Religious Hypocrisy and Political Manipulation

The Roman Governor didn’t care one bit about the God of the Sadducees, but the Sadducees supported him anyway. This was because the Governor let them keep their money and influence.

The Sadducees appeared to be conservative because of their insistence on maintaining control of the Jewish death penalty, emphasis on worshiping at the Temple, and so forth.

The Governor wanted their support, not their God. In exchange, he let them have their way in certain legal matters. This kept the majority quiet, and allowed the Governor to do as he pleased.

Everything was going along pretty smoothly, until those two cousins showed up. They were just small-town boys who had somehow developed an incredible charisma. First came John the Baptist, who dared to scorn the Governor’s immorality publicly. And then that Nazarene, Jesus – who openly challenged the lies and deceit of both religious factions. Neither Sadducees nor Pharisees were safe from Jesus’ withering rhetoric.

As the common people listened to John and Jesus, it began to occur to a few of them that both the religious leaders and the political leaders were willing to take advantage of their faith in God in order to manipulate them for their own ends.

Those who chose to follow God faithfully began to realize that they were on their own. They couldn’t find solace in Temple or Palace. There was only One Way to choose purity and righteousness, love and grace, freedom and faith. They chose to follow Jesus.

–Bob Young
[12/4/2017]

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Books by Bob Young
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The Sadducees Conquered Christianity

Christians are frequently warned about the dangers of becoming like the Pharisees, but what about the dangers of becoming like the Sadducees? Jesus taught a way of life, and an understanding of God, that was at odds with both groups.

Let’s start by looking at the characteristics of the two groups.

The Pharisees accepted the “oral traditions,” or “oral law,” as being completely binding and authoritative. This was in addition to the material written in the Bible. The Pharisees had a strong emphasis on obedience to the law – all of it. The Pharisees had a reputation for being proud of their obedience to the law, but Jesus accused them of being hypocrites because they didn’t obey the law quite as precisely as they described it.

The Sadducees viewed only the Torah in this manner. The Torah consists of the five books of Moses: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. Christians are often surprised to learn that the Sadducees were, in some ways, very conservative. For example, because of their strict view of the Torah as absolute law, the Sadducees were strong advocates of the death penalty for certain crimes. They were in favor of harsh punishment, in keeping with the Torah’s words, “eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.”

Usually, Christians view the Sadducees as liberal in their theology, since they didn’t believe in angels or heaven or an afterlife. This opinion isn’t really accurate. The more accurate explanation is that the Sadducees didn’t believe in certain spiritual teachings specifically because they aren’t found in the Torah. Instead, they’re found in other parts of what we now call the Old Testament, and in the oral tradition that the Pharisees accepted.

Because the Sadducees had a more limited set of laws to deal with, it was easier for them to reconcile themselves to Roman rule. There were fewer theological differences. Also, the Sadducees were in control of the Temple, and had been in control for generations. Their positions of authority were received by birth, passed down within families. And, of course, they were wealthy.

Wealth and power are strong motivators to work with the country’s political forces. Maintaining the status quo is a reliable way to keep your position of influence. So, three forces –  theology, wealth, and power – caused them to work with the government, whether it was Jewish or Roman. Indeed, to the extent possible, the Sadducees were the government. When the government was Jewish, the Sadducees were one of two major parties, and struggled to maintain a majority over the Pharisees. And when the government was controlled by the Romans, the Sadducees moved quickly to form an alliance that would protect their wealth and give them as much control as possible.

Today, in America, people who would follow Jesus face two dangers: the danger of becoming like the Pharisees, and the danger of becoming like the Sadducees.

The danger of becoming like the Pharisees is well-known, but that doesn’t prevent it from happening. Christians always face the risk of becoming prideful about their obedience to certain rules. Christians also face the risk of authoritarianism, which causes them to require non-Christians to live by the Christian moral code. Christians can become like the Pharisees when they become judgmental, criticizing those who don’t share their beliefs. So, the three risks of the Pharisees are pride, authoritarianism, and judgment.

The danger of becoming like the Sadducees is less well-known, but it’s happening in America right now. Christians face the risk of aligning themselves with powerful political parties, and with specific politicians, in an effort to maintain the status quo. We see this most clearly when wealthy and influential Christian leaders endorse political parties, politicians, or legislation that helps them maintain their money and status.

There’s an easy way for you to tell if a Christian leader has become a Sadducee. If a Christian leader compromises the teaching of Jesus in order to support the government, they have fallen into the error of the Sadducees. If a Christian leader minimizes or overlooks sins that they formerly preached against, they have become a Sadducee. If they try to distract you by pointing out the sins of others, without acknowledging the same sins in the politicians they endorse, they are a Sadducee.

If you have been misled by a Christian leader who has become a compromising Sadducee, you can get yourself back on track. Do this: read at least one of the four gospels; Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Pay attention to the teachings of Jesus. Wherever you find disagreement between what Jesus says and what today’s popular Christian leaders say, choose Jesus. And be vocal about it. Tell other Christians that you have seen the truth in the words of Jesus. Tell them that the Sadducees are wrong.

–Bob Young
December 3, 2017

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What Thanksgiving Reveals

Friend, there’s a difference between “I’m thankful” and “I’m lucky.”

There’s a reason why your heart is filled with gratitude on this day of Thanksgiving, rather than simply being filled with a sense of winning. Thankfulness, or gratitude, has a direction. It is pointed at someone beyond ourselves, someone who took action for our benefit. The feelings that swell your heart today aren’t just expressions of appreciation for family, friends, and (maybe) bosses. They’re evidence of a spiritual dimension to life that, for whatever reason, you may have needed to ignore.

Negative experiences with one or more religions may have necessitated a self-protective withdrawal from anything that can’t be concretely measured. And yet, on days like today, the goodness of your Creator is as real to you as anything has ever been.

Today, you know  that, although people are wicked, God is good.

Don’t let this day pass in denial. Don’t let the love and presence of God be a fleeting moment in November. Hold on to his presence; embrace him. Let this joy, this peace, this life of grateful awareness, be your new, daily walk.

–Bob Young
23 November, 2017

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Bob’s Guide to Recognizing True Love

My parents. Married 75 years.

I’ve got to admit, I’m chuckling right now. You’re reading something I wrote about relationship advice? That may be a big mistake, you know. I mean, the truth is, I don’t have much experience. I dated maybe a half-dozen girls in high school. I married my wife when I was 18 years old, in 1973, and we’re still married. We had two sons, but no daughters. So, what do I know about love? There have only been two women in my life: my mom and my wife.

But, since you’re here, I don’t want to waste your time, so I’ll do my best to write something useful. You can quit reading at any time if it doesn’t resonate with you.

Two-Way Love

First, let’s clear something up. I’m not going to give any attention to unrequited love. That’s where you love someone, but they don’t love you. Or they love you, but you don’t love them. Either way, that’s a bummer, and I don’t want to talk about it.

Sure, unrequited love can be true love, but hey – it’s not exactly useful. You can’t make a life together if only one of you is in love. So, I’m only going to talk to you about reciprocated love. Two-way love. You love them, they love you…

And when that happens, the question becomes, “Is it real? Real enough to last? Can we make a life together?”

So, maybe I should have made the title more specific, like, “How To Recognize True Love, But Only If It’s Reciprocal Love, Too.” Right. That’d be a great title. Let’s just move on.

Time Lords

Do you remember an ancient television show called “The Love Boat?” If you can remember it, don’t admit it. Tell people you know about it because of the reruns, because if you’re old enough to have watched it when it originally aired, you’re a dinosaur. You’re an old fossil like me.

Anyway, there was this one super-profound episode where the Captain’s daughter was madly in love with an older guy. She was in her teens, and he was a mature, worldly-wise gentleman, maybe twenty-one or twenty-two. The Captain, of course, like a good dad, recognized that the guy was a jerk. He saw him as he really was – that is, from a dad’s perspective – just a rich, arrogant frat boy who wanted to bang his daughter. By the end of the episode, it turned out that Dad was right. The guy was a total jerk, and the Captain’s daughter had a broken heart and ran to her wise, loving father for a hug and some comfort and advice. And he gave her some great – I mean, really great – advice. Which, of course, I will now generously share with you…

The Captain’s daughter asked, “Daddy, how will I know when it’s really love?”

And Dad said – I love this – Dad said, “The only true test of true love is time. You’ll never know if it’s true love in a day, or a week. Love takes time.

The Apostle Paul wrote, “Love never ends.” (I Corinthians 13:8, ESV) Remember this, if you’re worried about your lover’s love for you evaporating.

 

Peacemakers

Monica Drake wrote, “If you meet somebody and your heart pounds, your hands shake, your knees go weak, that’s not the one. When you meet your ‘soul mate’ you’ll feel calm. No anxiety, no agitation.”

That’s not to say you won’t feel a certain giddiness in the presence of your true love. There’s a big difference between joyful giddiness and being a nervous wreck. Don’t be confused about this. Love is exciting, but it shouldn’t be conjuring up fears of abandonment.

And another thing. True love won’t be causing you to feel like changes need to be made: “I sort of love this person, but it’d be easier if this thing about them was different.” When they let loose a stinky fart in the car and you still love them, you’re getting close to the real deal.

Okay, I admit, that was an oversimplification. And yes, I still make fart jokes at my age. But do you get the idea? If you’re worried that the relationship might be ruined in a moment, then it’s not true love. Yet. That doesn’t mean it won’t be. But what does love take? Love takes time.

To summarize this section, love creates peace. Love brings strength. Love builds confidence. Love contains its own assurance that there is a bond here.

In the Bible’s book of romantic love, we find wisdom in this sentence: “This is my beloved and this is my friend.” (Song of Solomon 5:16, ESV)

Words

Words can be shallow, transient, confusing things. In courtrooms, lawyers argue over definitions of terms. In the workplace, we’re concerned about the job description, the acceptable use policy, and the dress code. As consumers, we scrutinize the warranty for our new refrigerator, and the nutrition information on our junk food labels. (“Oh, super! A serving only contains 100 calories! Wait – what? A serving is three chips?”)

Yes, words can be shallow. Words can be deceptive. They can also be important. We can tell a lot about a person by examining their words in two distinct ways: (1) What did they say? and, (2) What didn’t they say?

Jesus said, “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matthew 12:36-37, ESV)

It doesn’t hurt to start paying attention to words right now, though. Don’t wait for the day of judgment. Does your prospective lover make fun of you? Criticize you? Command you to perform? Minimize your feelings? Verbally manipulate you? Induce feelings of guilt in you?

Wake up! Snap out of it! This will be your future for years and years. And years. And years…

A true love’s words will build you up, strengthen you, encourage you, forgive you – love you.

Actions

James wrote, “ If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?” (James 2:15-16, ESV)

Words are important, but they don’t exist in a vacuum. So, let’s apply this to love: “If someone says, ‘I love you with all my heart,’ but continually ignores your physical or emotional needs, what good is that?”

Jesus said, “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit.” (Matthew 12:33 ESV)

Listen to me: if this person really loves you, you will have no trouble seeing a remarkable consistency between their words and their actions. If there’s any sort of disconnect between what they say and what they do – it’s not true love.

If their words are unnerving, it’s not true love.

If their actions are unnerving, it’s not true love.

Summary

Here’s how to know if it’s true love, love that can last.

  1. It’s reciprocal.
  2. It’s not time-dependent, and you aren’t concerned that it will suddenly disappear.
  3. It leads to peace and strength inside you; not worry, fear, inadequacy, or guilt.
  4. It’s infused with the language of love, not manipulation or derision.
  5. It’s visible in real-world actions. It’s not just talk or feelings. It’s got actions.

Prayer

Father, give this reader, the one reading right now, the wisdom to identify true love. Give this reader the courage to walk away from false love. And also, Father, I ask that you will give this reader the ability to love, to really love, as you love us. Amen.

–Bob Young
11/19/2017

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Ask Bob #96: Do You Have To Have Faith To Be Healed?

Praying Hands by Otto Greiner (1869-1916)

Today’s Question: “When you have some free time, I have an Ask Bob question. When praying for someone, whose faith affects the outcome? The faith of the one praying, or the faith of the one who is prayed for?”

My Answer: Friend, I’m so very glad you asked this question! A lot of people have suffered a lot of anguish because of some common misunderstandings about the relationship between faith and prayer.

First Things First

First, a note to other readers: you need to know that I have greatly abbreviated the question. When my friend sent me this question, it was part of a longer message. The question itself was very similar to the one I’ve written above: “When praying for someone, who’s faith affects the outcome?” It seemed to be about intercession in general. However, in the rest of the message, my friend gave some clarification, and seemed especially concerned about one particular subset of intercessory prayer: namely, prayer for someone to be healed of a physical illness.

So, I toyed with the idea of writing the question to reflect that narrower focus: “Who’s faith is required for a healing prayer to be effective – the sick person’s faith, or the faith of the one who is praying for them?”

After a day of consideration, I learned that focusing only on prayers for healing would be unnecessarily restrictive. This is because God doesn’t have a different way of responding to different kinds of human needs. His response is always consistent. God’s response is born out of his love, grace, knowledge, and plan.

So, everything that follows is applicable to any sort of intercessory prayer. Some of the Biblical examples will be concerned with healing, and some will be concerned with other matters. God doesn’t change, and his response to prayer is always consistent with who he is.

About Human Mortality

Everyone dies. I’m going to die. You’re going to die. The person you love most in all the world is going to die, if they haven’t already. Intercessory prayers, prayers for healing, magic spells, incantations, potions concocted in a steaming caldron, sacrificing a chicken, healing crystals, positive energy – in short, nothing – nothing – guarantees healing. If any religion had a perfect track record of healing, the result would be immortality, and you can pretty much bet that the whole world would adopt that religion. But it isn’t going to happen. So, the first thing we need to know is this: no matter who has the faith, and no matter how much faith they have, everyone dies. No amount of faith, by anyone, guarantees healing.

“…just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment…”
(Hebrews 9:27, ESV)

So, let’s clear this up once and for all: there is no religious formula, and no sort of faith – including Christian faith – that guarantees healing. Do you understand? Healing is never guaranteed. Healing is never predictable.

That means something really, really important. It means that anyone who tells you they know the reason healing didn’t happen is either presumptuous or misinformed. They don’t know what they’re talking about. They’re speaking about things that are beyond them. Because, my friend, no matter how much faith there is in the room, and no matter whose faith it is – everyone dies.

Whose Faith Counts?

But, for those of us who live by faith, we know that faith really does matter. Faith really does affect outcomes. We’ve seen it so many times. Our experiential knowledge of prayer – for ourselves, and for others – is that it makes a difference. God has encouraged us to ask, and we have asked. We have seen results that were against all odds, results that happened in ways we didn’t expect and couldn’t predict. We have seen God change lives, both our own and others. We have seen God change hearts, and minds, and circumstances, and – yes – bodies. And so we give thanks to him, and we give testimony to others, telling them what God has done. But – whose faith did it?

Okay, first we need to establish whether or not faith was even an integral part of the equation. Because, as we see in the Bible, sometimes it’s not…

Jesus said, “For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”
(Matthew 5:45, ESV)

Good things can happen to people who have no faith in God at all. And sometimes, the good thing that happens is physical healing. God is good like that. It is God who designed our bodies to be, for the most part, self-maintaining and self-healing.

But, then again, there are those times when healing would not occur without prayer.

“Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick.”
(James 5:14-15, ESV)

From just the brief snippet of James 5 that’s quoted above, we might conclude that the statement is ambiguous. Maybe the sick person is praying with the church elders. Maybe the sick person’s prayer was the essential ingredient, right? But a reading of the full passage in its context shows that James is talking about the faith of the elders. If it was your faith that resulted in your healing, then why call the elders at all? If we considered only this passage, we might conclude that the faith of the one who is praying is the faith that matters.

But still, there are some pesky passages we have to deal with, like this one that can be found in both Mark and Luke:

And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.” (Mark 5:34, ESV, and see the parallel passage in Luke 8:48)

And the other one:

Jesus Cleanses Ten Lepers

On the way to Jerusalem he was passing along between Samaria and Galilee. And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance and lifted up their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” When he saw them he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went they were cleansed. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus answered, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” And he said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.” (Luke 17:11-19, ESV)

So, let’s take a look at both of these situations.

First, the woman with the continual bleeding (Mark 5 and Luke 8): Jesus said, “Your faith has made you well.” But, notice something else: in the context of our question, this passage isn’t even relevant. Why? Because no one prayed! This passage isn’t even about prayer. So, how did the woman’s faith lead to her healing? Because she reached out and touched the hem of Jesus’ robe. She had the faith to come to Jesus. Faith to come to Jesus isn’t a magic key to healing. Remember, mortality is one hundred percent certain; healing isn’t. Even though she had faith to come to Jesus – which caused Jesus to say, “Your faith has made you well” – she wasn’t healed directly as a result of her faith. She was healed by the will and power of God.

Now, it’s going to look like I’m reversing myself, but stay with me here, and this will all be consistent. I said that the story of this woman’s healing isn’t relevant to our question because it’s not a story about someone who prayed for healing. But it is a story about faith and healing, so even though it’s not about prayer, we can make it relevant by extension. I’ll try to explain. You see, you and I don’t have the luxury of walking up behind Jesus and touching the hem of his robe. But we can still come to Jesus, just as this woman did. We do this today by prayer. We can come to God in prayer and ask for healing for ourselves or others.

The person with no faith will say, “I’m not going to pray for healing. That’s pointless.”

The person with faith will say, “I’m going to pray for healing, even though I don’t know how God will answer.”

And so, by coming to God – by praying – you, or the person you prayed for, may be healed, if it’s in God’s plan.

God has no obligation. God doesn’t say, “Oh, this person prayed in faith, so I have no choice but to heal.”

Do you see? When Jesus said, “Your faith has made you well,” he didn’t mean, “Wow! Your faith is so powerful that I must heal!” Rather, he said, “You came to me. Well done. If you had not decided to come to me, you would never have been healed. But you came to me!”

This is the woman’s faith. It’s not faith that crosses some invisible line, faith that’s greater than some measurable threshold, faith that triggers a predictable response from our sometimes unpredictable God. No. It’s just faith to come. And still, today, the one who is willing to come to God, to ask for healing, for himself, for herself, or for someone else – this one has enough faith to heal and be healed. This one, we may say, touches the hem of Jesus’ robe. But that measure of faith – faith to come to God – is never God’s deciding factor in whether to heal or not.

Second, the ten lepers (Luke 17): these ten came to Jesus, and they did ask: “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” Oh. Wait. We’ve answered the question, haven’t we? This situation is really no different than the situation with the woman with the continual bleeding, is it? Jesus said the same thing to them: “Your faith has made you well.” But it was neither some measurable quantity of faith, nor any particular measure of gratitude, that caused them to be healed. They, like the woman, were healed by the will and power of God. Their faith was faith to come. Not faith of a specific weight, or volume, or mass, or purity.

Just faith to come. Just faith to ask.

Okay, let’s move on. Here are some more examples. Some of them have to do with healing, and some of them are about other kinds of intercession.

Example #1 (Old Testament)

When the servant of the man of God rose early in the morning and went out, behold, an army with horses and chariots was all around the city. And the servant said, “Alas, my master! What shall we do?” He said, “Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” Then Elisha prayed and said, “O Lord, please open his eyes that he may see.” So the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.
(II Kings 6:15-17, ESV)

Elisha prayed for his servant, who clearly didn’t have the faith to do anything. The servant received the blessing of the prayer, even though lacking faith.

Example #2 (New Testament)

Soon afterward he [Jesus] went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a great crowd went with him. As he drew near to the gate of the town, behold, a man who had died was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow, and a considerable crowd from the town was with her. And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said to her, “Do not weep.” Then he came up and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, “Young man, I say to you, arise.” And the dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother.
(Luke 7:11-15, ESV)

The man was dead. It wasn’t about his faith at all. It didn’t even involve his mother’s faith. Remember this story, if someone ever says to you, “(S)he didn’t have enough faith to be healed.”

Example #3 (Old Testament)

In I Kings 18:41-45, you can read the story of Elijah praying for rain after a long drought. God answered his prayer. (In fact, God is the one who told Elijah when to pray for the rain to begin. There’s an entirely different lesson in this fact, but that’s for another time). Do you see? It had nothing to do with the faith of the ones who received the blessing. The rain came because of the faith of the intercessor. Remember this story, if someone ever says to you, “(S)he didn’t have enough faith.”

Example #4 (New Testament)

Now in the neighborhood of that place were lands belonging to the chief man of the island, named Publius, who received us and entertained us hospitably for three days. It happened that the father of Publius lay sick with fever and dysentery. And Paul visited him and prayed, and putting his hands on him, healed him.
(Acts 28:7-8, ESV)

This is another example where the faith that mattered was the faith of Paul – the one who prayed – and not the faith of the one who was prayed for. If you read this passage in its larger context, you’ll see that the people of the island had never heard of Jesus. They weren’t Christians. The healing happened shortly after Paul and his friends arrived on the island. Luke, who wrote about this event, gives all credit to Paul, and doesn’t indicate any faith at all on the part of Publius’ father.

A Final Passage to Consider

There is one more passage in the Bible that I must address, because faith healers refer to it so often. Many faith healers try to “save face” if healing doesn’t happen. Instead of simply saying, “Sometimes God heals, and sometimes he doesn’t,” they feel compelled to offer an explanation. (News flash: God only explains himself when he has a good reason. God does a lot of things without explaining himself). And so, in order to save face and offer some sort of explanation, faith healers frequently point to Acts 14.

Now at Lystra there was a man sitting who could not use his feet. He was crippled from birth and had never walked. He listened to Paul speaking. And Paul, looking intently at him and seeing that he had faith to be made well, said in a loud voice, “Stand upright on your feet.” And he sprang up and began walking.
(Acts 14:8-10, ESV)

Listen to me: if a modern-day faith healer wants to use this passage to explain why some people aren’t healed, they clearly don’t know what they’re doing. Look at it. Read it. Paul saw that he had faith to be made well. If Paul hadn’t seen something, he wouldn’t have told the man to stand up. Do you understand? If the modern faith healer uses this passage – and fails to heal – then that faith healer is admitting that they can’t see faith. Then, instead of blaming themselves for being blind to when God wants them to heal and when he doesn’t, they blame the one who is crippled or sick. Instead of admitting, “I tried to heal when I wasn’t supposed to,” they say, “Oh, you weren’t healed because you don’t have enough faith.”

Summary

  1. No amount of faith, by anyone, guarantees healing.
  2. There is no measurable quantity of faith that can force God to heal.
  3. Everyone dies. God’s answer to prayers for healing is sometimes “No,” and it doesn’t matter how much faith anyone has.
  4. It is always noble to pray for someone. Always!
  5. Some blessings – healing or otherwise – will not occur unless someone prays.
  6. God may heal even if no one prays, because God is good to all and he has made our bodies to be self-healing.
  7. Faith for healing is faith to come to God. You may have this faith yourself, or someone may come to God in prayer on your behalf.
  8. The person who blames you for a lack of faith is usually just misinformed. They haven’t been taught correctly about the things of God. On rare occasions, where they seek to profit from healing, such a person may be a deceiver.
  9. Be brave. Be a fool for Christ. Pray for healing for others. Pray, asking God for blessings for others. Pray publicly, loudly, boldly, often. “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective” (James 5:16, NIV). There are no guarantees. God is sovereign, and you are not. But pray, as Jesus encouraged you to pray, and watch as God changes your world.

 

–Bob Young
10/15/2017

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Worry Is Not A Sin

(This is a copy of an email to a friend on 30 September, 2017).

You asked me to send you the reference for a Bible verse I mentioned last Thursday. Here’s the passage:

“And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.” (II Corinthians 11:28, ESV)

In the NIV it reads, “Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.”

Let’s compare this with another place where Paul uses the same word:

“do not be anxious about anything…” (Philippians 4:6, ESV)

In the NIV it reads, “Do not be anxious about anything…” which is exactly the same.

Now, let’s look at the Greek:

II Corinthians 11:28 – μέριμνα (English transliteration: merimna, mare – im – nah

Philippians 4:6 – μεριμνᾶτε (English transliteration: merimnate, mare – im – nah – tay

In spite of what the NIV has done with the English translation, the words translated “anxious” and “concern” in these two verses come from the same Greek root. I’m not criticizing the NIV; I love it. This is why it’s valuable for us to study more than one version of God’s Word. I hadn’t noticed Paul’s complete teaching on anxiety, or anxiousness, until I got an ESV Bible a few years ago. Then, II Corinthians 11:28 took me by surprise and caused me to dig deeper. Even though I took two years of New Testament Greek at Northwest Christian University, I hadn’t noticed this.

I love the fact that Paul admits to anxiety or worry. It helps us realize that Philippians 4:6 is intended to be a word of encouragement, and not a command. This realization makes Paul’s teaching more consistent with the strengthening word of angels when they said, “Fear not.” It is not condemnation; it is comfort and power.

Satan tries to use worry as a wedge to separate us from God, but God intends worry to be a magnet that pulls us toward Him.

–Bob Young
[9/30/2017]

Now, go buy a book! (And if you’ve already bought one, write a review).
http://www.amazon.com/author/bobyoung

Did You Think It Would Be Easy?

The Harvest, by Bob Young

Can two contradictory things be true? Probably not. Can we see a contradiction where none exists? That’s more likely.

The Apostle Paul made two seemingly contradictory assertions in the same sentence:

But I will stay in Ephesus until Pentecost, for a wide door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.
(I Corinthians 16:8-9)

Wait, what? Ask him with me: “Paul, how can your work be effective if you have many adversaries? I mean, if your work is effective, doesn’t that mean everyone is convinced by your preaching? Aren’t you becoming famous? Aren’t you popular?”

But, when we stop and think it through, we realize that Paul understands the reality of Christian service. Take Jesus, for example. Jesus was effective – many lives were being transformed.

Zacchaeus said, “If I have defrauded anyone of anything, I [now] restore it fourfold.” (Luke 19:8)

Zacchaeus was a changed man, and it was because Jesus was doing effective work. But at the same time, Jesus was accumulating a long list of adversaries, including some very powerful people.

Sometimes, you only have one adversary (Satan), and the difficulties show up as circumstances, rather than as people. As an example, consider the trouble-upon-trouble experienced by Job.

Christian, here is the Satanic delusion: You may be tempted to think that, because of adversaries or trials, your work isn’t effective.

The reality – experienced by Jesus, Paul, and many others – is that effective work generates opposition.

When that happens to you, what should you do? Do what Paul did: stay in Ephesus. Stick it out. See it through. Bring your work to completion. Don’t give up. Don’t stop. Don’t lose faith. Don’t lose hope.

Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. Do everything in love.
(I Corinthians 16:13-14)

Listen to Paul’s encouragement: “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6)

–Bob Young
[16 September 2017]

Now, go buy a book!
Books by Bob Young
http://www.amazon.com/author/bobyoung

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