Tag Archives: Christian

2017 National Day of Prayer: Post Mortem

“I prayed to the LORD my God and confessed…”  Daniel 9:4 (NLT)

It’s been a week since the 2017 National Day of Prayer.  Many Americans assembled in prayer in front of courthouses, as well as in houses of worship, such as churches, mosques, synagogues, and temples.  All convened on that day to pray for change and revival.  This year our “national prayers” were offered up “For Your (God’s) Name Sake!    Hear Us…Forgive Us…Heal Us!”     While I believe in both the power of prayer and the need for spiritual healing and restoration, I don’t believe that our approach—an annual prayer day—is what Daniel had in mind when he prayed for his people (Daniel 9:19).

In a recent article entitled,  Do We Need a National Day of Prayer?  I found someone who, like myself, was distressed with this country’s fascination with this annual invitation to collective prayer:

“There will be a breakfast, prayers offered, and perhaps a sermon or two calling “America back to God.” And afterwards, if history is any guide, politicians will go back to their offices to continue business as usual.  I’m not opposed to praying on May 5th. I’m pretty sure I will be saying a prayer on that day, along with many others who practice such a spiritual discipline. I’ll be praying before and after that day as well, but it won’t be because of a bill passed by Congress and signed by the President. It shouldn’t be the government that calls people to pray. It is the church’s job to call people to pray. The church doesn’t need the government’s sanction or admonition to pray.”

In Daniel 9, we get a glimpse into the past “misbehavior” of Israel before their subsequent captivity and deportation to Assyria and Babylon.  While these deportations extended over  thirty-six (36) years, Israel’s patterns of sin and defiance were clearly warned against by many prophets who came as God’s representatives to warn of the end result of their rebellion (Daniel 9:5-6).  While it was God’s desire that Israel repent, His message was (and still is) clear:

“But if you turn away and forsake My statutes and My commandments which I have set before you, and go and serve other gods, and worship them, “then I will uproot them from My land which I have given them; and this house which I have sanctified for My name I will cast out of My sight, and will make it a proverb and a byword among all peoples.  (2 Chronicles 7:19-20)

Daniel’s prayer for the people began with the one thing that seems to escape our nation, in general—the need to confess our collective sin.  If we compare the history of Israel with that of our nation, there are frightening similarities.  Both were once nations “under God” but who gradually and ever so imperceptibly began to question and ultimately rejected God’s commandments and precepts.   As blessed and favored nations, they both began to do what felt “right in their own eyes” (Judges 17:6; Prov. 3:7).  They “professed themselves to be wise and became fools, changing the truth of God into a lie” (Romans 1:22-25).

Also read:  The Subtly of Sin

Real change for individuals and nations does not lie solely in intercessory prayer.  Prayer that changes hearts and minds, transformational prayer, must begin with confession followed by a sincere commitment to turn away from sin and turn to God (2 Chron. 7:14; 1 Kings 8:35-36).    Should our 2017 theme instead have been, “Forgive us…heal us…then in Your mercy hear us”?

Envision what our country would look like if we returned to a nation that truly “trusted in God” versus the plans of politicians and social reformers.  Imagine if we loved others more than we loved ourselves.  Wouldn’t it be radical to act on the belief that “we are our brother’s keeper”?  (Gen. 4:9)  Instead of a national day of prayer, let us strive for a “national lifestyle of prayer”:  prayers of confession, prayers of forgiveness, and prayers for wisdom, discernment, and enlightenment.

The Apostle James had this observation about life in the 1st century.  Perhaps there are lessons in his words that can inform us in our future planning for the 2018 National Day of Prayer.

“Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members?  You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask.  You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.”  (James 4:1-3, NLT)

More on prayer next week.

 

SELAH:  Read Daniel 9:4-7 for the next three days.   Each day ask the Holy Spirit to show you how He wants you to pray on that day for our nation and our world.

 

 

 

Everything’s Looking Up! Part 2

“And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven.”  Luke 24:51 (KJV)

 

We spend a lot of time talking about the incarnation of Christ, the crucifixion and the resurrection but often neglect the ascension, a key element in the ministry and work of Christ. If we stop at the resurrection event, however, we miss the full power of God. This power that raised Jesus from the grave also lifted Him to heaven. The ascension completes the ministry of Christ as affirmed in our Statement of Faith: “We believe in Jesus Christ…crucified, dead, and buried; the third day He arose from the dead; He ascended in heaven and is seated at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty.” This statement successfully captures the full efficacy of Jesus’ ministry.

Christ’s ascension is a defining moment in Christianity much like His Advent. While the ascension marked the conclusion of Christ’s ministry on earth, it also initiated three (3) key changes for all who would follow Him as Lord and Savior. The Ascension would result in:

#1. The Holy Spirit’s ENTRANCE.   Jesus had earlier reminded the Disciples that His departure was necessary in order that the Holy Spirit would come. This transference of power to the Disciples would occur through the baptism of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8) resulting in “even greater works” than had been accomplished by Jesus (John 14:12). The Holy Spirit’s arrival would also result in the “gifting” of individuals for the edification of the Church (Eph. 4:8). Lastly, the Holy Spirit would bring to remembrance the truths that Jesus had taught the disciples during His time with them. He would add clarity and understanding to many of Christ’s teachings that would later be included in the infallible record of the Gospels.

#2. The Disciples’ ENGAGEMENT.   The forty days prior to Jesus’ ascension provided a critical transition period in which Jesus could prepare the Disciples for their new commission. During that time Jesus answered their questions, banished their fears, and opened their minds to the Scriptures (Luke 24:44-48). The ascension marked the beginning of the Disciples apostolic calling. After receipt of the Holy Spirit, they would be empowered to be the primary propagators of the Gospel beginning in Jerusalem and then expanding to Judea and Samaria and finally to the uttermost part of the earth (Acts 1:8).

#3.   Jesus Christ’s EXALTATION.   After the ascension, Jesus Christ was placed on the throne at the right hand of God the Father. Jesus’ position of honor signified the acceptance of His “once for all” sacrifice for sin (Heb. 10:12) and His triumph over the forces of evil and Satan (Heb.2:14). Jesus has ascended to heaven where He now reigns as Lord and King (Rev. 19:16). It is there that He: (1) governs the universe, (2) rules the Church, (3) gives aid to believers, and (4) intercedes for believers. The ascended Christ is “far above all rule and authority and power and dominion and above every name that named” (Eph. 1:21).  In 2017 Jesus Christ reigns!

Jesus ascended into heaven “materialistically, physically, and bodily” and will return in like manner (Acts 1:11).

And what does all this business of ascension have to do with believers living in the 21st century? Everything! Although Christ’s entered through the filter of time, the impact of His life and ministry extends throughout eternity. Christ’s life, death, resurrection and ascension provide the foundation on which believers appropriate God’s grace–His mercy and His power. Our response is seen in a life style that reflects our Lord and King.

The Holy Spirit’s entrance provides believers with a litany of gifts and powers to successfully navigate in a chaotic and tumultuous world-much like that which the Disciples faced. He is there to provide guidance and direction to accomplish the purpose for which God has created us. The Holy Spirit is the source of truth in all things protecting us from the world’s deception and Satan’s lies (John 16:13).

The Disciples engagement is the same for believers today. Our commission is to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ within our sphere of influence.   We too have received the call to faithfully evangelize whenever possible. We can begin our commission by witnessing to what we personally have seen Christ do in our lives and his love for others-love that was demonstrated by His death, resurrection, and ascension (Rom. 5:8). Through the power and presence of the Holy Spirit, we too can turn the world upside down (Acts 17:6).

The knowledge of Christ’s exaltation is the place where believers can respond with great joy and confidence. Christ is seated in heavenly places (Eph. 1:20) reigning as Lord and triumphant King of the universe. It is because of this fact that we can be assured that the world is not spinning out of control because He is sovereignly overseeing current history and our destiny (Ps. 103:19).  In addition, Jesus’ love and benevolence doesn’t end with His ascent into heaven for it is there that He acts as our High Priest continually making intercession before the Father on our behalf (Rom. 8:34; Heb. 7:25).

SELAH:  Jesus Christ is ascended. What is your response to His ascension and exaltation?

Everything’s Looking Up, Part 1

“But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”  Acts 1:8 (KJV)

I have now added the Book of Acts to my list of favorite Bible books.  Why?  Because it bears witness to the fact of what can happen when ordinary people (and the Church) cooperate with supernatural power (the Holy Spirit).  And what is the result?  Extraordinary ministry!  I’m sure the Disciples felt that things were “looking up” since once again Jesus was present with them. But they had much to learn from Jesus before He ascended to heaven.

It had been forty days since Resurrection Sunday and Jesus wasted no time in completing His earthly ministry. After His ascension, Jesus would give His commandments to His “sent ones”, the newly commissioned apostles through the Holy Ghost (Acts 1:2). Knowing His departure was rapidly approaching, Jesus directed His energies to two activities: presenting evidence of His resurrection and teaching concerning the kingdom of God (Acts 1:3).

How did Jesus prove His resurrection? Not only by the witness of others (1 Cor. 15:4-7) but Jesus Himself would offer “infallible proofs.”  Perhaps He showed unbelievers His nail scarred hands and His pierced side. For those who challenged the stories of His resurrection, Jesus might have walked through closed doors as He did Easter afternoon with his disciples (John 20:19) or suddenly joined scoffers at their evening meal and ate in their presence to prove He was no ghost or apparition (Luke 24:41-43).

What did Jesus teach His disciples concerning the kingdom of God? The kingdom of God was the future Millennial Kingdom—the thousand year bodily reign of Jesus upon the earth (Rev.20:1-6).  Jesus had spoken to the disciples before about an earthly, literal kingdom (Matt. 19:28; Luke 22:28-30).  Through the Millennial Kingdom “God would burst into human history in a spectacular way to establish His rule on earth.” [1]   Perhaps He reminded the disciples of the faithfulness of God in His promise to establish the throne of David’s kingdom forever (2 Sam. 7:13; Jer. 33:17-21).

“Knowledge of God’s faithfulness and eternal promises would far outweigh any deterrent the Disciples might face in the future.”

Jesus left his disciples two instructions.  First they were to wait for the “Promise of the Father”, the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:4).  Jesus also waited for the Holy Spirit before beginning His ministry (Matt. 3:16).  The new apostles would need the Spirit’s power to accomplish their work.   Second, they were commanded to be witnesses of Jesus “in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8).  The spreading of the Gospel would require the disciples to move from the familiar to the unknown, expanding their territory and their audience.  However, if they followed Jesus’ instruction and the Holy Spirit, the result would be “extraordinary ministry.”

In this time and place, there is both the need and the possibility to create extraordinary ministry.  Jesus has given us the commission to go and to make disciples, to teach and to witness, just as He did (Matt. 28:19-20). We need not wait for the Holy Spirit.  He is living within every believer and is ready to empower us to complete the work that Jesus began.

Jesus has provided us witnesses and infallible proofs within the Gospel narratives and the Bible in general.  We have the guarantee of eternal promises that begin now and extend into eternity (2 Pet. 1:2-4).    It’s time to move out of our comfort zones and embrace the work that Jesus has gifted us to do.  Let us live each day with intentionality creating extraordinary ministry.  Are you ready?

SELAH:  Re-read today text from Acts and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal what work God has gifted you to do that will witness to His power and glory.

Need some additional encouragement before moving forward?

Read:  “Fret Not

The Reality of the Resurrection

“If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.” 1 Corinthians 15:19 (NKJ)

 Christ has risen! (Matt. 28:6)  What now?  The Disciples and the New Testament Church would now face persecution and even death for their belief in Jesus Christ.  If they were to continue the work that Jesus began, they would now need to demonstrate the reality of the resurrection.

The Apostle Paul knew the importance of the resurrection and passionately defended its reality.  He shared the magnitude of the resurrection with the church at Corinth by highlighting the risk that would occur if they did not accept it as “fact” and demonstrate its impact in their lives (1 Corinthians 15).   This danger still exists for believers in the 21st century.  In verse 14 Paul begins to expound the casualty to Christianity if “Christ is not raised.”

First and foremost, our faith is in vain (v.14).  Imagine awakening to the news that Christ’s resurrection did not occur?  How would your belief system be affected?  In what or who would you place your hope and trust?  Second, if Christ is not raised, we as believers have falsely represented God (v.15).  Jesus’ resurrection is the cornerstone of God’s plan of eternal salvation for man (Hebrew 5:9).  Only God could supernaturally raise Christ from the dead (Acts 2:24; Ep. 1:20). To deny the resurrection would also be denying the power of God.  Third and most disturbing, Paul concludes if Christ is not raised, we are “still in our sins” AND our family and friends who have died “have perished” (v. 17).  It was for sin that Jesus was manifested (1 John 3:5) and through His resurrection that the power of death was destroyed (Heb. 2:14).

“The resurrection of Jesus showed that Christ’s oblation as the sacrificial lamb was accepted by God, which is the basis for the giving of the Spirit to believers and the forgiveness of sins.” [1]

Finally, our text for today (v. 19) sums up the dilemma that Christians and the world in general would face if there were no resurrection:  “If we have hope in Christ only for this life, we are the most miserable people in the world” (NLT). If this life is the total sum of our existence, then Christ would have died in vain and our future prospects would be consigned to the dust from which we were created.  Continuity of our existence would be halted with our last breathe.

I question whether we, as believers, fully understand the implications of Christ’s resurrection in the 21st century.  Year after year we proclaim, “Christ is risen!” on Easter Sunday often relegating it to a “social phenomenon” that occurred thousands of years ago.  Yes, we’re willing to accept Jesus’ atoning sacrifice and the gift of His Holy Spirit, but at the end of the day, what changes have we implemented in our lives to reflect the “supernatural manifestation” that took place on Resurrection Sunday?  The reality of Jesus’ resurrection should make a difference in how we live!  Are we living our life as Christ had hoped when He sacrificed His life for ours?  Are we doing “greater works” than Christ did, as He stated in John 14:12?  Are we living each day joyfully expecting His return? (2 Pet. 3:11-12)  NOW is the right time to rededicate our life to Christ and boldly demonstrate the reality of His resurrection.  Let our hallelujah ring out to witness that Christ is raised!

SELAH:  Imagine living today without the expectation of a future resurrection.  Journal the emotions you feel as you consider this ending for your life then praise God for the reality of Jesus’ resurrection.    

[1]  Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology

Living in the Power of the Resurrection

“For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death,

we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection.” Romans 6:5 (NKJ)

 

Good Friday is a few days away.  Christ died for the ungodly (Rom. 5:6).  Resurrection Sunday is on the horizon.  Christ is risen! (Matt. 28:6)  And now, as a result of these two events, how are we to live?  I’m sure Christ’s disciples had the same question upon hearing of our Lord’s resurrection.  They received the resurrection proclamation from the women who visited the empty tomb early Easter morning (Matt. 28).  They had personally seen the glorified Christ “behind shut doors” (John 20:19-30).  Even after all this, the disciples did not fully understand the implications of the resurrection and how it would change their lives forever.  They lived through the suffering of the Cross.  They would now need to learn how to live in the power of the resurrection.

In the final days of His earthly life, Jesus hinted about this resurrection power.  He assured His disciples, “he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do” (John 14:12).

The Apostle Paul knew how to live in the power of the resurrection.  He wanted to not only “share in the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings” but also, to know Him and the power of His resurrection (Phil. 3:10).  Paul prayed that the church at Ephesus would understand “the power God that worked in Christ when He raised Him (Jesus) from the dead” (Eph. 1:19, 20).  The early New Testament church gained its potency and power through accessing that same resurrection power through the anointing and indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

How do twenty-first century believers live in the power of the resurrection?

Through the power of the Holy Spirit who lives within us.  We now are able to walk in victory.  Sin no longer has power over us (Romans 6).  Satan is crushed and we are free (Col. 2:15).  Though he would have us believe we are still lost, we have become new creatures in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17).  Though our memories and the world would tempt us on every side, we are able to walk in newness of life (Rom. 6:4).  Though we may sometimes “stumble and fall”, we know that nothing can separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom. 8:39).  We have been sealed with the Holy Spirit, our Guarantee, until we arrive in heaven (Eph. 1:13, 14).

Also read:  Our Resurrection Witness

We have received the resurrection proclamation.  Christ has personally come to dwell within our hearts.  We are witnesses to His existence.  After the resurrection, the disciples went back to their daily routines.  Peter even invited his cohorts to “go fishing” while they awaited their new orders from our Lord.  While we celebrate the resurrection of Christ once a year at Easter, we much daily tap into this power from on high.  Don’t go back to “business as usual”.  Tap into the resurrection power of God and finish the good work God has begun in you (Phil. 1:6).

Selah:  Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal any area of your life (relationships, attitudes, behaviors) where you need to access the power of the resurrection.  Then ask Him to help you develop next steps on what to do.

Are you willing to launch out?  Check out the link for more info!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lPgfZbUxYFk&index=1&list=PLXZmuJ5W5m4HAmeSH2k6zZiuJvxJZXxLq

The Great Access: Practicing the Presence of God

“Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence?” Psalm 139:7 (NKJ)

“For through Him (Jesus) we both have access by one Spirit to the Father.” Ephesians 2:18

With the explosion of social media, one of the greatest assistances has been the development of technology that facilitates networking and contact with people who, under normal circumstances, would be inaccessible.   Facebook and LinkedIn, for example, have made it possible for individuals to make connections with people anywhere in the world who might assist individuals with their personal and business aspirations.  These are the benefits of the technology age.  However, one of the most phenomenal opportunities is not the result of the technology age we live in but the “grace age” Jesus provided believers via “supernatural entrée” to the Creator of the Universe.  This access can be realized through practicing the presence of God.

God is “everywhere present” (Ps. 139ff) and we live our life daily “in His presence.”  Although sin once separated us from God, our position in Christ (Rom. 5:1-2) re-established our direct access to Him. This access does not require that we travel to the temple in Jerusalem as was once the tradition of the Jews prior to Christ’s first advent (Deut. 16:16) nor can entrée to God only be found in the modern church sanctuary.  We live continually in the presence of God with potential for ongoing fellowship with Him anywhere and anytime.

Fellowshipping reminds us that God is “relational” (versus religion) and desires time with His children—those whom He loves and sent His Son to die for (John 3:16).   These are the blessings of those in Christ, which even the angels in heaven covet (1 Pet. 1:11-12).  Believers have the extraordinary opportunity to spend time with God not “doing”—presenting petitions or offering prayers of intersession but simply “being” with Him.   Practicing the presence of God is the intentional discipline whereby we pause during the busyness of our life and abide with God.

What exactly is meant by the phrase, “practicing the presence of God”?  In pursuit of an answer to that question, I found the best definitions from two renowned practitioners of this spiritual habit.  Following are their responses for your consideration.

“…to acknowledge the Presence of God who is really there is actually a form of prayer, a way of praying always as the Scriptures exhort us to do.  When we do this, the eyes and ears of our hearts are open to receive the word He is always speaking.  We enter into a path of obedience perhaps unknown to us before where we joyfully acknowledge, ‘Jesus is Lord.’

Leanne Payne, The Healing Presence

“…continual conversation with Him, with freedom and in simplicity.  That we need only to recognize God intimately present with us, to address ourselves to Him every moment, that we may beg His assistance for knowing His will in things doubtful, and for rightly performing those which we plainly see He requires of us, offering them to Him before we do them, and giving Him thanks when we have done.”

Brother Lawrence, Practicing the Presence of God

Practicing the presence of God is built on several foundational truths about God and His relationship with believers.

  • God lives within us. “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” 1 Cor. 3:16.  Before returning to His Father, Jesus promised to send “another Comforter” that would abide with them forever (John 14:16).  That Comforter was the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity.  He guides believers in all truth—truth that He hears from the Father (John 16:13).
  • God desires to communicate with us.  “Then God went up from him in the place where He talked with him.” Genesis 35:13.  God is not some distant deity disinterested in His children’s daily affairs.  We cry “Abba Father” (Gal. 4:6) knowing He hears our every word; in response we are to listen intently as He directs us:  “this is the way walk in it” (Isa. 30:21).  Communication between the Father and His children result in unity of thought and agreement in purpose.
  • God wishes to be in relationship with us. “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” James 4:8a.  It has always been God’s desire to be in unbroken fellowship with man.  By instituting His plan of salvation, He created the means by which that which was lost in the Garden of Eden could be restored.  Now reconciled to God (Col. 1:20-21), man is once again free to fellowship with his Creator.

Jesus Christ was the greatest practitioner of living in the presence of God.  Throughout His earthly ministry, Jesus synchronized His every move based on what He heard from His Father (John 5:30).  Living in continual communion with God, Jesus modeled the power of practicing the presence.

With these definitions and truths in hand, the spiritual reality of practicing the presence of God releases His fullness into the believer’s life.  There is peace, joy and love in abundance.   In unhindered communion with God, believers are able to live life more victoriously.

As Advent 2016 closes and 2017 begins be intentional in practicing the presence of God.  Live moment to moment in awareness and acknowledgement of God’s presence.  Awareness of God’s presence means that in our heart, we proclaim Christ is Lord.  In Him “we live, and move, and have our being” (Acts 17:28).   Acknowledgement of God’s presence means that we live our life attentively listening to His voice.  We live in unbroken communication with Him—“He in us and we in Him” (John 17:23).

Good to the Last Byte…

Want to learn more about practicing the presence of God?  Kevin Martinez of Christian Living and More offers six (6) ways to practice the presence of God throughout your day.  Click here to begin.

In God We Trust

            “Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You.  In God (I will praise His word), In God I have put my trust; I will not fear. What can flesh do to me?”  Psalm 56:3, 4 (NKJ)

As Election Day 2016 draws near, I thought it would be appropriate to spend some time reaffirming the true source of our confidence which is in God.  Campaign advertisements continually bombard us via social media, telephone, and television; each candidate promising to serve faithfully and with integrity.  How ironic that our discussion on trust should follow our recent series, “In Search of Truth” as we listen to “half-truths” and “outright lies” presented by all political parties on the ballot.  Who is one to trust?  Our text for today summarizes the best place to put our trust—in God.

The background for today’s Psalm can be found in 1 Samuel 21:8-15, where we are told of David’s escape to Gath, the stronghold of the Philistines, arch enemies of Israel.   The Philistines were well acquainted with David for he had championed the killing of Goliath of Gath when he was only a young shepherd boy (1 Sam. 17).   Since then, he had been anointed by Samuel the prophet as the heir apparent to the throne of Israel receiving praises from the people for his many conquests (1 Sam. 18:7).  However, those praises had resulted in a death wish from King Saul who now sought David’s life.  Now this young man runs for fear of his life to a place of even greater peril and sure death.  He now stands captured by his worst enemy, the king of the Philistines.

Psalm 56 is identified as a song for the distressed.  We would agree that David was in distress.  We sometimes describe it as being “between a rock and a hard place.”   Like David, we sometimes find ourselves wedged between many rocks and brutal hard places.  Sometimes this happens as a result of others, like Saul, and other times it is the result of our own disobedience and waywardness.  In those times of distress and fear, we are to call out like David—“In God, I have put my trust.”

Trust (batach) in Hebrew means “bold and confident”.  The description means to literally “throw oneself down, extended on the ground, upon his face.”  Can you imagine that picture?  David, literally throwing himself on the mercy of God, fully confident and bold; defiantly proclaiming, “What can flesh do to me?”  I wonder if his mind reflected back on God’s mighty hand of deliverance in his earlier battle with fear as he faced Goliath.  Did he recall the many times God intervened on his behalf as King Saul sought to capture and kill him?  His eye was not on the source of his fear but on the Deliverer of his soul. David’s spirit was humbled, cast down in full confidence and trust in Almighty God for his life—not the Philistine king.

As we face the many challenges of life that tend to shake the very foundation of our faith, let us “put our trust” in the One who is able to deliver us from all harm (Ps. 46:2). Remember those times that God stepped in to deliver you and brought you to a point of safety.   Exchange your fear for bold confidence (Ps. 20:7).  Stretch out on “mature” faith, like David, and expect miracles, signs, and wonders.   Although we flippantly have inscribed on our coins, “In God we trust”, it’s now time to write upon our hearts the Psalmist’s words, “I have put my trust in God.”

Prayer:  God of creation and God of salvation, we put our trust in You.  Though the earth may tremble and the mountain be carried into the sea, we put our trust in You.  Though life may be hard and the challenges daunting, we put our trust in You.  We trust in You and You alone because You are OUR GOD.

Dare to be a Truth Teller

“I will speak of Your testimonies also before kings, And will not be ashamed.” (Psalm 119:46, NKJ)

Are you a truth teller?  This might seem like a strange question to ask but it provides a great starting point for personal reflection as we close this month’s series, “In Search of Truth.”  We began the series by asking the question, “Can you handle the truth?”  We defined truth as the meaning and reality of life defined by God versus truth shaped by postmodern thinking.  The believer’s source of truth is presented by God Himself in His Word and through the direction of the “Spirit of Truth”, the Holy Spirit.   Truth defined by God becomes the compass by which believers are able to discern truth from error (1 John 4:6) therefore allowing them to live out their God-ordained purpose (Ep. 2:10).

How well am I doing with being truthful?   Following God’s truth may result in rejection and personal persecution.  Inside the safety of the church walls it’s easy to agree with the ethics and morality inherent in God’s truth.  However, once outside the “physical boundaries” of the church, it is the “heart” which must reflect God’s truth.  It is the heart that directs the mind, will, and emotions (the soul) to sieve the noise of the world through the filter of God’s truth.  Truth and obedience are closely connected as believers must choose between God’s instructions or man’s acceptance (Matt. 10:28).

Does the world want to know the truth?  Or is truth simply a remnant of the 20th century—no longer relevant in today’s fast-paced, high tech world?  Unfortunately, truth is often defined by what’s trending on social media.  To further complicate the search for truth, corporate/community leaders and aspiring politicians create “untruthful” responses to difficult social issues that simply satisfy people who don’t really want to know the truth; so the community and nation are given a lie (instead of truth) to make them feel better.  Unfortunately people would rather believe a lie than the truth—think about that for a minute!  Are people really being deceived or are they simply choosing to believe a lie? It’s easier (2 Tim. 4:3-4).

Am I ready to be a truth teller?  To be a truth teller requires boldness to stand for holy “rightness” (Heb. 13:6) and to proclaim what is God’s truth versus what is politically or socially correct (Luke 12:4-5; Ps. 119:46). When Jesus taught the Beatitudes to His disciples, He established a new standard of truth that was to be actualized in the life of the believer—a standard that would result in holy and sanctified (set apart) living.  Paul declared himself to be a truth teller.  While it resulted in his persecution and polarization from the mainstream, he boldly proclaimed:  “None of these things [persecution and prison] move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I can finish my race with joy.” (Acts 20:24)  Dare to be a truth teller.

Good to the Last Byte…

We must ask ourselves why we sometimes choose to believe a lie rather than the truth.  The truth may be related to our life style, our family, or even about us personally.  Perhaps we are judgmental, critical, or unforgiving.  That’s why it is so important to regularly pray that the Holy Spirit expose those areas that interfere with receiving the truth of God.

The Spirit of Truth

“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor who will never leave you.  He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world at large cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you do, because he lives with you now and later will be in you.”   John 14:16-17 (NLT)

John F. Kennedy, the thirty-fifth President of the USA, shared the following observation about truth.

“The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie — deliberate, contrived, and dishonest — but the myth — persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic.”  

Likewise regarding truth, the Apostle Paul warned the young minister Timothy of the dangers that await him as new converts would “turn away their ears from the truth, and be turned unto fables” (2 Timothy 4:4).  Truth, unfortunately, is being packaged in many forms; many are more speculation and creative editorializing, than substantive truth.  Because of this trend, it is important that believers have a “real-time” reliable and trustworthy compass by which to navigate in this world.  While our primary guide is the Word of God, as we discussed last week, God has also provided another source—the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth.

Earlier in this series we defined truth as that which agrees with reality.  For the believer, our reality has been defined by what God has placed in His written Word.  For the disciples in our text today, however, there was no written Word as they faced a hostile world without the presence of their Beloved Jesus (John 15:18-20).  It was Jesus’ presence that gave them the courage to challenge the spiritual tyranny of the religious leaders.  It was Jesus’ loving response to the diseased and disenfranchised that modeled what true love looked like.  They would need God’s truth as they turned their focus to witnessing (Acts 1:8), baptizing and teaching (Matt. 28:19-20).

In John 14 Jesus promises to send the Spirit of Truth that would abide with them forever.  It was the Holy Spirit Who would now come to live within them.  We generally think of the Holy Spirit in terms of gifting or empowering believers to accomplish the purposes and ministries of Christ.  However, the attribute Jesus chose to share with His disciples in John’s text focused on “truth”.  It would be the Spirit of Truth that would assist the disciples as they were persecuted for their belief in Jesus Christ.  They would be tempted to denounce and deny Him Whom “the world could not receive, because it neither saw Him nor knew Him” (v. 17).  They would need the Spirit of Truth to call “to remembrance” the life and ministry of Jesus Christ—especially His work of salvation for sinners (John 14:26).  The Spirit of Truth would assist the disciples in accomplishing the “greater works” promised by Jesus (John 14:12).   Jesus was indeed “the Way, the Truth, and the Life”.  After Jesus’ departure, the ministry of truth would continue because the Spirit of Truth.

Like the disciples of the first century, believers in the 21st century have the assistance of the Spirit of Truth to assist them especially in exposing the spirit of error.  The spirit of error is seen in the morays and life styles of the world.  For unbelievers, it leads them to be deceived and disobedient to the purposes of God in their life (Ep. 2:2).  For the believer, the spirit of error tempts them to doubt God truth and draw them away from the leading of the Holy Spirit (2 Thess. 2:15).  The Spirit of Truth stands ready to silence the lies, myths and fables of the 21st century.  Our confidence lies in the promise, power, and presence of the Spirit of Truth.  He is our True Compass as we search for truth.

Prayer:  “Lead me in thy truth, and teach me: for thou art the God of my salvation; on thee do I wait all the day.”  Let your Spirit of Truth reign supreme in my life.  Let me trust in that which He guides me to do and obediently follow the path of Your choosing.  I receive Your Spirit of Truth and walk in the knowledge and freedom which You have graciously given me.

Hold Fast to the WORD

“Preach the Word…” 2 Tim. 4:2 (NKJ)

The Word of God is the truth by which believers are to successfully navigate this world.  “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It straightens us out and teaches us to do what is right.  It is God’s way of preparing us in every way, fully equipped for every good thing God wants us to do” (2 Timothy 3:16-17, NLT). As believers operate in these end times, it is critical that they are able to stand fast in their faith and boldly proclaim the truth of God’s Word.

Current worldview has created an atmosphere where biblical principles and practices are continually challenged, if not totally ignored.   The demand for social and moral freedom has set the stage for denial of biblical truth and authority. The Bible is seen as neither God speaking nor the actual Word of God. Instead, it is seen as an inhibitor to self-determination and self-gratification.  In 21st century vernacular, the Bible is a “buzz kill” taking the “edge of people’s fluff.”[1]

College students relegate the Bible to the status of “glorified fairy tales” with little substantive value. (Lord, help them!) These individuals will be our future workforce, leaders, and yes, our Church. Gen Xers and Millennials, seeking answers on how to live purposeful lives, discount the Bible as “irrelevant and inadequate” for the challenges they face. These generations are a formidable influence in the shaping of not only our current political and social policies but also in determining the religious beliefs of generations to come. And who will direct these groups to the “light of God’s Word” (Ps. 119:105)? Current believers and the Church? There is little difference between them and the aforementioned groups. They seldom read their Bibles, let alone use it as the final authority on truth with their families or in their personal life. They look no different than the rest of the world.

These patterns of disbelief should not come as a surprise. Paul in his letter to Timothy exhorted him:

“Preach the word of God. Be persistent, whether the time is favorable or not. Patiently correct, rebuke, and encourage your people with good teaching. For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to right teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever they want to hear. They will reject the truth and follow strange myths.”                                                                                                                                                                 2 Timothy 4:2-4 (NLT)

The Word of God will continue to be challenged by the World and yes, even the Church. It is because of this fact that believers are to stand firm based on the power, sufficiency, and authority of the Word of God.  Paul’s instructions are still pertinent for believers today.  We are to boldly proclaim, without excuse, the supremacy and sufficiency of Scripture over the worldview. How do we prepare for this challenge? Read books to help you defend your faith. Listen to Christian teachers who can help you answer frequent questions people have about God and His Word. Finally, ask the Holy Spirit (your Personal Teacher) to help you respond to challenges and push back you might receive. Remember, “Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world” (1 John 4:4).  Hold fast to the Word!

[1] Urbandictionary.com