Tag Archives: Holy Spirit

How Long is God’s Arm?

In Numbers Chapter 11, God is telling the people to consecrate themselves and prepare to eat meat. Of course Moses said they did not have enough livestock to feed everyone. Then God answered Moses: “The Lord answered Moses, ‘Is the Lord’s arm too short? Now you will see whether or not what I say will come true for you.’” Numbers 11:23(NIV)

God did show Moses that His arm was not too short. Moses called seventy of the elders and God took “some of the power of the Spirit from him and put it on the seventy elders” and they prophesied. (Numbers 11:28 NIV) The people did receive meat without even killing any of the livestock. God provided the meat.

How often do we need to be reminded of God’s answer to Moses?

In the New Testament, God has promised his followers that He was coming back to take them to an eternal home that He was going to prepare. (John 14).

Later, in the book of Acts 2 it tells about the Holy Spirit being given to His followers. His followers received the Holy Spirit and were able to do remarkable things. If you are a follower of Christ, you too have the Holy Spirit dwelling within you. You too can do great things. God’s arm is not too short!

Because God’s arm is not too short Paul was able to say: I can do all this through him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13(NIV)

We can worry about our country and who will become president. Some people even worry that Christians will be persecuted if we get the wrong President. The behavior of the people has more to do with the future of the country than the person elected to President.

When you begin to be discouraged with the political candidates, remember that God’s arm is not too short to save this country and restore Christian values, if that is His plan. Jesus is still preparing a place for us. Someday soon we will be with Him eternally, God’s arm is not ‘too short’!

NOTE: All scripture used in this post were downloaded from www.biblegateway.com

Your Articles of Faith

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. 1 Peter 3:15-16 (NIV)

How important is it for you to know what you believe?

This may sound like a strange question; however it could be critical to how you behave. Remember Peter? He was the disciple that cut the ear off the guard who came to take Jesus. He was the one who walked on water until he took his eyes of Jesus. He was also the disciple who denied Jesus ‘three times before the cock crows’. This is the same Peter who tells us to “be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” 1 Peter 3:15(NIV)

If you have hope for the future, you must believe something. What do you believe?

Many times when Christians are asked a question about their faith, they frequently begin their response with something like: “This is what my pastor says…”, or “The church believes…”, or “The denomination believes…”, or “I was taught…” And some of you may say:” What difference does it make?”

Suppose that you were driving your car and a stranger stopped you and said: “Someone said the road might be flooded and it is possible the bridge is washed out.” Or suppose another stranger stops you and says: “The road is flooded and the bridge has been washed out.” Which person would you be inclined to believe: the first person who heard the road was flooded, or the second person who knew the road was flooded?

People are more apt to listen to you if your beliefs are ‘first hand’ and not from a second or third source. Can you imagine an automobile salesperson trying to sell you a new car based on what his boss said about the car or about what the TV ads say about the car? Would you wonder if the salesperson knew what they were talking about?

I would like to challenge you to write out your “Articles of Faith”. You may ask what are “Articles of Faith”? Articles of Faith are simply spiritual beliefs that you have. Various Christian denominations have written down six to eighteen of their primary beliefs they hold dear to their faith.

Articles of Faith are usually in a prominent place so that people could look at them to determine if this was the church they wanted to attend. They were helpful to people moving into a community as they selected the church they would attend. In more recent years, if the people are going to be involved in church, they will usually go by the name of the church, which may, or may not actually represent what the church believes. The types of beliefs written in the Articles usually deal with the three persons of the trinity: God the Father, God the Son, and The Holy Spirit. Another article may deal with God’s word, another with a definition of sin, another about baptism, another about salvation, another about heaven and hell. Some articles of faith include more beliefs and some of the have just a few but each of these beliefs helps to identify the body of church members that attend that specific church.

Most of the beliefs listed in the Articles of Faith may vary significantly between denominations simply because we interpret the Bible differently. As a follower of Christ, you should be able to state your beliefs and the reason that you hold to such beliefs. You should be able to give the interpretation that you believe the Holy Spirit gives you regarding that belief.

It is much easier just to accept whatever belief is popular so we do not offend anyone. However, God tells us to be a light to the world but if we let our light resemble what already exists, we will be unable to change the world. We will still be in darkness.

God wants to have a relationship with us. But, if we do not recognize the importance of that relationship, we will continue to follow our old nature.

Note: all scriptures used in this blog were downloaded from: www.biblegateway.com

Is your church “pre-screening” people for heaven?

How many times have you heard in church that people who do … or if people do not do … will not go the heaven? This is not a new Phenomenon for the church. It has been happening since the beginning of the church.

In the 10th chapter of Acts, we read about how Peter (a devote Jew) has a vision about God sending a sheet filled with animals that were considered unclean food and tells Peter to kill and eat. But Peter responds that he has never let any unclean thing enter his body. God had to tell him two more times before God took the sheet of food away.

About the same time, Cornelius (a believing Gentile) has as vision about going to find Peter.

As Peter was thinking about the meaning of his vision, Cornelius comes to the house and asks for Peter. So Peter goes to the house of Cornelius.

Now we are all here in the presence of God to listen to everything the Lord has commanded you to tell us.”

Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right. You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, announcing the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all.  You know what has happened throughout the province of Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached—  how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.

“We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a cross, but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen. He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen—by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on Gentiles. For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God.

Then Peter said, “Surely no one can stand in the way of their being baptized with water. They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.” So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked Peter to stay with them for a few days. Acts 10:33-48(NIV)

Did this end the debate between the Christian Gentiles and the Jews? No. Later, the Jews were telling the Christian Gentiles that they needed to be circumcised to become a believer because this is what was required in the covenant God made with the children of Israel.

The church today has problems trying to pre-screen Christians. It may not be circumcision or eating certain foods, but we have several others: Type of worship, translation of the Bible, baptism, place of worship, instruments used in worship, pastor’s salary, church membership, etc.

We need to give the same message that Peter gave in Acts 10. Peter told them that God was not show favoritism. He also told them what God had done for him. He told them about the Holy Spirit that was given to the believers and that Jesus died on the cross for everyone. God loves everyone. Christ died to redeem people from their sins, not to condemn them.

Rather than separating ourselves from the nonbeliever, we need to witnesses to them about what God had done in our lives. We are to be filled with the Holy Spirit so we will speak only what the Holy Spirit tells us to speak.

God did not plan for the church to ‘pre-screen’ people for heaven. God wants us to tell unbelievers about the love of God and what He did for them on the cross. The assignment to the church is to make disciples, not judges and critics.

NOTE: All scripture used in this blog was downloaded from www.biblegateway.com

How to you remember other people?

In a lifetime, an individual will meet hundreds of people. Some of them you see for only a moment and others you see for longer periods of time. When people get older, they look back at their life and think about the people they have encountered. Someone will mention a name and they will say something like “I remember that person; he was the one who …”

What will you put in the blank? When people have hurt you, you will probably remember them for the hurt that they caused. You may think of every negative thing that you can think about that person.

On the other hand, when a person has helped you achieve something, you will remember that person by the good they did to you. You will think about all the positive things that the person did.

How do you want people to remember you? Do you want them to remember you as a judgmental person who criticized everything and everyone you come in contact with, or do you want them to remember you as forgiving individual, who was always trying to help someone?

Remember Peter, the apostle of Jesus Christ? Do you remember him as the person who betrayed Jesus? Or perhaps you remember him as the person who Jesus called Satan? Or perhaps you remember him as the disciple who sank into the water because he took his eyes of Jesus? We may criticize Peter for taking his eyes off Jesus and sinking into the water or we can praise him for having the courage to go to Jesus even when it was humanly impossible.

Even though Peter made several mistakes in his life, He learned from his mistakes. He later wrote two Epistles that are recorded in our Bible today: 1 Peter and 2 Peter. Because Peter seemed to make a lot of mistakes, he has some excellent advice for Christians. In 1 Peter 2:11-12 Peter wrote these words:

Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul.  Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. 1 Peter 2:11-12(NIV)

Peter is telling us that everything we do should glorify God. Even when people falsely accuse us, we should continue to live Godly lives rather than seeking vengeance because of their false accusations.

Often the reason we remember the negative things that people have done to us, is because we have never forgiven them for the wrong they did to us. We tend to hang onto all the wrongs that have been done to us, rather than forgive them.

The Apostle Luke, in chapter 6 record Jesus telling this to the followers of Jesus:

“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” Luke 6:37-38(NIV)

Jesus is telling his followers, not to judge or condemn people but rather forgive them.

Forgiveness is one of the most difficult things for people to do. Forgiveness requires the action of the Holy Spirit in our lives. God is the only one that can forgive, but he will not force us to forgive. We must surrender it to God and let him seek vengeance.

Paul in his letter to the Colossians says:

 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.  And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Colossians 3:12-14(NIV)

When we forgive someone as Christ did, we will remember the offence no more. We surrender our right to ever bring up this offense again. Regardless of the severity of the offence against us, we are still instructed to forgive.

How are people going to remember you? Are you going to remind them of Christ and His forgiveness or are we going to remind them of a judge who never forgive?

NOTE: All scripture in the blog were downloaded from: www.biblegateway.com

How Can I See God’s Glory?

How many times have you argued with God about events in your life, those things that God seemed to do wrong? Perhaps things at work did not go as you wanted; the promotion did not come through as expected; or you served on a committee and the committee just would not see it your way?

Remember Jonah when God told him to go to Nineveh? He did not want Nineveh to repent. Jonah wanted God to do it his way.

Or, how about Cain? He made an offering of the fruit he had grown and he thought God should accept, but God did not accept it because it was not what God required.

Or, the rich young ruler that came to see Jesus about eternal life? He kept the law and lived an upright life but he accumulated wealth that he did not want to share. He went away sad because Jesus wanted him to get rid of his wealth.

Or, Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden? They wanted to do things their way and not the way God told them. And when they had  sinned and saw they were naked, they covered their nakedness with leaves but God covered it with the skin of a sacrificed animal.

Human nature wants us to be in control of everything. Society pushed the idea of controlling our future; we should have whatever makes us happy or famous. But God wants us to develop self-control. In other words, God wants us to control our behavior and not the behavior of other people or circumstances.

John 11:32-44  is an illustration of what was going to happen in the life of Jesus. Jesus was going to die, then be raised again from the dead. Jesus wanted to show his glory to Mary.

Jesus could have kept Lazarus from dying, just as God could have kept Jesus from dying. However, because of God’s love for us, Jesus had to die. The penalty for sin has always been death.

Can we identify with Mary in this text? Mary was upset with Jesus for not coming sooner. If Jesus had been there, he could have kept her brother from dying. She wanted it her own way.

Even the mourners that were with Mary commented that Jesus was able to heal people, surely he could prevent death. They wanted it their way.

Jesus however, wanted to show Mary the Glory of God, but Mary was reluctant to allow Jesus to show her. Jesus wanted to show Mary that God had a plan for eternal life, a life after our earthly body dies. Mary said: “..by this time there is a bad odor…” Mary was more concerned about Jesus not being there in time to save Lazarus, than she was about seeing God’s glory.

Sometimes we are more concerned about what God did not do for us than we are in seeing what He is doing for us.

How can we see God’s glory in our life? For us to see God’s glory, we need to do what Mary had to do. We need to see it God’s way rather than our own way.

John tells us about a time when Lazarus died. Lazarus was a good friend of Jesus and was the brother of Mary. When he passed away, word was sent to Jesus about his death. However, Jesus waited four days before going to Bethany where Mary and Lazarus lived.

When Jesus did go to Bethany, Mary was very upset with him for waiting so long to come. Jesus wanted to show Mary the “glory of God”, but Mary was more concerned about having her own way.

The story goes like this:

32 When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. 34 “Where have you laid him?” he asked.

“Come and see, Lord,” they replied.

35 Jesus wept.

36 Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”

37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”

38 Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. 39 “Take away the stone,” he said.

“But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.”

40 Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”

41 So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.”

43 When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.

Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.” John 11:32-44(NIV)

In this passage, there are seven statements that Jesus made that helped Mary see God’s glory. These seven statements can also help us see God’s glory.

  1. “Where have you laid him?” (v 34) Jesus wanted to know where Lazarus was buried. He wanted to know where Mary had placed her anxiety regarding Lazarus. Likewise, Jesus wants to know where we have placed those things that bother us or hinder our Christian walk. He wants to take our anxiety away. He wants to know where our anxiety is because he cares for us. (1 Peter 5:7 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.)
  2.  “Take away the stone” (v 39) For Jesus to raise Lazarus from the dead,  needed to have access to Lazarus. Jesus needed access to Mary’s anxiety. For us to see the glory of God, we also need to give Jesus access to our anxiety. He will not force us to give our anxiety to him. He will not force us to go against our will because He loves us and has given us the ability to make decisions. God does not want to control us like a person would control a puppet.
  3. “…if you believe…” (v.40). Jesus tells Mary that if she believed, she would see the Glory of God. Jesus also wants us to believe in him and the power that God has given him. We can have all the knowledge of God and His word, but unless we believe, we will not see God’s glory.
  4. “Father, I thank you that you have heard me.” (v 41) Jesus was talking to God and thanking God for hearing his prayer. Jesus is demonstrating the importance of the communion between Him and His Father. Jesus is recognizing that he can raise Lazarus from the dead only if the Father grants him permission. (You will notice that Lazarus was still dead at this point. Jesus wants us to thank God for what He is going to do and to recognize where his power comes fromeven before he gets the results. We too need to give God the credit for what he is going to do to our anxiety.)
  5. Lazarus, come out” (v.43). Jesus, believing that God answered his prayer and Lazarus was going to live again. Jesus was also illustrating what would happen to him in the near future. He was going to die and be raised again. Just as God took control of Lazarus’s death and resurrection, he was going to take control of Jesus death and resurrection. Likewise, God can take control of our anxiety. We will see God’s glory.
  6. “Take off the grave clothes…” (v.44) When Lazarus came out of the tomb, he was still bound by the grave clothes. Unless Lazarus was freed from the grave clothes, he was not free from the consequences of his death.   When God takes our anxiety away, He wants us to rid ourselves of our sinful nature. He does not want us to be controlled by our sinful nature — our grave clothes. He wants us to be controlled by our faith in Him.
  7.  “… and let him go.” (v.43) Jesus wants Lazarus freed from the grave clothes that are binding him. Jesus also wants us to be free from our old nature. Jesus wants us to be freed from our old nature and to live lives filled with the Holy Spirit. He wants us to have an abundant life filled with His glory.

Instead, be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Ephesians 5:18-20(NIV)

God is asking us to look for His glory and not our glory.

In summary, here are the seven steps to help us see God’s glory:

  1. Identify our anxiety – (or anything that prevent us from seeing God’s glory.)
  2. Give it to God
  3. Believe that He will remove it
  4. Thank Him for removing it
  5. Surrender to His Lordship
  6. Crucify the Old Nature
  7. Celebrate God’s glory by being filled with the spirit

 Our anxiety can be anything that prevents us from seeing God’s glory. It can be selfishness, as was the case of Mary. She wanted Jesus to things her way. It could also be anger, control, worry, self-pity, business, or any other situation that make your blood pressure rise. Whatever your situation is, God wants to show you his glory. Following these seven steps will help you see the glory of God.

 

NOTE: All scripture used in this blog was downloaded from www.biblegateway.com.

Is Jesus Your Savior or Your Lord?

A savior is someone who saves us or delivers us from evil and destruction.

In the Old Testament, the people were looking for a savior. God was their savior. He was their refuge during times of trouble. The Children of Israel would make sacrifices for their sin. In the book of Leviticus you will find the instructions for these offering.

A spotless lamb was frequently brought to be offered as a sin offering. The price for sin was the shedding of blood.  When the lamb was slayed, it was paying the price for the sin committed by the person bringing the offering.

When Jesus left his heavenly home to come to earth in human form, He was the lamb that would be slayed for our sins. He was the spotless lamb whose blood would be sacrificed for the sins of the world. He blood paid the price for our sin. This offering was for everyone who believed that Jesus was who he claimed to be.

Because of God’s grace, everyone can have salvation. They can be delivered from their sin.  This deliverance is a gift that people can receive or reject. When people accepts this gift of salvation, they are considered Christians. They have accepted Jesus as their Savior.  If they reject this gift, they will remain in their sinful condition. They will continue to be headed toward destruction regardless of what Satan tells them.

Near the end of Jesus ministry on earth, he told his disciples that he was going to send an advocate. This advocate would work on our behalf to keep us free from sin. He was like having Jesus with us full time. This Advocate is the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the third part of the trinity: God the Father, Jesus the Son, and Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the part of the Trinity that communicates with our inner spirit. This communication takes place in the spirit realm. In other words, the Holy Spirit hears our utterings and interprets them into the “spirit language” which he then presents to God on our behalf.

When we accept this gift, we receive forgiveness of sins and an advocate with the Heavenly Father. This means we have accepted Jesus as our Savior.

The communication we have with our Heavenly Father is a two-way communication. The Holy Spirit not only takes our requests to God, but he also brings God’s word to us in a way that we can understand what God the Father wants us to do. He has given us the Bible. The Holy Spirit is the one who helps us understand what God is telling us in the Bible. Since the Holy Spirit is communicating on a spiritual level, He takes the words of the Bible and interprets them to the spirit language that enables our spirit to understand the message from God and to do what he is telling us to do.

Since the Holy Spirit is interpreting the Bible for us, it does not matter what translation or language we have because the Holy Spirit is telling us what God the Father wants us to hear.

What we do with the information the Holy Spirit gives us determines who has Lordship of our lives. In other words, our response to the Holy Spirit determines our Lordship. If we respond favorable to the Holy Spirit, we are allowing God to have lordship over our lives. On the other hand if we continue to do what our inner spirit wants us to do, we ourselves have the lordship of our life. Frequently these people tend to allow Satan with his lies to control their lives because they lack God’s protection. Their lordship belongs to Satan.

In Ephesians 5, Paul tells us:

Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. 18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.(Ephesians 5:12-20(NIV)

In our human spirit, we see things that we think will bring us happiness and peace. Frequently they do bring happiness and peace for a very short time. Satan, who also works as a spirit, is trying to get our spirit to see only the pleasure, and not the consequence of our sin. He leads us further and further from God by giving us very short times of happiness that frequently led us into more loneliness and dissatisfaction. He leads us to a place where we fail to see any hope for the future.

However, If we listen to the Holy Spirit, we will experience a lasting joy, a lasting peace, and a constant companion. It is as if Jesus were walking right beside us as a friend, keeping us from sin.  It is like He is holding us accountable for our actions.

In Galatians 4, Paul tells us we must crucify our flesh with its passions and desires.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.  Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other. Galatians 5:22-26(NIV)

If Jesus is our Lord, we have crucified your fleshly desire. But until we have crucified our flesh with its passion and desires, we are unable to have Jesus as our Lord. Christians are to keep in step with the Holy Spirit. By keeping in step with the Holy Spirit, we have accepts Jesus as our Lord. This is what Jesus wanted all of his followers to do. This is what Jesus did while on the earth. Jesus did the Father’s will and not his own will.

What is your answer?  “Is Jesus your Savior, or is he your Lord?”

Having Jesus as your Lord does not mean you are sinless. You will still be prone to sin. However, having Jesus as your Lord will cause you to walk away from sin rather than toward it. Jesus as Lord will give you joy and peace.

NOTE:  All scripture in this blog were downloaded from biblegateway.com

How is your heart like a smart phone?

People have been using cell phones for nearly two decades. Every year they develop cell phones that do more things than the last one. One of the latest cell phones developed is called a smart phone. A smart phone is usually used for communication. We talk to friends; we make purchases from someone or some place; we read the latest news about our favorite people, organization, town, or state. We can even look at social media to communicate with our ‘online’ friends.

When we purchase a smart phone, we need to ‘activate’ the phone. In other words, we need to prepare our phone to communicate with the ‘cell tower’ that will relay the communication between our smart phone and the people with which we want to communicate.

On the smart phone there are several ‘folders’ or icons that we can tap. When we tap one of them, it will open several ‘apps’ files. For instance, we may see an icon that says something like ‘play store’. In play store you will find several games you can download, or you will see special kinds of applications that you may want to use. You may also find ‘widgets’ in the apps files that you can use to give the time, temperature, weather alerts, calculators, etc. These little helpful things are supposed to make you more productive. When you click on these icons, they will install on your phone.  Some of them will require activation and some will not require activation.

When God made man, he gave man a heart. The basic function of the heart is to communicate with the various organs of the body. This communication is done by circulating blood through the body.

The heart is also designed to communicate with people and with God. Our heart, like our cell phone is activated for communication.  The cell phone communicates through cell towers and the heart communicates through the spirit.

Because Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden fruit, they were given a communication package called ‘sin.’ God determined that every person born would have that communication package.

18 But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. Matthew 15:18-19(NIV)

Because of Jesus death and resurrection, God placed a new folder on our heart. The name of the folder is ‘Hope and Restoration’ and is identified by the cross icon. It is installed on your heart, but it needs to be activated.  It will require your approval to be activated. God will not force His communication on your heart against your will.

In the ‘Hope and Restoration’ folder are several apps. They include: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23NIV). These apps were intended to replace those default apps installed on our basic heart; the apps installed in our heart when Adam and Eve sinned. Those apps include: murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander, etc. Matthew 15:19(NIV)

If you want the full benefit of the ‘Hope and Restoration’ apps, you must install all of the apps available in that folder. However, it is possible to pick and choose which ones you want. But remember that failure to install one of these apps will allow some of the default apps to stay active. When installing the ‘Hope and Restoration’ apps, it is recommended that you use your Wi-Fi (Wholesome information For intimacy) connection.  When you activate the ‘Hope and Restoration’ folder, you will also receive a free upgrade in service. This upgrade includes the Holy Spirit plus unlimited text and messaging.

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. Romans 8:26-27(NIV)

In addition to receiving the Holy Spirit, you will also receive a virus protection plan. This plan is called your conscience. When false information comes your way, the Holy Spirit can block it before it ruins your heart. The Holy Spirit will help keep your heart and mind pure and free of corruption.

Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. He will also keep you firm to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. 1 Corinthians 1:7-9(NIV)

“Can you hear me now?”  Was a phrase that one cell phone service provider used to show people that where ever they went, they would still have cell phone service. With the Holy Spirit providing your heart communication service, you will never be out of communication with God.  In Matthew 28, Jesus promised his followers that he would never leave them; He would be with them for eternity.

The ‘Hope and Restoration’ folder can be activated from anyplace. In the Old Testament people had to make a sacrifice on an altar, but the cross became the last altar that was needed because Jesus was our ultimate sacrifice. He died for the sins of the whole world: past, present, and future. And because of this sacrifice, we do not need to go to an altar, a church, or a pastor. The Holy Spirit can activate the ‘Hope and Restoration” folder right where you are. It is activated by believing that Jesus died for you sin. There is no specific prayer that needs to be prayed. However, the relief of the burden of sin being lifted from your back may cause you to thank God for sending His son to pay the price of your sin; or you may want to thank God for adopting you into His family as one of His children; or you may want to share the good news with some friends; or you may just want to thank God for loving you. The requirement is to believe in your heart that Jesus died for you. Because He died for you, your relationship with God can be restored to what it was before Adam and Eve sinned. The default apps can be deleted!

As you continue to study God’s Word as written in the Bible, the Holy Spirit will help you to understand what God is telling you. He will also show you how to use the ‘Hope and Restoration’ apps in the folder to make you a better person. Someday Jesus will come back to take you to your heavenly home to live with Him. Then you will be able to talk face to face with your Redeemer.

This offer is a limited time offer.  It must be accepted before your life on earth ends. God is calling, “can you hear him now?

NOTE: Scripture quoted in this blog were downloaded from www.biblegateway.com

Marching to the Beat of the Wrong Drummer: Rethinking Loudness in Worship

0718101523a What is the purpose of loud music in church?

Over the past several years, the loudness of music in churches has increased. This loudness can create a feeling of excitement. It can set the tone for the worship service. However, the loudness in many churches is above the threshold that is safe for the ear, this loudness requires ear plugs to prevent hearing loss. Because of the threshold of the music, churches should provide ear plugs for their parishioners and guests. In fact, our churches may be sued for hearing loss of the attendees if we are negligent in protecting our parishioners against physical damage.

When the Lord appeared to Elijah, there was a great wind, an earthquake, and a fire. Certainly there was an abundance of loudness during these events.  But God did not speak from them, in fact God spoke in a “gentle whisper”! 1 Kings 19:12(NIV) In other words, God may not be in the exciting situations we are involved in, but he is in the quietness we experience.

Dr. Barry Blesser (blesser.net) has done a great deal of research regarding loudness. Here are some things he says about loudness that I have applied to church worship. Loudness has three major functions: social reward, biological stimulation, and selective aural focus.

Social Reward

Loud music tends to cause strong group cohesion and a loss of individuality. For example, when we go to an athletic event, the fans are all encouraged to create a lot of loudness. This loudness draws the fans into a coherent group. It also causes a greater flow of adrenaline in the fans and the players.

This sounds like loudness is a great idea, it is good for the congregation to have a united sense of worship. However, what happens if the loudness that is caused by a group that is not there to worship God? What happens if the loudness is created for some other reason? What happens if the loudness is produced to get biological stimulation? What if that loudness is for selfish reasons?

Biological Stimulation

Music changes our emotion state. Soft music can provide relaxation or tranquility but loud music causes arousal. Soft music and loud music produce opposite changes to the emotional state of the individual.

Loud music stimulates the same regions of the brain as euphoria drugs such as cocaine. In other words, loud music functions as a self-medicating drug. Just as drugs tend to overpower cognitive judgment, so loud music also overpowers cognitive judgment.

Like the euphoria drugs, loud music helps us escape the guilt of our sin. It helps us escape the reality of our actions prior to worship. Turning a deaf ear to our sin and it’s guilt, does not prepare us for the presence of the Lord. But perhaps we go to church for the sole purpose of avoiding the guilty feelings we have about not attending or perhaps we didn’t especially want to be in the Lord’s presence anyway.  Like Adam and Eve, we are putting on leaves rather than seeking God’s forgiveness.

Loud music with a strong beat activates the sacculus – the inner part of the ear that controls balance. The sacculus is connected to the part of the brain responsible for all forms of pleasure. However, when the maximum threshold is reached by the ear, the small hairs in the ear that cause us to hear, will permanently break off damaging the inner ear. The maximum threshold varies from person to person. The threshold of the music in many churches is now well above the safe threshold of the human ear.

Selective aural focus

In a quiet environment, one can hear a pin drop or hear people breathing. Loud music makes one deaf to the sounds that we hear in a quiet environment. In other words, loud music tends to dominate our aural focus.

Loudness tends to transport us to another world. It takes us into an environment where we are totally controlled by the loudness. You do not have the ability to block out the music you do not what to hear. We do not have ‘ear lids’ that can close and open to protect us from damage to our hearing. You cannot escape loudness.

Loudness overpowers the inner space of self-generated sounds or pictures. It overpowers our individual ability. It wants to control our entire being.  Loud music overpowers our ability to worship God.

Conclusion

Loud music causes us to lose our individual identity, causing our actions to follow what the crowd wants us to follow. Our Christian walk is individual.  God did not give everyone identical plans for their lives. Psalm 139:14 says that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made”. God did not use a cookie cutter to make our lives. God wants us to live our lives in unity not uniformly.

Loud music in our church service results in blocking other sounds. In fact, it may even block the very words that God wants us to hear.

The Apostle Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians says:

Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. 18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Ephesians 5:15-20(NIV)

As Christians, our social reward, biological stimulation, and aural focus should be determined by the Holy Spirit, not by the effects of loud music. Paul says we should be ‘filled with the Holy Spirit’, not loudness. And it is to come from the heart, not from an man made instrument.

Perhaps it is time for us to rethink the use of loud music in worship?

We live in a society where the number of suicides, alcohol abuse, drug abuse, and illicit sexual activity is at an all-time high. People are searching for hope. They are unable to find it, while the Christian faith is built upon the hope that we have in Christ Jesus, we are ashamed to tell others about the hope that we have in Jesus Christ. Is our worship music bringing hope to the world or is it covering it up with loudness so the world cannot find it?

 

NOTES:

  1. All Scripture used in this article is downloaded from biblegateway.com
  2. The loudness research in this article was done by Dr. Barry Blesser and others.
  3. The application of the research to worship is that of the author.

Subtle Differences

When you read the scriptures, what do you look for? Are we looking for evidence that proves we are right? Are we looking for contrasts between right and wrong? Good or bad?

We tend to look for those things that separate Christians from Non-Christians. We look at things like ‘Right vs. Wrong’ and ‘Good vs. bad’; we are looking for those things that are extreme contrasts.

As we walk down life’s pathways, we want to know how we should act and what we should do.

When the non-Christian confronts the Christian, they are usually looking at those actions that seem to be opposite of what the Non-believer thinks those actions should be.

However, the real threat to Christianity today is not the extreme contrasts but the subtle contrasts that exist. We need the Holy Spirit to help us determine the subtle differences!

In 1 Peter 5:8-9 we read:

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings. 1 Peter 5:8-9 (NIV)

Christians need to be looking for prowling lions. If the lion is roaring, he has already caught his prey; His prowling has ‘paid off’!

In the Gospel of Matthew there are recorded several parables that Jesus used to teach the people about heaven and the future.

In the Matthew 25:1-13, Jesus is telling about heaven and is comparing it to a situation where ten virgins went to meet the Bride Groom.

“At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.

“At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’

“Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’

“‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’

10 “But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut.

11 “Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’

12 “But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’

13 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour. Matthew 25:1-13(NIV)

In this parable, Jesus is contrasting two types of virgins: five wise virgins and five foolish virgins.

At first, we may think the wise virgins are believers and the foolish virgins are the non-believers. But when we look closely we find that all ten virgins were looking for the Bride Groom; They were all wanting to go to heaven; and They were all professing Christians.

I believe this parable is addressing the modern day church congregations, those people who want to go to heaven when they die.

All of the virgins had lamps; they all fell asleep waiting; they all heard the announcement of the Bride Groom coming; they all trimmed their lamps; but only the wise virgins had jars of oil to replenish their lamps.

In our churches today, we have professing Christians singing in the choir; serving on the worship team, serve as deacons or elders, teaching Sunday School Classes, VBS lessons, children’s services ; serving on pastor search committees; they may all volunteer for working in charitable organizations, or donate large sums of money to charity, etc. but we cannot determine from their work whether or not they are true Christians. Only God has access to the Lambs Book of Life. We do not know if people have a genuine relationship with God merely by their assignment, church membership, or appearance. We must rely on leading of the Holy Spirit.

In the same way, we cannot know which virgins are foolish and which are wise merely by their actions. However, there is one subtle difference between the foolish virgins and the wise virgins; the wise virgins had jars of oil. In other words, they had the Holy Spirit dwelling in them and depended on the Holy Spirit to light their path.

Most Bible scholars tend to agree that term ‘oil’ used in the Bible, frequently represents the Holy Spirit. Every living person has a spirit, but only those who have accepted the gift of salvation are given the Holy Spirit. In other words, wise virgins in the parable are those who have the Holy Spirit living in their lives; foolish virgins are those that are trying to get to heaven in their own strength, doing it the way that they, not God, want to do it.

When God separates the ‘sheep from the goats’, those people who are trying to get to heaven their own way, will run out of oil. Those who are trying to go to heaven God’s way, will have oil that lasts for eternity.

Do you have a jar of oil?

Prosperity and You

First, let us look at the word ‘prosperity’. The Merriam-Webster online dictionary says that prosperity is the condition of being successful or thriving; especially:  economic well-being.

A recorded example of prosperity was recorded over 3000 years ago. It is found in the Book of Job.

 In the land of Uz there lived a man whose name was Job. This man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil. He had seven sons and three daughters, and he owned seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen and five hundred donkeys, and had a large number of servants. He was the greatest man among all the people of the East.

His sons used to hold feasts in their homes on their birthdays, and they would invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them. When a period of feasting had run its course, Job would make arrangements for them to be purified. Early in the morning he would sacrifice a burnt offering for each of them, thinking, “Perhaps my children have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.” This was Job’s regular custom. Job 1:1-5 (NIV)

Did prosperity come to Job because he was only thinking about himself and always being happy?  According to the Bible, he attained it by fearing God and shunning evil.

As we read the book of Job, we read that Job lost everything!  So Job cursed God and said: ‘I am going to do it my way!’ I don’t find that any place in the book of Job. What you will find is that Job kept trusting God.

Job’s prosperity was not about Job. It was about God. Just like our prosperity is not about us. It is about God and what he is doing for us. In fact, after Job prayed for his friend, the Bible says that God restored his prosperity. Because Job believed God, he was given twice as much has he had to start with!

The Lord blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the former part. He had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, a thousand yoke of oxen and a thousand donkeys. 13 And he also had seven sons and three daughters. 14 The first daughter he named Jemimah, the second Keziah and the third Keren-Happuch. 15 Nowhere in all the land were there found women as beautiful as Job’s daughters, and their father granted them an inheritance along with their brothers.

16 After this, Job lived a hundred and forty years; he saw his children and their children to the fourth generation. 17 And so Job died, an old man and full of years. Job 42:12-18(NIV)

Prosperity Gospel, as I understand it, is the idea that we use God to obtain our fleshly desires. We can have whatever we want, because God will give it to us. Prosperity Gospel also uses the notion that the Holy Spirit is there for us to use to our advantage. We can use the Holy Spirit for whatever we want because God wants us to be happy. It should also be noted that the prosperity we get following our fleshly desires is only good for our time on earth.

We can have a ‘be happy attitude’ and expect to be prosperous…and in fact some people are prosperous without trusting God. But the truth is that this prosperity is only for a short period of time. People die. Then, what good is the prosperity?

The first example of prosperity gospel is found in Genesis 3 when Satan told Eve that she didn’t have to do things God’s way. God was holding out on her. If she ate from the tree that God told her not to eat from, she wouldn’t die but would be like God. She could do it her way and have ‘prosperity’.

However, Eve already had prosperity. She had everything she could want but Satan made her believe there was something more. Because Eve listened to Satan and did it her way, she actually lost the prosperity that she had.

God sent his Son to be crucified for our sin and to become victorious over death. He made a way for us to once again have the prosperity that Eve had before she ate the forbidden fruit.

Another problem with our prosperity is that when it is gained following our fleshly desires, it is only good for this lifetime. The prosperity that is gained by following the Holy Spirit is good for eternity. You see, the prosperity that God wants for his children is for them to share his wealth for eternity.

Who are God’s children? Galatians 5:24(NIV) says: Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. You see the children of God have crucified themselves. In other words, they have become nothing, so God could use them to do His work rather than expecting God to do their work.

We can pretend to be happy, and can even deceive ourselves into thinking we are happy, but it doesn’t guarantee prosperity. In fact, it may even lead to a feeling of guilt because you aren’t becoming prosperous. The Bible says that when we follow our fleshly desires, we get involved in ‘sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery;  idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions  and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like’. (Galatians 5:19-21, NIV)

However, when you follow the Holy Spirit, the actions you demonstrate are ‘love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.’ (Galatians 5:22-23 NIV).

Perhaps the real question about prosperity is: How important is prosperity?

For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Mark 8:36(NIV)

Is it really prosperity we are looking for or is it love, joy, and peace?

But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:15-16(NIV)

Note: All scriptures used in this article have been downloaded from http://www.biblegateway.com/?version=NIV unless otherwise noted.