Wednesday, March 31, 2010

He Comes in Triumph

Today, I knew that God wanted me to write about Holy Week. He had something to say, so in prayer He directed me to John 12.

John 12: 13-18
13.[The crowd] took the branches of the palm trees, and went out to meet Him, and [began] to cry out, "Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel."
14. And Jesus, finding a young donkey, sat on it; as it is written,
15. "Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your King is coming, seated on a donkey's colt."
16. These things His disciples did not understand at the first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things were written of Him, and that they had done these things to Him.
 17. And so the multitude who were with Him when He called Lazarus out of the tomb, and raised him from the dead, were bearing Him witness.
18. For this cause also the multitude went and met Him, because they heard that He had performed this sign.
Palm Sunday is also called the "Triumphal Entry". Jesus came to Jerusalem for the Passover Feast. This was the week before His arrest and crucifixion, on Good Friday, and His resurrection on Easter, or Resurrection Sunday.

The crowd that had been at the house of Lazarus and saw him raised from the dead were all there, to greet Jesus and wave the palm branches which was ritually for triumphant leaders coming home from war.
Let's look at the prophetic scripture from Zechariah that predicts this day in Jesus life.

Zechariah 9: 9-10
9. Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout [in triumph], O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, Humble, and mounted on a donkey, Even on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
10. And I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim, And the horse from Jerusalem; And the bow of war will be cut off. And He will speak peace to the nations; And His dominion will be from sea to sea, And from the River to the ends of the earth.

I have heard that there are over 400 prophecies in the Old Testament concerning Jesus' life and death. The previous verses from Zechariah 9 are just one of them. Let's look at them with the emphasis on Jesus riding the young donkey.

In Biblical times war was almost everpresent. Chariots and horses, bows and arrows were the weapons that were used.  Throughout Jewish history the people were looking for their "King". A Messiah that would come and set up an earthly kingdom, as did King David. Most of the inhabitants of Israel were waiting for the Messiah that would come to liberate them from oppressive rule of their enemies and then, in Jesus' day, from the harsh hand of Rome.
Many of the followers of Jesus and even His disciples were thinking along those lines. Having seen the miracle He performed with the resurrection of Lazarus, they were hoping Jesus would "miraculously" take over the government and give it to the Jewish people. On Palm Sunday, that was what the crowd was thinking. They were worshipping Him as God's Son, but also hoping that the time was near for Him to be "crowned" as King here in an earthly kingdom.

But instead of a powerful steed to signify the strength of an earthly takeover, Jesus was destined to ride into Jerusalem on a lowly donkey. Just as a pregnant Mary had done all those years before, He now rode on the back of a donkey once more.

Jesus does triumph. His death on a cross almost 2000 years ago cannot be looked at as a loss, nor a failure. That is what the world does not truly understand. God's son came as a man, Jesus, to provide a way for salvation and eternal life for us. He paid the price on the cross for our sin. He was predestined to do that. The Jews did not kill him, nor the Romans. The devil did not win. Jesus won. We won. He triumphantly led the way on a young donkey. He came in peace, on a humble mount, the lowly way to arrive in Bethlehem and then in Jerusalem. He voluntarily laid down His life for us. Thank you, Jesus, for your great love for us.

If you have not received Jesus as your Savior, it's easy to do so right now. Just ask Him to come into your heart and change you. He will do it. Salvation is easy. It is not hard. All it takes is one step in His direction. He will meet you and you will begin a new life. You will win, too.

Thank you Father God, that your Son who came humbly and in humility, to bring us peace, is truly the King of Kings. 

Love, in Jesus,

Monday, March 29, 2010

Walking in the Spirit by being Led

If you read my other blog, you'll know how much I love sheep and lambs. I've just always had an affinity for the babies. The look of their sweet faces and the trust that they convey. Purity, gentleness, helplessness. I follow several blogs of sheep owners, and if in another time in my life I could have had sheep, I would have done so.

The images of Jesus as a shepherd are especially dear to me in that He is Our Good Shepherd. Jesus' gentleness and kindness has always been manifest to me in the thought of Him being the Shepherd.  Living in the Middle East in Jesus' day, sheep and shepherding was a way of life. There were not farms or ranches like we have today, but smaller flocks herded for a family or community. There was always a shepherd "on duty" to watch over their safety and keep the predators at bay.

In the Bible there are many references and analogies pertaining to sheep and lambs. They were destined for martyrdom in that they were called to be the sacrifice at the temple for remittance of sin. The number of sheep and lambs killed for sacrifice upon the Israelites' alters would be mind boggling. It always bothered me that something so gentle would have the dubious honor and calamity of being the sacrifice. So also, Jesus was known as the Lamb of God as He too became our sacrifice.

Isaiah 53:61.
All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way; But the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all To fall on Him.

Jeremiah 50:6
"My people have become lost sheep; Their shepherds have led them astray. They have made them turn aside [on] the mountains; They have gone along from mountain to hill And have forgotten their resting place.

Matthew 9:36
And seeing the multitudes, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and downcast like sheep without a shepherd.

1 Peter 2:25
For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls.

When I sat down to do this post it made me wonder about what sheep were really like. I know I love them, but not having been around them much I guess I really don't know much about them. The following came from a Christian site and I thought it was very telling why Jesus used the analogy of "sheep". Not only were they very common in Jesus' day, most people had come into contact with them up close and personal. So don't be offended, but read these characteristics and think of us, as human beings. These sort of sound like a few of us out here, me included.

Characteristics of Sheep

1. timid, easily panicked, fearful

2. dumb stupid, gullible

3. very vulnerable to fear, frustration, pests, hunger

4. easily influenced by a leader, by the shepherd

5. stampede easily, vulnerable to mob psychology

6. little or no means of self-defense; can only run

7. easily killed by enemies

8. the shepherd is most effective, calming influence

9. jealous, competitive for dominance

10. constantly need fresh water, fresh pasture

11. have very little discernment in choosing food or water

12. best water source is early morning dew

13. perverse, stubborn - will insist on their own way , even eating poisonous
      plants or drinking dirty water

14. easily "cast" - flipped over on their back, unable to right themselves
       will die of starvation if not turned over by shepherd; helpless

15. frequently look for easy places to rest

16. don't like to be sheared, cleaned

17. too much wool can cause sheep to be easily "cast"

18. creatures of habit; get into "ruts"

19. need the most care of all livestock

20. need to be "on the move"; need a pre-determined plan, pattern of grazing

21. totally dependent of shepherd for every need

22. need "rod and staff" guidance
Hmmm... I saw a few characteristics that I share. Now let's look at what a Good Shepherd is about.
Characteristics of A Good Shepherd

1. loves his sheep and develops a close, intimate relationship with them so that they know his voice and trust him.

2. understands the needs of the sheep better than they do

3. understands what threatens sheep and what makes them sick

4. works tirelessly to provide protection, security

5. leads them to fresh pastures and fresh water

6. searches out sheep when they stray

7. defends sheep against all their enemies

8. provides protection while they sleep

9. shears them and examines each one for injury or disease

10. goes ahead of sheep and prepares the path

11. disciplines and corrects them

12. comforts sheep when they are hurt or fearful

13. keeps sheep "on the move" so they don't get into a rut

14. Liberally anoints them with oil to prevent disease or to heal an injury

15. keeps sheep from fighting, from hurting each other

16. cares for, loves sheep and sacrifices his life for them.

17. rejoices in health, well-being and prosperity of his flock

18. will leave the flock to search for lost sheep and

19. experiences great joy in finding lost sheep

20. carries the lamb s close to his heart,

21. gently leads those with young

22. gets deepest satisfaction from seeing that sheep are contented, well-fed, and safe

Psalm 23
1. Psalm of David]. The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want. 2. He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. 3. He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness For His name's sake. 4. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil; for Thou art with me; Thy rod and Thy staff, they comfort me. 5. Thou dost prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; Thou hast anointed my head with oil; My cup overflows. 6. Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, And I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

(Taken from the website of Calvary Chapel of Fredricksburg, Virginia)
What Our Good Shepherd Provides

Psalm 23

Perfect Protection— "The Lord is my Shepherd"

Perfect Satisfaction — "I shall not want. "

Perfect Rest— "He maketh me to lie down. "

Perfect Nourishment— "In green pastures "(pastures of tender grass)

Perfect Guidance— "He leadeth me."

Perfect Peace— "Beside the still waters"

Perfect Restoration— "He restoreth my soul"

Perfect Walk— "The paths of righteousness"

Perfect Confidence— "I will fear no evil"

Perfect Companionship— "Thou art with me."

Perfect Discipline— "Thy rod,"

Perfect Support — "Thy staff,"

Perfect Consolation— "They comfort me."

Perfect Fellowship— "Thou preparest a table before me"

Perfect Triumph— "In the presence of mine enemies."

Perfect Strength— "Thou anointest my head with oil."

Perfect Joy— "My cup runneth over."

Perfect Love -- "Goodness and mercy shall follow me"

Perfect Habitation— "I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever

 Now, thinking about this scripture in light of our speaking about Walking in the Spirit, in the East the Shepherd stays with his sheep, even sleeping with them. He is a companion. He talks to them. When it is time to leave he lets them hear his voice, gives a command, then they follow him. In the West we treat sheep like we treat cattle, "driving" them. Many times dogs barking at their heels. Rounding up and "driving them", no personal contact, and no speaking in a calm voice; no guidance or direction, just orders.
John 10:27
"My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.

Romans 8:14
For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.

I like to think of Jesus as my Good Shepherd, and then also in Walking in the Spirit,  I sure prefer the Holy Spirit's kindness and gentleness; that He is with me leading, guiding and directing. He's not a cowboy, racing with a lasso, dogs nipping at me. He's the loving shepherd, that will search until He finds each one, and lays down His life for his flock.

Blessings for this Holy Week
as we prepare for Easter and all that it signifies.


Friday, March 26, 2010

Being "Yoked" with Jesus

At first sight and thought, not many of us would want to be put in this contraption called a "yoke". It looks confining and painful; that it might mean we have to do or go somewhere that we don't want to, or that it's bound to be something about "work". But let's take the following scripture and look at it from the viewpoint of "walking in the Spirit".

Matthew 11:28-30
28. "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. 29. "Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and you shall find rest for your souls. 30. "For My yoke is easy, and My load is light.

Jesus is asking us to team up with Him. To walk alongside Him day after day, to accomplish our tasks. Think about the work that one ox would have to do. It would need to carry a heavy load or it would be assigned the job of pulling a heavy wagon. Whichever one, it would be doing it by itself, without help.

God knows that as we travel through our lives that we will have many occasions to carry a heavy load. Whether it is in the area of responsibility for our family, or for a job, or a ministry, etc. God knows there are many loads to be carried in life. How much better it is when we "team up with Jesus" and let Him shoulder our burdens and responsibilities.

"Jesus invites you to a restful walk in tandem with Him, just as two oxen walk together under the same yoke. "How can a yoke  be restful?" you might ask. Because Jesus' yoke is an easy yoke. As the lead ox, Jesus walks at a steady pace. If you pace yourself with Him, your burden will be easy. But if you take a passive approach to the relationship, you'll be painfully dragged along in the yoke, because Jesus keeps walking. Or if you try to race ahead or turn off in another direction, the yoke will chafe your neck and your life will be uncomfortable. The key to a restful yoke relationship with Jesus is to learn from Him and open yourself to His gentleness and humility."

Many people don't want to be hooked up with Jesus. As an immature Christian we don't want Him "telling us what we should do", and we don't want Him convicting us which might feel like we are being forced to do something. A lot of the times we would really prefer that Jesus not know what we're doing; that He just wouldn't "look at us" while we are thinking about that cute co-worker, going to the bar with an all-nighter planned, or fudging on the tax return. We don't want to be without Jesus on "judgement day", but the rest of the time He can just live up in Heaven and leave us alone.

I spent way too many years trying to do things by myself. I want to be in "relationship" and by that I mean I don't want to do it by myself. I need Jesus right there with me constantly, leading guiding and carrying the load for me.

I heard that when a young ox is being trained in the yoke, it is placed with an older more experienced one. The older one carries the brunt of the load. Most of the weight is put upon him. The younger one must learn to pace itself, not too fast, and not too slow. It learns when to start and stop. It learns from it's partner how to be in "relationship". This is like Jesus. He asks us to let Him train us in life. Let Him carry the heavy burden while we depend upon Him.
If you are feeling like the weight you are carrying is too heavy, call upon Jesus, He will send the Holy Spirit to take the load.

    More next time.
  Have a great weekend,

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Liberty in the Spirit-filled Walk

Last time we looked at what a Spirit-led life isn't. We found that it isn't license, meaning we can do whatever we want, and it isn't legalism, meaning that we HAVE to live by a lot of rules and regulations, and we know that a Spirit-led life is not characterized by a rebellious attitude. Walking in the Holy Spirit is a life led and directed by the Holy Spirit. The result of our connected relationship with God through Jesus Christ.

Version: NAS

2 Corinthians 3:16-17
16. but whenever a man turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17. Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, [there] is liberty.

We can see that the Spirit-led life is not characterized by license or legalism, but the opposite, which is liberty.

Thinking about the liberty that Jesus and the New Covenant brought to the culture and life of the individual in Jesus' day is really monumental. As Jews, they were bound up in many laws and tedious rules that the rabbis and leaders had put together. A minutia of restrictions and needless duties filled their everyday lives. The temple laws and sacrifices were still in effect for remittance of sin. As a people they were "bound". Jesus came to set them and us free of "religion". Religion and a relationship with Jesus are two very different things. I've known people so bound up in religion they had no common sense or love for their family. What the "Church" dictated ruled their lives, and family relationships were harmed. Jesus came to set us free. Opinions and rules of pious people and legislative church committees are not something Jesus wants for us. Unfortunately, many churches and Christian people today do not walk in the freedom Jesus offers us. They are just as "bound up" as the Jewish people of the first century.

The Oxford Dictionary gives these definitions for the word, "liberty": "Freedom from captivity, or slavery: entitlement and permitted, emancipation, latitude, free will, unfettered and authorized."

Luke 4: 18-19
18. "The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, Because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, And recovery of sight to the blind, To set free those who are downtrodden, 19. To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord."

Galatians 5:1
It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.

Ephesians 3:12
For you were called to freedom, brethren; only [do] not [turn] your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.
In Him and through faith in Him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.

We can see from these scriptures that Jesus life and crucifixion bought us back the freedom that the original Adam had given away to Satan. God had meant for us to walk in the freedom of the Spirit-led life from the beginning in the Garden of Eden. But Adam gave away his liberty and freedom (and ours) to the enemy when he disobeyed God. Freedom from the enemy's hold on us. Freedom to do what God asks of us, and freedom to be the person God is calling us to be. Possessing the abundant life that Jesus came to give us.

John 10:10
"The thief comes only to steal, and kill, and destroy; I came that they might have life, and might have [it] abundantly." Galatians 5:13
For you were called to freedom, brethren; only [do] not [turn] your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.

1 Corinthians 8:9
But take care lest this liberty of yours somehow become a stumbling block to the weak.

1 Corinthians 10:23
All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things edify.

Galatians 5:16-18
16. But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. 17. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. 18. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law.

These last four scriptures caution us about walking in that freedom. We cannot do as we please, because in and of itself, it can end up in bondage as we discussed last post. The Spirit-led life is a life guided and directed by the Holy Spirit. He has parameters for us, that enable us to fulfill our purpose in life and our spiritual destiny. Just like any loving parent, God does not want us to grow up without boundaries. A life with no boundaries can mean we can wander away. And like all children we feel safe when we know our parents love us enough to guide and counsel us. Boundaries with God and in the Spirit realm help keep us in God's territory, not wandering into the camp of the enemy.

I know I need some boundaries. It's easy for me to be "unbalanced" in my life. I'm emotional and spontaneous at times. In my younger years, I could run off in any number of directions. In later years, as I have matured physically and spiritually, I appreciate God keeping His hand on the back of my collar. I don't want to be doing anything without submitting it to Him first. I don't trust my ability to always know best. I need His leading and parameters. God expects us to "use our head", but He also knows we need "the mind of Christ", to do that well.

The author Neil Anderson has this to say:
 "I believe that our freedom in Christ is one of the most precious commodities we have received from our spiritual union with God. Because the Spirit of the Lord is in you, you are a free moral agent. You are no longer compelled to walk according to the flesh as we were before conversion. And now we are not even compelled to walk according to the Spirit. We a completely free to choose (our walk)".

Next time, more on our walk with Jesus in being yoked to Jesus, one of my favorite scriptures.

love, in Jesus,

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Spirit Led Life: What it ISN'T

Living a Holy Spirit led life can seem somewhat of a mystery; a little hard to describe at times. Sometimes to know what something "is", it's good to know what it "isn't". Does that make sense? Let's look at walking in the Spirit by finding out a few of the things that it isn't.

Version: NAS

Galatians 5:16-18
16. But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. 17. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. 18. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law.

When Paul said, in verse 18 that "you are not under the law" he didn't mean that we were free to do any thing we pleased. As the author of our book, Victory Over the Darkness, Neil Anderson says, Walking according to the Holy Spirit is not "license", meaning "we do not have an excessive or undisciplined freedom constituting an abuse of privilege. As a Christian we may see the phrase "You are not under the law" and exclaim, "Wow, I'm free. Walking in the Spirit means I can do anything that I want!" Not at all. In the previous verse Paul said , "You may not do the things that you please." It means we are finally free to live a responsible, moral life- something we were incapable of doing when we were the prisoner of our flesh."

Walking by the Spirit is not "License".

This reminds me of being a teenager again and the end of the school year. The rules and regulations of school, the 8-3 class schedule, homework, chores, getting to bed by 10:30, all show me what happened as soon as the bell rang on that last day of class. We ran around with our friends, went to parties, ate way too much of the wrong things, stayed up all night and then crashed the next day, not finding my way out of the bedroom until late afternoon. The rules and "law" of the school year just served to make me want to "cut loose" in the summer and do exactly what I wanted.

Let's take that same scenario with kids just graduating from high school and then think about them moving off to college. They no longer have their parents watching them so they can sort of go crazy in the "I'll do what I want to do" department. We know where that can lead. Hangovers, missed classes, failing grades, promiscuity, not to mention that dreaded "Freshman 15"! License can be fun for a short while, but there are always consequences.

Some misguided Christians feel that because they are "saved" and going to heaven, that they have the license to do whatever they desire. If you are being led by the Holy Spirit that won't happen. If you are letting Him lead your daily life, thoughts and activities, I can guarantee that you won't be running off to engage in harmful or sinful activities; not for long at least. What may appear to be "freedom" at first, really can lead to a "bondage", full of unhappy results.

2 Corinthians 3:6
who also made us adequate [as] servants of a new covenant, not of the letter (law), but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

In the Old Testament or Covenant, the Israelites lived under the "Law"; God's rules and regulations. It was clear no one could keep them perfectly. The Ten Commandments are guidelines and parameters of how to live our life, but no one has ever been able to keep them perfectly. (except Jesus Christ) God knew that when He gave them to Moses all those thousands of years ago.

Galatians 3:13
Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us-- for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree "--

Galatians 3:21
Is the Law then contrary to the promises of God? May it never be! For if a law had been given which was able to impart life, then righteousness would indeed have been based on law.

Walking by the Spirit is not "Legalism".

Strictly trying to obey Christian rules and regulations does not enable the Spirit-filled walk. Freedom only comes when we receive Christ not only in our heart but in our mind. When we look to Him for our freedom.

Galatians 5:1
It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.

How many of us know that "laying down the law" - telling someone that it is wrong to do this or that, does not give them the power to stop doing it? Christian denominations have been notorious at trying to legislate spirituality and morality. Smoking, dancing, playing cards, drinking, movie attendance, wearing make-up...these have all been things that church denominations have tried to prohibit within their congregations. How many of US or people we knew from church, would "sneak around" to do many of these activities, all the while hoping and praying they wouldn't "get caught"?

Walking by the Spirit does not give room to "Rebellion".

Romans 7:5
For while we were in the flesh, the sinful passions, which were [aroused] by the Law, were at work in the members of our body to bear fruit for death.

We all know that all you have to do is to tell a 5 year old that there are fresh cookies in the cookie jar and that he cannot have them until after dinner, to see him crawl upon the counter and grab a couple as soon as our backs are turned. Legalism can't curb immorality. Laying down the law only serves to heighten the temptation. Paul said that the law actually stimulates our desires to do what it forbids.

"Neither will a Spirit-filled heart be produced by demanding that someone conform to a religious code of behavior. We often equate Christian disciplines such as Bible Study, prayer, regular church attendance and witnessing with spiritual maturity. All these activities are good and helpful for spiritual growth, but barely performing these admirable Christian exercises does not guarantee a Spirit-filled walk.

God has given us protective guidelines and a moral standard within the Bible for our good. His rules for behavior and living a Christian life are for us to remain healthy and productive Christians, keeping us out of the territory of the enemy. Loose Christian living can bring unhealthy and unhappy results, not only in the physical, but in the spiritual realms.

I used to think that God was just a big spiritual "Party Pooper", please forgive my seeming lack of respect, but you get what I mean. I thought doing things my own way was my "right" and I didn't want Him or anyone else telling me what to do or how to live my life. After many years and many mistakes I now realize that it is because God loves us so very very much that He wants to protect us from the consequences of poor choices, choices that can draw us away from Him and change the course of our destiny.

Next time we will approach this idea from the "positive" outlook instead of the negative.

love, in Jesus,

(concepts and quotations taken from
Victory Over the Darkness
by Neil Anderson)

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Wind of the Holy Spirit

When we first become new Christians our decision making process is beginning to change, but we are still dealing with our "old man" and the "flesh". We begin to recognize that we need to change our actions, words, and behaviors, but it's still hard. Alot of the time we end up still making those poor choices. As we mature in our Christian walk the easier it is to let the Holy Spirit lead and guide our decision making process. The more time we spend in prayer and Bible Study, the more likely that we will allow the Holy Spirit to manage our thought processes which in turn, makes decision making easier and more Christlike. This is all part of what we call "Walking in the Holy Spirit".

John 3:8
"The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit."

Acts 2:2
And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent, rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting.

The interesting thing about wind is that it comes in many forms or strengths. It is soft and sweet and gentle. Then again, it can come with great power and noise. I have experienced both. And both in the Spirit realm.
I want my life to be like a sailboat. I put up the sail and then the Holy Spirit moves. His Presence takes me where He desires that I go. I want to be available to be directed by Him.

As Neil Anderson writes in our book, Victory Over the Darkness:

"There is a degree of mystery to walking in the Spirit which cannot be captured in an equation. In fact, the moment you think you have reduced the Spirit-filled walk to a formula, it probably isn't Spirit-filled anymore."

Using a "formula" for some things is helpful in the beginning. Like prayer, there are several acrostics that are helpful in remembering to include certain elements. Such as "ACTS". Adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication.

We may use a formula in the beginning for many situations, but like marriage, friendships, or any relationship, while rules and regulations can help us with boundaries and maintaining healthy parameters, they are not meant to be the norm or the mature way of approaching situations and life in general. I do have a few little "habits" and daily customs that I look forward to and enjoy, but what if we did the same thing day after day without thought of spontaneity, or impulse? Safe, but boring. So it is with our relationship with the Holy Spirit. It cannot be "pinned down" or standardized. 

One thing to know and be aware of is that the Holy Spirit is a "person". He is not a thing or it. He has a personality. He is the essence of God the Father, and Jesus the Son. He is our Comforter, our Helper, He is the one who "comes along side" and holds us up. Like a person who is limping and needs someone to give him strength for the journey. That's us...the one limping, and the Holy Spirit comes to us to strengthen, encourage, and help us in life.

In the following scripture Matthew is recounting what John the Baptist is speaking concerning Jesus and His ministry:

Matthew 3:11
"As for me, I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.

And then Matthew's account of Jesus' baptism by John and how the Holy Spirit came upon Him.

Matthew 3:16-17
16. And after being baptized, Jesus went up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove, [and] coming upon Him, 17. and behold, a voice out of the heavens, saying, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased."

Jesus came to earth as God's Son. He always knew who He was. He was not confused, and walked in an earthly anointing as such. But if you think about it, Jesus did no miracles until after His baptism when the Holy Spirit indwelt Him. His baptism by water and then by the Holy Spirit is part of the pattern that God shows us throughout scripture. Salvation and then Baptism in the Holy Spirit. It is not a requirement for salvation, but it is something God says for us to do. "Be Filled".

Quite a while back, before I had been baptised in the Holy Spirit, during the time that I was intently seeking Him, I had a dream that God fully impressed upon me as the daylight came. I was in a huge mansion. Magnificent and sumptuous. Room after room of beauty and delight. I could see the successive rooms filled with opulence and blessing, yet I was standing in the entry hall. I could not proceed into the rest of the mansion. God spoke to me and said. "This is all waiting for you but you can't leave the entry hall until you make the next step."

That's how way too many Christians live their lives. Stuck in the entry without ever moving into the abundance and blessing of knowing a life filled to overflowing with the Holy Spirit.

I'd love to hear your comments, questions,
 or experiences if you'd like to share them!

love in Jesus,

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Walking in the Power of the Holy Spirit

In the beginning of our Christian walk most of us are like lawnmowers. We have some "horsepower", but not a lot of it. We can get the job done, but we may need some "push" behind us. Most of us as new Christians are learning about our relationship with God. Sometimes we need a few rules to give us some guidelines. Time and discipleship result in growth, and a closer walk with God.

But hopefully there will come a time in our life and relationship with the Lord when we find the need for more of Him in our life. We know we cannot get everything accomplished by ourselves. We desire a more full commitment to God and we want more of Him. We want to walk in more power as we allow the Holy Spirit to lead and guide us. A bulldozer is more what we have in mind. More "horsepower" for bigger jobs.

Acts 1:8
but you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth."

Acts 2:1-4
1. And when the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 2. And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent, rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. 4. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance.

I have heard these two scripture passages explained that this was just for the 1st Century Christians: that it was a one time event, to initiate the Holy Spirit and to empower those Christians for spreading the gospel. These are scripture that are "God breathed" and they are just as needed for today as in the early New Testament times.

There are two schools of thought in this area of being "filled with the Holy Spirit". Some feel that at salvation we are given the fullness of the Holy Spirit and it is with maturity that we grow in Him and let the Holy Spirit develop us.

The other belief is that Salvation and the Baptism of the Holy Spirit are two separate experiences. Whichever your belief, it is clear that we need to walk in the "fullness of the Holy Spirit" however it is that we get there.

I'll just take a minute and give you my experience. I had always been taught the former way of thinking. The problem was I just wasn't getting anywhere with my spiritual growth. I was learning about the Lord and my knowledge was increasing but there was no power for victory in my daily life. I was still a "lawnmower" no matter how I looked at it. I had a desire for a closer walk with Jesus, but I still knew I was lacking because no matter how hard "I" tried I just couldn't make much progress. I began down a road seeking the Lord for His fullness. I didn't know what it was called. I wasn't seeking doctrine, or theology, or denomination. I was just seeking God and needed Him in a way that was life changing and powerful. I was on a quest for this for about a year. I was going through a time of family issues that were causing me to seek God in a new and more intense way. Prayer and Bible reading became a huge focus in my life. I didn't know how to "get" this dimension, but I knew I had to have it. At one point after a major crisis, I got to a place of deep brokenness and surrender. I totally gave my life up to the Lord. I let Him have it all. It was in the middle of the night on my bathroom floor that I prayed and sobbed and gave it all over to Him. I was already a born-again believer, so this was not "salvation". I was not a backslider, so this was not "rededication". I experienced the Holy Spirit in a new and powerful way.

I will never forget that experience, because when I got up, my spirit was changed, I felt the power of the Holy Spirit move through me with a force and power like I had never imagined. It was completely different from anything I had experienced in the past. I was filled up to overflowing with His peace, love, power, joy, and enthusiasm. I was changed. And my life changed. I could "hear" God's voice in a new way, my focus was clear and strong, and He began to give me the "gifts of the Spirit".

Now, this was my experience. I heard Pat Robertson explain the Baptism of the Holy Spirit in this way and this comes closest to how I feel and the experience I had. Take a bottle and fill it up with water over time. That is our salvation experience and process of being filled with the Holy Spirit. And yes, it is a process. Now take that full bottle and throw it into the ocean. That is the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. Immersed in His great love and Presence accompanied with empowerment, by the Holy Spirit.

Do you long for a deeper walk with Jesus? Do you want a deeper prayer life and more intimacy with the Holy Spirit? Do you need to change, but don't know how? Have you tried over and over to walk in love for others but cannot get there? Being filled to overflowing with the Holy Spirit is the only way. Seek God for Him in His fullness, be relentless in your pursuit of Him. He will lead you in receiving Him in power. Ask God to give you whatever He has for you, nothing held back. He will do it.

love, in Jesus,

Monday, March 15, 2010

"According to the Flesh"

If asked to describe our "Spiritual Walk" how many of us would find ourselves using the words inferiority, insecurity, inadequacy, guilt, worry, or doubt? I think a lot of us might find one or all of these feelings being part of the description. A great number of born-again believers are still having a problem with finding day to day victory in their personal lives due to the fact that we are still having trouble realizing our "Identity in Christ" and then applying it.

(click to enlarge)

Carnal or Fleshly Christian
diagram by Bill Bright,
Campus Crusade for Christ

Do you have feelings of inferiority?
Ephesians 2:4-6
4. But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5. even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6. and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly [places], in Christ Jesus...

Spiritually speaking, we are in a place with Jesus that is above the hands of the enemy, we are in a place of "ruling and reigning" with Jesus. We are God's children and heirs to the Kingdom.

Do you feel insecure or afraid?
Hebrews 13:5-6
5. Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have; for he has said, "I will never fail you nor forsake you." 6. Hence we can confidently say, "The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid; what can man do to me?"

There are many opportunities for insecurity and fear to overtake us, but if we put our trust in Jesus, He will be with us to overcome.

Do you have feelings of Inadequacy?
Philippians 4:12-13

12. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. 13. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.

No matter what kind of situation we are in or no matter what we may be facing God will give us His strength to do whatever He calls us to do.

Feelings of Guilt?
 Romans 8:1
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

Jesus is not laying blame on us or pointing a finger at us, He is loving and forgiving, and wants us to move forward.

Are you worried?
Philippians 4:6
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

1 Peter 5:7
casting all your anxiety upon Him, because He cares for you.

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

God says give Him our fears and anxiety. He is bigger than all our problems.

Are you plagued with doubt?
James 1:5
But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all men generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.

God says "ask" and He will give us wisdom and understanding. We don't have because we don't ask. I used to make a lot of immature and unfortunate mistakes. I still mess up, but I try to ask God now for wisdom and understanding of people and situations. He helps me put myself in their place to view their thinking, which in turn helps me make better qualified and more sensitive decisions.

But still the question: why do so many of us believers live so far below our potential in Christ? Why are we not enjoying the abundant, productive life that God has promised and that we have inherited?

Part of the answer is that so many of us have not taken these spiritual truths to heart. We have not appropriated and applied them to our spiritual identity, or to our day-to-day experience. So many of us have been born again for years yet we fail to have victory over sin. This is a victory clearly given to us by Jesus and God's Word.

Another reason we don't gain ground in our daily victory over sin is that we are ignorant of how the kingdom of darkness is impacting our progress to maturity. We have a living personal enemy that actively tries to block our attempts to grow into spiritual adulthood. We have to learn how to stand against him.

1 Peter 5:8
Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.

2 Corinthians 2:11
in order that no advantage be taken of us by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his schemes.

Paul wrote this to the church in Corinth. Maybe they weren't ignorant of the schemes of the enemy, but today too many of us Christians are; we don't acknowledge Satan or his ability to influence and impact or lives. We at times live in denial of the role he can play in our daily life.

Next time we'll talk about the parameters of the Spirit-filled Walk.

love, in Jesus,

(concepts taken from
Victory Over the Darkness
by Neil Anderson)

Friday, March 12, 2010

The "Spiritual Man"

Wednesday we saw in this scripture written by Paul, that there are three types of "Man". The Natural Man who is unsaved, the Spiritual Man who is born-again, and the Fleshly Man, who is saved, but living "according to the flesh"; someone who is not "walking in the Spirit".

Version: NAS

1 Corinthians 2:14-3:3
14. But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. 15. But he who is (a) spiritual (man) appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no man. 16. For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he should instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ. 1Cor 3:1. And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to babes in Christ. 2. I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able [to receive it]. Indeed, even now you are not yet able, 3. for you are still fleshly. For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men?

Last post we looked at the "Natural Person", a person who has not met Jesus Christ through salvation. Today we'll look at the "Spiritual Person", a born-again brother or sister in Christ.  

(click image to enlarge)

The Spiritual Man also has a spirit, soul, and body, like the Natural Man, but he has been mightily transformed at salvation.  At conversion his spirit became united with God's Spirit. The spiritual life which resulted from this union with God is characterized by forgiveness of sin, acceptance in God's family and the realization of personal worth. Take a person who feels alone, insecure in their identity, and is deep in sin: in a moment they can be transformed.

Illustration by Bill Bright, Campus Crusade for Christ

The soul the the Natural Man who is directed by his own choosing and even at times directed by demonic influence, can be miraculously transformed into a person who is hearing and listening to the Holy Spirit. His mind becomes renewed and transformed by prayer, Bible Study, and submission to God. The Spiritual Man's emotions are reflected by peace and joy instead of turmoil and fear. He is free to choose to walk according to the Spirit, not forced to walk in the "flesh". As a person chooses to walk by the Spirit of God his life brings forth the fruit of the Spirit.

Illustration by Bill Bright, Campus Crusade for Christ

Galatians 5:22-23
22. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23. gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

"The body of the Spiritual person has also been transformed. It is now the dwelling place for the Holy Spirit and is being offered (daily) as a living sacrifice of worship and service to God."

1Corinthians 6:19-20
19. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? 20. For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.

Romans 12:1-2
1. I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, [which is] your spiritual service of worship. 2. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

"The flesh, conditioned to live independently from God under the old self, is still present in the spiritual person. But he responsibly crucifies the flesh and its desires daily as he considers himself dead to sin."

Romans 8:6-8
6. For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, 7. because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able [to do so]; 8. and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

I had been a Christian for 38 years but I still wasn't "there" yet. I knew I was going to Heaven, I knew I trusted Jesus as my Savior, but I still had a mind that dwelt on the wrong kinds of thoughts. My mouth, words, and actions were not consistent with Jesus', and I still did not exhibit the fruit of the Spirit on a daily basis. I was no where near "crucifying the deeds of the flesh".

So we can see that this diagram of the Spiritual Person is an "ideal". It's the model of maturity toward which we are all moving and growing.

2 Peter 1:3
seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.

Isn't it wonderful to know that whatever it is that we need to mature and grow in Jesus, resulting in "walking by the Spirit" is available to us? Most of us live somewhere between the ideal Spiritual Man and living a life that is more like the Natural Man. We may not be where we want to be, but we're not where we started. The road of "sanctification" can take our whole lifetime.

Tomorrow we will look at the "Fleshly Man". Hope you all are still with me in this. It seems like a lot of textbook facts and thinking, but it all comes together. I really love the logical and almost scientific way at looking at this.
I really appreciate your comments everyone. It's such an encouragement to me. No matter how many times I study this God always gives me something new.

love to you all,