Jesus Gives Us Supernatural Peace

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John 14:22-31

22 Judas (not Judas Iscariot, but the other disciple with that name) said to him, “Lord, why are you going to reveal yourself only to us and not to the world at large?”

23 Jesus replied, “All who love me will do what I say. My Father will love them, and we will come and make our home with each of them. 24 Anyone who doesn’t love me will not obey me. And remember, my words are not my own. What I am telling you is from the Father who sent me. 25 I am telling you these things now while I am still with you. 26 But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative—that is, the Holy Spirit—he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you.

27 “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid. 28 Remember what I told you: I am going away, but I will come back to you again. If you really loved me, you would be happy that I am going to the Father, who is greater than I am. 29 I have told you these things before they happen so that when they do happen, you will believe.

30 “I don’t have much more time to talk to you, because the ruler of this world approaches. He has no power over me, 31 but I will do what the Father requires of me, so that the world will know that I love the Father. Come, let’s be going.

                                

One of the greatest desires that almost all people in the world share is the desire to see us have peace in the world.  One of the funny lines in “Miss Congeniality” is how shocked people are at the tough things that Sandra Bulluck would want to see happen if she were chosen the beauty queen of the pageant.  No one applauds, until she adds on to the end, “Oh, and world peace.”  But no matter how hard we try to work things out between two parties, whether they be two individuals or two nations, peace seems so often to be so very elusive.  We never quite seem to be able to reach this goal.

One of the world’s most beloved Christmas Carols is “Silent Night“.  In this carol, we get a sense of the holiness of the baby Jesus, and we who are mortal stand in silent awe worshiping the new King of Kings.  The song ends with us wishing Jesus to “sleep in heavenly peace.”  It is said that during World War 1 when it came to be Christmas Eve, men from both sides of the war stopped shooting and started singing “Silent Night“.  The cold weary soldiers from both sides could hear the other side singing the song, one side in English, and the other side in German.  For just an instant out of that terrible four year war, there were voices from opposite camps being raised to wish for heavenly peace.

    

After this “War to end all Wars“, it wasn’t long until the globe plunged into the dark times of World War 2.  Only a few years later there was the Korean War, then the Vietnam War, and even that bizarre 6-Day War between Israel, Syria, Jordan and Egypt.  Highly precise technological weapons took us to a new level of killing strategically in the Gulf War, which was closely followed by the Iraq War.  Today we are deeply concerned that a return to barbarism may happen with the threat of chemical warfare by the gov’t of Syria against its own people.

Our deep sense of a lack of peace does not have to be created just through the wars between men.  In recent days, we have seen that Mother Earth seems to be at war against us as well.  In this month alone, which is only 17 in so far, we have heard of the raging fires damaging communities in Syndey, Australia, Hurricane Ingrid is bearing down on the east coast of Mexico and could cause thousands of people to evacuate the area, Mount Sinabung in Indonesia has just erupted and has caused many thousands of people to evacuate that area, and most recently we are seeing and hearing of the great devastation being caused by the flooding waters in Colorado.

    

Where can a person find peace in a world like this?  Jesus says that He is able to give us peace, and then he qualifies it by saying it is “a peace of mind and heart” and “the peace I give is a gift that the world cannot give.”  Jesus knows that there are of these terrible things happening in life, the brutality of man against man, and the true insignificance of man when he comes face to face with an angry “Mother Nature“.  But Jesus’ peace is not something external, which might cause a temporary ceasefire between enemies.  Not does Scripture promise us that the assaults upon man from nature will decrease and become better devastating.  Romans 8:20-22 tells us that the created world too is under God’s curse, due to the sins of men, and it is broken and fallen apart, and the world awaits the day that God will create a New Heaven and a New Earth.

Instead, Jesus offers to all those who will believe in Him and will obey all the things that He asks of them, they will experience true joy and a supernatural inner heart peace, no matter what the external circumstances might be at the time.  For when we are truly in love with God, then Scripture tells us that we will be accepted and loved back by God, which is worth more than any precious item that this world could ever offer.  And He will send His Teacher, His Comforter and His Advocate for us who will help us remain pure and to stand in our place and make our defense before God whenever He saw someone being caught in sin.

So what kind of peace are you looking for: temporary man-made peace (based on rules of conduct), or eternal God-made peace which helps you get through this life, and prepares you for the eternal life you will have when He is ruling in your heart.

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

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“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.

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

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“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.

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Wrong Thoughts About Jesus

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John 6:14 – 24

14 When the people saw the sign that he had done, they said, “This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!” 15  Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself.

16 When evening came, his disciples went down to the sea, 17 got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. 18 The sea became rough because a strong wind was blowing.19 When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they were frightened. 20  But he said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.” 21 Then they were glad to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going.

22 On the next day the crowd that remained on the other side of the sea saw that there had been only one boat there, and that Jesus had not entered the boat with his disciples, but that his disciples had gone away alone. 23 Other boats from Tiberias came near the place where they had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks. 24  So when the crowd saw that Jesus was not there, nor his disciples, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum, seeking Jesus.

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

As I mentioned in the last article, when Jesus multiplied the bread for the 5,000, we are now about to enter into the period of the last year of Jesus’ ministry before His death in Jerusalem.  There were still a lot of thoughts and opinions around as to who Jesus really was, and this passage above continues to show that most people, including His own disciples, had the wrong ideas concerning His identity.

I have broken the passage into three paragraphs, and in each of these, we see that what the participants in these events thought about Jesus were wrong.  Some thought that Jesus had come to give them social and political freedom from others who oppressed them.  Some were terrified at His supernatural powers.  Some were simply looking to have their personal needs and wishes satisfied.  All of these missed the point of who Jesus was and why He had come to earth.

    

Notice in verse 14 that immediately after Jesus had miraculously multiplied the bread and fish to feed the crowds, that some people thought “This is the Prophet come into the world.”  Looking back into their own Jewish heritage and their Scriptures, the people were reminded of Moses who had helped feed the people “manna”, bread flakes from heaven (see Exodus 16).  They would also have remembered that Moses promised that God would send another great Prophet just like him to help the people of God (Deuteronomy 18:18).

So some people put this together and deduced that Jesus was this great Prophet who possessed divine authority to help the people of God as their King.  On this point, they were right.  But they went too far when they thought that Jesus had come to help free them from the political oppression and tyranny of the Roman rule over their lives.

Unfortunately, there have been many people even up to today who think that Jesus’ Kingdom is one that will bring immediate liberation from social and political oppression.  While it is true that the Gospel will change lives of individuals, which will change society around them, this kind of social change comes about by the gentle leading of God’s Holy Spirit within, not by the use of swords and violence from without.

    

The second group of people who were still unclear as to Jesus’ true identity and nature was His own disciples.  I find it quite interesting how John wrote, “It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them.”  Where were the disciples when John makes this comment?  They were still in the middle of the Sea of Galilee rowing as hard as they could against the wind.

By John’s own wording, the disciples were expecting Jesus to catch up to them.  And yet when He does, they are not only surprised, but they are terrified by His supernatural power.  Are we like that sometimes?  We ask for God’s help, we expect Him to come to help us, but when He does, we act surprised and even fearful at what He can actually do in our lives.  Shame on us.

    

And then there is the final approach to Jesus that is wrong, but is so often how people approach Jesus.  The crowds recognize by morning time that Jesus is no longer with them.  And so they go racing around the lake to find Him.  Why?  To listen to Him teach them?  To express their gratitude for feeding them?  No, they come to Jesus with their hands out seeking more from Him.

I think so many of us are like that.  Especially in the way we pray.  Yes, we may actually say “Thank you” to God for things He has done for us.  But then we quickly go on to give our “spiritual shopping list” of items to God that we ask for Him to do for us.  But God is not a kind of Santa Claus to whom we go begging for more good things; He is our Creator God to whom we offer up our praise and thanksgivings.

    

“Lord God, help us to come to You to simply worship You, not with open hands asking for more, but with open hearts to give you all the praise and honor that is due to you as our God.  Amen!”

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