Archive for May 2015

Resting in You

Father, You are wisdom.
Your working is deeper,
higher, and
more far-reaching than I can imagine.

You are absolute power.
You do what pleases You.
No one challenges Your mighty arm.
Nothing stops Your purpose.

Father, You are love.
Nothing exhausts Your gentle compassion.
Nothing strains Your joyful self-giving.

So when You whisper, I will listen.
When You lead, I will follow wherever You go.
When Your will brings me
delay or
sorrow or
sacrifice,
I will love You and
trust You and
rest in the rightness of all You do.

Listen and sing:
Hymn: Good Gifts
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The Holy Spirit: Power to Be

from the devotional book, PICTURES OF GOD

Ephesians 3:14-21

What part does God’s Holy Spirit play in our lives? What part can He play as we learn to rely on Him more? Realize this: the Spirit is the constant presence of the Almighty, all-wise, all-loving God in the innermost part of our being.

Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you? (1 Corinthians 6:19, NIV) 

God’s Holy Spirit brings us the power to be all our holy, loving Father wants us to be. He doesn’t paint a thin layer of holiness over our evil hearts. He transforms us from the inside out, from our very core, freeing us from our slavery to sin.

Now that you have been set free from sin…the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. (Romans 6:22, NIV)

There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. (Romans 8:1-2, NASB)

Through the Spirit, Christ’s own character grows within us daily, naturally.

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23, NIV)

The Holy Spirit teaches us and reminds us of the truth.

Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” (Isaiah 30:21, NIV)

“The Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.
“He will guide you into all truth.” (John 14:26; 16:13, NIV)

As we trust Him, the Holy Spirit wraps us in God’s perfect peace.

The mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace. (Romans 8:6, NIV)

Through His Spirit, God’s divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3, NIV). He has given us the Jesus’ own Spirit, always within us.

Listen and sing:
Hymn: Holy, Holy, Holy God
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Welcome in His Holy Presence

from the devotional book, PICTURES OF GOD

Hebrews 4:14-16; 10:19-25; 12:18-24

Before Jesus Christ, God’s holiness was often met with fear…with shame…with vain attempts to make themselves worthy. For some who unworthily came too near God, His holiness brought death.

In Jesus Christ, we draw near to our holy God

  • at His special invitation
  • with a clean conscience
  • completely blameless
  • with confidence and full assurance
  • in the glad and loving company of other children of God
  • with great joy
  • assured that He is always ready to give us whatever we need

The book of Hebrews paints a beautiful picture of all the wonderful realities that are now ours in Jesus Christ. My favorite is Hebrews 2:11: 

Both He who sanctifies and those who are sanctified are all from one Father; for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren (NASB).

Jesus Christ is holy, transcendent, and utterly sinless and pure. Without Him, we are the opposite. But as we trust Him, He gladly puts His arms around us and calls us His brothers and sisters. By simple faith, we become children of the same Father and are welcomed as members of the family.

Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift! (2 Corinthians 9:15, NASB)

Listen and sing:
Hymn: Our Destiny Is Jesus Christ
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The Blind Man of Jericho

As Jesus approached Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard the crowd going by, he asked what was happening. They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.” 

He called out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 

Those who led the way rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more. “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 

Jesus stopped and ordered the man to be brought to him. When he came near, Jesus asked him, “What do you want me to do for you?” 

“Lord, I want to see,” he replied. 

Jesus said to him, “Receive your sight; your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus, praising God. When all the people saw it, they also praised God. (Luke 18:35-43, NIV)

What if you were the blind man, doomed to spend every day begging as life went on around you? Then suddenly you learn that your only hope for healing is passing nearby, right now, at this very moment. A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

“Jesus…have mercy on me!” (v.38)

It was a cry of weakness and need, of complete helplessness. “Jesus, I’m desperate! Please notice me! Help me! Lord, care about me!”

Have you ever noticed what happens when someone speaks too loudly or has an emotional outburst that seems inappropriate? It disrupts decorum, and the whole atmosphere becomes tense. Everyone is suddenly uncomfortable…and annoyed.

Those who led the way rebuked him and told him to be quiet. (v.39)

But he was desperate, so he yelled even louder and more insistently:

Son of David, have mercy on me! (v.39) 

This cry arose from the depths of his heart, all the way up through his being. Propriety, reputation, and embarrassment didn’t matter. Nothing else mattered. He was in the presence of One who could give him his sight. “Jesus, HELP ME!”

We can approach God like that man. All of us have felt some measure of what the blind man felt before God: crushing need, helplessness, desperation. When you feel that way, cry out to God. He is not offended by honesty, no matter how brutal. Read the Gospels. Read the Psalms. He honors faith.

Jesus said to him, “Receive your sight; your faith has healed you.” (v.42)

No poverty should make us too ashamed to come to God. Whether the need is moral or emotional, large or small, you are welcome in His presence. You are an invited guest. And He will look you straight in the eye, straight in the heart, and work in your life. He may not act according to your plan or on your timetable, but trust Him through your pain. His wisdom and love will prove themselves perfect.

He received his sight and followed Jesus, praising God. When all the people saw it, they also praised God. (v.43)

Listen and sing:
Hymn: From These Depths, O Lord
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Human and Holy

from the devotional book, PICTURES OF GOD

Hebrews 9:6-14; 10:10, 14

Because Jesus is both human and holy, by His Spirit we His people can be both human and holy as well.

Under the Old Testament law, God was holy, and His people were holy because God had called them and separated them to Himself. That is, their holiness was more positional than personal. They were not necessarily holy in a moral sense.

They were called and commanded to be holy, but they lacked the ability. The law taught them what God was like and what He wanted of them. It said that God was holy, and that they should be holy as well. It taught them right and wrong, but it provided no strength to live right over wrong. It gave them rules and rituals, but it couldn’t give them the inner ability to be holy.

Romans 7:15-23 describes their predicament. They knew what was right but had no strength to do it. They knew what was wrong but had no strength to avoid it. They were trapped in their own weakness and sin, with no way out.

Animal sacrifices – the blood of bulls and goats – could not truly, permanently cleanse them of sin.

All this changes for us in Jesus Christ. His Holy Spirit within us frees us from the guilt and power of sin:

There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8:1-4, NASB)

Jesus Himself is the once-for-all, perfect sacrifice that cleanses us from our sin, completely and forever:

…how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? (Hebrews 9:14, NASB)

As we trust in Jesus Christ, we are both human and holy.

The Christ of Ordinary Time

from A Christ-centered Year

Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
(2 Peter 3:18, NASB)

During Ordinary Time, Jesus helps us order our lives by His teaching and example.
He gives us His Spirit as a down-payment
while we eagerly await His promised Advent.

Ordinary time is like the days Jesus spent with His disciples.
Together they walked long, dusty roads.
They talked,
taught,
healed, and
suffered together.
Our ordinary time is much the same.
It is time spent being discipled by Christ, our personal companion.

We learn by watching Him, by drinking in His example.
We learn from His Words, by hearing Him teach.
We learn by doing, by serving as He served and
obeying the Father as He obeyed.

We find that as Jesus proclaims His Kingdom within us,
He is like the teacher He described in Matthew 13:52:

Every scribe who has become a disciple of the kingdom of heaven is like a head of a household, who brings out of his treasure things new and old. (NASB)

Jesus sheds new light on timeless treasures from
the law, the psalms, and the prophets.
He also gives us new wine in new wineskins.

During Ordinary Time, Jesus helps us order our lives by His teaching and example.
He gives us His Spirit as a down-payment
while we eagerly await His promised Advent.

Listen and sing:
Hymn: See All That Human Can Be
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Worship God in Spirit

God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.
(John 4:24, NIV)

To worship God in spirit and in truth means to give Him the worship that is His due.

God is a spirit. Therefore He must be worshiped in spirit, by a humble and genuine worship in the depths of our souls, where He alone can see it.

As we worship Him more and more often, this worship becomes a natural response to His continual presence with us. God becomes one with our souls and our souls one with Him. What began as our sporadic response of love gradually blends into a unison of love with Him. We begin to taste the beautiful, unbroken union Christ enjoys with the Father.

Listen and sing:
Hymn: Breath of His Love
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The Holy One

from the devotional book, PICTURES OF GOD

Luke 1:26-38; 3:16, 21-22; 4:31-34

We can believe that an all-powerful Spirit God, with no body, dwelling in heaven, is holy and separate. But in the New Testament something absolutely amazing, almost incredible happens: this holy, separate God becomes a human being. He becomes 100% human. He becomes just like us, but without sin.

How can this be possible? How can God be holy and separate, yet like us and among us? Isn’t that a contradiction?

  • He is still 100% transcendent God, even though He is 100% human. He is above us and our world in character, quality, and authority.
  • He is still perfect and morally pure.

The gospels repeatedly tell us that this Galilean peasant is the Holy One:

  • Both Matthew 1:18-20 and Luke 1:35 say that Jesus was conceived, not by a human father, but by the Holy Spirit of God. Because of that, this human being would literally be the Son of God in a unique way.
  • According to all four gospel writers (Matthew 3:11; Mark 1:8; Luke 3:16; John 1:33), John the Baptist introduced Jesus as the One who would baptize the human race in God’s own Holy Spirit.
  • The Holy Spirit visibly came upon Jesus at His baptism, marking the beginning of His ministry (Luke 3:22; 4:1; John 1:29-34).
  • The demons, fully evil and opposed to everything Jesus was, recognized Him as “the Holy One of God” (Mark 1:24; Luke 4:34).
  • When Jesus had just sifted His disciples by insisting that they eat His flesh and drink His blood, He asked the twelve if they were leaving too. Peter replied, “We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God” (John 6:68-69).

Both holy and human – in Jesus Christ we see God’s plans for our entire race.

Listen and sing:
Hymn: We Can Know Our God Transcendent
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The Christ of Trinity Sunday

from A Christ-centered Year

“I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever…the Spirit of truth.“If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him.” (John 14:16-17, 23, NASB)

On Trinity Sunday, Jesus ushers us into
the full unity, love, and fellowship of
Father, Son, and Spirit.

God is our Father, who lavishly, joyfully shares
His life and existence with us.

God is the Son, our Brother,
who fully became one of us,
reuniting us with the Father.

God is the Spirit, who breathes the Son
among us and within us.

God is Father, Son, and Spirit,
One God,
One undivided being,
One self-giving love,
yet three distinct persons.
Each envelops us in God in unique ways and at the same time,
enables our union with all the Others.

Their complete oneness, their unbroken sharing,
is the heaven of peace and wholeness
into which all believers are being drawn.
This oneness gave Jesus the
holy,
peaceful,
completely sufficient life He enjoyed,
even while wrapped in poverty and suffering.

On Trinity Sunday, Jesus ushers us into
this full unity, love, and fellowship in the
Father, Son, and Spirit.

Listen and sing:
Hymn: Trinity Hymn
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Union with God

When he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth . . . He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you.
(John 16:13-14, NIV)

Union with God is not a feeling. It is not merely an emotion.

Fellowship with God is not brought about by human imagination or understanding.

Rather, as we trust God, He gives us His Spirit to live within us. His Spirit leads us to God and lifts us to Him. He nurtures a desire to love God, to worship Him, to turn our minds and lives to Him more and more.

As we respond to God, a union grows that is beautiful and indefinable. It is peaceful, reverent, loving, personal, and very simple.

Listen and sing:
Hymn: Growing in the Spirit (Medley)
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