Friday, October 31, 2014

Friday Slowdown

I am the Vine, and you are the branches...... enjoy this quiet and beautiful song as we complete our study this week.

Have a restful and blessed weekend.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

I'm a branch, you're a branch, conclusion (John 15:1-8)

I'm sure that all of us would like to be fruitful branches. But how does this happen? How can we become even more fruitful in our lives? The answer is by staying connected to the vine.

Let's look at verse 4: “Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.”

Wowser! Did you see that? In that one verse, the word "remain" is repeated three times! Umm, I kinda think that is important, no?  Again in verse 5, we see the clue repeated, "Apart from me, you can do nothing."
A person who has regular contact with Jesus Christ will produce much fruit in his or her life. That is a promise from Jesus.

How do we keep in regular contact with Him? Ah, you know the answer -- study, prayer, and when you are able, worship with others. That's how you remain in Christ, and He remains in you.

Regular study of His word, not a hurried verse before we charge out the door. Committing verses to memory so that His Spirit can use them to guide us when we need it. Keeping a journal of gems the Spirit shows us in the Word.

Prayer that is thoughtful, measured, and sincere. Again, not a hurried thing, but a true time of reflection, praise, and petitions. A pause during our day when we can hear that still, small voice.

And yes, if we are able, worship with other believers. Christian friends who can hold us accountable and who need our help, too. Praising Him in song - what a wonderful gift singing with others can be! Taking part in the Lord's Supper, and witnessing new believers' step of faith into the baptismal pool.

All of these are important ways to remain in Him. It is He who can strengthen us and empower us.

The story is told of a native from a remote mountain village who had the opportunity to visit a large modern city for the first time. He could not bring much home with him, and he had little money. But he was amazed at the electric lights which he saw everywhere. So he bought a sack full of electric lights bulbs and sockets with switches so he could turn them off and on.
Arriving home he hung the light bulbs in front of his home and on his and his neighbor’s trees. Everyone watched him with curiosity and asked him what he was doing, but he just smiled and said, "Just wait until dark--you’ll see."
When night came he turned on the switches, but nothing happened. No one had told him about electricity. He did not know the light bulbs were useless unless connected to the source of their power.

Jesus tells us, "Apart from me you can do nothing." He provides the electricity, the power we need in our lives to produce fruits of faith.  

So what kind of branch are you? Really, if you think about it, we are all four. We repent of those times we have been throw-away branches. We are thankful that Jesus has forgiven us. Although it is painful, we are thankful that God prunes us. We are thankful that God produces fruits of faith in our lives. And we are thankful, that Jesus remains in us, and we in Him.

Yes, it is true. I'm a branch, and you're a branch, and he is one, and she is one . . . .

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

I'm a branch, you're a branch, continued (John 15:1-8)

Last time, we talked about the forgiveness that Jesus offers to us. But just because we are forgiven, doesn't mean that God is going to give us an easy-peasy no-problems-here kind of life! Let's dive in!

We also need to talk about the 'pruned' branch. Remember this in verse 2?

                     "...every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, so that it will be
                     even more fruitful."

One of the jobs of a gardener is to prune the branches on the grapevine. This resonates with me, since it is my job each winter to prune the scuppernong and muscadine vines.  First, the dead branches must be identified and cut off. Those can be a place where bugs and diseases grow. Next, living branches must actually be cut way back -- there's an art to it (which I don't pretend to have mastered) so that you prune back to a node that can grow more healthy branches and hold up clusters of fruit. When you're done, there doesn't seem to be much left of the seems so drastic.  How can cutting something in this extreme a fashion be necessary?

It's all about the branches reaching their full potential.  Even though the pruned branches look almost dead, months later they will be vibrant with life, covered with leaves, and full of a large crop of grapes. But it would not be possible to have those results, if the gardener does not perform that pruning chore.

This is what God does to us. He prunes us. He cuts into our lives, and He removes things that we might not want removed. He changes things around, and takes some things away. It often feels so drastic, so extreme, so unnecessary. And many times while the Master Gardener is pruning, we are asking, "Why are You doing this to me, God?"

And if we will listen, we will hear His gentle answer: He wants us to reach our full potential as Christians. He prunes for our good. He wants us to produce as many fruits of faith as possible.  Perhaps we are going through that pruning process right now. We all experience this in our lives, and when it happens, we must trust that God is in control. That He knows what He is doing.

Our goal is that we become a fruitful branch. In verse 8, Jesus tells us, "This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples." The faithful Christian is one whose life is filled with "fruit." First of all, the fruits include faithful obedience to God. It's doing what God wants, even when the rest of the world is doing something different.  Fruits include the way that we treat other people; and that is our family, our work peers, our friends, and even total strangers. When we are around these people, we need to ask ourselves "how can I serve them? How can I show God's love to this person?"
And even more importantly, "How can I witness about Jesus to them?"
"This is to my Father's glory," Jesus said, "that you bear much fruit."

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

What are you listening to today?

Isn't it wonderful that in the midst of creating all of the universe, and all of the intricate things that He designed, God created music?
He created music to be holy and pleasing unto Him. He created it to be worship and praise unto Him. And that includes what we put in our ears.
Have you considered lately what you've been listening to? What is piped into your mind as you place those earbuds in your ears?
I truly believe that as long as we are listening to music that glorifies God, and music that tells us to keep God in our hearts and remember to praise Him, then it doesn't matter what type we are listening to. But that's just my humble opinion. (Grin)

So, I will be careful and not listen to anything that would pull my mind away from my Father and Savior, or away from the path that He wants me to walk.

              Sing unto Him, sing psalms to Him, talk of all His wondrous works!
              I Chronicles 16:9

So, what are you listening to, today?

Monday, October 27, 2014

John 15:1-8 I'm a branch, you're a branch . . .

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

Here in the Southland, we love our grapes. You thought it was just the Napa Valley and such? Au contraire! Our vines are abundant and cherished; muscadines and scuppernongs are strange sounding names to those who are uninitiated, but many a southern girl or boy has fond memories of a late summer plucking of grapes from the vines. The heady scent of the ripe grapes is something that we never forget, and we love the taste of the thick-skinned fruits, as well. Moms and grandmoms cook pots of jelly on the stove, and some entrepreneurs make wine.

In Jesus' day, the vineyards were even more familiar and important. Grapes and olives were both cultivated on vines, and were a mainstay of the diet and of the economy. Children joined their parents in working the vineyards, and pruning was a skill that was much sought-after. After the pruning was complete, the vineyard needed cleaning up, and the discarded and pruned branches were gathered and burned.  Jesus knew that His hearers would understand His words when He spoke this way.

He was using this as a picture to describe to people their relationship to Him, and to God the Father. It's a simple picture He is painting; He pictures Himself as the main vine of the vineyard, and we are the branches that grow off of Him. God the Father is the gardener, and there are different types of branches in the vineyard.

The first one is the "throw-away" branch. We can see in verse 2 that "He cuts off every branch in Me that bears no fruit." And in verse 6, "If anyone does not remain in Me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire, and burned." When the gardener is walking through the vineyard with his tools in hand, and he sees branches that have never borne fruit, he cuts them off and throws them into a pile. Eventually that pile is burned.  Jesus is painting a picture of people at one time were faithful Christians. Their lives reflected the relationship that they had with Jesus. But then something may have happened in their lives, and they stop producing fruits of faith, and stop obeying God. They stop living and talking like their faith is important to them, and instead they walk and talk just like the rest of the unbelieving world.

Why does this happen? The answer is in verse 6: "If anyone does not remain in me..."  Jesus tells us that we must continue to have contact with Him, through His Word, and through His Spirit -- or we can fall away from Him and stop producing fruit. We're no longer a witness for Him.

Years ago, we watched as a child received a present -- a toy that had been wished for. Big smiles all around as we watched the toy move and the child was delighted. In moments, though, the toy had stopped moving, and all was not well! Why? Someone had placed weak, used batteries in the toy, and it wasn't able to keep moving along.

Too often, this is what happens to some of us as Christians. We break down in the middle of our lives, and stop producing fruits of faith. We start living like unbelievers. How does this happen? We have neglected the source of our strength -- the things that are needed to keep our faith alive, and keep the relationship with Jesus fresh and alive.  We must not neglect the Word, and our study of the Bible, and our prayer life. If we do, our lives will not produce fruit for Him.

Of course, there are those who have never accepted His gift of salvation. They are not connected to the Vine, and they have not received His forgiveness and His new life.  How good it is that everyone can go to Christ, repent of our sins, and receive His forgiveness; we Christians can ask forgiveness for our neglect of that special relationship that keeps us producing fruit. Non-believers can ask for forgiveness and begin a new life in Him.

Forgiveness, and life in the Vine, is there for the asking!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Friday slowdown

Join me in contemplation today . . . are we growing? Are we showing the fruits of the Holy Spirit in our lives?

The fruit of the Spirit is love for our sharing,
It's joy in the gospel that we have from you.
It's peace that we live out with courage and daring;
It's patience, for we know that we have sinned, too.
It's kindness in all things and generous giving;
Its faithfulness seeking to follow your way.
It's gentleness, Lord, and it's self-controlled living;
Now make us more fruitful in these things, we pray.
Carolyn Gillette

The Spirit has a job to do, Conclusion

The third "job" or purpose of the Holy Spirit is something that Paul tells us about:

                    But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness,
                    goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such
                    things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have
                    crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live
                    by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.  Galatians 5:22-25

Wow! Doesn't this make you glad that Jesus sent the Spirit to us? It sure makes me glad!

I definitely want what the Spirit can develop in me. I heard an illustration long ago that is so fitting here . . . imagine if you had just inherited a grand mansion. It's elegant and fancy and luxurious, filled with huge, lovely rooms. So when you take possession of the mansion, you get just inside the door, and you're so impressed that you just stare around you at the foyer. You're so taken with this first room that you unroll your sleeping bag and camp out there in the entrance to your mansion. You never set foot into any of the other rooms. You live and die just inside the front door.

That's the way many Christians treat their salvation. They get in the front door and that's as far as they go. They're saved, but they are not living the abundant lives that God offers to them.  He has great things planned for us, but if all we do is plop down in the entry way, nothing much is going to happen!

Another way to think of these characteristics and how the Spirit can help us to develop them, is to think about them in the form of booster shots.  Yes, booster shots. Our first shot is our salvation -- we are saved and the Holy Spirit comes into our lives.  And in much the same way that a booster shot raises the level of our immunities, the Spirit can lead us to higher levels of maturity, if we'll just give Him the chance!

Check out this verse in Corinthians:

                           “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory
                            of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to
                            glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” (KJV)

We are changed from glory unto glory. The closer (and longer) that we walk with Jesus, the more we take on His image and climb those stairs of maturity into His likeness.

Sometimes the changes God’s Spirit would make in our lives will be dramatic… sometimes they’ll be subtle and almost imperceptible. But any Christian who satisfies themselves with putting their sleeping bag down in the entry way will miss all that. And they will miss the excitement and the adventure of growing up into Christ.

How do we get these fruits in our lives?
The idea is that the Holy Spirit develops this fruit in our lives when we WALK with Him. Galatians 5:25 says: “If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.”

If we are walking with the Spirit, that means we are spending time with Him. We have deliberately decided to do what it takes to be with Him. We will spend quality time with Him and allow Him to teach us. That is going to mean different things to different people, depending on their situation and time in their lives.

It may mean going beyond a Sunday morning church experience. For those who have it available, they may attend a mid-week study or prayer time. For those who have means to get there, it may mean that they participate in ministries of the church or faith group.

But even more importantly, walking with Him means that we will be PERSONALLY involved with Him. We'll personally study our Bibles to see what God can tell us there.  We'll personally pray in such a way that we visualize ourselves in the presence of God, and praise Him and listen for His guidance. We might personally try out things from the Scripture that impress us; fasting was an integral part of New Testament life, and we may try it.  We may personally gather with other believers in small groups, for fellowship and accountability.

And we won't get discouraged -- sometimes the times when we are walking closest to God are also the times when we encounter persecution or pain. Hang in there! Those are the times that the Spirit can use, to build that maturity in our character!

This passage in Galatians tells us that when we have the Spirit in our lives, when we walk with Him, there will be certain fruits evident in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness and faith, and so on. It's as if we are plugged into a power source that makes these fruits more powerful in our lives; in fact, that is what unbelievers may notice about us.  So be ready to tell them your secret:

                        But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared
                        to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason
                        for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and
                        respect,   (I Peter 3:15)

Thursday, October 23, 2014

URGENT prayer requests

I'm postponing our study for today because we need to join two of our Christian sisters in prayer. I will post excerpts for you here.

Belinda is a treasured follower who blogs at The Seam Rippers. Here is her email to me:
I wanted you to know why I haven't been active on the Bible study. My son-in-law is in ICU with what they believe is Sepsis and he is critical. I can't really even think straight right now. I know you don't worry about holding us accountable, but I didn't want you to wonder what was going on. We are having to keep our 4yo grandson around the clock so my daughter can stay with her husband.  He is on a respirator and they are keeping him sedated. It's a scary time for us and I'd appreciate it so much if you would pray for strength and healing.
 Please join me in lifting up these folks in prayer, and asking God to guide the doctors, as well.

The second urgent request is for Tonya, who began this study blog years ago. Her blog that outlines the situation with her husband's illness is here.  Here is her latest:
I shut the shop down the other day because I cannot seem to get the shipping accurate.
But tonight I decided that I am leaving it closed for a bit. With my husband declining as he is, I am just getting further and further behind and taking longer and longer to get the orders out. He just spent a crazy couple of weeks in the hospital, I will blog about it on the other blog this weekend when I have more time. Oh and the store! yes I opened it, but not like I would have liked. Lots of closed days because of the dear hubster.
More later, this was just a fast hey to let you know I am not gone forever...I just am gone for a short hiatis to tend to him.
 Please pray for these ladies, their loved ones, families, and doctors. Ask our Father to bless them with recovery, and for the opportunity to witness to those around them to the reality of God's love and peace.

God bless you both, Belinda and Tonya.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Spirit has a job to do, Part II

Another job that the Holy Spirit does, is to give us peace. Sounds simple, huh? But we're not talking about the kind of peace the world gives; that kind of peace isn't real, and doesn't last.

Let's dive in!

                   Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives
                   do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.
                   (John 14:27)

In the New Testament times, the normal way for folks to say "good-bye" was to say "Peace" or "shalom." Jesus was providing a wonderful legacy for His disciples, and all of us, too: My peace I give you. They would have peace with God because their sins were forgiven:

              Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace
              with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,  (Romans 5:1)

They (and we) would be guarded by His peace:

               And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard
               your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  (Philippians 4:7)

Jesus' peace brings an end to the separation caused by sin. His "shalom" repairs the brokenness caused by our sinful selves. Nothing in the world can offer such a gift. If we get peace from the world, it's a false peace that comes from our being blind to (or ignoring) our peril. It's a false peace that comes from pride, when we think God is not necessary. The world can't give us a peace that allows us to face the stark realities of life with calmness and assurance.  Even the paralyzing fear of death, and the dread of the future are removed, for we trust in Him and live and work in the Spirit. That's why we need not be troubled. That's why we have the deep and lasting peace He gives.

If our lives are full of stress, we need to ask the Holy Spirit to refill us with Christ's peace. A synonym for peaceful could be "undisturbed." Are we painfully disturbed? Are we distracted by the billows and waves of what God permits to come into our lives? Are we peaceful, content, or is the landscape that we see barren? If we are in fellowship with Him, we can turn our mind to Him, and contemplate His grace. In fact, if we are disturbed, if we are stressed, it is because we are not trusting in His mercy and grace. (Oy, that one hit home with me. I allow worries to get the best of me sometimes, and what I need to do is to trust Him.)

Many times troubles occur because we don't take the counsel of the Spirit and our Bible. Instead of first praying and seeking guidance, we act -- and then we ask God to bless our actions. We must continually learn the lesson that we are to depend on the Spirit for leadership and peace.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Verses that inspire

Yesterday we noted that if we are diligent in our Bible study, we offer the Spirit a chance to teach us, and prepare us to work for the Father.

Have you a verse to share that has inspired you? Comforted you? Bruised your toes? (Grin)

Leave a comment and help others with a verse or passage that meant a lot to you.

Monday, October 20, 2014

The Spirit has a job to do (John 14:25-31)

“All this I have spoken while still with you. 26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
28 “You heard me say, ‘I am going away and I am coming back to you.’ If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. 29 I have told you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe. 30 I will not say much more to you, for the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold over me, 31 but he comes so that the world may learn that I love the Father and do exactly what my Father has commanded me.
“Come now; let us leave."

We all have a job to do, right? Each and every one of us. There's a reason (or two or three) for each of us to be here on this earth -- we are part of a plan. We learned a week ago that we will have the help of the Holy Spirit as we try to fulfill our part of the plan. Let's dive in again!

Jesus knew that He must be the One to explain about the work of the Spirit. If He hadn't taught us about the Spirit, there would have been loads of people coming up with all kinds of stories and there also would have been people who "pooh-poohed" the work of the Spirit. So He said He was explaining it all "while abiding" with the disciples.

We can see that what Jesus did, and what He said, in the days He was ministering here on earth, was only partially understood.  As carefully and completely as He explained things, and as many parables as He taught, some still did not understand his teachings. But it needed to be our Lord who revealed them.  That way they would look back on His words later, and understand more fully.

There were three important things necessary for the apostles to understand Who Jesus was, what He was saying, and why -- what was His mission. Here is the chain of necessary events: First, Christ had to die for them. Then He had to rise again to demonstrate His victory over death and Satan. Then, lastly, the Spirit had to come and help us, by interpreting the meanings of His words and deeds.  That was the plan since before the world began.

So, here is the first job the Spirit needs to do: He teaches and He prompts. Not clear? Let's look at verse 26 again:
                    “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name,
                     He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I
                     said to you."

Jesus promised the disciples that the Holy Spirit would teach them, and also help them to remember His teachings. The Spirit would work in their minds and hearts, reminding them of Jesus' teachings and giving them insights to its meaning.

The Holy Spirit can help us in the same way. The Holy Spirit and the Word work together. They give us the correct meanings for what Jesus did, and correct applications when we read and study the Bible. We can learn what to believe and what to do. In our studies, we can trust the Spirit to place the truth in our hearts and convince us of God's will. (And remind us when we stray from it, right?)

Jesus was the first one to call the Spirit Holy. Did you see that?  The purity of God sets Him apart, and He sets us apart (for God) when we obey Him. He makes it possible for God to use us for good.

Oh, that we would spend more time studying our Bibles, and listening for the Spirit to teach us!  It is difficult in this hurried and harried world to set aside time for Him, but the rewards are so great!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Week of "recharging"

I hope that all of you will excuse me; I really need some time to recharge. I will be quiet this week, but next week we will resume our studies in the gospel of John.

Bear with me -- I appreciate it, and would be honored if you would pray for me to keep this work going.

Lots of love to all of you -- you are blessings to me, and I am privileged to have the opportunity to join you in these studies.

See ya next week!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

A holy promise, conclusion

If you are like many believers, you sometimes wonder, "How can I possibly do all of this that God wants me to do?"
Here's how: the Holy Spirit enables us.
That's a load off my mind.
At least I have some help.
Hey, I don't mean to be sacrilegious -- but it is really true, we don't have to "go it alone." The Holy Spirit is the way that Jesus manifests Himself to us; He shows us that He is with us, and gives us assurance of His holy promise.
We have a clue to this in I John 3:24 . . . check this out:

                  The one who keeps God's commands lives in Him, and He in them.
                  And this is how we know that He lives in us: we know it by the Spirit
                  He gave us.

This promise that Jesus makes to us assures us that His Spirit will be with us. We will live in Him, and He will be with us and in us.

Spoiler alert on these next verses! They are teaching the three persons of the Trinity:

                 Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me.
                 The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love
                 them and show myself to them.” Then Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said,
                “But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?”  
                        Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father
                 will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.   
                        Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you
                 hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me. (John 14:21-24)

If you have one part of the Trinity, then you have them all. If you are indwelt by the Spirit, you are indwelt by the Father and the Son as well.

See up there where it says, "make our home with them"? In the King James, the words are translated "make our abode with."  Who will they abide with? With believers, with the people that love Jesus. They don't necessarily abide with the rich and the powerful and the famous.

And, that word that King James' translators wrote down as "abode" is the same word that is translated "mansions" in verse 2.  God owns all those glorious mansions in the sky; He has palaces beyond the reach of time and space -- we sing about them, though we've not yet seen them -- He leaves those and takes up our bodies as His dwelling place.
Did you see verse 24?
                  Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching...

There's a real contrast there . . . we've talked about how we should be motivated to obey Him, right? In this verse, Jesus is emphasizing for us: no love, no obedience. As we have seen, love is the only power that can draw a person to keep the Lord's commands; they are totally foreign to our fallen human natures.  I think another point to see in that verse is that disobedience to the Lord Jesus is rebellion against God.  The rest of the verse is where Jesus said:

                These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father....

So, if we refuse to do what Jesus says, we are refusing to do what the Father says.
Heavy stuff, no?
Remember where we talked about the Spirit enabling us? We can be encouraged by Paul's words, as well:

                I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with
                power through His spirit in your inner being . . .  (Eph. 3:16)

A comforter; One who comes alongside; a counsel, a source of strength . . .

I found this anecdote on the internet and thought it was a good metaphor for how His Spirit will strengthen us:
One evening Lord Radstock was speaking at a meeting in Woolwich, and afterwards nearly missed his train home. He had just time to jump in as the guard blew his whistle. But a young army officer had followed him to the platform and running up to the carriage window, said to Lord Radstock, “Sir, I heard you speak tonight, but tell me, how can a fellow keep straight?”
The train began to move. Lord Radstock pulled a pencil from his pocket and laid it on the palm of his hand. “Can that pencil stand upright?”
“No,” said the young officer.
Lord Radstock grasped the pencil in his hand, and held it up in an upright position. “Ah!” said the young fellow, moving beside the train, “but you are holding it now.”
“Yes,” said Lord Radstock,” and your life is like this pencil, helpless, but Christ is the hand that can hold you.” As the train rounded the curve and was lost to sight, the last thing the young officer saw was Lord Radstock’s outstretched hand holding that pencil upright.
Twenty-five years later the same officer met Lord Radstock in India, and told him that all those many years ago, on that railway platform, he had trusted his life to Christ, who had upheld him and kept him ever since.

We, too, can trust our lives to Christ -- He has promised a Comforter, an advocate, a counsel. His promise is sure. Rest in the knowledge that He is Love, and He is Truth. He will never fail us.

(Thank you to Sermon Central site for the illustration.)

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

A holy promise, part II

Jesus' holy promise means that the Holy Spirit truly dwells in us. Some people wonder about how the Holy Spirit fills a believer. I saw a quote on the interwebs that said, "The filling....does not mean the believer gets more of the Holy Spirit, but rather the Holy Spirit gets more of the believer."  (Willmington)
If we compare the two passages that these focus verses come from:
                "be filled with the Spirit." (Ephesians 5:18 and following)

                 "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly" (Colossians 3:!6 and

. . . comparison shows us the to be filled with the Spirit is to be obedient to the Word. Our lives are supernatural -- the life of Christ is lived out in each one of us, by means of the Holy Spirit indwelling us!

Let's look again at verses 18 and 19:

             I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you. Yet a little while,
             and the world sees me no more; but you will see me: because I live,
             you will live also.

The word that is translated "comfortless" is "orphanous." (Looks familiar, right?) The news that Jesus was going away was devastating to the disciples, and they felt orphaned. They felt helpless, hopeless, puzzled, and alone. But Jesus is trying to gently encourage them -- He was departing from them physically, yes, but He would be with them in a new way.

In those verses, he said "you see me." That's present tense, and indicates continuing to see Him. And then He said, "I live." Again, that is present tense, and for Christ, that is dateless, timeless, unending life. He was standing within the shadow of the cross; that time was coming soon. But in divine knowledge and confidence, He was assuring them that they would be able to partake of the very life He lived. We live, as the song says, because He lives. And we will live as long as He lives.

The Holy Spirit gives us assurance, too.  "At that day, you will know that I am in my Father, and you in Me, and I in you." (verse 20)  This promise was "made good" on the day of Pentecost. Remember? The disciples didn't fully comprehend this when these words were spoken in the upper room. But the reality of it was seen at Pentecost, when the disciples were filled with the Spirit, and thousands were saved by their witness.
I don't claim to be a theologian; I can only say that my faith tells me to accept some things I don't fully understand. But I know that Jesus in in His Father; we are in Him, and He is in us. This is a mysterious and beautiful puzzle that I may not fully comprehend, just like the disciples in the upper room. But one day the reality of all of it will be shown to us! In the meantime, my faith tells me to accept that security, and to allow my life to be transformed by His life in me. And that is enough to drive me to my knees in praise and in prayer.

              The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit, that we are the
               children of God.  (Romans 6:16)


Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Prayer requests

We have so many times that we can pray . . . we can ask God to bless the food lovingly prepared, to nourish our bodies for the tasks ahead of us.

We can pray as we drive down a highway, and ask Him to keep us safe!

We can praise Him for all of the blessings that He has showered upon us.

And we can ask Him for wisdom, and for strength to keep on the job He has given us.

It's also our privilege to pray for others -- do you have a request to share today, so that we can join you in prayer?

Leave a comment below, and others will pray with you.

Monday, October 6, 2014

A holy promise

Our passage today is John 14: 16-20:
And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be[c] in you. 18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.

Let's try again to put ourselves into the disciples' shoes (er, sandals) and feel what they are feeling here . . .  Jesus has just made a pretty devastating announcement to them -- He is going away. But even as they are digesting this news, He is telling them not to be alarmed. Can you imagine the thoughts in their heads? "What? But you are going away, Master!" "How can we not be upset, and worried?"

Jesus gently answers those questions. Another comforter is coming. He promises that to them.  Let's dive in!

Sometimes when we look at the translations and meanings of words, we can get a better flavor of the verses, and understand them more fully. Let's try that here, OK?
A comforter is coming . . . the Greek word for comforter is "parakleton" and it means "one called alongside." It carries the meaning of someone who is called alongside for protection, or for counsel. The same word is also translated as "advocate" in I John 2:1.

                  My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if
                  anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ,
                 the Righteous One.

So, a comforter is one who comes alongside us, offers us protection and wise counsel, and also is an advocate for us.
Let's look back at the verses again . . . the word "another" is "allon" which is translated "another of the same kind." (To make it more clear, there is another Greek word "heteros" which is translated "another of a different kind.") So Jesus is very carefully choosing His words here, and the translators are doing their dead-level best to give us just what He said. Jesus was one comforter, right? He definitely comes alongside us, actually is indwelling us when we accept His mercy and grace. He does protect us, and He counsels us, too (if we will listen). And He is now our advocate in heaven. He goes before God on our behalf and says, "Father, I know they are sinners, but they have repented and My blood has cleansed them. They belong to Me." (I really feel like praising right about now!)

So the Holy Spirit is another comforter -- another of the same kind.
The Holy Spirit would be an invisible comforter, as far as the world was concerned.

                  And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter,
                  that He may abide with you forever; even the spirit of truth; whom the
                 world cannot receive, because it seeth Him not, neither knows Him:
                 but you know Him, for He dwells with you, and shall be in you. (v 16-17)

So, earthly fellowship with Jesus was about to be severed. Terminated. But the Holy Spirit would come to abide with us forever. What is the common philosophy of the world? Seeing is believing! How many times have you heard someone say, "I'll believe it when I see it!" So unsaved individuals can't know the Spirit of God.  Yes, He is real, but to them He is invisible.
The Holy Spirit comes to take up permanent residence in a believer's heart and life. The body of a believer then becomes vitally important -- it is now the temple of the Holy Spirit.

               Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who
               is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own;
               you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.
               (II Corinthians 6:19-20)

This holy promise from Jesus is being lived out in our lives when we trust Him to save us from our sins and advocate for us with the Father.
Let's work our way further along next time!

Friday, October 3, 2014

Friday slowdown

I wish that I could find a video of this particular song with a performance by the Oslo Choir, but at least this one has the audio. (grin)
Here are the lyrics for you:
God has got all power
In His mighty hands
He´s the great I Am
Awesome in His greatness
He´s so wonderful
He´s the God of all miracles

His power - that the winds and the waves obey
His angels - watching over us night and day
Alpha Omega, The Ancient of Days
King of kings forever He shall reign

The power - God has got all power
Miracle working power in His hand
The power - ressurrection power
God has got all power in His hand

Don´t you be discouraged
Hold your head up high
You can make it if you try
Let your heart take courage
Just keep holding on
Jesus said we are never alone

The power - all the power that you need
Yes, all things become possible when you believe
Faith is the power and His word is true
God has put His pow´r inside of you

Power - God has got all power
Power - miracle working power
Power - that the winds and the waves obey
Power - ressurection power
Power - all the power that you need
Power - wonder working power
God has got all power in His hands

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Why do we obey? (conclusion)

As we finish our deep dive into this passage, we will discover some key things about our obedience to our Lord. All of us want to obey out of a loving heart, so let's check this out . . .

We can see in both the Old and the New Testaments that a heart of love for God will obey His commands wholeheartedly.

               I desire to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.
               Psalm 40:8

               Jesus said, Blessed .... are those who hear the word of God and
               obey it.  Luke 11:28

We who love Christ will obey His commands simply because it is Christ's words that are spoken to them, whether it is by the statements of Jesus in scripture, or the Old Testament scriptures inspired by His Spirit, or the still, small voice of His Spirit speaking in our hearts. I think that as Christians, we want to obey Christ and serve only Him. If our obedience is because of convenience, or because of our personal self-righteousness, then we are serving self, and not Him.  In the same way, if our obedience is simply because of those in authority over us, and we are desiring to please them, then we are serving man. It is when we wholeheartedly respond to Christ with a willing heart, that we serve Him alone.

We also are going to obey Christ's commands cheerfully, without question. Oh, this is a tough one, isn't it?  Ouch.  We can't pick or choose which command to obey, and we need to make certain that we are willing and joyful in our obedience.  Sure, we might think that we know a better way -- if only God would do this at a different time, or in a different way . . . but remember, He tells us that His ways are not our ways, and His thoughts are different from ours, too. (Isaiah 55:8)  If our desire is to please Him, we will be glad:

                Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long. (Psalm 119:97)

                Great peace have they who love your law, and nothing can make
                them stumble. (Psalm 119:165)

And even though we are human, and sinful, with His grace we can have a consistent obedience, and a sweet testimony for Him.

                  I will always obey your law, forever and ever. (Psalm 119:44)

It truly is possible to faithfully obey Christ. Our love for Him will produce obedience, from a heart overflowing with devotion. Look at Deuteronomy 30:14 for a clue:

                  ...the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart
                 so you may obey it. 

Our hearts can be guided in obedience by our knowledge of the Word.  Ask the Spirit today to guide you in your study of His Word. He will show you the verses that you need -- place them on a card and carry them with you, to refresh your memory in times of stress. And ask Him for wisdom; that is a request that He will always honor.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Why do we obey? (Continued)

We're still studying in John 14, and we're focusing on verses 15, 21-24.  We're continuing to explore why we obey our Lord's commands . . . what motivates us?

"Keep my commands . . ."  What is our real motivation for obedience?  Is it because we feel we have no other choice?  People who feel this way are begrudging about their obedience. They aren't happy about it. They often fall into the pattern of legalistic thoughts, and they impose rules for how they live, how they do most everything.
What does this look like in today's world?
The same way it looked in Jesus' world -- remember the Pharisees?
Just like the Pharisees of old, people today who obey because they feel they have no choice (kinda do or die, you know) will have strict rules for righteousness. They'll sure look good. They will be super careful about everything they do; they will tell you there is a rule or a verse for everything. They will even tell you how much they love God . . . but they might also find time to tell you that you don't love Him enough. After all, you missed the mark; you did this and that, or you didn't do something you needed to. Self-righteous people are often very critical of others.

Jesus took on the Pharisees of His day. After all, as the Bible says, God sees the heart; Jesus could look beyond their self-imposed righteousness and see the true condition of their hearts.

                Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You
                are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on
                the inside are full of dead men's bones and everything unclean. In the
                same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the
                inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.  (Matthew 23:27-28)

Ahem. Yes, we need to realize that none of us will be able to deceive God. We can't pull the wool over His eyes. He won't be fooled by any claims of loving devotion when He sees self-imposed righteousness in our hearts.

But here is where we come to the "good part." Here is where all of us hope we are, right? The fourth kind of obedience, the fourth motivation for obeying is an overflow of a loving heart.

                And this is love: that we walk in obedience to His commands. As you
               have heard from the beginning, His command is that you walk in love.
               II John 1:6

You see, love is key. It's vitally important. A heart that fully loves Christ will produce a life that is marked by obedience to His word. Our lives will shine as witnesses to His grace. We'll talk tomorrow about this when we conclude our study of this passage.  I've looked ahead, and I have my bandaids at the ready. (Grin)