Does God Cause Sickness? The Real Meaning of Hebrews 12:7-10

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Hebrews 12:7-10 –  Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness.

A couple of years ago I found myself on the phone with a security alarm company. I had signed a contract which I believed to be one year with the company, but the contract was actually for much longer – three years. I was upset. I questioned the company’s ethics. I argued back and forth with the customer service rep on the phone, but stopped when I heard the Holy Spirit say “Apologize to her.” All fell quiet.

I resisted for a fraction of a second because I didn’t want to apologize to anyone. I was adamant that I was right. But God was right. And I was wrong. I apologized to the representative on the phone. I felt like an unruly child who had misbehaved. I realized I was being reprimanded. I was experiencing Hebrews 12:7-10.

Some people believe that sickness and accidents are the disciplines of God. Some people actually believe that God disciplines his children with diseases and terrible accidents. Lies. All lies. God is a good, loving Father.

In Hebrews 12, it tells Christians to endure hardship as discipline. The Greek word use for discipline is the word paideia. Paideia is an easy word to define. In ancient Greece, paideia referred to the education and instruction of Greek citizens. It was a practical, subject-based teaching. Paideia included instruction in everything from liberal arts and medicine to music and gymnastics. The Greeks used the training to help each citizen understood their role in society.

The word paideia has nothing to do with destruction or punishment. The word means chastening, instruction and nurturing. It’s training that cultivates the soul, the morals, and the mind.

God tells Christians to endure instruction.

And instruction doesn’t always feel good. It doesn’t feel good to have your views challenged. It isn’t easy or painless to surrender every area, desire and will for your life completely to God. It never feels good to get confronted by your iniquity or have the Holy Spirit tell you that you need to change something – your behavior, your viewpoint, your personality, your relationships.

As you walk the narrow road, things will get increasingly difficult. It will be hard, and you will grieve, because whenever a person suffers loss, it’s grievous. As you allow God to instruct you, you will lose things.

You will lose friends.
You may even lose family.
You should expect to even lose pieces of yourself as God transforms you into a new creation.

No chastening in the present moment feels good but grievous. Nevertheless, if you allow God to instruct you, then it will yield the peaceable fruit of righteousness.

When Hebrews 12 tells us to endure chastisement, it’s not talking about enduring what the devil is trying to use to destroy you. If you are going through something terrible, rough, or tragic, know this: God is a Good Father. He is never to blame. The enemy comes to steal, kill, and destroy. But God comes to give life, and He gives it more abundantly.

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Book of 70 Prayers (A Book Review)

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Sometimes books drop into your life at precisely the right time. And so it is with Book of 70 Prayers. Book of 70 Prayers is a Deja Vu experience of God’s favor gracing my life at just the right time. The author sent me a copy of his work, and the book is such a blessing.

The content is simple, easy to read, and practical. What I particularly loved about this book is that if you have a basic understanding of the Bible, then you’ll immediately notice that the prayers are scriptural.

There is nothing more powerful than praying the scriptures, and this is one of those books that brings the Word of God into your prayer life seamlessly. Another aspect of this book that I admired was the author’s wisdom in isolating the prayers of the Apostle Paul. When viewed in such a context, the prayers serve as a stark reminder of what we should be praying for the church today.

There are two primary things that this book can do for you:

1. This book will change your heart. Prayer has a way of cleansing the heart, soul, and spirit. I’m reminded of a promise found in Exodus 36:26 which reads: A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh. This is something that we should all long for – a new heart.

2. This book will inspire you to become more reflective. I’m drawn to books that foster quiet introspection. I found myself reflecting as I read through Royle’s work.

Charles Spurgeon wrote, “Prayer does not fit us for the greater works; prayer is the greater work.” If you are interested in deepening your prayer life, you can purchase the Book of 70 Prayers here.

To find out more about the author (Jason Royle) check out his website here.

Understanding John 1:48 from a Hebrew Perspective

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The New Testament is filled with rich, enigmatic stories that can only be properly understood if kept in their cultural context. John 1 contains one such story.

After Yeshua called Philip to follow Him, Philip immediately became a fisher of men himself and went to share the news of the Messiah’s coming with Nathanael. When Yeshua saw Nathanael approaching, He said of him, “Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.” Nathanael’s response was one of surprise. He realized that Yeshua had an intimate knowledge of who he was. Yeshua saw beyond his exterior; Yeshua read his heart.

“How do you know me?” Nathanael asked.

Yeshua answered Nathanael with these words:

I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.” Then Nathanael declared, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the king of Israel.”

This verse may lead one to believe that Nathanael was doing something very secretive underneath that tree. Something he didn’t want anyone to know anything about. However, this isn’t the case at all!

If one dives into the Hebrew roots and culture of that time and understands this passage from a Jewish perspective, John 1:48 makes beautiful and perfect sense.

In those days, it was customary for rabbinical students to pray under the fig tree. Those studying the law under the fig trees were taught to pray while they were under the tree. They were also taught to pray for the coming of the Messiah because the rabbis believed that if one hadn’t prayed for the coming of the Messiah under the fig tree, one hadn’t prayed at all.

Nathanael knew that Yeshua was Who had been praying for under that tree.

For more insight on the Jewish roots of the scripture HERE is a great resource!

Why I Don’t Judge Others

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I’m sure that you’ve heard the adage judge not lest you be judged – which is a verse often cited by people who are good at deflecting guilt. With that said, people who recite this verse have a point. And that point is that we shouldn’t judge other people and the reason why is simple. We don’t have a right to judge people unless we are perfect. Until we have perfected our own life and live in complete purity, it’s simply not a good idea to judge people.

There are several reasons why I don’t judge other people. One of the reasons I don’t judge others is because I am too busy trying to get myself together. I’m tending my own garden. I’m busy washing the dishes in my own sink, and simply don’t have the time to chastise someone for the dirty dishes in their sink. I’m busy trying to remove logs out of my own eye so that I can see clearly to remove specks out of the eyes of my brothers and sisters in Christ.

I’m simply not in a position to judge.

It’s said in the scripture that eventually Christians will judge the world and even angels. However, this occurs at the end of the age, after Christians have been transformed and made new. We don’t have resurrected bodies just yet. When we are made perfect and whole (at the end of the age) we will judge angels… but not before then. If we try to judge before then, we will (naturally) have flawed judgment. It’s not possible to judge without flaws in a flawed body. I’m not flawless. Therefore I do not judge others.

The second reason I don’t judge others is because Scripture says that man judges by human appearance but God judges by the heart. I’m guilty of making assumptions about a person based on what I see on the outside (their circumstances and situation, what I may perceive as their morals and values), but I can only psychoanalyze to a certain level. I cannot see a person’s heart. I don’t know what’s going through a person’s mind.

I’m sure you’ve heard the saying believe half of what you see and none of what you hear. The truth is – things are not always as they seem. This is the reason God tells us that you can’t judge based on what you see.

Since I don’t know a person’s struggle and what’s happening in their heart, it’s not possible for me to make an accurate judgment – in fairness. Flawed judgment is another reason that Christians should walk in continued forgiveness towards others – because we don’t always know about the internal struggles of a person.

There are times when we might find that we aren’t even intimate with our own heartaches and pains. It’s possible (and common) to have emotional wounds within that you are unaware of. Many of us have little understanding of our own emotions and the complexity of our thoughts. Millions of people still haven’t figured out what makes them tick. They don’t know why they have the desires and vices that they have. They don’t know why they have certain habits or think certain thoughts. If it’s possible to not (fully) understand the contents of your own heart, how can you know the heart of a stranger? How can you judge?

What Do You Have in Your Hand?

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In some cultures, when a baby turns one they do something special on their birthday. The parents put the baby in a highchair and place different objects in front of them – things like a pen, money, paintbrush, prayer book, hammer and a host of various items needed for different professions. It’s thought that the object that the child chooses corresponds to what’s in their future. For example, a child who chooses money may have a future as a business person. The tradition is superstitious, but it does remind us of one key truth – that what a person has in their hands determines what they’ll accomplish.

When God sent Moses, He asked Moses a question to prepare the prophet for the task ahead. The question was, “What’s in your hand?” God already knew what was in Moses’ hand, but God wanted Moses to have a deeper awareness of this principle. God wanted Moses to understand that God could use something small and insignificant (in this case a stick) to do a great and significant work.

When we give what we have in our hands to Him, He can take something simple and transform it into something amazing. When Moses threw the stick on the ground, he realized that he had more than just a stick in his hand. He had a calling on his life and even more significantly, he had the backing of God.

Everyone has something in their hands. To be a blessing to others, use what you have in your hand. I’ve been using the pen, but some people are given other things. Some people have a beautiful voice, or a good sense of humor, or business savvy, or a knack for encouraging others – if that is what God has given you – then use it. There are a million different gifts and talents – whatever your gifts and talents are, use it for His glory. God has invested in you, and He expects a return.

1 Peter 4:10 – Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others as faithful stewards of God’s grace and various times.

We are Made in His Image (The Trinity)

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The Trinity is one of the most controversial and misunderstood subjects in theology. It has divided many Christians and even separated us into factions between those who believe that God is three and one and those who do not.

However, I think that the evidence for the Trinity is seen in man himself, whom God made in His own image. In man, we have three parts  – spirit, soul, and body. And in God, we see three manifestations -a spirit (the Holy Spirit) – a soul (the Father) – and the body (the Son).

We see throughout scripture that often the word used for spirit and soul are used interchangeably. However, we know that there is a distinction between the two. The word for soul in the Hebrew is the word nephesh. This word is best described as the literal soul and is a representation of a person’s life, emotions, desires, mind, and passion. It is the activity of his will.

However, the spirit is a different word in the Hebrew. The word spirit is ruwach. This word spirit is described as wind or breath. I believe that the spirit (or ruwach) is simply the energy or force that emits from the soul.

We have a spirit, a soul, and a body. We are triune. We are made in His image.

God has a spirit, a soul, and a body. He is triune. This is the nature of the Trinity.

Is a Competitive Spirit a Good Thing?

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When we ask if a competitive spirit is a good thing, the first thing I think we should ask ourselves is which word is more important in the phrase “competitive spirit”? Is it the word “competitive” or the word “spirit”? I think it’s the word spirit because that is precisely what it is. And any spirit that doesn’t quite resemble the Holy Spirit is a spirit that you don’t want to have.

Is the Holy Spirit competitive?

When you compare the difference in characteristics between the Holy Spirit and a competitive spirit, you’ll find that there is a stark difference. A competitive spirit is prideful, it always strives for more, it’s greedy, it’s not content or satisfied, it grasps for the wind.

The Holy Spirit, however, is humble. The Holy Spirit is peaceful and fulfilled, joyful and content. The Holy Spirit doesn’t grasp for the wind because the Holy Spirit is the Wind. There are stark differences between a competitive spirit and the Holy Spirit.

Competition isn’t encouraged in the Bible – not in the Old or New Testament. Ultimately, the Christian’s goal should be to look like Christ.

Is Christ in competition?

When Christ walked the earth, the Pharisees and religious authorities were in competition with Christ, but Christ wasn’t competing with them. Christ didn’t compete with anyone. Christ was the very nature of God, but did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; instead, he emptied himself, and took on the form of a servant, being made in human likeness.

When the disciples of Christ displayed a competitive spirit and quarreled about who was the greatest disciple, Christ rebuked them and told them that the greatest among them should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves. They were not encouraged to compete for the title of super-apostle. Instead, they learned the highest form of power is servitude and humility.

2 Corinthians 10:12: We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise.

 

What Every Christian Should Know About Fasting

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Fasting is not an option. If you are a Christian, fasting should be part of your Christian walk. If you have never fasted, I highly suggest you do it. However, before your fast, there a few things you should know.

1. Not everyone is ready for 25 days on water.

When I was in my early 20’s, I could fast for three days (water only) with relative ease. But, my diet was also a wreck so I had extra fat reserves. Now that I’m healthier, older, thinner and have a child,  I’m ready to fall on the floor the second day of water fasting. My husband, on the other hand, could fast 25 days on water with ease, but he’s also a superhero which is another story. I felt guilt about my inability to fast for long periods until I watched Marilyn Hickey speak on fasting.  She explained that three day water fasts don’t work out well for her either, so she lives a fasted life. Each day she foregoes a meal or two. I made a commitment to live a fasted life.

2. A fast from television is NOT a Biblical fast.

With that said, everyone should fast from tv and technology because many people (including Christians) are addicted. However, Biblical fasts always involves food – it never involves entertainment.

3. When you fast you should avoid tv commercials.

The only thing that you’ll see on television during fasts are burgers and pizza. Also, people will invite you to birthday parties and dinner parties. A million people will call you at once to invite you to eat. This happens to me every time I fast. Don’t fall for it. Be socially prepared for fasting and prepare to turn invitations down because whatever you are doing for God is more important than what you were going to do with friends or family.

4. The devil will throw the kitchen sink at you when you fast.

My husband and I went on a forty day fast together several months ago, and the spiritual warfare was intense from day one!! It’s not uncommon to encounter spiritual warfare during a fast – be prepared – wear the armor of God. God knows you are fasting for His glory and He will help you.

5. Fasting breaks chains, demolishes strongholds, and it sets people free.

Fasting provides revelation – fasting can give you answers. Fasting is one of the most beautiful and powerful weapons God has given us. Use fasting to your advantage.