UNDERLYING POWER

Recently I saw a Facebook post saying something like:

“Watch out for people who are always bragging about what they can do, a lion never has to tell me that he is a lion.”

Of course, the thrust of the comment is that the lion does not have to advertise that it has power — its power is evident and well-known to others.  Unlike the lion, however, often the people who are doing the bragging will be embellishing and exaggerating their status whereas people who actually have abilities or who have had accomplishments do not have to brag.     

While in Yellowstone National Park recently, we were privileged enough to see a family of buffalo strolling down the road and into some trees.  They were minding their own business, walking as a unit without being a threat to anyone and seemingly not aware of our presence.  There were three adult buffalo and three young ones.

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This baby buffalo is not particularly threatening.  We saw him walking through some trees with two of his siblings and three adult buffalo.

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Now, these two buffalo present a different picture than the baby did.  They are not threatening as they are laying in the grass but staring at us while standing seemed to be potentially threatening.  Especially when the National Park Ranger told us that adult buffalo weigh about 2,000 pounds.  Combine that weight with an ability to run at 30 miles per hour, and you have a considerable threat both to man and vehicle.

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Like the lion, the buffalo does not have to brag about its abilities.  It can be calm and in control, and it can also be terrifyingly fast if it needs to defend itself or its family.  In short, they are animals of great strength and speed – animals with underlying power that we as humans simply don’t have ourselves.  We may be able to drive our car faster than the buffalo can run, but if the buffalo impacts the vehicle, it is probably going to be damaged beyond repair.

The lion and the buffalo have underlying power within themselves.

So, does the Christian.  I don’t mean that we can run fast – anyone who knows me realizes that running at all is not likely going to happen.   And I don’t necessarily mean that we have physical strength, although some people I know are incredibly strong.

What I do mean is that ALL Christians have underlying power within them, specifically the Holy Spirit sent by Jesus Christ so that we are enabled to be witnesses for our Lord Jesus Christ wherever we are.  Jesus said:

But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me.  And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning.”

John 15:26-27

“And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Matthew 28:18-20

Again, after His resurrection, Jesus said:

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

Acts 1:8

We know that the apostles were filled with the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and that same day they preached the gospel of Jesus Christ boldly.  Fishermen and tax collectors who were cowering in fear after Jesus’s death were transformed on that day into evangelists who virtually blanketed the known world with the good news of faith in Christ.

They didn’t brag about their achievements.  They gave the glory for what they were doing to Jesus Christ and to the Holy Spirit, praising God for the good works that they were seeing all in the name of the Lord.  They were Christians who were powered by the Holy Spirit.

So are we.  We have the same Holy Spirit, the same Lord Jesus Christ, the same God and Father Almighty.  They are our brothers and sisters just as much as the Christians we see in church.   We too have the Holy Spirit, and as part of the unchanging infinite triune God, the Holy Spirit is no different now than he was 2000 years ago. 

Underlying power.  Do I take advantage of the Holy Spirit’s presence in my life?  Do I call upon His power to enable me to do the work that Christ has called me to do?   Do I use that power for spreading the gospel?  Do I boldly tell others of Jesus Christ or do I shrink back in fear of what they will say, or think?

What about you?  How would you answer these questions?

Father, I pray that you would forgive me when I have failed to witness to others of Your marvelous gift of salvation through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.  I pray that you would embolden me to witness of my Lord without fear and that Your Spirit would put the words in my mouth that will accomplish Your Work in those to whom I speak and in me as I do Your will.

GOT POWER?

(This is a revised version of the post originally posted April 21, 2015)

We were camping when an unexpected cold snap caused some damage to the RV.  Frozen hoses and pipes were identified and then we went to work searching the Internet to find a place that had the necessary parts.   A quick call confirmed that they were open and had the needed parts. So now it was up to us to get there.

Since we were in unfamiliar territory, I pulled out the trusty RV GPS that is created specifically for the intrepid RV camper and put in the address.

Directions GPS

We found the store, purchased the necessary supplies, and began our trek back to the campground when we came to several intersecting roads. In fact, this intersection arrived just as my husband was asking what road we needed to be watching for AND just as the GPS flashed “LOW POWER” and “POWERING OFF”.   Then, it just went blank.  Not even a “sorry” or “I tried” or “You have 1 more minute”.  Just … well, nothing.  It apparently didn’t care if we got lost!

I couldn’t believe it.  In my second of need, it was “powering off.”  My frustration stemmed from the fact that, unlike my husband, I get lost in a paper bag.  I am the one who, in Walmart, will turn left into the main aisle thinking I am going to the checkout lane and wind up in sporting goods at the back of the store.  If there are two directions to select from, I will ALWAYS pick the wrong one.

Anyway, I was the one who had insisted that we purchase this GPS, even though my husband has a virtually infallible sense of direction, simply because I do not.  I wanted to have my own backup plan … assuring myself that we could find our way home if something happened to his directional instincts.  So, we purchased this fancy-dancy GPS thing and now, when he actually asked me a directional question, in my truest hour of need, it is “powering off”.

Inside the car, I went into full scale fume mode, when my husband said simply “We’ll just plug it into the charger when we get back to the RV.”

How simple, yet how profound.  Recharge!  That’s the answer for the electronic messages that had disrupted my day. 

But what about spiritually?  How do we get our spiritual power?  And, when we have exhausted our power, how do we recharge?

In Acts 1:8, Scripture records Jesus as promising that his disciples would “receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you” so that they could be effective witnesses for Him. We understand this coming of the Holy Spirit as the day of Pentecost, and because of that day, we believe that the Holy Spirit is within us, as Jesus promised.  John 14:16-17.

But the Holy Spirit’s presence with us is not the whole answer to the “recharge” question.  We must avail ourselves of that power.  I had chargers available at the camp site but the GPS had not been plugged in – now, it was unable to give me the information that I needed when I needed it.  It had no power even though that power had been available.

Likewise, simply having the Scripture in your hand, purse, cell phone or pocket, is not availing yourself of the power which otherwise would be provided. This realization prompted me to consider how often I had ignored going to the Scripture to charge my spiritual batteries.

I had time for many other things, but, I did not have time to quell the growling hunger for my Lord by feeding on the nourishment of His Word in Holy Scripture.  Daily activities took priority over quiet time with Him that would have prepared me for those encounters that He had prearranged for me to handle according to His will, not mine. Ephesians 2:10.

Did my spiritual red light flash “Powering Off” when the assignment came because my batteries had not been charged through reading His Word with contemplation and prayer and then praising Him for His excellent goodness and mercy?

Or, did I not even see the assignment that He had for me that day because my spiritual eyes and ears did not have sufficient power to even recognize the call to present Christ to those around me?

Scripture states that the Spirit and Scripture were given to us so that we would be complete and equipped for every good work that God has for us to do.   2 Peter 1:3 and 2 Timothy 3:16-17.

The kicker is that we must plug ourselves in to the Source of our Power.  Seek the Lord and He will be found.  He is waiting for you.   Deuteronomy 4:29.   Beloved, don’t delay – go to the source of all power and life, Jesus Christ and His Word.

Father, forgive me when I give more time and attention to worldly things and ignore the more important spiritual preparation that I should undertake.  May I look to Your Word continually and seek the Holy Spirit to provide the power to live my life in constant witness of Your love, grace and mercy.

“DON’T DO IT!  UH UH -NO!”

It seems that we have recently focused on our canine children as illustrations of spiritual lessons for our daily lives.  Today is no exception as our MinPin doggie daughters, also known as “the girls”, have once again tried our patience.

We have tried to “train” the girls to stay put in one place while we are eating our meals.  The original intent of this routine was to stop them from barking while we are eating, and also to stop them from begging during the meal.  It has, for the most part, stopped the barking.  But, it has not been as successful with the begging.

Usually their “place” is the living room sofa as we are eating dinner in the dining room, in full site of them.  When we have finished our meal, we will say “you’re through” and they are to come bounding up to the table for a good girl treat, thankful to their parents that they are being so wonderfully rewarded.  That is what is supposed to happen.

Doggies ready to jump
Doggies ready to jump!

What actually happens is that they go to their “place” right away when we tell them to do so as we are sitting down to the table.  Then, when the wait is too long or if the aroma is especially exciting to them (such as the smell of bacon), they hop down and come over to the table where we are sitting.  At first, they would just run over and jump up at our side to tell us that they are there.  We, then, point to the sofa, say “Uh Uh – No, go back, place” and they run back, jumping up on the sofa and sitting as if they were good girls.

If we are engaged in serious conversation during dinner, they become stealth doggies.  They slide off the sofa and sneak through the kitchen so we don’t see them walking around.  Then they cut between us to get under the table in the hopes that something will have fallen through a crack.  We find out that one or both are under the table when we move our feet and hit something.  Then, we again, point to the sofa and say the dreaded words “Uh Uh – No, go back!”. 

I suspect that we are not the only ones that have this experience.  However, aside from the humorous smiles that their actions might induce, there is a parallel with my own life experiences and obedience, and it is not at all humorous.

As long ago as when the law was given to the Israelites, God said:

“So you shall keep my commandments and do them: I am the LORD.”

Leviticus 22:31

Again, in the wilderness they were told:

“You shall walk after the LORD your God and fear him and keep his commandments and obey his voice, and you shall serve him and hold fast to him.”

Deuteronomy 13:4

God is serious about our being obedient to His commandments.  In fact, Jesus used obedience to His commandments as the test of our love for Him.

If you love me, you will keep my commandments. …  Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.”

John 14:15, 21

In full recognition of the fact that we could not keep Jesus’ commandments through our own power, Jesus told His disciples that, after His resurrection and ascension into Heaven, the Holy Spirit would be sent to help them do that which He commanded them.

“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.

John 14:26

Moreover, the Holy Spirit seals us in Christ. He is the surety, the guarantor of our salvation. 

In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit,”

Ephesians 1:13

Indeed, one of the Holy Spirit’s assignments with respect to believers is to transform us into the image of our Lord and Savior. 

“For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.”

Romans 8:29

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

Romans 12:2

When God has told me to stay in a difficult situation, I try to jump out of it, a classic definition of disobedience.  When I do, it is as if I hear the Holy Spirit saying “Don’t do it. Uh Uh – No!”.   Often I obey that voice and repent from my attempted jump of disobedience.  But, there are times when I disobey intentionally and then, too, I must repent of my arrogant disobedience and seek forgiveness, asking the Spirit to strengthen me so that I am able to resist temptation. 

God has given us His Word and His Spirit who indwells the believer in Jesus Christ.  The Spirit transforms us and renews our mind so that, as we are sanctified, we are conformed to the image of Jesus.  But that process is not linear. 

By that I mean, it is not a smooth road toward transformation.  We struggle and fail to obey the directives that are clearly given in Scripture and brought to our attention through the Holy Spirit.  Praise the Lord that when we have been disobedient, the Holy Spirit still is within us and He will tenderly guide you back into relationship with Him and with our Lord if you will confess your sin and repent. 

Next time you see your canine or Homo sapiens children disobeying your directive, stop and ponder whether there is something in your own life for which you need to confess and repent.  Is there some act of disobedience that you need to address?  Is the Holy Spirit saying “Uh Uh – No!”? 

The Psalmist knew the sweet fellowship with God that confession and repentance provides when he said:

Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit. For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long.  For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. Selah.  I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah”

Psalm 32:2-5

When David sinned, and kept silent, he was tormented day and night because of his guilt.  When he turned to God and confessed his sin, he was forgiven and he could say “Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity”.  Happy is the one who does not stand before God covered in the guilt of his sin. 

Doggies patiently waiting
Obedient doggies!

Praise God that the Spirit says “Uh Uh – No!” preventing us from sinning, but praise God also that when we fail to be obedient, we can be restored to full fellowship with Him through confession and repentance. 

Father, I praise You for Your Holy Spirit and for the work that He does in my life as He guides me and leads me in the path that I should take.  Thank You too that Your Spirit also stops me from disobeying and, when I do sin, that He leads me back into the fold.  I praise Your Holy Name.

THE MIGHTY RUSHING WIND – PART 1

We have had a number of significant storms in the past month, with very heavy rains, some hail, and extreme, sustained, wind.

Our yard is quite wooded, and we can see the wind even when we can’t hear it because of the trees swaying in the breeze.  When strong winds come, though, it is as if the trees are doing a stationary dance in praise to God, while bending and swaying to the will of His Hand.

“For you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall break forth into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.

Isaiah 55:12 ESV

 

When you watch the tree branches swaying in the wind, it is not difficult to imagine that they are clapping their hands in praise and glory of their Creator, the Almighty God. 

“The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

John 3:8 ESV

Jesus said these words when He was telling to Nicodemus that he must be born again to see the Kingdom of God. 

We know that the wind is present when we see the trees swaying.  Then, too, we hear the sound of the leaves as they are driven in all directions when the wind increases and its force is felt by even the strongest of trees.   

When I hear the wind like this, I recall Scripture telling us that the Apostles heard the Spirit of God at Pentecost, and the sound was like a mighty rushing Wind.

“When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.  And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them.  And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven.”

Acts 2:1-5 ESV

God’s Spirit is characterized as a mighty wind in this Scripture text.  The Greek word used for “wind” is transliterated as pnoe, and it means “breath, breath of life”.  So Luke is saying that the breath of life that comes from God filled the house … it was His Spirit. 

In Acts, the Holy Spirit gave the apostles the ability to speak in languages that they had never learned, languages that the people from “from every nation under heaven” who were in Jerusalem would understand.  The apostles were given this ability so that they could effectively witness to the foreigners of Jesus, the Messiah, the One who rose from the dead and who lives in heaven, the One who could cleanse them from sin and who would give them life eternal.

The apostles’ message that day accomplished something that transformed the known world – it made the Gospel of Christ known worldwide.  An example of this is found in the fact that Epaphras (Colossians 1:7) was the pastor for the church in Colosse, a church to which Paul addressed the letter to the Colossians, but there is no record that Paul ever visited this church.  The people who traveled from Jerusalem to other cities and regions started churches and spread the witness for Jesus Christ throughout the known world.

The application for us? 

Have you been touched by the Spirit of God?  Has He breathed life into your heart so that you can receive the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior and King?  Have you committed your life to Him?  If so, then you have the power of the Holy Spirit resident within you and you can use that power to witness to the miraculous works that Jesus has performed in your life.

Next time you feel the wind blowing in your face, or the next time you see the wind blowing the trees around, or the next time you hear the sound of the mighty rushing wind, think of your God and His Spirit that came to this earth to take up residence in your heart and in mine.

Let the wonder of God’s creation remind us to give praise to Him for His wonderful works to the children of men.  Psalm 107.

 

Father, thank You for caring so much for us that You gave us Your Spirit.  Thank You for blowing Your breath on us so that we can then breathe out Your love to those around us, through Jesus Christ our Lord.  We praise Your holy name and may we give glory to You in all that we do.

UNDER CONSTRUCTION

We have just returned home from a trip through 5 different states – Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida and Georgia.  We did not “tour” throughout all these states, we did drive through them on the interstate highways.  It is easy to see the incredible variety of landscape that our country exhibits:

Mountains in Tennessee and North Carolina make the driving scenic and sometimes scary.

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The mountains of East Tennessee.

Florida is significantly flatter than the mountains but there are beautiful beaches and palm trees, and fruit stands with fresh fruit even in March (we were there during the Strawberry Festival, yum!)

Fairchild Tropical Botanical Garden, Coral Gables, Florida Intricate detail in palm tree
A beautiful palm tree in Fairchild Tropical Botanical Garden, Coral Gables, Florida.

 

Whether or not the terrain was hilly or flat, there was one feature that was the same throughout all the states.  It was pervasive.  It was ubiquitous!  It is the orange road construction barrel.

Orange road construction barrel
Orange highway construction barrel. Some say it is our state flower, but I think it is all over our country!

Construction – it is good for the highways. 

We know that there are potholes, uneven lanes, torn up pavement, all sorts of problems with the roadways and construction to repair such problems is good.  You simply cannot get away from the barrels.  They are put up when no construction is in sight, yet.  They are put up when the grading equipment is alongside the lane of travel.  They give evidence of the upcoming improvement in road conditions, which is good even if they cause some congestion and delay at the present time.

USED Crane visible from interstate in Nashville
Crane hovering over construction in downtown Nashville.

Construction – it is good for the cities.

When there is construction, there is growth.  There is change and there is development.  Sometimes people differ on how or where construction should occur, but there can be no dispute that construction changes things. 

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Christ of the Ozarks, Missouri, USA (circa 1965)

                Construction – it is good for US.

Seeing the construction in each of the states we traveled reminded me of the construction that is going on in each one of us, every moment of every day. We don’t have red barrels to tell others of the ongoing construction in our lives, but we are “under construction” nonetheless.  

Scripture teaches us that God loves us and that He gave His Son for us as an atonement for our sin.  This enables us to have confidence that we will be with Him now and forever if we have faith in Jesus Christ and trust Him alone for our salvation. 

“Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.”

Romans 5:9-10 ESV

“[I]f you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.”

Romans 10:9-10 ESV

But, salvation is not the end of the story.  Once we have received Jesus Christ into our heart through faith, we then become “under construction” as the Holy Spirit does His work in transforming us into the image of our Lord.  I have heard it said “God loves us as we are, but he doesn’t want us to stay this way!”  In other words, He desires that we be changed into the image of His Son. 

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

Romans 12:2 ESV

“For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.”

Romans 8:29 ESV

“And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”

2 Corinthians 3:18 ESV

Praise the Lord that we are “under construction”.  We are lovingly being transformed by God from our sinful, earthly desires, impulses, thoughts, actions and words into the image of our Lord.  But it takes time!  While we are justified with God immediately upon our receiving the Lord Jesus as our Savior,  the transformation into the image of the Lord is not an instantaneous occurrence.

A song written by Sim Wilson entitled “Please be patient with me” captures the concept well:  

Chorus:

Please be patient with me, God is not through with me yet.

Please be patient with me, God is not through with me yet.

When God gets through with me, when God gets through with me,

I shall come forth, I shall come forth like pure gold.

Verse:

If you should see me and I’m not walking right,

And if you should hear me and I’m not talking right;

Please remember what God has done for me, 

When He gets through with me, I’ll be what He wants me to be.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4yjsTLpo_vQ

This transformation does not occur through our own efforts.  It does not come about through our own strength by struggling to keep all the commandments or by trying to copy good things that we see others doing. 

This construction comes from the Holy Spirit’s work inside of us.  It is an inward change.  It is a change of our heart and of our will. In fact it is a total surrender of our own will to that of our Father.

Praise the Lord that He is transforming us as we live our life in grace through the Holy Spirit.  Rest in Him and He will perform His good work in you.

Please be patient with me! 

When He gets through with me, I’ll be what He wants me to be!

 

Father, I thank You for sending the Holy Spirit into our world so that He would work in the life of each of Your children, transforming them into the image of Your Son, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

 

PROSPECTING – DIGGING DEEP AND THE BIBLE

 

It seems to me that virtually all young children, especially boys, are intrigued by dinosaurs.  While these behemoths have been extinct for millennia, interest in them seems to be growing and intensifying in these days.

boy meets dino
Grandson inspecting toy dinosaur!

Years ago, our young grandson spent many hours playing with the toy dinosaur trying to figure out how it moved.  He loved that dinosaur, but it was a passing fancy.

 

One of our older grandsons has loved dinosaurs, and all things like fossilized bones, since he took his first breath.  Even as a child, his birthday cake was a dinosaur!

 

Birthday cake - dinosaur
Apparently, all dinosaurs are not extinct!

He reads about them, he knows how to identify them, he knows what they ate and where they lived, in short, he loves dinosaurs.  Now in his teens, he has said that he wants to be a paleontologist and/or archaeologist and I am fully confident that he will succeed in that venture if his interest continues.

Evans Day 011
Fossil found at Gray’s Fossil Site in Tennessee.

As a surprise for a job well done, we took him to Gray’s Fossil Site in upper East Tennessee.  The extinct animal pictured above greets you at the Museum and other fossils reveal that shovel-tusked elephants, saber toothed cats, semi-aquatic pot-bellied rhinos are just some of the animals that roamed in the area.

Evan searching for bones among rocks
Searching in the dirt and stone for treasures at Gray’s Fossil Site in Tennessee.

One of the activities that he LOVED was to dig in a tray of dirt and rocks in the hope that he would find a fossil or piece of bone from ages past.   Of course, you can’t make that kind of “find” by just gazing at the dirt and rocks.  No, you have to investigate it, handle it, look at it with some magnification to determine if you really have a “find” or you have a piece of hard dirt (also a likelihood in East Tennessee).

Evans Day 041
Inspecting small piece material found in the dirt and stones.

 

He had a marvelous time digging and investigating, looking for the fossilized treasures that might be there.

 

His devotion to dinosaurs and his steady interest and determined study of them is commendable.  And, I am sorry to say, that it put me to shame.  I’m not referring to my interest in dinos, I am referring to my reading of Scripture.

 

How do I read Scripture, the Holy Word of the Living Creator God?  There are times that I read it and really think about it: but far more often I read it as if it were a novel … picking it up here and putting it down again without thought.

 

In the Old Testament we read:

For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the LORD, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel.

Ezra 7:10

 

When I read Scripture, do I “set my heart” to study God’s Word?  Do I look up words so I understand their meaning and context?  Do I ask why the Holy Spirit used that specific word when so many others might have been used?   Do I think about why this is included in the Holy Writ in the first place?  If it was important enough for the Holy Spirit to direct its inclusion in the Bible, what am I to learn from this?

 

When I read Scripture, do I consider the entire chapter as a unit?  Do I think about the chapter in the context of the book as a whole?  Do I investigate how this book relates to the overall theme of both the Old and New Testament in Scripture – Jesus Christ, the Savior and Redeemer of His people?

 

The Psalmist said:

“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”

Psalm 119:105

 

Do I consider the Word to be a light to my path when I read the Bible?  Do I look closely at how the text would apply to my life, today?  Do I look at the Scripture and focus on what it says, while waiting for the Holy Spirit to speak in that still small voice that is usually drowned out by the television, stereo or radio, and the general cacophony of our 21st Century life?

 

When I read Scripture, do I expect to hear God speak to me?  Do I expect that the Scripture passage will apply to my life?  Do I expect that the Word will touch my heart and draw me closer to Him?

 

I confess that I cannot answer these questions in the affirmative!  I am convinced, however, that if I want my life to grow in the knowledge of Jesus Christ, this is how I must read His Word.  I must be quiet so that I can study it, focus on it, learn it, listen to it and let the Holy Spirit speak to me.

 

In the New Testament, we are told to study the Word so that we can teach others.

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.

2 Timothy 2:15.  The King James Version translates this verse as follows:

Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

 

No matter how you say it, the Christian should study the Bible, carefully read it and investigate what the words are, what the text says, and what it means in our world today.

 

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

2 Timothy 3:16-17

 

Since this is true, then we are in possession of a Book that reveals the God that we serve, as well as His requirements, demands, blessings and curses.  It reveals His love and His justice, His holiness and our sinfulness.  It is a Book that we should reverence as well as read; it is our heavenly guidebook given by God for our benefit … we would be foolish to ignore it or to treat it lightly!

The stupid man cannot know; the fool cannot understand this: that though the wicked sprout like grass and all evildoers flourish, they are doomed to destruction forever; but you, O LORD, are on high forever.

Psalm 92:6-8

 

Father, I confess that I have not read your Word with the intensity and zeal that it deserves.  I confess that I have not expected You to speak to me through your Word, and I confess that I have not followed the commands that You have spoken in your Word.  Forgive me and help me to understand and accept your Word as I read and study it, and I ask this through Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior.

 

Pedal! and Perseverance

There is a story that I came across many years ago, and it speaks to me as I consider my journey with Jesus Christ.  It has been duplicated numerous times so you may already have heard it, but I do ask that you read it and think, again, about your own perseverance in the Christian walk. 

At first I saw God as my observer, my judge, keeping track of the things I did wrong, so as to know whether I merited heaven or hell when I die. He was out there sort of like a president. I recognized His picture when I saw it, but I really didn’t KNOW him.

But later on when I met Christ, it seemed as though life was rather like a bike ride, but it was a tandem bike, and I noticed Christ was in the back helping me pedal. I don’t know just when it was that He suggested that we change places, but life has not been the same since he took over steering the bike.

When I had control, I knew the way. It was rather boring, but predictable… it was the shortest distance between two points. But when He took the lead, He knew delightful long cuts, up mountains, and through rocky places at breakneck speeds, it was all I could do to hang on! Even though it looked like madness, He said “Pedal”.

I worried and was anxious and asked, “Where are you taking me?” He laughed and didn’t answer, and I started to learn trust. I forgot my boring life and entered into the adventure.  And when I’d say, “I’m scared,” He would lean back and touch my hand.

He took me to people with gifts that I needed, gifts of healing, acceptance and joy.  They gave me gifts to take on my journey, my Lord’s and mine.  And we were off again.  He said “Give the gifts away, they’re extra baggage, too much weight.”  So I did, to the people we met, and I found that in giving I received, and yet still our burden was light.

Perseverance
Perseverance in Pedaling!

I did not trust Him, at first, in control of my life. I thought He’d wreck it; but He knows bike secrets, knows how to make it bend to take sharp corners, knows how to jump to clear high rocks, knows how to fly to shorten scary passages. And I am learning to shut up and pedal in the strangest places, and I’m beginning to enjoy the view and the cool breeze on my face with my delightful constant companion, Jesus Christ.

And when I’m sure I just can’t do anymore, He just smiles and says … “Pedal!”

(Author unknown)

 

There are many theological words we could insert into this story, but the verbal picture drawn for us is sufficient for our purposes.  Life is hard – the Christian life is harder, especially if you try to do it on your own.  Your way is simply not good enough … we cannot live a sinless life.  That is the reason that Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross was necessary.  We need to come to the Lord Jesus Christ in faith and repentance, and only then can we rely on His strength to enable us to persevere.

 

In Second Timothy Paul encourages the young pastor to endure even when the “going gets tough”.  In these days of the Olympics in Rio, we can more fully understand Paul’s reference:

 

An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules.

2 Timothy 2:5.

 

It is foolish for us to think we can satisfy God on our own, that we can compete in this world according to our rules and not those of the Creator God as established in the Bible.  Do we really think we are bigger and know better than God?  REALLY?

 

Sin has broken the connection between us and the Creator God.  There simply is nothing that we can do to fix that situation because anything we do is just as dirty and sinful as we are.  There must be Someone Who lived a perfect, sinless life, and Who was willing to be the sacrifice to pay for the sins that we have committed, so that we could be reunited with God.  That Person is Jesus Christ, the Lord of Lords and King of Kings.

 

The Apostle Paul says:

 

And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.

2 Corinthians 1:21-22.  The Holy Spirit is our guarantee of salvation and perseverance.  What a blessing!

 

Jesus describes our security in Him as we persevere in our walk with Him in the Gospel of John:

 

All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.  For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

John 6:37-40.

 

The Apostle John reiterates that which Jesus spoke in the Revelation of Jesus Christ.  Regarding Jesus presenting us to His Father in Heaven if we are faithful to Him, Revelation 3:5 states:

 

The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels.

 

Perseverance in the Christian life.  It really is not based on our own efforts. We must yield control of our life to Christ, but even that we cannot do on our own!  Rather it is an ability that we receive from the Lord as the Holy Spirit indwells us and supplies the power that we personally do not have. 

 

We still must run the race and exert as much effort that we can muster, as if we were athletes competing in the Olympics, but at the end of the day we must recognize that it is God who worked through us.  The Apostle Paul reminds us:

 

I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.

1 Corinthians 3:6-7.

 

So, when you want to give up on your Christian walk, when you feel totally inadequate, when you think that you can give no more … listen to Jesus say “Pedal”.  Rely on Him and He will see you through as He uses you for His purposes, all to His glory and honor.

 

 

Father, forgive me when I have foolishly tried to do Your work in my own strength.  What folly!  Enable me to see when I am grabbing control and let me release my grip and rely on You. May my reliance on You be my first choice, instead of my last resort. Forgive me, Lord. Your way is always the best, most beautiful and enduring way there could possibly be. Thank you Father for calling me and for granting me the blessing of a relationship with Your Son and the presence of Your Holy Spirit.

 

 

FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT, No. 12 – PEACE part three.

 

PEACE – TRANQUILITY OF ORDER

PART THREE

 

We have been talking about the peace that the believer has in Jesus Christ through the presence of the Holy Spirit.

 

Now, I am going to ask a question –

 

  • Try to suppose for a moment that your religion has been withdrawn from you. In other words, try to conceive yourself without your faith, though in every other way you, and your circumstances, are unchanged.

 

Now – tell me,

  • Would you be appreciably the poorer?
  • Would anyone detect that something was different or that some secret thing had passed away?

 

What does Scripture say?

 

Rev. George Morrison, a pastor in London in the late 1800s asked these questions when he was preaching on Romans 15:13 where Paul says

 

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” 

 

Rev. Morrison continued to ask his congregation:  “Do we go up and down the world with a glad peace because we believe in God through Jesus Christ?  It is to that that we are called, whatever our temperament or our lot.”

 

He recognized that the fruit of the Spirit is ours, “whatever our temperament or our lot” might be.  In other words, external circumstances do not control the existence of the fruit of the Spirit.  We HAVE the Holy Spirit within us and He desires to grow the fruit in our hearts.

 

So, if we are to go up and down the world with a glad peace because we believe in God through Jesus Christ, through the power of the Holy Spirit, what does it look like?

 

It is not a peace I described at the beginning of this series that is based on our own efforts at trying to be peaceful.

 

In the The New Testament and Wycliffe Bible Commentary, we find the following regarding John 14:27:

“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you; not as the world giveth, give I unto you.  Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” 

Peace.  A frequent word in connection with farewells.  But this is a legacy rather than merely a conventional touch. …  My peace.  A distinctive brand of peace, different from that of the world, which would be panic-stricken at such an hour as this, with death so near.  The gift of his peace would make his followers unafraid, as he was. (cf. 16:33).

 

Here, the peace that is described in Scripture comes, as did joy, from the wellspring of Love for Jesus Christ and the Father.  Jonathan Edwards called Love the Sum of all Christianity.  If we do not have Love, we cannot have spiritual joy; and, we cannot have spiritual peace if we do not have joy.  They flow from each other and all stem from Love.

 

How does this apply to my daily life?

 

Dr. R. C. Sproul says that peace as a fruit of the Spirit means that we have a new capacity to live at peace with others and ourselves.   I can have this peace with myself and with others because, as the definition of peace explains, I rest in the wisdom and sovereignty of God more than in my own.

 

What does it look like?   Perhaps the language of Paul is instructive when he says in Ephesians 4:1-3 that we should walk in a “manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called … eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

 

We are unified with each other in the BOND OF PEACE.  This unity is referenced again in Colossians 3:15:

“And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body.  And be thankful.”

 

In all honesty and fairness, I have to throw in a caveat here:  We must recognize that living in peace with others is the goal, but it is not always possible.  The writer of Hebrews recognized this and said:

Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.

Hebrews 12:14

 

In Romans 12:18 we read:

If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 

 

Should we seek peace with others at all costs?  No.  The Scripture says that we should be peaceable as far as it depends on us.  If there is something we can do to accomplish peace, we should do it.

 

But we must realize that just like it takes 2 to tango, it takes 2 to be at peace with each other.  We cannot force someone else to be at peace with us … that is their issue.  Just like forgiveness, we must forgive others … what they do with it is their business.

 

How should we guide our life to encourage the growth of the fruit of the Spirit of peace, I suggest Philippians 4:6-9 would be a great place to start:

 

Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.  What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. 

 

Meditate on these verses as you listen to Integrity Music’s Scripture Memory Song entitled “Mediate on These Things.”

 

Amen, and amen.

 

My prayer is that you will allow the Holy Spirit to come into your life and touch your heart with His peace that guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  Don’t fret – your life in Christ is protected by the best guard you could ask for, the very Spirit of the Holy God.  That is peace!

 

Blessings to you and I pray that you will continue to walk with me as we learn about the fruit of the Holy Spirit and as we mature in our transformation into Christian believers who speak and act as Jesus did and who share in the passions that Jesus had for the lost sheep and for the worship of His Father, the Almighty God.  

 

FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT, No. 11, PEACE – TRANQUILITY OF ORDER

PEACE – TRANQUILITY OF ORDER

PART TWO

We have previously spoken of the peace, shalom, that we find in the Old Testament.  Now, let’s look at peace in the New Testament.

What does Scripture say?

Peace is a prominent feature of the Messiah – Jesus is called the Prince of Peace in Isaiah 9:6:

“For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

The Greek word for peace, which is transliterated as eirēnē and pronounced ā-rā’-nā, is the word used by Paul in Galatians 5.  It has much the same meaning as Shalom has in the Old Testament.

  • The gospel of Christ is a message of peace from God to men.

In Acts 10:36 we read:

“As for the word that he sent to Israel, preaching good news of peace through Jesus Christ (he is Lord of all), you yourselves know what happened throughout all Judea, …” 

Paul says in Romans 5:1:

“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

 

  • This peace is also between people, see for an example Ephesians 2 regarding Jews and Gentiles.

 

  • Further, this peace is an essential element in the spiritual kingdom of God

Romans 14:17 says:

“For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”

 

  • Peace is to be cherished and followed by Christians. Jesus told His disciples:

Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace one with another”

Mark 9:50.

Paul exhorts the Corinthian believers:

“Live in peace: and the God of love and peace will be with you.”

2 Corinthians 13:11.

 

  • God is the God of Peace.

Paul says:

“May the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in every way. ”  

2 Thessalonians 3:16.

How can Paul say this?  He notes the basis for this prayer for peace is found in the nature of God Himself:

“For God is not a God of confusion but of peace.”

1 Corinthians 14:33

 

  • Lastly, we have “peace” as a greeting. It was the Lord’s own greeting to His disciples as found in Luke 24:36 “Peace to you” and before He left them He gave them specially His blessing of “Peace” in John 14:27:

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. “ 

 

Jesus well knew that He was the source of true peace.  But, there is a short caveat that must be raised here, and it refers to Jesus’ words in Matthew 10:34-39 where He said that He did not come “to send peace on the earth, but a sword,” referring to the searching nature of His call and the divisions it would create.  In the Wycliffe Bible Commentary on the New Testament, we read the following regarding verse 34:

Jesus explains that his message, delivered in a rebellious and wicked world, would be met with hostility.  Sword: A symbol of sharp conflict and division, as shown by examples in verses 35-36.

 

Dr. R. C. Sproul says it this way in TableTalk Magazine, in an article entitled “Fearing the Right Person”:

However, though Christ brings the sword, He does not create the conflict. The peace Jesus offers comes on terms many refuse to accept. Strife comes not directly from the Lord’s hand, but from the response of secondary, human agents who hate Him and those who embrace the Gospel. Saying that He brings the sword is a Semitic way of attributing an indirect result of His mission to Himself even though He is not to blame for the outcome. Christ does not directly set family members against one another; those who reject the Lord are the culprits.  See Romans 9:19-20.

Of course, the spirit of the gospel and of the Christian is one of peace, and it is a Christian duty to seek to bring war and strife everywhere to an end. This is represented as the ultimate result of the gospel and Spirit of Christ; universal and permanent peace can come only as that Spirit rules in all men’s hearts.

 

How does this apply to my daily life?

 

When things seem to go flying out of control, you don’t need to panic or react in a frenzy.  Be at peace.  Slow down … let the dust settle while you seek the Lord and His guidance for you at that time.  You will have peace even when people around you go crazy because the Holy Spirit is within you and peace is one aspect of the fruit that He desires to grow in your life.  Let Him grace you with peace.

 

In his book entitled The Holiness of God, [Tyndale House Publishers, © 1998, p. 151] Dr. R. C. Sproul says:

In His last will and testament, Jesus left His heirs something else, something very special: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.  I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:27)

This is the legacy of Christ: peaceIt is His peace that is our inheritance.  He gives the gift in a way that is different from gifts that are given in this world.  There are no ulterior motives and no sinister strings attached.  He give us His peace not for His benefit but for ours. It is an otherworldly gift given in an otherworldly manner. It is ours to keep forever.

 

This peace is referred to in the Old Testament as well, when the prophet Isaiah said in Isaiah 26:3:

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.” 

 

Listen to this verse as sung on Integrity Music’s Scripture Memory Songs album entitled Overcoming Anxiety.

 

 

Next week we will conclude our consideration of peace as a fruit of the Spirit.  Until then, ask the Spirit to give you His Peace even as you face difficult circumstances, and then spread that peace to those God puts in your path.

 

Blessings to you and I pray that you will continue to walk with me as we learn about the fruit of the Holy Spirit and as we mature in our transformation into Christian believers who speak and act as Jesus did and who share in the passions that Jesus had for the lost sheep and for the worship of His Father, the Almighty God.