Tag Archives: the Holy Spirit

That’s What You Get for Loving Me

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I seem to be on a kick of remembering old songs.  When I was in college, the one above was popular.  It’s about a scoundrel who tells all the girls, “if you love me, expect to be abandoned, broke and forgotten, because that’s just how I am!”  “Fair warning!”  (I’m not sure why I liked it, this guy is unbearably arrogant).  Anyway, it began bouncing around in my brain the other day, causing me to think about the many, better things we get for loving God.  I’m sure this isn’t a comprehensive list:

  • Someone who will never leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5)
  • Someone who will always listen (John 9:31)
  • Our daily needs and pleasure in our work (Ecclesiastes 3:23)
  • Wisdom (James 1:5)
  • Christian fellowship (1 John 1:7)
  • Fellowship with Christ (1 Corinthians 12:27)
  • Spiritual gifts to serve the others (1 Corinthians 12:7)
  • The Holy Spirit, who encourages and comforts (Acts 5:32)
  • Forgiveness of sins (1 John 1:9)
  • Salvation (6:23)
  • Eternal life (John 3:16)

If we’re willing, even eager to take a risk on loving a flawed human being, who will no doubt disappoint us, why wouldn’t we take a chance on God’s love?  We stand to gain all the things above and more.  Love and trust God, and see what you get for loving Him.

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Making the Most of Time

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If you read through Chapter 5 of Ephesians, you’ll get some advice about spending time.

  1. Be imitators of God;  walk in love and sacrifice yourself for others
  2. Stay away from immorality of all kinds (this includes silly talk, covetousness ,impurity and drunkenness, not just the “big” sins)
  3. Give thanks to God for everything. Praise Him with music.
  4. Don’t be deceived by false teaching, or associate with those who are.  Look to Christ for the truth about things
  5. Be filled with the Holy Spirit

“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise men, but as wise, making the most of the time because the days are evil.  Therefore, do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.”  Ephesians 5:15

If we’ve studied the Bible, learned from Christian teachers and pastors, we really have no excuse for wasting our time.  We know what it is to serve God;  we know certain things are His will, and others are clearly not.  Often we just choose to do something else. Often we tell ourselves, everyone does it, it can’t be so bad. We think there will be plenty of time to repent and  make things right with God.  Sadly this is not always the case.  And the further we walk away from God, the harder it is to come back.

The best advice for spending time?  You hear it every Sunday at the end of the service:

Go in peace, serve the Lord! 

If you do this, you can be part of God’s redemption story.  What better way to use your time?

 

What Stands Out–Jude

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“But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit.  Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.”  Jude 2:20-21

I love it when Michele does one of her study blogs, because it encourages me to go to the same scripture and see what stands out for me.  It’s always great to have a friend to sharpen us in our Christian study.

So, I read Jude over several times (it’s a short book) and the verse above stands out for me.  As Michele said, Jude is cautioning us against false teachers.  This verse gives us what I like to call -YBH –Yes, but how.  It tells us how to avoid falling prey to lies about the faith.

First of all, we must pray in the Holy Spirit.  The Lutheran catechism says the Spirt “calls, gathers, enlightens and sanctifies” us.  That means we can pray for the Spirit to open our minds to the truth, to give us  the wisdom and discernment to rightly divide truth from error.

Then we are told to “keep yourself in God’s love.”  In other words, stay close to God and God’s people.  Avoid what pulls you away from the Scripture and what you have been taught by godly pastors and leaders.  Attend worship and Bible study.  Learn and grow in the proper environment.

As I said, Jude is a short book, but it has a powerful and important message.  Will you read it this week?  What questions does it raise in your mind?  What stands out for you?

 

What’s Your Story #2

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Years ago I worked with a younger woman named Vanessa.  We became friends, although we didn’t see each much outside of work.  We talked quite a bit, especially about our husbands and children.  I probably talked about church a lot.  One day Vanessa told me that she and her husband came from very different faith traditions–neither one felt completely comfortable in the other’s family church.  One was quite formal, the other very informal.  As a consequence, they weren’t attending church at all.  Out of my mouth came words that really surprised me,  “why don’t you come to my church, I think it’s somewhere in the middle!”

I was immediately nervous, fearing Vanessa would now think I was going to try to “convert” her at every opportunity and our comfortable work friendship would become strained.  Well, that didn’t happen but we didn’t broach the subject again, and she didn’t show up at church the next Sunday.

Time passed, and our church had their yearly yard sale.  Vanessa and her family stopped by and spoke with me and some other members.  Then a few weeks later, her family did come to Sunday worship.  Eventually they became members.

My point?  Well God uses even our fumbling, reluctant witness to call people to Him.  The Holy Spirit works in us and through us even when we’re not paying much attention.

“…the Spirit helps us in our weakness.  We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.  And he who searches our hearts, knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.”  Romans 8:26-27

When have you felt the prompting of the Spirit and where and to whom has it led you?

 

 

The Lack of-obedience.

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I am not special. There is nothing about me that makes me better than anybody else. I do not have the discipline of perfect obedience. Though it seems many are under the (false) impression Christians think they are better. I can’t get inside everyone’s head, so I suppose I can’t say that there aren’t some (who call themselves Christians) that do think they’re better. To this I bring up one simple fact. They are then wolves in sheep’s clothing. That kind of thing occurs in ALL group types.

That being said- let me attempt to reassure. No true Christian thinks this. What we do know is that we have is a gift. Like a big secret no one has seen, yet is plainly visible. A secret that is shouted from hill tops and sung praises about, but no one has heard. Why are we less stressed, more content? The reason is we know no matter what earth throws at us; a brighter more vibrant life awaits us. When we make a mistake (which happens often) we are aware that grace is our lot, and forgiveness is our helper. We have placed our trust in the one name, that we believe is above all others. Jesus Christ.

It’s not that we think our “stuff don’t stink”, it’s not that we’re so much better at rules . . . (although because of our love and understanding of a great mercy given we do try, and fail) it’s simply that through the word of God and the help of the Holy Spirit, we are AWARE.

Aware of grace and love. Aware of a wonderful creator, and His steadfast love. We are aware that we’ve been adopted into His family, NOT because we have accomplished some awesome feat. But because He chose us. He first loved us, and through the power of his word alone, we now know.

It may be though as the good book says, that the deaf whose ears have been opened and the blind whose eyes see, believers in Christ, keep the secret that really isn’t secret. Will it be that no matter how much we praise God in song and show the wonders of His good and perfect creations, that some will remain blind and deaf?

For the record, I sometimes claim to be a rebel. Proof of my imperfections. I am no better than those who don’t hold to my beliefs. But I do have a secret I’d like to share.

Thankful for Spiritual Blessings

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“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.” Ephesians 1:3

Our sermon last Sunday was about giving thanks for our spiritual blessings.  When we give thanks, we most often think of how God has provided for our material and emotional needs.  Things like food, shelter, health, family and friends are definitely on our “thank you” list.

But what about spiritual blessings?  Too often we take them for granted, we forget that they are even greater gifts from God.  So take a minute to read the first chapter of Ephesians, giving thanks for each of the spiritual blessings the apostle Paul enumerates.

  1. God chose us before the foundation of the world
  2. God adopted us
  3. God redeemed us through the blood of Christ
  4. God forgives our sins through his grace
  5. God makes His will known to us
  6. God gives us hope
  7. God sends us the Holy Spirit

You might close your thank you devotional time with the doxology, which was written by Thomas Ken, “England’s first hymnist.”

“Praise God from Whom all blessings flow;  Praise Him, all creatures here below;  Praise Him above, ye heavenly host;  Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost.”

 

 

Renewing Our Mind In Prayer

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“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith …” Hebrews 12:1

I am amazed at how our monthly themes flow together.  In a post last month I wrote  about how being reborn as a Christian involves “renewing our mind” (Romans 12:2) by setting it on Christ rather than worldly things.  This month I realize that what I am describing is one way to pray.

There is a famous spiritual book called The Practice of the Presence of God, written by Brother Lawrence.  He was a seventeenth-century French monk who spent most of his career working in the kitchen of the monastery where he lived. He was not a great scholar or theologian, but he was respected and sought out for his advice about prayer. Brother Lawrence  said that for him the times of prayer assigned by his order were no different than the rest of the day.  Here’s what he has to say:

“Pray remember what I have recommended to you, which is, to think often on God, by day, by night, in your business, and even in your diversions.  He is always near you and with you:  leave Him not alone.  You would think it rude to leave a friend alone who came to visit you;  why, then, must God be neglected?  Do not, then, forget Him, but think on Him often, adore Him continually, live and die with Him;  this is the glorious employment of a Christian.  In a word, this is our profession;  if we do not know it, we must learn it.”

I think this explains what I was struggling to describe yesterday.  While it is fine to set aside a quiet time of prayer, just as we might have a “date night” with our spouse, we don’t need to compartmentalize or limit our prayer life to this alone.  In Chapter 14 of John, Jesus tells his disciples that although soon they will see Him no more, He will not desert them:

“And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Counselor to be with you forever…” John 14:16

Because we are Christians, the Holy Spirit is with us and we can turn to Him continuously throughout the day.  Better yet, the Bible tells us that when “we do not know what we ought to pray for … the Spirit himself intercedes for us … in accordance with God’s will.”  Romans 8:26-27.

Give this kind of prayer a try today.  Fix your eyes on Jesus as you go about your usual activities.  See them with the eyes and mind of Christ.  Ask Him what he would do about the decisions that confront you, how He would react to the people you meet.  Then let us know what happened.  We’ll be praying with you.

God loves you and so do I!

 

 

 

All You Need is Love

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Love has been on my mind lately. No, not because of Valentine’s Day or my wedding anniversary, it’s just been coming up again and again in the weekly epistle readings. That really isn’t surprising since love is at the heart of the Christian life. The Bible tells us that “God is love” (1 John 4:16) and Jesus Himself teaches that the greatest commandments are “…love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind …And … love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37-39).  Church tradition says that when the apostle John was very old he would be carried into church where his entire sermon consisted of the statement:  “Beloved, let us love one another.” (1 John 4:7)  Love is the fruit of the Holy Spirit poured out into us (Galations 5:22) and the identifying mark of all Christians (John 3:35).  The New Testament commands us to love more than fifty times!

So why do we find it hard to love certain people? I think the answer lies in the way we define love.  For most of us, love means certain feelings:  tenderness, affection and attachment which we expect (or at least hope) to have reciprocated.  Unfortunately, there are plenty of people, even in our own churches and families, for whom we cannot muster up those feelings.  We struggle to “love” people who have qualities that annoy us, who have hurt us or treated us badly, who disagree with us.  How can we love people we don’t even like? How can we love people who don’t like us?

A careful reading has convinced me that Biblical love is not about feelings, but actions. We can’t control our emotions, but we can control what we do in response to them. We are to love others in the way we behave toward them. The apostle John, in his first epistle tells us to love “not in word or talk but in deed and in truth.”  The love verses in the Bible are filled with action words:  “serve one another in love” (Ephesians 4:2); “speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15); “spur one another on to love” (Hebrews 10:24); “pursue love” (1 Timothy 2:22) and if fact “do everything in love” ( 1 Corinthians 16: 14).  In some verses, the instructions are even more specific: “… outdo one another in showing honor” (Romans 12:10); “if you enemy is hungry, feed him (Romans 12:20); bless those who persecute you (Romans 12:14); “ …pray for those who abuse you(Luke 6:28).

Next time (and it will be soon) I am confronted with a person I find difficult to love, I plan to ask the Holy Spirit to help me behave in accordance with the love qualities described in Colossians 3:12-17: “ …compassion, kindness, humility, meekness and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other.”  The apostle Paul calls this “walking by the spirit” (Galatians 5:16) Loving actions lead to freedom and peace; and as Paul adds, “against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:23).

This article was previously published in The Ambassador Facebook Page, an AFLC (Association of Free Lutheran Churches) magazine