Tag Archives: Holy Spirit

Equipped to Witness

Quite some time ago, my employer at the time conducted an investigation that involved me and several other employees. Outside attorneys were brought in, and we were called before them multiple times. The process was a tough ordeal, but through it all, I had no sense of worry; no sense of fear. One morning, as the interviews were approaching their  conclusion, a non-believing coworker came into my office and closed the door. He told me that he was impressed that I had maintained such a calm demeanor through the investigative process while others were short-tempered, lashing out at coworkers and visibly concerned. He asked me what it was that enabled me to maintain my calm. I told him that I trusted God for the outcome, and that I prayed every morning that He would see me through. My faith in Jesus Christ would not allow me to despair. He simply said, “oh” and left my office. We didn’t speak of it again.

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Acts 1:8 NIV

We Christians are commanded to share the Gospel with the world around us. This can seem quite daunting, and even rather intimidating. The world has thrown up barriers to witness in the very places we spend most of our time: our schools and our workplaces. But one thing the world cannot do is forbid us from leading godly lives that catch the world’s attention. Our actions and behaviors are, themselves, witnesses to something, and I pray each morning that every aspect of my life will point straight to Christ. I don’t always get it right, but my hope and prayer is that the Lord will open doors for me to share the Gospel with somebody who hasn’t heard it, or has heard it and rejected it just as He did with this coworker. And when God opens that door, we need not fear for Jesus promised in this passage that the Holy Spirit Himself will equip us to respond.

As we seek and await opportunities to witness, what should we be doing in preparation? Awhile back, Pastor Keith Sanders of First Baptist Church in Keller, Texas shared three ways to witness that I have sought to put into practice:

  1. Seek to become an expert witness by reading and studying God’s Word.
  2. Seek to become a character witness in the way I live my daily life.
  3. Seek to be an eyewitness by sharing what I have seen and heard.

As promised, the Holy Spirit will equip us to do these things if we simply make ourselves available and ask Him to do so. Speaking from personal experience, I can tell you that this is unequivocally true.

We are in the process of relocating to Houston, Texas. We plan to join Grace Presbyterian Church, whose mission statement is “Making disciples by encouraging people to make Jesus visible in their daily lives.” You see, this is where the rubber meets the road. Our daily lives are where witness happens. This past Sunday, each of us were given a tag to place on our key chain reminding us that “We are Here” and this is where we are to start living to make Jesus visible. “Here” is wherever we happen to find ourselves at any given time.

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“You Are Here”gpch.org

I intend to honor God by seeking to follow Jesus’ commandment to “make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19) and I am thankful that the Holy Spirit has used faithful pastors like Keith Sanders, Trey Hill and others to equip me to do so. He also equips me through my morning reading and study time. I am convinced that, by living my daily life in a manner pleasing to God, people will notice and some will ask what it is that I’ve “got”. God will give me the opportunities to speak and the words to say. I just have to be available and ready.

What about you? Are you prepared? Are you available? Jesus said, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into the harvest field.” (Matthew 9:37-38) Friends, we live in the harvest field. It’s time to get to work.

Soli Deo Gloria!

The Voice Behind You

Adversity and affliction are good things. Yes, I’m serious. We all face adversity and affliction at certain points in our lives. While usually manageable, sometimes it seems they are about to overtake us and we become discouraged, frustrated, or angry. If you are in that situation, I offer here a different perspective for consideration.

O people of Zion, who live in Jerusalem, you will weep no more. How gracious he will be when you cry for help. As soon as he hears, he will answer you. Although the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, your teachers will be hidden no more; with your own eyes you will see them. Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” ~ Isaiah 30:19-21

Have you ever considered the notion that adversity and affliction could be our teachers? Have you ever considered them as bread and water? When we are walking with God, adversity and affliction are all of these things.

Adversity and Affliction as Our Teachers

We all experience difficult times in life; times during which adversity and affliction seem to rule the day. As they are happening, life can be difficult. It can be painful. We may feel as if we are in a deep, dark cave with no escape in sight. All we want is to be out of the cave and back in the light. Once we are delivered from the cave we take a deep breath and move on. As I consider those times I realize in hindsight that they have molded and shaped me into the man I am today. I learned lessons from having gone through those difficulties. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, adversity and affliction were teaching me some very important life lessons.

God teaches us here that adversity and affliction are, in fact, teachers. He uses these difficult times for our ultimate good! Knowing that, and walking through life trusting the Lord, I now handle adversity and affliction completely differently than I did in the past. Instead of anger, I am eager. Instead of downcast, I am positive. Instead of experiencing stress, I experience peace. I trust God: I know I am being taught. I know the difficulties will end. And I know that, upon escaping the cave, I will look back and appreciate the lessons I have learned.

Adversity and Affliction as Bread and Water

This blew me away the first time I read this. Why does God refer to “the bread of adversity and the water of affliction?” Bread and water are the basic nutrients of life. Prisoners being punished used to be put on bread and water diets – no pleasure food, just the basic nutrients needed to keep them alive as they served their punishment. As Israel traveled through the desert after their release from Egypt, God provided manna and water to nourish them on their journey. Bread and water are important to nourishing and preserving life. Could it be that adversity and affliction are somehow important, too?

Just as I can look back on times of adversity and affliction in my life and realize I have learned lessons from having experienced them, I also realize in hindsight that I am a better person for having experienced these things. I have gained confidence. I have gained wisdom. I have gained compassion. My faith in God has been strengthened. I am a better man, and even more important, I am a better Christian. Indeed, I have been greatly nourished through the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, and I thank God for that nourishment.

The Voice Behind You

God’s promise given to us through the prophet Isaiah (30:21) in this passage is one of my favorites in Scripture:

“Whether you look to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you saying, ‘this is the way, walk in it.’”

Read it again. And again. Do you hear the compassion? Do you hear the caring? Do you hear the Love? You see, when we walk with God we are never alone. He is always there, teaching us, nourishing us, guiding us, and loving us. Adversity and affliction will come. It’s OK. God has proven time and time again that He will use them for our ultimate good. God cares about your life and He cares about mine. He cares about what is happening to you and to me right this very moment. His path is perfect, and when we tune in to Him, He will show us the way out of that cave. At all times, but especially during times of adversity and affliction, we must listen for His voice. We must be in His Word. We must be in prayer. And we must listen.

Prayer for Today

Heavenly Father, thank you for your unfailing mercy, grace and love. Thank you for the lessons you have taught me thus far in my life, and thank you for being that voice behind me, showing me the way. Help me, Lord, to be in your Word and to walk with You through all my remaining days. Through Jesus I pray, AMEN.

Help my Unbelief

Immediately the boy’s father cried out and said, “I do believe; help my unbelief.” ~ Mark 9:24

Have you ever felt this way? You know God is real, you know the only way to salvation is through His Son, Jesus Christ, you know anything is possible through Him – but that nagging doubt rears its ugly head at the most inopportune time. You doubt your belief even as you believe it. I have; I’m sure we all have.

This encounter with Jesus really struck me as I read it the other day. A man brings his son, who suffers from seizures, to Jesus and asks Him to drive out the demon that causes the seizures. The man explains that Jesus’ disciples could not drive out the demon and says to the Lord, “If you can do anything [there’s that nagging doubt at the inopportune time], take pity on us and help us!” (Mark 9:22) Jesus seems rightfully indignant as He repeats the man’s words back to him, “IF you can?” and tells the man that all things are possible for those who believe in Him. The man then pleads his case, “I do believe; help my unbelief.”

What does Jesus do in response? After all, the man’s weak faith was bared for all to see; Jesus could simply let him wallow in his doubt. But, notice what the man did. He confessed his weakness and asked the Source of faith to strengthen his faith, to help his unbelief. Jesus honored the man’s prayer for help and drove out the demon, thus healing the boy.

This, my friends, is our Savior – the One who loves us so much that He sacrificed Himself on the cross to bear all of our sins; even the sin of doubtful faith. Jesus knows our imperfections and our shortcomings, yet He promises to love us in spite of those things. He demonstrated His love on the cross of Calvary.

The Lenten season is upon us. Let us use this time to reflect on our sins and lay them at the feet of our Savior. Let us boldly approach Him and ask Him to help us with those nagging sins that we just can’t seem to shake on our own. And, once we’ve done so, let us trust Him to keep His promise; after all, He already has.

Here is the complete passage from the Gospel according to Mark:

14 When they came back to the disciples, they saw a large crowd around them, and some scribes arguing with them. 15 Immediately, when the entire crowd saw Him, they were amazed and began running up to greet Him. 16 And He asked them, “What are you discussing with them?” 17 And one of the crowd answered Him, “Teacher, I brought You my son, possessed with a spirit which makes him mute; 18 and whenever it seizes him, it slams him to the ground and he foams at the mouth, and grinds his teeth and stiffens out. I told Your disciples to cast it out, and they could not do it.” 19 And He answered them and said, “O unbelieving generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring him to Me!” 20 They brought the boy to Him. When he saw Him, immediately the spirit threw him into a convulsion, and falling to the ground, he began rolling around and foaming at the mouth. 21 And He asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. 22 “It has often thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him. But if You can do anything, take pity on us and help us!” 23 And Jesus said to him, ” ‘If You can?’ All things are possible to him who believes.” 24 Immediately the boy’s father cried out and said, “I do believe; help my unbelief.” 25 When Jesus saw that a crowd was rapidly gathering, He rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You deaf and mute spirit, I command you, come out of him and do not enter him again.” 26 After crying out and throwing him into terrible convulsions, it came out; and the boy became so much like a corpse that most of them said, “He is dead!” 27 But Jesus took him by the hand and raised him; and he got up. 28 When He came into the house, His disciples began questioning Him privately , “Why could we not drive it out?” 29 And He said to them, “This kind cannot come out by anything but prayer.” ~ Mark 9:14-29 [NAS]

Calm in the Raging Storm

Have you ever wondered what true contentment feels like? How do we find the proverbial calm in the midst of the storm? Does such calm even exist?

Naples, FL Sunset - July 2012

Naples, FL Sunset – July 2012

Over the past week or so, I’ve been very agitated over events currently facing our country. In observing the behavior of our government officials, those whom we elected to office, my anger often supersedes the attitude and outlook that I, as a Christian, know I should have. My anger and frustration is fueled even more when I see how we Americans treat each other with disrespect, anger, and disdain that seems to draw, at times, dangerously close to downright hatred. I worry about the future of our country. I worry about the condition in which my generation is leaving our country for our children and grandchildren. Worry, worry, worry! Out of the genuine concern I feel for my country comes emotions and words that, at times, I wish had never manifested.

For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. ~ Romans 8:38-39

Amidst my storm of worry, I open God’s Word. Therein resides the eternal calm in the midst of the temporal storm in which I find myself living day after day. Yes, our nation is in crisis; I truly believe that. But even in crisis, God reigns supreme. You see, my human frailty – the sinful nature that resides in each of us – causes me to say and do things that I know I shouldn’t do. Sin has that effect on each of us. When I say and do those things, not only do I help advance the problem at hand, I lose sight of the real prize that has already been won in my behalf through Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior. When I lose sight of the prize, I try to fight the storm on my own and I lose my way in the process. Thank God for His love, His mercy, and His Holy Word! Through His Word, I am reminded that, no matter what happens in government and no matter what the future holds for our country, I have eternal life through the death and resurrection of Jesus and nothing can take that away.

Hollywood Beach, outside of Ocean Pub 101, Hollywood, FL ~ July 24, 2013

Hollywood Beach, outside of Ocean Pub 101, Hollywood, FL ~ July 24, 2013

Through Christ, I am equipped to respond appropriately when crisis rears its ugly head. Rather than stir the pot and contribute to the problem, I am equipped to rise above the fray and offer a voice of calm reason in the midst of the raging storm. The sinful nature that resides within me, and in all of us, will sometimes cause me to stumble. The Holy Spirit will convict me of those times, compel me to confess them, and help me to repent so I can get back to the work that God has called me to do.

The love of God, manifested in Christ Jesus our Lord, is the calm in the midst of the storm. If you don’t know Him, contact me or reach out to a Christian friend – we’ll be glad to introduce you. If you do know Him and find yourself overwhelmed by the storms of this life, go into God’s Word and be reminded of your salvation; stop trying to fight the storm on your own! Then join me as I renew my commitment to being a positive influence, with my foundation in God’s Word, on my nation and all with whom I come into contact.

My prayer for today: Heavenly Father, As I review some of my posts and communiqués over the past several days I realize that I have not honored You as I know I should. In doing so, I am part of the problem. Forgive me of this and all of my sins and guide me to true repentance. In so doing, help me to be an effective witness for You, that through my words and actions, others would see You. In Jesus’ name, AMEN.

Those Beautiful Ancient Paths ~ Jeremiah 6:1-30

This is what the LORD says: “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls. But you said, ‘We will not walk in it.’ ~ Jeremiah 6:16

As I read the book of Jeremiah, I have come to understand his reluctance to follow God’s calling and share His message. God is angry and His wrath is expressed very powerfully. The common theme of Israel’s sin is their turning away from God and seeking their own path. They have rejected God’s sovereignty and placed themselves in His rightful place. Rather than follow God’s ways, they have embraced the false teachings of foreign gods. Yes, God is angry, and rightfully so.

Today history is repeating itself; we haven’t learned. In our modern times we seek human wisdom. I have a friend who grew up with me in the same church. Now a self-declared non-believer, he recently posted on Facebook, “Science and knowledge will save us. Nothing else.” What a succinct and sad testimony about our society today! Human wisdom tells us that the things of God are foolish, and that we who seek to truly follow Him are ignorant and close-minded. But we who seek to walk with God in faith know better.

Path

Path (Photo credit: greeneydmantis)

God, in His perfect wisdom, gave us a very clear roadmap to living a Godly life. It is presented in the Ten Commandments. While humanity tells us they’re outdated, God tells us through Jeremiah to seek the ancient paths and walk in them. My heart breaks when I hear former believers and even those in the modern church reject the ways of God and instead follow the crooked path of human wisdom. God, in his sovereignty, knows what is best for His children.

Notice His promise: “…you will find rest for your souls.” There is a beautiful peace that comes with following the Lord. It’s a peace that enables us to face life’s difficulties knowing that God is in control and His will is good and perfect. Several years ago, I was facing difficulties at work and knew I was about to lose my job. I wasn’t worried even though I felt I should be. A non-believing coworker came into my office and shut the door. “How is it that you are so calm as all this is going on? Aren’t you concerned?” I told him that I believed God had everything under control; I could lose my job but God would ultimately take care of me and my family. With God’s peace, His rest for our souls, we approach life with a sense of peace and calm that only God can give.

When one truly comes to faith in Christ, our perspective and our focus change. We no longer seek the wisdom of this world; we seek God and His wisdom first and foremost. As for me, I am resolved to stand firmly for Christ, no matter what society thinks and no matter what consequences may befall me. Of course, I am incapable of this on my own; I can only do that which God enables me and empowers me to do through the Holy Spirit. I will stumble and I will fall, but I will do my best to surrender to Him and strive to be a person who deals honestly and seeks the truth.

Ponder this: What nuggets of human wisdom have I elevated to God’s rightful place?

My prayer for today: Heavenly Father, thank you for revealing Your wisdom through Your Word. As I seek to follow You, show me the ancient paths, help me to walk in them, and give me the courage and trust to share Your wisdom with those around me. In Jesus’ name, AMEN.

Judgment and Mercy ~ Jeremiah 1:1-19

Then the LORD reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, “Now, I have put my words in your mouth. See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant.” ~ Jeremiah 1:9-10

God called Jeremiah to deliver bad news to a divided Israel. Over a span of 40 years, Jeremiah delivered God’s message of judgment to an audience that didn’t want to hear it; no wonder, as the message foretells destruction because the people have turned away from God: “I will pronounce my judgments on my people because of their wickedness in forsaking me, in burning incense to other gods, and in worshiping what their hands have made” (vs 16). We must always remember that God is righteous, just, and sovereign. There is judgment for sin, and everyone will face it. God’s judgment is pure and just; never forget that.

Two points strike me about God’s calling of Jeremiah:

  1. God chose Jeremiah “before I formed you in the womb” (vs 4). What an insight this offers into the eternal scope of God’s plan! Our all-knowing God has already chosen those who will come after us to proclaim His Word! Here we see clearly that God has a plan for everybody, even before He makes us.
  2. Jeremiah was anything but enthusiastic as he received God’s calling. He was reluctant. He said he was too young; that he could not speak. But God knew better; He had made His choice. Even in spite of Jeremiah’s reluctance, God calls him anyway.

The news God is calling Jeremiah to deliver will not be received well, and Jeremiah appears to know that. God reassures him, instructing Jeremiah not to be terrified in front of the leaders. God has made Jeremiah a fortified city, able to stand up to anything as long as he trusts God. What great reassurance for all of us who love and trust the Lord!

Many modern-day Christian churches don’t like to talk about God’s righteous judgment. The reality, though, is that God’s righteous judgment still applies today. All of us are sinners and will face God’s righteous judgment.

As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one. “Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit.” “The poison of vipers is on their lips.”  “Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.” “Their feet are swift to shed blood; ruin and misery mark their ways, and the way of peace they do not know.”  “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin. ~ Romans 3:10-20

God’s righteous judgment applies to all – whether they believe it or not. There is a price to be paid for sin; justice must be served on the sinner.

Indeed, God’s judgment is perfect, yet His mercy is immeasurable:

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” ~ John 3:16-17

You see, the world is already condemned because of sin. Jesus came that those who believe in Him would be redeemed and have eternal life. Only through Jesus can the sinner be saved: Buddha cannot save us; Islam cannot save us; Mother Earth cannot save us; human knowledge and wisdom cannot save us; there is no “universal salvation.” Scripture tells us clearly that salvation comes only through faith in Jesus:

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” ~ John 14:6

After Jesus’ resurrection, He appeared to His disciples and gave them this command:

Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” ~ Matthew 28:16-20

Jesus said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” He is our righteous judge, and in mercy for us sinners, He Himself suffered our punishment on the cross. Through His act of mercy, all who believe in Him have had their sentence served in full!

The commissioning of His disciples recorded in Matthew applies to us believers today. People need to be made aware of their sin and their condition under sin so they recognize the need for a Savior. Once they see their condition and realize the severity of the judgment that awaits them, the good news of the Gospel is ever so sweet.

God called Jeremiah to deliver bad news, and Jeremiah responded to that call in faith and trust in spite of his human limitations. Today we are called to deliver wonderful news, yet we often hesitate to do so. Let us not live our lives in fear of what others might say or think of our faith. Let always remember that God is with us. Let us live out the Great Commission and faithfully share the Gospel with a nation and a world that so desperately needs to hear it!

Ponder this: Am I responding to the Great Commission as God would have me do so? Who within my reach needs to hear the Gospel?

My prayer for today: Heavenly Father, I come to you today a poor, miserable sinner who takes great comfort in the reality that Jesus paid the price for my sins. Forgive me for my sins, and help me live a life that constantly and consistently reflects Your goodness and mercy. Show me, Lord, how You would have me share my faith with those who need Your Gospel. In Jesus’ name, AMEN.

Learning from History ~ Acts 28:11-31

For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. Boldly and without hindrance he preached the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ. ~ Acts 28:30-31

English: page of the Acts of the Apostles from...

English: page of the Acts of the Apostles from the last edition of the bible originally translated by Johann Dietenberger, published in Augsburg 1776 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

With these two verses, The Book of Acts concludes. Paul and his entourage depart from Malta and finally arrive in Rome. Awaiting his trial before Caesar, Paul is placed under house arrest, living alone with one guard to watch over him. He continues his ministry from his rented house, sharing the Good News of the Gospel with all who come to see him.

Paul calls the Jewish leaders to his house to explain to them what happened in Jerusalem and why he is in Rome. He explains that the government wanted to release him, but at the objection of the Jewish leadership they did not. Interestingly, the Jews reply that they did not receive any letters from Judea concerning Paul, but they had heard of the “sect” of which Paul is a leader and wanted to hear Paul’s views. Paul shares the Gospel with them and, as usual, some believe and some don’t. Paul quotes from Isaiah 6 a passage prophesying that many of the people would hear but not understand the Gospel, and tells them that God’s message of salvation has been taken to the Gentiles, who will listen.

My kids ask from time to time why they must study history in school. The answer, of course, is we have much to learn from history. In The Book of Acts, Luke faithfully records the history of the early Christian church. Through this divinely inspired record, God offers several takeaways that the modern church must heed. And for the believer who truly seeks to serve the Lord, we see shining examples through Paul, Peter, Barnabas, Stephen and many others of what steadfast faith and faithful witness ought to look like. So, what do you say? Are you up to the task?

Ponder this: What is my ministry? What is my role in sharing the Gospel?

My prayer for today: Heavenly Father, thank you for sharing the history of Your Church through Luke’s writing. Help me, Lord, to learn from Your Words and discern Your calling for my ministry; then let me faithfully answer. In Jesus’ name, AMEN.

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