This is the place for meditations on the journey. Comments and thoughts welcomed. Please be 'civil'!
- Written by Brian Harvey
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In All Things
In the article “Fullness of Time” I made reference to Romans 8: 28:
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
In that context the reference to Romans 8: 28 related to the fullness of time as one aspect of the “all things” that God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to His purpose. In this article I would like to expand on Romans 8: 28 and more fully comment on the verse. When it comes to verses that are often quoted out of context or unrelated to the surrounding text it may be appropriate to contextualize the verse so that a more useful meaning may be envisioned.
First, this verse is often quoted in a shortened version such as, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him.” The extension of the verse, “who have been called according to his purpose,” is left off as if it is unimportant. When 8: 28 is quoted in that abbreviated way it would appear that loving God is the only consideration of the fulfillment of the meaning of the verse. The response becomes something like, “Well, we all love God so it would seem clear that God is working in all things for our good.” We minimize the part of the verse relating to the call of God for His purposes.
Let’s further put this verse in the context of Romans 8. We must ask two questions related to the later part of Romans 8: 28, “What is the call?” and “What is God’s purpose?”
First, in this context the call is very specific:
“And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.” (Romans 8: 30 NIV) The call is specifically to those who have been predestined. Now, one can make an assumption that only those who respond to the call are the ones actually called. On the other hand, one can assume that many are called but there are few who respond to the call and are actually chosen. One could even go further, as I do, that all of humanity is called, therefore making all of humanity predestined, but not all respond to the call and the next stages in the process of justification and glorification are short circuited.
What, then, constitutes a “call?” I believe our system of communication represented by the telephone is an excellent illustration. When someone dials (or keys in) a telephone number they are, in effect, predetermining (or predestining) that the person they are attempting to reach will receive a telephone “call.” When the person whose telephone number has been activated choses to answer the call they are then chosen. Now, we know that in the communication system we are using as an illustration there are some extraneous side issues. We may have caller ID so that we can see who is calling before answering. We may have a messaging system that will record a message if we are not available to answer the call. In the spiritual realm we also are able to discern or recognize that God is calling and this may determine whether or not we choose to answer. We also have a message system that records the message that God has sent to us. Some call this messaging system Scripture and some call it the Bible. There are also personal messaging systems in this communication system that would line up with the concept of couriers (those assigned to carry specific messages and deliver the message to specific individuals); we call these “witnesses.”
Second, in this context the purpose of God is very specific:
“For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the first born among many brothers and sisters.” (Romans 8: 29 NIV) The purpose of God here stated is very specifically that many sons and daughters might be conformed to the image of His Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus is to be recognized as the firstborn of many daughters and sons. We who love God and are the called are to become like Jesus. We are to be conformed to the image of Jesus. When those of the world look at us they are to see Jesus, not us. They are to see a whole slew of Jesus-es walking around.
We can then take this promise as fulfilled when we love God; have answered the call; and are in the process of being conformed into the image of Jesus. Then God is taking all of the things in your life and is using them to make you more like Jesus.Write comment (0 Comments)
- Written by Brian Harvey
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Fullness of Time
“What I am saying is that as long as an heir is underage, he is no different from a slave, although he owns the whole estate. The heir is subject to guardians and trustees until the time set by his father. So also, when we were underage, we were in slavery under the elemental spiritual forces of the world. But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. Because you are his sons [and daughters], God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ‘Abba, Father.’ So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.” (Galatians 4: 1 – 7 NIV)
“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.” (Ephesians 1: 7 – 10 NIV)
In the scriptures quoted above I see three completions of the concept “fullness of time:”
First - The proper time in history set by God for the most effective propagation of the Gospel of Christ:
“So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David.” (Luke 2: 1 – 4 NIV)Jesus came at the time when the Roman world occupied the Mediterranean basin and extended to Britain. The business language throughout the Roman world and understood by most was Greek. We find that the New Testament was written in Greek. Paul preached and extended the gospel from Antioch into Europe and eventually personally went to Rome effectively solidifying the gospel message as a message to both Jews and Gentiles. The purposes and plans of God by fully revealing Himself through His Son, Jesus Christ, came at a time when the communication, travel, and business transactions best allowed the gospel message to spread.
“In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register.
Second - The fulfillment of the time set for the Jews to repent:
Without going into great detail, Jesus came and began His ministry when He was baptized by John the Baptist at the beginning of the last `week’ of Daniel’s prophecy. His call to repentance to the Jewish nation was the call to complete the prophecy for the Jewish nation to repent. When Jesus wept over Jerusalem it was basically because the call to repentance had not been taken up by the Jews but Jesus was rejected. We do not have an exact time for the sermon of Stephen before the Sanhedrin when the Jewish leaders made a final rejection of Jesus’ ministry and call to repentance. However, we certainly see a link between the rejection of the message of Jesus; the time of completion of the prophecy of Daniel; and the time of the Gentiles beginning by the cloaks of the accusers and executioners of Stephen being laid at the feet of Saul. Saul would eventually take the gospel to the Gentiles.
“Seventy `sevens’ are decreed for your people and your holy city to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the Most Holy Place. [Or the Most Holy One].” (Daniel 9: 24 NIV)
Third - Personal fulfillment of the calling in the life of an individual believer according to the plan and purpose of God:
In all of this there is a direct connection to the individual believer who is called to become like Jesus; be filled and empowered by the Holy Spirit; and carry on the work of Jesus. The fulfillment of time works personally in the individual believer just as it did in the physical Roman world and in the spiritual world of the fulfillment of prophecy. We are not too young; we are not too old; we are not helpless or without power; and we are promised that God is able to work all things together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the first born among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.” (Romans 8: 28 – 30 NIV)Write comment (0 Comments)
- Written by Brian Harvey
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Sinners, Prostitutes, and Tax-Collectors
I am going to ask you to remember why Jesus was crucified. I don’t mean the spiritual dynamics or the plan of God from the foundations of the world. I am thinking about the religious officials or the leaders of the Jews who actually put Jesus to death. One of the most horrendous acts in history was the crucifixion of the Son of God. God’s plan was to reveal Himself to the world by sending His Son into the world. We had an opportunity to actually see God obviously without the uncomfortable and actually dangerous cloud of glory. I know, I know. Most of the ancient pictures and depictions of Jesus show a halo or cloud of brightness around the figure of Jesus. Even today He is pictured in white with a certain Hollywood glow about the actor portraying the part.
But in reality, this would not fit in with the plan of God at all. Jesus appeared like any other person. John the Baptist had to be shown spiritually that Jesus was the “Lamb of God who would take away the sin of the world.” Even then, when the tide of human events turned and John was in prison, he sent his disciples to inquire if Jesus was the one. So . . . Jesus did not draw attention to Himself. He was considered in His hometown of Nazareth to be the carpenter. Jesus had lived 30 years of His life in an unremarkable and normal way.
Then Jesus submitted to baptism by John the Baptist. In some accounts John reacted to Jesus’ request by declaring that he (John) needed to be baptized by Jesus and not the other way around. Jesus knew He was following the prompting of His Father and assured John that it was what God wanted. He was joining into the crowd being baptized and announcing that He was one of them. He was completing the process of incarnation; of becoming fully a human being; by identifying with the human race.
Jesus then spent 40 days without eating in the desert. We have spoken of this before. Being baptized in the Holy Spirit will always bring a period of testing so that the Holy Spirit can empower us. What I am writing about today is really about the end of the story. Jesus’ ministry progressed until He was ministering to vast crowds. We have a difficult time getting this picture. Even movie scenes of crowded Oriental marketplaces do not give us a good vision of the “multitudes.” Packed like sardines would be a way of somewhat describing the desperate crowds trying to just touch Jesus.
This popularity made the leaders of the Jews; the Sadducees who were the High Priests; and the Pharisees who considered themselves experts in the Law; very jealous. The most vexing thing was that Jesus actually liked the crowds. Jesus actually had compassion on them. He healed them. He touched them. He talked to them. He taught them. And the multitudes loved Him.
This drove the Jewish leaders crazy. They could not understand how Jesus could love this accursed mob. That is what the religious hypocrites considered the multitude. As far as they were concerned they were headed to heaven; or in the case of the Sadducees, enjoying all the luxury they could ever have; and the accursed mob were doomed. They could not understand Jesus as He hung out with sinners, prostitutes, and tax-collectors. When they brought a woman to Him caught in the very act of adultery, they were thwarted and stymied when Jesus forced them to admit that they, too, were sinners.
This is why they crucified Him. Jesus was in the process of destroying their religious way of life. He is still in the process of destroying the religious way of life. Jesus is changing the world through His followers. But His plan is in agreement with His Father’s plan and that is to change our way of life both personally and corporately to the way of love. His last command was to love one another. Do we need to say any more than that? Is there anything that needs to be explained about loving another human being? The power of the Holy Spirit is to lead us and guide us into the way of love. The Holy Spirit is teaching us to live like Jesus. We are to love sinners, prostitutes, and tax-collectors.Write comment (0 Comments)
- Written by Brian Harvey
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The Necessity of Testing
When I achieved puberty in the normal maturity of a boy becoming a man I had a talk with my father. Now, you might quickly assume that the talk was about the “birds and the bees.” However, at that time in history speaking about sexual functions would be the farthest thing from my mind. In fact, I was not able to actually say the names of genital parts of the body until I was 40. I was raised in an environment where movies, card playing, make-up, and dancing were frowned upon; I certainly wasn’t going to discuss more intimate details of life between boys and girls or between men and women.
What I came to my father about was what he called “growing pains.” I was gaining muscle. My body was developing into a manly body with strength. My arms, shoulders, and legs ached. For muscles to develop and grow they were being exercised. Exercise results in muscles becoming bigger and stronger and blood vessels expanding to supply nutrients and needed fuel to the muscles. There are also chemical results that happen in the body during the development of the muscles.
One of the things that happens is the release of endorphins. I found some fact about endorphins on the internet:
“Stress and pain are the two most common factors leading to the release of endorphins. Endorphins interact with the opiate receptors in the brain to reduce our perception of pain and act similarly to drugs such as morphine and codeine. In contrast to the opiate drugs, however, activation of the opiate receptors by the body's endorphins does not lead to addiction or dependence.
“In addition to decreased feelings of pain, secretion of endorphins leads to feelings of euphoria, modulation of appetite, release of sex hormones, and enhancement of the immune response. With high endorphin levels, we feel less pain and fewer negative effects of stress. Endorphins have been suggested as modulators of the so-called "runner's high" that athletes achieve with prolonged exercise. While the role of endorphins and other compounds as potential triggers of this euphoric response has been debated extensively by doctors and scientists, it is at least known that the body does produce endorphins in response to prolonged, continuous exercise.”
While the development of muscle and the production of chemicals in the body due to exercise may be interesting; what do these fact have to do with spiritual development or spiritual maturity you may ask? I am so glad you asked! Consider Luke 4: “Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the desert, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry.” (Luke 4: 1, 2 NIV)
“Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside. He taught in their synagogues and everyone praised him.” (Luke 4: 14, 15 NIV)
Without testing the muscles do not grow. Without exercise the chemicals that make it possible for us to enjoy the process are not produced. Any athlete knows that she or he must go through periods of stress to strengthen the muscles and make the tasks possible at a high level so that competition is possible.
Jesus was filled with the Holy Spirit at the Jordan when He was baptized. He was led by the Holy Spirit into the desert for the expressed purpose of being tested by the devil.
Jesus returned from the testing with fully developed spiritual muscles and taught with amazing results. He was praised by the people; the beginning of the glory that would come to Him as He followed His Father’s plan.
Our muscular or our natural development reflects God’s plan for our spiritual development. God has planned that we must exercise to develop muscles and has planned that the body will produce endorphins so that we will enjoy exercise and continue to do that which our body needs to remain healthy.
Our spirituality and our maturity also depend on stress or testing in order to develop. It is well know that we are to disciple new believers. The term disciple implies discipline. We must learn to do those things that develop us into mature daughters and sons of God.Write comment (0 Comments)
- Written by Brian Harvey
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For the Love of Christ
“It is an unlikely friendship that ties the fates of war correspondent Kenji Goto and troubled loner Haruna Yukawa, the two Japanese hostages for which Islamic State militants demanded a $200 million ransom this week.
“Goto began working as a full-time war correspondent in 1996 and had established a reputation as a careful and reliable operator for Japanese broadcasters, including NHK.
"He understood what he had to do and he was cautious," said Naomi Toyoda, who reported with him from Jordan in the 1990s.
“Goto, who converted to Christianity in 1997, also spoke of his faith in the context of his job.
"I have seen horrible places and have risked my life, but I know that somehow God will always save me," he said in a May article for the Japanese publication Christian Today. But he told the same publication that he never risked anything dangerous, citing a passage in the Bible, "Do not put the Lord your God to the test."”
The above quote was copied from a news article posted on the internet regarding the two citizens of Japan held as hostage by Islamic State. When I ask God to show me what to write each day for the blog article most usually I will have an inner sense of inspiration regarding a Biblical theme or remember something that God has recently revealed to me through a Bible passage or by some event in my life. Today this news story came to my attention because of the reference quoted above regarding the faith of Goto.
The article explains the situation regarding why the men have been abducted. Haruna Yukawa is a friend of Kenji Goto. Yukawa had been following a dream of becoming a military contractor after going through some life changing experiences of losing his wife to cancer and going through bankruptcy. He asked Goto to help him with safe contacts in Syria and while Goto returned to Japan Yukawa disappeared. Goto returned to seek information on his friend and the next information on either was from a video published by Islamic State demanding ransom or death for the two friends.
I find writing of this situation very difficult. The difficulty does not lie in the fact that a brother, and possibly two, are being threatened with death because of their faith. The difficulty lies in expressing the Biblical teaching regarding such a situation without sounding pious or religious. When our Savior, Jesus Christ, died on the cross the purpose of the Jewish religious leaders was to rid themselves of a teacher who was presenting a way of love that would essentially destroy their religious system. Jesus taught a non-judgemental approach to life that turned judgment on its ear and internalized it. Rather than judging others Jesus taught to look within, repent, and live a life of love; including the love of enemies.
Goto is kneeling in a photo published by Islamic State with a knife wielding man threatening him because he is willing to live out the life of a follower of Christ. I do not see this as relating in any way to religion. This scene is not about Islam threatening Christianity. That may be the reaction of many who call themselves Christian. There are rallies across Europe against the perceived threat of Islam invading Europe. Those rallies are only an expression of the same spirit that allowed the rise of Hitler with his Aryan purity teaching.
What I see here demonstrated is the love of Christ expressed by Kenji Goto because he loves Christ enough to care for his friend even into dangerous circumstances. The fact that he could do this is because he fully realizes that there is no death for the follower of Christ. Death is impossible for a believer in Jesus, the Son of God. For those who put their faith in Jesus death has been fully conquered. Yes, we are taught by the Scriptures to flee persecution; but we do so because of wisdom not because of fear.
There is a major event that takes place when a person converts to “Christianity” and decides to become a follower of Jesus Christ. It is impossible to explain to anyone who has not decided to follow Christ. In any other decision to convert to a religion one is changing to another life style or belief system. When one decides to follow Jesus one is deciding to follow a living person who then becomes daily present to direct and guide one’s life. This daily presence happens because the Holy Spirit has been poured out upon the world and He has become present in the life and heart of all believers.
Even is the midst of this life threatening situation Kenji Goto and Haruna Yukawa are not alone.Write comment (0 Comments)
- Written by Brian Harvey
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Love or War
“Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.
“These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon (who is called Peter) and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.” (Matthew 10: 1 – 4 NIV)
There is the same list repeated in Luke with an introduction that indicates how serious this selection was for Jesus:
“One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles: Simon (whom he named Peter), his brother Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Simon who was called the Zealot, Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.” (Luke 6: 12 – 16 NIV)
A comparison of the two lists:
James son of Alphaeus James son of Alphaeus
Thaddaeus Simon who was called the Zealot
Simon the Zealot Judas son of James
Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.
In the difference in these two lists we see that Thaddaeus is the same person as Judas son of James. Let’s look at little closer by observing events recorded in John regarding Philip and Nathanael:
“The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, `Follow me.”
“Philip, like Andrew and Peter, was from the town of Bethsaida. Philip found Nathanael and told him, `We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.’
“`Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?’ Nathanael asked.
“`Come and see,’ said Philip.
“When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said to him, `Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.’
“`How do you know me?’ Nathanael asked.
“Jesus answered, `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.’
“Jesus said, `You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You will see greater things than that.’ He then added, `Very truly I tell you, you will see `heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on’ the Son of Man.’” (John 1: 43 – 51 NIV)
We find from the record in John that Philip and Bartholomew were friends and the Nathanael mentioned in John is the same person as Bartholomew.
The reason I go to these lengths to bring the calling and the names of the apostles to mind is to show the importance the calling of the apostles was to Jesus and the special care that the selection process involved. The calling of Bartholomew (Nathanael) as recorded in John reveals the gifts of the Holy Spirit at work in Jesus. Jesus was aware of Nathanael as he was meditating under the fig tree and was even aware of what he was meditating about (the ascending and descending of the angels on the ladder to heaven in the dream of Jacob).
Of the twelve we know some specifically from the scriptures. Four were fishermen. Of these James and John were nicknamed Sons of Thunder by Jesus. Matthew was called from being a tax-collector. Thomas became known as the doubter. Simon was a Zealot looking for violent action against the Romans. In the natural, Matthew and Simon the Zealot should have hated each other. Judas Iscariot was to betray Jesus.
It is no small thing that Jesus prayed all night. And we must know that Jesus was faithful to those Father placed in His hands right to the end. If we read the events of the Last Supper as recorded in John 13 we see that Judas Iscariot was included in the foot washing by Jesus; and, yet, at the conclusion of the foot washing he began to announce the betrayal of Judas.
There is working in you and I the gifts of the Holy Spirit. If you do not think that is true ask Jesus to baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. I write this article about the apostles and the gifts working in Jesus to encourage you because the calling to become like Jesus is extended to you. You are to be empowered to do the things that Jesus did and to become a daughter or son of God. The gifts that worked in Jesus will work in you so that we well be able to walk in the ways of love rather than war.Write comment (0 Comments)