Friday, February 26, 2021

Be Contiuously Filled

Are you filled? Filled with what you probably asked. Filled with the Holy Spirit. We are told in Scripture that when we come to faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord that the Holy Spirit comes to live with and in us. The Holy Spirit or the third person of the Trinity is the power, strength and light, clarity and illumination of life for the believer. There is so much in the New Testament on the filling of the Holy Spirit. But also the Old Testament frequently speaks of a person like David being filled with the Holy Spirit too.

In Ephesians 5 Paul tells us not to be filled with much wine, which leads to sinful behavior (debauchery), but to “be filled with the Holy Spirit”  (Ephesians 5:18). This is a teaching to be continuously or always filled. This is recognition that although we may have received the Holy Spirit, He does not have all of us. We are not always seeking to be filled. We have one gifting of the Holy Spirit, but many fillings Scripture makes clear. Perhaps the book of Acts, often named the Acts of the Holy Spirit, tells of Spirit power working in believers, especially Peter and Paul.  I love the concept of being overwhelmed by the Spirit like Mary at conception. He becomes alive in us.  But we must not grieve the Holy Spirit as Mark and even Isaiah in the Old Testament warns us.

“Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you—guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us” (2 Timothy 1:14).  We are sinful people, but capable through the Holy Spirit of living sinless lives through Him. We must no be overcome by sinful desires that Satan tries to foment in each of us. We are told that John baptized with water, but Jesus baptized with the Holy Spirit. This is the indwelling that makes us His temple. This Spirit will teach and empower us to live a pure and clean life. It is together that we overcome. We cannot do it on our own.  I was well reminded of this fact in the movie The Shack, which demonstrated that alone we are nothing, but together with the Holy Spirit we can do anything that God will for us. I particularly enjoyed the scene of running on water. Peter did it too, until he took his mind and eyes off of the Lord.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 15:13). This verse, my favorite in the New Testament, reveals the peace and joy-filled power of the Holy Spirit of Hope. When overflowed with the Spirit we operate in the “fruit of the Spirit.”  This fruit from Galatians 5:22-23 is, “Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”  God wants this sweet and Spirit-controlled fullness to be ours in increasing manner, as we trust in Him.

When we operate in the Spirit, we are walking with Him. I tried to write about this in my 2-volume book, This is The Way, Walk in it. I portray Biblical subjects like abundance, desires, fear, wonder, grief and grumbling, heart and heaven, holiness, hope, prayer, rest, thanksgiving, waiting and walking, and wisdom. These are subjects covered in Scripture and my many stories to try to illustrate how God works as we walk in His way. My blog expresses these and many more subjects along with You Tube sermons to further elucidate these difficult concepts or principles.

So be continuously filled with the Holy Spirit that you might live out the desires of God. He will give you your heart’s desire if you ask Him in faith. He wants us to put on His armor that we might stay in His will. This includes the shield of faith and sword of the Spirit, the word of God. Against this nothing can stand. In other words, walking in the Spirit gives us God’s strength and power. Without it, the abiding and indwelling, we are or can do nothing as John 15:5 clearly brings. So ask and it will be given to you. But don’t doubt like a wave blown in the wind and He will give it generously, showing us how to walk and what to do. Hallelujah! Amen!

Friday, February 19, 2021

Aura Suckers

I once worked for a hospital management firm whose president was a Mormon or Latter-Day Saint believer. He brought the famous author, teacher and Mormon Bishop Stephen Covey to speak at our annual management conference in Portland, Oregon. As we gazed at the awesome Mount Rainier glistening white in the distance we heard the author of the bestseller, 7-Habits of Highly Effective People, talk about our strength and perseverance when faced with difficult circumstances and people. I wish that I had kept the transcript of his talk, but I do remember vividly, as does my wife who also attended, the idea of avoiding “aura suckers.” These are people who take and do not give. They are the ones who look at the dark and not the light. They complain and grumble about everything and argue about anything.  Do you have some or know some of these people in your life? I suspect we all do.

Covey talked of having a very strong sense of your priorities or “first things first.” He spoke of being centered in faith and not being easily distracted by the whims and rantings of others. Clearly aura suckers will bring you down. Their intent is not to build up but to have company in their misery. This place or pit is dangerous and will steal all of your energy. Once joined these aura suckers will attach and take all they can get, leaving you with a sense of having been used or more strongly abused or even raped. Typically they do not have a sense of boundaries, but will overflow into yours without warning or with great purpose.

Typically aura suckers are very needy and sad people who feel the world is not appreciative of them and their talents. They feel or are unloved, primarily because their perspective will repulse others, unless captured in their webs of woe.

So, now do you recognize someone in your life like this?  I think that I once had some of these bad attributes of negativity and darkness. My good wife of now 46+ years strongly admonished me about 18 years ago that they must go or she would. This was one of the turning points in my life as I began to turn over the bright side of the leaf with God’s help. I had not known how much my childhood in an alcoholic family had rubbed off and tarnished views of life.

It was during this same period that we reevaluated a number of our friendships that seemed to be toxic and moved away from them. It seemed that this periodic review and cleansing of negative or even toxic relationships is a healthy exercise that will not return void, but bring light and healing.  Covey would call this part of the “principle of balanced self-renewal.”

I believe that all of us need to look critically at ourselves on a regular basis to find things as Covey says that might dull our saw. We need to find people and practices that “sharpen our saw.” There are people and practices, even work that exhausts us and enervates like an aura sucker. We need to be connected to those things and people who energize us. We need to build endurance, strength and flexibility in our lives. For me this comes from spiritual disciplines. I recently taught a large men’s group with guys from a dozen churches about gaining strength from the Lord. The theme verse from Nehemiah 8:10 was, “The joy of the Lord is my strength.”   We need to draw on those things that lift us up and inspire us.  For me the following is a list of interrelated and mutually reinforcing spiritual disciplines that I have intentionally been doing in my life to help persevere.
·      Daily devotional time
·      Daily aerobic exercise, coupled with Scripture recitation and praise singing
·      Daily confession and repentance
·      Praying for God’s guidance
·      Meditation on God’s word, the Bible
·      Meeting with an accountability brother regularly
·      Silence and solitude
·      Journaling
·      Weekly Bible study
·      Writing Christian essays
·      Blogging Christian essays and sermons
·      Reading spiritual books
·      Rest
·      Retreats
·      Serving as hospital chaplain
·      Worship

This list of spiritual disciplines and their work in me is inside-out. They work together toward my personal victory through the light of God over the darkness. “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience” as Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, French philosopher and priest said in the mid-20th century. This is a journey of discovery and challenge through enlightenment and suffering. There is truth in Scripture as an anchor in the storms of life. The One who gave us this truth will hold even as the world churns and has lost its bearings. Don’t let it suck the energy from your soul and spirit.

Friday, February 12, 2021

Perfect Love

Perfect Love

Who castes away all fear
Who makes all things new
Who throws away the old and makes all things new
Who meet all of our needs
Who keeps us in perfect peace
Who makes His power perfect in our weakness
Who binds them together in perfect unity
Who forgives all your sins
Who heals all your diseases
Who redeems your life from the pit
Who crowns you with love and compassion
Who satisfies your desires with good things
Who makes your joy complete
Who keeps in perfect peace whose mind is steadfast
Who only came from above is perfect
Who perfects our faith
Who is completing us until the Day of Jesus Christ
Who is making us who believe perfect
Who is the Perfector of our faith
Who has been made perfect forever.

Friday, February 5, 2021

New Every Morning

“For His compassions never fail, they are new every morning, great is God’s faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22-23).

It is pre-dawn as I await light in the darkness of this day and world, recollecting this promise of God’s faithfulness. I have written a book Great is God’s Faithfulness to rejoice in it as the psalmist did and we can even before the morning light.

Now the cardinals are beginning to announce the new day. So our compassionate God is starting afresh today. Can you do that? Can you say goodbye to the troubles of yesterday or even your fears for tomorrow? He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true”  (Revelation 21:5).  What a promise to start over or proceed into this new day with confidence, if of course you know and trust in God.

I am particularly inspired by this promise today as I have recently made pledges to God and people close to me to turn over a new leaf by putting aside the past, thoughts and behaviors, and pressing on to the goal of the higher calling in Christ Jesus as Paul proclaims in Philippians. For me it is former sinful behavior including a habit of drinking. Now before you get all excited saying that the Bible doesn’t say we can’t drink, I want you to consider why I made the decision. It is one that I make for today, with the faith that God’s faithfulness and my obedience to His commandments will strengthen me for the long journey. I just taught a men’s Bible study centering on the theme verse of Nehemiah, “The joy of the Lord is my strength” (Nehemiah 8:10). It is in this and other promises of God that I am empowered for today.

Much before Jesus Christ proclaimed the coming of a “New heaven and a new earth” in Isaiah and Revelation, He spoke of making us new creations in His new covenant. The Apostle Paul said to the Ephesians, “to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:23-24). He said the old self was stuck in its deceitful and sinful desires of which he made a long and ugly list for our dark imaginations to reflect. 

Throughout Scripture, particularly the Psalms, God says that He will put a new song in our mouths and hearts.  We are to sing a new song of joy to Him who has made us new. He has healed us and given us a rock on which to stand, a firm place where He has put a new song in our hearts as Psalm 40 rejoices. Then is psalm 30 David says, “You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent. Lord my God, I will praise you forever” (Psalm 30:11-12).

Paul again admonishes us in Colossians, “Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator”  (Colossians 5:10). This new self is being renewed day by day as we trust in Him and walk in His way. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”  (2 Corinthians 5:17).  What a wonderful promise of God. Gone is the old self, replaced by the new way of the Spirit as Romans 7:6 tells us. Every time we take communion we are being reminded of the new covenant in His blood poured out for forgiveness of our sins so that we are continually being made new in Him. So, turn over a new leaf, you’ll like it.