Tag Archives: Holy Spirit

My Ebenezer

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Ebenezer Branded

Since we were talking about Ebenezers last week, I wanted to show you the one I’ve been building since I got to Florida.

You know that God gave me the plan for my immediate future in 2010, while I was in Arizona.  During the third year that I was in Florida I received Joshua 1:5.

No one will be able to stand against you as long as you live. I will be with you, just as I was with Moses. I will not leave you or forsake you.

I needed that verse in the early years of my life in Florida because I often believed that I was in some kind of wasteland.  Even though His plan for me was falling into place exactly as He’d promised.  I hadn’t been able to find a job since I’d lost mine in 2008 (and it was now 2013), I was still living in my parent’s house, and I still had doubts that I should be in Florida at all.  I mean … maybe what I thought was “God’s Plan” was just something my brain cooked up and not from Him at all.

Getting this scripture brought me to my knees.  It is, essentially, three promises in one glorious verse.  This ‘gift’ from God came at a time when the devil had been bullying me with severe oppression over my inability to find a job. Furthermore, I wasn’t really hearing from God the way I had in Arizona and thought He had deserted me.  The Holy Spirit put me quickly and firmly on the right track with this verse.

All three promises were important.  The first No one will be able to stand against you as long as you live.” gave me greater strength to thwart Satan’s lies.  The third, I will not leave you or forsake you.” reminded me that I wasn’t in a desert and far away from God.  But the second part … oh the second part!  I will be with you, just as I was with Moses.”  Man, that’s amazing.  Do you remember how God was with Moses throughout the early books of the Bible?  I can just imagine Joshua hearing this.  Since he, too, was with Moses and knew how God interacted with him, did he fall over in awe?  I certainly did.  God hasn’t disappointed.  He has made good on these promises and I knew I needed a stone to remember that He had helped me thus far.

The top stone is the verse God gave me after I’d been diagnosed with cancer and was crying one night to Him about everything in the Plan I’d hadn’t done.  It was the last part in the plan and I’d dragged my feet and hemmed and hawed and had started – but had not finished the last phase.

My remorseful plea that lonely night was, “Am I going to die without finishing what you said I would do?” Tears flooding my pillow.  That was followed by “I’m sorry, Lord.” And then came a fresh round of tears.  I was sorry I hadn’t acted faster and now I might not have time to do what He called me to do.

It was the next morning that the Holy Spirit impressed Numbers 23:19 onto my heart:

God is not a man who lies, or a son of man who changes His mind. Does He speak and then not act, or promise and not fulfill?

Upon reading this verse I dissolved into a mass of tears again.  But this time they weren’t tears of sorrow.  Joy flooded my heart to almost bursting.  What relief!

This scripture told me I wasn’t going to die – at least not before I finished His plan for me.  It also promised that I would finish it, because God doesn’t lie, change His mind, or not honor His promises.  At that moment, those were the sweetest words my wretched heart needed to hear.

Certainly a scripture worthy of an Ebenezer.  So I found another stone and wrote the verse address on it.  I never want to forget that here, again, was a time when God has helped me thus far.

So, did you think about using some sort of Ebenezer to remember how He has helped you too?  I’m dying to know what you’re using.  Let me know in the comments!

Heightening Your Discernment ~ 2

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This is the second post of a three-part series to bring you ways you can increase your discernment – Part One is here.  It’s an appendix in the book Another Jesus Calling by Warren B. Smith and I have supplemented it with my own opinion or from my experience – which you’ll find in italics.

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5.  Do not seek signs and wonders and spiritual experiences.

  • But sighing deeply in His spirit, He said, “Why does this generation demand a sign? I assure you, no sign will be given to this generation!” ~ Mark 8:12

In this passage, the Pharisee’s were harassing Jesus to prove over and over again that He was who He said He was.  He was done with their demands for a sign. In my experience, I’ve found it’s quite common to ask God for confirmation of something you believe He’s telling you.  If it is He who is doing the   telling, He will give the confirmation.  We are not to test God in anything other than tithing. Malachi 3:10 is the only place in the Bible where the Lord says we can test Him.

When we start asking God for signs, we run the risk of asking God to confirm what we want – to bless our will – rather than seek to do His will.  We can also develop a type of tunnel-vision by focusing on the “sign” that we become unable to even hear God’s voice in the matter.

I do believe that God still speaks in signs, wonders, and experiences to us – but not when we ask for them.  We need to keep our hearts open always to hear from Him.

6.  Do not get involved with undiscerning believers who are listening to and heeding deceptive spirits (or consulting with familiar spirits).

  • Do not turn to mediums or consult spiritists, or you will be defiled by them. I am Yahweh, your God. ~ Leviticus 19:31
  • No one among you is to … practice divination, tell fortunes, interpret omens, practice sorcery, cast spells, consult a medium or a familiar spirit, or inquire of the dead. Everyone who does these things is detestable to the Lord … ~ Deuteronomy 18:10a-12a

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What can I say? If your best friend is the Long Island Medium, I’d say good-bye.  Lots of people dismiss the authenticity of mediums, psychics, and other seers but I can’t because by warning me away from them, my God tells me they exist.  I mentioned last week that I used to go to Psychic Fairs as a kid because they were fun.  Many of the “seers” there were just making stuff up, but on a couple of occasions, I could tell the person really had a gift.  Today, you would not catch me within a mile of such a place.  The temptation is always there but my God gives me the ability, through His Holy Spirit, to not succumb to the temptation.

In today’s society, if people you know are gravitating toward these types of spiritualists, do not consort with them.  You may have to break all ties, but Satan would like nothing better than for you to disobey God.  Your eternal home is on the line.

7.  If you’re confronted with a spiritual presence test the spirit and pray for wisdom and discernment from God. You may also, by faith, ask God to take the presence away if it’s not from Him because “greater is He that is within you, than he who is in the world.” 

  • Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to determine if they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you know the spirit of God: Every spirit who confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God. But every spirit who does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist; you have heard that he is coming, and he is already in the world now. You are from God, little children, and you have conquered them, because the One who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. ~ 1 John 4:1-4
  • Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives to all generously and without criticizing, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith without doubting. For the doubter is like the surging sea, driven and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. ~ James 1:5-7

I love the Holy Spirit but, in general, I don’t like spirits.  I don’t believe there is any reason for a “good spirit” to be on earth.  I also don’t believe angels are spirits – they are angels – a separate entity altogether.  There have been many times when I’ve felt evil emanating from a person, and many times I’ve asked God to rebuke and remove the devil and his demons from my presence.  There have also been a few times when I’ve felt an angelic presence. 

The latest was during a late night stop at my post office box.  The parking lot was empty but lights burned brilliantly inside.  I’d turned off my car and immediately felt a presence.  I actually looked up on the roof of the post office believing I’d see something but saw nothing.  Somehow I had the distinct impression that this was a protective angel.  Still in my car I peered out into the night realizing that there were many nooks and crannies in which someone could be lurking.  The ‘feeling’ of the presence hadn’t gone away and I checked the roof again.  I prayed quickly to God thanking Him for his protection and made my way quickly into the post office.  I didn’t linger there and walked as quickly back to my car.  The angelic presence was still palpable which interested me because I believed I was “safe” back in the confines of my locked car.  I started the engine and made my way back to the highway, and home.  The presence continued to stay with me for about five minutes of the drive and then abated.  I often wonder what he was guarding me against and why he stayed with me even after I left the Post Office.  I’ll never know, and that’s okay by me!

8.  Love the truth. Be valiant for the truth. The Bible warns of the consequences concerning those who do not have a love of the truth.  They can become deceived and fall away.

  • The coming of the lawless one is based on Satan’s working with all kinds of false miracles, signs, and wonders, and with every unrighteous deception among those who are perishing. They perish because they did not accept the love of the truth in order to be saved. ~ 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12

I believe this is what we’re seeing today.  It’s not that a Christian wakes up one morning and declares, “I’m no longer a lover of the truth.”  It’s the itching ears syndrome (2 Timothy 4:3).  They long to hear God but turn to other books and experiences instead of the Bible to hear Him speak.  Christian, please remember that the only truth is found in the Bible.  The Scriptures are your true North – nothing else.

I’ll be back on Monday with one last tip and to wrap up this series.  Thanks for hanging in there.  Have a wonderful weekend and please let me know if you’ve ever had to test the spirits!

In His Awesome Name,

Felecia

Three in One

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Some people regard The Trinity as a difficult concept and I can’t disagree, it’s true.  How can one of anything be three?

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Once, a few years ago, when I was counseling a very new Christian, she asked me to explain it to her. I gulped but somehow strode forward and gave her this explanation.

God, the Father, is God.  The whole spirit-being.  The great I AM.  The almighty Alpha and Omega.  Then He took a piece of Himself and sent Himself to earth in the form of Jesus who is also God because He is part of God.  When Jesus died, was resurrected, and returned to God, the Father took another piece of Himself and sent it to His believers in the form of the Holy Spirit who is also God because He is part of God and Jesus.  The Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are three distinct Persons but still all One.

Very simplistic, but it helped her to view our Triune God as One.  I was about to say it helped me too, but I think I’ve just always believed this doctrinal truth on faith … never really thinking about it.  Or have I?

In an article in John Piper’s Desiring God blog, Matt Perman stated it this way:

If there is one passage which most clearly brings all of this together, it is Matthew 28:19: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.” First, notice that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are distinguished as distinct Persons. We baptize into the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Second, notice that each Person must be deity because they are all placed on the same level. In fact, would Jesus have us baptize in the name of a mere creature? Surely not. Therefore each of the Persons into whose name we are to be baptized must be deity. Third, notice that although the three divine Persons are distinct, we are baptized into their name (singular), not names (plural). The three Persons are distinct, yet only constitute one name. This can only be if they share one essence.

For some time now – maybe the last year and a half – God has been refocusing me on the Trinity by having verses that include mention of it like:

And after being baptized, Jesus went up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove, and coming upon Him, and behold, a voice out of the heavens, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.”  Matthew 3:16-17

Then as John seeks to establish the deity of Christ:

Jesus said: “I and the Father are one.”  John 10:30

Again in John, when Jesus was speaking to His disciples:

“And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not behold Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you, and will be in you.”  John 14:16-17

And again in John 14 speaking of the Holy Spirit:

“If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him, and make Our abode with him.”  John 14:23

These are just a mere few of the verses in the Bible that distinctly show that the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are all separate and yet one.

Could God be ensuring that I really comprehend that He is three in one?  I don’t know.  Have I had the tendency to think of Him as three of three?  I pray not.  That might just be blasphemous.  But I can’t think of any other reason He’d be emphasizing this point with me.

Perhaps God was just getting me ready to tackle questions from the friend I’ve mentioned before who doesn’t like when we sing about Jesus being God (or the Lord).  Because in his mind only the Father can be God (or the Lord), Jesus is the Son and hence, not Lord.

Maybe now I can say more than, “Whelp, He is and He isn’t.”

I can speak intelligently (and without fear) and point him to the truth of Bible.

How do you explain the Trinity?

Bible Bite: John 6:12

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Bible Bite: John 6:12

I know!  You’re surprised to have another Bible Bite so quickly, aren’t you?  Me too.  But when a person is performing homiletics on the book of John in preparation for BSF’s start next month – whelp – I’m deep in the Word and getting hit by the Holy Spirit with all sorts of pearls of wisdom.  Ahem … I’ll let you be the judge!

John 6: 1-21 chronicles the feeding of the 5,000 and Jesus walking on water to meet the disciples in the middle of rough seas.  Now you know a million and one sermons can be preached on any of that – but there was one part of the story that hit me squarely in the eyeball (okay, so maybe not quite like that) while I was reading and it was verse 12:

When they were full, He told His disciples, “Collect the leftovers so that nothing is wasted.” ~ John 6:12

Even after I got through with the homiletics exercise the words of verse 12 haunted me … “so that nothing is wasted.”  What did the disciples do with the baskets?  Take them with them in the boat for a midnight snack?  Send them into town with the women for the local soup kitchen?  We don’t know.  All we know is that Jesus didn’t want to waste what His Father had blessed.

It’s like that with our lives too.  Every believer knows (and if you don’t, please take this truth deep into your heart) that God has blessed us with salvation through faith in His Son Jesus Christ.

God has blessed us.

Nothing we have done (or will do) will ever go to waste.

Kinda cool and startling isn’t it?

I’ll bet you were like me when you first came to Christ and you moaned and groaned about your past and how awful you were.  Yep, you were guilty.  We all are.  But if you’ve walked with Christ for any length of time you already know that He is using your past for His glory.

Don’t you know that He knew exactly when you’d fall on your knees and open the door for Him to come in?

He knew exactly when He’d bless you with the astounding grace of the cross.

He knew exactly when He would gift you with His Holy Spirit.

He knew everything you did (and will do) and is using it for good.  Look at how you’ve grown!  Haven’t you marveled that what happened to you 10-20-30 years ago is now incomprehensibly, undeniably a blessing to someone else in your life?

He is so amazing!

To quote a verse in Esther:

“Who knows, perhaps you have come to your royal position for such a time as this.” ~ Esther 4:14b

You do know, Christian, that you are part of a royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:9)?  How can we not take Mordecai’s words to Queen Esther as our own?  God knew exactly when we would be born.  He knew exactly where we would live.  We are all where we are for such a time as this.

God wastes nothing.

How is He using your past for His glory?

Have a wonderful weekend everyone!

Bible Bite: Mark 4:41

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Bible Bite: Mark 4:41

A Bible Bite is a little tidbit that I run across that irks me and controls my thoughts until the Holy Spirit helps me to break through the miasmas to teach me some lesson. 

During Paula and my bible study, we were talking about standing stronger by walking in faith (Day 27 of the 28-day study).  I grew increasingly distressed during the scriptures of Mark 4: 35-41.  Jesus had been teaching using several parables (vv. 1-34) at the side of the Sea of Galilee.  As night fell, He told the disciples they were going to go over to the other side of the sea and they all hopped in a boat.

As they sailed, Jesus slept in the aft of the boat and a wind brewed up that whipped up the waves so forcefully that they were crashing over the sides of the boat and threatening to capsize.  Yet, Jesus slept.

The disciples woke Him up concerned that He was going to let them drown and He got up and rebuked the wind and the sea with, “Silence, be still!”  He turned then to the disciples and asked, “Why are you fearful? Do you still have no faith?”

What amazed me most was the next verse, Mark 4:41:

“And they were terrified and asked one another, “Who then is this? Even the wind and the sea obey Him!”

Terrified?  Why were they terrified?  I didn’t get it.  The disciples had been with Jesus for a while at this point and had seen miracle after miracle.  What terrified them now?

And they asked each other, “Who is this then?”  How could it be that they forgot who Jesus was?

Part of the keys are in Jesus questions.  First He asks, “Why are you afraid?”  I love being on this side of the situation.  We’re reading about an incident in the Bible and have the benefit of being able to take a global view. Do you (like me) often find yourself shaking your head at what some Biblical one is doing or saying at any given time?  I do that until I realize that in some way I’m just like them … ahem … and then keep reading to learn from these Saints who have gone before.

“Why are you fearful” (my HCSB states)?  Why are they fearful?  Jesus said when they got into the boat that they were going to the other side.  Surely He knew the boat would be caught in a storm, but He wasn’t worried because He fell asleep.  (Another aside: I like to see Jesus’ humanness here – He slept because He’d been teaching all day and was tired.  The Son of God gets tired. I love that little bit of insight.)

But back to the question at hand.  In Warren W. Weirsbe’s Exposition Commentary, he notes, “… for the greatest danger was not the wind or the waves; it was the unbelief in the hearts of the disciples.” Further, “It was their unbelief that caused their fear, and their fear made them question whether Jesus really cared.  “We must aware of an evil heart of unbelief.” (Heb 3:12).1

“Do you still have no faith,” Jesus asks?   Jesus asks these questions as a way to test the disciples.  Just how far have they come?  How much do they or don’t they believe?

How often do we continue to wonder if God is really all that He says He is?  How often are we shown His grace, His mercy, His faithfulness, His very deity, and still we forget the works He has done?  Can we be that stiff-necked?  That hard-hearted?  Nincompoops to the core?  Yep.  And still He loves us!  Still He’s patient with us and He who started a good work in us will carry it on to completion. (Phil 1:6)

It was true that the disciples had seen Jesus’ many miracles. They’d seen him cast out demons, heal people, and forgive sins but now – Weirsbe ends the section this way, “Now they discovered that He even had authority over the wind and the sea.  This meant that they had no reason ever again to be afraid, for their Lord was in constant control of every situation.”2

Is Jesus your Lord?  Then we must understand completely – we have no reason to ever be afraid.  Ever.

That, my friends, is freedom.

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1 Warren W. Weirsbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary: New Testament Volume 1, 2nd ed, (Colorado, David C. Cook), 125.

2 Weirsbe, 125.

 

Making the Next Turn

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Making the Next Turn

I was listening to Jeremy Riddle’s 2007 debut album “Full Attention” on the ride home from church this week.  You know how God will use anything, anyone, and everything to get something across to you?  Well, He was working on me on Sunday with the title track.

Every time I think I can’t get any closer to God without being in Heaven Jesus shows me a way in which it could happen.

Let me back up a minute.  The diagnosis of a life-threatening disease severely stumps your long-term planning.  Your days are spent only trying to get past the pain, to stop the nausea, to stare into the 10x mirror in your bathroom and kiss your last lower eyelash away.

When I initially got told I was cancer free I landed in some sort of fog – perhaps it was a type of shock.  Not because I didn’t believe it – no way – God had told me this day would come.  But more because I was a little unsure of what that meant in the grand scheme of things.  The cancer may be gone but the effects of it weren’t.

That’s what I meant when I said in Monday’s post that I was ready … but not prepared.  Ready to hear the words “cancer free” but not prepared to live like I was.  My mother kept asking me how I felt … heck if I knew!  It took about five days or so before I really started feeling a sensation I hadn’t felt in a long while … I think it’s called freedom.  Even though I hadn’t realized I was living in a jail.  But now a wind kinda swept up under my feet and caught me away on it.  Little by little I could start to think about the future again.  A future that may include some bum feet and weird Brillo-pad-looking hair but still had infinite possibilities.

When you’ve spent over a year leaning hard on God and allowing Him to take over and you’ve been able to see that He absolutely does take care of what you need and that He absolutely is true to His promises – what more can you ask for?  How much deeper can your relationship get?  It’s scary but I’m getting a picture that the answer is:  much, much deeper.

I sang along with Jeremy and realized I didn’t have to ask to see God’s face – I had just experienced it.  Nor did I have to ask for His words to be clearer when I’d just spent 17 months falling head first into His Word on an almost daily basis.  I had experienced His divine presence and it was truer and sweeter than I ever could imagine.  And now here I was asking that His light burn brighter and His love move deeper and I shook my head laughing and asked out loud, “Lord, how could it?”

Remember when I said, “Don’t ever ask the Lord a question you’re not ready to hear the answer to?”

He must have said, “Let me show you,” and an almost imperceptible change happened inside me. I “turned.”  Like I was on a switchback curve in the Rocky Mountains.  All at once I felt as though I was stronger.  Stronger spiritually.  I felt I knew God.  Not all of Him of course, but certainly more than I did two years ago.  I could behave differently now because I have been treated to His incredible goodness.  I could be truer to Him.  I could show more of His love to others.  I could abide more deeply in His love.

I’ve decided that growing in Christ is like making one turn after another on our way to Heaven.  You turn just a little and whammo – you’ve got yourself more knowledge of God and more love for Him.

I wondered though … how can others have this without getting cancer or some other horrible disease and going through what I went through?

I don’t know.  But I’m going to ask Him because there has to be a way.  Every true Christ Follower has to feel this.  I want you to feel this feeling – to feel spiritually alive – deeper in love with Jesus than ever before – with a knowledge that you’re living in the heavenly realms even though your feet are still here on terra firma.  Like Peter said,

“His divine power has given us everything required for life and godliness through the knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness.”  2 Peter 1:3

If you’re a Christ Follower, His divine power is in you.  It’s glorious and even though I can’t believe I could feel more rooted in Christ, I want to.

More, Lord, more!

Have a wonderful weekend, my friends!

 

Holy? Who Me?

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Holy?  Who Me?

Just thinking about being thought of as holy or attaining this wholly lofty ideal makes we want to say, “Holy archangels Batman!”  I can’t quite fathom it!

Days 15 and 16 in the Bible study are on holiness.  Trying to comprehend how holy God is, what it means to say we’re holy, and how to live to become holy.

“You shall be holy, for I am holy,” says God in 1 Peter 1:16b it’s a command from God Himself.

Haven’t you ever shuddered when you think of yourself as a saint?  And yet we who have found salvation in Jesus are considered saints – set apart for God.  Clearly my behavior at that gas station outlined in the last two posts was very unsaint-like!  But how can we possibly hope to be holy?  Let’s look at the entire passage from Peter though for a clue.

14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the desires of your former ignorance.  15 But as the One who called you is holy, you also are to be holy in all your conduct; 16 for it is written, Be holy, because I am holy.  ~ 1 Peter 1:14-16

We hear echoes of verse 14 throughout the New Testament.  Don’t fall back into your old pattern of living.  When I became born again, I had the hardest time kicking myself free of my former life.  Now that I write that out – I see it was probably because I tried to do it on my own.  “I had the hardest time …”  It’s true.  I didn’t allow anyone to help me grow, I didn’t ask for help assuming I could do it on my own, nor did I ask for Jesus’ help to strengthen my resolve.  What that did is lengthen the time it took me to start living holy.

Verse 15 is pretty awe-inspiring isn’t it?  The one who called us … God.  The Almighty.  The Alpha and the Omega.  Heavenly Father.  So holy that when heavenly beings speak of His holiness they cry out three times … “Holy Holy Holy is the Lord God Almighty…” ~ Revelation 4:8b  Anytime a word is used in succession like that in the Bible, it’s emphatic or superlative.  Making, in this case, God’s holiness even more so – the most most most holy.

So here is our God calling us to be holy in our conduct.  I get the meaning pure and true.  Can we do it?  I know we can try and certainly that is what God is working us toward … our holiness … our Christ-likeness.

Then, in verse 16, Peter reminds us that God Himself is our standard for Christian living.  He states, “For it is written…” and when anyone says that in Scripture I always search for where it was written.  Here I find the call to be holy uttered by God to the Israelites “For I am Yahweh your God … be holy because I am holy” in Leviticus 11:44 and in 19:2 and 20:7.

Can we ever hope to truly be holy?

I would pray that as we walk in obedience we would get closer and closer to His ideal.  While I used to dread that sick feeling when I realized I’d sinned, now I almost welcome it … not the sick feeling (!) … the identification of committed sin.  We can make ourselves more open to the Holy Spirit’s promptings to point out our sins and then confess and repent from those sins.  I’ve found that it actually becomes easier and easier and at times, I’m almost glad when the Holy Spirit pulls me up short on something.  I want to become holy like Him.  In my heart of hearts, I want to please my Father.

I like the way Kay Arthur puts it:

“We don’t have to yield to sin; we can be separate from it – holy.  It happens moment by moment, opportunity by opportunity, with a decision to walk in obedience to God in the power of the Spirit.  The Spirit dwelling within you gives you the power to resist sin.”

The Bible Study also lists some practical steps to getting your holy on:

  • Watch the company you keep. People can have more impact on you than you’d expect, so seek out godly friends.  You’ve probably heard Proverbs 27:17 “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.”  For me it’s my bunch of Outrageously Christ-Filled Girlfriends and the ladies I lead with in BSF – good friends encouraging one another to grow in wisdom and godliness – even if it requires painful criticism.
  • Keep yourself sexually pure. This probably requires its own blog post, but in short, participating in sexual immorality will have the devil salivating at your door as you become one with the world and not living as one set apart for our Father.
  • You perfect holiness by living under control of the Spirit. I’ll ask again … can we hope to be holy on this ball called Earth? We can if we follow God’s call to walk by the Spirit. As Paul stresses in Galatians 5:16 “I say then, walk by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.”
  • Holiness is perfected by love. Perfect for a time such as this in our country – straight from 1 Thessalonians 3:12 (emphasis mine) “And may the Lord cause you to increase and overflow with love for one another and for everyone, just as we also do for you.” Later on in verse 13 Paul states that in loving others God will make your heart blameless in holiness.  If we will look at one another through the eyes of Jesus, I guarantee that our hearts will be broken again and again with love for people we never thought we could love.  It completely changes the way you view the world … at least it has for me.

As you think about becoming more holy this weekend, let God know that you want to be holy as He is holy.  Ask Him to show you anything in your life that mars His image in you.  Then remember that it’s love for one another that demonstrates His holiness and manifests the reality of God within us.  As we abound in love, we live out holiness.  Pick someone to love on this coming week … someone who needs it.  Let them experience God’s love through you.

And have a fantastic weekend!

Cross to Bear ~ 2

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This story started on Friday.  If you missed that, you’ll be lost today. So here’s a quick link to pop back and catch yourself up!

As I placed the nozzle back in the pump, I walked around the back of the car and my newest decal loomed large … a reminder of who’s I am and whom I’ve just disgraced …

† = ♥

I hung my head in shame and slid back into my car.

In my head I replayed what I said to the station manager.  Was that anyway to treat another human being?  What did that outburst say about me as a Christ follower?  I shook my head in disgust.  Some witness!  Paul can survive beatings and floggings and stonings and I can’t persevere through an argument without coming unglued.  I still have so much to learn!

By the time I was ready for bed that evening the weight of the sin-millstone around my neck was palpable.  The incident and the implications of the fallout weighed heavy on my mind for the rest of the day and I knew I couldn’t go one more minute before I had to get down on my knees that night and cry, begging forgiveness from my Lord and Savior.  I went to bed with a beautiful peace on my heart, but still mortified by the way I had acted that day.

The ever-present oily pit of black goo roiled in my soul.  I imagine it to be a pool of sin sloshing back and forth in my soul.  Sometimes it lays dormant for a while, other times it bubbles up and leaks out.  Now, I don’t want you to think that I’m in a constant state of consternation – far from it.  I fully accept the grace God affords me after I repent and ask forgiveness for my sin.  My heart and spirit are somehow lighter knowing He forgets my sin “as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” Psalm 103:12 (NIV).  It’s just that as I come to love the Lord more and more I am ever so much more saddened when I sin.  I know I hurt His heart.  I know I disappoint Him.  All sin is an act against God.  I love how Jerry Bridges puts it in his book Respectable Sins:

“Even though our hearts have been renewed, even though we have been freed from the absolute dominion of sin, even though God’s Holy Spirit dwells within our bodies, this principle of sin still lurks within us and wages war against our souls.”

Even though we are believers, we have a tendency to evaluate our behavior by how it relates to the society in which we live.  Since as Christians, we’re usually operating at a higher moral standard than those around us, it’s easier to get caught up in feeling good about ourselves and how we behave – even though we are sinning all along.  We must watch out for that trap.  Can’t you just see Satan grinning with joy?

Unbelievably, I hadn’t even read Day 14 when the incident at the gas station occurred.  As I opened up the bible study the following day I couldn’t help but see my sin all over its pages.  Convicted over and over again (but not condemned because I’d already received forgiveness from God).  Unfortunately, there were other recent incidents where I had opened my mouth inappropriately and these occurrences tugged at my heart.  I hadn’t confessed those to the Lord yet.  I’d pushed them aside as acceptable sins.  The bottom line – would I ever learn to keep my big yap shut?

Kay asks, “If I want to live this life (a life sold out for Jesus), am I willing to pay the price?”

Am I willing to really come to grips with my inability to keep my mouth closed when it isn’t necessary to speak?  Am I able to look with such love toward others that a critical thought never enters my mind again?  It’s certainly become a prayer of mine.

Think this week about your cross.  Or at least one of them – because I know I have many myself!  What can you, once and for all, give up to Christ by next weekend?  What can you cut out of yourself like fisherman gutting a newly caught snapper – all for the sake of Jesus?  I don’t think we have time to waste, my friends.  Jesus may arrive at any time and I want to see you on that narrow path with me!

God-Given Authority

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God-Given Authority

You know how God leads you to read or hear something at just the right moment?  People who don’t know God call it a coincidence, but Christians should realize that happenings like that are directly from the Holy Spirit.

The other day I caught a FB post from a friend of mine, Ben Nelson, who has the wonderful blog Another Red Letter Day and who was touting a post in another blog called “Go to Heaven Now!”  Written by Jonathan Brenneman, I thought it was a pretty interesting title for a blog.  Is the guy telling me to die now and go to Heaven?  No.  I’m fairly sure he’s just helping prepare his readers to go to Heaven.  The title of the post was “When Not to Cry Out to God” and considering that I’d just finished six posts on prayer I thought to myself, “Self. Is there ever a time NOT to cry out to God?”

The post is an empowering piece; and even though I get Jonathan’s point I actually believe there is never a time not to cry out to God.  I believe that God wants us to cry out to Him ~ perhaps to demonstrate our need or maybe to increase our faith when He delivers.  While Jonathan will argue that we, as followers of Jesus and vessels of the Holy Spirit have more power than we understand or know what to do with, often there are instances when God has given us marching orders and the power in which to do something for the Kingdom and we, in our human frailty and fear, sit on the sidelines asking God for (1) the power to do it, heal it, change it, rebuke it or (2) to do the work wihout us – or worse – to do the work Himself.

If I hadn’t cried out to God to help me get through cancer (of which I’m not through yet) He might not have given me the promise I needed to remember that He was in control and He was walking me through the season.  Did I have the power of the Holy Spirit within me? Absolutely.  But I, in my human weakness, needed a word from Him and He delivered.  I’ve lived through this entire last year on the joy that that word brought me.

But what spoke to me most within Jonathan’s post was his preamble about Satan.

It wasn’t too long ago that I learned to rebuke Satan (and his demons) when I needed to.  Sometimes I felt he had left but sometimes I felt like he was still hanging around ready to antagonize me.  Then, somewhere along the road I read Jude 9 which states:

Yet Michael the archangel, when he was disputing with the Devil in a debate about Moses’ body, did not dare bring an abusive condemnation against him but said, “The Lord rebuke you!

I sat back on my heels.  Whoa.  If Michael, the Archangel no less, wasn’t going to rebuke Satan on his own what makes me think that I have the authority to rebuke him myself?  And since I read this, I’ve been asking God to rebuke Satan when I needed it done.

I’ve spent a couple years operating in that manner and  I actually felt very secure asking God to rebuke Satan.  In doing so, I always felt he had been removed from my proximity or sufficiently beaten back to not have influence over me in whatever was going on.

But then I read Mr. Brenneman’s post which states, in part:

“I very regularly hear people pray “God, please rebuke all evil.” I’m not sure if this is a common prayer in the US like it is in Brazil. But where did God ever tell us to ask him to rebuke evil? He told us to rebuke it. One of the very reasons that Christ came as a man, was because God gave authority to men. I’ve recognized how these attitudes are crippling many in the churches, resulting in powerlessness. Believers need to learn to use their God-given authority.”

Whoa.  That’s a great point.  God has given me the authority to rebuke Satan, and more-over, Michael has not been given that authority.  That was my mistake.  Angels are not like humans – nor are humans like angels.  Jesus did not die to save angels.  He died only to save humankind.  I haven’t had to rebuke Satan since I read this post, but I know that I will no longer ask God to do what He has already given me the authority to do.  Thanks for the reminder, Jonathan!

I’m still going to blog about prayer because I love it so much!  But in the interim, here are some of my favorite books on prayer (no affiliate links):

Prayer by Richard Foster

The Valley of Vision (a collection of Puritan Prayers)

The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence

Prayer by Timothy Keller

Praying God’s Word by Beth Moore

Have a great holiday weekend everyone!  Stay safe!

** Image courtesy of http://www.hersides.com through Bing search