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.

Understanding John 1:48 from a Hebrew Perspective

figtree

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!

People-pleasing is a Bad Idea

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Via Unsplash

Galatians 1:10 – For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.

Galatians 1:10 is clear: No one can please everybody.

Each person is going to like aspects and parts of you while disliking parts of you. It’s very rarely that you’ll find someone that likes all of you, and if you do, then you should just marry that person. With that said, different people will want you to behave in a different way – people will have their unique version of who they think you are at your best – this may differ widely. You can’t be who everyone else wants you to be, or even who one particular person wants you to be. Sometimes you can’t even be the person you want to be because that might even be a bad idea.

So here is what I suggest, be the person God wants you to be.

People-pleasing is vanity. It’s like grasping for the wind. It’s a miserable existence to live your life trying to please people. However, trying to live a life that is pleasing to God is far from miserable. People pleasing produces anxiety and fear – discontent and frustration, but God-pleasing produces peace, courage and clarity.

Most of us are guilty of trying to please people. Throughout the Bible, we see men of God attempting to please others. King Saul is a good example. Saul lost the kingdom because he was so focused on pleasing those around him. God gave the kingdom to David, who wasn’t a people-pleaser, but was instead a man after God’s own heart.

I know what it’s like to fall into the trap of wanting to please someone. My life got much easier, far more peaceful and focused once I stopped caring what people thought, and cared more about what God thought. When you can get free of the opinions of others, it’s incredibly liberating. I thank God that He is so merciful and has warned us against people-pleasing.

There are two simple truths that you need to remember:

First, you can’t control what other people think about you. Focus on what God thinks about you. Is God pleased with you? That’s what matters. If God is pleased with you then you are on the right track – His opinion is the only opinion that’s important.

Second, understand that your self-worth isn’t dependent or contingent on someone’s opinion. Your self-worth must be rooted in Christ, and Christ alone. Usually, at the heart of people-pleasing, there is a self-esteem issue or a confidence-conflict. This is something that many of us struggle with. The enemy is a thief, and one of the things that he attempts to steal is our confidence. When you lack confidence and have low self-esteem, it’s easier to fall into the trap of people-pleasing.

Remember how much Yeshua loves you, so root your sense of self-worth in His love. Know that God loves you, and that is all that matters.

Put your trust in God, seek to please Him and put your trust in Him alone.

Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Your Anger

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Many people believe that expressing anger serves no purpose, and it’s best left unexpressed. However, people with this perspective typically end up feeling resentful of their loved ones. They never express their anger, so it just simmers unproductively. The resentment builds, and the relationship deteriorates.

In some cases, anger is better left unexpressed. It’s wrong to express anger in a way that is physically or emotionally harmful towards the person with whom you are angry, but if you know how to communicate in a healthy manner, then expressing your anger can lead to a more fulfilling, honest and authentic relationship.

What many people don’t know is that the idea of not going to bed angry actually comes from the Bible. In Ephesians 4:26, it states; Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath.

Ephesians 4 is clear: resolve any conflict before drifting into REM.

Going to bed angry has a profound effect on your brain and subconscious. A study in the Journal of Neuroscience revealed that going to sleep after experiencing anger (or any negative emotion) helps the negative emotion to lodge permanently in the brain. The brain activity that occurs while we sleep “protects” the anger and permanently embeds it our emotions.

If you have a fight with your spouse, don’t sleep it off. Instead, talk it out and choose to resolve the conflict – even if you must agree to disagree, let go of the negative emotions so that you can rest.

Tikkun Olam and Heart Renewal

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There is an interesting concept in Judaism called Tikkun Olam, which is synonymous with social action and the pursuit of justice. Tikkun Olam means ‘World Repair’ and it’s the idea that your actions, the things that you do have the capacity to repair the world – a world that’s been broken by sin.

However, what we need more than world repair is Heart Repair.

You can’t have world repair without heart repair. It’s out of the abundance of the heart that evil comes. Yeshua said For out of the heart come evil thoughts–murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.

King David understood the reality of heart repair and asked God in the Psalms to create in him a clean heart and renew a steadfast spirit in him. David understood that if he was going to live a life that pleased God he needed a new heart. I believe that God gave David what he requested and answered his prayer, which is why we also read that David was a man after God’s own heart, because when your heart is clean, you seek His heart.

Thankfully, God is not just a God of repair, but He is a God of renewal because the world needs more than just repair – it needs to be renewed. Repairing the world simply won’t work because we ultimately need a new world altogether. In the New Testament, the disciple John records the future and says this:

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also gone.

The earth is so defiled and degraded; it’s beyond repair. This is not to say that God can’t repair the earth, because He is God, after all, He can repair anything. However, in the future, God is going to create something new.

It’s encouraging to know that we serve a God of renewal. Until our new world comes, we need heart renewal, and in the meanwhile, as we ask God to renew our hearts we can hold on to the promise of Yeshua, who said “Behold, I am making all things new.”

Recognizing the Voice of God

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You need to be able to recognize God’s voice so that you don’t confuse it with the enemy’s voice. When you don’t know God’s voice, the possibility for deception is there. You might think that what you hear in your heart, mind, or from other people is from God, when it’s not. Being able to hear and recognize His voice and distinguish between His voice and Satan’s is imperative.

God’s voice has distinct characteristics based on His nature. God is a God of love, order, clarity, encouragement – these are all characteristics of God portrayed in His voice. So, while Satan condemns, God convicts. The enemy discourages, God encourages – the enemy confuses, God clarifies. When you understand the character of God and the Word of God, you’ll recognize His voice. His voice is gentle, beautiful, confirming and brings about peace in your spirit. God doesn’t bring anxiety and fear.

Some people think that hearing God’s voice means hearing the audible voice of God. There are plenty of people waiting to hear God’s voice, assuming that it will thunder from heaven (and it can) – but because it hasn’t, they assume that God has never spoken to them. But God speaks in more than one way.

God can speak to us through other people.

He often speaks to us through His word.

He speaks to us in a still, small voice – sometimes it’s just a whisper in the heart.

God can even speak through music. I once asked God a question when I was a little kid and He immediately answered me through a song that was playing on the radio. I was so surprised and delighted I never forgot that moment. God speaks to us in numerous ways, so listen for His Voice.

God Doesn’t Show Favoritism – Acts 10:34

The Heart of SantoriniVia Flickr

Peter didn’t want to go to a Gentile home. It wasn’t customary for a Jewish person to visit the home of a non-Jew. It wasn’t how that society worked – but God had a different plan for His church. His church wasn’t going to be a restrictive club that was unwelcoming towards people who looked a certain way. He wanted His Church to be a group of people from every nation… from all backgrounds and ethnicities.

God changed Peter’s heart, and Peter went to the house of Cornelius.

Peter was no longer bound by social boundaries or ethnic and racial parameters – God gave both Peter and Cornelius visions of His love for all. His desire is that all are saved – both Jew and Gentile.

God loves people. He died (and rose) for people. He doesn’t just love nice, friendly people who are hospitable and care about animals. Or people who volunteer and go to church. Or people who work with children or the elderly. God loves everybody – including the grouchy people who kick dogs and curse at others in traffic.

God expects impartiality from His followers – He doesn’t want us to treat people according to worldly standards, but by righteous standards. We must ignore the appearance, influence, wealth, status, ethnicity, race, personality or any other factors that we use to judge people by worldly standards. Like God, we are to look at the heart.

 

Prayer Can Move the Earth… Literally

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Acts 4:31- And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness.

An earthquake occurs in the book of Acts – there is no other way to describe what took place in natural, scientific terms other than to refer to it as an earthquake. The Christians were praying, and their prayers shook the earth.

We can speculate for days about why the place shook after they prayed. Perhaps it shook because principalities were being dethroned in the spiritual realm. Perhaps it was shaking because the Holy Spirit was coming to fill those who were praying, and the earth shakes at the presence of God. Perhaps the earthquake was a prophetic sign and symbol of the great shaking that the apostles were about to bring upon the earth as they gained the boldness to preach the Gospel and turn the world upside down.

Or maybe it shook to remind us of the power of prayer.

Prayer is powerful. It’s one of the most powerful weapons that a Christian has in their arsenal. I believe fully and deeply in the power of prayer. I so believe in prayer that I don’t go a single day without it. I’ve even written a book about it.

Prayer is powerful. Prayer can move the earth. Prayer can bring the Holy Spirit into a place. Prayer can produce boldness. Prayer can turn the world upside down.

Let’s not forget to pray.