Tag Archives: The Holy Spirit

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”.     

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.”

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.

The Holy Spirit: Our Resurrection Power

Resurrection Spirit

Preparation for ministry

We are currently in the season of Easter known as Eastertide,  which is the 50-day period following Easter Sunday.  This season gives us the opportunity to reflect on the power and the presence of the resurrection in our lives.  It culminates on Pentecost Sunday (June  5th ) which marks the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on man.  In discussing the resurrection, we would be remiss if we ignored the source of “that power”.  That source is the Holy Spirit.

Jesus directed the disciples to wait in Jerusalem “for the promise of the Father, which, they had heard about” from Him” (Acts 1:4).  That promise was the Holy Spirit.  With His arrival would come “power” needed to fulfill their commission.  This would not be temporary nor external power.  But this power would come from the indwelling of the Spirit within each of them (John 14:17).  For God’s kingdom to grow, the Disciples would need the power of the resurrection Spirit.

The Disciples laid the groundwork for the spread of the gospel message after Jesus’ ascension.  It would later be the work of the New Testament writers, like the Apostle Paul, to teach the Church how that gospel would be lived out in the believers’ daily life.  That would include the work of the Holy Spirit.  Paul’s teachings in the book of Ephesians gives us great insight into the power of the resurrection Spirit in those who are in Christ.

Role of the Holy Spirit

In Ephesians 1, the Apostle Paul focuses on the work of the Triune God in fulfilling the work of salvation.  God the Father provided the way to redemption (Eph. 1:3-8).  He chose believers and predestined them to adoption.  Jesus Christ the Son offered Himself for the redemption and forgiveness of sin for those who accept Him by faith.  He paid the righteous demand for sin (Heb. 9:21-22).  The Holy Spirit’s role in the work of salvation would be to seal those in Christ until eternity future (Eph. 1:13a-14).

A seal, in biblical times as today, is used to guarantee security or indicate ownership.  Ancient seals were often made of wax, embedded with the personalized imprint of their guarantor.  In both the Old and New Testament, the significance of the act of sealing was dependent on the authority of the one doing the sealing.  It would authenticate the guarantor’s ability to “make good” on that which was promised within the sealed document.  In this case the promise of the believer’s salvation and future inheritance.   

Sealing of the Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit not only endows the believer with power to accomplish the purposes of God (Phil. 1:6; 4:13) but He also gives assurances that God will do and can do all that He has pledged—promises and blessings for today and an inheritance in the future (2 Pet. 1:3-4; 1 Pet. 1:3-5).   

The Holy Spirit seals those who trust in Christ (Eph. 1:12, 13).  His presence is God’s guarantee that believers are owned by Him and secure in Him. Since the Holy Spirit’s task is to apply Christ’s work to God’s people, He anoints those in Christ the moment they believe (2 Cor. 1:21-22).

The believer is then secured as a member of God’s family, not in their own power, but because the Spirit is applying the promises made possible by God through our relationship with Christ.  His sealing comprises the initial down payment or the earnest of the full redemption of God’s possession in eternity future (1 Cor. 6:19-20). 

Resurrection Spirit

The Holy Spirit is the power of God for the people of God.  Our position in Christ makes resurrection power available to us.  It is our responsibility to access it (Eph. 1:18-20).

I leave you to consider these thoughts from preachers, past and present, who speak clearly on the power made available to each of us through the resurrection Spirit.

Smith Wigglesworth, British evangelist, influential in the early history of Pentecostalism, wrote this about the Holy Spirit:  

Enter into the promises of God. It is your inheritance. You will do more in one year if you are really filled with the Holy Ghost than you could do in fifty years apart from Him.

Charles Stanley, Pastor, televangelist, and theologian, offers this insight:

The power of the Spirit is God’s divine energy and authority released in believers’ lives for the purpose of righteous living and fruitful service. When we walk in the Spirit, we’re relying on His strength to accomplish God’s will. When we do God’s work by His strength, in His way, and with His wisdom, we’ll be blessed no matter what goes on around us. Walking in the Spirit doesn’t mean life will be easy—but we never have to walk through it alone, because our Helper is always with us. 

Is it time to access the resurrection power of the Holy Spirit?  Absolutely!  Today, take hold of God’s divine power living within you.

A Better New Year’s Resolution, Part 2

A Better New Year's Resolution, Part 2

A better new year

As we shared last week, new year’s resolutions are not the best way to create change in our life.  Strength of character and self-will, often fall short in taking us where we really want to be.  We determined that “the best way” to introduce real change in our lives is through our relationship with Jesus Christ.  We must put on our “new man”.  In Christ we have a new identity.

Embrace our identity in Christ

When I began my Christian walk, the meaning of “in Christ” was a mystery to me.  I tried to understand it based on those things I was familiar with.  For example, I established membership in the local church.  I was in fellowship with its members to serve and glorify God in my life.  But “in Christ”, what did it mean?

In Christ is the present experience of the risen Christ indwelling the believer’s heart.  By the Holy Spirit we take on the personality of Christ.  It is more than an imitation of the life and teaching of Jesus.  It describes the believer’s union with Christ as a result of the divine action of grace by God.  The result of that action is the believer is transformed into a “new man.”  (2 Cor. 5:17).

Renewed in knowledge

Knowledge is defined as general awareness or familiarity gained by experience of a fact or situation.

However, in Colossians 3:10 knowledge means “precise and correct knowledge”.  It is used in the New Testament of the knowledge of things ethical and divine.  It is this type of knowledge that is needed today to navigate the challenges of our times.

Paul tells the church at Colosse to “put on the new man” who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him.  “New man” and “old man” were terms introduced by Paul to contrast the believer’s new versus old behaviors and lifestyle (Rom. 6:6, Eph. 2:15; 4:22-24, Col.3:9-11).

So why did Paul tell the church to put on the new man? Because the new man has access to the “precise and correct” knowledge needed for righteous living (living in right relations with God and with mankind).  This knowledge is provided through the Holy Spirit living within the new man (John 16:13).  This is where transformation takes place.

In addition, this new man’s knowledge is further strengthened as a result of being created in the image of God.  In Christ we possess God’s divine nature—His DNA.  DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) is a self-replicating material present in nearly all living organisms.  It is the unique string of characteristics that make us who we are—physically and mentally.  In Christ, we have been given a new spiritual DNA that equips us for the purpose and plan God has created for our lives.

True Knowledge

In Christ, we not only have renewed knowledge but also “true” knowledge.  Paul describes this in 2 Peter 1:2-4.

Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.

Knowledge (of God) protects us against error and deception, regardless of its source.  It helps us discern and use God’s truth to guide our life.  True knowledge sharpens our spiritual eyes to see not only potential dangers but also the possibilities that God has in store for us.

Promise of a better year

If we want a better new year, we must be intentional.  Our aim should not be wasted on things that never work.  Our focus must continue to be on the Person who has the authority and power to “make all things work together for our good.”  (Rom. 8:28).   That person is Almighty God (Ps. 97:1-2).

Our divine truth is this.  Being in Christ and knowledge of God will provide us with everything we need to be successful not only in 2022 but also all the way to glory. Let us diligently seek the Lord more this year than last.  This is the best way to a better new year.

Hearing God at Advent

 

 

Hearing God at Advent

Who has an ear to hear?

In Isaiah 30:21, the prophet shares with his readers how God would in the future speak   directly to His followers.

And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, ‘This is the way,walk in it, when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left.’

This method of speaking directly to us would happen much later at Jesus’ first advent. After Pentecost (Acts 2), the Holy Spirit would be available to permanently dwell within us (John 16:13-15).  The author of Hebrews captures in the opening verses of this epistle the change in how God communicates with us (Heb. 1:1-2).

Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds.

Our position in Christ gives us not only direct access to the Father and Jesus but also gives us the Holy Spirit to live within us (John 14:16). It is through this “gift” of the Holy Spirit that we hear God speak to us.

Are our ears burning?

We would do well to make every effort to listen for God’s voice.  This involves being spiritually attentive to Him through prayer, fasting and meditating on His Word.

It helps to silence our own voice to hear Him speak.  This requires eliminating the demanding cry of our soul—our mind (“I need to know!”), our will (“I want it my way and I want it now!”) and our emotions (“I need to feel something!”).  God hears our every call (Ps. 91:15) but do we hear Him?

What do we expect God to say?

This requires spiritual honesty.  Are we open to what He may say to us?  Many times, we only listen for responses from God we want to hear versus what He has on His heart for us.

Most often than not we come to God with a particular issue or request.  Are we open to the possibility that God may have a very different agenda. “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!   For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?” (Rom. 11:33-34)

Believers’ desire to be obedient to the Lord will help greatly in hearing God’s voice.  The issue many times is not whether God is speaking or whether we are hearing.  The real question is, are we willing to obey what He has already revealed to us through His Word and through our circumstances?

This dilemma may require us to identify intentions that conflict with the godly purpose the Father has designed for our lives.  “For all that is in the world- the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions- is not from the Father but is from the world.”  (1 John 2:16)

Are we willing to wait to hear God speak?

If we are eager to hear God’s voice, we must be willing (and content) to wait.

Waiting is not easy in a world that operates at warp speed.  We are told that “Time waits for no man”, “Lost time results in lost opportunity”, and “Time is money”.

However, our Infinite God does not operate within the finite boundary of time but in eternity.  Hearing His voice requires that we patiently keep our eye on Him.  As we wait, there is an expectancy that we will hear Him speak.  “Behold, as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their master, as the eyes of a maidservant to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to the LORD our God, till he has mercy upon us.” (Ps. 123:2)

Are we “present” to hear?

The best way for believers to hear from God, is simply to abide in His presence.  Abide means “to remain or to continue to be present.” We are never our of God’s presence.  He is everywhere.  He is always present.  (Read Psalms 139)

It is up to us to sensitize ourselves to hearing God.  As we become more aware His presence, we are able to maintain continual, unbroken connection with Him. It is here that we can experience continual dialogue with God the Spirit versus straining for an occasional “word from the Lord.”  (Read John 15)

The greater our intimacy with God, the easier it is to hear His voice.    “I am the good shepherd.  I know my own and my own know me; My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10:14, 27)    

Advent is a great time for us to discover or rediscover hearing from God. God speaks not only through His Creation, but God also speaks directly to us.  Do not neglect such a great opportunity to hear from God.

Seeing with Spiritual Eyes, Part 2

Seeing with Spiritual Eyes, Part 2

Looking beyond what we can see

The ability to see has been associated with many things in the biblical record.  It has been linked to wisdom (Job 42:5), to salvation (Eph. 1:18), and to discernment (John 7:24). This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it helps to expand our understanding of seeing with spiritual eyes. Seeing with spiritual eyes help us to “look beyond what we can see”.

To see or not to see

The prophet Jeremiah was a heartbroken prophet with a heartbreaking message. He labored for more than 40 years proclaiming a message of doom to the stiff-necked people of Judah.

Hear this now, O foolish people, Without understanding, Who have eyes and see not, And who have ears and hear not: (Jeremiah 5:21-29)

Despite Jeremiah’s many warnings, they did not see that their behavior was headed for a collision with the judgment of God. Judah continued to worship idols, disobey God’s covenant, and practice social injustice. Their lack of vision and refusal to surrender to God’s will resulted in exile to Babylon for 70 years. Judah’s loyalty had become divided and had blinded her to the things of God.

Barriers to seeing spiritually

The “usual suspects” stand as barriers to seeing with spiritual eyes. They are our flesh, the world, and Satan.

Our flesh is the natural or “unredeemed” part of us that take us away from the purpose of God. Our flesh sees with natural eyes and refuses to obey the leading of the Holy Spirit. Paul the Apostle notes that it is impossible for the natural man to see with spiritual eyes (1 Cor. 2:13-16).

The world is that which is contrary to the things of God. It includes the lusts of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life (1 John 2:16).  We are told by the Apostle John, that those who love the world do not love God (1 John 2:15). Divided loyalty ultimately leads to disobedience (Titus 1:16; James 4:8).

Satan does what Satan always does:  he discourages, he deceives, and he destroys. Of all the barriers, Satan is the greatest challenge. Why? Because most people don’t believe he exists. He remains the unseen “puppeteer behind the curtain”. But be assured he is very real. Look for him where there is conflict, confusion, and chaos. However, to see him, we will need spiritual eyes.

Our flesh, the world, and Satan keep us from viewing the world as it really exists.  In addition, the postmodern, 21st century worldview has created a “distorted” picture of what we see.  This is especially true with identifying sin.

Our “spiritual sensibilities” are slowly being dulled.  The ultimate goal, of course, is complete spiritual blindness.

How do we gain spiritual sight?

First and foremost, we need to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit.  Jesus shared with His Disciples the importance of the Holy Spirit in guiding them in all truth (John 16:13-14).  Each day it is important that we invite the Holy Spirit to join us through reading scripture, meditation, and prayer.  As we do, we train our spirit man to “listen for the Spirit’s voice” as He communicates with us.

Secondarily, we can practice the presence of the Holy Spirit.  Practicing the Holy Spirit’s presence acknowledges the fact that God, in all His fullness, is always with us (Ps. 139:7-12).  Because of that, we should not limit this practice to our devotion and prayer time only but also include it in our “normal rhythm of life.

Finally, we must be intentional in our pursuit of the knowledge of God and our growth in Jesus Christ (2 Pet. 3:18). Seeing with spiritual eyes is not a natural attribute for believers. Therefore, it must be developed. The Apostle Peter describes this process as “giving all diligence to add to our faith” (2 Pet. 1:5-8). Diligence translated means earnestness in accomplishing, promoting, or striving after anything. Peter describes the results for believers who lack that diligence: “They are short-sighted, even to blindness…” (2 Pet 1:9)

Let us make a commitment today to develop spiritual eyes. While it’s been said that “the eyes are the windows of the soul”, it is more important to believe that seeing with spiritual eyes will “keep your soul.”  (Mat. 6:22-24).

Seeing with Spiritual Eyes, Part 1

Seeing with Spiritual Eyes Part 1

An invitation

When I begin my daily devotions, I open with Psalm 119:18:  Open my eyes, that I may see wondrous things from Your law. My favorite teacher, Alistar Begg, often begins his bible study sessions with this prayer, “Make the book come alive to me.”

Our intent is the same though our approach may differ. We invite the Holy Spirit to join us as our Teacher, as we seek God’s instruction for our life.   Doing this, we are better able to navigate in this post-modern world where there are no absolutes nor acceptable standards of rightness.

As we examine our current society, it appears what is right or wrong is left to the judgment of the individual. In the absence of a common standard of right and wrong, anything goes.

The Heart wants what the Heart wants

People reject a standard for truth because of their greater desire to do “that which seems right in their own eyes”. But what is right?

A recent Barna Research study, The End of Absolutes: America’s New Moral Code, found no agreement on the definition of morality today.

What is it based on? Where does it come from? How can someone know what to do when making moral decisions? According to a majority of American adults (57%), knowing what is right or wrong is a matter of personal experience. This view is much more prevalent among younger generations than among older adults. Three-quarters of Millennials (74%) agree strongly or somewhat with the statement, “Whatever is right for your life or works best for you is the only truth you can know,” compared to only 38 percent of Elders. And Millennials (31%) are three times more likely than Elders (10%) and twice as likely as Boomers (16%) and Gen-Xers (16%) to strongly agree with the statement.  

People want “what they want” including freedom to choose what fits their preference and lifestyle, even if it means disobedience to God.  [1]

The need to see spiritually

What then are we to do? It is critical that we as followers of Jesus Christ, develop an “eye” for what is truth versus what is error (1 John 4:1).  We began this discussion in 2020 in our series on spiritual discernment.  However, during these end times, we must be even more intentional, vigil, and alert by “seeing” our world through “spiritual eyes” (1 Pet. 1:13).

This 21st century challenge is similar to what the Disciples and the early Church faced. They encountered a society that was “hostile” to the things of God and where men “leaned to their own understanding” (Prov. 3:5).

The Disciples had to develop a “new view” of the world. Jesus taught them that view in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). It was the “Kingdom view”. Believers would have to “see” things differently than the rest of the world.  They would learn to see with spiritual eyes.

Through the leading of the Holy Spirit, the Disciples ultimately proclaimed the gospel of Jesus Christ. They participated in ushering in the Kingdom of God.  We have that same opportunity today.

Next week, we’ll talk more about gaining spiritual eyes.

Time to Practice

I invite you to begin “practicing” seeing with spiritual eyes. Following are (3) scriptures to read and meditate on this week. Feel free to use different translations and paraphrases. Get your journal out as you read and invite the Holy Spirit to join you.

Jeremiah 5:21-29

Matthew 6:22-23

1 Corinthians 2:13-16

Answer these questions for each scripture you read:

  1. How does this scripture relate to my personal walk with God?
  2. How does it influence my view of 21st century society?
  3. What “new” insight did the Holy Spirit reveal to me in this scripture?

[1] Spiritual Discernment:  Light for Darkened Eyes

Recognizing Our Sin

Recognizing Our Sin It wasn’t me!

Chuck Berry, guitarist, singer and one of the pioneers of rock and roll music, recorded a song in the 60’s that has become the automatic response when Ron and I accuse each other of some “mishap in the house.”  These lyrics have been modernized in a television commercial showing a child (hiding under the dining table) joyfully eating a cake obviously confiscated from the dessert buffet.  The lyrics are these: “It wasn’t me, baby!  No, it wasn’t me, baby!  Must have been some other body, uh, uh, baby, it wasn’t me.”

This is often the response we hear when people are confronted with their sin.  Listen to the news this week, this month, this year!  Rather than take responsibility and quickly confessing, we begin to distance ourselves from the sin.  Denial doesn’t remove the sin.  Instead, it allows sin to strengthen in our life.  Our willingness to accept responsibility for our sins is further complicated by living in a postmodern world where truth is relative.  This further numbs us to the presence of sin in our lives.

Because of these factors, it is critical that we take personal responsibility for our sinful actions.  This process begins with our being intentional in identifying sin in our lives (1 John 1:6-8, 10).

Living the Way of Jesus

This year as part of my spiritual development, I am reading Michaele Lavigne’s notable book, Living the Way of Jesus:  Practicing the Christian Calendar One Week at a Time.  The book is organized around the Christian calendar, using scriptural texts that follow the seasons of the Christian Calendar.  While Jewish celebration revolves around the Exodus from Egypt, the Christian Church year focuses on the life and ministry of Jesus.

Lavigne includes weekly practices that invite readers to the rhythms of the Christian calendar and to orient us to God’s reality.

We do not merely ask God to join our lives: instead, we are invited to participate in God’s life. Subtly and explicitly, this way of making time reminds us that we [Believers] are part of a story that is different from the stories we hear all around us.[1]    

This Season of Lent provides us an opportunity to walk with Jesus as He makes His way to the Cross and to gain a whole new understanding of what it means to be Christ’s disciple. This includes how we address sin in our lives—both subtle and obvious.

For Lent, Lavigne has suggested weekly practices that invite us to observe “who we really are and what the world is really like”.  Practices to date have included Silence, Honoring Others’ Requests, and Recognizing our Sin.  It is this last one that I share my personal reflections.  Perhaps you will find it helpful in your journey to becoming more conformed to the image of Christ (Rom. 8:29).

Where do I start?

I was invited to begin with prayer and to consider what Jesus may need to “clean out of me”.  Are there desires, activities, or decisions that are cluttering my life and preventing full worship of Jesus?  I was to write them down and then take them to the One Person who could help me with my “sin problem”.  I was to take them to Jesus.

Jesus alone could clear out and burn away the things that harmed me (John 2:13-22).  Jesus would shine His light of truth on those things that kept me from being in right relationship with God and with others.  I was to listen to anything Jesus might share with me during our time together.  That was the most illuminating part of this practice.   Once I confessed my sins, Jesus faithfully forgave me and cleansed me from my sins (1 John 1:9).

At the end of the week, I was to process what I learned from this practice of recognizing my sin.

What did I learn about myself?   About God?

I learned that there were things that cluttered my life and prevented me from spending quality time with the Lord.  I had allowed busyness to dominate my time.  My schedule was interfering with my time with my First Love (Rev. 2:4).

For me, even ministry work (externally focused) sometimes takes time away from prayer, reading God’s Word, meditation, journaling, and more.  Dedicated time with Jesus provides “sacred space” where He can direct, reproof, instruct, nurture, and correct me.  It is time when I can “d-r-i-n-k” from the fountain of life (Ps. 36:9).  And as I drink, I am being transformed (Rom. 12:2).

What did I Learned about God?  He never changes!  Hallelujah!  God is loving and patient.  Even in my foolishness and sin, He never gives up on me.  “The Lord will wait that He may be gracious unto me.” (Is. 30:18)

Recognizing My Sin:  The Conclusion

I close with this quote from F.B. Meyers concerning sin.  “We often expose ourselves to more anguish in our effort to retain and to restrain [our sins], than to remove them absolutely and forever.”   Where are you spending your efforts?

It is our responsibility to keep sin at bay in our lives.  While we live in this flesh, we must deal with the presence of sin.  However, we have been delivered from its power in our lives (Rom. 6:6-14).   The intentional practice of recognizing sin can draw us nearer to Jesus and becoming the people our Heavenly Father created us to be.

[1] Living the Way of Jesus:  Practicing the Christian Calendar One Week at a Time

Sin: What do we do with it?

 

What do we do with sin?

What do we do with sin?  John wrote in his epistle that “if we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us   1 John 1:8).  For too long this question has been asked only by theologians and scholars as they “pontificate” over spiritual things.

But the people who should be asking this question are those who are currently stewards of God’s grace, desiring that God’s “kingdom will come”—to our nation, to our churches, and more importantly, to our homes.

Unfortunately, the people of God have allowed the “elephant in the room” (sin in disguise) to go unchallenged. Did we really expect “the  lost” (2 Cor. 4:4) to lodge complaints about sin?  It is time to speak up!

We express concern over the difficulties created by the COVID pandemic and the financial uncertainties we now face.  But what do we do with the sin that is at its root?  Hate,  greed, and selfishness?

As we struggle with the racial and political division in our nation, we demand respect, equality, and justice.  In response to the rise in homelessness and poverty, we advocate for humane responses  for those forced to live marginalized on the fringes of our society.   But what do we do with the sin that is at its core–strife and indifference?

Sin is a subject that is glaringly absent in our discussions concerning the plight of our world especially in our church pulpits.

Many of the issues we face in society are as a result of sin. 

Sin originates from thoughts and feeling that focus on activities that satisfy personal (and usually) selfish desires (James 1:14-15).  These desires are then acted upon by the will (spirit and heart) which has the power to do what is good—or evil.

Social reform and political posturing cannot affect these human dimensions. What then is the remedy for the heart that is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked (Jer. 17:9)?

God has devised His plan of redemption to deal with the issue of sin. 

Redemption is “grace-based”, no longer requiring God’s forbearance (Rom. 3:25), nor demanding redundant, ineffective sacrifices for the sins of men (Heb. 10:11).  God became, through His Son, the just and the Justifier of him which believed in Jesus (Rom. 3:24).

Faith in the Son is the starting point of redemption and the end is a righteous soul (Rom. 5:21)—a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17).  Jesus   replaces the stony heart of man with a new heart of flesh.  He places His Spirit within man that will cause him to “do right” (Ezek. 36:26-27).

So what do we do with sin?

We must first recognize sin in our own life.  We begin by aligning our will with the will and counsel of God (Col. 3:1-3).   This requires that we read His Word, become fervent in prayer, and seek his guidance.

Secondarily, we must boldly speak out against sin in our society.  It includes our witness to God’s expectation that we love one another (1 John 4:7-8) and seek to be “reconciled” (in right relationship) to each other (Eph. 2:14-15).

Finally, we are to advocate for all things (not just what fits our political preference) that glorify and honor God (Gal. 5:22-24).  Sound simple? It is when we place God over our personal needs and agendas (Matt.6:33).

If you personally, are in the midst of sin, first confess and repent quickly.  God is faithful to forgive and cleanse you (1 John 1: 19).  Then reckon yourself dead to sin (Rom. 6:11) and no longer let sin have dominion over you (Rom. 6:14).  That’s what we do with sin!