Spirit of Holiness

Today’s verse is found in the letter from Paul to the Romans.  What an amazing letter that reveals the righteousness of God.  If you haven’t read through Romans in its entirety lately I would recommend it this week.  It not only talks about His righteousness but how God has revealed it to the world.  It also tells us how the good news of the Lord should be revealed to the world.  Guess who that involves? Yes, you and me. Chapters 12-16 provide directives for those who have responded to God’s righteousness and how we can demonstrate these directives in our daily walk.

Our focus today is on the Spirit of Holiness. Romans 1: 4 and who through the Spirit of holiness was appointed the Son of God in power by His resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord. 

What I’ve reflected on while thinking of the Spirit of holiness is how wonderfully amazing that this Spirit that was living through Jesus has now been placed in us.  As we pray daily to submit to God’s will it is the Spirit of holiness that helps guide us in our daily decisions in our own walks.  This includes obedience to the will of God.  Alone in this mission, we will miss the mark every time.  But, when we call on the Holy Spirit the work of the Third Person in the Trinity is to make God’s holiness ours. A. W. Tozer wrote in Knowledge of the Holy that this Holiness is made available to us through the blood of the Lamb.

The Holy Spirit, being the Spirit of Christ, is the Spirit of holiness. Hebrews 12:14 says Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.

It’s estimated we make 35,000 decisions a day. We need the spirit of holiness in every one of them.  The Holy Spirit doesn’t work on us, He lives in us.  Let’s look at 1 Peter as a reminder about our calling.

 

1 Peter 1:13 – 25 Called to be Holy 

13 Therefore, preparing your minds for action,[b] and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, 15 but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” 17 And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, 18 knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. 20 He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you 21 who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave Him glory so that your faith and hope are in God.

22 Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, 23 since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; 24 for

“All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass.
The grass withers and the flower falls, 25 but the word of the Lord remains forever.” And this word is the good news that was preached to you.

Let the Spirit fill you with this awesome song of praise by Upperroom! 

Our Peace

Our world has changed over the past few months. Currently, we are dealing with social and racial issues that are splitting the country apart. COVID-19 has changed the economic, physical, and emotional tides of the country. Each day, in the United States, we hear on the news about everything that is going wrong in the world around us.

Many of our families live in fear and dismay over the COVID-19 pandemic and all the other concerns going on. Each one of us is shaken and made to rely on something in their lives for hope and peace.

During all the uncertainty, I keep listening to Christians and Non-Christians’ uncertainty of what the future could be. Each one of us depends on some type of faith. I believe that during all this time, that Christians should portray a peace that passes understanding.

Ephesians 2:14 is our verse today. It says, “For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility”. Paul is speaking to the Ephesian church and is addressing the disagreements within the church. He addresses this issue by saying that, Jesus is our only true peace, and He is the only thing that can solve all their issues going on. Also, in Christ Jesus, we are made brothers and sisters in Christ. Therefore, as brothers and sisters, we must represent the sacrifice that Christ has made for us and rally together around that.

How does this disagreement that the church in Ephesians helps us understand peace?

Dictionary.com defines peace as “a state of mutual harmony between people or groups, especially in personal relations:”. As stated above, we can see that we are far from peace in this country and world. There is only one way to obtain true peace, by putting your hope and faith in Christ Jesus for your salvation. Jesus says in John 16:33, “I have said these things to you that in me you have peace. In the world, you will have tribulation. But take heart, I have overcome the world”. Our peace is found in Jesus!

Each day we fight, disagree, backstab, and worry all out of the fear of the future. We are looking for some type of utopian society. Because of sin, that isn’t possible, but with Christ, we do have a peace that will surpass all understanding. See Jesus paid for our sin on a cross to provide us the peace in our hearts that we yearn for. The peace that Jesus provides, is the understanding that we have a Savior and God, who loves us so much that the Father sacrificed the Son to pay for all the sin in our lives so that we can live with Christ in eternity.

In the current season of life that we are all living, Christians need to unify under one banner, the cross of Jesus Christ. I encourage each of you to keep your hope in Jesus Christ. Life isn’t easy and there will always be some amount of uncertainty. However, when we are able to band together as believers, we gifted with the Holy Spirit that strengthens us. In Galatians 3:28, Paul says, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” There is no distinction that Jesus makes.

Our peace is stronger together as Christians. I encourage you, now is the time to reach out to Christians and Non-Christians, that you know you disagree with on topics. Pray with them, share the Gospel with non-Christians and Christians alike, share a meal together, and overall be together and unify under Christ Jesus, who provides a peace that passes all understanding.

God With Us

Taking us back a few decades to Dances With Wolves and the Native American named Stands With A Fist. I’ve always loved that movie, and wondered, if we had literal names, what would they be? Ask your family, see what they come up with as your name. Get ready for some laughs!

    • Laughs Too Hard
    • Drinks All The Coffee

I looked up some names from the Sioux tribe and loved some of these!

    • Wears A Red Shirt
    • Friend to Everyone
    • Chief When Child

Can you imagine calling your son for supper, “Hey, WEARS A RED SHIRT, TIME TO EAT!”

And that’s exactly what was happening in Jesus’s day. It was foretold in Isaiah that the virgin will bear a son and he will be called Immanuel, which literally means “God With Us”. While this type of literal naming was common then, I wonder what the friends and family of Jesus thought of calling him God With Us. So there’s God the creator, and this is God With Us. We picture this a lot of times at the birth of Jesus, and it leaves me thinking of his early life beyond birth – was he directly called God With Us, as a name?

It’s pretty amazing that God knows exactly what his people needed – and he provides for them. God created community. We are made in his image to desire community. He provided God in the flesh to walk with us, give us an example, show us how to avoid temptation, turn the other cheek, and so many other life lessons. But then after leaving his glory in heaven, spending time on earth, he became a sacrifice for us – so we can be reunited with God the Father! And it doesn’t end there. He defeats the grave and because of his resurrection we have life! And if Jesus is God With Us, then I like to think of the Holy Spirit as God In Us. God sent us a helper to literally live inside of us, guide us, comfort us.

My prayer for each one of us is that we will feel God with us – the Holy Spirit living inside of us. He isn’t a distant God, but a God that walks with us, guides us, and brings peace by His presence. Take a moment and jot down where you experienced God with you this week.

Two days ago, my kids and I were on a run (gotta love E-learning PE!) and a downpour seemed to come out of nowhere. And shortly after, the most vibrant, complete rainbow appeared. I couldn’t think of a better example for my kids to see his faithfulness in that moment. We were soaked, ready to be home, and then, WOW, such a beautiful surprise and reminder. We have storms in this life – and He will always be with us through them. His promises are true and he is good.

(photo credit, Sharon O’Shea)

This weekend, how can we recognize his closeness? Is there time we can carve out to hear the God Inside Us? Are there some areas of our heart we can clear and make room?

 

Our Guide

Today’s readings are from 2 Corinthians 1:22, 2 Corinthians 5:5, and Hebrews 7:22 as we focus on the word guide to describe God.

A good friend of mine, fellow believer, and fellow Northwestern Mutual Wealth Management Advisor, Josh Waite, shared something very interesting with me a few years back which I now share with my clients. I’m not a mountain climber, but Josh is. In recent years, he climbed the highest peak in the continental U.S., Mt. Rainier in the state of Washington, with his siblings in memory of his late father. He shared with me that most people who die climbing some of the world’s highest peaks do so on the way down…not on the way up as many would be lead to believe. They think when they have made it when the reach the top, and they get complacent on the way down. However, the 2 things that help climbers complete a successful journey up and down the mountain are having a map and a guide. This is a good way to describe how we help our clients in retirement planning, and it is in times like we are experiencing today in the financial world that having a map (a financial plan) and a guide in us to help coach them through the challenges becomes most critical. Josh has actually written 2 books on this topic called Up and Down the Mountain for both corporate executives and medical and dental professionals.

The map for climbers shows the best route to take to get down the mountain and fully complete their journey. Fortunately for us, our God has also given us a map in his Word, the Holy Bible. A regular map shows you the route to take, but does not tell you anywhere on it that you will face unexpected and unknown challenges making the journey longer and much tougher. However, thankfully the map God has given us in His Word tells us there will be pitfalls and challenges like those many of us are facing right now with Covid 19 and its trickle down effects. Pastor Mike Baker once said that God doesn’t tell us exactly what specific challenges are ahead for us because we would probably freak out, and we would probably mess things up thinking we can do it better than His perfect plan. Again, He does tell us though we will in fact face challenges (yes..even Christ-followers) and that those challenges mold and shape us into who He wants us to be prior to the great joy that lies ahead in verses like James 1:2-4, James 1:12, 1 Peter 1:6-7, and John 16:33.

Thankfully, not only did God gives us a map in His Word, but he also gave us his Holy Spirit in Acts 2 as our guide which is our word for today. In 2 Corinthians 1:22, it tells us the Holy Spirit is on our hearts. He is always tugging on your heart and telling you where to go..to Jesus. Even though we don’t always go where the guide, the Holy Spirit, is telling us, just like we don’t always go the way the voice on Google Maps or Waze tells us, we end up realizing the voice of the Holy Spirit speaking to our hearts and telling us the way to go would have been much better..just like we usually realize when we don’t follow the Google Maps or Waze voice. Sometimes the voice on our GPS can be wrong though…but 1 Corinthians 5:5 tells us the voice of the Holy Spirit as our guide, which we can hear in our hearts leading us to Jesus, is guaranteed to be the best route.

As I mentioned earlier, my friend Josh taught me most people die on the way down the mountain because they get complacent thinking they have made it after reaching the top. We are much the same in our lives. We think we have made it and are victorious when we have really just hit some base camps along the way, and we think we can make it without Him. But, since birth we are all really headed down the mountain in descent because each day we are closer to our last day on this Earth, not knowing when it will be. Every single one of us will miss the shiny snow over there which is really ice, like sin, causing us to fall off the cliff to our death as we are told in Romans 3:23 and Romans 6:23…we just don’t know when.

However, when we follow His Word as our map, and we listen to His Holy Spirit as our guide on our hearts, we will fall less and take fewer wrong steps. But, when we do take missteps, because we will…every day….we have Jesus as a guarantee to catch us in His loving and forgiving arms and safely deliver us to the bottom of the mountain where we have eternal victory as our verses today tell us. 2 Corinthians 5:21 also tells us He actually took our place and fell for us…and in trading places with us…again now delivers us safely in victory, without blemish, to the Holy Father at the bottom. While I’m sure my friend Josh would say making it to the bottom of Mt. Rainier and completing that journey was an unbelievable feeling, as a brother in Christ, I suspect He would also tell us the joy he felt pales in comparison to the everlasting euphoria we will experience when we complete our journey on this Earth and meet Him face to face in eternity.

Voice Recognition

In a recent conversation with a friend, I recounted a situation that left me feeling kind of yuck in my heart. Ninety-nine percent of the time, running brings a lot of joy and goodness to my world. Time to commune with the Lord, escape from the worries of the day, and work hard. But in this particular scenario, I allowed my frustration to get in the way and have a negative attitude about someone in a race. As time went by, instead of feeling content with my effort or even victorious of the outcome, I was left feeling pretty blah and embarrassed about the thoughts going through my head about this other athlete. It definitely took away from the joy of the hard work.

Most friends, when hearing this story, would brush it off and say hey, that other athlete has issues. Don’t worry about it, we all have negative thoughts. She said some pretty rude stuff in the past, anyone would think those thoughts. Shake it off.

But not this friend. She’s a wise truth-teller. She made a point of saying, ‘if you’re feeling that press on your heart, I’m not going to speak contrary to the work the Holy Spirit is doing in your life’. She asked me some really insightful questions to help me get to the root of why the Holy Spirit was working on me in this area. Multiple times I have recalled the conversation, mostly her example to allow the Holy Spirit to work, and not gloss over it, justify it, or try to absolve my conviction. There’s definitely a time to lift someone up, and there’s a time to allow the Holy Spirit’s conviction to do his work. My friend had the wisdom to know the difference, and clearly she is filled with the Holy Spirit herself.

I’m reminded of this outline I came across years ago – which helped me pray and process through different thoughts. It can be HARD to distinguish between thoughts from the Holy Spirit, my own thoughts, or even thoughts from the enemy. I love this tool to help recognize the voice of the Holy Spirit:

When we recognize the voice of the Holy Spirit, we can continually empty our hearts and minds of other voices, and make more room for him.

Today’s reading is all about Stephen, Acts 6-7. He’s often remembered as the first martyr, stoned to death, but his testimony begins much before his stoning.

The early church was growing in size in Jerusalem and they needed to differentiate roles. Specifically, they sought out disciples that were filled with the Holy Spirit and wisdom, to coordinate the needs and sharing across the body of believers. Stephen was chosen, and recognized as a leader in the church. As the church grew and multiplied, Stephen kept showing up, with more grace and Holy Spirit power, miracles following. Fear spread across the Jewish leaders. They made false accusations against him (claiming he was going against Moses), and chapter 7 outlines Stephen’s response. Picture a courtroom setting and this is his closing statement to the Sanhedrin (the same Jewish council that sent Jesus to his death). Again, so filled with the Holy Spirit and wisdom, Stephen rehearses for them how they are behaving just as their fathers did and resisting the Holy Spirit. From Abraham, to Jacob, to Joseph, to Moses, to Joshua, to David… he pointed out salvation through Christ, and their history over time of disobeying God and persecuting his prophets. Stephen’s testimony of Jesus hit them right between the eyes. Verse 55 tells us that in that moment, being full of the Holy Spirit, he gazed into heaven and saw the Glory of God and Jesus standing at his right hand. This enraged the Sanhedrin and they took him out and stoned him.

Because of this persecution, the church scattered, and the salvation through Jesus was brought to more parts of the world. Instead of Stephen being shut down through his death, instead his impact was multiplied! His witness of living a Holy Spirit filled life and boldly proclaiming the truth of Jesus, was the catalyst for the church growing outside of Jerusalem.

Yes, Stephen was stoned to death and the first Christian martyr. But much more than that is the life he lived, recognized for how the Holy Spirit filled him, equipped him, and strengthened him.

I can’t help but think of this hymn, All of Thee, that verse by verse shows the process of sanctification, from a life of pride and self, to a Spirit-filled life.

God, You are so faithful and abundant. Show me areas I need to surrender so I can continually be filled with the Holy Spirit. Amen

 

Do Not Lose Heart

Good morning!

If you need some encouragement today, open right up to 2 Corinthians Chapter 4.
Paul opens and closes his letter with the message “Do not lose heart”, and I love the three message points he gives to support this message.
A third grade writing teacher would be proud of his intro, three supporting points, and a conclusion that restates his main message!
Paul gives us examples of how we may lose heart, specifically in ministry. Have you ever felt called to something and then when you are smack dab in the middle of it you start questioning the entire thing? How could this have been from God, it’s going terribly off track?  There are so many examples of this all around us.
  • Families fighting through government red tape to adopt a child.
  • Missionaries overseas who lose their funding unexpectedly.
  • A new college grad, eager and ready to serve but cannot find a job.
  • Parents everywhere who question their decisions and if they’re messing up their children!

Whatever ministry God has called you to, know that you are not alone in doubts, setbacks, feeling crushed from every side. (verse 9).  I love the encouragement Don’t Dig Up in Doubt What You Planted in Faith. 

The next point we are given is where our power comes from to overcome – the Holy Spirit! We are like jars of clay filled with an amazing power from God. The power is from Him, not from ourselves! If He calls you, He will equip you, even if in the moment you find yourself scratching your head and wondering how it will work out. You can’t do it alone – but He will do it through you!
Finally, Paul refocuses us on why we should not lose heart – because our glory is in eternity! All of the worries and afflictions of this life are nothing in comparison to eternity with Jesus! As our earthly bodies waste away, our hearts are being renewed and we are closer to eternity. If you’ve never seen this 4 minute video on eternity, click and watch Francis Chan as he shares this powerful visual.    https://youtu.be/86dsfBbZfWs
It’s so easy to focus on the small part of our lives that’s on earth, instead of the forever that will be with Jesus in heaven.

Casting Lots

It’s been really neat to follow along with Jon’s recent posts about hiring people. Took me back to my days in a corporate environment and some of the hiring adventures I experienced. I can remember walking away from interviews and being surprised (even shocked, at times) at what some people shared. And then wondering what I said or did in interviews that left people chuckling or puzzled? I mean, sometimes things just come out when you’re nervous or in a pressure cooker!

At one point in my career, I was building a new team of people that needed a skill set and knowledge base that we didn’t have a lot of in house. Hiring from the outside is a really cool opportunity to bring in fresh perspectives and unique talents, but it also comes with more risk. When you leverage existing talent within the organization, they usually have a reputation of work product, and you have a longer chance to observe them…but hiring externally, you’re relying on a resume, short interviews, and their former bosses’ opinions – people you don’t have a relationship with and have little motivation to help a different organization.

Sam, a young man in Michigan, had an interview that still leaves me smiling. His personality was as big as he was tall, and what he lacked in experience, he made up in knowledge. He worked hard and knew his stuff in the financial arena, coming up with great ideas and solutions to the different interview questions.

In that first interview, Sam spoke really fast and seemed to be sweating quite a bit. Halfway through he stopped me and confessed that he was nervous/ecstatic/distracted because the night before he asked his future father in law for his girlfriend’s hand in marriage! He received his blessing and so that morning Sam picked up the ring and planned to propose that evening! He was just so excited and thrilled for this next phase of life. I will never forget his zeal in that first interview.

There was a risk in hiring Sam – he didn’t have as many years of experience, but he had heart + determination. He knew his stuff and I believed his contagious personality was just what the other salespeople in Michigan needed to get them excited. Some leaders say they just have an instinct, or trust their gut… but when I boil it down, it’s actually the Holy Spirit. Like Jon, prayer was a critical part in making hiring decisions. Asking the Lord to show me what I’m missing, give me a peace in my heart about a certain candidate, protect me from bringing in the wrong person to our company. How amazing that we have a living God that goes before us and walks beside us!

In Acts 1, we see the last account in the Bible of casting lots, and specifically it was for a personnel change within the disciple group. Talk about a high pressure “hiring decision”!  If you aren’t familiar with casting lots, it was a tradition used by men of God to make decisions. We don’t know of all the methods specifically (sticks, stones, etc), but we do know the first example is back with Aaron and which animal to sacrifice (Lev. 16:8), and continued for hundreds of years with a range of circumstances. Dividing land, determining fault, settling disputes. This continued until this last time it’s recorded in Acts. Jesus had just ascended to heaven and they were to wait in Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit came. While they’re waiting, Peter addresses the group of disciples and their need to replace Judas. They brought forward two candidates, Joseph of Barsabbas and Matthias. They prayed over the decision and asked God to show them who to select, and then they cast the lots. Maybe they had marked sticks or stones, we don’t know… but whatever they used, it came up that it was Mathias to replace Judas.

Casting lots is never mentioned again, and maybe I’m making a leap here, but it seems to me that once the Holy Spirit arrives, living in us, guiding us, then we no longer need to cast lots. Romans 12:2 tells us:

Being transformed in the renewal of your mind that you may be able to prove what is the will of God, what is good, acceptable and perfect.

Discerning the will of God isn’t easy, but we have the power of the Holy Spirit and the Living Word to rely on. What an opportunity, strike that, OBLIGATION we have to transform + renew our minds! If we aren’t talking with Him or studying His words regularly, how will we know His will? Do you believe that God can and will press upon your heart, the path He has for you? We don’t have to flip a coin to make a tough decision – we have the Holy Spirit inside of us! I can’t wait for Acts 2 and what BJ has to share with us next week about the Holy Spirit, it’s going to be great!

Oh, and Sam? She said yes. And fifteen years later he is still doing great things with that organization, and he and his wife have three sweet kiddos.

Be On Guard

Last weekend, my husband and I discovered a beautiful trail outside of Nashville, at Percy Warner Park. The trail is called Mossy Ridge Trail, and it lives up to its name, with elevation changes, streams and mini waterfalls, and lots of moss covered limestone.

We followed the map of the 4.5 mile loop, the first day running it counter clockwise and having more of the steep climbs during the ascension. Temperatures were climbing up in the 80s and we were thankful for the forested shade during most of the trail. So much to see as we were running up and down, over and back, across the rocks, logs, and tree roots. It’s easy to get lost in your thoughts and prayers when you’re out in the middle of nowhere surrounded by such natural beauty. We had about 3/4 of a mile left when Tim warns “SNAKE”.

I freeze and see where he is pointing and back up a bit. Wow, he’s a big one! We guessed between 4-5 ft long, but it was hard to tell because he was so curled up. He looked mostly black and of course I asked Tim to dig his phone out and snap some pics of him (her?) so we could later identify him. There were some markings, but not as much as a bull snake usually has… so maybe he is a rat snake. He wasn’t in a hurry to move from the middle of the trail… so with a stick I was able to get him to slither off into the woods so I could pass.

The rest of the run, my eyes were much more wide open, my senses were more alert, and I was definitely looking for the next creature we may encounter. While I don’t have a huge snake phobia, I also don’t love their slithering sneaky creepy ways. Yuck! We live in the country and they are good for mice – I just prefer them to be out of sight in the woods 🙂

The next day we went back for another trail run, and it’s really cool how the opposite direction of the exact same trail can feel different. The climbs are from the opposite direction, the slick downhills are now easier to get up, and while it’s familiar from the day before, it has a newness to it when you experience it from a new vantage point. We are a mile in and I happen to be leading this section (we alternate) and it’s my turn to warn “SNAKE”. Same coloring, but not as big. Again, this guy came out of nowhere and was hard to see at first. He was half in the grassy edge and half on the trail – looking SO SIMILAR to the tree roots around him that were also sprawled across the trail. As soon as he heard me he darted off, and we went on our way.

The next couple of miles I thought about snakes. What makes them creepy, how camouflaged they can be to their surroundings, what they’re good for, why they freak us out, etc. I kept my eyes peeled the rest of the run looking out for more snakes. I was much more alert after seeing this second snake on the second day, than after the first snake on the first day. Every tree root sprawling across the path was the next snake 🙂

If snakes give you the heebie jeebies and freak you out, I am sorry!! I will get us to the scripture (stay with me).  In Mark 13, we find Jesus explaining to his disciples about end times and his return. One thing that really stands out to me is there are five different times that Jesus warns them to stay alert and be on guard (verses 5, 9, 26):

See that no one leads you astray, many will come in my name…And then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘Look, there he is!’ do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform signs and wonders, to lead astray, But be on guard.

After studying this chapter, I couldn’t help but think about our snake encounter, and how we almost ran right into him the first time, not expecting it. We ARE in the woods. We ARE in this snake’s home. Why was it a surprise? And Day Two? Don’t you think I would have been extra aware? But once again I’m running along, taking in the sights, and this snake looked so much like a dark tree root that I almost missed him. These snakes are no dummies… they know how to get a meal, and it’s not with a big flashing sign saying “SNAKE RIGHT HERE”… they’re trying to creep up on their lunch with the art of surprise. And while I know this about snakes, both times I was caught off guard.

The disciples were asking Jesus for a big sign of when these end days of tribulation will come. But Jesus tells them that no one knows the hour of when, but to stay alert and be on guard. He tells them how they will be persecuted and how to handle it. He tells them how there will be false prophets claiming to be coming in Jesus’ name and to not be fooled.

Who me? Fooled by a false prophet? After Jesus specifically warns me? Surely not!

Hello self, you just ran right into a snake, the day after encountering a snake in the same location. Ummm…

Leading up to this journal entry I’ve been praying for the Holy Spirit to show me false prophets in my life. Specifically, I’ve asked for a spirit of discernment of people, books, pastors, groups, studies, etc, all claiming to be in the name of Christ, but are deceiving and not aligned with the Lord. I need to be more aware, alert, on guard and ready! False prophets aren’t going to be easy to spot, they will be one tiny detail away from truth… or one shade off of white. False prophets will normalize sin, justify the unjust, and try to rationalize the irrational. If they were obvious to see and recognize, Jesus wouldn’t give such a strong warning.

Like I’ve said in many of my posts – I CAN’T WAIT for heaven!! Wonder if there will be snakes there?

Peace Be With You

Today’s reading is John 20.

At what point do you believe something to be true? Do you have to hear it from a certain family member or friend? Do you have to hear it from a certain news source or just hear it multiple times?

We read today the well-known story of “Doubting Thomas” who would not believe until He saw Jesus even though 10 other of what have to be His best friends, which He spent time together with Jesus in the Holy Land observing miracles first-hand, said He was alive. I’m really glad we are continuing to focus on the words of Jesus because it caused me to look deeper into some of His other words here outside of Him telling Thomas to stick his fingers into His hands and side.

Many times, we ourselves face pain and problems in our life and struggle with where to turn, or we know those who face problems with relationships, family, careers, money, or health and can’t figure out where to turn. As Mary Magdalene goes to the tomb and sees that Jesus is not there, she goes outside and weeps. Jesus then appears to her and says in John 20:15, “Woman, why are you weeping? Who are you seeking?” Later, in John 20:22 when Jesus appears to the disciples the first time He says, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” He says in John 20:19, “Peace be with you.” And again, here in this same chapter in John 20:26 when He appears 8 days later to the disciples a second time He starts by saying again, “Peace be with you.” At first glance in reading this it seems as though He’s wishing for them to have peace, but upon further reading I believe He’s telling them that “Peace” is with them and “Peace” is Him. He asks Mary why she’s weeping and who she’s seeking because “Peace” is right in front of her! How many times is “Peace” right in front of us yet we don’t seek Him, we don’t see Him when he’s right there like Mary didn’t, or we don’t accept Him when He reaches His hand out? He could be right there in front of us, but as He says in John 20:22, it is up to us to “Receive the Holy Spirit.”

Pastor Mike Baker of Eastview Christian Church says, “Seeing is not believing. Believing is seeing.” We must focus on the miracles right in front of us and the reasons the Gospel is true rather than the reasons it’s not. People often put more faith in reasons not to believe than reasons to believe. Are we more aware of the ways He’s working in our lives or more aware of the reasons we think He’s not? Are we more in touch with His presence in our lives or more focused on why we think He’s missing? Do we concentrate more on our blessings which come from Him or do we concentrate more on what we don’t have but want? Let us stop weeping and seek Him, see Him, accept Him, and “Receive the Holy Spirit” when He reaches out His hand.

 

What Could Be Better?

A few years ago, my daughter Gracie received a gift card for her birthday, and she knew EXACTLY what she planned to purchase. She had her sights set on a deluxe Lego set that would bring the Frozen castle to life. When we got to the toy store, they were completely sold out. And the sets they did have were half the size of the one she wanted, but not half the cost. I laid out her options: order the set she wanted online and wait 3-5 business days OR get one of the smaller sets that she could take home and play with that same day.

She really didn’t take much time deciding – she chose to wait. She wanted the bigger and better set and was willing to wait it out.

This choice, while small in the grand scheme of things, was huge in her world. This was one of those milestone moments that showed her maturity. And truth be told, I didn’t see it coming. I fully expected her to want the immediate, the now, the joy of a new toy in the moment. She really blew me away that day, and I can vividly remember my heart swelling – my five year old is practicing good decision making, good self-control. Good stewardship. She understood the pros and cons, and even with something small like Legos, she made a big decision.

As we approach John 16, Jesus didn’t give the disciples any choices. He laid out what’s coming for Him, and what that means for them. They don’t get it, and I don’t think they want to get it. Jesus proactively answers the questions they’re all thinking, but aren’t asking out loud – He is so good to us! If the disciples were given a choice, my guess is they would choose to have Jesus stay with them in the flesh. I am sure I would have too.

As Jesus continues with His farewell + next steps, He lets them know He will send someone EVEN BETTER for them! And if you’re anything like me, your eyebrows raise at verse 7 when Jesus outlines all of this – I mean, WHAT could be better than having Jesus with us, sitting next to us, right here, right now?!

My longing for Jesus to return leaves me with some questions:

  • Am I fully aware and tuned in to the Holy Spirit that is here, NOW, and LIVING inside of me?
  • Do I trust Jesus completely, and fully believe Him that it’s to my advantage that He goes for awhile, and the Holy Spirit is in His place?
  • How am I a witness to the Holy Spirit’s power in this world? Guiding, convicting the world of sin, and glorifying Jesus?
  • Is the fruit of the Spirit, that’s living in me, evident in my life?

Gracie was able to see that waiting for the deluxe Lego set that she wanted would be better.

Am I able to see that having the Holy Spirit live inside of me, is better right now than having Jesus walk beside me? And if so, am I relying on His power in my life – the same power that rose Jesus from the dead?