Monday, April 14, 2014

Power Source

…but you will receive power 
when the Holy Spirit has come upon you;
and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem,
 and in all Judea and Samaria,
and even to the remotest part of the earth.
Acts 1:8

When you read this verse, what comes to mind when you see the word "power"?  For the disciples, it literally meant the ability to perform miracles, cast out demons and give the gospel in foreign languages that they didn't know how to speak.  As they established the church, the Holy Spirit's power was evidence that they were on task from God. 

But the work of the Holy Spirit goes even deeper than this - the power that He gives believers enables us to get to the root of our hearts.  Jesus broke the chains of sin and death and the Spirit gives us the power to live righteously:
  • He leads us - Romans 8:14
  • He empowers us - Romans 15:19
  • He sanctifies us - I Peter 1:2
  • He fills us - Eph. 5:18
  • He teaches us to pray - Romans 8:26-27
  • He produces fruit in us - Galatians 5:22,23
  • He reveals the gospel to us - I Cor. 2:10-12
  • He strengthens us - Eph. 3:16
  • He moves us - II Peter 1:21
  • He comforts us - Acts 9:31
These are but a sampling of teachings on the work of the Spirit.  Here's my point this morning - we have a power source that never weakens and lives within us and yet most of us choose to try to live in our own strength.  We easily get weary and disheartened, forgetting that this world is broken and we can't fix it.  We battle in our own strength and quickly wear out.  We don't witness for Christ the way we should because we worry we'll say the wrong thing or won't be able to answer people's questions, all the while the Holy Spirit is shaking His head, wondering when we're going to tap into His power.

So, let's get practical here - how do we tap into the power of the Holy Spirit?  By developing spiritual disciplines.  Through study and meditation of the Word, prayer and memorization - the Spirit will teach, lead and strengthen us through the understanding of spiritual truths and He will mold and shape us into the image of the Son through the application of these truths in life's circumstances.  

Charles Spurgeon once said of our great Spirit:

"What a wonderful power is that which dwells in every believer, checking him when he would do wrong, encouraging him to do right, leading him in the paths of righteousness for Christ’s name’s sake! Happy men to have such a Conductor!" 

I think a great starting place is just the realization that we have this wonderful Power Source and determining to use the unlimited power supply given to us through the saving work of Jesus Christ!

Monday, April 7, 2014


For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words 
in this adulterous and sinful generation,
the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him 
when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.
Mark 8:38

The Bible clearly teaches that believers are separate from the world:  
  • We are strangers in this world - I Peter 2:10-12
  • We are sanctified (set apart) - I Cor. 6:11
  • We are to have an eternal perspective, not an earthly mind - Col. 3:1-4
  • We are going to be persecuted - II Tim. 3:12
  • We are to transform our minds through the Word, not conform to the world - Romans 12:2
Yet the church seems to struggle separating from the world. We do the pendulum swing - either we are so busy looking like the world to attract them or we work so hard at not looking like the world that present ourselves as completely out of touch, that we just can't get it right.  We think we have to either look like the world or not look like the world and we miss that it's a heart issue.   If our hearts (mind, thoughts) are being conformed into the image of Jesus, because we do what we do and feel what we feel because we think what we think, then we will separate more and more from the world because Jesus and the world cannot be further apart.

Thus we come to the ashamed issue.  In Mark 8 Jesus warns that those who are ashamed of Him and His words will be denied by Jesus when He returns.  This is an amazing warning - it gets right to the heart of the issue. If you find yourself ashamed of Jesus, it reveals where your heart truly is.

So what kind of things could we find ourselves ashamed of as followers of Jesus?  How about these for a starter:
  • the bible is the inspired Word of God
  • God created by His very spoken word in six literal days (do I see some squirming going on?)
  • Noah's flood was worldwide
  • God commanded Joshua to kill men, women and children (including babies) 
  • Jesus is God
  • Jesus literally physically died and came back to life
  • Jesus is the only way to have an eternal relationship with God
  • Hell is real - so is eternal punishment
  • Any sex outside of heterosexual marriage is sin, outside of God's plan, and has consequences
  • Jesus is physically returning as Judge
All of these points are taught clearly in scripture but when push comes to shove, we tend to back away from these premises because we don't know how to defend them or we don't want to offend anyone.  By the way, God doesn't need defending - keep that in mind.  But also, as we walk by faith, we believe that God's Word is true, it is accurate and it is sufficient to meet our every need.  Standing on the truth of the Word is something that will separate you from the world - the call to follow Jesus is one that will absolutely set you apart, as well as bring persecution into your life. 

The question is this - if you are ashamed of what God has said is true, then what does your heart truly believe?  

Friday, April 4, 2014

Body Language

Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God,
to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable,
which is your spiritual service of worship.

Romans 12:1

Are these hands offering something or asking for something? I could make a good case for both.  Isn't it interesting that the same physical position can mean two complete different things?  So how can you tell which it is?  You have to look at the heart of the person whose hands are outstretched.

I could probably make a good case that often times when our hands our offering the Lord something, we're actually still taking from Him.  If I give to Him, He's obligated to bless me, right?  If I serve Him here, He will "show up in a big way."  If I obey, He'll return the favor.

Heart issue.

God is not, as my husband so eloquently stated, our magic genie who in return for obedience grants our wishes.  He is not obligated by our works to do anything.  He doesn't instruct as a test before He blesses.  And He definitely knows the difference between worship and manipulation.

So let's take this verse apart:
  • urge - to compel, force or push through begging and imploring to move to some action
  • brethren - fellow believers in Christ
  • mercies of God - the compassions and favors shown to the enemies of the Almighty Creator
  • present - to offer, give or submit
  • bodies - the vehicle of your soul, life and being
  • living - active, thriving, vigorous, strong
  • holy - set apart for the service of God
  • sacrifice - the surrender or destruction of something prized or desirable for the sake of something considered as having a higher or more pressing claim
  • acceptable - pleasing to the receiver
  • spiritual - pertaining to the soul as distinguished from the physical nature
  • service - act of helpful activity
  • worship - assigning worth, laying aside your will for the will of another, reverent honor or homage
So let me expand our verse:

Therefore I forcefully beg you to act, my fellow believers, because of the compassion shown to you when you were an enemy of God (the gospel), to submit your very physical self as a thriving, vigorous, active and set apart offering, surrendered for the purposes of God's glory and will, which is pleasing to Him, because this is your spiritual act of help as a way of assigning worth, laying aside your will and doing His.

Notice the physical act of sacrificial service is the evidence of your spiritual worship.  So when you don't sacrificially serve the Lord, it shows that your spirit is worshipping self, but when you do, it reveals that your spirit is worshipping God…make sense?  

But what happens when we serve with the wrong motives?  We may be able to fool others (horizontal) but we can never fool God (vertical).  God knows our hearts and knows our motivations.  This verse is a call for us to examine ourselves, because as Jeremiah tells us, our hearts are deceitful and desperately wicked - they can even fool us!  

So examine your motivation - examine your service. Are you giving to the Lord with expectations or out of devotion, love and gratitude? I asked the women recently at LBS, if the cross was the only thing the Lord ever gave you, would that be enough to live a life of obedience to Him?  Or do we need more?  (a wonderful husband, obedient and brilliant children, good family relationships, a perfect past, a pain-free life, plenty of money, the perfect body shape…)  

Paul's passion was sincere - in light of the gospel, the complete sacrifice of one's total life was reasonable.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Getting to the Heart of Anxiety

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything 
by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving 
let your requests be made known to God.
And the peace of God,
which surpasses all comprehension, 
will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
Phil. 4:6,7

We live in an anxiety-driven society.  

I started this blog by researching the statistics of what Americans take for anxiety, who takes it, ages, male vs. female, insured vs uninsured and about an hour into my search I realized that it would be better to just assume those who disagree with my opening statement would go and research it themselves.  Truth be known, it was making me anxious…really.

So let's just agree that we have a lot of anxiety. If I took a poll at church, I think I would find many, many categories of what we worry about, from our past to our present and our future.  From children to spouse to parents, from health to wealth to death - we can find something to stress about 24/7.   

So it seems pretty simplistic to just tell people - don't worry and pray instead. But is that really what God instructs us to do in His word?  I want to start with a few basic principles from the Bible that don't have the word "anxiety" in them but contain truths that affect our anxiety levels:
  1. God wants your heart - Where your treasure is, there your heart is also (Matt. 6:21).  What you value, what you desire, your goals and your motivations - if they are set on Jesus, then your actions and feelings will follow. What does your heart value?   What is the relationship between what you treasure and your anxiety?
  2. God wants you to have an eternal perspective on life - Therefore, if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on the earth (Col. 3:1,2).  View life through an eternal lens - God is in control, He has a plan that He absolutely will accomplish, there are things that have eternal value and things that have earthly value - where do you place your focus?  Does what you think about make you anxious?
  3. God wants you to sow good seeds - Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.  For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary (Galatians 6:7-9).  The law of the harvest is true - what you put in the ground is what you are going to eventually produce.  If you put bad seeds in the ground, you're going to have a bad harvest.  Is it possible that what you are sowing is causing a harvest of anxiety?
Okay, now let's make some observations about our verse above:
  • Be anxious for nothing - God is not exaggerating when He uses 100% words.  He really is instructing us not to be anxious about anything.  But with the following phrases, we can understand WHY we are able to be anxious for nothing
  • But in everything by prayer and supplication - this means a HUMBLE PETITION brought to One who is an object of worship - we are to humble ourselves, acknowledging the fact that we need help and bring our concerns to the only One who can make a difference
  • with thanksgiving - this is our heart attitude.  Why are we thankful? Typically when we come in prayer to the Lord, life is tough and what is there to be thankful for?  Unfortunately, this is the mindset of many believers, when the list of things to thank the Lord for are endless - for life, for breath, for health, for weather, for air to breathe, for relationships, for housing, for food, for the ability to read, drive, sing, talk, sleep, play, work, think, for salvation, justification, redemption, adoption and for forgiveness…as I said, the list is endless. So with humble hearts, we thank the Lord that the gates of heaven's throne room are open to us and our Father's lap is always empty and ready for a one-on-one conversation.
  • let your requests be made known to God - He asks that you come to Him. He asks that you talk to Him. He asks that you tell Him your heart.  Don't misunderstand this - He is God and He knows all, but He has created us to be in relationship with us and instead of saying, Don't bother telling me what I already know - He beckons us into His throne room, pulls us onto His lap and says, "Tell Me what is bothering you.  I want to know everything!"
  • And the peace of God - you are no longer estranged from the Father - you have perfect communion with the ONLY ONE who can help you - in giving your anxiousness to the Lord, He will replace it with peace that comes from the understanding that He loves you, He cares for you and He is in control, working out all the circumstances in your life for good
  • which surpasses all comprehension - go back and read the last bullet point - can you really fully explain it?  In addition to that, because we are in relationship with God, He can produce a peace in us that no one can understand - why aren't you freaking out? (Your friends will say.) Because I know God is in control (is your answer).
  • will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus - God's peace has a tough job.  It has been given the task of protecting our hearts and minds - we're back to what we treasure.  The peace that comes from our restored relationship with God through Jesus and that is produced as we are sanctified in Christ, that peace will guard our minds - what we are thinking about, what makes us anxious, the origin of our worry - peace will protect us from anxiety because the peace we have is produced from a restored relationship with God Almighty
Okay, that's enough from me today - you have plenty to mull over in this verse…may God's truth richly dwell in your hearts and minds today.