Walking In The Power of the Holy Spirit – Pt. 2

Leave a comment

“GOD’S STORY, your story” – Pt. 14

At the end of Max Lucado’s book, “GOD’S STORY, your story“, there are study questions and activities to consider that relate to each chapter.  I invite you to read the book, and look over the entire question and application section.  In my articles, I will usually only pick up on two or three questions and relate them to my own experiences.

                                          

Chapter 7: When God’s Story Becomes Yours….
POWER MOVES IN

Question #2: The chapter asks, “What got into Peter?”  How would you answer this question?  (See Acts 2:4, 17-18.)

It should be rather obvious to anyone who reads the Gospel books (Matthew, Mark, Luke & John) and compares the stories that deal with Peter there with what happens in Acts chapter 2 that Peter had become quite a changed man.  In the Gospel accounts, Peter was known to be hot-headed, loud-mouthed and then a cowardly man when the chips were down.  But in Acts 2, we see Peter was publicly bold as he clearly articulated the message of the Gospel and the need for people to repent of their sin and turn to Jesus for their salvation.

This kind of transformation is something that is normally impossible for a person to do on their own.  Although we do read of stories where someone is suddenly heroic in a dangerous situation, and there are plenty of “self-help” books out there.  For the most part, people do not change drastically in such a powerful and positive way like Peter did, unless something outside of themselves happens which has the power to cause such a change.  By reading more of the biblical account, we discover that it is the resurrected Christ, and the release of the Holy Spirit into his life that brings about this newly transformed Peter.

Question #3: These days, do you feel more like the early Peter or the later one?  Or do you vacillate between the two in any given week?

This is a good question.  And I believe that for myself, and probably for most Christians, the truth is that we do a lot of vacillating between being alive and vibrant in our faith and then sinking into times of discouragement and spiritual desert experiences.  For some Christians though, they may start out their journey of faith quite strong, but through the busyness of life and through neglect of spiritual disciplines and activities, their spiritual vitality slowly fades until there is not much left of their original zeal for God.

Speaking for myself again, I don’t think that I flip-flop in my spiritual life on a weekly basis.  But I can look back over the years and say that there have been “seasons of life” which can be marked with greater or lesser spiritual vitality.  I don’t consider these long ups and downs to be necessarily bad, as much as they reflect the ebb and flow of life itself.  What I do consider to be important though, is whether or not the kernel of faith in Christ remains strong, especially during those dry spells and tough periods in life that happen to us all.

I have found that I have reflected often on that great poem “Footprints” over the years.  It is great when life is going along well and we feel very connected with God.  Those are the times when we can look back and see both of our footprints going along side-by-side in the sand.  But during those tough times of life, when we even feel like God has abandoned us, and we only see one set of footprints in the sand, that is when God says to us, “Those were the times that I carried you.”  That is what my faith is like for the most part.  I believe God is walking beside me, or He is carrying me, and in either case, God strengthens me to be able to handle whatever life dishes out to me.

Question #4: What was the difference between Jesus living near the disciples and the Spirit living in them?  What were the results?  Do you long for such results in your life?  What difference might that make in your life right now?

When Jesus lives among the disciples, they saw the power of God at work through all that Jesus did.  But once Jesus released the Holy Spirit to live within the disciples, they found that they had the power of God within themselves to do all the things that they had once seen Jesus do.  What a wonderful thing that must have been to go from being witnesses of God’s power to being instruments of God’s power.

In the years that I have been in ministry, both here in North America and in overseas mission work, I have definitely seen the power of God active in the lives of others as well as being released through me to impact other people.  I have had spiritual encounters with evil forces and demonic beings.  I’ve experienced healing in my life in the past and am seeing it happen in the present.  God is very much alive in today’s world.

What we need to do is to first believe that this spiritual power is available to us to do God’s work and will in the world.  And then keep our eyes open, both to look up to God for our daily strength and to look out around for opportunities to act on God’s behalf.  When we do this, then God will bring about the circumstances to work in and through us to impact the world.  But just remember one thing: it is always about God and His power in us, never about us and what we think we can do.  That’s how we walk in the power of the Holy Spirit.

                                          

[God’s Story, Your Story] Max Lucado.  Copyright [Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2011]  Used by permission.

* If this article has been helpful to you and a blessing, please invite your friends to come visit this devotional blog site.

Advertisements

Jesus Has The Words of Eternal Life

1 Comment

John 6:60 – 71

60  When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” 61 But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples were grumbling about this, said to them, “Do you take offense at this? 62 Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before?  63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. 

64 But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) 65 And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”   66  After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. 

67 So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” 68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, 69 and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” 70 Jesus answered them,“Did I not choose you, the Twelve? And yet one of you is a devil.” 71 He spoke of Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, forhe, one of the Twelve, was going to betray him.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦          ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦          ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

This last section of John chapter 6 is one of the important climaxes of the events in Jesus’ life as we head toward the dénouement of His final week on earth.  We are still many months away from Jesus’ arrest, trial and crucifixion.  But we see the elements of lines being drawn, sides being taken, and foreshadowing of the betrayal of Jesus by Judas, one of His twelve inner circle disciples.

What the followers of Jesus (another term for general disciples) heard, as mentioned in verse 60, comes from the passage immediately above this one, where Jesus stated that He was the “bread of life which had come down from heaven” and that “anyone who [figuratively] ate His flesh and drank His blood” would not die (spiritually), but live forever.  No wonder the followers/disciples of Jesus said “this is a hard saying.”

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

As people grumbled about the claims Jesus made, he asked them if His statements caused them to be offended.  I don’t think this captures the essence of the Greek verb here.  The verb “skandalidzoo” is the root for our English word “scandalized”.  A better translation of this verb is to say “to cause someone to stumble”.  These people who had been following Jesus possessed some seeds of faith in Jesus.  But after this dialogue, many of them are “scandalized”, and their fragile faith crumbles and they stumble over Jesus’ words.

This is a crucial point in Jesus’ ministry.  He has basically laid out on the table the extreme sacrifice that He will have to make (be betrayed which leads to His death), but also He has laid out the extreme commitment that a person must make to be a true follower of Him.  And that people must put their faith in Him to gain true spiritual life.  This is so opposite to what people through the centuries have believed, that eternal life could be gained through good deeds done by the strength of our human flesh.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Finally, after speaking in difficult figurative language, Jesus spells it out clearly, that the words He speaks are the true source of where we obtain life for our spirits.  This became a breaking point for some of those who followed, and so they left Jesus.  Then Jesus turns to His special twelve disciples and asked them if they too would stop following Him.  Peter’s words are truly profound, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

Consider the sharp contrast being played out here.  Many people cannot make the faith decision that Jesus holds the keys of eternal life, and they shake their heads and walk away.  But Peter sees clearly that Jesus is the One appointed by God (i.e. “the Holy One”) to bring spiritual life and salvation.  And Peter bows his head in belief and submission.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

It is so sad to me to hear about how close some people have been to Jesus (whether during the time He lived on earth, or now and is proclaimed alive through the Living Word of God), and yet people fail to see Him for who He is.  Or more seriously, they ignore Him whom they know to be Lord and the Bridegroom to the Church, and yet they focus on such petty matters of the human flesh.  Let me explain.

When Christ Jesus died on the cross, He not only died to bring about the offer of salvation to everyone who believed in Him, but He also died, rose from the grave and ascended to heaven to release the power of the Holy Spirit to help build the Church, Christ’s bride.  Yet we have so many bad examples today to show how unworthily His Church is acting, that many people are hurt instead of being given hope and healing.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

I know personally of some churches which have allowed pride, stubbornness, personality clashes and even sinful actions to bring about such dissension that ultimately the church is split apart.  We must not let this continue.  Jesus said that “the Spirit brings life; the flesh is no help at all.”  Let us return to hearing the Words of Jesus which bring life, instead of listening to the voices of selfish individualism.  The Church is to be a living organism, not an organization.  Let Christ be the true head, and we remain the obedient body.  That will certainly lead us to the road of Eternal Life.

* If this article has been helpful to you and a blessing, please invite your friends to come visit this devotional blog site.

Walking In The Power of the Holy Spirit – Pt. 1

Leave a comment

“GOD’S STORY, your story” – Pt. 13

What does it mean to “walk in the power of the Holy Spirit”?  Depending on who you talk with, you can get answers that span a huge spectrum.  From conservative Christianity, where the Holy Spirit is rarely talked about, to charismatic Christianity, where visible manifestations of the Holy Spirit’s power like speaking in tongues is a necessity, we get quite a wide view of the place and the role of the Holy Spirit in the lives of individual Christians.

I grew up within a moderately conservative church background, where we were taught about the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost in Acts 2, and the wonderful fruit of the Spirit which is made available to believers in Galatians 5.  But there was not a lot of preaching done that helped us to understand and actualize the ongoing power of the Holy Spirit within us on a daily basis.  There seemed to be a lot of biblical exposition  without a lot of personal application.

     

In my years of mission experience and from more time given to biblical reflection, I am certain that there is much more going on within the spiritual realm that exists alongside of our physical realm than many of us realize.  To begin with, we must take all of God’s Word seriously and accept it as trustworthy, or we are left with uncertainty about all of it.  And so I take it to be true when Paul writes in Ephesians 6:12

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

Now in practical terms, it does seem like our “struggle” is waged on the human level as we deal with bad people who lie and cheat and resist us as we try to live our lives in ways that will please God.  It does seem like those who practice evil deeds are the ones who get ahead in life or find the ways to prosper at the expense of other people.  This is nothing really new actually, for we read in the New Testament how wicked leaders crucified Jesus and caused the early disciples to cringe in fear behind locked doors.

     

But then, just 50 days after Jesus died and was buried, we find a person like Peter, who had so cowardly denied knowing Jesus, suddenly standing up boldly in public to preach about faith in Jesus.  What had gotten into Peter?  What had changed him from being a cowardly disciple to a courageous leader?  By reading the last part of the Gospels and the first part of the book of Acts, we read about a Jesus who had risen from the dead and who promised the coming of the Holy Spirit who would give them power to live and to speak for Him.

It must have been wonderful for those early disciples to have walked with Jesus when He was alive and to hear Him preach and to see Him heal.  Then they would have been devastated by His death.  But Jesus knew that it was necessary on so many levels for Him to die and then to return back to Heaven.  His death brought about forgiveness of sins for all people who believe in Him, and His departure to Heaven allowed Him to release the power of the Holy Spirit into the lives of believers.

Jesus said in John 14:12 that anyone who believed in Him would do even greater things than He did because Jesus was going back to the Father and releasing the Holy Spirit for all believers.  Max Lucado puts it this way in his book “GOD’S STORY, your story” on pages 109 – 110:

During his earthly ministry Jesus lived near the disciples.  The Holy Spirit, however, would live in the disciples.  What Jesus did with the followers, the Spirit would do through them and us.  Jesus healed; the Spirit heals through us.  Jesus taught; the Spirit teaches through us.  Jesus comforted; the Spirit comforts through us.  The Spirit continues the work of Christ.

     

So let’s get back to being practical again.  Jesus has never changed  (Hebrews 13:8 promises us that).  What Jesus promised to his immediate disciples about receiving the power of the Holy Spirit in their lives to do greater things than He did, is also a promise to all of us who believe in Jesus.  Yes, this power may be to do miraculous things, like speak in spiritual tongues and heal the sick, but overcoming our old sinful nature and living God-honoring lives is also just as much a miracle and an evidence of the power of the Holy Spirit within.

Think about it for a minute.  If you are a believer in Christ, if you use to be an angry person, now by the power of the Holy Spirit within, you can be a person who exhibits peace and gentleness.  If you use to be caught up in lying, now you can be a man or woman of truth.  Were you anxious before? Now you can exercise faith and trust.  Did you have any addictions before?  Now you can show self-control.  All this is perhaps the most powerful witness to others and demonstrates “walking in the power of the Holy Spirit”.

     

Let me close this article with a great quote of Lucado’s on page 117.  I pray that you may know the power that Lucado talks about here in your day to day experiences and in your walk with God.

The same hand that pushed the rock from the tomb can shove away your doubt.  The same power that stirred the still heart of Christ can stir your flagging faith.  The same strength that put Satan on his heels can, and will, defeat Satan in your life.  Just keep the power supply open.  Who knows, you may soon hear people asking, “What’s gotten into you?”

[God’s Story, Your Story] Max Lucado.  Copyright [Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2011]  Used by permission.

* If this article has been helpful to you and a blessing, please invite your friends to come visit this devotional blog site.

Death Is Just The Beginning – Pt. 2

Leave a comment

“GOD’S STORY, your story” – Pt. 12

At the end of Max Lucado’s book, “GOD’S STORY, your story“, there are study questions and activities to consider that relate to each chapter.  I invite you to read the book, and look over the entire question and application section.  In my articles, I will usually only pick up on two or three questions and relate them to my own experiences.

                                          

Chapter 6: When God’s Story Becomes Yours….
YOUR FINAL CHAPTER BECOMES A PREFACE

Question #2: What experiences have most influenced your view of your own mortality?  When have you grappled with your own death or the deaths of those you know and love?

In some of my articles, I have shared about how frequently there were deaths among the people in the village where we lived and worked in Papua New Guinea.  The average age span for a Papuan is about 46 years.  And there were quite a number of children who died at birth or within the first two years.  Even mothers were dying due to retained placentas.  So death was all around us.  All of these deaths made us quite aware of our mortality.

Interestingly, there was a death of a different kind that shook up our family and brought about a transformation in the life of one of our sons, Glen.  He was only 6 years old and we had just been in PNG for a couple of months.  He was playing with a kitten and didn’t think anything of it when he threw the kitten up in the air and then caught it.  But the one time he missed catching the kitten, it fell and broke its neck and died.

Needless to say, we had a long talk that day, my son and I.  Then we went out to the jungle and buried it.  Glen then asked questions about life in general and what happens when a person dies.  That led to a long discussion about life after death, and the need to believe in Jesus who grants eternal life.  He already knew a lot about the Bible.  But now he had to grapple with the question of eternal life after death.  Praise God, eight months later Glen accepted Jesus into his life and had his name written in God’s Book of Life.

Question #3: What would you say to someone who claims to be spiritual but doesn’t believe in the resurrection?  How would you describe the role the resurrection plays in your own life?  What difference does it make?

It would seem to me that if a person said that they were “spiritually-minded” but did not believe in the resurrection of Jesus, then in reality that person would be either performing humanitarian acts of charity and calling that “spiritual”, or they are trapped in the concept of “doing good deeds” in the hope that their “goodness” would be sufficient to save them from Hell and God’s punishment against the sinfulness of man.

As a Christian, I recognize that there would never be enough good deeds that I could do that would make up for or “pay” for my sins.  My goodness could never wipe out my bad deeds I have done in life.  My only hope would be if there was someone else who was perfect and without sin who could agree to take my punishment from God for my sins that I would be free from the penalty of sin.

That is what Jesus did on the cross.  That takes care of my sin.  But if that is all, then we can only see death as the final act of life.  But by Jesus rising from the grave, He proved that He had power over the most powerful thing we know in this life, and that is Death.  Jesus’ resurrection proved His power and His authority to give life to those who die.  And since our sins are forgiven, then we can rise in this resurrection life as perfect, sinless people who will live with God forever.

Question #4: Do Christians today act more like the disciples behaved before or after the resurrection?  What could we do to be “resurrection people” in the way we worship, serve, and relate to one another?

I am very concerned for Christians today, especially those who live in the affluent democratic countries of the world.  Life for most people, including Christians, so easily becomes one of materialism.  Jesus warns us to not build our treasures here on earth.  Those who do, so often they work so hard to get them, and then they worry about losing them, and life is all about material possessions instead of seeing life and others around through the eyes of God.

What we must remember is that all these things will pass away and be destroyed.  We cannot take these earthly treasures to heaven.  And those who do not follow after God in this life, will not live with Him in the next life.  We must put a high priority on helping our family members, friends and neighbors to come to know Jesus.  Bigger homes, nicer cars, and even beautiful church buildings will mean nothing if we are not telling others about Jesus.

I’m not saying we have to become preachers, evangelists or missionaries.  But we must put God and others first in our lives.  And people must see that our words and our actions are consistent and spiritually attractive so that they might turn to us when they find that they are in a time of real need in their lives.  As the saying goes, “We may be the only Bible that people ever read.”  So let’s let our lives shine the truth and love of God to others for the sake of their eternal destiny.

                                          

[God’s Story, Your Story] Max Lucado.  Copyright [Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2011]  Used by permission.

The Practice Of Forgiveness

Leave a comment

There is no doubt that we all understand that it is important to forgive others.  We may not always feel like we want to forgive others who have wronged us or offended us.  But then we have to accept the forthright bluntness of the word’s of Jesus in Matthew chapter 6 verses 14-15, right after He taught His disciples how to pray to God the Father.  Jesus says:

For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

We have plenty of material and many sermons that tell us the importance of forgiving others.  But what I think is more helpful for most of us today is seeing in person or at least hearing about real situations that exemplify and flesh out what forgiveness looks like.  That is why the following message written by a close missionary friend of mine caught my attention.  I hope that it encourages and challenges you like it did for me.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦          ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦          ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

When You Hurt Someone

If you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.”   Matthew 5:23-24 (NIV)

“An email I wrote last month hurt someone I love. I was in a hurry and I carelessly communicated the exact opposite of what I meant to say. For weeks my friend carried the burden of thinking I was angry at her when nothing could be farther from the truth. Another friend finally wrote and bravely, lovingly confronted me with my seemingly rude, uncaring words. I was shocked and could not imagine how I could have been so terribly misunderstood.

Until I found and read that email from her perspective. Ouch. Ever done something like that? To quote an Accenture billboard, “It’s what you do next that counts.” I firmly believe that mistakes like mine can actually strengthen relationships if what you do next is to ask for forgiveness – as fast as you can.

Don’t make excuses or try to avoid humiliation. The Bible says, leave church and go! The truth is we only avoid hurting others if we keep our relationships shallow. Misunderstandings, purposeful angry words and other hurtful things will happen and they will change the relationship, for better or worse.

In the last month I listened to a preacher confess during a sermon that he let his long work hours hurt his marriage, and I heard an elder in a different church confess that he spoke hurtful words when his preacher came to him with a problem. Both of these godly men quickly made things right with the person they hurt, and when they realized that their sin involved more than just one person they publicly confessed it – in tears.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦          ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦          ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

 What an impact that must have had on the two congregations to have that pastor and that elder make their public confession and to ask for forgiveness in such an open way.  Wow!!  I’m sure that it was not easy for them.  But the personal peace they must have felt after taking care of this issue of the heart, plus the relationships that are repaired are worth the risk.  This reminds me of what happened in our village in PNG in 2001.

For six months I had been holding a “Bible School” program with people under our house.  (In PNG, most houses are built up on posts due to the flooding of the river, the chickens and dogs that run underneath, for good shade, etc.)  Our area back then was almost completely a Catholic oriented region.  At the end of the six months of Bible teaching, I challenged the people to consider making a public declaration of faith in Jesus and mark it with adult baptism in the stream behind our house, if they felt God was asking them to do that.

We did have three baptisms that were witnessed by most people in the village.  I thought this was a tremendous event for the sake of the Kingdom.  But about a week later I was “chastised” by some leaders of the village Catholic church and told not to preach or teach the people any more.  I knew that theology was a big part of the reason for this, but I also realized even more importantly that in this Papuan consensus-and-discussion culture, I had offended the leaders simply by not asking them to be involved with the overall decision making process that occurred.  I believe that if I had, they very likely in the end would have been happy to see these individuals making a stand for the Gospel.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Very quickly I went about to restore these wounded and broken relationships by doing the culturally correct Papuan action.  Namely, Jill and I cooked a huge rice and tinned meat meal and invited the leaders to a meeting where I could apologize to them.  Not for the baptisms, but rather that I had not respected their village leadership.

At the end of the meal, the other correct thing to be done to show full forgiveness and acceptance of one anther was to shake hands with each other.  This then marked the end of the “wrong”.  And you know what?  The regional Catholic Bishop just happened to be there that night, and he shook my hands and said, “I am so glad you are in this village and teaching the people about God.”  Wow!  So restoring our relationships restored me to a place where the Catholic leaders even approved of the teaching and evangelism I was doing.

I am grateful for this reminder from my friend about practising forgiveness.  May we all follow this example and see relationships restored, lives impacted, and God glorified through it all.

Jesus, More Than A Prophet

1 Comment

John 4:16 – 26

Jesus and the Samaritan Woman – Pt. 2

16 Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” 17 The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; 18 for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.” 19 The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet.

20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” 21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews.

23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” 25 The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” 26 Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”

 ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦          ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦          ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

In last week’s article about the conversation between Jesus and this Samaritan woman (read here), we learned some important things that show how unusual the conversation really was.  Culturally, it was not really proper for Jesus, a man, to have a social conversation with a woman in public.  Even more significant was the fact that there was a religious stigma attached to Samaritans, and so it was highly unusual for Jesus as a Jew to be talking with this woman.

Then we explored the idea that this woman may have even been a social outcast even in her own small town.  The hint we got from the previous verses was that she was coming down at noon in the heat of the day to get water from the well.  Normally, women would go down either in the cool of the morning or the evening to get their water and would socialize with each other.  But this woman did not appear to be accepted and for this reason came down at noon.  We can see from our passage above the reason for her being ostracized due to being a woman married to five husbands, and now sleeping with a sixth man.

 ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

But Jesus looked past and cut through all these walls of social stigmas and saw a person of worth in front of him.  But how could he do this in a gentle and non-threatening way?  He used her need for daily water to attract her attention by offering to give her “living water”.  This did intrigue her and so the conversation began.  But Jesus also saw all the social and religious baggage that this woman carried and he had to lovingly go slow to bring her to the point of wanting to accept and believe in Him who was the true Living Water.

Jesus began then by asking the woman about her home.  His question seems so simple and innocent, “Go call your husband.”  I believe that Jesus was testing the woman to see if she would be honest with him that she was not actually married to the man she was currently sleeping with.  She does tell the truth, opens up herself on one level, and Jesus takes this opportunity to let her know that in fact Jesus knew all about her home life situation.

Seeing this kind of perception, the woman naturally thought that Jesus must be some kind of prophet.  She is not quite ready to open her heart up further yet, so she counters Jesus with a side topic of worship, pointing out that Jews worship in Jerusalem, but the Samaritans had the religious habit or worshiping God up on Mount Gerazim in the Province of Samaria.  (Was she perhaps trying to impress Jesus that she was a religious person?)

 ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

 But Jesus cuts through that statement to make the bold statement that worship is not to be defined by a specific ritual done in a specific place, whether that was in Jerusalem or on Mount Gerazim.  For as Jesus goes on to explain, true worship of God occurs within a person’s heart.  You see, real worship is based off of a relationship with God and a heart attitude of love, adoration and obedience.  Worship should never be limited to our physical posture and place of gathering.  No, we can worship God anywhere and at any time from out of our heart to God.

This is when the woman clearly sees the point, but deflects Jesus by saying that when the Messiah comes, the One whom God anointed to bring salvation to people, then He would explain things to her and she would be able to worship God in truth and in spirit.  Do you see how gently Jesus led this woman down deeper and deeper into spiritual truth to the point that she admitted her need for the Messiah in her life?  And then Jesus gives his grand statement to her, “I who speak to you am he [the Messiah].”

 ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

What a wonderful passage this is.  And as we will see later, what a wonderful joy came to this woman who had discovered her Messiah.  But let me ask you this now in closing.  Where are you in your relationship with Jesus?  Have you let Him come in to affect positively your life at home?  Are your religious activities just routine habits?  Or have you accepted the face that Jesus is in fact the Messiah, the One whom God chose to bring salvation to the world.  Have you given your heart to Jesus?  Perhaps it is time to do just that.

* If this article has been helpful to you and a blessing, please invite your friends to come visit this devotional blog site.

Heaven Is Our True Home – Pt. 2

Leave a comment

“GOD’S STORY, your story” – Pt. 6

At the end of Max Lucado’s book, “GOD’S STORY, your story“, there are study questions and activities to consider that relate to each chapter.  I invite you to read the book, and look over the entire question and application section.  In my articles, I will usually only pick up on two or three questions and relate them to my own experiences. 

                                          

Chapter 3: When God’s Story Becomes Yours….
YOU FIND YOUR TRUE HOME

Question #1: In what ways do you long for the kingdom of God and heaven to come?  Instead of talking about what you imagine will happen, talk about why you want it to happen.  Share reasons you have for anticipating the day when all will change for eternity.

Many people ask the question about “Why is there evil?”  Or more specifically, they ask “How can God be a God of love when so many bad things happen in this world?”  I recognize the significance of these questions, but I believe the focus is wrong.  When these questions are asked, the focus is very man-focused, or can I say “anthro-centric”.  The Bible makes it clear that God created mankind with freewill and they exercised it and rebelled.  That is the primary reason for the broken world that we live in.

When I look at the picture this way, it does break my heart to see all the suffering and sickness, disease and death we have in the world.  It is not easy to live in developing countries like I have and not be affected by the suffering that goes on all around us.  And it is for this very reason that I yearn for the Kingdom of God to be fully realized here on earth.

Scripture promises us that all of our suffering will one day be gone completely.  Revelation 21:4 says, “and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.”  As someone who himself carries the burden of a muscle disease, I long for the day when not only will I not have pain, but I will be able to “run and not get weary, walk and not get faint.”  (Isaiah 40:31)

Question #5: Why is it important that we not only enjoy the journey but also long for the destination of eternity with God?  How does this adjust the way we talk about “journey” and “destination” as Christians?

As I said in part one of this article, there is certainly a lot of beauty and good things in this world.  And there is no reason why we should not enjoy this world.  Isn’t it natural to want to take our family on a trip out to the mountains (that’s what I like) or to go swimming at a beautiful beach (that’s what my wife likes)?  Of course!  And it is good to want to share all of God’s glorious creation with those whom we love the most.

But let us remember that there is One whom we ought to love even more than our spouse; there is Someone who ought to be our closest most intimate Friend.  And that would be Jesus, our Lord and our Saviour.  So now let me extend my thought from above.  While we are on our journey through life here on earth, we can and need to share our joy with Jesus in our daily affairs.  But think about how much more special it will be to explore the universe and share that joy when we are with Him forever in heaven.

Everything that we thought was beautiful and glorious here and now will pale in comparison with how beautiful and glorious they will be in the new heaven and the new earth.  And we will have the privilege of sharing that joy and that experience with Jesus face-to-face.  Wow!!  I can hardly wait to go roam the galaxies with the Creator of it all.

Question #6: Describe how it might affect one’s life to believe there is “no more beyond” this world.  How should it change us to believe there is “more beyond”?

Paul said it very well in 1 Corinthians 15:17-19 when he said, “And if Christ has not been raised [from the dead], your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.  Then those also who have fallen asleep [i.e. “died”] in Christ are lost.  If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.”  The entire Christian faith rests on this one central belief that Jesus died for our sins, but He also rose from the dead to prove He is God and can forgive us our sins and offer us the hope of life after death.

But if that is not true, then we will have lived a life of lies and we can only be thought of as fools.  If our belief is wrong, then all our self-sacrificing and serving others is pointless.  We might as well do as the agnostics and narcissists would do: “eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die.”  If there is no “life beyond”, then we might as well get all we can for ourselves while we still can.

But we have such good grounds to believe that Jesus did in fact rise from the dead, that all of our sacrifice and service to others has meaning and purpose.  And in fact, knowing that all of us have such a short time to live here, and that an eternity awaits all of us, we ought to be even more concerned about the spiritual welfare of others before it is too late.  Therefore, believing there is “life beyond” becomes the motivation for evangelism.  Are you with me on this?

                                          

[God’s Story, Your Story] Max Lucado.  Copyright [Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2011]  Used by permission.

Older Entries Newer Entries