Tag Archives: Christian

Are you a Truth Teller?

Are you a Truth Teller?

Are you a truth teller? 

We (believers) define 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?

We discussed this question earlier as to the world’s readiness for the truth.  Often the world’s responses make the truth appear to be 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?

In Psalm 119:46, the writer speaks of their unfailing dedication to the truths offered by  God:  “I will speak of Your testimonies also before kings.  And will not be ashamed.”  Testimonies speak of witnessing.  In Scripture, it relates specifically to divine testimonies or truth directly from God.

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 gold standard for truth tellers

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)

Let us follow the examples given to us by God.  Dare to be a truth teller.

Truth: The Divine Perspective

Truth: The Divine Perspective

Truth is an incredibly significant concept.  Our view of truth shapes not only our personal lives but also our society.  It especially impacts our relationship with God including our view of Scripture.

Our definition of truth is affected by what we watch, what we read, and even the opinions of our friends.  Add to that the sway of social media, your “truth” is being adjusted with every post and tweet you receive.  Imagine there are 500 million tweets sent every day[1].  Scary isn’t it.

Let’s face reality!  We live in an age where we are being bombarded by varying opinions as to what is or isn’t truth.  Because of these deceptive trends, it is important that we have a reliable and trustworthy compass by which to navigate in this world.  We need guidance from God.  We need God’s divine perspective.

God’s perspective of truth

In the Old Testament, truth is rendered as true or faithful.  In either case, the Hebrew concept communicates reliability and trustworthiness.   This trustworthiness is frequently used to describe God’s divine faithfulness (Ps. 31:5; Jer. 42:5).

In the New Testament, truth emphasizes reality as God has revealed it in creation (Rom. 1:18) and in the gospel (Eph. 1:13; Col. 1:5; 1 Tim. 2:4).   God’s perspective of truth is given to us through His Word and through the Spirit of Truth—the Holy Spirit.  Armed with these divine gifts we are provided a continual source of truth.

Truth in action

Adherence to the truth was critical during the formation of the early Church. Pressured by the Judaizers to continue with the practice of circumcision, the church at Galatia was in danger of spiritual error.  They were rejecting the truth (salvation through Jesus Christ alone) to avoid persecution.  We at one time or another have been guilty of quietly accepting error versus being truth tellers.  That is to our shame.

In Galatians 5:7, Paul poses a question to this young church: “You were getting along so well. Who has interfered with you to hold you back from following the truth?”

Paul continues by stating emphatically, “This persuasion does not come from the One who calls you.”  When we drift from the truth that God has revealed, we can be assured of its origin—the puppeteer of deception and lies, Satan.

Coram Deo is a Latin phrase translated “in the presence of God”.  It has its origin is Christian theology which summarizes the idea of Christians living in the presence of, under the authority of, to the honor and glory of God.  Truth is to be lived coram Deo.

Practicing God’s divine perspective

Truth is to be practiced not only within the church but also outside its four walls. Imagine the impact that error has on every aspect of our society—in our homes, in the workplace, and in our institutions.  Practicing God’s divine perspective acknowledges the importance of sharing truth in every sphere of our life.

Using God’s revelation, we have access to reliable knowledge—divine truth—about God, about ourselves, and how we are to live in relationship with our fellow man.  Unfortunately, we often separate our “faith walk” from our “lifestyle”.  God’s truth should permeate every area of our life.  Practicing God’s divine perspective requires that we walk in God’s truth continuously. 

Our dependence on God’s truth is not based on emotional sentimentalities but firmly grounded in the nature of God (Deut. 7:9).  We walk in accordance with His moral realities and act in harmony with His divine revelations (Ps. 26:3).   Practicing God’s divine perspective recognizes God’s trustworthiness.

Knowing the reliability of God and accepting the reality of God, we can begin to operate from God’s divine perspective.  God’s divine truth becomes the vehicle by which we can successfully navigate in this 21st century postmodern society.

[1] Brandwatch.com

Holiday Season 2020

Holiday season reflects God's purpose

Symbols of the holiday season are everywhere.  We are ready for that golden-brown turkey, giblet dressing and cranberry sauce.  Christmas decorations appear at the mall, at our favorite grocery store, and in our neighborhoods.

Most importantly, the holidays are about enjoying relationships.  Friends and family gather to share stories and to “love on each other.”  Everyone is invited to come and enjoy time together.  However, this year relationships will feel different.  Holiday season 2020, specifically, will be very different in the midst of the pandemic.

This season will be different

As the number of people infected with the virus increase, our nation struggles to find ways to “fatten the curve”.  How do you do that during the holidays?  We are warned to wear our masks, practice social isolation—”stay at home” and exercise social distancing—”stay apart”.

The holiday season is most often depicted by images of merriment and joy.  However, this year those images have been replaced with news broadcasts showing long lines to food pantries and food giveaways.  The financial impact of the pandemic has become the face of poverty.  Joblessness, hunger, and homelessness are new experiences for many who have previously lived comfortably.  To our shame, it is far too familiar for others.

My favorite representation of Thanksgiving is the plenteous cornucopia, bursting forth with ripened fruit from its wide and ample opening.  It is this image that has caused me to evaluate my own personal fruitfulness.  Especially during this “season of COVID-19”.   If I am “rooted and built up in Him” (Col. 2:7), am I bringing forth fruit pleasing to Him?  Am I fruitful?

A season for reflection

Fruit is the product of fruitfulness.  It is used metaphorically of work or deeds (Eph. 2:10; Phil. 1:11; 2 Pet. 1:8).  While works are evidence of Christian activity, it does not always tell the whole story.  Jesus’ teachings often encouraged listeners to look beyond what they could see with their physical eyes and to examine the motives and intentions behind the deeds (Matthew 7:16-20).

You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thorn bushes or figs from thistles?  Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.  A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit.  Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.  Therefore, by their fruits you will know them.

Fruitfulness is not “busyness for the Lord” but “transformed living” resulting in the mind of Christ (Phil. 2:5).  Fruitfulness reflects the heart and mind of our beloved Lord and Savior, in whose image we are to be daily conformed (2 Cor. 3:18).

A season for fruitfulness

God has placed us in this historic moment to reflect the heart and mind of Christ.  We were created for such a time as this (Esther 4:14).   It is our responsibility to align ourselves with God’s purpose and perform that which He has given us to do.

    • Am I doing all I can to share the grace and love of Jesus with those in need?
    • How can I demonstrate Jesus’ compassion during this season of COVID?
    • How can I personally help others who are “weary and hopeless”?

We can be Jesus’ eyes that see the needs of others.  We can be Jesus’ hands that move beyond sympathy to action.  As Jesus’ disciples, let us no longer live for ourselves but live for Him who saved us (2 Cor. 5:15).   God has “seeded” us into history to be fruitful.  It is here we are to take root, grow, and be fruitful.

Discovering our fruitfulness

This holiday season will look and feel very different in the midst of the pandemic.  Let us do our part to make it the beginning of something better.  Something that lasts beyond the holiday season.  Let it be the beginning of REAL LOVE for God and for others, even our enemies.  Amid the pandemic, let us create a world that honors God, that celebrates Jesus, and that brings real “comfort and joy”.

The Danger of Spiritual Immaturity

At the beginning of this series, I asked if you were “helping or hindering your spiritual journey”.  I posed three questions, which now fit nicely with today’s warning on the danger of spiritual immaturity.

First, where are you in your current faith walk?   Secondly, what would motivate you to seriously consider the five (5) warnings?  And finally, where does Jesus Christ fit in your life today?

It is now time to move these questions from their previous position as the backdrop for this series to the focal point for our exploration of spiritual immaturity.  We begin this journey by contrasting it with its opposite–spiritual maturity.

What is spiritual maturity? 

As I researched this topic of spiritual maturity, there were varying views and opinions as to its definition.  For some it is a process; for others it is a pathway to follow.  And still others see spiritual maturity as the goal of the believer’s life. That being the case I offer several views for your consideration.

Commitment to Transformation

Dallas A. Willard, an American philosopher known for his writings on Christian spiritual formation, describes spiritual maturity as taking place “when we are drawn close to a life with Jesus. We, by the grace of God, behave differently because we have been transformed.”

This transformation occurs as believers intentionally build and live their lives as disciples of Jesus Christ in the Kingdom of God.  This transformation occurs as believers commit to grow, commit to change, and commit to learn. 

Using Willard’s description, spiritual maturity is a process.  One that never ends until we reach heaven and are face-to-face with our Savior (1 Cor. 13:12). Using this description, the question I would ask is this.  As 21st century believers, do we behave differently?

Building on the Foundation of the Gospel 

Ligonier Ministries, founded by the late Dr. R.C. Sproul, exists to proclaim, teach, and defend the holiness of God in all its fullness to as many people as possible.   In “Four Essentials of Spiritual Maturity”, author and contributing writer Kent Hughes outlines four key areas needed for spiritual maturity.

While these essentials are directed to pastors, they also outline key responsibilities for believers who desire to be spiritually mature.  They include:

    1. Christ-focused exposition of the Word—Christ is the source and sustainer of spiritual maturity
    2. Cautious “striving” to accurately present the Word—described as “struggling in preaching the gospel mystery”
    3. Commitment to the Christian community—”to comprehend with all the saints” (Eph. 3:18-19)
    4. Christian maturity demonstrated—the believer is a living testimony of what love and devotion for God should look like

Using Hughes’ description, spiritual maturity is a pathway.  One that is to be passionately pursued (2 Tim. 2:15).  That pathway includes leading people to Christ.  Using this description, the question I would ask is this.  As 21st century believers, are we intentional in building our lives on the foundation of God’s Word?

Passion to Persevere

Lastly, I present the viewpoint that spiritual maturity is a goal.  The specific goal is the believer’s capacity to persevere.  The believer is both able to weather the storms of life while also proclaiming the glory of the Lord.

Oswald in his book, Spiritual Maturity, describes it this way:

Spiritual maturity is not a level of growth Christians achieve but the passion to press on in Christ. As we embrace God’s Providence, the work of the Holy Spirit, the character  Christ desires, the terms of discipleship, hardship, and more, we can move from infancy toward the fruitful maturity we were created to enjoy.

Pastor Andy Stanley, senior pastor and founder of North Point Ministries shares a similar viewpoint: “Spiritual maturity is measured in terms of persevering faith not perfect behavior.”  

The Apostle Paul also describes spiritual maturity in terms of the early churches’ ability to persevere.  Faced with fierce and continuous persecution for their faith, they were told not to “faint” in their work for Christ (2 Cor. 4:1, 14-17; Gal. 6:9; Col. 3:15).  That is perhaps the reason the writer of Hebrews included spiritual maturity as important for this group.

Using this description, the question I would ask is this.  As 21st century believers, are we able to persevere? While we may not face religious persecution, how we respond to the current state of our world, i.e., health pandemic, economic uncertainty, and civil unrest, can be an indicator of our ability to “hold fast our faith” (Heb. 10:23).

Now is the Time 

God needs spiritually mature, 21st century disciples who will represent His Kingdom.  These disciples must be willing to proclaim, defend, and teach the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Especially in a post-modern world that is hostile to Christianity.

Most importantly, 21st century disciples must show and share the love of Christ–even to those who may hate us (Luke 6:27-36).  We no longer can depend only on our pastor to provide outreach to the lost and to the disenfranchised.  Neither can we wait for the church’s mercy ministry to provide for the homeless and the impoverished.  The “them” is now “us”—our family, our neighbor, and our co-worker.

The physical church is temporarily “ON HOLD” for many of us.  Other churches may be operating at a reduced capacity.  But God is calling us today to be what He designed us to be—The Church (1 Pet. 2:4-6).  As the Master Builder, God places His living stones just where He wants us to be (1 Cor.12:18). Spiritual maturity is not an option—it is a necessity for the world we live in today!

Next week we will explore the “Failure of Spiritual Immaturity”.

Can You Handle the Truth?

“…and you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.”

John 8: 31-32 (NRSV)

Can we handle the truth?  Especially when that truth is measured against the authority of Scripture and the lordship of Jesus Christ?   To walk in biblical truth while living in a postmodern world will be a major challenge for believers as we enter into this second decade of the 21st century.

With all the political rhetoric and social bantering, it is clear that this world is in need of truth.  But can we handle it?  Behind the news bytes and sound bits, there is an intention movement currently underway to redefine what truth is and what it isn’t.  This is nothing new.  This inclination to “repackage” the truth comes directly from the father of lies, Satan himself (John 8:44).   Be careful how you define truth or you too may fall prey to the subtly of deception.  “Did God really say you must not eat any of the fruit in the garden?” (Gen. 3:1, NLT)

In decades past, people could depend on the media to communicate the “truth” with regard to specific issues of the day.  Newspapers, magazine publications and newscasters were committed to operate at the highest ethical standards.  In addition, people could depend on their local leaders—civic or religious—to offer truth, as they knew best.  But over time that has changed.  Unfortunately both media and individuals can only offer their own opinions based on personal agendas or corporate bias, leaving individuals still “in search for truth”.  Truth is now shaped by social media and image consultants—by the number of “likes”, “retweets” and “followers” one can amass.

What is truth?  Truth is defined as that which agrees with reality.  The believer’s reality and meaning is grounded in God.  That reality began in the Garden of Eden.  Created in God’s image, our purpose and destiny is tied to our identity in Him through Christ (Col. 3:3).  This reality was sidetracked by sin and replaced with Satan’s counterfeit that placed self on the throne where only Christ was to be seated and exalted.  Because of Jesus’ atoning work on the Cross, our sins were forgiven and we are now reconciled back to God (2 Cor. 5:18, 19).  When we affirm our faith, we acknowledge that we have died to our old sin nature (Gal. 5:24) and walk in newness of life (Rom. 6:4).  We no longer follow the worldview—its influence was negated by the Blood.  Our meaning and reality is now realigned with God (2 Cor. 5:15).   “For in Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28a).

More than ever before, believers must connect with the only True Source of Truth, Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior (John 14:6).  God’s Word and the Spirit of Truth stand ready to silence the lies, myths and fables we might hear  (2 Tim. 4:3-4).  God is the only source of truth for our lives.  Can you handle the truth?

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

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.