as easily together. They can do it online, but it’s not quite the same.”

Anglican Bishop of South Sydney Michael Stead said he has received anecdotal feedback that parishioners were reading the Bible and praying more.

“The enforced slow down and isolation of the COVID restrictions have meant that people have been forced to step off the treadmill and realise there is more to life than the endless grind of work and pursuit of material ends,” he said. “It has given people an opportunity to reflect more deeply on what is the ultimate meaning of life and hence to dig into spiritual resources to help answer those kind of questions.

“There is a degree where we are all thinking about our own mortality now and that is forcing a reconnection back to God.”

The Stringer family is no exception, their story is encouraging.

The Stringer family have been praying more during the coronavirus pandemic. Andrew, Lucy, William, Katie and EleanorCREDIT: STEVEN SIEWERT.
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Katie Stringer from Leichhardt in Sydney Australia, a teacher and mother of three children aged from 6 to 13, said she and her family had been praying more at home together during the pandemic. They read passages from the Bible during family meals and in the car during school drop-off.
Mrs Stringer said the closure of their local Anglican church forced them to “assess their spiritual connection”. “It reminded us our faith is also our responsibility and not just the responsibility of the minister in our church,” she said. “We needed to be proactive in talking to God.”

Catastrophes: Bring them on Lord; if it means people turn back to you.

LIVING ETERNAL NOW

Have you contemplated why I called this blog Living Eternal Now?

How do we live in the light of eternity and see beyond the moment in a world of increasing darkness?

God has enabled us to look beyond today to see what lies ahead.

Jesus made it possible for our Heavenly Father to send the Holy Spirit to indwell all believers. Our bodies are now the temple of the Holy Spirit. All believers have received the Holy Spirit to be their counsellor, comforter and teacher. We are Holy Spirit enabled.

We have a spiritual lens through which to view the world from God’s perspective.

Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God.” 1 Corinthians 2:12

Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him. But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit.1 Corinthians 2:9-10

Considering we are living in the “last days” when persecution of Christians will increase. It is essential we live Holy Spirit enabled lives. He may not reveal what immediately lies ahead but we live our lives knowing He is in control of coming events. Moreover, we will not be taken by surprise, His Word tells us exactly how the “last days” play out before Jesus returns.

Living eternal nowis a way of travelling in the here and now, with our spiritual vision fixed on God and eternity so we are submitted to His will.

Remember, our days are numbered. The psalmist says, “So teach us to number our days, so that we may gain a heart of wisdom” Psalm 90:12 Hopefully, this admonition, will affect how we use our time, how we decide our priorities, so we don’t waste time..

Paul also tells us, we are now alive to the spiritual realm, we see what is important from an eternal perspective, we don’t dwell on earthly matters which are temporary:while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.2 Corinthians 4:18

The preceding verses tell us how being Holt Spirit enabled, we know that whatever God allows into our lives, we will be able to see it as “light affliction” because we know it is for His glory.

Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory,” 2 Corinthians 4:16-17

If we are living Holy Spirit enabled lives then the fruit of the Spirit (9) will be evident in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, kindness and self control. The fruit of the Spirit demonstrates how far along we are in the sanctification process, submitted to God’s will.

As well, we will be operating in the gifts of the Spirit (9). The gifts of the spirit are the ammunition that the Holy Spirit provides for our use as we walk Holy Spirit enabled lives. The miraculous will truly be evident.

But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the same Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills. 1 Corinthians 12:7-11

Note the counsel Paul gives concerning neglecting and quenching the Holy Spirits work in our lives.

Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies. Test all things; hold fast what is good.1 Thessalonians 5:19-21

Do not neglect the gift that is in you… Meditate on these things; give yourself entirely to them, that your progress may be evident to all. 1 Timothy 4:14

Are you living eternal now? If not why not?

One aspect of living eternally now is based on what our expectation is of the hereafter. Where will you be, and what will you be doing? Sadly, most peoples view of eternal life is not that appealing. They view it as an eternity in heaven but have no idea of what they will be doing there e.g. plucking harps and praising God. As a result, not to many are anxious to leave this life and go there. In future posts, we will explore what the Bible really says about where we will be (new heaven and new earth) and what we will be doing there.