Posts Tagged ‘Holy Spirit’

The secret to living the Christian life is to become best friends with the Holy Spirit. He has all the right qualities for that role and will not disappoint you- Charles Stanley

I posted this quote from Pastor Stanley’s InTouch Ministries devotional some time ago while Allana and I were deep in the treatment for her Leukemia.  It has been percolating in my brain since then.  The importance of this statement has become clearer and clearer in my life, though the topic languished here in the draft file.

As we walked the difficult road of cancer we greatly appreciated the observations and comments about our faith and commitment to Christ through the trial.  The truth is we don’t see it.  We didn’t then and we don’t really now.  We do not feel overly special, or faithful and certainly not holy.  Yet we see the impact of our lives and are humbled by it and blessed to see the Holy Spirit working around us in the lives of God’s people and in the lives of those soon to join the family!  So what is the secret.  Well it is not so secret.

The Holy Spirit is our Best Friend.  Friendship takes time to cultivate.  I think that too many times we think that we have all the time in the world to become friends with the Holy Spirit and that we do not need to become close with the Holy Spirit until the S*** hits the fan.  The reality is that if we wait until we decide we need the friendship of the Holy Spirit to cultivate that relationship we are in for a tough time of it.  This is just another view of the Hupomone lifestyle.  If you read the Intro to Hupomone you will see that the Greek word mean “remain under” or “remain about”.  This is the only way that a true friendship will develop.  It is the result of persistence, perseverance, steadfastness (all words used to translate Hupomone).

Many Christians believe that Acts 2 was the beginning of the relationship with the Holy Spirit for the disciples. However if you read the Gospels carefully you will find Jesus intentionally leading the disciple into relationship as a part of guiding them into relationship with Himself.  Even in the Old Testament we find the Holy Spirit in relationship with men like David, Moses, Elijah and others.  Luke notes that Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied about his son.  He also notes that Simeon who greeted Mary, Joseph and young Jesus had the Holy Spirit upon him.  No Acts 2 was not the beginning of the relationship for the disciples, it was the culmination of the relationship.  In fact it was the culmination of the relationship for all mankind.  The cross bridged the gap between man and God allowing the Holy Spirit to enter an new level of relationship.  The disciples would hold on to the Holy Spirit as their best friend, most even to their deaths.

“As Moses, David, and Mary discovered, getting to know may include walking with Him through life’s darkest valleys.  But in these times, we gain tremendous insight into the Father’s character.”  Dr. Charles Stanley

 Is the Holy Spirit your best friend?

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I drafted this to be posted last Monday.  Obviously it did not get posted and many of you may know that it was a matter of circumstance (or consequence?) that kept it in the ether world for another week.  Since that time more circumstances have hit the national and world stage and at the same time struck close to home here in Northwestern Ohio.  Circumstances, they pummel us from every side.  I sit here with my broken leg propped up and my broken heart in the hands of God, knowing that none of these circumstances can separate me from my identity.

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Just as it is written,

“For Your sake we are being put to death all day long;
We were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:31-39

Practically Hupomone

A friend of my paid me a great compliment and asked me a personal question.  “How do you stay the same as the world happens around you.  So many people I know turn cynical.  You are always kind and ready to help.”  I have to admit unfortunately I gave this person the wrong answer.  It focused on the situation at hand and not on my identity in Jesus Christ.  Why did I give the wrong answer?  Why didn’t I intuitively know what the correct answer was.  I pondered this over the last few days.  I absolutely believe that this question came to me through my friend by the hand of God. My friend did not realize that the question and the observance behind it answered a question that I have been placing before God for some time.  What is the value of this idea, these disciplines that you have placed so strongly in me?  What is practically speaking Hupomone Living?

So here is the answer (and I will email a copy of this to the person in question).

For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and  increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light. Colossian 1:9-12

Paul is brilliant here.  This passage contains a prayer, direction, promise and thanksgiving.  We find in this passage the core of Hupomone.

The prayer (for ourselves and our brothers and sisters in Christ) is that they would be filled with the knowledge of God’s will not as the world (are even the church) sees it but through the lens of Spiritual wisdom and understanding as only comes from regular interaction with the Holy Spirit.

The direction is that we walk in a manner worthy of Lord.  As a young man my constant question of God was “What can I get away with, how far can I go without having your hammer drop on me?”.  This led me far from Hupomone living.  It was only when I began to see Him and ask, “What can I do that will be “in a manner worthy” of You Lord.” “What can I do today to please You.” Paul fleshed this out later in Colossians but just coming to the place of asking the question, praying the question is a big step in the right direction.  It begins to eliminate our reaction to circumstance in favor of our submission to God.

The promise is two-fold.  The implicit promise is that when we truly pursue the Hupomone life we will please Him, bear fruit, increase in our knowledge of Him and be strengthened, not according to our understanding or our circumstances but in accordance with His own.  As we pursue him, he pursues us.  It is the crazy train of our relationship with God but in a good way.  This leads to joyously giving thanks to God, not as a result of circumstances but as a result of relationship and identity and on this rests the explicit promise, we ARE qualified to share in the inheritance of the saints of Light.  The rest of the passage references our future, but all of that is based on His past,
“Father, who has qualified us..”  Paul goes on to say “for He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”  It is on this that Hupomone living rests.  We are not here to react to circumstances, we are here to walk worthy, please Him, bear fruit, be strengthened and to live as those qualified by God to be heirs along with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

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“I appeal to you for my child Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my imprisonment, who formerly was useless to you, but now is useful both to you and to me.” Philemon 10-11

Onesimus was a slave, while not the lowest of the low in that society he was pretty far down the list.  Then he became a runaway slave and went even lower.  We do not have the back story of Onesimus but I bet that as Paul penned these words, he did.  However the details do not really matter because at its core, this is the story of humanity.  I love this verse because in an obscure verse, in an obscure book using what might seem purely concrete language Paul summarizes the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.  The Holy Spirit takes that which was formerly useless and makes it useful.  It is Romans 8 in a nutshell.  “For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God…and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” Romans 8:6-7 

Paul makes it clear that the change from useless to useful is not about performance of duties.  It is also not about a change in life status.  Paul acknowledges that Onesimus is Philemon’s property.  There is no impassioned plea to free the slaves.  How often we want to link our progress from useless to useful on a change in our circumstances.  The lie of Satan is that our usefulness rests in those circumstances.  Yet Paul begs Philemon to recognize the work of the Holy Spirit in Onesimus’ life, transforming him from a useless slave to much more, a beloved brother.  “no longer as a slave, but more than a slave, a beloved brother, especially to me, but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.” Philemon 16

Paul then does something amazing which serves as an example to us all.  He engages this transformation from useless to useful on a personal level.  He leverages his own reputation and his own usefulness to aver the spiritual change in Onesimus and to square the life debt that he incurred.  The model is inescabable, demonstrating the way that Jesus stands before the throne and answers the accusations of the Devil, “But if he has wronged you in any way or owes you anything, charge that to my account.” Philemon 18  What a wonderful illustration of our Lord and Savior’s advocacy for us.  It is also a wonderful illustration of the way that we should be standing in the gap for our brothers’ and sisters’ in Christ.  Just as Jesus stands with us and offers himself to erase the debt of our sin, we should stand ready to leverage ourselves in service of those to whom the Holy Spirit leads us as we serve Him.

While the Bible does not give us the rest of the story, church traditions tell us that some years later Philemon and Onesimus were martyred for their faith, together.

 

 

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FIFM

 

“The angel of the Lord appeared to him in a blazing fire from the midst of a bush; and he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, yet the bush was not consumed.”  Exodus 3:2

There is a fire that comes as a gift from God.  It is a fire of empowerment.  It is a fire generated from the unlimited love that God has for mankind.  God presents this fire to man as a guide, as inspiration and as an internal power to effectively serve Him.

“For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through.   the laying on of my hands. For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.” 2 Timothy 1:6

Power, love and self-discipline are the hallmarks of this fire.  It is a fire that sets God’s people on a path of redemption, for themselves and for those to whom God sends them. It is in fact the very fire of redemption for those who believe.  The fire redeems with a view to service.

“Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken from the altar.  With it he touched my mouth and said,’See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.’  Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send?  And who will go for us?”  And I said, ‘Here am I.  Send me!” Isaiah 6:6-8

It is not a fire that is a once and done event in our lives.  It needs to be cultivated and nurtured.  We fan that flame as we develop our relationship with God.  I think of all that has transpired in our lives since God spoke 2 Timothy 1:6 into our lives in 2005 and gave us the name “Fan Into Flame Ministries”.  It is in the difficulties of life that we are able to build the flames of the Holy Spirit inside us.  Paul goes on to say, “That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet this is no cause for shame, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day.” 2 Timothy 1:12.  

Yesterday was the third anniversary of my wife Allana’s bone marrow transplant.  It was both a moment of life and the beginning of one of the most difficult periods in my entire life.  As I look back I can see the Holy Spirit working through the difficulties, stripping away self-reliance and providing opportunity for me to grow in Him.  Timothy was experiencing incredible difficulties in his work in Ephesus.  Being one in urban ministry I can appreciate his experiences and understand his desire to throw in the towel.  Even more so as we walked the path of Leukemia there were times that I felt like I simply could not continue.  However it was at those moments that God provided Paul’s in my life, to uphold me in prayer, wisdom and love.  It creates an interesting cycle.  As one fans into flame the gift of the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit enables us to guard the very relationship that fans into flame the gift.  “What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you—guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.”  2 Timothy 1:13-14

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police dog

 

I was driving down a local road on my way home recently when I passed a car that had been pulled over by the Toledo Police Department.  Just as I passed them the officer opened the back door of his cruiser and led out a police dog.  My view then turned to the young lady in the driver’s seat.  I caught her just as she became aware of the impending visit of the police dog.  Her face was a melange of fear, guilt, regret and despair.  In that moment it captured a whole series of decisions that led her to this moment.  I couldn’t help think that she personified in that moment the plight of humanity before a righteous God.  She was Adam and Eve hiding in the garden from the voice of God (Genesis 3:8); the mass of humanity pounding on the door of the Ark (Genesis 7:21); David standing before Nathan the prophet (2 Samuel 12:1); Ananias and Sapphira standing before Peter (Acts 5).  Granted the implications of her plight do not approach the consequences in each of these biblical examples, yet I can only imagine that her heart was very much in the same place.  I cannot speak to her knowledge of God or to the potential relationships  that have spoken truth to her.  I will probably never know the final consequences of this moment in her life.

This is a moment that we have all experienced.  We have all had those “sniffed out” moments.  We look in the mirror and see the dog that will “sniff out” our dishonesty, our greed, our anger, our sin making its way toward the vehicle of our life. Our hearts experience the same mix of emotion that I saw on our unnamed young lady’s face.  What I could not see, and what makes all the difference is what her soul (and ours) does with the emotions of being “sniffed out”.  Sin is universal and an unavoidable result of the human condition. (Romans 3:23)  The Holy Spirit is the ultimate “police dog”, perfect in His ability to sniff out and expose sin. (John 16:7-10) However the big difference is the Holy Spirit desperately loves the sinner. (John 3:16) When the Holy Spirit sniffs out sin, he wraps us in His arms and does His best to lead us to repentance and redemption.  God sacrificed His son Jesus Christ to ensure that this could happen.  We only have to reach out to Him and “take the deal”.  When we take it, the sentence is an eternity of praising God in perfect relationship with Him.  It is a deal that cannot be scammed, tricked or manipulated.  There is no negotiation.  It is the ultimate deal, offered by the one true God with only one alternative, death. (Romans 6:23)

God calls us to focus on the Gospel, the good news when the Holy Spirit convicts.  Hopelessness and terror are the message of the Devil.  He works to turn the work of the Holy Spirit into condemnation and despair.  Paul recognized this when he penned one of my favorite chapter in the Bible, Romans 8:

“Therefore 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 from from the law of sin and of death.”  Romans 8:1-2

It is Satan’s greatest desire that we suffer the fear, the despair of the Law, twisting the loving act of conviction into the hateful act of condemnation. Paul goes on to speak of this very Holy Spirit that sniffs out our sin, “For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, ‘Abba Father!'” Romans 8:15  

Imagine with me for a moment that even as that police dog sniffs out her sin, the young woman throws her arms around his neck and confessing her own blindness lets him lead her out of despair into the light of adoption, a light brighter and more full of hope than the lights of a thousand police cars.

 

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Yes FM Morning Munch

January 9th Fan Into Flame

Audio File

Talk about Fan into Flame weather!  Nothing like the winter session of the Morning Munch.  As I walked in it was more like the Morning crunch, crunch, crunch, that special sound that really, really cold snow makes when you walk on it.

Timothy had a lot on his mind as leader of the Ephesian church but fortunately for him sub-zero wind chills and drifting snow were not on the list! Unfortunately, Pagans assaulting the church from the outside and heretics picking away from the inside were the trials du jour.  Add in all the details of a new community gathering together and young Timothy was stretched to the max.  I would be interested to read the letters and messages that Timothy was sending to Paul, detailing the latest provocations from the pagan guilds or the newest twisting of the Gospel message by self-seeking, self-appointed prophets.  Timothy’s youth, intelligence, honesty and leadership had been questioned and insulted time after time.  While the Mediterranean climate kept the physical temperature moderate there was definitely a chill in the spiritual air for this new Christian leader.

Timothy needs more than an action plan, he needs more than a cheerleader even more than a great shoulder to cry on.  Timothy needs a principle, a resolution to end all resolutions that will keep him going whether times are tough or easy (sometimes the easy times are harder on faith than any others!)

Paul inspired by the Holy Spirit gives us the resolution to end all resolutions and the action plan to back it up.

For this reason I remind you to kindle afresh the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline. Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord or of me His prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God, who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity,  but now has been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, for which I was appointed a preacher and an apostle and a teacher. For this reason I also suffer these things, but I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day. Retain the standard of sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus.  Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you.

Here is the hook!  You already have everything that you need.  It is the gift that you have already received.  That feeling that you are not equipped, that God has let you down and not supplied you everything that you need for the ministry he has selected for you is a lie.  He has given you The Holy Spirit full of power, love and self-discipline.  All you have to do is Fan that gift into Flame.  How do you do that?

  1. Don’t be ashamed!  Christ is not ashamed of you and few things will put the fire of the Holy Spirit out in your life as fast as hiding it in shame.
  2. Soong-kak-op-ath-eh-o join with me in suffering:  don’t go it alone.

 

And today we look at the 3rd and 4th points of Paul’s Action Plan for Building a Fire.

 

  1. “Retain the standard of sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus.”  Several other versions say, “hold on to the pattern of sound teaching…”  If you want to Fan the Flame of the Active Presence of God in your life don’t go chasing after slick teachers, big personalities and pop-theology.  Spend time in the Scriptures.  Let the Holy Spirit open your eyes to the pattern of sound teaching that the Bible presents and you will see miraculous power, love and self-discipline rise up in your life in ways that you could not even imagine.
  2. “Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you.”

Jesus Christ is guarding what you entrusted to him by placing your faith in Him and declaring Him Lord and Savior of your life.  We are called to Guard the deposit of Salvation, the treasure of the Gospel but we don’t have to do it alone.  The very gift that we are fanning into flame comes to our aid, indeed becomes the agent of protection.  In fact any efforts spent outside of the Holy Spirit are wasted and vain.

 

So if your New Years resolution is already a bust, try Paul’s on for size.  Fan some Holy Flames of your own.  Walk with confidence and pride as a Child of the Most High God. Soong-kak-op-ath-eh-o ,Join with your brothers and sisters in Christ, walking out the trials and hardships of holy living in an unholy world together.  Hold on to the pattern of sound teaching that God has provided us in His Word and as the flames build Guard the treasure entrusted you through the gift given to you:  The Spirit of Power, Love and Self-Discipline.

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Yes FM Morning Munch

Audio Link

January 8th Fan Into Flame

I am sensing a pattern here and if it continues I may just have to call in from home on Friday morning because the glaciers are coming.  There was an undercurrent of glee in the children’s classes at church last night as the kids anticipated another day off from school with temperatures and wind chills plunging well into the danger zone.

In weather like this a flame can be the difference between life and death.  I recall a movie from my youth where one of the characters is desperately trying to kindle a flame with hand that have no feeling and a body that just wants to lay down and sleep.  Honestly I cannot recall if he gets the fire going or not.  However I do know this there have been times in my life as a child of God that I have felt just like that.  My spirit is numb and cold.  I feel like I fumble everything that I try to do.  I just want to lay down and sleep.  I have become convinced of my own ineffectiveness, shame overcomes my desire to serve, perhaps even my desire to live.  I have fallen prey to the lies of the enemy that tell me I am unloved, unworthy and will never amount to anything.

It is definitely time to Fan Into Flame the Gift of God, to refuse to be ashamed to testify about our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and to move on to Paul’s second step for Fanning into Flame the active presence of God in our lives.

“Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord or of me His prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God,”  2 Timothy 1:8

Paul does not call Timothy to do something that he has not done or is unwilling to do. Here is one of those translation idiosyncrasies that just makes my day (yes I know that is pathetic but what can you do).  Our next step in Fanning the Flame is “Join with me in suffering” and in the Greek that is 1 yes count it 1 word…  soong-kak-op-ath-eh’-o  perhaps even better than hupomone (if you want to follow that rabbit trail you can look it up on fanintoflame.net or you can look through the past two years of Yes FM morning munches to find the series on hupomone) Ok off the rabbit trail and back to the suffering.  Paul tosses out this big word (which only he uses and only twice and only in this book) to give Timothy a key to Fanning that gift of power, love and self-discipline into a raging fire.  Join with me in suffering, in experiencing the rough stuff in all the irritations, inconveniences and yes sometimes flat out persecution that comes with being a child of the living God in an ungodly world.  You do not have to go it alone.  Jesus said “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”  Walk the path of hardship and do not be afraid to ask someone to walk with you or if your path is currently smooth do not be afraid to walk the path of hardship with a brother (or sister) and remember that no matter where you walk, Jesus is walking there with you.

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