Two Boats and a Helicopter

 

Two boats and a helicopter

The choices we make

I’m sure you have heard the story about the man who faced imminent danger as a result of a flood that begun to ravage his community.  The flood waters became higher, forcing him to retreat to the roof of his house.  On two occasions, individuals in boats beckoned him to climb into their boats and save his life.  But he refused and shouted back from his roof, “I’m a Christian! God will save me!”

Finally, the waters rose to the edge of the roof.  Suddenly a helicopter appeared and begged the man to grab the dropped latter and be saved.  Well, you know what happened!  The man refused and ultimately died.  When he entered heaven, he demanded to see God.  “Why did you let me drown?”  Instead of striking him down with a lightening bolt, God calmly replied, “Hey, I sent you two boats and a helicopter.”

As we face the challenges and problems in our life, we often fail to watch and follow the leads that God sends us.  Many of these are given to us before we enter our trial.  However, when we’re in that dire situation, so is God!  God is there AND He wants us to use the resources He has provided for us.  Such was the case with Moses as he faced his first hurdle upon leaving Egypt for the Promise Land (Exodus 14).

After Moses and the Israelites left Egypt, Pharoah had “seller remorse”.  God hardened his heart and caused him to regret letting the Israelite slaves leave (S).  He probably felt like he had been duped.  Who would do the work that the Israelites did?  Egypt’s economy would probably suffer, not to mention their quality of life—who would cook, clean, and serve them?   So much for Pharoah right now, let’s return to Moses’ dilemma.

The dilemma

As Pharoah and his army approached, the Israelites looked up, and there were the Egyptians, marching after them. They were terrified and cried out to the Lord. They said to Moses, “Weren’t there enough graves in Egypt that you brought us out here to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt?”

The complaints escalated.  Moses tried to reassure the Israelites that everything would be alright.  He tried to coach them to “stand firm” and “be still”.  God would fight for them! (Exod. 14:13-14).  Moses told them that they would see the salvation of the LORD on that day.  But all they could see were Egyptians bringing up the rear fast.  They could not see God!

As I read this passage, I saw myself when facing hard times and challenges.  I tend to see only what I can look at with my physical eyes—loss of health, injustice, change in relationships, economic uncertainty.

It’s even harder for me to “be still”.  I need to fix this situation and now.  I see only me standing before the Red Sea.  But all is not loss—I’ll tell you why in a few.  Back to Moses.

“Any old help will do.”

I’m sure Moses cried to God.  Exactly what he said is not included in the scripture text.  But the Lord used this moment to speak directly to Moses.  Was God going to tell him that help was on the way?  Was He sending two boats and a helicopter?

The Lord said to Moses, “Why do you cry to Me? Tell the children of Israel to go forward” (Exod. 14:15).

Moses probably thought, “Really?  Red Sea before me and Egyptians behind me.”  Sometimes when we pray, God’s answers don’t always make sense to us at first. But that’s where our faith in God—His greatness and His goodness—reinforces the need to obey His instructions (Heb. 11:1).

God gave Moses an answer he didn’t expect: “Raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea to divide the water so that the Israelites can go through the sea on dry ground.” (Exod. 14:16)  

Moses had the answer to His dilemma “right in his hand” PLUS the power of God.  Moses and his staff would be the conduit God would use to not only deliver the Israelites but also glorify God.  This act of deliverance would spread throughout the countryside including to the potential tribes in the Promise Land whom the Israelites would need to conquer (Exod. 14:18).

When you need help…

From this study, I came to the following conclusions about what to do when I need help.

    1. Assess what I currently have available to address my problem. I will not only inventory what I have with my “physical eyes” (my mind and my intellect) but also with my “spiritual eyes”.  When I read God’s Word, especially His promises and follow that with prayer, I can expect God to show me what to do.  I have learned that God’s ways, methods, and timing are not the same as mine (Is. 55:8-9).  THEY ARE BETTER!
    1. “Lift up to God” the resources He has already provided for my solution. Moses failed to remember that God had told him that He would go with him on the journey to the Promised Land. He had forgotten how God used Moses’ staff in the court of Pharoah (Exod. 4:3).  Sometimes I refuse to move forward until I have “all the information and answers”.  When that happens, it is important for me to call to remembrance (Is. 46:9,10) where God has stepped in to join me in my battles (2 Chron. 20:6-7, 12).
    1. Move forward. I am still learning each day to move forward when directed by God.  I guess it’s part of being human.  I am learning to move “more quickly” when God directs me and learning to trust Him more.

In my moments of prayer and meditation, I ask God to show me those areas of my life where I sin by being prideful or self-reliant.  He uses that time together to gently redirect my attention away from my problems and look to Him.  God is greater than any problem we may face and better equipped to solve them.  Only God can guarantee our success!

When God created us, He not only placed His purpose within us but also placed the ability to complete that purpose (Phil. 1:6).  As God prepares our path, He also prepares us for the path.  It is our responsibility to believe, to trust, and then obey.

Conclusion

The next time you need help, deliverance, or an answer for life’s challenges, don’t always look for a miracle from God.  He doesn’t need to come to our rescue.  God is always with us.  We daily live not in God’s miracles but by His lovingkindness and grace.  He is there to help us see the resources He has already provided for our escape (Eph. 1:17-20).

Prayer:  O Heavenly Father, grow within us the faith we need for the challenges we face.  Train us to look at our problems as opportunities to partner with You in their resolution.  Forgive us when we lean on our own understanding.  Place in our heart an expectation that You are with us and will always act on our behalf.  Lord, finally, help us to “Go forward” in Your name and by Your power.   Amen

Opportunities in Uncertainty

Opportunities in Uncertainty

 

Josh’s opportunity

Josh had experienced much turmoil and strife during his current job assignment.  There was frequent upheaval among his peers against current management.  Those efforts, fortunately, had been squelched.  As a result of that effort, many of his team members suffered great loss and were not allowed to move forward with the organization.

Earlier in his career, Josh was chosen to be part of a special team to evaluate next steps for his organization.  Because of Josh’s loyalty and his credentials, he was now a candidate for a new opportunity.

Because of the earlier “coup attempt”, many of the older, seasoned members were no longer there.  What remained was a young and inexperienced group, who needed guidance and support in moving the organization to new heights that had been promised to them.

And now, he was being offered a promotion as head of the organization.  But was he ready?  What did he need to move forward?  Was there an opportunity in this uncertainty?  These were possible  questions asked by Moses’ replacement, Joshua (Deut. 31:7).

Ready for an opportunity?

How would we respond if offered the opportunity set before Joshua?  That was the question I asked myself during my morning devotion as I read Deuteronomy 31:1-8 and Joshua 1:1-18.  In both scripture texts, Joshua is repeatedly told several things that would prepare him for his new leadership role.

The first dealt specifically with his reaction to the opportunity.  What were the emotions he felt knowing what lie ahead of him?  Joshua was told to “be strong, fear not, and be of good courage” (Joshua 1:6-9).   But how was he to do that?

He had seen Moses as he dealt with this group of stiff-necked and disobedient people.  He remembered the frustration that Moses often felt in trying to keep them faithful to God and His commandments.  Moses was the great mediator between these people and Yahweh, Almighty God.  Would he be able to do the same?

Fear or dismay?

As I studied these texts, I asked myself (and my husband) this question.  Which is worst—fear or dismay (discouragement)? Is there a difference? Fear is anxiety caused by approaching danger—real or imagined.  Discouragement is described as depression of one’s spirit.  It can be caused by a heavy burden, defeat, an apparent failure, or even sickness.

Both fear and discouragement would be unique challenges that Joshua would need to manage as he moved forward.  Both could potentially lead to failure in Joshua’s assignment to take the Israelites into the Promise Land.  And not only entrance into the land that God promised, but to also conquer the current inhabitants.

Fear or discouragement?  Which one is our biggest threat as we face the challenges of living in these times of uncertainty?  How are we to manage the stresses of life that come both rapidly, continuously, and often violently?

Fear and discouragement are Satan’s “weapons of choice” to hinder and even stop us as we move into God’s purpose for our life.  Satan will often focus on the largeness of the problem and/or the smallness of our ability to stop us in our tracks.

That’s why we need the intervention of Someone who is bigger than the problem and able to do exceedingly above all that we can ask or need (Eph. 3:20).  That Someone is God our Father, made available through His Son Jesus the Christ, and made manifest in our lives through the Holy Spirit.

God’s Promise

In his new leadership role, it was critical that Joshua remembered what God had promised:  It is the Lord who goes before you; He will be with you, He will not fail you or forsake you (Deut. 31:8). 

Despite the difficult times experienced living in the Wilderness, Joshua saw firsthand God’s love and faithfulness to His people.  God had chosen Israel to be His treasure (Deut. 7:6) and He would make good on every promise He made to them (Joshua 1:5-7).

Joshua had seen God’s great power as evidenced through His miracles and works:  The ten plagues in Egypt, the parting of the Red Sea, and God’s provision during Israel’s 40 years in the wilderness (Deut. 8:3-4). God’s promise to Moses was the same promise He now made to Joshua:  God would go before him and with him.  God would not fail nor forsake him.     

We daily face changes and challenges, turmoil, and threats.  They are as great and as real, for us, as Joshua’s new leadership opportunity.  But like Joshua, we can rest assured that we can depend on and trust in the promises of God.  God goes before us and with us, wherever the circumstances of life may lead us (Heb. 13:5).

God is more than able to handle whatever may come our way.  He is “Alpha and Omega, the beginning, and the ending…which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty” (Rev. 1:8).  It is in His presence, and under His authority that all things are possible (Matt. 19:26).   So be not afraid nor be dismayed, we are not alone.  There is always opportunity even amid uncertainty when God is with us.

How’s your joy capacity?

Joy Capacity

Joy and strength

Upon returning from exile, Nehemiah told the builders of the new wall of Jerusalem that “the joy of the Lord would be their strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10) The type of joy Nehemiah was alluding to was only possible from our Almighty God Who would sustain them through the direst of circumstances.

What sustains you?  In the midst of all our challenges as a nation, in our communities, and in our families, how are you holding up?  How is your joy capacity?  Is the joy of the Lord still our strength today?  Yes!  The principle of joy still resonates even in the 21st century (James 1:2-3; Phil. 4:4).

What exactly is joy?

Joy is defined by Webster as a feeling of great pleasure and happiness.  This definition, however, fails to explain the importance of joy in building resiliency, or our ability to “bounce back” from the challenges of life.  It is joy that increases our emotional capacity to handle the difficulties we face while we live in this fallen world.

Joy nuggets

Although we may feel like we have little or no joy left, we must be diligent to “refill” our joy tanks.  I’d like to share just a few “joy nuggets” nuggets so you too can increase your JQ–joy quotient.

We increase our joy when we are in relationship.  I’m not talking about sexual relationship (although that is important) but I mean when we are in fellowship with others.  God said it is not “good for man to be alone.” In response, God created woman to be in relationship with Him. (Gen. 2:18) God Himself was in relationship with the first married couple.

In relationship, joy comes from knowing that the person you are with is happy to see and be with you.  Relationship was key to Christ as we observe His relationship with His disciples and His close circle which included Peter, James, and John

We increase joy when we are in community.  Social restraints and changing technology have made archaic the idea of a physical community.  Remember Mrs. Branch who taught the girls how to play the piano?  Or Mr. Johnson’s “show and tell” sessions about his adventures in the Army.  Or Mrs. Mott’s homemade cider and gingerbread at Halloween.

Community offered familiarity, authenticity, and validation.  Joy was found in acceptance and genuine interest in the individual.   Join a community that can offer these benefits.  Remember the television sitcom, “Cheers”.  At Cheers “everybody knows your name and their all so glad you came.  We want to go where everybody knows your name!”

 We increase joy when we reflect on moments of appreciation.  Think about a person that you appreciate and a time you felt especially grateful to be with that person.

Describe the emotion you felt when you were with them.  Describe what your body felt like when that person was present.  Doing this exercise regularly will raise your joy level.  

Let your joy flow

Although joy might appear to be a fleeting emotion, it really requires that we be intentional in our pursuit of it.

My joy begins first with God, my most important relationship.  It is in time of prayer, reading His Word, and fellowship through worship that I feel my greatest joy.   With Him, I feel safe, calm, and connected.  I feel joy.

Next, I find great joy with family and friends.  It is in sharing meals, recounting stories, and in creating new memories that I find joy.  These times together help me put into perspective what is important and “joyful.”  I share joy.

How is your joy capacity?

Throwback Wednesday: Remember to Press In!

Throwback Wednesday: Press In

Welcome to Throwback Wednesday

We close June with Throwback Wednesday.  It is an occasion to look back and rediscover truths that we may have forgotten.  In reading this WordBytes, I was challenged to place its insights in the context of today’s realities.

I’m sure many of you, like myself, are fatigued by the continual bombardments of bad news, emerging crisis in our nation, and the challenges to make sense of a world that seems to have lost its way.  Regardless of the circumstances and events of the day, I invite you to “press in”.  Press into God and feel His presence which will help us continue with hope and renewed energy.

I have always shared with friends and family, that God has purposed our lives for times such as this.  Our resiliency and our ability to move forward need to be connected with the power, presence, and promise of God.  He will not leave us nor forsake us.  We need only “press in!

“You will find me when you seek Me.”  Jeremiah 29:13

We have explored on many occasions the biblical truth that God is in and among us—continually, without interruption, 7 by 24.  We experience God through our personal fellowship with Him and through the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit.

However, there may be times when we don’t “feel” God.  We feel estranged from Him, alone, and unable to hear His voice.  Be assured, this is a common experience for believers.  The resolution for this spiritual occurrence, however, is not to curb our prayer life or cease in reading His Word.  During those times, it is imperative that we “press in.”

Disturbing Quietness

There are seasons in my life when it is extremely difficult to hear God’s voice.  I’m not talking about unanswered prayer but times of “disturbing quietness” when l must strain to hear Him—if I hear Him at all.

As I shared this experience, I found other believers had been through similar seasons of silence.  Interestingly, we all described it as a period when we “didn’t hear His voice.”  

In Search of an Answer

When I first experienced this quietness, I began to the search my heart for sins I might have committed yet failed to confess.  It was the sin of Adam that separated him from fellowship with God in the Garden of Eden.  Later Adam and Eve would experience the physical death of their body—the final separation from the world God had created for them.  I asked God to forgive me of my sins, yet I still felt disconnected from my First Love (Rev. 2:4).

My next effort was to examine my devotion time with Him.  I would increase my time of reading His Word.  Psalm 119 became my “song book” as I sought to hear His voice.

    • I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word. (v. 16)
    • I recounted my ways and you answered me; teach me your decrees. (v. 26)
    • Yet you are near, O LORD, and all your commands are true. (v. 151)
    • May my cry come before you, O LORD; give me understanding according to your word. (v. 169)

I would rise early to pray—leaving more time to “listen” and less to speak.  I would “draw near” with a sincere heart with expectations that He would do likewise (James 4:8; Heb. 10:22).  I would dedicate my day to praise and worship.  If God inhabits the praises of His people (Ps. 22:3), He will surely respond to me as I emptied myself to Him.  Yet with all the modifications to my devotional time, I couldn’t hear Him.  After many days of silence, I finally experienced a breakthrough.

Learning to Press in

In Secrets of the Secret Place, Bob Sorge shared his insight into my situation.

Many of us feel like we move in and out of God’s throne room. We have times of great connectedness, and then we suffer periods of disconnectedness. We can’t always analyze exactly why a distance has developed in our hearts toward the Lord, but most of us feel like our relationship with Christ is a roller coaster ride of feeling close, then far, then close, then far, then close again. In and out.  And we hate it. We were created for constant intimacy, and anything less drives us crazy on the inside. It is at those times that we need to press into God like you never have in your life! Allow the desperation of your soul to help you pursue God with absolute abandonment. 

God’s periods of quietness were an invitation to draw closer to Him—to “press in.”  More than proximity, He desires to establish an intimate friendship with us that is walked out through the course of our everyday lives. He is not looking for a segment of our day nor a day of the week.  He desires unbroken communion with us.

So on those occasions when it appears that “you can’t hear God”, press in!  Be of good courage for He is ever near (Ps. 73:28).  Press in!  Eagerly and unabashedly pursue Him, the Pearl of Great Price (Matt. 13:46). Press in!

SELAH:  Read Psalm 63:1-8.  Write in your journal the ways that David “pressed in” to God during his time in the wilderness.  Read the text again using a different translation or paraphrase.  Then ask the Holy Spirit how He wants you to “press in”.     

What is fellowship with God?

What is Fellowship with God?

God in and among us

There are two (2) biblical truths that should motivate us to live our  lives “more fully and abundantly” (John 10:10).

The first truth is that the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, presently lives within us.  Jesus promised this to us who “believeth on and in Him” (John 14:16-17).

The second is that we live continuously in the presence of God (Ps. 139:7).  There is never a time nor is there any circumstance in our life where we will find ourselves outside God’s love and purview.

Both truths are “spiritual blessings” gifted to us from our heavenly Father (Eph. 1:3).   But even with God’s commitment to be in and among us, we have a responsibility to draw “near to God” (James 4:8) by entering into intentional fellowship with Him.  God will not force His presence upon us.  He will, however, invite us into fellowship with Him.

What is fellowship?

What does “fellowship with God” look like in our life?  Fellowship has been described as the sharing of experiences with likeminded people.

However, fellowship with God is much more, because “who has known the mind of God?” (Romans 11:34) Our fellowship with the Father is dependent upon accepting His Son as Lord and Savior.  It is through Jesus Christ that we begin to “know by experience” God’s heart and mind.

Such was the case with the Apostle John and the disciples who were uniquely privileged to witness, first hand, the person and works of Christ.

“That which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.   And these things we write to you that your joy may be full.”    1 John 1:3-4

Can I get a witness?

  • “That which was seen” included the many miracles of Christ; miracles that would attest to the coming of the promised Messiah (Matt. 11:2-5). 
  • “That which was heard” were truths that Christ declared concerning the kingdom of God and His offer of eternal life (Luke 4:43; 9:11).
  • “That which was looked upon and our hands handed” recounted the disciples’ examination of Christ’s glorified body after the resurrection (John 20:27).

All of the disciples’ senses were engaged as Christ manifested (revealed) Himself and the Father.  Since Father and Son are one (John 17:11, 22), the disciples concurrently experienced fellowship with the Father (v. 3).  The disciple’s experience with Christ was not viewed from a distance but up close and personal.

Unending communion

Fellowship (koinonia or koy-nohn-ee’-ah) is translated as “communion” and “joint participation in a common life.”   John’s personal witness was an invitation to the early church to participate in a lifestyle that centered on relationship–an unending communion with God the Father and the Son.    Therein is the basis for John’s reason for sharing about fellowship with God:  so that their “joy may be full” (1 John 1:3-4).

Joy (pleroo or play-ro’o) means “to fill to the top so nothing is wanting; to complete”.  Joy can also be explained as “God’s will obeyed” and “God’s promises fulfilled”.   Joy begins and ends with fellowship with the Father and the Son (Luke 4:21).

Fellowship with God as a lifestyle

Ask yourself these questions.  How would I describe my fellowship with God?  Have I seen, heard, and looked upon Christ’s presence in my daily walk of faith?  Do I have joy and is it full?

Many times, we miss opportunities to fellowship with God. Perhaps we have become distracted by competing priorities and the busyness of life. Have our sinful behavior patterns and unhealthy influences interrupted our fellowship with God?

We are to walk daily in fellowship with God, armed with the knowledge that we are no longer “slaves to sin”.  Instead we are to be “servants of righteousness” producing fruit of holiness (Rom. 6: 22).

Get up close and personal!

Though John’s letter was written thousands of years ago, its message is still relevant for us today.  Therefore, it is an invitation for us to participate with the only true Source of joy.

Jesus invites us to draw near with faith (Heb. 10:22) and learn of Him (Matt. 11:29). In return, we can enjoy glorious fellowship with Him.  Let us be faithful witnesses to what it means to live in fellowship with God.

In the Presence of God

 

“Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.”

Psalm 139:7-8 (NRS)

Unseen influences

Our life consists of more than “flesh and blood”.  It includes our assumptions, beliefs and behaviors that regulate our personal preferences and pursuits.  These can be “of the world” or “of God.”

These assumptions, beliefs and behaviors eventually influence the choices we make daily and are ultimately reflected in our life style.

It is important that God’s influence is evident in our lives.  This begins by our acknowledging His glorious presence.  In Psalm 139 David shares the effect such knowledge can have in the life of the believer.

Where can I go?

In Psalm 139, God’s presence is demonstrated through several of His key attributes.

In verses 7-12, from which our text for today is found, David speaks specifically of God’s omnipresence.  God is everywhere all the time.

In Jeremiah 23:23-24 this characteristic is spoken of by God Himself.  “Am I a God near by, says the LORD, and not a God far off?   Who can hide in secret places so that I cannot see them? says the LORD. Do I not fill heaven and earth? says the LORD.”

Acknowledging God’s Presence

The impact of living in God’s presence offers extraordinary benefit for the believer.

First, knowing God is everywhere offers us great comfort.  The new norm for living in the 21st century requires us to be ever vigilant—watching for potential risks and dangers that may threaten us physically, financially, and/or socially. To know that we are never out of the presence of God should settle the faint-hearted.  God alone can make good on His promise that He will “never leave nor forsake us” (Gen. 28:15).

Secondarily, believers living in the presence of God possess great confidence knowing that God is ever-present. Even in the most routine of transactions, recognizing that the “only wise God” (Rom. 16:27) is there to guide and direct our steps, releases us from unnecessary stress and concern (Phil. 4:6-7).

Finally, living in God’s presence provides us great clarity as to how we are to live in this present age (Titus 2:11-13).  This acknowledgment requires that we live obediently according to His Word and under the direction of the Holy Spirit.

Living in God’s Presence

God’s Word, especially the New Testament, describes God’s expectation of our conduct in light of living in a fallen world. Our  behavior is different from the world’s view (Rom. 12:2; 1 Pet. 1:13-16; 1 John 2: 16-17)

As believers in Christ, our reality recognizes that God is the center of our universe and it is God who sustains us and keeps us (Ps. 3:5; Heb. 1:3).  We joyfully seek His will—the divine purpose of the ever-present God.  Our life and reality is derived from knowing we live continuously in the presence of God.

The Promise, Presence, and Glory of Pentecost

 

A Foretaste of Glory

The Promise

On Sunday we celebrated Pentecost Sunday.  This marked 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 dressed 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 marks 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

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

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).

In celebrating 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.

Let us not squander the promise, the presence, and the glory within us—the  Holy Spirit.  “This is my story, this is my song.  Praising my Savior all the day long.”

What is God revealing?

 

Revealing Hidden Things

As stated last week, secret things belong to God.  Revealed things, however, belong to us and to our children so that we may follow God’s law.  They are truths which God has communicated through the Bible and His Holy Spirit. These also include those things revealed through the whole counsel of God.

This truth, found in Deuteronomy 29:29, falls in the fourth address to the children of Israel by Moses.  It is a summary of the covenant demands and an appeal for covenant obedience (Deut. 29:2-29).

For the Israelites, the secret things of the LORD probably referred to future details that God had not revealed to Moses.  Yet what He had revealed (e.g., future judgment for disobedience, future blessing for obedience, His requirement for holiness, etc.) was enough to encourage the Israelites to follow all the words of the Law.[1]  

Is God’s revealed truth enough to encourage 21st century believers to trust and obey the LORD?  To answer this question, let’s consider four (4) tenets of faith currently revealed by God in His Word and through His Spirit.

These are not meant to be exhaustive, but have proven to anchor one’s faith during tumultuous times (Heb. 6:19).  As we look at our current world situation, it is easy to become weary.  Hopefully, these revealed truths will encourage us not to “lose heart” (2 Cor. 4:16-17).

What has God revealed?

Our Knowledge of Him (2 Pet. 1:3-5).  Jesus came not only to acquire our salvation but to also manifest (reveal) the Father’s name (nature) to His children (John 17:6; 26).  Armed with that knowledge, we believers have access to divine power and precious promises.  God has also provided us with spiritual wisdom and insight through His Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 2:9-10).

Our Identity (Eph. 1:3-4). Identity is defined as the set of characteristics by which a thing is definitively recognized or known.   God chose us to be adopted as sons, heirs and joint heirs with Christ (Rom. 8:17).  Our identity also connects us with other believers in God’s universal Church.  Because of our identity we have access to everything we need to accomplish God’s purpose for our life and His kingdom. (Eph. 2:10)

 Our Salvation (2 Cor. 5:17).  We are new creatures in Christ.  Because of Christ’s substitutional death on the Cross, we have been set free from the penalty and power of sin in our life.  This freedom will be fully experienced once in heaven where we will be delivered from the presence of sin (Rev. 21:4).

Our Hope (Rom. 4:18-21).  Hope is simply defined as the expectation of future good.   “Biblical hope is the anticipation of a favorable outcome under God’s guidance. More specifically, hope is the confidence that what God has done for us in the past guarantees our participation in what God will do in the future. This contrasts to the world’s definition of hope as a feeling that what is wanted will happen.”[2]

What keeps us from trusting what God has revealed?

One reason we may not trust what God is revealing is because we fail to recognize it.   In the 2020 Barna study, Signs of Decline & Hope Among Key Metrics of Faith”, it is noted that there are fewer “faith engagements” occurring among both believers and non-believers.  These include Bible reading, prayer, and church attendance.  These activities are critical to gaining an understanding of what God has revealed in the past and what God is revealing in the present.

The U.S. population is undergoing major religious, social, demographic and digital change. The rise of digital life, including social media, the economic crisis, changing attitudes about social issues and the emergence of younger generations on the scene are some of the factors that are likely to form undercurrents recalibrating Americans’ connection to faith and to Christianity.

Another reason we may not trust what God is revealing is because we choose not to believe.  One’s disbelief may be tied to the feeling that religion and the Bible are no longer relevant to 21st century living.  Such beliefs are not new.  The Apostle Paul warned the young minister Timothy that the time would come when people would not endure sound doctrine (2 Tim. 4:3-5).   People are choosing other forms of spirituality that “better accommodate” their chosen life style and worldview.

Finally, we may not trust what God is revealing because we choose not to obey God.  Have you ever noticed that when a person is auguring over a specific teaching from the Bible, it is often connected to a personal obedience challenge they are facing in their life?  Obedience is more than just following the letter of the law.  It is discerning what God would want and then seeking that outcome.

So where do we go from here?

As we discover things revealed (and the list is infinite), we gain access the very mind of God (Rom. 11:33-36).  Things revealed may be answers to those persistent questions concerning God’s purpose for our life.  Our receptivity to things revealed may be our entry to God’s power, presence, and provision.

Our life and the current challenges of 21st century living may seem impossible, but with God’s grace and favor, nothing is impossible.   In the midst of this health pandemic, strained human rights, and cries for human justice, we need only to seek Him in the things revealed.

[1]  The Bible Knowledge Commentary , Old Testament

[2]  Holman Bible Dictionary

Does God have a Secret?

 

The secret thing of God

Who doesn’t love a good secret?  Secrets by definition are unknown or unseen.  They are by design created to be kept from others.  As we move through these tumultuous times, we may question, “what is God doing?”  Is there some secret thing God is doing and not sharing with us?

As the children of Israel prepared to enter the Promised Land, they, like us, were curious as to what God had planned for their lives.  Moses addressed their curiosity with a clever statement of fact about the revelations of God that still holds true today—“the secret things belong to the LORD but the things revealed belong to us.” (Deut. 29:29 (NIV)

Does God have secret things in 2022 that are known only by Him?  And what are the things God is revealing to us?  Does this verse still hold true as we face the new challenges of 21st century living?  How do the secret things of God affect our life and purpose?

Curiosity and secrets—good or bad?

It is the nature of man to be curious about secret things.  These are things that remain hidden from our immediate view.  This curiosity has led to man’s fascination with astrology, fortune telling and other future gazing activities.  Secret things have contributed to the bizarre growth in social media followings, gossip tabloids and entertainment shows that uncover the latest exposés of the rich and the famous.

Secrets have enormous power.  They add to our nervousness about the future especially when we don’t know what “we don’t know”.

The secret things

The secret things are those things known only by God.  The prophet Isaiah best captures this truth in the difference between human and divine knowledge:  “His (God’s) thoughts are not our thoughts, nor our ways His ways.  As the heavens are higher than earth, so are His ways and thoughts higher than ours” (Isa. 55:8-9).

While we may feel that we have the right to be aware of all plans pertaining to our future, it is sovereign God who ultimately determines what needs to be known and what must be accepted by faith alone.  “The just shall live by faith” is an iconic expression of trust and hope.  Its intent is to encourage us to confidently proceed without all the answers (Jer. 29:11-13).

The things that belong to us

The things that belong to us are those truths which God has communicated through His Holy Spirit and through His Word.  With the coming of Pentecost, we as believers have been gifted with the Holy Spirit to live within us.  Jesus provided not only a Comforter with the Holy Spirit but also His Presence to guide us in all truth (John 16:13).

God’s Word continues to reveal His nature and His never ending love for us.  From Genesis to Revelation, God discloses Himself as the Master Creator seeking to restore His relationship with His beloved Creature.

The greatest evidence of God’s persistence and love is His plan of salvation.  Jesus Christ has redeemed us from the penalty of death and reconciled us to our Father.  In addition, we have been empowered to live victoriously with the promise of eternal life, beginning now (1 John 3:2).

Knowledge of the revealed things

Our challenge as Believers will come in our ability to walk in the truth that God has revealed to us and to obediently follow His directions. Through the things that belong to us we gain a thorough knowledge of God and what is needed to live godly lives (2 Pet. 1:3).

Shifting societal and moral norms will force us to “stand fast” in that which has been clearly revealed by God (Eph. 6:11-13; 2 Thess. 2:15).  Such shifts will lead to continual rejection of Christian beliefs and persecution by this fallen world (2 Tim. 3:12).  The current health pandemic, financial downturn and civic discord have added even more pressure on our walk of faith.

Recent studies indicate that we are one generation away from losing our belief in God. Therefore, it is critical that we also teach the revealed truth of God to our children and grandchildren (Deut. 11:19).  Our failure to do so could result the loss of our families to the world.

Go with what we know

Jesus has more than adequately prepared us for such a time as these:  “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).  As believers we need not concern ourselves with the secret things we don’t know BUT to trust and obey that which we do know.

Next week we will explore the truths God has revealed to us.

Living in Resurrection Power

Living in Resurrection Power

Resurrection Reality

“Christ has risen!” (Matt.28:5)   “You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; He is not here” (Mark 16:6).  “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here but has risen” (Luke 24:5).  These are the biblical explanations to the reality of Jesus’ resurrection noted in the synoptic Gospels.

But one of the responses by Jesus’ followers (not recorded in the biblical record) might have been, “Ok, but what now?”  They had received the resurrection proclamation from the women who visited the empty tomb early Easter morning. They had personally seen the glorified Christ “behind shut doors” (John 20:19-30).  But, “what now?”

Even after this, the Disciples did not fully comprehend the implications of the resurrection and how it would change their lives forever. The Disciples and the New Testament Church would now face persecution and even death for their belief in Jesus Christ.   They would need to depend on resurrection power to achieve Jesus’ commission (Matt. 28:19-20).

Even now, in the 21st century, we as believers must come to terms with how the reality of Jesus’ resurrection impacts our lives every day.  To successfully navigate the challenges of today, we need resurrection power.

What is resurrection power?

Resurrection power is the supernatural power God used to raise Jesus from the grave (Eph. 1:19-20). It is this same power that has delivered us from sin’s power and penalty (Rom. 6:14).

Sin kept us in our brokenness and our bondage.  It manifested itself in our lives as guilt, shame, and misery.  These led us to dark paths of despair, depression, and feelings of hopelessness. However, as new creatures in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17), we have access to the same resurrection power that raised Jesus from the grave (Rom. 8:11).  Satan has been crushed.  We are free (Col. 2:15).

Although we may be tempted, we are able to walk in newness of life (Rom. 6:4).  Even if we stumble or fall, we know that nothing can separate us from the love of God (Rom. 8:39).  We have been sealed with the Holy Spirit, our Guarantee, until we arrive in heaven (Eph. 1:13, 14).

Living 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).  It was through the power of the Holy Spirit that Paul proclaimed the sufficiency of God’s grace through the “power of Christ that would rest on him” (2 Cor. 12:9).

How do 21st century believers live in resurrection power?

The early New Testament church gained its potency through the anointing and indwelling of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8). Through resurrection power, we too, as 21st century disciples, can gain the same strength to accomplish God’s purpose.  In addition, it is through this power that we can find personal forgiveness, acceptance, and wholeness.

The Holy Spirit is the source of resurrection power.  It is through His presence that we are empowered for service to the Lord (John 16:13-15). The work that has been entrusted to us is destined for success because of the Holy Spirit working within us (Phil. 1:6).

The key to unlocking resurrection power is our willingness to cooperate with the Holy Spirit. Cooperation is critical in every endeavor a person may attempt.  If we are to live successfully in resurrection power, we must follow Jesus’ example who practiced obedience and humility.  Although Jesus was God’s son, He humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death — even death on a cross (Phil 2:8).   We must learn to cooperate with the Holy Spirit.

Opportunities for resurrection power

Easter 2022 is over.  Once again, we have received (through every form of media) the resurrection proclamation. We have personally experienced the glorified Christ through our new life in Him.  The question we must ask ourselves is, “what now?”

As I look around and reflect on the state of our world, it is more evident than ever, “we need supernatural power” to deal with our challenges.  The human needs of the 1st century still exist today.  The resurrection power of Jesus Christ is still as powerful as when He rose on Easter morning.  And we have access to the same resurrection power in 2022.

Let us begin today to access resurrection power on behalf of our families, our communities, and our nation.  Let us courageously intercede on behalf of those experiencing the effects of sin in our world—hate, hurt, and hopelessness (2 Cor. 5:15).  Jesus, teach us how to live in your resurrection power TODAY.