What keeps me from hearing God?

What Keeps me from hearing God?

Is God speaking to me?

God speaks.  For many people this is hard to understand and even more difficult for others to believe.  I’m often asked, “How do I know if God is speaking to me?”   Perhaps the more appropriate question is, “are you listening?”

Wrong tapes in our head

Many people, even people of God,  do not believe that God speaks to them.  Their disbelief in God’s speaking is sometimes tied to “false narratives” (wrong tapes playing in our head) about Who God is.

Some see God as an indifferent creator looking down on us ready to punish us for doing wrong.  Others see God as a benevolent grandfather patiently waiting to indulge our every need.  Unfortunately,  both views are incorrect.   Who is God and why does God want to speak to us?

Why would God speak to me?

First, God wants to be in relationship (not religion) with us (Isa. 49:15-16).  When we spend time with Him, we begin to understand the love He has for us.  During those intimate moments together, we discover His ways (how He operates in the world) and His paths (how He operates in our individual lives).  (Ps. 25:4-5)

Secondly, God desires that we live free from the bondage of sin (Heb. 2:14-15).  Satan and the world want to keep us in darkness through lies.  These lies result in guilt, shame, and fear.   God, however, wants us to know the truth—His truth concerning our identity (heirs of God and children of light) and our destiny (eternity with Him).  It is this truth that sets us free (John 8:32).

Lastly, God longs for us to walk in the purpose He has ordained for our lives (Jer. 29:11).   We are God’s workmanship (Eph. 2:10) created for “good works” which include service to others.   True joy in the Christian life is found in discovering the plans that God has for our lives.  All things are possible with God (Mar. 10:27).

What keeps us from hearing?

Although God desires to speak to believers, we have, unfortunately, developed “habits of behavior” that often hinder our ability to hear Him clearly.  As we move through life, we have, metaphorically, “gotten on the wrong BUS”—a bus that frequently takes us away from God and toward the things of the world.    

Busyness robs us of both energy and our ability to hear.  Busyness most often is the result of wrong priorities.  As a rule, we place importance on the things we value.  Hearing from God deserves first priority. It’s hard to hear God when you’re multitasking; He gets caught between our thoughts and His voice becomes “muted”.

Unbelief houses all the lies we hold about ourselves and about God.  We believe that God speaks to others but not us.  We attribute this excuse to “being humble” but in reality we don’t believe that God is (His existence) or God can (His power) or God will (His promises)—so why talk to Him?  There is always a “lie” in unbelief.

Self (sin, too) keep us from hearing from God.  This happens when “self” (versus God) rules our life—self-righteousness, self-esteem, self-sufficiency, self-promotion.  When self is on the “throne of our heart”, God finds no place for Him to sit (except on the outside).  Sin separates us from a holy God.  When sin dominates our life, God won’t talk or listen (Gen. 17:1).  This condition, however, can be corrected (1 John 1:9).

How much do we want to hear God?

Bob Sorge offers these thoughts concerning hearing God’s in his book, Secret of the Secret Places.

Hearing the voice of God is largely a matter of the will.  We must choose to hear Him.  We must make the choice of setting aside time to listen quietly.  This hearing is a today thing that we do.  Hearing His (God’s) voice is conditional—built upon the condition of quieting our hearts to listen.

Want to hear God speak?   Have the courage to get off the BUS!

Six Months to Live

Six months to Live Six months to live?

What would you do if after your annual physical exam, the doctor shared the sobering fact that you have six months to live?  This is not a scenario I would wish on anyone.  However, in reality, we don’t know how much time we have left in our frail and finite lives (Ps. 90:10-12).  It really could be six months, six days, or six years.  So what’s my point?

We have passed the midpoint of 2021.  Taken in a larger context, we have moved passed the events of 2020, with its losses and human volatility.  BUT GOD has brought us safely to this point in time  (Prov. 18:10).

And what will we do with the time that remains?  What will we do with our next six months?  Will we follow the purpose God has for our lives?   Or will we live our life as if there is no tomorrow?  Will we live each day with gratitude and intentionality?

Living with gratitude and intentionality

Gratitude is an emotion expressing appreciation and thankfulness for what one has.  Regrettably, we often miss the mark in articulating gratitude.  In the busyness of living, we take for granted those things God provides through His grace.

Intentionality is the fact of being deliberate or purposeful.  Living with intention means that we consciously direct our thoughts, beliefs, and actions toward some object or situation.  For believers, this object is Jesus and the Kingdom of God.

A second invitation to abundant living

Both gratitude and intentionality are key in moving us closer to the abundant life God has designed for each of our lives (Ep. 2:10; John 10:10).

As we examine our lives (with six months to live), it might be helpful to revisit the blessings God has for us when we practice gratitude and intentional living.

Abundant Living is a great reminder of God’s possibilities for the time He is giving us.   What will we do with our next six months?

Livin’ my Best Life: Best Life Recapitulated

Best Life Recapitulated

Recapitulated—-What have we learned?

Recapitulate means to summarize and state again the main point.

These past few weeks we’ve been attempting to define what “best life” looks like. We began by evaluating best life from a worldview.  In fairness to this overall process, we also considered the biblical perspective.  Before moving forward, a decision was needed as to which view believers were to follow.

It was at this point that a decision was needed.  Believers must draw a spiritual dividing line in order to insure that the influence of the flesh and the world cannot remove our distinctive difference.

Using the Bible as the final authority on what we embrace and follow in our lives, believers are to follow God’s definition of best life based on our new life and new allegiance to God  (2 Cor. 5:15-17).  We are also to focus on eternal things and “life outcomes” that are god-honoring.

Time to Decide

Based on what we have learned, there are two questions that may help us finalize our description of best life.

The first question was asked and answered last week: “What does God say about best life?”

The second question is this.  Of the two views (worldview and biblical view), which one is more likely to satisfy the longing that we may have? Self-directed or Christ-directed?

If we reach self-actualization in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, are we guaranteed that we will be content and fulfilled?  Those we see as “having it all” still deal with dissatisfaction in their life.  Self-actualization may not give all it promises as evidenced by the incidents of depression, substance abuse, and suicide among great artists, celebrities, and business moguls.

For those of us who identified with the things people wanted in life, the question is the same.  Does possession of any or all those items on the “wish list” guarantee contentment?  Remember there was only one tangible item on the list—money.  The rest were intangibles—unable to be touched or grasped but understood or felt in the heart.

Let’s find a Best Life SME (Subject Matter Expert)

At this point, what might be helpful would be to interview someone who had not only pursued best life but also attained it.  They had reached self-actualization and the one tangible (money) on the “10 Most Wanted” list.

In addition, this person should be familiar with “spiritual” options.  Let me introduce our special SME, King Solomon, the king of the United Kingdom of Israel.

Solomon was a fabulously wealthy and sensible king of the United Kingdom of Israel who succeeded his father, King David. Solomon was the biblical king most famous for his wisdom. God granted Solomon not only wisdom but also great wealth and fame because he did not ask for self-serving rewards. (1 Kings 3:7-14).

Solomon authored the book of Ecclesiastes, in which, he built the case to show that the pursuits of this world are vanity.  “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity” (Ecc. 1:2).  Vanity in this context is the quality of being worthless or futile.  Ecclesiastes is located with the other wisdom literature of the Old Testament.

Chapter after chapter, Solomon (“The Preacher” as he identifies himself) presents the case that the vanities of this world are insufficient to make us happy.  He contrasts the vileness of sin, and its certain tendency to make us miserable, with the wisdom of being religious (godly and god-honoring).  Our well-being and satisfaction are only possible through our allegiance to God and our love for man.

In closing, Solomon, by way of exhortation, directs his readers (and us 21st century believers) to remember our Creator, to fear Him, and to keep His commandments.  Solomon gives no recommendation to pursue best life.

Conclusion

God alone can satisfy our hierarchy of needs—basic, psychological, and self-fulfilling.  God is our Jehovah-Jireh (Gen. 22:14).   Our intangible desires are readily available through God’s Spirit (Gal. 5: 22-23).

King Solomon, the Apostle Paul, and more importantly, Jesus have given us the essence of what best life looks like.  It is not a list of “dos and don’ts” but a standard of life.

Livin’ our best life is…

    • a life style that acknowledges the reality of God. God is the Creator and Source of all life who has been uniquely made known to us through His Son Jesus Christ.  We live confidently in the reality of His presence, His power, and His provision.   (Acts 17:28)
    • a life choice that recognizes the authority of God in our life. God’s will and purpose for our lives is revealed in His Word and through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  We choose to trust in the goodness and greatness of God to direct our life’s journey. (Gal. 2:20)
    • a life vocation that commits to the purpose God has chosen for us. We are persuaded that the Kingdom of God has arrived in the coming of Jesus Christ and is imminent in Jesus’ return.  We, therefore, focus our energies on doing those things that honors and glorifies God.  (Phil. 3:12-14)

Livin’ our best life can only be realized through a relationship with God and in Christ Jesus.  Through this relationship, we have all things that pertain to life and godliness (2 Pet. 1:3-4) and blessings that exceed our expectations (Ep. 1: 3-14).  Therefore, in Christ, we are livin’ our best life.

Livin’ my Best Life: The Answer for Best Life

The Answer for Best Life Options for best life

The 21st century offers many options for our lives.  That is why it is important that we, as believers, discern what voice we “actively” listen to.  This is especially true when it comes to determining what living our best life should look like.

In our series, we determined that some individuals make their choice based on who they are and what’s important to them.  Last week we attempted to identify what best life looks like.  We determined that the essence of best life can be based on our human needs and things we most desire.

So, what is the answer for best life!  I concluded last week’s teaching with a statement that will help to set the context for best life for believers in the 21st century.  Which choice most accurately represents “best life for us”?  For believers, we are to go to The Source, Who is to be the final authority on everything we do (or it should be).  That authority is God and His Word.  It is now time to consider the number one question, “what does God say about best life.”

The Dividing Line

The believer’s life is to look vastly different from the world we live in.  We are to seriously demonstrate and witness to our new life in Christ.  That being the case, our best life should reflect a life lived for Christ.

The Barna Institute reports the increasing difficulty in distinguishing believers from the unsaved world.  Unfortunately, we are not seen as living any differently than our unsaved family, friends, and acquaintances.  We have basically lost our saltiness and our light (Matt. 5:13-16).

This lack of distinction could be attributed to a number of factors including fear of abuse, lack of spiritual discipling, or spiritual immaturity. Some believers have even walked away from the traditional Church because of personal wounding or disillusionment with leadership.  What the future Church looks like, especially after COVID-19, is yet to be determined.

However, the imperfect nature of the Church does not negate the expectation that God has for His people.  We are to continually examine ourselves to insure we are living a life of faith under the direction of Jesus’ Holy Spirit (2 Pet. 1:10).  What does best life look like for believers?

Caution

Jesus shared what best life “was not” in the Sermon on the Mount Discourse.  He gives a command that will provide us a framework for identifying what best life looks like.  Jesus begins with his first instruction (Matt. 6:19-21).

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Jesus closes with this requirement (Matt. 6:33).  

But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.

The verb “seek” is an imperative in the Greek language.  An imperative expresses a command to the hearer to perform a certain action by the order and authority of the one commanding.  What Jesus gives is not a casual invitation but an absolute command requiring full obedience.  “All these things” lovingly includes not only our needs but also the desires of our heart (Ps. 37:4).

Jesus knows we have needs.  It is His desire that we not worry nor become preoccupied with possession of things.  By faith we know that we will be cared for.  Focusing on Christ lessens our anxieties as we attempt to live during these uncertain times (Phil. 4:6-7).

Moving to best life

The Apostle Paul further clarified Jesus’ teaching to the church at Colosse.  He pointed them to how to find best life (Col. 3:1-2).

If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God.  Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.   

Seek and set are also verbs that are in the imperative.  As with Jesus’ use in Matthew, it expresses a command to the hearer to perform a certain action.  It is not an invitation.  Both verbs are in the present tense which means it is a fact or reality occurring in actual time.  Therefore, we are commanded to keep seeking and keep setting our attention.  Where?

Notice the place where the “things and the affections” are found.  They are not on this earth but in heaven.  This directs our attention to those things that have eternal value and heavenly consequences.  Unfortunately, 21st century technology has created vehicles to capture the lusts of our flesh, our eye, and the pride of life (1 John 2:15-17).  We are continually bombarded with marketing messages and media that focus our attention on what we don’t have versus what is of greater value to the kingdom of God.

In the remainder of Colossians 3, Paul maps out the essence of best life for Christians.  Best life for Christians is life lived in Coram DeoCoram Deo summarizes the idea that Christian living is lived in the presence of, under the authority of, to the honor and glory of God.

We will conclude this study next week as we decide what best life looks like for each of us.

Livin’ my Best Life: What is best for me?

Livin' my best life

What’s best life for me?

In this series, we’ve seen what best life looks like for a variety of people.  It is evident, at this point,  that best life looks differently to others based on who they are and what is important to them.

For some, best life means the ability to “give back” to the world.  For others it’s about being authentic and true to their beliefs.  And to many, it is simply a whimsical phrase similar to that used by the meerkat, Timon in Lion King: “Hakuna Matata” or “no worries”.

We’ve examined the views of others in hopes that it will assist us as we attempt to formulate what best life looks like for each of us.  Now it’s time to begin forming our own definition.

What are we looking for?

I think we can all agree that best life is purely subjective.  Because of that, it is difficult and would be presumptuous for me to define best life for individuals.  Instead, I’d like to offer a way to begin to capture the essence of best life.

The essence of best life could be summarized using two perspectives: (1) what are people’s basic needs, and (2) what are the things people want in life but can’t seem to get?  In answering these questions, we might begin to decide what our best life might look like.

What do we need?

What are people’s basic needs?  Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is used to study how humans are motivated by defining their basic needs.  Maslow used the terms “physiological”, “safety”, “belonging and love”, “social needs” or “esteem”, and “self-actualization” to describe the pattern through which human motivations generally move.

Perhaps best life includes those things that address people’s needs.  Best life for a homeless person would be found in the physiological category.  Food security, clean water, and shelter would be as good as it gets.  For the person experiencing isolation due to any number of factors, being accepted and belonging is the best life they could imagine.

What do we want?

What are the things people want in life but can’t seem to get?  The Huffington Post asked that question and the answer resulted in ten items.  The key question this survey probed was this: “If you could say in one word what you want more of in life, what would that be?”

  1. Happiness
  2. Money
  3. Freedom
  4. Peace
  5. Joy
  6. Balance
  7. Fulfillment
  8. Confidence
  9. Stability
  10. Passion

In review of this list, it is surprising to note that of the ten items, there is only one that is tangible.  The remaining nine are intangible.  Something intangible can’t be touched physically, but most of the time it is understandable or even felt in the heart.  In accounting, an intangible asset is something that provides long-term benefit.

It is important to know that this survey was completed prior to the COVID pandemic.  However,  I’m sure the answers are still very relevant today.  Please note what people see as the “biggest challenge” to getting what they want.  Perhaps these “unmet needs” could be added to the list that may represent best life.

Basic needs or intangible wants?  Which most accurately represents “best life”?  Especially for me.  To this point, our examination has considered the world’s view of best life.  It’s now time to consider what God has to say.

Livin’ my Best Life: You asked for it!

Livin' My Best Life: You asked for it!

From basics to best

As we discussed last week, best life is something that seems to have the attention of many people.  Each generation has made it its pursuit as they moved forward in time.

In the 19th century, our desire was for the basics—food, shelter, and security.  In the 20th century that desire morphed into a good job, a reasonable mortgage (so we could still travel), and a healthy 401K.  Now we have our eyes on electric cars that drive themselves and tickets into space.  Sorry, but we all can’t be Elon Musk or Jeff Bezos.  I guess their “best life” means more than being a billionaire.

Messaging, media, and marketing

The 21st century has introduced for our consideration, a variety of views as to what best life is.  The range of differences in its description demonstrate the subjective nature of this topic.

Cultural messaging, media, and marketing are successfully redefining what best life looks like.  Our expanded technology has now positioned companies (we don’t even know) to “popup’ advertisement as to what they think will appeal to our “unique definition” of best life.

The difference in best life views can depend on any number of factors.  Many authors and musicians have used the best life mantra to help us develop a definition that best fits our life and circumstance.  Even WikiHow got into the act.  Author, Guy Reichard, offers a four-part blueprint for designing our best life.

Last week we offered the belief that, for the believer, best life is dependent on our reality, our identity, and our purpose.  We now share, for your consideration, some other “views” on best life.

Oprah’s best life

“Live your best life.” These four simple words, made famous by Oprah Winfrey, give a single instruction to follow for happiness and success. While the quote is priceless in its meaning and simplicity, it leaves much to our individual imagination as to what that includes.

While there are more descriptions contained in her book, Live Your Best Life, Oprah offers some clarity to her best life description.

I learned when you use the energy of why you were born in service to something that is bigger than yourself, then goodness and greatness come to you.  Because that’s where the real power lies.  When you can use your personality to serve others rather than yourself. 

Best life views

Since the initial citing of the phrase in Oprah’s book in 2005, there have been many other “opinions” added to the contemporary tapestry of American life.   The Urban Dictionary[1], most popular definition for best life was this.

A stupid phrase that is used, commonly on Instagram, to give the false reality that you can wake up and choose which “life” you want to live. Perhaps you want to be a lazy dog, or a human facing the challenge of whether to have avocado on toast or a green smoothie for breakfast. Either way, it’s got to be the best (breakfast) life you could possibly be living.

Comedian Lil Duval earned his first No. 1 on the R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay chart with his debut solo single “Smile (Living My Best Life)”.  The feel-good track features Ball Greezy and Snoop Dogg.  Sorry but I really can’t include the exact wording from the song.  You might ask your children or grandchildren.  When asked to give his definition of best life, DuVal shared these thoughts.

Just living in your means. Living with whatever you have at that point. Being happy with it — and when you’re happy where you are, you can grow even more. You’re not chasing somebody else’s perception.

 Developing our own view

I close with input from a fellow blogger (which I usually don’t do).  But I feel their description might be helpful in developing our own view.  They write to a “20 somethings” audience which, in my mind, is an important generation for our future.  They open referencing Oprah’s original casting of the best life phrase.

Her (Oprah) personal brand and mantra is centered around self-growth, reaching new heights, and finding meaning. These are all ideas that we, as a society, constantly try to work towards, and I think these are concepts that can truly help us elevate and live more fulfilling versions of our lives. 

Thus, I think the most beneficial and realistic explanation of what “living your best life” means is as follows:  One that encompasses reaching new levels of self-awareness and self-growth, that ultimately leads to taking actions that help you to discover and hone into your interests, talents, and passions.  Living your best life is truly subjective, so an explanation such as this one allows for the unique life experiences that everyone has.

I invite you to spend some time this week thinking about your personal definition of best life.  Without one, we are subject to the influence of others who may not understand God’s will and purpose for our life.  Choose one (or all) of the following readings to help you begin formulating what your best life looks like.  Listen for God’s Spirit as He speaks to your spirit.

  • Psalms 34
  • Ecclesiastes 11-12
  • Matthew 6

[1] Urban Dictionary is a crowdsourced online dictionary for slang words and phrases, operating under the motto “Define Your World.” The website was founded in 1999 by Aaron Peckham. Originally, Urban Dictionary was intended as a dictionary of slang or cultural words and phrases not typically found in standard dictionaries, but it is now used to define any word, event, or phrase.

Livin’ my Best Life: What is it?

 

I'm Livin' My Best Life

“I’m livin’ my best life!”

When you hear this statement, what comes to mind?  During a recent conversation with a dear friend, she shared that her son was visiting California.  When asked how he was enjoying his trip, he replied, “I’m livin’ my best life!”

Therein marks the genesis for this new series.  As I listen to radio talk podcasts and television talk shows, this statement is frequently given as a response to current living.  But what does it mean?  It is my intent to explore with you what “best life” looks like.  Viewed through both contemporary and biblical lenses, we hope that we as believers will walk away with a better understanding of the “best definition”.

The worldview of best life

In the 21st century we live in, we are continually bombarded with information.  This includes what “best life” looks like.

Reality television has given us an “upfront” yet distorted seat of what the best life looks like.  We can quickly access via our devices how celebrities and luminaries live their lives.  Unfortunately, these personalities have a great influence on how we think life is to be lived.  Right or wrong.

In the 20th century, we were busy trying to “keep up with the Joneses.”  This is the 21st century!  Forget about the Joneses!  Let’s keep up with the Kardashians, Housewives of whatever city, or the young people Growing up Hip Hop.  If I did not list your favorite “go to show” for seeing how the other half lives, I’ll let you fill in the blank.

Of course, these “made-for-tv” realities don’t show the other side of that golden coin.  We later see the impact of the “best life” played out in the media as we see broken relationships and the emotional carnage left behind.

Why is this important?

Our view of “best life” can impact every area of our life.  Pursuit of the best life (ill-defined) can lead us down paths that will result in bad decisions, unrealistic expectations, and wasted energy.  Even more risky is when the quest is for something that can never satisfy (Is. 55:2).

This best life journey usually begins with misleading us into believing how quickly we can have it.  Credit cards, payday loans, and quick financing make our best life just a click or signature away.  “Why wait when you can have it now?”

When taking a look at how specific types of debt have shifted since 2019, mortgage loans, auto loans, student loans and personal loans all reached new record highs. Student loan debt saw the largest growth (12%), followed by mortgage debt (7%) and personal loan debt (6%), according to Experian data from Q3 2020.

 From a faith perspective, the pursuit of best life, creates spiritual tension for the believer.  We are told to seek first the kingdom of God first (Matt. 6:33) and to set our mind on things above (Col. 3:2).  Does that mean we cannot pursue our “best life”?  No.  Remember Jesus came that we might have life and have it more abundantly (John 10:10).  That sounds like best life to me!

Best life guidelines

First, we as believers, operate from a different reality than the world.  Our reality is based on God’s goodness and God’s greatness.  We do not depend nor trust on material gain to experience our best life.  God is our exceeding, great reward (Gen. 15:1).  To focus on the “lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life” (1 John 2:15-17) can potentially lead us to sin and other moral failures.

Secondly, we remember our identity and who we are in Christ.   When we became believers, we were adopted into the kingdom of God (Eph. 1:5).  That new relationship came with many blessings and promises that provide for our livelihood (2 Pet. 1:3-4).  Best life is defined by what God has outlined in His Word.  The Holy Spirit uses that Word to reform (renew) our hearts and minds so that we look and act like Jesus.  When people look at us, they should see Jesus (not what we have or who we are).

Finally, we strive to achieve the purpose which God designed specifically for our lives.  Before the foundations of the world, God identified the purpose for our lives (Ep. 2:10).   The Holy Spirit empowers us to accomplish that purpose (Act 1:8).  It is our privilege to walk in God’s purpose.

More to come

Livin’ our best life is more than a catchy phrase or personal mantra.  When we speak of our best life, we are revealing what is most important to us.  It is also an indicator of who is in charge of our life.

In Colossians 3:1-4 (NLT), the Apostle Paul gives good advice on discovering our “real best life”:

Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits at God’s right hand in the place of honor and power.  Let heaven fill your thoughts. Do not think only about things down here on earth.  For you died when Christ died, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God.  And when Christ, who is your real life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory.  

Memorial Day Gratitude: Throwback Wednesday

Memorial Day Gratitude

 

Time for gratitude

While preparing for the next WordBytes series, I was stopped by this thought, “It’s time to thank God.  Before moving on to the next “thing”, stop and express gratitude for today!”

If you’re reading this WordBytes, guess what?  God has blessed you with life. Who could have imagined?  After 604,000+ COVID deaths, we are still standing.  God has kept us during this global pandemic.  Yes, we’ve loss friends and family but for some reason God has extended  mercy to us (once again).  2020 and 2021 have been challenging years never before imagined.

But God

Jeremiah wrote these words as he lamented the tragic destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonian armies (Lamentations 3:18-23, New Living Translation).

I cry out, “My splendor is gone! Everything I had hoped for from the LORD is lost!”  The thought of my suffering and homelessness is bitter beyond words. I will never forget this awful time, as I grieve over my loss.  Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this:  The unfailing love of the LORD never ends! By his mercies we have been kept from complete destruction. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each day. 

But God.   In tragedy and loss, God was faithful.  Guess what?  God is still faithful!  In the aftermath of the COVID pandemic, in the midst of economic uncertainty, in the quagmire of social injustice, in the throes of food insecurity and homelessness, in the fallout of global warming, God is faithful.  Therefore, we will have hope.

Throwback Wednesday

To express our gratitude this Memorial Day, we’d like to do “Throwback Wednesday”.  The WordBytes we’ve chosen is Discovering God in the Psalms:  Forget Not God I invite you to formulate your personal Memorial Day gratitude. As we celebrate our loved ones from the past let us, also, “forget not God” for all He is doing for us right now.

A Foretaste of Glory: The Holy Spirit of Pentecost

 

A Foretaste of Glory

The promise of Pentecost

Sunday we will celebrate Pentecost Sunday.  This will mark the end of Eastertide and introduce the arrival of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Promise (Acts 1:4; Luke 24:49; John 14:16).

Many churches will dress their altars in red to symbolize the fire of Pentecost.  This fire, the Holy Spirit, fell upon the apostles and early followers of Jesus who were gathered in the Upper Room (Acts 2:3).  This fire would empower the apostles then and believers now to proclaim the Gospel throughout the world.

Pentecost marked the availability of the Holy Spirit to everyone who would “call upon the name of Jesus” (Rom. 10:13; Acts 2:38).  Collectively, individuals responding in faith would form the Church promised by Jesus to His disciples (Matt. 16:18).

The presence of the Holy Spirit

While we may know about the various ministries of the Holy Spirit, it is even more important to fully grasp the enormity of His Presence within us.  I love the way Jesus described this phenomenon in John 17:23 (NLT).

I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

Imagine.  We have deity living within us!  Jesus in believers and God in Jesus.  Why?  So that we will be in complete agreement.  Our will, our thoughts, and our lives operating together.   And when the world sees us, they will see God and know how much He loves us.

Like the disciples on the day of Pentecost, we need the Holy Spirit’s power and direction as we live for God’s glory.  Pentecost is not only a day on the church calendar, but it is also an invitation to join God in His ministry of deliverance, wholeness, and grace (Eph. 2:10).

Stormie Omartian, bestselling American Christian author, describes our partnership with the Holy Spirit this way:

God wants to lead you to places you cannot get to without Him, and He does that by the power of His Spirit. He can bring you into the realm of the miraculous—not as a show, but as a demonstration of His love and compassion for the lost, hurting, or needy. Who among us doesn’t want or need that?

The glory of Pentecost

In meditating on the glory of Pentecost, the words of the hymn, “Blessed Assurance” echoes within my heart and mind:

Blessed assurance Jesus is mine

Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine

Heir of salvation, purchase of God

Born of His Spirit, Lost in His love. 

This song captures in totality the work of salvation.  It describes in its opening lines the work specifically of the Holy Spirit who gives us a foretaste of the glory that belongs to those who are in Christ.

“Foretaste” is made up of two Latin words:  ante which means “ahead, before or previously” and gustus meaning “flavor, zeal” (this is where we get our word gusto).  Foretaste is described as a taste before possession; a limited awareness of something to occur.

This is a good illustration of what the sealing of the Holy Spirit accomplishes.  The Holy Spirit whets the spiritual appetite for those things which God has reserved for believers until the day we all shall see Jesus for ourselves (1 John 3:2).  Paul referred to this time as the “redemption of the purchased possession” (Eph. 1:4).

As we celebrate Pentecost Sunday, let us look forward to the time when we will be fully in the presence of God.  While we wait, let God’s Spirit lead us to where we might witness and serve.  Having received a foretaste of glory, let us not squander the power within us—the power of the Holy Spirit.

This is my story, this is my song.

Praising my Savior all the day long.

Living the Resurrected Life

Living the Resurrected Life

Resurrected Living

Since Easter, we have embarked on the journey to gain a greater understanding of the resurrection.  More specifically, we have focused on its reality, its wonder, and its power in our everyday life.

Hopefully, what we have come to realize is that our “everyday life” can be lived more fully through the same power that raised Jesus from the dead (Eph. 1:19-20).  This power we learned is through the Holy Spirit that also dwells in us.  “But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He (God) who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.” (Rom. 8:11)

Living the resurrected life can be realized as we incorporate three (3) key principles to our understanding.  Resurrected life is: (1) transformational, (2) intentional, and (3) relational.

Resurrected life is transformational.

When we accept Jesus as our Savior, our life begins to change.  How does change occur?  By emptying ourselves of our agendas and replacing them with God’s plan.  We move from a “self-directed life” to a “Christ-directed life”.

Paul explains this transformation to the church in Galatia (Gal. 2:19-20, NLT):

I have been crucified with Christ.  I myself no longer live, but Christ lives in me.  So I live my life in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 

Our transformation is the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit.  It is our responsibility to cooperate with His instructions.  Each day we empty ourselves through our acts of obedience and by loving one another.   We then let the Holy Spirit fill that space in our heart (the filling of the Holy Spirit) and follow His lead.

As we empty ourselves, there is more room for the Holy Spirit to occupy.  In the filling, we begin to look and act more like Jesus.  We become conformed to His image (Rom. 8:29).

Resurrected life is intentional.

It begins with acceptance of resurrection as a “new way” of life.  When we accepted Jesus as our Savior, we did more than buy the “fire insurance”.  We spiritually “died with Christ on the cross”.  Part of that dying includes ending our “preoccupation” and “attraction” to the things of this world (1 John 2:15-16).

Paul explains this intentional behavior to the church at Colosse (Col. 3:1-5, NLT):

Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits at God’s right hand in the place of honor and power.  Let heaven fill your thoughts. Do not think only about things down here on earth.  For you died when Christ died, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God.  And when Christ, who is your real life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory. So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you. Have nothing to do with sexual sin, impurity, lust, and shameful desires. Don’t be greedy for the good things of this life, for that is idolatry.

Living intentionally is a process that doesn’t happen overnight.  That’s why we must be thoughtful and mindful in our pursuit of the resurrected life (Rom. 12:1-2).   This process should include disciplines which help us daily renew our hearts and mind, i.e., prayer, study of God’s Word, meditation.

Resurrected life is relational.

The Apostle John captures Jesus’ final hours with His disciples in the Upper Room Discourse (John 13-17).  Jesus knew that in less than 24 hours He would be on the cross.  After spending 3 ½ years in intimate relationship with His Disciples, Jesus would leave them on their own.  However, the Disciples would not be alone (John 15:7-15).

In chapter 15, Jesus takes time to stress the importance of relationship and preparation for the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  The Disciples’ success would depend on their ability to stay in relationship with or abide in Him.  This “abiding” would be accomplished through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

Abiding describes the “dwelling as it were within Jesus and to be continually operative in Him by His divine influence and energy.”[1]  This relationship is like that which Jesus experienced with the Father (John 10:30; 14:31; 15:10).  The Disciple’s power would come through developing a similar relationship with the Holy Spirit.

Our success in living the resurrected life is also dependent on our abiding relationship with Jesus (vv.1-11) and our demonstration of love for our fellowman (vv. 12-17).

Resurrected life in the 21st century

Resurrection is more than a one-time event.  While the resurrection of Jesus is a documented, historic occurrence that took place over 2,000 years ago, it is much more.  Its power continues to exert an unprecedented and recurring influence in the hearts and lives of believers around the world.  Even in 2021, when the Gospel is shared, people believe and become new creatures in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17).

For believers, resurrected life is a time for transformation as we experience a new relationship with God the Father, Jesus our Lord, and the Holy Spirit.  Resurrected life is possible as we intentionally pursue God’s plan and will for His kingdom.  Resurrected life is an experience, from which, we will never be the same.

Why is this important for us today?  Because with Christ’s resurrection, we have an opportunity to “new life” that is found by our faith in Jesus Christ.  It is in resurrected life that victorious living begins. We can depend on God’s power and Jesus’ victory beginning on Resurrection Sunday AND extending throughout all of eternity.

[1]  Thayer’s Greek Lexicon