Monthly Archives: December 2016

Real Power

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For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.  Romans 1:16

This is the gist of the Gospel: All have sinned and fall short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23). Because of that sin we deserve death (Romans 6:23).  In God’s  great mercy He sent forth His only Son Jesus Christ to provide for sinners the way of eternal life (John 3:16).   Eternal life Is a free gift to all who will trust in Christ as Lord and Savior, (Ephesians 2:8-9, Acts 16:31 and Romans 10:9-13).

We are made right by God–not by our works or efforts, not by our good deeds, but by faith alone. The only way you can receive the benefit of Christ’s life and death is by putting your trust in what Jesus has done. You do that, you’re declared just by God, you’re adopted into His family, you’re forgiven of all of your sins, you are given a new heart to serve Him,  along with the power of the Holy Spirit to walk out the Christian life.  And in the end, final and everlasting joy awaits those who believe in Heaven.

This is good news, which is what “gospel” means.  And there is power in this message.  There isn’t power in fancy presentations, good speakers, slick tracts or emotion evoking music.  In 1 Corinthians 1:18 Paul writes it this way: “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”  And in verses 22-24 he goes on to say, “Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.”

When you explain the Gospel to people, some will try to shame you because you believe in Jesus or that you think there is such a thing as truth at all.  Jesus endured shame, and so will we.  People will think it is foolishness and they will look to other things to save themselves.  But no, not us.  We know that this message of Jesus paying the price for our sins is what saved us, and we know that it will save those whose hearts are tuned to listen and receive God’s gift of grace.

We won’t back peddle from it, or go to an easier message that doesn’t even mention sin, or hell, or self denial.  We don’t change it to make the message less offensive or easier to listen to.  There is no power in that.  People’s lives won’t change.  This power is not only what saves us, but it is what keeps us.  God’s power is what keeps us following Him until the end.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that people come to Jesus by funny or emotional stories, by fancy equipment, or by polished speakers.  The power of the Gospel is put into the hands of humble servants who know its capabilities and then present it in any way, shape and form that they can.


Hallelujah!

I just saw this yesterday.  It is a ten year old Autistic girl in Ireland singing the Biblical Christmas story to the tune of “Hallelujah.”  In case you haven’t seen it:


I’m going free!

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Let it be known to you, therefore brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and by Him everyone who believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses.  Acts 13:38-39

Paul  was preaching to an audience of Jews on his first missionary journey in Asia minor.   He told them how  the prophecies of David were fulfilled in Jesus.  The Jewish leaders had Jesus executed, but God raised him from the dead.  The people Paul was preaching to probably weren’t in Jerusalem for most of the events, but they most likely knew about them.  Paul was proclaiming the good news of Jesus.

 

This is the good news: Through Jesus forgiveness of sins is found, and by Him everyone who believes is freed from everything which you couldn’t get free of before.   As Jews, following the law wasn’t going to set them free.   I see all kinds of people trying to get free from addictions by going to treatment.  I have talked with dozens of women who have been to treatment several times, but still aren’t free of the bondage of drugs and alcohol.  They turn to things other than Jesus and they still aren’t free.

Other people may be into self help books, therapists, or dogged self-determinanation and will power.  Those things may help some, but only Jesus frees.  Turning to anything else to address the root problems of our heart and souls is really idolatry.  Only Jesus can set you free from the things that entangle your soul.  And just  like Elijah announced to the prophets of Baal in 1 Kings 18:21, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions?  If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal, then follow him.”

All kinds of people limp between two different opinions.  They go to church on Sunday, but yet don’t trust in the Bible as their sole authority, choosing things in life that are contradictory to the Bible.  They might own three Bibles but not really read any of them.  They may be in bondage to materialism, addictive behaviors, bitterness or fear and not even realize it.  Jesus will break the chains of the past  off  as we line our lives up with God’s precepts.

In Jeremiah 2:13 God expressed His grief over those who had forsaken Him, the fountain of living waters, and turned instead to containers they made for themselves which leaked. Jesus is the fountain of living waters.  Don’t make your own water jugs that are useless in the end.  Give your issues over to Him and find freedom for your soul.

Check out the Vertical Church Band performing “I’m Going Free (Jailbreak)”


You’ve been with Jesus, haven’t you?

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Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished.  And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.  Acts 4:13

This was spoken by people who didn’t like Jesus.   Peter and John were standing before the Jewish leaders to explain how they healed the lame man.  Peter had just finished telling them it was through Jesus, the One that they had just rejected and killed.  They did this because they were Jesus’ enemies, hating everything He did and stood for.

And now here are two guys that were able to heal just like Jesus did.  And they talked like Jesus and were bold but loving.  They had an authority that the Jewish leaders didn’t have even though they didn’t have the schooling the leaders all had.

To us, this is a compliment if someone said they could tell we had been with Jesus.  But if it is said by people with the same combatant spirit, the chances are because we’re in some kind of a showdown.  I’ve had those words said to me several times: “You’re one of those.”  It’s happened in college classrooms and with employers.  It says in Luke 21 that when we are brought before rulers and leaders to give a defense that it will be an opportunity to witness, and that God will give us a mouth and wisdom which they won’t be able to refute.  It’s true.  I’ve had it happen where I’ve taken a stand and I look back and wonder how I could have been so bold.  It was by the enabling power of the Holy Spirit.

If fellow Jesus followers say that they can tell that we have been with Jesus, then it is really a compliment.   It is spoken out of admiration.  In 2 Corinthians 2:14-17, Paul talked about how we are a fragrant aroma of Jesus because He is inside of us.  When some people smell that aroma, they are drawn to us because they are believers or one day will be.  But when others smell Jesus on us, it is a stench of death.  They hate it.

Can people tell that you have been with Jesus because you don’t curse, or because you don’t retaliate when provoked, or because you have a peace about you?  I wouldn’t say that about all Christians I know.   Acts 4:13 says that the rulers were astonished when they saw Peter and John’s boldness.  Do you spend enough time with Jesus that you have a holy boldness and others are astonished when they are around you?

“Live in such a way that people will realize that you have been with Jesus.”  Charles Spurgeon


Times of Refreshing

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Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord.  Acts 3:19-20

Peter was preaching just after God had healed the lame beggar through Peter and John.  He was telling them about how they healed the beggar by the power of Jesus, the one that they killed.  

 

But he said that they acted in ignorance, so now it was time to repent of this rejection of the Author of life.  By the way, when people claim that they believe in evolution, they too are rejecting the Author of life.  To repent means to turn from evil and to turn to the good.

There is more to repentance than to just ask God to forgive all of your sins when you became a Christian.  It is a continual turning from doing the wrong thing and replacing that habit pattern with the ones that God commands throughout the Bible.  Repentance also involves confessing specific sins.  David did this in Psalm 51.  1 John 1:9 tells us, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  You don’t have to go to a priest to confess your sins, just straight to God.

When you confess a misdeed with your mouth and actually turn from your sin with your actions, your sin is blotted out.  It’s cleansed and covered by the blood of Jesus, as 1 John 1:7 declares.  Not only is your sin blotted out, but then you experience a time of refreshing from the Lord.  You feel better, and experience peace instead of striving and unrest, which is what sin produces.  The chains that you had been bound by because of that mastering sin are broken off.

Pray and ask God to tell you what specific things you need to bring to Him.  Psalm 139:23-24 instructs, “Search me, O God, and know my heart!  Try me and know my thoughts!  And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!”  If you ask, He will point it out by the convicting work of the Holy Spirit.  There may be specific things that you need to renounce, which involves getting rid of any trace or possibility of repeating that sin.  In Acts 19 the people that were involved in magic arts and other evil practices burned their books in the sight of all.  That’s renouncing.

When people are sick, or depressed, or having a “streak of bad luck,” it could be (not always, just sometimes) that there is something they need to repent of.  And when they do, a season of refreshing comes from the Lord–not from a weekend getaway, a new outfit, or a different job.

Check in with God and see if there is something that needs cleared up.  It will be worth it.

 


A “Go and Tell” Faith

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But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.  Acts 1:8

 

 

The setting: Jesus has been crucified and resurrected from the dead.  He was on the earth for forty additional days, making appearances to about 500 people and speaking about the kingdom of God.  The apostles asked Jesus if this was now the time that He was going to bring this kingdom to earth.  Not now, not yet.  But He told them they would receive power from the Holy Spirit and be His witnesses.  They were His last words to them, so they were pretty important.

And just after Jesus said this, He ascended into Heaven.  Vanished, gone.  So they went to the same upper room that they observed the Last Supper, and joined up with others to make up about 120 in all.  They waited and prayed.  And then it happened: the Holy Spirit came from Heaven like a mighty rushing wind.  He transformed them from being ones taught to being the teachers.  And they were never the same.

The power of the Holy Spirit is for us today too.  That power is the gas in our car, the driving force of us to be witnesses and to accomplish the call of Jesus to go into all the world, making disciples of all nations, baptizing and teaching.  The power of the Holy Spirit isn’t intended to give us better parking spaces or to have happier self-absorbed lives.  His power is given to believers to go and tell others about the good news of salvation in Jesus, and to advance the kingdom of God.

We are given the Holy Spirit when we become believers.  We are stamped and sealed by the Holy Spirit as a guarantee of our inheritance, and a down payment for what is yet to come.  But it doesn’t stop there.  The Holy Spirit empowers us to accomplish Jesus’ purpose for us.  He transforms us to be witnesses, just like Peter was changed from being a guy that denied Jesus and stuck his foot in his mouth a lot to being the preacher that saw 8000 people turn to Jesus after two sermons.

God wants us to be filled and overflowing with the Holy Spirit so we can be His witness.  This “go and tell faith” is in marked contrast to a “sit and get” one.  It means you were saved for a purpose and you need to be wrapped up in living out that purpose.  Are you?

If not, call on God to visit you with power from on high.


The Spirit of Truth

 

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When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth, for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak, and He will declare to you the things that are to come.  John 16:13-14

These verses are about the Holy Spirit and His work in our lives.  The Holy Spirit is God.  He indwells believers and purifies us.  He is the Spirit of truth and will guide us into truth.  Remember when Jesus said that He is “the way, the truth, and the life” in John 14:6?  The Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Jesus (Romans 8:9) is the One who captures us with Jesus’ truths.

In speaking with people that come from perspectives that are far away from what the Bible teaches, I am comforted by these words.  As these people begin to read the Bible with interest, trying to sort out their cultural belief system against a Biblical viewpoint, I trust that the Spirit of truth will guide them as they seek God.  He will tell them what to keep in their belief systems and what to get rid of.  I have seen it in action.

I have confidence in the work of the Holy Spirit in my life and in the life of those I attempt to influence for the sake of the Gospel. The Holy Spirit is the one draws people to Jesus, if it be God’s will.  The Holy Spirit will speak through the words of the Bible that are shared with people, doing a work that I cannot do.  This takes faith.  I see people trying to get outward signs of the work of the Spirit, whether it be calling out for visions or emotional outpourings.  My confidence is in God working on the inside.  That means I don’t get the validation now, which means standing in faith that one day I will know.

I put confidence in the work of the Holy Spirit rather than putting confidence in my words, my winsome personality (or lack of), or my means of persuasion.  Because of this, prayer is a huge deal.  I pray that God will work to illuminate truth, to convict people of sin, and to draw people to Himself.  Unless the Spirit is at work in an individual, the Bible and things of God will be foolishness.

The Holy Spirit leads and guides us in a multitude of ways–ones that we can see and ones that we can’t.  He convicts us of sin, brings counsel and comfort and even helps us pray when we come to God.  According to Romans 8:26 He intercedes for us when we pray, according to the will of God.  So if  we’re off the mark in what we’re asking, He brings our need to God on our behalf to bring about what God’s best is for us.

“To set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.”  Romans 8:6  Embrace the work of the Holy Spirit in your life.


Stepping Over the Line

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If the world hates you, know that it has hated Me before it hated you.  If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.  John 15:18-19

This is a part of Jesus’ last words of coaching before He was crucified.  He spent it talking about abiding in Him, loving one another, bearing fruit–and now He is warning them ahead of time that it is going to be a rough road.   He told them to be ready to suffer because people will hate them for following Him.

“The world” stands for unbelievers whose father is the devil, as Jesus bluntly put in John 8:44.  And Colossians 1:21 tells us that people who don’t know Jesus are alienated from Him and are enemies of God.  So no wonder they argue or try to get you to stop talking about Jesus.  Don’t be surprised when some people react with hatred when you indicate that you are a Christian.

Believers around the world are imprisoned and killed for their faith.  This isn’t the case in America (yet), but if we want to be like Jesus, that means we will share in His sufferings somehow.  The road  to His glory went through the cross, and we follow the same path.  In Acts 14:22 Paul said that “through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.”

We are hated by the world because we no longer identify with them.  We’re aliens because we don’t follow the rules and ways of this world.   We’ve been chosen out of the world.  We now identify with Jesus.  We march to His drum beat and it’s totally different and sometimes radical.  In John 16:3 we find that people will persecute Christians thinking that they’re doing God a favor.  They think they know God, but they really don’t.

Your persecution may come in different forms than believers who are imprisoned and killed.  You may be shunned by your old friends or your family because you stopped acting like them.  Employers may not like you because they uncomfortable with Christians, or their stereotype of a Christian, and will box you out of opportunities to advance.  You may get called names, or told that you are “bigoted, narrow minded, and homophobic” or other names.

Perhaps we aren’t feeling the rub because we blend in, keep our mouths shut and hesitate to put our oppositional belief system to others.  O God, move in me to be so much more than what I am because the living God is inside of me.  Enable me to walk as Jesus walked and to be willing to be shunned, mistreated and persecuted for the sake of Your name.  I am stepping over the line to go from blending in to standing up, even if it means loss.

**In 1980 a young man from Rwanda was forced by his tribe to either renounce Christ or face certain death. He refused to renounce Christ, and he was killed on the spot. The night before he had written the following commitment which was found in his room:

“I’m part of the fellowship of the unashamed, the die has been cast, I have stepped over the line, the decision has been made- I’m a disciple of Jesus Christ. I won’t look back, let up, slow down, back away or be still.

My past is redeemed, my present makes sense, my future is secure. I’m finished and done with low living, sight walking, smooth knees, colorless dreams, tamed vision, worldly talking, cheap giving & dwarfed goals.

My face is set, my gait is fast, my goal is heaven, my road is narrow, my way is rough, my companions are few, my guide is reliable, my mission is clear. I won’t give up, shut up, let up until I have stayed up, stored up, prayed up for the cause of Jesus Christ.

I must go till He comes, give till I drop, preach till everyone knows, work till He stops me & when He comes for His own, He will have no trouble recognizing me because my banner will have been clear.”

Cited from: http://www.wayofthemaster.com/confession.shtml


Bearing Fruit

 

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I am the vine, you are the branches.  Whoever abides in Me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.  John 15:5

Jesus spoke these words the night before He was crucified.  Picture Him standing amongst the grapevines between Jerusalem and the Mount of Olives and telling the eleven some of His most important truths.  In Isaiah 5, God spoke  to Israel about how they were His vineyard, but they rebelled and they yielded wild grapes.

Jesus announced that He is the true vine who did not rebel and now He was to produce good fruit through those who abide in Him.   Abiding in Jesus means to rest in Him, trusting in His saving work in your life.  Have you ever been around people who wear you out just by being around them because of their striving?  Perhaps they have never learned rest in what Jesus has done, believing that they have to control everything around them to make things happen.

Instead of it being up to us, it is the Holy Spirit who works in us to get things done, to bear fruit, and to stay connected to Jesus.   If we live with this vital connection to Jesus, with the Holy Spirit’s enabling power, we will bear much fruit.  A healthy grape vine produces many grapes.  A healthy Christian produces spiritual fruit.  That fruit is the evidence that Jesus is at work within us.  Some Christians who do not seem to bear fruit. My guess is that they really do not read the Bible, pray much,  or have a vital relationship with Jesus that truly changes their day to day agenda.

Many Christians  are busy for God, but aren’t necessarily fruitful.  They get involved in programs out of duty, thinking this is the way to please God or to earn His favor.  They “work for God,” but don’t understand the abiding relationship told about in John 15.   They are well intentioned, but are not fruitful or joyful.

Abiding in Jesus, resting in Him and listening to His voice as a way of living the Christian life brings answered prayer and joy.  As we live close to Jesus’ heart through being in the Word and relational prayer, He places His plans and purposes on our hearts.  And when we do those things, we will see God use us and bear fruit through us.

Psalm 37:3 promises, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.”  When you are connected to Jesus, He will put His plans, purposes and desires into your heart.  You may begin to dream about things you never thought of before because God has put it on your heart.  Instead of signing up for every opportunity that comes your way, it is best to wait for this leading from the Lord as you pray about what to do.  When you follow that leading, there will be fruit because it is a task that God purposed for you to do.

Apart from Jesus we can do nothing.  We must stay in close connection to Him through His Word and in prayer.  Guard your relationship with Jesus and don’t let other things get in the way, including sin.  Keep a clean slate before Him.  When you do, watch and wait for Jesus to bear fruit in your life.

This is from Corrie Ten Boom’s book Not Good if Detached (pg. 42) about John 15:6:

“If the connection between the branch and the vine remains, the fruit comes from the vine.  The branch does not help the vine.  The vine does not help the branch.  The vine does everything, and the branch must keep connected with it.  That electric lamp there does not help the generator, the generator does not help the lamp.  The generator gives all the power.  The lamp must only be connected.

You do not help the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit does not help you.  The Holy Spirit does everything–the only condition is that you must keep in contact.”


One Road

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Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through Me.’  John 14:6

This verse is foundational to the Christian faith.  To those who don’t believe, it sounds narrow minded and arrogant.  But to those who one God’s sheep, they get it.

God is sovereign (He can do what He wants, when and how He wants) so He gets to call the shots.  This is the way He designed it, that no one can get to God except through Jesus.

Peter said it another way when he was standing before the rulers and elders who demanded to know by what power or by what name he was able to heal a lame beggar.  He answered that he did it in the name of Jesus, adding: “There is  salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under Heaven given among men by which we must be saved,” in Acts 4:12.

Jesus is the only way to Heaven.  That means that all paths do not lead to God, as politically correct adherents would want us to believe.  Only those who call on Jesus are saved, period.  Many people say they love God, but stand opposed when you start to talk about Jesus.  Matthew 10:40 says, “Whoever receives you receives Me, and whoever receives Me receives Him who sent Me.”  In other words, you can’t love God without loving Jesus.

Jesus is the only truth.  Again, this stands against the popular cultural stance that truth is relative, which means that truth depends on the situation and the individual’s point of view.  Absolute truth comes from God and is revealed in the Bible.  The first four words of the Bible are “In the beginning God.”  This gives us a way to explain the world around us and a basis for making decisions.  Life does have meaning and purpose and it is found in Jesus.

Jesus is life.  In John 10:10 Jesus proclaimed, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.  I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”  Jesus came to give us eternal life and an abundant life.  And He is our life, according to Colossians 3:4: “When Christ, who is your life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.”

In a world where people are crying out for answers, but won’t listen to THE answer, this truth remains: Jesus is the way, the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through Him.