Tag Archives: Bible

Of Eagles’ Wings and High Walls

They who wait for 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.  Isaiah 40:31

Those who wait for the Lord.  What does it mean to wait for the Lord?  Have you ever run ahead of God?  Maybe you were too impatient to let Him work out His plan, so you took matters in your own hand, and you ended up with a mess.   If you did, how did it work out?

Waiting on God means that we apply Psalm 34:5, Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him, and He will act.  It is trusting God to direct your steps, praying to Him and waiting for an answer before you act.  It is also daily coming to God to ask His opinion on your day, not just going in your own energy and strength.

Shall renew their strength.  Paul said in Colossians 1 that his goal was to teach and admonish everyone with all wisdom so that everyone would be mature in Christ.  In verse 29 he gives away a little secret, “struggling with all of His energy, which works so powerfully within me.”  This meant that Paul had to put a lot of time and his own energy into reaching others for Jesus, but He did it with Jesus’ strength and energy.

That is a big secret.  The only way we can live the Christian life successfully is to let God live it through us via the Holy Spirit.  Usually we don’t figure this out until we come to the end of ourselves, like through some sort of disabling injury or disease, or loss of a job or some situation where we are in over our heads.

Save yourself a lot of trouble and figure it out now! Philippians 4:13 reads I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength, not I can do all things because I have so much strength. Come to God daily and ask for Him to give you His strength and wisdom for the day. Don’t rest in your own strength, wisdom and resources. They will quickly fail. If they don’t, you’re just full of your own pride, and that’s another issue.

They shall mount up with wings like eagles. The Holy Spirit is a part of the trinity.  He is God’s personality and His job is to teach, convict, and guide us.  His job is also to empower us, according to Acts 1:8, You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you shall be My witnesses… The Holy Spirit gives us the power not to sin, the power to set our mind on Heavenly things and not on ourselves, and He gives us the power to mount up with wings of eagles.

They shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. Many days when I’m already worn out and I just got out of bed, I find myself praying these verses.   Psalm 18:29 says, For by You I can run against a troop, and by my God I can leap over a wall. Claim God’s strength to equip you to do what He has called you to do.  It’s funny that on those days when I’m driving to work with no energy and I’m calling out for it, when I’m driving home on those same roads, I’ll think: “I made it!”  I’ll marvel that God did it, not that I did it.  He’s that kind of a God.

receive His strength.jpgI pray that God would give you His energy and strength.  I pray that God would give you His power, wisdom, creativity and equipping for the day.  May you mount up with wings like eagles and may you run and not grow weary. In Jesus name today may you leap over a high wall.

 

 


In His grip—God’s righteous and powerful right hand

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Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.  Isaiah 41:10

I remember years ago when I was in graduate school for Counseling. I had a professor who was quite difficult. She was prone to zeroing in on a student and then ripping him or her to shreds, seemingly out of the blue. It was my night, and rip she did. It was nearing the end of my program, and there had been many obstacles to my finishing. They seemed to be spiritual obstacles, and I was trying to march through them valiantly.

But this rip fest shook me. I got home and I fell apart. I cried out to God and I said something to the effect of, “God, I have to know you’re there. Give me something.” And this is the verse He gave me, this exact verse. He spoke it loud and strong to me. It meant everything to me. In that moment I knew He would get me through that battle and whatever battle stood ahead of finishing. And He did.

Fast forward almost thirty years later. I was praying with a woman in jail who had just been sentenced to 25 years in prison. What she had done warranted it. When she had come into the county jail, she was a mess. But she was leaving a new creation. Jesus had gotten a hold of her.

We had read and claimed this verse before she went to her sentencing and now we read it again before she went to prison. Does she still have a ways to go? Yes. But Jesus goes with her.  This verse has been a mainstay so many times!

Can you remember a time when you were truly fearful?  Where what faced you was way more than you could handle? To be dismayed means to be horrified, unnerved, filled with fear and distress and being at a loss at how to deal with something.   This promise is like Superman coming in for a rescue, but Superman isn’t real.   God is.  And that’s great news. God takes a hold of you with His righteous right hand.

Get this: The creator of the universe promises to subdue our fears, to strengthen us and to uphold us with His righteous right hand.  He was promising this to Israel collectively, but 2 Corinthians 1:20 tells us, All the promises of God find their ‘yes’ in Jesus.  That means God’s character and promises were fulfilled in Jesus for all of us.

What about God’s righteous right hand?  Exodus 15:6 reads, Your right hand, O Lord is glorious in power, Your right hand, O Lord, shatters the enemy.  And Exodus 15:12 goes on to say, You stretched out Your right hand; the earth swallowed them.    And check out Deuteronomy 33:2: The Lord came from Sinai and dawned from Seir upon us; He shone forth from Mount Paran; He came from the ten thousands of holy ones, with flaming fire at His right hand.  

When John saw Jesus, he fell at His feet as though dead.  But He laid His right hand on me, saying ‘Fear not, I am the first and the last,’ as Revelation 1:17 reports.  Jesus strengthened John with His right hand.

Throughout the book of Revelation Jesus uses His right hand, like in Rev. 5:1, in the right hand of Him who was seated on the throne a scroll written within and on the back, sealed with seven seals.  It seems to symbolize strength, sovereignty and authority.

When you are in over your head, call on God, reminding yourself and God that you are His child and that He has promised to strengthen you, to help you and take a hold of you with His righteous, strong and ruling right hand.  Write this verse out and post it everywhere, quote it to yourself and tell Satan to get lost. You can take this promise to the bank.


Self Forgetfulness

Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.  Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.  Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 2:3-5

I find myself thinking back on this article quite a bit, so I dug it out.  It is even more fitting now than even six years ago, since our ‘selfie culture’ has advanced all the more.  This short article was in the February 25, 2012 issue of the World magazine with the title of “Me, Myself and I.”  Here is what it said:

“The way a person writes can reveal his psychological state.  That’s according to research by University of Texas professor James Pennebaker.”  He wrote about a computer program that counts and categorizes words.  He analyzed over 400,000 different pieces of writing from college essays, texts, transcripts from press conferences, and chat room conversations.

Pennebaker writes: “when we analyzed poems by writers who committed suicide versus poems by those who didn’t, we though we’d find more dark and negative content words in the suicides’ poetry.  We didn’t–but we did discover significant differences in the frequency of words like ‘I.'”

He went on to conclude that “pronouns tell us where people focus their attention.  If someone uses the pronoun ‘I,’ it’s a sign of self-focus.  Say someone asks ‘What’s the weather outside?’ You could answer ‘It’s hot’ or ‘I think it’s hot.’  The ‘I think’ may seem insignificant, but it’s quite meaningful  It shows you’re more focused on yourself.”  His findings were that suicidal people focused on themselves to a fault.

Now, think about either conversations that you have with others, or that others have with you.  Who talks about themselves the most, or does things to point the attention and focus back to themselves–you or the other person?

I am struck increasingly  about our lack of people skills, or social skills, even in the body of Christ.  People don’t know how to carry on a conversation about simple life things and go back and forth to get to some point of connection, let alone to get to spiritual conversations that either encourage, spur on, or to do anything else.  People ramble and not say anything much, they interrupt or get side tracked with their attention, they talk about themselves, or they just don’t go out of their way to initiate a conversation with someone else.  Others use “humor” to keep people at a distance or to keep the focus on themselves, making barriers that they might not even intend just because they want to be liked or known as being funny.

Simply asking people about their family, their job, where they are from, leads to being able to ask deeper questions about what God is doing and has done in their lives, and other significant things.  It takes servanthood to be the listener, the encourager, and the one not at the center of the conversation.

I lead a women’s Sunday School class, which has a varying number of participants, up to almost twenty at times.  It is interesting to me those who are just waiting to jump in and pull the attention to themselves, their week, their rabbit trail.  Many times it has nothing to do with the topic at hand.  I try to allow time to share, to attend to how people’s weeks were, to pray…But then we move ahead.  Some would never move off of self.  It’s that way in any group I’ve ever been in.

How to get my eyes off of me?  Timothy Keller’s book The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness is wonderful.  He says something to the effect of: As we grow in Christ, we don’t think less of ourselves.  We just think of ourselves less.

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One of my favorite hymns is “May the Mind of Christ my Savior,” by Kate B. Wilkinson.  One of the stanzas is:

“May the love of Jesus fill me, as the water fills the sea.  Him exalting, self abasing–this is victory!”

 


Is that a shovel in your hand?

For My people have committed two evils: they have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water. Jeremiah 2:13

holes shovelsOne of my favorite kids’ movies is the movie “Holes” from the book by Louis Sachar.  The kids at the juvenile detention camp, “Camp Green Lake” have to dig holes in the desert day in and day out.  The warden  is in search of a generations old treasure and the teens are the forced labor.  The song that plays as they dig has the line of “Keep digging those holes, diggin’.”

As we hew cisterns for ourselves that are broken and can hold no water, that song might has well be playing in the background.  “But wait a minute,” you cry, “I’m a Jesus lover.  I have not forsaken Him, nor have I dug my own well that can hold no water.”  Really?

I am reading a challenging book by Brad Bigney called, Gospel Treason: Betraying the Gospel With Hidden Idols (P&R Publishing).  In it he talks about how we can give our hearts and our affections, our first love, over to something else.  That thing becomes our driving force to what we do.  Then we become idolaters.

I often read through the Old Testament and wonder how they could have altars to Baal or Asherah poles in their back yards or high hills and not connect the dots.  Like someone should have said: “Wake up!  How did we fall so far?  Get rid of these idols!”  Yet when someone looks back on our culture, they might see the things that we’ve allowed and  there will be certain idols that will be so clear to them that aren’t clear to us.

If we move away from the Bible, from Jesus, from what Romans 1:21 describes as essential: knowing God, honoring Him as God and giving thanks to Him–then we engage in the ‘Great Exchange.’  The ‘Great Exchange’ of Romans 1 is exchanging the truth of God for a lie, worshiping the created things instead of God the creator, exchanging  natural pleasures for unnatural ones.  Turn on the television or the computer and you see it and hear it.  Again, that’s not us!  Or is it?

I don’t have a shovel in my hands.   Or do I?  When the Israelites fashioned the golden calf at Mt. Sinai, again, I judge.  How could they?  God had just parted the Red Sea.  Do they have amnesia?  God was too slow–Moses was up on that mountain too long.  How often do I turn to something I can control, instead of waiting on God, even though it serves me poorly?  It’s a broken cistern, an idol, sin, rebellion–whatever you want to call it.  I’ve got a shovel in my hand and gold dust on my clothes.

My broken cisterns cost me.  They might be more predictable than God is, and they might keep me in the driver’s seat, but they cannot hold water.  They don’t deliver.  I might have pride if I succeeded in some plan, but there is fear lurking around the next corner about ‘what happens if I blow it next time?’ Or if I don’t get what I want and can’t conjure it up, there are things like depression and defeat to contend with.

I’m pretty good at spotting other people’s golden calves.  I can see them running around with their kids to all kinds of sporting events, or their preoccupation with keeping up with cultural norms.  I’m not so good at spotting my own.  Even if I am, I’m not so good at calling them what they are.    When I first set out in my 20’s after college, I was determined not to own any more things than what I could fit in my car.  I thought people who were tied down to mortgages, jobs and responsibilities were “sell out’s.”  It kept them from being all-in for the Kingdom.

Well, now I’m one of those sell out’s.  I stand on the edge of breaking away from it, contemplating an early retirement to go back to my radical lifestyle of my 20’s.  I didn’t know how God was going to provide then, but I knew He was.  I was ‘about my Father’s business,’ and I loved it.  Now I have much more to give up, but so much more to gain.  Is my job and  my position my broken cistern?  Is money my golden calf?  Is the control that the good salary offers, the self sufficiency, the power, and the me-time, standing in the way?

Brad Bigney:  “When you’re craving something other than God, even something good, God takes it very seriously.  In that moment, He’s coming after you.  He’s coming after you for His glory and your own good, because life for us is better without idols.  Life for us is better when we’re delighting in the gospel and living Christ as our highest treasure.  Life for us is better when we’re focused on God and free from idols.” p. 26

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!  Psalm 139: 23-24


The Power of the Cross

the cross.pngFor Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.  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.  1 Corinthians 1:17-18

Oh how we try to rely on everything but the simple message of the cross to get by and to get ahead in life!  We rely on eloquent wisdom, fancy words, glitzy images, good looks, muscle, craftiness, slick tricks, sometimes manipulation…anything but the simple message of the cross.  It’s a fitting Easter thought–the cross.  I need to return to it again and again.

In reading through Isaiah 53, and back through the corresponding Gospel passages, I am struck with the basic message:

  • Jesus was sinless.  Pilate said he found no fault in Jesus (Luke 23:4).   Hebrews 4:15 states, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.”  In other words, Jesus never sinned.  That’s why He was able to be the sacrifice for our sins.
  • The sinless one took our sins.  Back to Isaiah 53:4-5,  we find that Jesus bore our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.  But He was wounded for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with His stripes we are healed.  That’s the good news of Easter.  Jesus paid the price for sin so we don’t have to pay it, if we allow Him to.
  • Jesus gave up His life willing for us. Sin brings death and demands that a price be paid.  We’ve all sinned, and we all deserve death.   Isaiah 53:6 says, All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned–every one–to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.  Jesus said in John 10:18 No one takes (my life) from Me, but I lay it down of my own accord.  Jesus willingly gave up His life to pay the price for our sin.
  • This is where true love and peace are found.  Romans 5:8 proclaims, But God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  And 1 John 4:10: In this is love, not that we have loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the wrath satisfier (my word) for our sins.  And Romans 5:1 so marvelously declares, Since we have justified by faith, we have peace with God.  There is no other way to find peace deep down inside than to get this straight.

This is the message of the cross.  1 Corinthians 1 goes on to say that God entrusted the foolish, the weak, the low and despised to carry this message to shame the strong, the wise and the mighty so that none might boast in the presence of God.  God picked me, and for that I am eternally grateful.  And I get to tell others this simple, yet powerful message, not with eloquent words of wisdom lest I empty the cross of its power.

Jesus, use me.

*Image by ‘Faithlife Sermons’


Fear is a Liar

For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh.  For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.  2 Corinthians 10:3-4

Praying at all times the Spirit… Ephesians 6:18

I had a blip of a dream this week with an old friend and myself in it.  We were at a women’s conference of some sorts.  We went up together to go talk to the speaker at a front bench.  I was initially struck that my friend looked a lot like the speaker, with both having the same blonde hair and the same purple top on.  My friend was crying.

As I went up with her, this large snake, which I thought was an anaconda, came quickly up and crawled up her right leg up to her waist, doubled around and came down again.  Remembering this is a dream, I had a hatchet in my hand and I reached over and hacked its head off.  That was the end of my dream.  I wake up and it’s time to go to work.

A Christian friend is into dreams and dream interpretations.  I have learned enough from him to know that I needed to contact my friend as soon as possible and talk to her about the dream.  She lives over 2000 miles away and I haven’t talked to her for over six months.  I figured I would have a chance at the end of the day, which I did for about 30 minutes between things, long enough to spill the dream and begin to see what was up.

Interestingly enough, it had been on her heart to put on a women’s conference to introduce her many contacts in the business world to Jesus.  She had come from quite a life of drugs and alcohol and was radically saved, and desires to tell them about Jesus.  She has been hesitant because she hasn’t known about whether or not to bring in a speaker from somewhere or what.

This is when it hit me that the speaker in my dream that looked a lot like her was her.  I was able to say with confidence that I was bringing her to herself and that I cut the head off of the snake.  It’s kind of like the credit card commercial where you’re talking to yourself on the other end of the phone and the tag line is, “We treat you like you treat you.”  The snake seemed to be the thing that was keeping her from moving ahead.  I saw it as fear–maybe a fear of vulnerability, one of rejection.  Who wouldn’t have that fear?  I kept telling her, “I cut the head off, so do it!”

All week I have been thinking about the snake.  I called my dream friend and got his take on it.  He said, “The snake is a ‘big fat lie.'”  It was a big fat snake, a lie is anything we believe that keeps us from getting to where we need to go.  Isn’t that the way Satan works?  It can be fear, it can be just the words, “You’re not good enough,” “You’re not smart enough,” “They’ll laugh you out of the place…”

The other thing I can’t get out of my mind: “I’ve got a hatchet!”  That increases my prayer confidence.  Somehow, some way, God used me in the spiritual realms to be a part of hacking the head off of the snake for my friend.  It really didn’t happen until I spoke it to her to say, “Don’t let fear stop you from putting on that conference.  Do it.  God has put it in your heart.  Your story is powerful and God has done it.  Other women will relate to it and will come to Jesus because of it.”

I want to break things with hatchets, swords, daggers, lances and anything else I can.  God, teach me how to pray to be more effective in the spiritual realm to do so.  Use me to hack snake heads off in my own life, in other peoples’ lives and do things that need to get done to see chains broken off and people set free.

Check out Zach Williams with his “Fear is a Liar” song.  It’s kind of like the big fat snake.  Name it and cut off its head!

 

 


White Spaces

You shall remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that He might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not.  And He humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know.  Deuteronomy 8:2-3

Have you ever noticed that God isn’t in a hurry?  If I were to create or work out a story of mankind, I don’t think I would include 400 year gaps of time, like where the Israelites stayed in Egypt between Joseph’s death and Moses’ exodus.  Nor would I have another 400 year time of silence where no prophet spoke between Malachi and John the Baptist.  The wilderness wanderings of Moses and the children of Israel might get shortened to maybe five years, and Jesus would have gotten to Bethany before Lazarus before he died, not after.

But I’m not God, and as Isaiah 55:8-9 tells us, our ways are not His ways and they are as white spacefar apart as the Heavens are above the earth.  He works slowly and deliberately for a reason.  Deuteronomy 8 lets us know it is a part of our growth process: to humble us, to let us know what is lacking in our character, to get us to learn to keep God’s commandments, and to cause us to hunger for God and God alone.

In JD Greear’s book Jesus Continued (Zondervan 2014), our women’s Sunday School class is on the chapter of “When You Can’t Feel God.”  He calls the gaps of time that you experience silence from God “white space.”  It’s the space in the Bible between one part of the story to the next.  It’s the space between the call of God and the fulfillment of the dream.  It’s also the white space of singleness; the white space of sickness; the white space of finishing out a prison sentence; the white space of unfulfilled promises and unmet expectations.

A Biblical example would be the time between when David was anointed king and the time he actually took over as king.  There were a few years in-between, and quite a bit of drama.  It’s easy to lose hope in the interim and doubt yourself or doubt God.

This white space time can be terribly confusing and the hardest part of life to endure.  Greear’s encouragement is not to waste the white space.  It reminds me of the story of Gracia Burnham.  Gracia and her husband Martin were kidnapped by Abu Sayyaf rebels while on an anniversary trip in the Philippines in 2001.  They were in captivity for over a year.  On an episode of “Locked Up Abroad” Gracia told of this harrowing time.  The interviewer asked if it had changed her in any way.  She stopped and said something to this effect: “It has made me kinder and more forgiving.  I hope it has changed me.  Otherwise I have wasted 375 days in the jungle.”  I don’t want to waste my jungles either.

It was while I was reading Jesus Continued the first time through in the summer of 2015 that God showed me the meaning behind a big white space in my life.  Up to that point it was terribly confusing and just a dangling question mark for me.  I had felt a yearning or a “call” of God for missions when I was in college.  I certainly had a heart for ministry, if not missions.  I went to this big missions convention at the University of Illinois at Urbana twice with 20,000 other students.  Whatever capacity God would lead me to, I knew I needed to finish college, get some experience and Bible training, and then go.

Once I finished my second year of graduate school with a Bible degree I thought, “this is finally it.”  I had pursued different missions boards and landed on one to apply for a three year stint overseas.  I was accepted and went to their candidate school in Wheaton, Illinois.  In the middle of this three week missionary and pre-missionary gathering, the green light shifted to a flashing red light with no advanced notice.

Part of it had to do with the leadership.  They really didn’t communicate with me as they said they would and any time line that they set up where they said they would talk, they didn’t.  I waited patiently at first, less patiently as time went on and as the weeks and then months went on from there, until  I gave up.  My attempts to figure things out weren’t met with solid answers and I went into an emotional spin for at least three months, if not longer.

As I tried to get a word from God, He was putting things on my heart about returning to my home state of Wisconsin, to a small town, working in a church full time, in the denomination I last was a part of in through college.  I was living in South Carolina, on Hilton Head Island, and from there God moved me to the south shore of Lake Superior, in the middle of the winter–a very brutal winter.  But it was with an old friend from college who was a pastor of a smaller church who needed a youth director.

That was over thirty years ago.  I went from working in that church for five years, to feeling led to working in a school setting, which I have been doing full time for 26 years.  The “call to missions” that has continued to ring in my heart has been that white space, with a few other details surrounding it.  In the middle of most of that time, I was single and wondering what God was up to.

While reading the chapter in Jesus Continued, God helped me connect the dots, in an act of grace.  Check out this passage in Ezekiel 3:5-9: For you are not sent to a people of foreign speech and a hard language, but to the house of Israel–not to many peoples of foreign speech and a hard language, whose words you cannot understand.  Surely, if I sent you to such, they would listen to you.  But the house of Israel will not be willing to listen to you, for they are not willing to listen to Me: because all the house of Israel have a hard forehead and a stubborn heart.  Behold I have made your face as hard as their faces, and your forehead as hard as their foreheads.  Like emery harder than flint have I made your forehead.  Fear them not, nor be dismayed at their looks, for they are a rebellious house.

It was like He spoke it straight into my heart.  This was the great “ah hah” for me, the answer to my white space.  I was fulfilling my call to missions by being right where I am.  God didn’t send me to a people with a foreign speech and a hard language.  If He did, they would have listened to me.  Instead, He sent me to my own people in my own home state.  And they aren’t willing to listen because they have a stubborn and rebellious heart.  I can vouch for that.  It has been a time of much spiritual warfare and little fruit, many hard hearts and little response.  In response to this, God has given me a face as hard as their faces and a forehead like flint.  I can take what they dish out, and more.

Why the white space and the difficult assignment?  Just as Deuteronomy 8 says: to humble me, and to show me what is in my heart so that I know I need God and I dare not trust in myself.  It is also that I might learn to obey God and to hunger for Him as my true daily bread over and above anything else.

May God fill in the blanks on your white spaces and may you learn the same lessons of humble dependence.  

 

 


Being Alive in Christ

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains A-grain-of-wheat-printable-Bible-verse-coloring-page-imagealone; but it dies, it bears much fruit.  John 12:24

I was rereading parts of one of my favorite reads in the last year, We Died Before We Came, by Emily Foreman.  She tells of how she and her husband went to an African country and suffered a loss while they were there.  I don’t want to give away the story line because you should really read it.  Before they went, her husband Stephen shared a story about James Calvert, a missionary to the Fiji Islands in the 1800’s.

The ship captain tried to turn him back saying, ‘you’ll lose your life and the lives of those with you if go among those cannibals.’  To that Calvert replied, ‘We died before we came.’  Stephen went on to challenge his audience, “Are you dead yet?  Dead to your desires?  Dead to fear?  Are we alive in Christ?”

His last question is what jumped off at the page at me this time around.  I have spent much time thinking about what it means to die and have focused some on that.  But I have not focused on the opposite, positive good–living out to a lost and dying world what it looks like to be alive in Christ.

I’m not even sure the Christians around me have a solid grasp of what that looks like.  I don’t mean that as a slam to anyone.  I just mean that we don’t spend a lot of time talking about being alive in Christ.  We talk about what it means to be born again and becoming a Christian.  And then we talk about ‘doing things’ once we become a Christian, like reading our Bibles, praying, going to church, helping people, etc.

But what does it really look like to live out a life that is alive in Christ?  Follow my bread crumb trail of thoughts as I unravel this brain worm of the week…

Verses on being alive in Christ (all NIV):

  • Galatians 2:20  I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
  • Colossians 3:3-4  For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.  When Christ, who is your  life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
  • Romans 6:11 In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.
  • Ephesians 2:4-5 But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy,  made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.

So from those verses, I’m alive in Christ by faith, my life is now hidden with Christ in God, I’m to consider myself in my thinking as alive to God because I’m in Christ Jesus, and God made me alive by His grace.

I still was left pondering what my life should look like as an outflow of this.  So here are 5 things that I came up with.  They are from other Scriptures:

  1. Being alive in Christ means that my affections are set on a different place than everyone else’s, and it has to show.  In Hebrews 11 it talks about all of the faith dynamos dying in faith, having not received the things that were promised, but only welcoming them from afar.  Their eyes were on a better country, a heavenly one.  My affections, my eyes, and my passions should be set on a better country, the kingdom of Heaven.  This world is a poor replica of what is to come.  I know that, so my life should reflect it.
  2. Being alive in Christ means that I shouldn’t be stressed out, worried and consumed by the same things as the people who don’t know God.  That’s what Matthew 6:25-33 is about.  The stock market went down by bunches this week.  God is still on the throne.  His eye is still on the sparrow and He still holds me in the palm of His hand.  God still cares for us and His promises still hold true.  So I must live out that trust and confidence in God that shows that I know He is my shepherd.
  3. Being alive in Christ means that I know who holds my future and my eternity.  An ESPN reporter was interviewing Nick Foles the day after the big Super Bowl win.  He was asking Nick about next year, and Nick said he’d let God take care of that.  Nick had been giving God credit all of the way through the interview.  The reporter was either a Christian or else he was overcome by the momentum of this, so he concluded by saying, “Well, I guess you know who holds your future.”  You don’t normally hear that on an ESPN interview.  When you stop and think about the fact that people that don’t know Jesus have no confidence about tomorrow or about their eternity, this is a huge deal that we should be shouting from the roof tops!
  4. Being alive in Christ represents a tremendous life changing transformation.  I am so thankful that Jesus not only changed me and brought into His kingdom–but that He is still at work changing me day by day.  Colossians 1:13-14 says that we are “transferred from the dominion of darkness and brought into the kingdom of His dear son, in whom we redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”  I just have to go on a business trip for 2-3 days with nonChristians and be with them 24/7 to realize how different my life is from theirs.  Thank you Jesus.
  5. Being alive in Christ represents a change in passions and pursuits.  I read the Bible, pray, go to church, and am involved in ministering to others because Jesus is in my life.  He has changed my “want to’s.”  The movies that people from work get together to go are ones I would never even watch at home for free.  And the books they read in their book clubs are the same–ones I would never read.  Jesus has given me an awareness of others, a desire to help them in place of tunnel vision or a self absorbed lifestyle.

Alive to GodMy challenge is to live these out loud, to verbalize them without being obnoxious.  I don’t know why it has been such a profound thought to focus on being alive in Christ rather than dying to self, but I think I’m on to something!  I’ll let you know how it goes 🙂

 

*Image from MaryDeanDraws.com

 


Prayer in the Spirit…

I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet...Revelation 1:10prayer

“I was in the Spirit.”  Have you taken notice of those five words much, or have you just sped over them?  I’ve been thinking about them in the last week or so.  I’ve been thinking about prayer, and pondering how much I really just scratch the surface of what God has for me and for the rest of us.  In Ephesians 6:18, at the end of the armor of God, Paul writes: “Praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication…”

I haven’t heard maybe any sermons on what praying in the Spirit means.  But I’ve read some things about it from guys from the 1700’s, and one guy from the early 1900’s.  Could it be that all of our television, Internet and video games have wrecked our depth to have that be a part of the normal Christian experience?

JD Greear writes about it in his book Jesus Continued.  So it isn’t all just guys that are dead that talk about praying in the Spirit.  He writes, “Our greatest power in prayer occurs when our prayers are prompted by the Word of God and the Spirit of God.  Prayers that start in Heaven are heard by Heaven. (pg. 153)”

For me, the ‘in the Spirit’ promptings come one of two ways.  The first is through dreams.  It doesn’t happen as much as it used to, but when it does, God gets my attention.  I’ll give an example.  I had a dream that a friend from church was covered in road rash.  She came and the ladies from church took her into this prayer cabin and totally covered her in prayer and she came out without any rash at all.  She was just fine.  I woke up, laid there and prayed for her for quite awhile, not knowing exactly what was going on.  Whatever it was, I knew it had to be rough.

The next day she was supposed to be at work and she wasn’t there.  Someone  mentioned she was at her husband’s court with him.  He was a doctor and was getting sued for some bogus malpractice suit.  It hit me that was what the dream was about, so I began praying fervently again for both of them.  At the end of the week we had a women’s gathering at our church and she described how those two days were the worst days of her life.  I would describe the prompting that God gave me through the dream as ‘praying in the Spirit,’ as there was no other way that I would have known how to pray.  He gave me a picture of what she was going through with the road rash.

The other way that God has worked for me is to give me burdens that will not go away until I have prayed them away.  When Scott O’Grady from the USA was shot down and behind enemy lines in Bosnia for eight days back in 1995, I couldn’t stop praying for him.  I must have prayed for him at least 8-10 times a day.  This was before 24 hour news, so I just kept praying!  When the news came that he was rescued, I cried.  When I read his book, Return With Honor, he tells of how  he laid still for hours at a time because captors were feet away from him.  At one point God gave him a vision of a “choir” of thousands of people from all around the world praying for him.  I was in that choir!

Jeremiah 33:3 says, Call to Me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.

Samuel Chadwick (1860-1932) said, “Prayer in the Spirit is the energized prayer of the righteous man that is of great force.  There is passion in the praying that prevails.  God never keeps hot hearts waiting.  ‘When you search for Me with all your heart I will be found by you.’  Jeremiah 29:13-14  Prayer that is energized by the Spirit brings power, turn ordinary mortals into people of power.  It brings fire.  It brings life.  It brings God.”

I will take my stand at my watch post and station myself on the tower, and look out to see what He will say to me.  Habakkuk 2:1

headphones-312817_960_720.jpgAnd the Lord came and stood, calling as at other times, “Samuel! Samuel!”  And Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant hears.”  1 Samuel 3:10

 


Gospel Fluency

Until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.  Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves…instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow up in every way into Him who is the head, that is, Christ.  Ephesians 4:13-15

JD Greear talked about growing in our knowledge of the gospel to become more intimate Gospel Fluencywith the Spirit in his book, Jesus Continued.  His intent is to call us to grow deeper in our knowledge of the gospel to experience the fullness of the Spirit.    Almost four years ago I watched a series of videos on Vimeo by Jeff Vanderstelt that takes JD Greear’s thoughts about growing in the knowledge of the gospel to another level.  Vanderstelt’s videos were on “Gospel Fluency.”  Finally in 2017 he put out a book with that title.  The videos are much better than the book.  I’ll put a link at the bottom of my post to his videos.

I’ve been thinking about Vanderstelt’s thoughts on ‘Gospel Fluency’ since I read the chapter about growing in the knowledge of the gospel to become more intimate and full in the Spirit.  I will summarize some of Vanderstelt’s thoughts because he puts things in ways I have not heard them before I watched his videos, or since:

  • Gospel fluency is speaking the truths of Jesus into the everyday stuff of life, so that we are changed in our marriages, relationships, spending and living because Jesus is in our life.
  • ‘Speaking the truth in love’ is more than just saying hard words to each other, like addressing character flaws or sin issues.  It is speaking the knowledge of the faith that builds people into maturity in Christ.
  • Ephesians 4: 21 tells us what the truth is that we’re supposed to be speaking: “the truth is in Jesus.”  Speak Jesus to one another.  Another way to say it is, ‘Speak the gospel, or the good news, to one another.’  You don’t just share the gospel to nonbelievers and then stop once they become Christians.  We should keep speaking the good news of Jesus to each other all the time to grow each other up to maturity.
  • Don’t ever drift away from Jesus to something else!  Jesus is what grows us up.  Don’t get to like our Bibles or our Bible studies better than Jesus.  Don’t lead people to church rather than leading them to Jesus.  Don’t just ask for prayer requests, ask for Jesus to work.   **Our prayer lives are about getting Jesus to live His life through us to empower us to live a new life.  The goal of our prayer time is that the Spirit would reveal the truths of God through Jesus and that we would cling to  Jesus as we pray.

**Make Jesus the solution, the everything!!  We lead people to Jesus and then we take them to something else.  We get to Jesus and then move on to something else.  Don’t do that.

So we must keep proclaiming Christ, the good news, the gospel.  We must be resolved to let nothing else be our good news.  We must become so versed in the gospel that we realize that it does answer everything in our existence.  This involves getting a bigger view of the gospel and letting it sink into more areas of our life.

How do you grow in gospel fluency?

  1.  Part of it has to do with making Jesus the center of everything in your life and the rest will fall into place.
  2. Being a part of a fellowship of believers where you are around others that live that out certainly helps.  It’s like getting better at bowling–it’s best worked out at a bowling alley and in a league.  Same thing with a church.
  3. For me, studying the Bible has been a big part of growing in learning more about this life of following Jesus.  But, as Vanderstelt so aptly put it: I can’t love studying the Bible, or my Bible, more than I love Jesus.  My quiet time has to lead me to Jesus each and every day.
  4. Sharing the good news with myself and those around me, applying it to the stuff of life, is the guts of growing up into maturity in Christ.   I need to ask myself “so what?” at the end of my quiet time, and let the Holy Spirit apply His convicting and probing work in my heart.  And then I need to do it.  As the Spirit leads, I also must share with those around me the good news of grace and freedom that applies to the everyday things of life.

Here is the link to Jeff Vanderstelt’s video’s:  Take the time to watch them.  They are well worth your time!

https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/justin-taylor/jeff-vanderstelt-on-gospel-fluency/