Thursday, August 26, 2010

How does this Holy Spirit thing work?

Any person who seeks after God and who makes Jesus the Leader and Forgiver of their life will experience the living presence of the Holy Spirit inside them. No Christian is left out of this. All of us have received the same Spirit in the same full measure.

But what does that really mean in a practical way? I recently re-read one of the clearest, most straight forward passages on this subject in the Bible - John 16:5-16.
When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment . . . - John 16:8

But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. - John 16:13

He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. - John 16:14
Now that is pretty simple. I have found that the Spirit works in my life more through gentle nudges and leadings or through what Bill Hybels calls "a whisper." When the Holy Spirit "whispers" I am able to see things I didn't see before - through God's eyes and not my own. I am more aware of what is and isn't true. I am reminded of what is right and wrong and sometimes, when there are several good options open, what is better and best. I believe through a "whisper" God has given me exactly the right words to say to diffuse an argument or to bring reconciliation to a conflict. One final thing, I have had many times where the Spirit "whispered" and I was convicted of a sin I had done, was doing or was considering in the future.

Now that's my personal experience. Additionally, I have seen the Spirit transform pretty complicated situations and lead people to make decisions big and small to leave a path that didn't honor God to walk a path that did.

In short, I am a sold out believer in the power of the Holy Spirit and His "whispers." I find that if I trust His leading even when circumstances don't go my way, I can never go wrong. He can take the most complex and make it simple, the darkest places and make them light and remove the greatest obstacles to bring clarity.

What has been your experience with the Holy Spirit?

How do you understand Him to work in your life?

How do you know when He is "whispering?"

Friday, August 20, 2010

Is Jesus the right guide?

A couple weeks ago a man named Ed Stafford completed something that no other human being ever did before. He walked the entire length of the Amazon river from its beginning in the mountains of Peru to its end in the Atlantic Ocean. The journey took him 859 days!

Now, I cannot imagine doing something like that myself, but I want to play a scenario out with you. What if you were dropped in the middle of the Amazon Rain forest far from any civilization, with no GPS tracking systems, no maps, no compass, nothing? Like me, you would probably be dead in a short time - maybe even some animal's dinner, but that's another story for another time!

So what would you need in order to reach safety? An expert guide!

You and I would need a guide who knew which way to go and how to get there, how to pace ourselves, what things we could eat and what water we could drink, how to protect ourselves from the elements and from dangerous animals, etc. We would need that guide for our very survival and if someone was offered an expert guide in a position like that and they refused it we would think they were pretty dumb.

But here is the thing, we have all been dropped into similar situations spiritually and far too few of us are really following the guide we have been given. That's right, Jesus Christ, the one, true expert guide worthy of all our trust has offered Himself to us and we have implicitly said "NO."

We haven't made a sign or broadcast our refusal openly, but we have simply ignored Him, acted as if He couldn't really understand our situation or used Him as a desperate source of last resort. Either way, we have tried to go it on our own and not with Him as our guide.

Here is where I want us to think: If Jesus is powerful enough and smart enough for us to entrust our souls to Him for eternity, wouldn't it stand to reason that we should trust our marriages to Him, our jobs , our relationships, our finances, etc.? If He is really our Lord, then He must play the role of guide in our life, leading us out of a dangerous jungle of sin, broken promises and garbage toward the kind of life He created us to live.

What do you think about the image of Jesus as the guide for the direction of our life?
What prevents us from trusting Him to guide our life?
When He isn't playing that role, what should we do about it?

Friday, August 13, 2010

Too Busy?

This week Pastor Kenneth is guest writing in the blog. He has something very important to say . . . Enjoy!

During my holiday, I was convicted by the following story told by Rory Noland in his book, Thriving as an Artist:

I remember going through a difficult period in my life. Ministry was tough, life was difficult, and I felt dry spiritually. I woke up one morning thinking, There isn’t anything about my life I’m enjoying these days. I felt unmotivated and passionless. In an effort to fix my unhappiness, I decided to make a list of the things I enjoy most. I wrote down everything I could think of….When I was done, I looked at the list and confidently thought, These are the things that bring me joy, so in order to shed my doldrums, I needed to do more of these fun-inspiring activities.

The next day, I took out my calendar and, with the list in hand, started to schedule in those things I most enjoy doing. Then it hit me like a ton of bricks - God wasn’t on my list. The God whom I have pledged to love with all my heart didn’t even come to mind when I thought of what I enjoyed the most in this life. Jesus was not my deepest joy. He wasn’t even a consideration, let alone my greatest pleasure. How did my heart grow so cold? How did I lose my passion for God?

I had fallen victim to the most lethal passion killer man has ever known – hurry. I was reading the Bible every day, but my mind was so preoccupied I wasn’t hearing the Lord speak to me. My prayers had degenerated into rapid fire one-liners that were thrown heavenward while on the run between appointments. So I was praying, but I was talking at God, not to him. And that’s certainly not the kind of conversational prayer Christ died to make possible. You see, even though I was having my quiet time, I wasn’t connecting with God personally. I was too preoccupied to linger in his presence.

This was convicting because sometimes I can go through a day without acknowledging God’s presence until it's time for my “quiet time” (as if God only speaks during the time I give Him). This was convicting because I can turn prayer or Bible reading into a duty, a check list that HAS to be done. But the important issue is did I meet with God during those times? Is my life slow enough to hear God’s whisper? Bill Hybels once asked, “Is the ambient noise level of my life low enough for me to hear the whispers of the Lord?” I need to slow down and listen and let God become my source of joy and strength…what about you?

Something to think about:

· Do I read the Bible because I can’t wait to spend time with God, or because it’s what I’m supposed to do?

· Do I pray because I get to or because I have to?

Thursday, August 5, 2010

A Great Analogy for Spiritual Maturity

There are a number of scripture texts that talk about Christ living in and through us. Here are just a couple of examples:
We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. - Romans 6:4

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. - Galatians 2:20

For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. - Colossians 3:3-4
When one receives the gracious gift of salvation in Christ then the living Christ takes up residence in their life and lives in and through them. As they grow and mature in Him, Christ becomes even more visible in the things they say, think and do.

But what does that really look like? How do you understand it?

Check out this video on youtube that may be the best analogy I have seen in a long time:

If playing wonderful music is analogous to carrying out the mission Jesus gave us in the spirit of love He inspires, maybe this is what it means to grow to maturity in Christ. We become people He plays in and through - somewhat in partnership with Him and somewhat simply being a vessel He can work through.

What do you think of this analogy? Is there a different or better way you would describe it?