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Practical Faith

Updated: 2018-01-20T05:55:44.563-07:00


How do I feel?


Some years ago, I read that the best way to identify your idols is by considering what you think about all day. For me, that was a puzzle. I have a ‘scattered mind’ and could not identify any one thing that held my focus. However, this has changed. Instead of bouncing all over the place, my thoughts are more like: “Lord, I will do the next thing — just make it clear what that is.” Every Christian knows that Christ ought to be the center of our lives. As Tozer says in today’s devotional reading, “The scriptural way to see things is to set the Lord always before us, put Christ in the center of our vision . . .  The best way to keep the enemy out is to keep Christ in. The sheep need not be terrified by the wolf; they have but to stay close to the shepherd.”Human effort cannot accomplish this focus, and least I’ve never been able to do it. The Holy Spirit speaks of and continually points to Christ. My task is to clear the path by refusing all the junk that tries to come in, and just looking to the Lord. That has not been easy, except lately. The task has become a narrower choice: think about Jesus or think about how I am feeling.Yesterday someone called to ask that. Every person I talk to asks that question. While I don’t want to be rude, I don’t want to talk about me or how I am feeling. I’m thankful to be breathing, but my mind does not want to go there. As a normally selfish person, this is odd, but it seems that the Holy Spirit is doing a number regarding where my focus is.Todays’ Scripture fits. The psalmist is having dreams from the Lord (me too) and because the Lord is his focus, he is not back and forth . . . I bless the Lord who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me. I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken. (Psalm 16:7–8)This sense of not being shaken is odd for me. My focus has been scattered, all over the place, easily distracted, but not anymore. I’m still adjusting, but I like it!^^^^^^^^Jesus, setting You before me is easier. That is Your doing, yet I recognize an element of obedience. Listening to You in the night helps. Remembering that You are at my right hand helps. Being thankful also, but most of all not letting myself be caught up in that ‘how do you feel’ question except to respond with, “I feel blessed.”[...]

God prunes away all that is not like Jesus


Tozer says that becoming a Christian made me a partaker of God’s divine nature and at that, the work of “undoing the dissimilarity” between me and God began. This is the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit and it continues until God is satisfied. Jesus said, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” (John 15:1–2)The process of becoming like Jesus has been compared to pruning a fruit tree. First, God lops off the obviously dead branches with an axe. Then He goes to work on all the excess limbs that prevent the tree from bearing fruit. For this, He uses a small saw. Finally, He takes out a pruning knife and cuts away the smallest shoots and twigs that have no use to the tree’s ability to bear fruit. This comparison is a good one. The Lord’s first concern are those major sins that are obvious to all. Then He works at removing the subtle stuff, and finally the deeper motivations that most cannot see, but the Holy Spirit knows and must destroy.Tozer also says, “The only remedy for human nature is to destroy it . . . God does not improve man.” Instead, He crucifies the natural life with Christ and creates the new man in Christ Jesus. This is why Paul wrote:“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)This is the most humbling reality I know. Christ lives in me? Yet the focus is not about me. It is about Jesus, the One who came to change everything. He makes this death and new life possible.He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister. (Colossians 1:15–23) The alienation caused by sin has been eradicated, not by God changing me but by God putting to death that old life and creating a new person. It happened instantly at the new birth, but it also happens gradually during the process of pruning. To use another metaphor, I became a child of God when He saved me — and the rest of my life is about learning to act like what I already am.^^^^^^^^Jesus, I don’t know what You lopped off in the past two weeks, but my attitude toward life has changed. Perhaps it was the experience of nearly losing it. Perhaps it was seeing Your hands in the lives of caregivers in the emergency ward. Perhaps it was time spent hearing nothing but the Holy Spirit speaking to me. Perhaps it was the answer to many prayers on my behalf. Whatever it was, something was pruned and the sense of being reconciled to God is deeper and richer than ever before. Thank You. [...]

Death to self = alive to God


Besides the Bible, there is one book that I’ve read many times. It is “Born Crucified” by L. E. Maxwell, founder of Prairie Bible Institute. This book is about dying to self, a topic seldom preached, and even less lived out. I know the doctrine of personal revival and victorious living under the rule of the Holy Spirit. At times, God has blessed me with the experience of it. However, this has not been a constant. Like a young missionary once said, the trouble with a living sacrifice is that it keeps crawling off the altar. Tozer uses terms like taking our cross (a cross is a place of dying), and ‘plodding on to the dark and bitter hill of self-renunciation.’ He says many are called to this, but few are chosen. I realize the truth — few are chosen because it is not in self-effort that a person can deny self. This is the work of God.What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. (Romans 6:15–18) These verses sound as if I can present myself as an obedient slave and therefore become free from sin and a slave to righteousness — in a one-time offering, a major decision that changes life’s direction. I’m not speaking for others here, but for myself, I am very aware of the living sacrifice that keep crawling off the altar. This is a decision that requires frequent renewal.Tozer says, “The meaning of self-denial is not an infliction of personal torment nor penance, but it is simply the giving up of the very principle of living for ourselves. It is completely changing the direction of our being and will, so that no longer in any sense do we act with reference to how anything will affect us, but our one thought is how it will affect God or others.”For years, I’ve tried to do that, but the principle of sin kept yanking me back from it. Only in the last couple of weeks have I had the sense that God is working this in my heart. I nearly died in the first weeks of January. This was a physical thing, but also spiritual. In those days, something happened to the way I think. It is hard to describe though. The best I can say is that I no longer have any ambitions or plans of my own. I’m thinking ‘whatever God wants’ about all that happens, and not thinking ahead on anything. My focus is on hearing God’s direction and doing whatever is the next thing, which He faithfully puts into mind so I will know what it is.These days, presenting myself as a slave of righteousness seems easier. Waiting on the Lord seems easier. Dismissing any ‘I wants’ seems easier, even saying no to ‘have another cookie’ seems easier. What happened? I’m not sure, but also not stressed about it or about anything else. The King is on His throne. I just need to pay attention. If He is silent, then I wait without planning until He speaks.^^^^^^^^^^^Jesus, life has changed by this threat to life. I’ve not been able to accomplish this self-denial thing, but You know how to make it happen . . . and so You should. You are my Savior. I’ve never been able to save myself. Sin is powerful to drag me away, but You are more powerful and know how to keep me. The enemy has tried to stop me from praying, even from breathing, but You have him on a short leash. He can do only what You allow and for Your purposes. I rejoice in Your goodness and am thankful for Your wisdom. Bless Your holy name![...]

Using spiritual gifts rightly


There is a spiritual gift called discernment, sometimes referred to as a gift of prophecy. This can include the ability to see the future, but it is more about the ability to see things as they really are. This visionary gift is from God, and without the Spirit of God, it cannot function properly. John the Baptist had it. He knew what was happening and could see the reality of Jesus, who Jesus is and why He came to this earth.The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.’ I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.” And John bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.” (John 1:29–34) The Bible makes no mention of anyone else who saw the dove as John saw it, or if they did, no one recognized that this was the Holy Spirit who “came like a dove, descended like a dove, putting down His pink feet and disappearing into the heart of the Son of God.” The prophets had this gift. God told them what to say and they spoke to God’s people about the reality of their lives, the rebellion in their hearts, the promises of God for them — either for correction and change, or for blessing if they obeyed. I knew a woman who was strongly gifted in discernment. However, she had trouble with this gift. She understood the needs and problems of God’s people yet instead of praying or speaking prophetically, she was mostly critical of everyone and everything. Her evaluations were usually correct, but her manner of dealing with them was a thorn and unhelpful to the Body of Christ. From this passage, I’m instructed. First and perhaps most important is the attitude of John. He ranked Jesus as primary. That means John did not take the place of judge and jury when God gave him a special understanding. He merely declared it, recognizing his place and his purpose in God’s plan. He put the will of God first, and the attitude of Jesus Christ was his guide.Also, John made no claim that what he saw was from his own ability to see. He did not know until God told him what he should know. Only then did he claim to have “seen and born witness” to the identity and purpose of God the Son. Good advice on this matter comes from Oswald Chambers who said that God gives spiritual understanding, not so His people will criticize and complain, but so we will pray. This is good thinking. It is easy to point fingers, much more difficult to bring the issues to the Lord and trust Him to take care of them.Tozer brings out one more point. John the Baptist was a discerning prophet at a time where this gift was rare. He knew what was happening long before others had a clue about Jesus. He was not affected by the four hundred years of silence or all the speculation about Jesus. He knew — because God revealed it to him and because he had the humility to deal with that revelation. ^^^^^^^Jesus, so often I can ‘see’ but instead of praying or seeking Your will concerning what I must do about what I see, I point my fingers and complain or criticize. This must change. Forgive me for abusing and misusing any discernment You give and hold me accountable to be more like Your servant John and certainly more like You.[...]

The light moves when I move


When I sat down before the Bible this morning, I told God that my greatest fear was His silence. Every day, I listen for a word from God and dread the idea of not hearing it. Most of the time, He speaks through His Word. Sometimes He speaks through people or their writing. Today, He answered me within minutes of my prayer with this quote from Tozer:The first [principle and condition of divine guidance] is a surrendered spirit. Next, there must be a readiness to obey. He will not give us light unless we mean to follow it. Of course, this is true. Walking with Jesus is something like walking a dark path with a flashlight. I need to step into the light already given before the light moves ahead to the next step after that. That is, Jesus expects me to obey what I know. While there will always be somewhat of a gap between knowing and doing, walking in the light speaks to the attitude of my heart. In other words, I cannot study the Bible or have devotions for any other reason than life-change. This means I cannot spend time listening to God only so I will have an article to post on the Internet, or something interesting to talk about with my Christian friends, or for any other reason than to draw nearer to God and obey Him.Jesus is the way to draw near to God. It does not happen by what I do or don’t do. Knowing God is about knowing Jesus and having a relationship with Him. He is the light, my light along the path of life:Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” (John 14:6–7) As for the obedience part, that is also about having a close relationship with Him. To know Him is to love Him, and loving Him is expressed by obedience:“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. (John 14:15–17) From these verses, and from the experiences of life, I know that I cannot keep the commandments of Jesus without the Helper, the Holy Spirit. He feeds me truth and that truth sets me free from my sinful selfishness. Without the indwelling of God’s Spirit, the path becomes treacherous for I cannot see where I am going. There is no light unless I walk in the light He gives.^^^^^^^^^Jesus, this is why I need to hear from You every day. You are faithful to speak. If there is a problem, it obviously is not about You, but about me. I need to stay close, keep short accounts regarding sin, listen intently, and do whatever You ask. You know my heart. Keep it in tune with You as You continue to shed light on the path ahead. Sometimes the way is easy, yet not always. When my path is dim, without much light and rocky going, I’m especially thankful for the help of the Holy Spirit and the light of Your Word — to keep me moving forward. [...]

Worship and Fire


A sudden move to the mid-west had us searching for a new place of worship. The area had many churches, but it took several months before we could find one that was ‘alive’ in the sense that the Holy Spirit was evidently working in the lives of the people. One church stood out, but before we found it, we attended several that disappointed us. One was so ‘dead’ that even though the doctrine was solid, the messages were wooden, the people were cold, and the singing was off-key. I recalled this church with sadness this morning when reading Tozer’s statement: “Our only real danger is that we may grieve the blessed Spirit into silence and so be left to the mercy of our intellects.… We’ll have the bush, pruned and trimmed and properly cultivated, but in the bush there will be no fire.”(This refers to Moses meeting God at a bush that burned — but was not consumed.)While worship is defined many ways, and often associated with the music in a service, this is a far broader activity than the music chosen for Sunday morning. The New Testament word can mean to reverence or fear, but also to prostrate oneself in the presence of the divine or supernatural as a sign of deference and worship. It is about the attitude of the heart based on knowing the truth about the One being worshiped.Jesus talked with a woman at a well. She brought up the subject and made a distinction between the way her people worshiped and the way the Jews worshiped.Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:21–24) God is not a wooden idol, an old man on a throne, or any other image people might come up with or imagine. He is spirit, meaning “the transcendental, immaterial, rational existence that constitutes the essence of supernatural entities such as God, angels, and human souls.” In simpler terms, God is a supernatural, non-material being. We cannot see Him, and He is beyond our ability to comprehend. Unless He reveals Himself in some way, worship is almost impossible. Not only must our worship be directed toward Him, it is also ‘in spirit’ meaning we worship from the non-material part of ourselves. It may come out our mouth in words or songs, and show up in the movement of our bodies and the way we live, but it cannot be merely that. It is an issue and activity of the heart.Furthermore, worship is about truth, about reality. God says He is Almighty, Creator, Holy, and a myriad of other things, and our worship is about all of what He is. I cannot worship a god of my own making, or a god of the aspects of God that appeal to me. My God is loving, but He must also hate sin. My God is powerful, but He must also humble Himself and die on a cross. This is the God of the burning bush that Tozer alludes to, the God who is all that He says, revealed in Christ, described in His Word. He is far greater than my puny mind can fathom, yet even in that limitation, I cannot bring Him to my level nor can I remove anything that would make Him less than God. To do so would grieve the Holy Spirit and as Tozer says, leave me to the mercy of my own puny mind — and without the fire of the Holy Spirit.^^^^^^^Jesus, the very thought of this makes me shudder. I know that I’ve sometimes put You in a box, or limited You to what I want You to be. Forgive my sin of failing to worship You in spirit and in truth. May today be different, rich and full of fire as my heart gazes at the wonder of You. [...]

Seek His face


Last week in the hospital, I had several vivid dreams. One involved the Holy Spirit and the devil fighting over me. When I woke up, I felt that this was a war for my life. It was intense.Another intense dream had me at a church meeting. Two theologians were bantering back and forth over their opposing views of a certain doctrine. At least two people in the room were asleep. Some were ill. Others were nattering about smaller matters. In this dream, I became frustrated with the debate after hearing one of the theologians say that we needed to be united, and unity required thinking the same way. Really? This statement put me in ‘sermon’ mode! In the dream, I told the two theologians that unity was not about thinking the same, but about loving one another. Of course, the dream was longer than this summary, but I woke up surprised at its events.In today’s devotional, Tozer says that apart from Christ and the apostles probably no group of believers in history has ever held the truth in total purity. As he quotes, “the truth is so vast and mighty that no one is capable of taking it all in, and that it requires the whole company of ransomed souls properly to reflect the whole body of revealed truth.” This does not mean that God is the author of our confusion. Rather, our minds and hearts are messed up because of sin and we cannot understand clearly. The goal is to receive the truth without too much interference, yet as sinners, interference happens. We all have ‘holes’ in our thinking and need each other to properly understand God, and even then, we fall short!Tozer’s last statement says what I ‘preached’ in my dream — it is not union God wants, but unity, and that is a matter of life and love. How do we get that kind of love? Yesterday’s verses tell how Jesus told His disciples to love Him and that He would send them the Holy Spirit. This strongly suggests that for us to love Jesus, we need the Holy Spirit. Obviously, to love one another requires the same supernatural power. In my thinking, if I am going to love God’s people and be part of that unity that is not about thinking alike, but about love, then I need to seek the continual help of the Helper that Jesus sent. This idea of seeking the help of God brings me to a verse that I selected as my ‘verse of the year’ a few years back — only today I discover something new about this verse. It says:You have said, “Seek my face.” My heart says to you, “Your face, Lord, do I seek.” (Psalm 27:8) The new discovery is that the word ‘seek’ that begins this verse is plural. That is, God says, “Seek my face” to all His people, not merely the psalmist, and not just to me. The context suggests it is a command to an individual, but the word form is plural!I’m letting the implications wash over me. If all of God’s people are seeking the face of God, then are we not far more apt to have that loving unity that He desires? Think of a classroom of students all seeking the face (desiring to know and please) the teacher. Are they more apt to get along with each other? Of course. Or consider a family of children seeking the face of their mother. Instead of looking at their own needs or being concerned about their own plans, they are in harmony because they have a common focus.^^^^^^^Dear Jesus, in context, this verse seems to speak to me as an individual. I’m to seek Your face. Yet a closer look reveals that You have a far greater desire than individuals seeking You; You want all of us to seek You, desire You, reach out to You. In doing this, we draw closer to You and therefore closer to one another. To make this very practical, when I talk with Your people, it is always good to encourage them to be looking for You, seeking You. Nothing else is as important to unity as our desire for You![...]

Our Awesome God . . .


In human conversation, context is everything. “I love you” can be said as a warm response, or with a question mark, or in sarcasm, or even in hate. This is one reason reading the context of Scripture verses is important. This morning, I notice a couple of things from John 14:15–31: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.” Loving Jesus is demonstrated in obedience, but to do that, the Helper (the Holy Spirit) is needed. The rest of the world might not see that need or that supply, but I know my helplessness and know that Jesus sent me a Helper. If the Holy Spirit did not dwell with me, there is no way I could express my love to Jesus.“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” Again, I experience God because Jesus kept this promise. There also is a vast distinction between those who know Him and those who do not. The Holy Spirit gives us insights that enables us to love our God and realize His presence.Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?” Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me.” The presence of the Holy Spirit enables God’s people to obey, but also to realize the love of God and hear God speaking to us. Even those who know and experience this are in awe at what God has done and is doing. “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. 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 have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. And now I have told you before it takes place, so that when it does take place you may believe. I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no claim on me, but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father. Rise, let us go from here." (John 14:15–31) Jesus has gone away. The world offers its tidbits, yet we have this yearning in our heart for Him. He knew we would, so He sent the Holy Spirit who reminds us of all Jesus promises — far more than the world can offer. Jesus says He will come back and even though He is not visible to the world, He is very real to us. He comes hand in hand with His Spirit and in obedience to the Father. I’m again in awe over what the Creator, this Almighty God, has done and is doing.^^^^^^^^^^Jesus, at times I’ve tried to separate the work of the Father, Son, and Spirit. This does not work. Forgive me, and help me think rightly about Your work as the God of gods, the Lord of lords, the One in whom my life depends.[...]

The very best personal assistant!


Now that I’m home from the hospital, I feel the need of a ‘personal assistant’ to do some of the chores around here. My hubby is mailing the rest of the parcels (I sell quilt patterns) today on his way home from work. He does the lifting, cleaning up, etc. He is doing a great job, yet there is always extra to do and I know I cannot handle it.God knew that concerning all of life. When Jesus left this planet, He promised to supply:“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.” (John 14:16–17) My version says “Helper.” Others translate this name for the Holy Spirit as Comforter, Advocate, Counselor, even Friend. The word is used for a legal advocate, a person who acts as a spokesperson or representative of someone else's policy, purpose, or cause; especially before a judge in a court of law.This word covers a wide area of meaning. ‘Comforter’ is misleading because it suggests only one aspect of what the Holy Spirit does. ‘Helper’ is generic but can be particularly useful in some languages. In certain instances, for example, the concept of ‘Helper’ is expressed as, ‘the one who mothers us’ or, as in one language in Central Africa, ‘the one who falls down beside us.’ That is, an individual who upon finding a person collapsed along the road, kneels down beside the victim, cares for his needs, and carries him to safety (like the Good Samaritan).Even the concept of legal advocate can be restrictive, especially if it conotates a lawyer. In many cultures, lawyers are often people who ‘bribe the judges’ or ‘can speak two truths’ or as one language says, ‘a professional liar.’ Lawyers are seldom popular!How then can the Holy Spirit be described? Tozer says He is ‘a Being dwelling in another mode of existence.’ The early church creeds agree that He is God, but He is not the Father nor the Son. He points us to Jesus, even though He is also God. Maybe the best way is to describe Him by what He does, and this word from John 14, parakletos, is a beginning. The Holy Spirit is my advocate who takes my interests and even my prayers before God, representing my needs and concerns to the Almighty. He also comforts me as I need it, counsels me continually, helps me in every way possible, and puts my needs at the top of His to-do list. But I cannot see this amazing Friend. I can hear and feel Him though. He is real, and I rejoice knowing Him, knowing God the Father through Him, and knowing Jesus Christ the Son because of Him. He does not do the dusting — but He certainly meets my spiritual needs.^^^^^^Jesus, thank You for giving me Your Spirit. I need a Helper because I am helpless in so many ways. You are good and You knew just what to do about it![...]

God goes much farther than a mere text message. . .


Today’s devotional passage describes that somber time when Jesus explains to His disciples that He is leaving them. I try to imagine what that would be like — a loss of His presence must have been a great grief to their minds and hearts, like saying goodbye to a dying spouse, or a son leaving for war. This season, I have a new smart phone. I like email, but it has its limits. Texting is supposed to be the thing, but I’ve already realized it does not appeal to me very much. I’d rather phone those near to me or talk with them face-to-face. Call that old school, but verbal conversations offer an intimacy that electronics does not. The problem changes with distance. Separation is difficult, even with our modern communications of telephone, Skype and texting. When this happens to me with family or friends, the fear that communication will also be severed compounds my sorrow. We need people. I need people. I need family and friends. Sadly, a recent survey shows nearly half those needing counselling say they prefer it done by texting. They don’t want to talk to anyone. I’m concerned for those who isolate themselves, particularly those who isolate themselves to keyboards only. I’m convinced that a text message will never satisfy the human heart. For some, I suppose it is better than nothing, but it does not do what a real live voice can do.This is what Jesus told His disciples on that sad day:“But I have said these things to you, that when their hour comes you may remember that I told them to you. I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you. But now I am going to him who sent me, and none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.” (John 16:4–7) Tozer writes that, “The Holy Spirit came to carry the evidence of Christianity from the books of apologetics into the human heart.” While I agree that the Holy Spirit takes the words of theologians and puts them into our hearts, I also now realize He does the same with His own words!The Word of God could be considered like a text message. It is what God says to us in written form. However, He knew that would not be sufficient. The frenzy today to communicate with text messages only increases because it is not satisfying. It is insufficient. We need a voice, a real live voice. Jesus knew that. He was not going to leave His people with just a text — as marvelous as that text is to us. He sent the real live voice of the Holy Spirit, who carries the words of Jesus into our hearts. The reality of this truth brings me such joy that I am weeping. ^^^^^^^^^Dear Lord, You think of everything. You know the human heart, our universal need for someone close, who understands and comforts, who never leaves or forsakes us. What a blessing to have the Holy Spirit in my heart. He points to You. He helps and comforts me. His name means ‘one who draws alongside.’ Even though You are no longer here in the flesh, the Holy Spirit clearly brings Your presence into my life as a living, real life voice, a reality like no other![...]

United with the Holy Spirit!


January 8-9, 2018These devotionals on the Holy Spirit are delightful and bringing me into a deeper awareness of what it means to be a Christian.Apparently, it is easy to get the wrong idea. For instance, some think that Christians have no fun and are compelled to do things they do not want to do, something like becoming a robot. This passage has an element of that ‘robot’ thing in it:“And I will vindicate the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them. And the nations will know that I am the Lord, declares the Lord God, when through you I vindicate my holiness before their eyes. I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries and bring you into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. You shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers, and you shall be my people, and I will be your God.” (Ezekiel 36:23–28) However, being a child of God is no more about being a robot than our kids are robots. It is a unity that Tozer tries to illustrate with heat and a rod of iron, but I relate more easily to water and Kool Aid powder. God makes us new and His like we put the water and powder together; both obviously still exist, yet a new thing is created in their unity.No illustration can perfectly describe how the Holy Spirit penetrates our spirits. I remain myself, and the Spirit remains Himself without any destruction of substance as each remains a separate being as before. As Tozer says,  the difference is that now the Spirit penetrates and fills our personalities and we are experientially one with God. I am in awe of that!This relationship is not like the cartoon with an angel on one shoulder and red, fork-wielding devil on the other either. It is not a split-personality in any shape or form. Instead, being a child of God is almost like a dual personality, with me listening, the Spirit listening, both of us chatting and determining what comes next. If I pay attention, He guides me throughout the entire day, sometimes with humor (or is that me?) but always with wisdom.The joy and the secret of this wonderful intimacy is paying attention. He is always there to speak, but I can be distracted. For years, most distractions were the idea that “I can do this myself” but there is nothing like a stint in the hospital (Yes, I am still in the hospital) to reveal and remove the very last bit of that out of me. Right now, the distractions are more like forgetting how often I need to stop for a chat. And this is a real conversation, nothing at all like a text message!^^^^^^^^^Jesus, intimacy with You involves the Holy Spirit who always speaks of You and glorifies You. Forgive my slow and stubborn heart for taking so long to really ‘get’ this because I’ve too often simply had my own agenda. Tonight, I am moving slow, and for once I see that as a good thing!NOTE: Tired tonight, but there is hope I can go home tomorrow. [...]

Knowing about or knowing for sure?


January 6-7, 2018Paul suffered because of his faith. He was persecuted, mocked, beaten, and jailed. This provoked him to say:“This is why I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that day what has been entrusted to me.” (2 Timothy 1:12) Yesterday and today, I’ve been suffering too, not from persecution for my faith, but from one of the perils of being human in a sinful world — I’m in the hospital and not very functional. However, I can say with Paul, “I know who I believe and am convinced that he is able to guard until that day what has been entrusted to me.”Tozer explains the huge difference between knowing about something and knowing something. He uses a different example, but for me, I know about the electricity in the wall outlet, but when I plug in my appliance, I know it is there. It is not only available but useful and personal.This is about head knowledge verses experience. I can know all about deep-sea diving but unless I strap on fins and a tank, I really don’t know it. Yet what Paul said goes deeper than that. My doctor came in with the question they must ask everyone admitted to the hospital: what about resuscitation should I have a heart attack, etc.? My first thought was that verse Tozer quoted:“And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” (John 17:3) Jesus did not say eternal life was “knowing about” God and “knowing about’ Jesus Christ. It is ‘knowing Him.’ That one word changes everything. It changed my thoughts as I answered the doctor’s question. I KNOW Jesus, and I know that He is able to take care of what He has entrusted to me AND what I have entrusted to Him. How did I remember this verse and what Jesus said? Because Jesus also said this about the Holy Spirit:“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 have said to you.” (John 14:26) Tozer calls this quality belonging to the Holy Spirit ‘penetrability’ but I would use the word ‘intimacy.’ He lives and gives life to me without pushing me out. He works only to push out sin. Living in the freedom of hearing His thoughts and following His lead is a blessing beyond compare. He gives comfort but also excitement to life.^^^^^^^Jesus, this has been a long two days, and the trial is not over. Interesting how You have me reading Job at the same time all this is happening. He suffered far worse that I do, yet his words have a new meaning as the Holy Spirit applies them to my need. You are an amazing God. Thanks for the prayers of Your people. I don’t know what tomorrow will bring, but KNOW that I can trust You with it. NOTE: I’m behind a day on the devotional readings and plan to catch up tomorrow, Lord willing. It isn’t easy to even get enough sleep in a hospital![...]

Faith tested?


This post is a day late and a repeat of Januarly 4 because I spent almost all of yesterday in the ER. After dozens of tests, the botton line was recurrence of A-fib. In my case, the treatment is called cardioversion. While relatively painless, it robs me of all energy. I’ve slept most of the day and am making numerous typos.It seems appropriate to be reading Job. Job was a righteous man whom Satan tested with the argument that his faith would only last as long as God protected him. God allowed the test and Job lost everything but his wife and his life. He had no idea what was going on, only that he had not sinned or rebelled against the Lord. His friends were not much help. Their ‘faith’ said that as long as a person did right, God would bless them. In other words, Job had to be guilty of something.In reading Job 1-5, I understood some of Job’s angst. My A-fib has my heart alternating between slow and racing. My entire body aches. I’m dizzy. The fluid build-up from too much sodium is slow to go away and making my heart work too hard. To top it off, my left eye looks as if someone put into it a generous squirt of blood. All I want to do is sleep. Yet as I read Job, I understand the power of God to keep His people strong in faith, even when life goes sideways. The Holy Spirit has a way of filling my heart with joy, even when my heart is doing jumping jacks. That joy is from the reality of Jesus. He is right here with me. I am not stressed!Tozer says, “We will never understand the Holy Spirit so long as we terminate our thought upon Him. The Scriptures always lead us on beyond every subjective experience to the person of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.”Had the Apostle Paul been at the side of Job, this is what he might have said to him . . . “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.” (Romans 8:1–11) Job was in the Spirit, not hostile to God and looking forward to his own resurrection. He shared his distress yet words were more like “this is the way it is” rather than a pity-party. He said, “And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God.” (Job 19:26)Only the Spirit of God can give a deeply suffering person that hope, that attitude. As Paul said, because the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in me, He will give life to my mortal body also.^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^Jesus, this is not the first time You have given me Your peace w[...]

Don’t grieve God


The Word of God tells Christians to be filled with the Holy Spirit, but how do we know when we are? The problem with self-examination is that it puts the focus on me, and when that happens, I am in danger of operating in my own strength instead of God’s power. However, these verses are helpful. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22–23)This list supplies the biggest clues as to whether I am filled with the Spirit of God, or just filled with myself. If any of this fruit is absent, I need to determine what is wrong in my spiritual life. It might be that I’ve insulted someone, been impatient or unkind. Maybe I’ve over-indulged, not relying on the self-control the Spirit gives, but giving in to my own desires. Confession and repentance are the only ‘fix’ for this. The Spirit is willing to fill me, but I need to be empty!One item in this list of spiritual fruit has something to do with emotions. Whenever my joy slips away, it is usually a result of grieving the Holy Spirit. I say that because the Spirit of God lives in me, and whatever He is experiencing, so am I. If I make Him sad, I can usually feel it.Tozer says we grieve the Spirit by insulting Him, ignoring Him, resisting Him and doubting Him. The passage that tells me not to grieve Him gives other clues of how that can happen . . . “Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:25–32) Lying will grieve Him. Sin motivated by anger will also do it. Vain ambition rather than honest labor from a heart willing to share has an negative effect the Holy Spirit. So does the way I talk. I’m not to be bitter or filled with anger and wrath. I’m not to shout at people or slander them with malicious intent. The Holy Spirit is not like that, and if I am, then sin is running my life instead of Him.^^^^^^^^^Jesus, I feel sad today, and from reading this list, it seems the root of it is doubt. My body is not well and while I know that You can fix anything, I keep thinking of Job and wondering if this is just another test. If so, instead of trusting You with the care of my body, I’m starting to question Your goodness. That grieves the Holy Spirit, and I need to pray about it right now.[...]

Do I really believe what I say I believe?


I like what Tozer says in today’s devotional reading: “A doctrine has practical value only as far as it is prominent in our thoughts and makes a difference in our lives.”In years of study, I’m certain of what I believe, but what good does it do me if I am not practicing what I believe? I can say God wants me to be like Jesus in my thoughts, words, and actions — a totally correct doctrinal position, but am I? Some truths are easy, others less so...” “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. (Romans 6:1–11) The operative word in this passage is near the end: “consider” myself dead to sin and alive to God. This is a mathematical term meaning to reckon or calculate, to keep a record of, or bear in mind your conclusions. It is like making a list so that I will do what is on that list. It also means to hold as a conviction, to draw a logical conclusion based on carefully ascertained facts. The main fact in this section is that in union with Christ, I have died to sin. I am no longer enslaved to it. That means I can never say, “I can’t help it” or “That’s just the way I am” when it comes to sinful habits. The second major fact is that I am alive to God in Christ Jesus. This is a stupendous thought! I can walk in newness of life. Sin and death no longer have dominion over me. This means there are no excuses.I shared a story at dinner with friends on Sunday night. It was the healing of a blind man in South America after everyone in his church took turns laying their hands on him and praying. After three hours or so, this man could see. I remarked how many people, even Christians, think such a thing is impossible. One of the men at the table said, “Go back to the beginning. God spoke and the world was created. What is so impossible about Him fixing eyes?”Jesus, I connect this with what Tozer is talking about. If I say I believe that nothing is impossible with God, then my life ought to show it and my prayers ought to reflect it. I believe, please help (and forgive) my unbelief.[...]

Doing or Being?


This year’s devotional guide is: Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 366-Day Devotional. (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2007). I have it in my Logos software, but it can be purchased for Kindle at Amazon for less than a dollar. It has a five-star rating, and reflects Tozer’s statement: “If we are going to reproduce Christ on earth and be Christlike, we must have the Spirit of Christ.”New year often brings a desire for new beginnings, a change of direction, a desire to do better than last year. After our long trip yesterday with two flight delays and my body’s reaction to flying and far too much salt in restaurant food, it is good to be home. Last night all I wanted was sleep, but this morning am thinking about what God wants me to do in 2018. As I read today’s devotional thoughts, I realize that while He sometimes directs decisions to one plan or another, God is usually more concerned about who I am than what I do. Life offers many options; it is how I respond that matters, my attitude toward people and situations rather that the actions I take. He is telling me to guard my motives, my reasons why behind the choices.For instance, I’ve been asking Him whether to continue an activity that I enjoy, but this activity also puts considerable stress in my life. He is telling me either choice is okay — He wants me to examine ‘why’ I would make one choice or the other. The following passages offer some suggestions for self-examination:“Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. But that is not the way you learned Christ! — assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4:17–24) These verses begin with the do-nots. Do not have a hard heart that refuses to listen to the Lord. Do not be more interested in personal pleasure than being like Christ. This makes me pause. Do I favor one choice over another because it makes me feel good — as opposed to demonstrating a likeness to Jesus Christ? Christians sometimes turn to that ‘what would Jesus do’ (or mock it, because we have no clue most of the time), yet this is not helpful to me. The Bible offers no similar situation for me to study the way Jesus would handle this situation.“Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:25–32) Thes[...]

A good way to end the year


In the latter years of his life, the Apostle Paul expressed that his confidence was not in himself or his many credentials and accomplishments. He had a powerful life of influence yet his confidence remained solidly in Jesus Christ.“For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh — though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more . . . . But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.” (Philippians 3:3–11)Not too many days ago, I could fully relate to these verses. At least, my confidence seemed to be in Christ and I had my usual level of energy and ambition, but today, I realize how easily I can put my confidence in my health and energy levels. About two weeks ago, my heart went into mild A-Fib again. This had not been a big issue because it didn’t slow me down much. However, last night and today I feel as if a truck is sitting on my chest. We are sitting in an airport waiting for our flight to take us home, and I feel as if I am waiting instead for Jesus to take me home. Perhaps this is just fatigue, the kind you feel if you sleep with a pillow over your head and cannot get enough air. I hope so. Yet regardless of what is going on, the psalmist gives me words of comfort. “Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. For behold, those who are far from you shall perish; you put an end to everyone who is unfaithful to you. But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord God my refuge, that I may tell of all your works.” (Psalm 73:23–28) Paul also said about his confidence in Christ:“Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained. Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us . . . . our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.” (Philippians 3:12–21) ^^^^^^^^^^^Jesus, right now the prospect of having my lowly body transformed to be like Your body is appealing. Maybe a couple days sleep will change things, but at the moment, I a[...]

Listening to God profits my life


God has taught me to read Scripture and listen for ‘rhema’ which means God speaking to my need for that day or even that moment. One of the things that help this process was an exercise taught to me by several mentors. They said to read a passage and when something stops me (or hits me between the eyes!) then ponder it. What is God saying to me in that portion? How does it convict me of sin? What does it show me about God? About Jesus Christ? About the Holy Spirit? How does it teach me about life? Each time I did this, I was laying myself open to ‘rhema’ and God used these exercises to help me listen to Him and help me grow in my faith and knowledge of Him.Some portions of Scripture are particularly helpful for such reading. They are rich in various ways. The devotional passage for today (which I have expanded to cover more verses) is one of those. Even though “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16–17) this passage bundles all those elements into just a few words:“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.” (Colossians 3:1–10) The very first phrase calls for personal examination. Am I really a Christian? Do I have the new life that faith in Him produces? If so, then I ought to be thinking a certain way and living a certain way. The next part tells me why. I am dead to that old life and going back to it makes no sense. Then the passage gets specific. Am I struggling with any of these things? If so, I need to remember their end; God’s wrath! I used to live like that — and ‘rhema’ will tell me which ones need my special attention — but also remind me that these things are put off. Christ has changed me; I have a new life and my thoughts and behavior ought to show it.This is God’s way of renewing, of teaching reproving, correcting and training in righteousness. He wants to complete or perfect me so that I am able to do everything and anything that He might ask of me. This is not about God being a task-master who cracks a whip, but God as a mentor, a life-guide, a life-changer. He wants me to become the very best person that I can possibly be and as I listen to Him, He shows me every detail of what to think, how to talk, and how to live, that will not only bring out the godliness He has put in, but will also be helpful to others and bring glory to His Name.^^^^^^^^^^^Jesus, I cannot thank You enough for speaking into my life. You do it every day, sometimes more than once, and as I am learning to listen, I’m also learning to be more like You. I know how stubborn I’ve been, how blind, and often how deaf, but You persist and in that persistence, You a[...]

Waiting with patience


In our busy lives, my husband often teases me about the multiple ideas that come into my head. I say I want to make this quilt, or change that, or do something and he smiles and says, “Well, what are you waiting for?” That is a good question, but not in the usual sense. In our world, people are in a hurry and seldom enjoy waiting for anything. Traffic is one example, as is Christmas. It starts right after November 11 even earlier. Children display impatience too, every time they say, “Are we there yet?” However, I’m not thinking about the impatient kind of waiting, but the waiting we do with great anticipation.For instance, today we attend a birthday party for a cousin. He is soon going to be 100 years old! Visiting him yesterday was a delight. He is excited about this party and preparing his ‘speech’ with great anticipation. He was not impatient in the sense that he wanted the party to happen ‘right now’ but in the sense that he was looking forward to it.Christians are supposed to have that kind of anticipation for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. However, this morning’s devotional passages opened my eyes to another example of waiting, not what I am supposed to wait for but what Jesus is waiting for!“But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.” (Hebrews 10:12–14) Jesus waits. The word used means to expect, yet it is tied to patience. It is like waiting for the bread to finish baking in the oven, or waiting for the rose bud to open into full bloom. It is knowing with certainty that something is going to happen, but not yet, and not being anxious that it happens asap.Jesus is King of kings and Lord of lords. He knows that all those who oppose Him will bow with the rest who already acknowledge that He is Lord. He sits at the right had of the Father with that knowledge and waits for it to happen. He is not anxious, but patiently expectant. These verses even illustrate this with another concept. Jesus has perfected His people by His sacrifice. In Him, we are perfectly righteous. In this life, we are set apart for Him (sanctified) until that perfection is made evident. It is like having a million dollars deposited in the bank for me. That money belongs to me, but it is not ‘spendable’ until withdrawn. I have the perfection of holiness, even though most of it is on deposit!^^^^^^^^^Jesus, my cousin’s party starts in a few hours. We are excited. However, I’m also waiting with anticipation for the Your appearing and the fulfillment of Your promises. We are not there yet, and most of the time I’m not impatient. But I must admit that on occasion I say, “Please come, Lord Jesus.”LATER: What a lovely party! We feasted and sang, visited and made new friends. The party has come and gone, but left us with wonderful memories. Thanks to all who conveyed their best wishes. My cousin is tired, but totally happy. [...]

Going for a deeper motivation


I’ve become frustrated with myself because I don’t know how to help a person who obviously cannot do many things, but insists that she can “do it myself.” Over the past few days, it seems the best solution comes from remembering when my children were like that. I would let them try until they realized they were too little or too weak, finally coming to me and asking for help. It’s different with adults though, particularly if they do not realize their efforts are not working, or who is putting themselves in danger by trying to do what they cannot do. Without giving examples, I can only say that I’m not sure how to be what I need to be, but not only that, I’m running out of motivation. Before getting into a raging pity-party, God speaks to me this morning about motivation. He uses the prayer of Jesus from my favorite New Testament book:“When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, ‘Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do . . . .’” (John 17:1–4) Jesus faces far more challenges than I do. All of us were “I’ll do it myself” people who thought we could run our own lives. He sees my helplessness and pitiful self-effort. He sees the danger I put myself in by my pride and determination to do my own thing. He is patient and kind, but He also knows when to step in and intervene. He will not let me stand enjoying the limelight instead of getting on the train before the doors shut in my face, but grabs my hand and yanks me out of harm’s way or total humiliation and abandonment. The line that speaks to me is that last one — Jesus glorified God by accomplishing the work God gave Him to do. This is why He came. He was on a mission, not for Himself, and not even for us, but for the Father. His mission was to reveal the God of gods to a world busily trying to live rich, full lives by ourselves, not realizing how blind, poor, and nakedly helpless we really are. We needed to see the glory of God to realize our impoverished state and with that vision of God in human flesh, we are changed forever.I know that I cannot accomplish anything without the full power of the Holy Spirit. I also know that what I do for the people in my care is not about me, nor is it even about them. It is about living in such a way that I glorify God, that I reveal to others the wonder of Jesus Christ who lives in me.^^^^^^^^^^^Jesus, we both know that this is an impossible task. I cannot do it any more than I can “do it myself” with any part of life. To bring glory to You, I must be filled with Your Spirit, not trying to bypass the grace of God that enables me. If I am going to “do all things through Christ who gives me strength” then I need to abandon all self-effort and all motivations that may seem right. The only one that I need is that You are glorified. [...]

Why did Christ come?


Most days I read the Bible and God speaks to me, then I record what He said in my words. But sometimes I just need someone to preach to me. Today both happened. First, the devotional is a mini sermon, answering the question in the title: “Why did Christ come?”One reason Jesus Christ came into the world was to establish righteousness for us as a perfect human being. He restored what we lost in our sin. God requires righteousness from us, but we are guilty: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Jesus came to live without sin and in perfect obedience to establish righteousness before God for us. He is my representative . . .  “For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.” (Romans 5:19)A second reason Christ came was to redeem his people by dying as our Substitute. He satisfied the wrath of God against sin when God took all our sin and put them on His Son. The law of God is satisfied by this trade: His righteousness for our sin. “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21) Jesus also came to glorify his Father. The unseen God became visible so we can know what He is like and so we can know Him. The love of God is seen in the salvation and sacrifice offered through the life, death, and resurrection of His Son. “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.” (Hebrews 1:3) As I read these things, I am drawn to worship and thanksgiving. But the Lord was not finished speaking to me. The second reference was from Isaiah and again speaks to why Jesus came. Both sets of answers are personal but this one is right now where I am at. My sister is with us for a few days. She has a form of dementia that robs her of remembering words and where she puts things. I am grieving; the person she was is no longer the person she is now. Sometimes I am annoyed and frustrated, but mostly brokenhearted as I watch her in her foggy prison. Jesus came to mend my sorrow, but also to build up and eventually restore her. She is His child and eventually will live in a perfect body with a clear mind.“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zion— to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified. They shall build up the ancient ruins; they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations.” (Isaiah 61:1–4) Because I know all this is true, my sadness is somewhat lifted and I know that as this good word settles into my heart and I contemplate the promises of God with expectation. Perhaps full joy will return, but if not, I know there is a better day ahead.^^^^^^^^^^^Jesus, “I will greatly rejoice in the Lord; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has [...]

Who is Jesus?


A family member has memory problems, but she has one thing firm in her mind. We were singing carols and she said, “If a person truly believes, they must realize that Jesus is God.”Her once-clever mind did not make this up. This is a revealed truth. However, many people, even some who go to church and claim to have faith in Him do not agree. Neither did the Pharisees:“Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them a question, saying, ‘What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?’ They said to him, ‘The son of David.’ He said to them, ‘How is it then that David, in the Spirit, calls him Lord, saying, ‘“The Lord said to my Lord, ‘Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet’”? If then David calls him Lord, how is he his son?’ And no one was able to answer him a word, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.” (Matthew 22:41–46) The very moment Christ came into my life, I knew He is God. Someone advised me to read the Gospel of John five times, then Romans twice. In reading John, this truth was affirmed repeatedly, beginning with:“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:1–5) As today’s devotional writer says, people will acknowledge that he was a prophet, a religious teacher, a good man, who promoted morality and truth and justice. Some say His moral life, self-sacrifice, self-denial and devotion are good examples for us. One of the Pharisees agreed . . . “Nicodemus came to Jesus by night and said to him, ‘Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.’” (John 3:2) In the conversation that followed, Jesus made it clear that no one could see or enter the kingdom of God unless they were given a new life from God. He is so far from what we are that we cannot grasp His identity or figure out who He is even if another person tells us. We need that revelation from the Spirit of God through reading and hearing the Word of God. “Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness: He (Jesus) was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory.” (1 Timothy 3:16)He is more than a baby born in a manger, more than a good teacher and a good example. He is the God of gods, Lord of lords . . . “. . . and from the Jews, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.” (Romans 9:5)He came to seek and to save the lost, to redeem us from our sin. He was sinless, establishing righteousness as a human being so His righteousness might be imputed to believers by God the Father who sent Him to be our substitute, to satisfy the wrath of God against sin and justify all who believe. He did just that, declaring, “It is finished” as He died for our sin.After a day of gift-exchanges, too much wonderful food, and never enough fun and laughter with family, I feel sated, totally satisfied and blessed. All of it was good, yet all of what I feel is focused on this God-man, this Savior who took my sin on Himself and gave me life and the capacity to enjoy it.^^^^^^^^^Jesus, thank You. T[...]

The most wonderful Christmas gift


Grace is a revelation of Jesus Christ that changes our lives. Grace is God’s goodness at Christ’s expense. Grace is the light and glory of God seen in human form. Grace is a gift from God to all who will receive it. Grace is Jesus Christ.Jesus is God in human flesh, Creator and Light for our darkness.“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:1–5) Jesus is the light of the world, to be believed and received. When we do that, we become reborn and children of God. “The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:9–13) Jesus is the glory of God, a full revelation of God’s grace and truth that is not seen through any other way. God made Himself known through the Son . . . “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. . . For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.” (John 1:14–18) And today, we celebrate this revelation — that began with a Baby in a manger who grew in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man, until they crucified Him. Yet in His dying, He brought us forgiveness and eternal life.^^^^^^^^^Happy birthday, Jesus! I am grateful that You came, grateful that on Your birthday You offer us a gift, the greatest gift of all — Yourself![...]

He speaks into our hearts


For those who know Jesus, the Bible is often His way of speaking directly to our situation. The Greek term for this is “rhema” (word) rather than “logos” (also word). This is subjective but a very real communication. What God says to us might be out of context from the Scripture passage, yet never outside the character of God.Nearly twenty years ago, God blessed me with a “rhema” that He reminds me of today. Back then, on this day, my father died. He’d been ill for a couple weeks and the family took turns sitting with him. I was in a nearby hotel for the night and my younger brother was with dad. It was 5:45 in the morning when the call came.As I drove the short distance to the hospital, I chuckled. Dad had a habit of phoning the rest of the family as soon as he got up. He was a farmer who often rose before the sun. I said, “Dad, you did it again.”After spending time at the hospital, I drove back to the hotel. My habit for years had been early morning devotions. I was thinking, “It is Christmas Eve. The devotion will be about Christmas. How can God speak to my need this morning?” I was a bit uncertain about my dad’s salvation. When I opened my devotional book, this was a portion of the passage it featured:“Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said, ‘Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation . . . .’” (Luke 2:25–30) This morning I joyfully sob again at the grace of God. Dad had made a profession of faith in his old age. This biggest change I’d seen in him was the disappearance of his habit of nervously grinding his teeth. I was not certain, even though he told me he prayed, and even though he spoke well of God and did not blaspheme His name. However, Jesus knew that I needed to have my hope for dad affirmed, so He affirmed it — from the Christmas story.Since then, we have often experienced Christmas without grief or a sense of an empty chair. Dad is with Jesus, and he would not want us to cry and weep, but be joyful at this time of the year. Jesus didn’t want that either.^^^^^^^^Oh, my Lord God, You are a marvel. You can speak right inside my head and my heart, knowing exactly what I need to hear each day, sometimes each hour. I know that what I hear from You must correspond with Your Word and Your character. Otherwise I would be imagining things. Yet You make yourself known in ways that always surprise me, ways that I would not imagine. Today, I anticipated “rhema” again and You speak. What a joy to celebrate Your arrival on earth — coming to seek and save the lost, and living forever to intercede for Your children, speaking also to our need and giving joy to our hearts.[...]

How to celebrate Christmas


Two more days until Christmas and the traffic bears witness. Some stores in our city are open 24/7 so shoppers can come in at their convenience. The flyers are fatter than the newspaper, as usual, but the weight of them would stop a charging bull. Statistically, this is a make-it or break-it time of year for retailers.Many complain about the commercialization of Christmas, yet they are filling their shopping carts too. We like this time of year to gather with family, exercise generosity, and fill ourselves with turkey, special dishes, cakes, candy and cookies. Some will give to the poor that were forgotten the rest of the year. Even with a total lack of regard for the Christ child, Christmas has some good points, humanly speaking.Today’s devotional ends with an affirmation about celebrating Christmas. He does not regard it as a religious holy day in the sense of being biblical, but a time to remember and celebrate that incredible event when the Son of God assumed human nature, so He could live a sinless and exemplary life and die as our Substitute to accomplish our eternal redemption. In other words, December 25 gives us nothing better than Immanuel, God with us. We will magnify our Lord, our Savior, our King for His birth!This seems a sound opinion of Christmas, yet there are many other opinions, and many ways in which Christians celebrate the advent of Jesus Christ. Is there one that is correct? Hardly! It seems obvious that I cannot criticize anyone who puts up thousands of lights or the guy next door who doesn’t bother with a tree. The point is that we should respond to Jesus in great joy for this is part of the reason He came — to give us peace and joy.The Bible describes the birth of Christ, but it also describes how we are prone to bicker over how we should do things, even whether we open presents on Christmas Eve or Christmas morning. Focusing on such things shows how easy it is to miss the point.“As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand. One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living. Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; for it is written, ‘As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.’ So then each of us will give an account of himself to God. Therefore let us not[...]