Tag Archives: HolySpirit

Perseverance and Wisdom ~ James 1:1-5

I remember when I purchased my MacBook Air that it came with a Quick Start Guide while offering the full user’s manual online. I purchased my Mac; I made that commitment. To learn the essentials I referred to the Quick Start Guide; but to master it I must read the user’s manual.

I have read James’ Epistle in its entirety several times. The Book of James is sort of like the Christian’s Quick Start Guide. You’ve come to faith in Christ and you want a quick, easy to understand overview of what your life in Christ should look like – read the Book of James. To work towards “mastering” the Christian life (“mastering” in quotes because we will not “master” the Christian life until we are reunited with Jesus in Heaven) we must study the entirety of His Word as He revealed it to us in The Holy Bible.

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:2-4

From the moment we come to faith in Jesus, we Christians face a barrage of challenges. We often find ourselves in situations and discussions that pit our faith in Christ and our knowledge about God’s ways against worldly views that seek to usurp His sovereignty. Proponents of worldly values forcefully argue their position and challenge the faithful to overcome them. Persecution abounds and is quick to raise its head when we who are faithful share views grounded in Scripture that are against the grain of modern societal thought. The path of least resistance is to be quiet; to shrink back and let the prince of the power of the air (see Ephesians 2:2) have his way. Sadly, we even see this phenomenon in the church as some churches have adopted worldly views and watered down teachings so as to avoid offending the “seeker” that might wander inside on any given Sunday morning.

The world’s arguments can be persuasive. But they are not grounded in Truth.

“If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.” James 1:5

Our only source of true wisdom is God Himself. We seek His wisdom through study of His Word and through prayer. Only when we seek God’s wisdom are we properly equipped to discern His Truth and stand firmly upon it. Only with God’s help are we equipped to witness to the truth in a world that is increasingly rejecting it. On our own, this is an insurmountable task. But by trusting God for wisdom, and armed with the true wisdom that comes only from Him, we can persevere.

Where Are We Headed?

United States Capitol

United States Capitol (Photo credit: Jack in DC)

We are living in a very interesting point in history. This great American experiment called Democracy is, I believe, on the brink of failure. Sound cynical? Consider: We Americans seem completely willing to surrender our personal liberties to an uber-powerful government that is increasingly disconnected from the people it is supposed to serve. Our national debt is growing at an alarming pace as those in leadership do nothing to stop it. Our moral values as a nation are eroding away day after day.

As I consider these things, I am reminded that I trust and serve the God of the universe. He who made all things is bigger than government, and His plan is perfect. I’ve completed my study of the book of Jeremiah. God spoke through Jeremiah to a nation, much like the United States, that had abandoned His truth and His ways. Israel was serving false gods and seeking after worldly wisdom just like we are today. We can read the Bible and see the consequences of Israel’s sin; the future of the United States is yet to be written, although our omnipotent God already knows our fate as a nation.

faith

faith (Photo credit: Leonard John Matthews)

I am so thankful for the gift of faith. Through faith, I can see past the sin of this world into the eternity that awaits all believers in Christ; an eternity in the presence of Almighty God. I pray for a revival in our nation. I pray that we the people will look to God through study of His Word and through prayer for our nation’s well-being. I pray that God would open the hearts and the minds of the American people to His eternal truth. That eternal truth is available, right at our fingertips. And as American history unfolds before our eyes, we can seek wisdom and comfort in God’s book called the Bible.

“All the prophets testify about Him that everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins through His name.” ~ Acts 10:43

The Bible, from Genesis through Revelation, is all about Jesus. It reveals God’s plan of redemption for His creation. There is no book in the Bible that is not relevant to today. It is wholly and universally true. It is without error. The wisdom of the world wants us to view the Bible as a spiritual guidebook or, worse, a collection of human writings assembled by men in a conspiracy to mislead us. That is the world’s wisdom at work, and it is a dangerous supposition. The Bible is God’s revelation of Himself to us; it is what He wants us to know about Him.

Travel Bible study. Taken 9.15.2013, Chicago, IL

Travel Bible study. Taken 9.15.2013, Chicago, IL

“What we have received is not from the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words.” (1 Corinthians 2:12-13)

A life and a nation built on the foundation of human wisdom is doomed to failure. On the other hand, a life and a nation build on the foundation of God’s Word will be blessed. As a believer, I will engage in the political process. I will share God’s truth. I will align my political positions with God’s Word as He gives me the wisdom and ability to do so, and I will communicate my positions out of love and respect for my fellow man. I will not despair over the state of our nation, nor will I worry about the future. Through Christ, my future is sealed for eternity. That reality frees me to engage absent any fear for what may lie ahead.

My prayer for today: Heavenly Father, as I consider the state of our nation I am tempted to worry. This morning I lift up all in positions of authority in our government. I pray that You would grant them wisdom and clarity of thought. I pray that You would compel them to seek Your will in all things. And, Father, I pray for a revival in this land; a revival that would reach from sea to shining sea, causing all of us to realize our sins, confess and repent, and trust completely in You through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Help me to be a faithful witness to Your Truth according to Your will. In Jesus’ Name I pray, AMEN.

Fully Committed ~ Acts 20:1-38

However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me–the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.~ Acts 20:24

The Farewell

The Farewell (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

After the uproar in Ephesus, Paul and several companions depart. Paul’s ultimate destination is Jerusalem, but he makes several stops along the way. During a stopover in Miletus, Paul sent word to Ephesus for the elders of the church to meet him in Miletus. When they arrive, Paul recounts his witness to them, warns them of opposition that will arise both from outside and from within the church, and tells them they will never see him again.

I am struck by the wisdom from God that Paul displays. Paul’s unwavering dedication to God’s service and those who believe, his insight into how his trials and tribulations are worth suffering for God’s good purposes, and his love for those with whom he served are all noteworthy. The degree to which Paul lives these traits is not of his own accord – we see here the power and influence that God can have over a life that is fully committed to Him and we see how God can use such a committed servant to win many for the Gospel.

We also see throughout Paul’s ministry the constant attacks Satan levies against the Gospel and those who believe. Paul’s warning here to the elders must be heeded today as well:

Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which He bought with His own blood. I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. (verses 28-30)

My heart breaks when I consider the thousands who have been misled through false, incomplete, or watered-down teaching and preaching. The savage wolves about which Paul warned the elders from Ephesus are active in the church today, and many have unwittingly succumbed to their false teachings. Christians, we must be in the Word. We must be in prayer. And if we hear false teaching in the church, we must speak out as God leads us. Stand firmly and boldly upon the foundation of the Gospel and be richly blessed.

Ponder this: God doesn’t call all of us to a missionary ministry as He called Paul; to what is He calling me? Am I willing?

My prayer for today: Heavenly Father, thank you for faithful servants like Paul and the apostles. Let me learn from them and be inspired by them, but more than that, fill me with your Holy Spirit and guide my footsteps that I might be fully committed to doing Your will in my life. In Jesus’ name, AMEN.

Gospel Impact ~ Acts 19:23-41

When they heard this, they were furious and began shouting: “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” Soon the whole city was in an uproar. ~ Acts 19:28-29a

The Artemis of Ephesus, 1st century AD (Ephesu...

The Artemis of Ephesus, 1st century AD (Ephesus Archaeological Museum) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Gospel’s impact on the people of Ephesus reaches a crescendo as local silversmith Demetrius raises concern among his fellow craftsmen that the Gospel message could damage their business. Demetrius made silver shrines of the Ephesian goddess Artemis and sold them to travelers coming to Ephesus on religious pilgrimage. If Paul’s message continues to spread, the silver trade could be hurt and Artemis’ credibility could be damaged thus having a negative impact on the Ephesians’ economy, Demetrius warns. Whipped into frenzy over this dire warning, the people seize two of Paul’s traveling companions (Gaius and Aristarchus) and drag them into the assembly hall.

The riot gains momentum. The Scripture tells us that there was mass confusion as people were shouting different things; “Most of the people did not even know why they were there,” we’re told in verse 32. Paul is kept from entering the hall, so Alexander, a fellow Jew attempts to address the crowd but they will not hear him. It is not until a civic leader, the city clerk, steps up to address the crowd that they quiet down and listen. The city clerk admonishes the crowd, telling them that these men have neither robbed temples nor blasphemed Artemis’ name. He tells them that this is not the proper way to handle this dispute. “The courts are open and there are proconsuls,” he says, “They can press charges. If there is anything further you want to bring up, it must be settled in a legal assembly” (verses 38-39). Upon hearing this, he dismisses the crowd, presumably peacefully.

First page of the Gospel of Mark, by Sargis Pi...

First page of the Gospel of Mark, by Sargis Pitsak, a Medieval Armenian scribe and miniaturist (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Over about two years’ time, Paul’s ministry made a significant impact on the people of Ephesus and surrounding areas. The Gospel has taken root and begun to grow into what would become one of the strongest churches in Asia.

If we plant ourselves firmly in the fertile soil of the Gospel and share the Truth out of sincere love, God can and will use us to change our corner of the world as well. We don’t need booming sound systems or kitschy sermon themes; all we need is the Gospel and the will of the Holy Spirit. Paul’s instruction to Timothy would be well heeded by us today: “Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage–with great patience and careful instruction.” (2 Timothy 4:2)

Ponder this: What does an honest and straightforward presentation of the Gospel look and sound like? What impact could I have on my world for the Lord?

My prayer for today: Heavenly Father, thank you for the power of the spoken word. That power is misused and abused at times; forgive me, Lord, for my abuses of your gift of language. Father, help me to speak all that I speak to Your glory. And when you give me the opportunity to witness, let my words be Your words so that the Gospel is in clear focus. In Jesus’ name, AMEN

It’s About the Gospel ~ Acts 19:1-22

God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them. ~ Acts 19:11-12

Eustache Le Sueur - The Preaching of St Paul a...

Eustache Le Sueur – The Preaching of St Paul at Ephesus – WGA12613 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We see in this passage what happens when the word of God is preached boldly and honestly according to the will of the Holy Spirit. We also see what can happen when one abuses the name of Jesus.

Paul spends two years in Ephesus, preaching first in the synagogue as was his custom. As opposition to the Gospel message grew in the synagogue, Paul began preaching in the public gathering place – the

lecture hall of Tyrannus – where both Jews and Greeks heard The Word. As the passage above states, God did extraordinary things through Paul. Through Paul’s preaching, God’s Word spread throughout the province leading many to confess their sins, “In this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power” (verse 20).

We’re also told about seven sons of a Jewish chief priest who apparently wanted a piece of the action. They went around trying to drive out demons:

Some Jews who went around driving out evil spirits tried to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who were demon-possessed. They would say, “In the name of Jesus, whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out.” Seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. [One day] the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and I know about Paul, but who are you?” Then the man who had the evil spirit jumped on them and overpowered them all. He gave them such a beating that they ran out of the house naked and bleeding.  ~ Acts 19:14-16

Given the end result of this encounter, it appears that these men were not acting in obedience to the Holy Spirit. Why were they doing this? What was their motivation? We are not told; but their actions clearly were not aligned with God’s plan. Their serving of the proverbial “humble pie” by this demon-possessed man was likely never forgotten.

In this passage we see a stark contrast between a sincere ministry led by the Holy Spirit and an apparent effort to practice ministry under less than honorable pretext. Ministry that serves God has its focus on the Gospel. Such a ministry focuses on the Object of our worship, not on the messenger.

It’s not about me; it’s about Him. Now, let’s go out and live it.

Ponder this: Are my motives for action aligned with God’s plan? Is my message to the world about Him?

My prayer for today: Heavenly Father, I surrender fully my life and my ministry to You. Give me a servant’s heart and tune me in to your Holy Spirit; that all that I do and every word I write or speak in Your name is fully aligned with Your good and perfect will. Keep me humble and keep me focused, I pray, in the name of Your Son, Jesus Christ, AMEN.

Encouraged to Witness ~ Acts 18:1-17

One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision: “Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city.” ~ Acts 18:9-10

Paul departs Athens and makes his way to Corinth. Following his familiar pattern, he preaches Jesus the Messiah in the synagogue. The Jews became abusive, frustrating Paul to the point of saying he would no longer preach to the Jews; from now on he was going to the Gentiles. That clearly was not aligned with God’s plan, for God spoke to Paul in a dream, encouraging Paul to continue speaking and reassuring Paul that no harm would come to him. With God’s reassurance Paul stayed in Corinth for a year and a half, preaching the word of God.

Pilate Pontius and Christ before the Jews

Pilate Pontius and Christ before the Jews (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In a parallel to Jesus’ appearance before Pontius Pilate, some angry Jews brought Paul before Gallio the proconsul, accusing Paul of “persuading the people to worship God in ways contrary to the law” (verse 13). Pilate tried to remove himself from Jesus’ situation without success; Gallio told the Jews that this was not a matter of law but of religion and that they should deal with Paul themselves. In response the crowd turned on Sosthenes, the synagogue leader and beat him.

This is an historically important exchange. By refusing to hear the Jews’ charges against Paul, Gallio in essence elevated Christianity to a “recognized religion” status – a status enjoyed by the Jews. With this status the Roman government would take no action on charges emanating from a religious dispute. But also, we once again see God true to His Word: although the Jews rose up against Paul, God protected him and preserved his ministry.

So why did the Jews beat Sosthenes? At every stop on the apostles’ missionary journeys, Scripture records the frustration and anger felt by many Jews concerning their message. Instead of seeing God’s promise fulfilled, they clearly perceived a threatened way of life. Paul’s witness to the Gospel was fed by the Holy Spirit, and with that nourishment, his witness was very effective. Sosthenes, the synagogue leader, responded to the Gospel by coming to faith in Christ. Since the angry Jews couldn’t touch Paul, they beat their leader. Faith in Christ sometimes comes with an earthly price; but that price is negligible in comparison to the eternal glory we will know when our Lord calls us home.

Persecution is evidence of a resonating message. In many parts of the world, Christians are beaten and killed because of their witness to Christ. When we stand firmly on God’s Word and speak His Truth in these United States we may be laughed at, scorned, ridiculed, or shunned. We may have falsehoods told about us, or we might even be dismissed from a Christian church. Such persecution will often come from other Christians, just as Paul experienced with fellow Jews. When we are persecuted for our faith and for our witness, let us be encouraged, knowing that God is working through us.

Ponder this: When have I been persecuted for standing on God’s Word? How did I respond?

My prayer for today: Heavenly Father, thank you for using me to further Your kingdom. Help me to always stand grounded in Your Word, and help me to always speak Your Truth, even in the face of persecution. Let me serve You according to Your good and perfect will. In Jesus’ name, AMEN.

Hedging Trust? ~ Acts 16:6-10

Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia. When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to. ~ Acts 16:6-7

This short passage mentions a few of the stops along Paul’s ministerial journey and concludes with a vision God gave Paul of a man from Macedonia pleading with Paul to “come to Macedonia and help us” (vs 9). It is abundantly clear in this passage that the Holy Spirit has set the course for this ministerial journey. We are not told why the Holy Spirit did not want the apostles to preach the Word in these places, and that is OK. As believers, we know that God’s will is good and perfect; we don’t need to understand each and every rudiment of His plan. We just have to trust Him.

English: Nature trail at Yates Cider Mill.

English: Nature trail at Yates Cider Mill. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Paul trusted God completely, and God rewarded that trust by using Paul’s ministry to reach the lost in many different places. Now that’s an honor! I pray that God would grant me the same degree of faith and trust that Paul had so that I can impact my world for Him.

Ponder this: Speaking for myself, I know I hold back when it comes to trusting the Lord. I need His help in working on that. How about you?

My prayer for today: Heavenly Father, I make my plans and I work to execute them. Forgive me for not consulting You first. Lord, I want more than anything to serve You as You would have me do so. Give me eyes to see, ears to hear, and the mind to discern Your will for my service. In Jesus’ name, AMEN.

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