Word of Encouragement
You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. (Matthew 5:14, 15)
Being the “light of the world” is a phrase found several times in Scripture. Jesus makes this statement about Himself (John 8:12; 9:5). The Church is referred to in this way, as referenced in Philippians 2:15, 16 – “. . . that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain.”
Following Jesus means that we don’t think like the world thinks, see as the world sees, talk like the world talks, and act as the world acts. Jesus sets the standard by which we live, a standard of righteousness. We are called, equipped, and anointed to shine like lights to the world around us. The way we conduct our lives should be so refreshingly different that the people in the world are attracted to Jesus in us.
It seems as though now, more than ever, we need to let the light of Jesus shine through us. Many people are experiencing a depletion of hope and envision a bleak future. This is to be expected when people place their faith in things that are subject to change. As members of an unshakeable kingdom, our hope rests in the One who is the same yesterday, today, and forever! Because Jesus is our Hope, we can become dispensers of hope.
Our message is one of eternal encouragement. We do not fully know what our future holds, but we do know that God has provided a future and a hope for us! We function in His peace because He is our ultimate Source for everything – in this life and the life to come. This world needs to know the living Savior who loves them, died for them, and rose from the dead for them. We have the privilege of sharing this life-changing truth with people. May we shine more brightly than ever as we represent the Desire of all nations!
Complete in Him
Complete: full, nothing lacking, mature, perfect, when everything needed is present.
I love the phrase above...."when everything needed is present.”
Think of the pine trees pictured. Everything needed for them to become the tall, magnificent trees they are, was present in the seed, in the DNA.
Conditions for proper growth allowed their majesty to be displayed! So it is with us.
God planted His DNA in us through Christ. The blueprint is in us and there is nothing lacking. We are entire and full in Him!
Focusing on our deficiencies, our lack and our imperfections will stunt our growth. Focusing on Him will promote growth, so that we can display His majesty!
Today think big, think tall, think "nothing lacking.” "I am COMPLETE in HIM!!”
In His Love,
Is somebody shooting holes in your blessings?
The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. (John 10:10)
In context Jesus is describing Himself as a Shepherd who is guarding the sheep, guaranteeing protection for them. Next, He refers to the characteristics of a thief in general. Too many times we use this verse to ascribe some sort of authority to the devil. We say things like, “Well you know brother the devil has come to rob kill and destroy.” I don’t believe it was Jesus’s intention to undergird the authority of the devil in our life in any way when He said this. First, He was not speaking about the devil specifically and second, Jesus promised that He has come to give us abundant life. Abundant life!
Let’s examine Jesus’s words about a thief. The Greek word for thief is klepto. It gives a picture of someone who steals in secret like a pick pocket. The Greek word for kill is thuo which means to sacrifice, surrender, or give up something of value. The Greek word for destroy is apolluni which means wasted, trashed, or destroyed. The picture Jesus is painting is one of a thief who tries to steal secretly, get us to surrender, or convince us that what we have is worthless. However, this is what the Holy Spirit wants us to remember: the devil tries to shoot holes in our blessings but he must come to us for the bullets. Don’t give them to him by focusing on his cheap sneaky tactics instead of the glorious victory of Jesus, or by speaking words of doubt and unbelief instead of faith. Let’s focus on His promises, be mindful of the words we speak and live the abundant overcoming life!
Rev 3:21 To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on my throne, as I also have overcome and sat down with My Father on His throne.
We must pay the most careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. (Hebrews 2:1)
In context, the writer of Hebrews just concluded some thoughts at the end of the first chapter. He pointed to the fact that Jesus is the Son of God and is higher than and better than the angels. This thought is followed by what is written above – an emphasis on the importance of giving attention to what we’ve heard (been taught) so that we don’t drift away from it.
The first thing that arrests our attention is the reminder that we need to “pay the most careful attention to what we have heard.” We need to give serious thought, attention, and meditation to what we’re being taught. There are two elements to this – which probably overlap and are not mutually exclusive: (1) Pay attention to the content of what we’ve been taught; and (2) Consider what the Lord is saying to us through the content.
So, we need to ask ourselves, “What truth is the Lord emphasizing or bringing to my attention right now?” “What Scriptures speak about this truth?” “Do I understand the essence of this truth, its core meaning?” These questions help us focus on the content of the truth. Pursuing the answers to these inquiries should push us toward a deeper dive with the Lord into His Word and cause us to pause and give consideration to this truth in our lives.
Then we need to ask ourselves, “In what ways do I need to apply this in my life?” “How do I interact with this truth?” “What impact is this truth having in my life – and the lives of the people with whom I come into contact?” This is where we lean on the wisdom of God to help us apply what we’ve heard. It’s not enough to hear the truth – we need to know the truth! Knowing the truth comes through “hands-on” training and experience. Knowing the truth occurs in the nitty-gritty business of everyday life!
The writer of Hebrews tells us that we should pay attention to what we’ve heard so that we do not drift away. There are many ways that we can drift away, and there are “degrees” of drifting. Time and space do not permit a full exploration of this subject, but we will focus on one particular aspect of it. Drifting away occurs when we become so caught up in the temporary concerns of this life that we begin to lose sight of the things that are most important. When we drift away from God’s purposes, we’re in trouble.
Drifting away is a gradual process. Drifting doesn’t just suddenly happen. It occurs hour by hour, day to day, week after week. Through time, we move away from where we used to be. We discover that we’re miles away from that all-important reference point in our lives. The remedy for drifting away is the first point mentioned in the Scripture – pay close attention to what we’ve heard.
As we give ourselves to God’s truth in our lives, we continue to grow and keep ourselves from drifting away. We cling to the Lord, knowing that His Word and His Spirit preserve us and empower us to release the gospel into the precious people around us!
"Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me." - Revelation 3:20
I was attending my Uncle John’s funeral recently, listening to people reflect on his remarkable life. He was a newsman who started as a copy boy at sixteen and rose to be a co-founder and editor of USA Today. He personally knew Walter Cronkite, Dan Rather, Henry Kissinger and many other historic figures. He was the first American journalist asked to visit mainland China and was personally invited by Chairman Mao. He convinced Richard Nixon to speak at the Associated Press conference where Nixon gave his famous “I am not a thief” speech. John Quinn was a pretty impressive guy.
Though many of his professional accolades were mentioned at his funeral the majority of what was shared was about John’s strong faith and his love for people. John rarely missed attending church and for many years he attended daily services before work. He loved God. John also loved people. Much was said about how he made people feel when he was with them. You could be in a crowded room with John and he would make you feel like you were the only one there. He was a skilled listener who would inquire about the most mundane aspects of your life, listening and probing to understand your perspective thoroughly, then pausing to reflect before responding, usually with another question. This approach had the same affect on presidents as it did on kids planning a fishing trip. John cared. He built relationships.
As Christians our most important relationship is with God through Christ. Intimacy with Jesus is possible because of the finished work of Christ, His death and resurrection. Through repentance of our sins and through our confession of faith, we asked Christ to be our Savior and the Lord of our lives. But that was only part of the plan. The Creator of the universe desires more than our acknowledgement of His Lordship. God desires to have fellowship and be in relationship with you and me.
For many Christian churches their relationship with Christ never goes much further than a declaration of His sovereignty and an understanding of His life as depicted in the Gospels. They pray silent prayers and hope or believe in faith that God hears them. One of many things that differentiates New Life from most other churches is a belief in our ability to have a personal relationship with God. We encourage and actively participate in relationship with Jesus. We speak to Him and we listen to His voice. He comforts, He instructs, and He corrects us.
God is the original skilled listener. He is the perfect, loving father and we read about Him in our bibles to gain understanding, but we enjoy relationship with Him because of our ability to enter into His presence and have conversation together. Our relationship with Jesus is real and genuine. He cares deeply about the most mundane aspects of our lives. He listens to our heart cry and responds.
I’m not sure my Uncle had that kind of relationship with Christ, but I suspect his faithfulness over the years imparted this Godly quality into him and was a major reason for his success. Today, when you take time to pray, pay special attention to what Jesus is saying to you. Don’t respond right away, just reflect on what He is saying before replying or moving on. Recognize that at that moment you are the only person in the room with Him. Share a question or a need with Jesus, then wait for His response. Wait until you sense His word to you and reflect on what He’s saying. Pause before moving on or commenting back to Him. This is how relationships develop. Don’t worry if it feels a little awkward. This is a skill that must be developed and a skill that is foundational to building strong relationships. Psalm 5:3 speaks to this when it says,”In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; In the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly.”
It strikes me that Uncle John lived his very successful life by developing and applying this simple technique over and over and over again. Be genuine and reflectively listen to others. As you do, the byproduct will be strong relationships with God and with the people you love.
In any given day, many things can irritate and annoy us, can frustrate and get us agitated.
Here are some examples.... and I know I'm not the only one ..... "I can't find my purse." "You were supposed to take care of that." "Oh no, look at all the weeds growing." "The lawnmower won't start." "The toast is burning." "I forgot to plug in my phone." You have your own list, I'm sure. In these small examples, I am faced with my forgetfulness, my weakness, the world's corruption, the weakness of others, etc.
But when we purpose to do what Paul tells the church at Ephesus in this scripture, joy has no choice but to BUBBLE UP on the inside and overtake us on the outside!!
We often have to start the song or melody by faith. In other words, we don't quite feel like doing it..... but I guarantee that once we start, it WILL come out!
When it does, it will release His power to overcome - it will center us again in Him - it will melt the ill feelings, and all that frustration I mentioned before.
Praise is one of the greatest weapons we have to use against the one who would like to keep us frustrated and annoyed all the time. Let's put him in his place by singing and making melodies to the Lord.
The JOY of the Lord is our strength and when we start the song, JOY COMES - STRENGTH COMES. And that's.... a WINNING combination!!!!
LOVE IN HIM,
Where is the God of Elijah?
2 Kings 2:13 Elisha then picked up Elijah’s cloak that had fallen from him and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan. 14 He took the cloak that had fallen from Elijah and struck the water with it. “Where now is the Lord, the God of Elijah?” he asked. When he struck the water, it divided to the right and to the left, and he crossed over.
Imagine being a fish in the Jordan during the days of the prophets. I can only imagine what they were saying: Oh no here comes one of those prophets again! You go to the left and I will go the right and hopefully, we will see each other again when it’s all over.
God parted the waters for His people of old but He hasn’t departed from His purpose in Habakkuk 2:14 “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea”. This verse should be the heart cry of every Christian alive! The question for today is not where is the God of Elijah but where are the Elijah’s of God? The answer: every born again, Spirit-filled person is an Elijah of God. We carry not just the double portion but an infinite portion of the Glory of God because Jesus said Himself, “I will not leave you as orphans I will come to you.” John G. Lake said, “The secret of Christianity is not doing, the secret is being. It is being a possessor of the nature of Christ.” We are to become more and more aware that we are not looking for a mantle to fall upon us. Instead, as the church, we are the mantle our heavenly Father is dropping into a lost world for those yet to receive Him to pick up and see His Glory. We are the revivalists, we bear the light of Christ, we are a chosen generation.
Let’s go find some rivers to part!
Life can often be crazy. It’s complex, stressful and sometimes overwhelming because of all of the “stuff” that’s always going on around us. We appreciate people who can look at very complex issues and make them easy to understand. Solomon was one of those guys. He is still considered by many as the wisest man who ever lived. People came from all over the world to seek his wisdom and to gain understanding. Solomon made complex things simple.
Simple is defined as having only one or a few parts, easy to understand or not complicated.
When Solomon built the temple for God the plans received from God were amazingly detailed and very complex. The work to complete the temple involved thousands highly skilled craftsmen. It was completed without a single blueprint or fancy project planning software. Solomon managed to coordinate this major effort while running the kingdom. He kept it simple.
God sees things simply too. God’s wisdom is unlike the wisdom of man. In 1st Corinthians 3:19 it says, “For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, ‘He takes the wise in their own craftiness.’” This world thrives on complexity and avoids black and white, right and wrong answers, preferring countless shades of gray. People like gray.
Just a few years ago if you were applying to college you’d fill out an application and when asked about gender you had two options: male or female. Today many colleges give you additional choices. You can be male or female, transgender, trans sexual (man or woman), gender queer/gender non-conforming, or different identity. The latter is a pretty broad category as exemplified by Facebook where they’ve recently expanded the gender identity options to 71 choices (and many of us thought programming a VCR was complicated!).
After Solomon built this amazing temple the Ark of the Covenant was placed in the Holy of Holies. What was in that Ark? Surely God would have vast amounts of information to give us about how to navigate this crazy, complex world successfully!
2nd Chronicles 5:10 says, “Nothing was in the Ark except the two stone tablets that Moses had placed in it at Mount Sinai, where the Lord made a covenant with the people of Israel when they left Egypt.” Was that it? Did God have Solomon build this huge, complex, extravagant temple only to place at the heart of it a simple box with two tablets containing the Ten Commandments? Solomon explained that abiding by those ten rules reflects our end of the bargain in the covenant God made with man at Mount Sinai.
When he presented the completed temple Solomon stood before the altar of the Lord in front of the entire community of Israel, and lifted his hands in prayer. He prayed, “O LORD, God of Israel, there is no God like you in all of heaven and earth. You keep your covenant and show unfailing love to all who walk before you in wholehearted devotion.”
It’s easy and simple. Walk before God in wholehearted devotion and follow these ten commands. Do this and God will show you unfailing love. Easy. Chose life, not death. Choose right, not wrong. Follow the light, not darkness. Simple.
Solomon’s temple was ornate and complex, but the heart of it was simple. The world around us is complex and confusing, but our lives can be at peace, knowing God will shower us in His love if we live our lives in wholehearted devotion and obey some simple rules. How much truer is this for those of us who have asked Jesus to be our Lord and Savior and have been filled by His Holy Spirit!
Have you been stressed out? Are you struggling with the shades of gray the world is presenting to you? Do your options move you closer to God or further away? Will your choice bring life or will it result in death? Keep it simple. Choose life and God’s peace will flow into every situation. He keeps His covenant and shows unfailing love to all who walk before Him in wholehearted devotion. Simple.
“Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven.” (Matthew 18:19)
As you know, this Scripture refers to one of the types of prayer that we can use – the Prayer of Agreement. The prayer of agreement is powerful when we know the will of God and invite another person (or people) to partner with us in prayer.
When we have a situation where we can release our faith in God’s Word, we simply enter the rest of faith and know that the desired result will manifest. Jesus has already done the work; we embrace the spiritual fact that He accomplished it and then we prepare to see it come to pass in the natural realm.
With this expectation in mind, we ask others to join with us – agreeing with us in prayer – as we contend in the realm of the Spirit in bringing the “answer” or “solution” into the natural realm. A powerful alliance in prayer is achieved when agreement – true agreement from the heart – takes place!
We are so fortunate to have an active Prayer Ministry that includes our Prayer Chain! It seems as though each week we have opportunities to pray for and with others. Some prayer requests involve intercession – we are praying on behalf of someone else. They may or may not be believers. There may be little information available about their situation. So we can pray in the Spirit, pray the Word, and intercede for them. Other prayer opportunities arise where we are joining with believers in prayer; their prayer “takes the lead” so to speak and we hook-up with them – agreeing for the will of God to become manifest.
Remember, the power in the prayer of agreement lies in the strength of agreement, not necessarily in the number of people praying. Sure – it’s great to have a good number of people praying. But the real power occurs through their agreement together – believing together, declaring the Word together as one, joining forces to bring into the natural that which already exists in the realm of the Spirit!
When I ask someone to agree with me in prayer, I usually let them know the outcome I expect and the Scripture(s) I am standing on. I’ll take the “lead prayer position” but I need the strength of others to join me. Then I rejoice in knowing that the will of God will be done! Praise God – victory is ours! Together, let’s embrace the privilege of joining with others in the prayer of agreement!
Here are 3 scriptures with powerful promises about giving:
"He who sows bountifully will reap bountifully." 2 Cor. 9:6B
“Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you." Luke 6:38
"Now may He who supplies seed to the sower, and bread for food, supply and multiply the seed you have sown and increase the fruits of your righteousness." II Cor. 9:10 NKJ
God will give seed to those who sow, to those who give, to those who disperse. He will multiply it. If we don't sow, we'll run out of seed. If we don't sow, He can't multiply. If we don't give, men can't give back to us, as it says in Luke 6:38.
Sow and we will reap.
Give and it will be given back.
What a great banking system... we give to meet needs AND then God gives back to meet our needs -over and above - so we can give again.
Don't you see it... wave upon wave upon wave upon wave...... Get it out there and it will return, but in greater measure!! WE CAN'T AFFORD TO TAKE A VACATION FROM GIVING!!
Watch the waves this summer and be generous givers. It will pay off!!
Healing of the Water
1 Kings 2 The people of the city said to Elisha, “Look, our lord, this town is well situated, as you can see, but the water is bad and the land is unproductive.” 20 “Bring me a new bowl,” he said, “and put salt in it.” So they brought it to him. 21 Then he went out to the spring and threw the salt into it, saying, “This is what the Lord says: ‘I have healed this water. Never again will it cause death or make the land unproductive.’” 22 And the water has remained pure to this day, according to the word Elisha had spoken.
Salt, it is essential to life as we know it. It is the only trace mineral that is found in every cell in the human body. It contains iodine that prevents hypothyroidism and helps bodies retain and balance fluids. Salt was once deemed so valuable that is was used as a currency and is probably where the saying “he is not worth his weight in salt” originated from.
In the above-referenced scripture, Elisha throws salt into the water and makes a powerful proclamation by the Spirit of God, “never again will it cause death or make the land unproductive.” I can see some parallels here as to what the Father did for His creation. He sent Jesus to pour His life into the world to heal it from death and unproductivity, then Jesus commissioned us as believers to be the salt of the earth. (Matthew 5:13) Yes, we as the church are to be the ones who have the life-saving and life-changing message that is keeping the whole of human society in balance. Jesus poured out His life for us and into us and now we are the salt shakers that He is using to flavor the world with His message of love and redemption. We are the preservative that is keeping this world from death and destruction. This is our assignment that we have been honored to fulfill.
Just as the water in the story has remained pure to this day, so too our assignment remains pure, undiminished and absolute, and our ability to fulfill it is guaranteed by the presence of the Holy Spirit in our life.
Let’s go shake some salt around!
‘Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.’ - Jeremiah 33:3
Communication is the foundation of all relationships, and relationships with each other and with God are the cornerstones of our lives. For communication to take place we have to both speak and listen. Now to clarify, we are all born with the ability to hear, but listening is a skill that requires practice to develop. Active listening involves emptying our minds of distractions and focusing on the message that the other person is delivering, pausing to confirm their meaning and reflecting on what was said before replying. Active listening is deeply personal. It is an enabler that builds trust and leads to strong relationships.
How do we listen to God's voice? His voice is rarely audible. Usually, God's voice comes when we're done with all of our prayer requests and petitions and we stop talking, quiet ourselves, and patiently wait for His insight and direction. Sometimes His message comes through a vision or dream, as he paints an image on the screen of our imagination. What does it look like? What does it mean? WhenGod speaks how well do you reflect on what He said? Do you empty your mind of distractions, focusing on what He is saying, pausing to reflect and then ask questions to clarify your understanding? Afterward, do you write down what He said or sketch out the image He showed you? Sometimes full understanding only comes through time and prayerful consideration.
Active listening is a skill that we must focus on intentionally to develop. It is the key to strong relationships with the people in our lives. This is also true to our relationship with God.
William Ury, the American author, anthropologist, and negotiation expert who wrote the book "Getting to Yes," says active listening happens when you take the spotlight off of you and shine it wholly on the other person. When this happens their needs become more important than your needs. Their thoughts become your only priority with a singular goal of understanding their perspective. Ury believes that if we taught people how to listen in our schools (and in our businesses and churches?) we could achieve world peace.
Ury may be right, but what if we each began to realize that listening to the voice of God was very different than just hearing His voice? What if we took the spotlight completely off of our needs when we spent time with Him, and focused only on God's needs and desires? What if we emptied ourselves of everything and focused on the words He spoke and the visions He painted for us? What if we reflected on what He was saying and then asked questions to clarify His meaning? What if our only motivation and desire was to empty ourselves so that He could fill us?
This is a skill worth developing and with no disrespect to Bill Ury, if all of us did this it would have much greater consequences than simply world peace.
PS For more insight into the power of active listening you can watch Bill Ury's Ted Talk on "The Power of Listening" at YouTube: http://youtu.be/saXfavo1OQo
Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life . . . (Philippians 2:14-16)
There’s a lot that could be said about the first part of this Scripture. After all, it’s easy to fall into the trap of complaining about almost anything. I was speaking with someone recently who remarked that she has a friend who always seems to find something wrong with any meal she eats at a restaurant. This individual will complain to the management to the point of making a spectacle of herself, attempting to gain a free meal or a coupon for a free meal in the future. My friend said that she found this to be an embarrassing and uncomfortable situation (I guess so!).
We are to live in such a way that we shine as lights in darkness. In the middle of a culture that is corrupt and perverse, we are supposed to live in such contrast that we attract positive attention from others. The reason we can shine (or stand out) is due to the fact that we hold fast to the word of life. Another translation says that we are to “hold firmly to the word of life.” In other words, God’s Word in us shines through us to others; it shines through us because we hold on firmly to it, regardless of the circumstances.
When we hold firmly to the word of life, we refuse to let go of truth in our lives. We live a life where God’s Word is our “true north,” our compass, our GPS. We don’t employ situational ethics; our circumstances don’t dictate how we act or react. Instead, we’ve already determined how we’ll respond to the circumstances before we encounter them.
We’ve determined, for example, to tell the truth. We don’t tell “little white lies” or share “half-truths.” We are people of integrity regardless of the personal cost. And it’s that integrity that shines like a star in the sky! We’ve already decided that we’ll walk in love, regardless of how others treat us. Once again, this kind of godly behavior stands out to others – like a star in the sky. It’s counter-culture behavior. And it draws attention to the One who lives within us.
Remember to hold fast (firmly) to the word of life. We won’t let the world – or the behavior of others – diminish the light that is inside of us. We choose to shine for Jesus Christ in every situation, despite the cost. His Spirit in us empowers us to live for Him and shine for Him. Let’s purpose in our hearts to reflect God’s character in ALL our dealings with others. As we do this, we are able to attract people to the living Christ in us! To God be the glory!
As the time approached for Him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. NIV (Luke 9:51)
As this verse points out, Jesus made a decision to go to Jerusalem. Other translations add some shades of meaning as to the depth of this decision:
- He was determined to go to Jerusalem. (NASB)
- He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem. (KJV)
- He made up His mind . . . (CEV)
- He moved steadily onward toward Jerusalem with an iron will (TLB)
What is vital to see about Jesus’ decision is that He made it with great determination and steadfastness with an iron will. In other words, He truly made a quality commitment to go to Jerusalem. Nothing was going to deter Him from following through. There would be no excuses – or reasons – why He wouldn’t be successful. He would entertain no thoughts of failure or turning back.
That is the nature of quality commitments. Our present culture tends to embrace appearance over substance (I need to look “successful”) and personal benefit without personal investment (I’ll just take this pill instead of adopting a healthier lifestyle). Over the years, the institution of marriage has taken a hit. Despite the biblical prohibition against it, many couples are now opting to live together – to see if this works – instead of making a commitment to one another in marriage (even society’s concept of what comprises a “couple” has morphed through moral erosion!).
We, however, as the church should set a different standard than the world on all counts. The New Testament word for “church’ identifies us as the called out ones. We are called out from the world; not because we’re better than other people, but because we have the Spirit of God living in us and we now belong to Jesus Christ.
So, let us embrace commitment. Let’s be people of our word. Let us truly commit to those things that bring pleasure to the heart of God. We resolutely set our hearts to the things that reflect the values of God’s heart. We are people of quality commitments!
The Breath of God
So Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” John 20:21-22
This past Sunday we received a word from the Holy Spirit about the wind blowing at New Life. Some of us actually felt a wind blowing. We were exhorted to allow our hoisted sails to catch the wind. Perhaps that means adjusting the sails or perhaps that means having an earnest expectation, (a word we were given by the direction of the Holy Spirit a few months ago) that the wind is actually blowing. When Jesus breathed on the disciples in John 20, did they receive the Holy Spirit then? Or was it only a promise of things to come recorded in Acts chapter 2 as some biblical scholars say it was. Whatever the answer is, I believe the disciples’ interest was piqued. I can imagine them asking each other “What did Jesus mean when He breathed on us and said receive the Holy Spirit? Did you feel anything? No did you?” I can easily believe it stirred up an earnest expectation of things to come. And on the day of Pentecost the light went on for them and they may have said, “Oh baby, this is what He meant.”
God is breathing on our church and in our community. A few of us from New Life have been active in helping to plan the Day of Praise coming up in the fall which consists of half dozen churches from all denominations coming together with the intention of spurringrevival in our area with 12 hours of praise and teaching. I can also tell you that there have already been several area-wide youth praise meetings that have happened over the past winter with several churches from all denominations coming together to spur revival. We here at New Life have dedicated the second Wednesday evening of the month to specifically pray for revival. Several of us have been participating and believe there are more who would like to join us. Yes the wind of the Holy Spirit and the winds of revival are blowing and all of the church at large can be encouraged with an earnest expectation just like Paul in Philippians 1:6, “And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” I am certain also and refuse to think otherwise. How about you?
We Got Rules
United Airlines has been in the news because of their treatment of Dr. David Dao, the paid passenger who was forcefully dragged off the plane, suffering a broken nose, a concussion, two knocked-out teeth and a sinus problem that may require reconstructive surgery. We may forget Dr. Dao, but we’ll not likely forget the incident, which reflects misaligned corporate values. United prioritized profits over people. But what about the pilots, the flight attendants and other United employees who watched it all happen?
A day after the incident, Oscar Munoz, United’s chief executive, apologized for the treatment of the passenger, saying that “no one should ever be mistreated this way.” He also said that employees “followed established procedures” and that he “emphatically” stood behind them.
Yes, they were just doing their job. They were simply following the rules. Some were probably Christians. They may have been parents or caregivers or friendly neighbors. They weren’t bad people, but they stood by and watched something they knew was horribly wrong.
We are surrounded by rules. Rules keep us from being hit by cars when we cross the road. They stop us from throwing trash out the window. Rules tell us when to come to work and how long we can take to eat our lunches. Some cities have rules that limit how large a soda we can buy at a restaurant. Other rules enable women to destroy their unborn children. Rules allow homosexuals to legally marry and for people to determine which gender they'd like to identify with. Rules tell us when it's okay for governments to read your emails and when you have a right to privacy. Rules surround us.
God's got rules too. We know about the Ten Commandments. We can read in Deuteronomy or Leviticus and see chapters of rules. God typically spells out what the rules are and what the consequences are for breaking them. Sometimes we see conflict between man's rules and God's rules and this phenomenon seems to be increasing. The Bible also identifies things that God actually hates! In Proverbs 6 we read, “These six things the Lord hates, Yes, seven are an abomination to Him: A proud look, A lying tongue, Hands that shed innocent blood, A heart that devises wicked plans, Feet that are swift in running to evil, A false witness who speaks lies, And one who sows discord among brethren."
How many of these 7 things did United Airlines violate with their rules? Pride? Hands that shed innocent blood? A heart that devised wicked plans? Swift feet running to evil? What about the passive onlookers; the employees who stood by and watched these wrongs unfold? They weren't prideful. They didn't lie. They certainly didn't run to evil or themselves shed innocent. blood. They just did nothing. Could they have stopped the situation from happening if they'd spoken out or interceded? I believe they could have. Why didn't they? They may have been fearful of losing their jobs or being disciplined, but we may never know.
How often do we see things that God hates and stand by, just watching them unfold? Are we shocked or dismayed? Are we worried that we'll get in trouble or that others will think less of us if we stand up for what is right?
Ephesians 6 includes these statements: "Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests."
Growing up Catholic, I recall presenting myself to the regional Bishop when I was about twelve. He spoke a prayer over me and slapped my face, symbolic of me becoming an adult in the church, and entering into the Army of Christ. Other denominations have similar rites of passage, but the point is that when we take on Christ as our Lord and Savior, our alliance changes. His rules supersede governmental or company rules. As a member of the "Army of Christ," we are called to uphold His rules over man's. Ephesians 6 reminds us that while this stance will not be easy, God has equipped us with the weapons of our warfare, that we may triumph or at least go down fighting!
Are you equipping yourself for battle? Reflect on those mighty weapons of warfare. Which one do you need to adjust or shore up? Are you exercising them routinely? There is no question that the battle is coming to us. The only question is will we be ready?
Isaiah 40:29 - 31
“He gives power to the weak, and to those who have no might He increases strength.
Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall,
But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint.”
Generally speaking, waiting is not something we do well. Our culture – and consequently our lifestyles – are not geared toward waiting. In our conversations, we never reference waiting in a positive light (“I had to wait an hour for the repairman to come”). We’re not excited about having to wait (“Yes! I’m sixth in line at the drive through! Awesome!”). And we don’t refer to waiting as an outstanding virtue in someone else (“He’s very proactive and he waits for things really well”).
No, waiting is rarely viewed as something positive. However, in the Scripture above, waiting on the Lord is identified as a key to having our strength renewed and our endurance rejuvenated! Let’s first eliminate some misconceptions about waiting on the Lord.
It is a time to be passive. Think about a “waiter” in a restaurant. The person waiting on you is busy. You are the focus of what he is doing and why he is there. He serves you and makes himself available to you. He is watchful and attentive. When we wait on the Lord, we are attentive to Him, worshipping Him, keeping Him in the center of our focus.
It’s about us. Waiting on the Lord keeps our focus on Him. We worship Him for who He is. We thank Him for what He has done. We speak His Word and keep His will in the forefront of our thinking. While we are active in our waiting on Him, He is active in our lives as well.
We’re just biding our time until God is ready to move or act. No, we are actively blessing and serving Him. In so doing, He is working in us. He helps us move to a place of greater peace in our lives. He positions us so we can receive from Him. He assists us in taking off the spirit of heaviness while we put on the garment of praise. God works in us during our waiting on Him.
What’s the outcome of us waiting on the Lord? He renews in us exactly what we need. We emerge from a place of strength, might, and power in the Lord! He infuses us with endurance. He gives us what is necessary to make it to the finish line. And not just make it to the finish line but to finish strong! He also equips us with His ability to not be weary. Weariness may knock at our door, but we refuse to entertain it. Weariness just doesn’t stand a chance!
So, let’s wait on the Lord. Praise and worship Him. Proclaim His Word and focus on His faithfulness. Bask in His presence. As we do these things, He exchanges His strength and endurance for our weakness and weariness. We continue in the race – let’s remain in a place of strength!
“To the church of God which is at Corinth [New Life], to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours.” 1 Corinthians 1:2
If this is the way Paul describes the congregation in the Corinthian church, the church that had issues of immaturity, immorality and division, there is hope for us!! Paul acknowledged them as sanctified and called to be saints because he is describing them according to the legal side of redemption. In Christ, all who call on the name of Christ are sanctified and called saints.
Talk about destiny…. We are sanctified; set apart to be used for His purposes. Legally we became saints when we called on Him. The definition for saint is this-- a person with exceptional holiness or found in likeness to God. It is a lifetime journey to grow in holiness and become like Him! The challenge is to be accurate ambassadors of Him- to show and demonstrate our likeness to Him, in Him!
As we have celebrated a wonderful Easter season, we remember Jesus’ sacrifice. He laid down His life for us. Can we do the same for others? Do we have a sacrificial attitude? When we think of ourselves as saints, it lays a heavy responsibility on us. We are to be found in likeness to Him. Let’s put on Christ daily and change our worlds today in honor of Him. It’s our destiny!
What the world needs is a point of reference
One reason people turn to addictions and things the world has to offer is because they do not have a frame of reference in their mind of what and how wonderful the presence of God is, Who they have living in their spirit and the freedom accomplished on Calvary. But until their mind is renewed to these truths they don't have a point of reference.
1 Samuel 17:36-37 “Your servant has killed both lion and bear; and this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, seeing he has defied the armies of the living God.” Moreover, David said, “The Lord, who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.”
We as Christians are charged with the responsibility to have and keep our minds renewed to the frame of reference we have been given. How do you do that, you ask? God’s word gives us a great template in Philippians 4:8 which tells us what to think on: whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things. All of what we know to be sound doctrine will be covered somewhere in this template. No need to make it rocket science. We think on the things listed in Philippians 4:8, and we remember the things God has done for us in the past. When we have done all to stand, we stand some more. David remembered that God had delivered him from the paw of the lion and the bear and this knowledge empowered him to face the next giant coming down the road.
Think on and remember--two powerful tools of giant killers. Let’s keep them at the forefront of our arsenal as we demonstrate to the world God’s love and affection for them. They will be blessed and our personal spiritual growth will be accelerated exponentially.
Let’s go slay some giants!
What Did Mary Store?
If you've ever cleared out a loved one's home after their passing, you probably know something about storage. People are funny. We all store things for different reasons. It could be an old love letter, or a broken chair you plan to fix someday, or maybe some special figurines that your favorite aunt used to own. Most of the things we store seem to get tucked away and never seen again. We clutter our garages and attics and basements and too often the things we store become so imposing that they lose meaning and we forget about why they were there!
However, we don't just store things in attics and basements, we also store things in our hearts and if we're not careful the same thing can happen there.
In Luke chapter 1 we learn of the birth of Jesus and how the Angelic host appeared to the shepherds announcing the birth of the Messiah. Beginning in verse 16 it states, "They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the Baby, lying in the manger. After seeing Him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this Child. All who heard the shepherds' story were astonished, but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often."
In the second chapter of Luke we see the story of Joseph taking Mary and Jesus to Jerusalem for the annual celebration of the Passover. Jesus was twelve at the time and after the Passover they started back home to Nazareth only to learn that Jesus had wandered off and was not with them! Luke 2 describes the crisis.
"When they couldn't find Him, they went back to Jerusalem to search for Him there. Three days later they finally discovered Him in the Temple, sitting among the religious teachers, listening to them and asking questions. All who heard Him were amazed at His understanding and His answers. His parents didn't know what to think. "Son," His mother said to Him, "why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been frantic, searching for you everywhere."
"But why did you need to search?" he asked. "Didn't you know that I must be in my Father's house?"*. But they didn't understand what He meant. Then He returned to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. And His mother stored all these things in her heart."