Friday, September 30, 2011

September 30, 2011 … Using Spiritual Gifts

Passage of the Day: 1st Corinthians 2: 12 … We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit Who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us.

My Journal for Today: Today I close out a month-long study, aided by John MacArthur’s Strength for Today, as we have viewed our walk, as Christians, in the Spirit of God; and as this discussion closes, MacArthur writes stark words of warning. He declares, “One of the constant battles all believers face is to avoid ministering their spiritual gifts in the power of the flesh.” And this is SO TRUE!! A long time ago, I learned that a Christians CANNOT FIGHT THE FLESH … IN THE FLESH! The only way to fight the flesh is to surrender – COMPLETELY – to the sanctifying grace of God’s Spirit, allowing the Holy Spirit, to enable/empower us in our fleshly weakness [see 2nd Cor. 12: 9].

It is so tempting, once a Christian knows his/her Spirit-given gift(s), to try to exercise them by relying on his/her own strength, intelligence, and/or internal selfish desire. And this would be exactly what the enemy would like for Christians to do as we minister with our God bestowed gifts within the Body of Christ. I personally have been blessed with the gift of teaching; and there’s nothing Satan would like to see more than me trying to use my own memory, intelligence, and energy to put a Sunday School lesson together, rather than to pray heartily to God and to rely on the truths of His Spirit-authored word to guide my lesson planning. If you have the Spiritual gift of service, wouldn’t you be more powerful if you let God lead you to projects from His will rather than you finding things to do which YOU FEEL are good things for a Christian to do? Trust me – no, trust God (from Prov. 3: 5, 6) – when we do it our way (i.e., the way of the flesh), even when we’re using our Spirit-given gifts, we are dampening the enabled power that God has for us when we do it HIS way, in HIS time, with HIS power.

And so on this last day of September, MacArthur provides his readers with a quickie lesson on how to avoid quelling God’s Spirit by our own fleshly attempts to do things our way in our everyday ministry and witness [always remembering Acts 1: 8].

First, and always foremost, we must PRAY. We must always be cleansed by prayer before we act with purpose in Christ’s Name. And in a related vane, we must use prayer to purge ourselves of unresolved sin. Reviewing 1st John 1: 9, we have God’s promise that if we have unresolved sin in our lives, God will cleanse that sin before we undertake His work. Going into a God-directed task without cleansing pre-prayer and confession, even when we’re using our Spirit-laden gifts, is like being a gifted swimmer who tries to swim a race with weights strapped to his back. We will only be able to do God’s work, fully empowered, when we have cast off any baggage from past or present sin. And then we move out, using our Spiritual gifts with a walking, ever present, attitude of prayer (see 1st Thes. 5: 17), staying tuned into God’s mind/heart as we act – prayerfully - in His Name.

Secondly, we must YIELD [i.e., surrender] to the Spirit’s power, seeking and then doing God’s will in the task God has laid before us (see Romans12: 1 – 2, which I sure do hope you have memorized!). God freely offers His enabling grace to Christians; but He resists giving it to the prideful Christian who wants to do things on his own (see Prov. 3: 34). As Romans 6: 16 also tells us, our choices are either going to make us a slave to our own flesh or a slave to God’s Spirit; and we will only become the latter when we yield completely to God, trusting that He is going to lead us and enable us to do His will in His power.

Finally, we must be continually FILLED with the Spirit when we are out there in the world, undertaking God’s plan for our lives. When we are duly “prayed up” and in “surrender mode” to God’s Spirit, He can – and will – fill us with His purpose, plan, and power. When this occurs, we will find our thoughts allowing us to become the agent God intended for our lives (see Prov. 23: 7 in NKJV). When our trusting thoughts are God-directed, our Spirit-led choices become God-directed [again always believing Prov. 3: 5, 6]; and there can be no more powerful Christian than one who trusts God, has been unburdened by God in confession, and is totally surrendered to Christ’s Spirit.

I ask you, are you ready to let God’s Spirit shape you into a fully empowered agent of Jesus Christ? The old Army recruiting poster during WW 2 read, “We want you!” And that is what God’s Spirit is saying to our hearts. But will we respond and be recruited in God’s army; or will we ignore God’s call and do it, as Frank Sinatra or Elvis used to sing it, “My way!” ???

My Prayer Today: I’m Yours, Lord … I say again … USE ME! Amen

Thursday, September 29, 2011

September 29, 2011 … Spiritual Gifts

Passage of the Day: 1st Corinthians 12: 7 … Now to each one [i.e., Christian] the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.

My Journal for Today: As this verse and passage from 1st Corinthians 12 clearly indicated, each Christian is given, at conversion, at least one special manifestation of God by the Holy Spirit (i.e., a spiritual gift) to minister within and to the Body of Christ (see also 1st Cor. 12: 11). But as John MacArthur correctly teaches in Strength for Today, having spiritual gifts does not make one “spiritual.” It is only the surrendered Christian, submitting to God and using his Spirit-given gift(s) for God’s glory in the Church who would actually be considered a “Spiritual” Christian.

And one must not mistake the use of natural abilities or characteristics such as singing abilities, good looks, intelligence, or an outgoing personality as “spiritual gifts.” Yes, these natural qualities are from God; but they are manifest in non-believers as well as believers; … and these natural characteristics can be used to glorify God. However, they are not the special God-imparted gifts imbued by God’s Spirit when one is born-again which are to be used in special ways in His Body for His Kingdom [for teaching about these gifts see 1st Cor. 12, Rom. 12, or Eph. 4]. As I said, our natural giftedness as Christians should be used to advance God and His Kingdom; and our natural or physical talents/traits should only be used in conjunction with our Christian’s spiritual gifts to enhance our Holy Spirit imparted giftedness.

It would be a tendency of anyone, even Christians, to call attention to self rather than Savior with our natural talents or characteristics, even in the context of the church; and our enemy, Satan, would certainly pour his gas on those flames of pride and arrogance. It’s also “natural” for Christians to ignore or misuse their spiritual gifts for selfish glory as well … such as a teacher calling attention to himself by using his gift of teaching for self attention, rather than for God’s glory.

So, we must, as Peter prayed for the Church in 1st Peter 4: 10 – 11, be good stewards of our spiritual gifts, knowing what our Spirit-imparted gifts are, developing them fully, and using them TO THE MAX within His Body, for His kingdom, and ultimately for God’s glory.

Do you know your spiritual gifts? If you do, have you exercised them and practiced their use in the context of God’s Church? And are you using them fully for God’s glory? YES answers to those questions would certainly bring a smile to God’s face; but NO answers simply mean that we Christians have some work to do, with God’s grace, to learn, develop, and use His gifts for His glory!

My Prayer Today: Use the gifts You gave me, Lord, … in Your Body … for Your glory!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

September 28, 2011 … A Healthy Church

Passage of the Day: Ephesians 4: 11 – 12 [see underlined and in bold below with explanation added in parentheses] … 11 It was He [the Holy Spirit] Who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 12 to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

My Journal for Today: John MacArthur, in his Strength for Today devotional on this date, states truth when he declares that God desires to reach the world with His Church declaring and sending out His Gospel (as we read in today’s passage and also in a verse I hope you have memorized, Acts 1: 8). To do this the Holy Spirit is given to individual believers so that we are energized, edified, enabled, and empowered to become the collective Body of Christ in order that this unified Body may carry out God’s Great Commission (see Matt. 28: 19 – 20).

Therefore, it is ultimately the Church who becomes the unified and equipped representation of Jesus Christ in the world, … ALL of us individually and collectively using our Spirit-given gifts to reach out with God’s mission/ministry of witness to a lost and dying world (see Christ’s mission/ministry in Luke 4: 18).

So, if we try to be “lone ranger” Christians, we deter or impede the effectiveness of God’s outreach, not using our individual gifts within the collective power that is Christ’s Body, the Church. God, the Holy Spirit, imparts His gifts with the purpose that my gifts will be joined with others, like you, in the unified Church to shine a much brighter, Spirit-enabled, light into this darkened and sin-ridden world, thereby glorifying God, The Father and drawing the lost to His Son (see Matt. 5: 16 in the context of The Great Commission).

{BTW, if you want to hear a great sermon on this subject which my own Pastor delivered to his flock on Sunday, Sept. 25th, go to this link. However, when I went to that site as I’m writing this, the sermon had not yet been posted. Be patient, though; I know it will be posted in the next day or so; and it will be well worth your time to listen to our Pastor passionately preach about “the church” being empowered by God’s Spirit to do God’s will in the world.}

I don’t know about you; but I’m convicted that I don’t use my gifts enough, with Spirit-lifted enablement, for God’s Great Commission and/or His mission for my life. And it doesn’t take a theologian or rocket-scientist to see that the Church is not what it could be in this world because of disunity and division and too many lone ranger Christians trying to do their own thing rather than working in well-equipped unity for God’s Glory. I’ll leave it to God’s Spirit to convict any who might read this of whether we, as God’s Body, are doing enough for our Lord or whether we, as individual Christians are doing enough to promote unity and power in the Church.

My Prayer Today: Lord, use my gifts in Your Church to shine Your Light in this dark world. Amen

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

September 27, 2011 … The Spirit Unveils the New Covenant

Passage of the Day: 2nd Corinthians 3: 12 - 18 … 4 Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold. 13 We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to keep the Israelites from gazing at it while the radiance was fading away. 14 But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away. 15 Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. 16 But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into His likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, Who is the Spirit.

My Journal for Today: Today’s passage, another from the enlightenment of God’s Spirit via the Apostle Paul, is a wondrous truth revealing the advantage that post-Pentecostal Christians have over the believers of the Old Covenant. As Paul proclaims, we of the New Covenant dispensation have the wondrous indwelling Rabbinical teaching ministry of the One Who is co-equal with Christ (see verse 18 above), the Holy Spirit, Who allows New Testament Christians to come with spiritually unveiled faces (see verses 12 – 13) to God’s Throne of Grace for His unmatched teaching grace. Now, we, as humans, come to the Throne with differing degrees of completion or enlightenment as we are transformed into Christlikeness with, as Paul says, “ever-increasing glory.” But we only have the veil of darkness covering our hearts when we choose to return to self rather than surrender to the Savior’s enabling and enlightening grace through His Spirit.

As John MacArthur writes in today’s devotional from his book, Strength for Today, we who believe in Christ as our Messiah and who actually reflect on the essence of Christian discipleship, live a life of worship where we are continually at the foot of The Master Teacher as He molds us by His Spirit into His own image through His Spirit. What a Mentor we have; and what a wondrous class we Christians have with the Perfect Teacher with His New Covenant being unveiled for us. I know I seem to use terms like “wondrous” repetitively; but this is not hyperbole. It is “wondrous, extraordinary, and mysterious” all wrapped up into the beauty of being a New Covenant Christian. And anyone who humbles himself in repentance and faith to receive Christ as Savior and Lord can live every day, by choice, in this “wondrous” realm of life surrendered in Christ at His foot, learning to be like Him.

My Prayer Today: O, blessed Spirit, teach me all that is Christ! Amen

Monday, September 26, 2011

September 26, 2011 … The Spirit Brings Understanding

Passage of the Day: John 16: 25 [Jesus speaking] … " Though I have been speaking figuratively, a time is coming when I will no longer use this kind of language but will tell you plainly about my Father.”

My Journal for Today: In yesterday’s discussion of our relationship with our precious Holy Spirit, we were led, as in today’s verse, by the words of Jesus in His Upper Room Discourse, helping His inner circle of disciples (as well as for you and me) to see the infinite value of the teaching ministry of God’s Spirit in the lives of believers. As I related earlier, before I became a Christian I had studied much of the New Testament in college. Yet, as a non-believer at that time I had no personal insights into the personal application of God’s truths … not a clue! Yet now, when I read and study the same New Testament, God’s Spirit helps me to grow in the understanding of the truths that He has for me [yes, me personally].

My friend and fellow seeker, I don’t know how you feel about this very personal enlightenment ministry of the Holy Spirit; but it’s great for me! It’s the way I find my way through life; and that’s the way it is for all who’ve received Christ as their Savior/Lord [and I’m praying that’s you, too]. No, we may not always understand exactly what Gods’ word has for us when we study it. We’re human; and we can let pride or our sin-laden, deceitful hearts get in the way of Spirit-led understanding (see Jer. 17: 9). However, praying for God’s wisdom (see James 1: 5 - 6) and diligently seeking God’s purpose will yield powerful, fruitful results (see Isaiah 55: 11) as God’s Spirit takes my surrendered attitude and my seeking heart and shines God’s light on my interpretation of His truth (Psalm 119: 105). Link
The Apostle Paul makes this process clear in his epistle to the Church and to all Christians (see 1st Cor. 2: 6 – 16 - linked here for your study). Here God’s Spirit, through Paul, teaches that one who does not have God’s Spirit as their Teacher, not even the intellectual or the powerful non-believer, can ever expect to be able to plum the depths of God’s mind from Scripture (see Isaiah 55: 8 – 9). Quoting conceptually from Isaiah 64: 5, 17, Paul proclaims that without the teaching ministry of the Holy Spirit, mankind just won’t - and can’t - “get it” when it comes to knowing God and His ways. However, Paul posits that the believer, if so motivated and surrendered, will be able to discern God’s ways and His will from His word; because, … having God’s Spirit in his/her heart, Christians have the very mind of Christ to guide our way.

And my fellow seeker, did you get that last truth?! (See 1st Cor. 2: 16) If you, as I am, are a disciple of Christ and a diligent seeker after His truth, we have the very mind of God in our hearts to be able to discern God’s light shining on our path. Is that not the best deal going?!

If we assume this to be truth – and I do by experience; – then all of us, as believers (i.e., as born-again Christians), need to trust God’s word and His Spirit-anointed teachers/preachers to show us His way through the maze we call life (see Prov. 3: 5 – 6). I don’t know about you; but it is exciting to me to know that if I dig into God’s word with the help of His Spirit, I will be able to understand the very mind of God and use His truth as a torch to light His path for my life (again see the truth of Ps. 119: 105).

That’s what I’m doing on this very morning with this devotional; and I hope anyone who reads this will appreciate the wondrous power we have in God’s Spirit to seek and to glean the mind of God. And may I take the liberty to link you to a wonderful song, performed by Kristyn Getty, which expresses what I’ve been trying to write here this morning. PLEASE LISTEN TO this YouTube piece as a prayer from all believers; and be grateful – as am I – for God’s ever penetrating, ever probing, and ever powerful ministry of truth through His word.

My Prayer Today: Show me Your way … from Your word, Lord! Amen

Sunday, September 25, 2011

September 25, 2011 … The Need for Understanding

Passage of the Day: John 16: 12, 25 … [Jesus speaking] … 12 “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. … 25 Though I have been speaking figuratively, a time is coming when I will no longer use this kind of language but will tell you plainly about my Father.”

My Journal for Today: It’s quite apparent that the original twelve Disciples were, at times, overwhelmed and cloudy, to say the least, by the teachings of their Master and the One Whom at least eleven of them, at the time He spoke the words of today’s highlighted passage, believed Jesus to be The Messiah. And when Jesus taught in figurative sayings or language (as in John 6: 35 or 6: 53 – 58 or 8: 12), His followers were perplexed. It was not until these men were indwelt by the Holy Spirit, after Jesus’ resurrection, did their light of understanding come on. And all one has to do to confirm this is to note Peter, the impetuous and wayward follower before Pentecost, the one who denied Christ before His death; and then we see Peter, the Apostle who became the steady-as-a-rock disciple after Pentecost, the one who could lead so many to Christ and the one who became the brilliant, Spirit-inspired preacher, pastor, and leader of the early Church. And what was the difference of Peter before and after Christ had ascended into heaven? You guessed it … the light of insight, edification, and power provided by God’s Spirit [see Acts 1: 8, also the words of Jesus to His disciples].

And while I certainly don’t compare my own mind to the depth of clarity displayed by Peter after Pentecost, I can well compare myself in my pre-Christian days to his impetuous nature as he balked in fear, running from who he really was in Christ. Yet, how I view and interpret God’s word now as compared to my pre-Christian days is like day versus night. Before I came to know Christ as my Savior/Lord, when I was an angry “agnostic,” God’s teachings, even when I took courses in the New Testament as literature in college, were unrevealed to me. It was like being in a fog and not having a clue as to my direction. However, now, with the Spirit’s guidance, God’s word draws me out of the fog of life, ever being a beacon that points me from the darkness into the light [as described in Psalm 119: 105].

Where would you be without the guiding light of God’s Spirit and the clarity provided by His word? Yes, even the Christian can be clueless, unless he/she surrenders and uses the Spirit-enlightened truth of Scripture to light the path of life. The darkness of this world can be overwhelming; but thankfully God has provided His Light of Scripture and the Person of His Spirit as our beacon to make it through the storm clouds of this life. May we, who know Christ as The Messiah and Lord, draw heavily upon God’s Spirit to shine a light on our path (again, please see Proverbs 3: 5, 6 and Psalm 119: 105, which I do hope you have deeply seated in your heart).

My Prayer Today: You, precious Spirit, give me all understanding, my Lord. Amen

Saturday, September 24, 2011

September 24, 2011 … The Spirit’s Intercession

Passage of the Day: Romans 8: 26 … 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 with groans that words cannot express.

My Journal for Today: When we are experiencing personal trials, especially when we feel like we are weak or vulnerable (the Greek for “weakness” in today’s text is “astheneia,” which can refer to physical, emotional, and/or spiritual infirmity or disability), it is comforting when we learn that an empathetic and capable friend is doing all he or she can to help, including praying for us diligently or standing with us in a time of trial. And if one has legal challenges, it becomes essential to have a competent attorney to stand with us, interceding on our behalf to authorities or when we don’t feel able to handle our own affairs. Ever felt like that or been in that kind of dilemma?

Well, in the spiritual realm, God, the Son, has provided for both of these contingencies, having imparted to each believer the Holy Spirit (see John 14: 16) to be our Comforter, our Intercessor, and even our Paraklete (or advocate) to secure our place in Heaven or before God’s Throne of Grace (see Hebrews 7: 25). And certainly in the hostile world in which we live, as well as with our own sin nature, we would be ever at a loss without the infinitely competent and powerful intercession of our precious and ever capable Holy Spirit.

And as it says in today’s verse, God, the Spirit, is constantly and continually interceding for us, even in our state of agony with “groanings” which are heard and received by God, even when we don’t know for what we should pray or ask. This is God’s divine language on our behalf, which is always received and perfectly interpreted by our God, Who forever knows our needs and cares for us (see 1st Peter 5: 7).

I’ve been there many times; and I’ll bet you have to … in that place of groaning incompetence where I don’t even know what to utter for a prayer; and yet, God comes through for me. I’m afraid that all too often I take my Paraklete, God, the Holy Spirit, for granted; because, without Him, I would be lost and separated from God. However, with Him, … well, in this moment of insight and remembrance, it’s incredibly reassuring to know that He’s right here, even as I type these words, helping me, lifting me, enlightening me and even praying for me before my Father and my Savior in heaven.

My Prayer Today: O, dear, blessed Spirit, …thank You for Your prayers. Amen

Friday, September 23, 2011

September 23, 2011 … Guaranteed Heavenly Glory

Passage of the Day: Romans 8: 17 … [see in underlined/bold below] 12 Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation—but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. 13 For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, 14 because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of Sonship. And by Him we cry, "Abba, Father." 16 The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children. 17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs — heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in His sufferings in order that we may also share in His glory.

My Journal for Today:
Sinful man may not be able to see all of God’s intended glory, which was present in Adam and Eve before the fall. The saved, believing as we do, might be able to see bits of that glory through the eyes of faith; but for the lost, that is impossible. Hence, it is no wonder why we see such hopelessness and cynicism and even anger concerning God and Christ in those who have not received God’s saving grace, … i.e., those who do not have God’s Spirit dwelling in their hearts.

But all of mankind knows that glory is absent … yes, even those who have not been born anew in Christ. All of man has seen, in God’s creation, what could be and what is not. The Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 1: 18 – 20, …

SCRIPTURE: “18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—His eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. “

From the dawn of time, it has been God’s plan that those who are reborn in Christ would be “recreated” to be like Him in glory (see Romans 8: 29 – 30 and 1st Cor. 15: 35 – 57). Therefore, with God’s Spirit sealing that reality, saved believers live with the hope of glory, … as the Psalmist declared in Psalm 17: 15 or the Apostle in 1st John 3: 2. As we live out our lives in our sojourn here on earth, John MacArthur rightly says, “The Holy Spirit guides us through different levels of glory.” [also see 2nd Cor. 3: 18] And furthermore, as we grow in our relationship with Christ, becoming more-and-more like Him in our sanctification, I believe God, the Holy Spirit, gives us, what I call, glimpses of glory to bolster our hope until that day when we are face-to-face, being fully restored into the glorified form we were intended to have in His image (see Gen. 1: 27).

I hope you’ve experienced those “glimpses of glory.” I certainly have, … seeing God’s character in the beauty of a sunset, the radiance of a rainbow, or in the love my wife displays when I don’t deserve her love. I have seen His love as two turtle doves cuddled [that’s a long, but wonderful story – ask me about it someday – I’d love to share it with you], … and I have witnessed His grace in the forgiveness of my wife or in the unencumbered love of our grandchildren. We, who believe, if we stop to see the glory which God shows us providentially, we can be blessed by glimpses of what is to come when we see the face of Jesus.

I have even felt God’s glory imparted this morning in meditating on the passages Dr. MacArthur led me to in this devotional. Did you sense that glory? I hope so. If you want to be helped to meditate on God’s glory in reading this, click on this hyperlink and be taken to a great contemporary hymn by the Gettys, entitled BY FAITH.

My Prayer Today: O, my Lord, I long for the glory! But I’m grateful for the life You give me here today. Amen

Thursday, September 22, 2011

September 22, 2011 … The Spirit and Adoption

Passage of the Day: Romans 8: 14 – 16 … [see in bold and underlined below] 12 Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation—but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. 13 For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, 14 because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of Sonship. And by Him we cry, "Abba, Father." 16 The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children.

My Journal for Today:
In the first century a father could, and occasionally would, adopt a son and choose to make the adopted son the primary heir of the father’s estate. This is the word picture to which Paul was referring in today’s passage from Romans 8; and it is a good one to describe what happens when any Christian becomes re-born, i.e., adopted, into the family of God, to become God’s heir for eternity (see also John 1: 12 – 13).

And consistent with this word picture and the truth of my adoption into God’s eternal family, The Church of true believers, all my ties (i.e., all my debts) to my former life were severed (see today’s verse); and I can now rightfully call my God, “Abba Father.” And with my adoption, God sealed the process by imparting His Spirit, … implanted in my heart to reshape me into the image of Christ Himself (see 2nd Cor. 5: 17 and Phil. 1: 6). Now, being a true adopted son of God, all my past sin debts are cancelled; and I have the right – at any time – to come into the presence of my Heavenly Father, The King, without any condemnation (see Rom. 8: 1). Now is that not cool, or what?!!!

All of this, as John MacArthur points out in his devotional for this date in Strength for Today, is superintended by the Holy Spirit so that we, who believe and receive our Father’s grace, can live as children of God (again, above see Rom. 8: 16).

I know this is not a long devotional journal entry, but it is so important that we “get it,” … that is … that we internalize the meaning of our true relationship with God, the Father, through God, the Son, as witnessed to our souls, by God, the Holy Spirit. So, here I am, right now in this place, coming to my Abba Father, because His Son has given me entry rights to the Throne Room; and I’m labeled and enabled by God’s Spirit to be here. And I hope (and pray) that you’re with me. … Are you?

My Prayer Today: Abba Father, I am Your son forever! Blessed be Your Name! And I just know that there are others here who embrace our adopted place in Your kingdom family. Amen

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

September 21, 2011 … The Spirit’s Assurance

Passage of the Day: Romans 8: 9 … [NIV] … You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.

Romans 8: 9 … NASB … However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.

My Journal for Today: In reading John MacArthur’s devotional for this date in Strength for Today, I agree with his contention that a Christian’s assurance of salvation is, in his words, “… essential to our Christian lives.” The Apostle Paul in today’s verse writes about the reality of how the Spirit of God, working in the heart of the Christ, causes one to be controlled by God [i.e., if that someone is surrendered, by faith, to God’s Spirit].

Think about it. If you have doubts about your salvation [i.e., whether or not you believe that you truly “belong to Christ” as Paul wrote], you are not going to see the world through eyes of assertive faith, … nor will you act (i.e., make choices) that are based upon your confidence in your relationship with Christ. The faithful one, however, … the one who truly BELIEVES he/she is saved, will move on that belief, KNOWING that God is in control of his/her life, which in the long-term picture of life will demonstrate (i.e., with the fruitfulness mentioned in Ga. 5: 22-23) his/her belief in his/her salvation and his/her “Christian” world view.

In today’s passage Paul writes of God’s Spirit “living” or “dwelling” in the true believer (i.e., the saved Christian). The Greek term for “to dwell” is “oikeo;” and it literally means to make a home or to take up residence. So, when one is truly saved, we have a new nature residing in our hearts, ever driving us, pulling us, edging us, drawing us toward a life in the Spirit rather than a life controlled by our sinful, deceitful, fleshly heart (see Jer. 17: 9 and John 3: 6). This being truth, Paul (in 2nd Cor. 13: 5) exhorts Christians to test ourselves to see if really have the Spirit of God’s Spirit dwelling in us.

To do this “test,” we could ask ourselves …

>>> Do I see the fruit of the Spirit maturing in my life? (see Gal. 5: 22 – 23)
>>> Do I struggle against sin, desiring to be free of its influence? (see Rom. 7: 14 – 25; Gal. 5: 16 – 17)
>>> Do my attitudes and choices reflect a drive toward Godliness? (1st John 1: 6 – 10)
>>> Do I yearn for closeness/communion with God ? (1st John 1: 3)

If, as you read these questions and meditate on the verses supporting them, you are mentally and with confidence nodding “YES” to any question about your salvation; … and God is telling you that He resides permanently in your soul (i.e., heart). In other words, my fellow Christian, YOU ARE SAVED by His grace (see Eph. 2: 8 -9).

Now, with that assurance of our salvation, we saved Christians must walk in the Spirit, surrendered to the One Who dwells in us, and live out our salvation unto God’s workmanship (see Eph. 2: 10). And when we do that, we will begin to see more and more fruit in our lives (again, Gal. 5: 22 – 23). So, I pray that you know that you know that you know that you know that you are saved.

My Prayer Today: I know You are in me, Lord; and I pray You dwell richly in my soul, precious Spirit! Amen

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

September 20, 2011 … Fulfilling God’s Law

Passage of the Day: Romans 8: 4 … in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.

My Journal for Today: In Ezekiel 11: 19 – 20 God promised that He would place into all believers, His Spirit, Who would allow God’s people to fulfill the Law of God. And through Christ and His New Covenant, that promise has been fulfilled. Through my faith and repentance, God saved me. If you’re reading what I write here today, I pray God has done that for you as well; because through that salvation, we are declared righteous forever.

That is called “positional righteousness;” and because we believers now have God’s Spirit implanted into our hearts forever, we Christians now have the enabling power to turn positional righteousness into “practical righteousness,” …i.e., the everyday ability to live according to God’s Law and to avoid our sin nature. That is the message of today’s highlighted verse from the Apostle Paul to God’s people in Romans 8; and it is God’s message to all Christians of our age as well Paul delivered that truth to believers of the 1st Century. And because of God’s very practical day-to-day enabling grace, I can see God’s fruit (see Gal. 5: 22 – 23 blossom in my life, avoiding the fruit of the flesh (see Gal. 5: 19 – 21) which was so evident in my life before I came to know Christ as my Lord/Savior and surrendered to His Spirit.

Beyond God’s redemption of my soul, it is His purpose for me – and for any believer – to live a life of good works (see Eph. 2: 10 and Titus 2: 14). So, when we, as Christians, choose disobedience, which is still our free-will choice, we quench the enabling grace of God’s Spirit to give us the power to fulfill God’s Law. That is the remaining power of our deceit-ridden hearts (see Jer. 17: 9) to make flesh-driven choices rather than Spirit-led ones. To put it in John MacArthur’s words, “The believer who disobeys, especially one who persists in sin, prevents the Spirit from naturally leading [the Christian] along a path of holiness.”

It is certainly true that I’m still a sinner by nature; however, now I’m a saved and redeemed sinner [i.e., a “Saint”]; and I have God’s Spirit, giving me the power to live like the Saint whom God has made me to become in Christ. And in that truth any Christian – perhaps you – can join me to live to please God, enabled by God’s Spirit to live in righteousness every day.

My Prayer Today: To that end, Lord, all I can say is HALLELUJAH!! Amen

Monday, September 19, 2011

September 19, 2011 … Spirit-filled Submission

Passage of the Day: Ephesians 5: 21 [see underlined/bold below] … 18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. 19 Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

My Journal for Today:
As John MacArthur reminds us in his Strength for Today devotional on this date, the concept of “submission” is not one which is esteemed in our western, post-modern culture. For the world at large, “submission” usually denotes weakness or being out of control. And yet, this is the attitude sought after by God’s Spirit, through the Apostle Paul, in his exhortation to the Ephesians, the church, and all Christians in today’s passage.

Our natural tendency, which of course comes from our sin nature, is to desire control over situations and others. However, according to our model of Christlikeness, Jesus Himself, we must, as His disciples, try to be like Him, especially in our attitude (see Phil. 2: 5); and Jesus was the model of surrender and submission. He even used surrender terms to describe Himself. In the only two self-descriptive terms ever quoted from Jesus, he called himself “humble” and “meek,” (see Matt. 11: 29) both of which speak of Christ being willing to surrender His glory to humbly serve others, rather than to take on the majesty which was rightly His (see Phil. 2: 5 – 11). During his three year ministry, Jesus continually referred to doing nothing but submitting His all to the will of His Father.

In today’s verse, the term “hupotasso” is used as the Greek concept for “submit;” and this term is derived from a word picture of a soldier surrendering his will – voluntarily – to his officers. And for the Christian the outcome of mutual submission is aptly described by Paul in Phil. 2: 3 – 4 [another of the verses that I hope you have memorized] where the Apostle teaches individual surrender to our Lord Jesus in the context of Christian fellowship. It reads as follows; “3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. 4 Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

Remember, … from Scripture (again specifically from Phil. 2: 5), Christians are exhorted to have the attitude of Christ; and in today’s devotional we read that the ultimate attitude for Christians, in the context of the fellowship of man, is to elevate the needs of others over the desires of self; and this becomes the expression of our desire to model how Christ lived His life. And surrendering self to the Holy Spirit, i.e., allowing Him to take the lead in our lives, should be the first expression of our mutual submission in the context of the church. And what would this look like in our lives, especially our church lives? Well, one such action of surrender to God would be to submit [“hupotasso”] to the leaders or elders of our church (see Hebrews 13: 17 and 1st Peter 5: 5). For as long as there is evidence that the leaders of any church are following God and His word (see this in the life of Paul in 1st Cor. 11: 1), our surrender to their authority and lead is what this devotional emphasizes in our relationship with the Holy Spirit.

But do we? Do we as Christians find that we overcome our selfish nature and our desire to control others, submitting our will, first to the leaders of our church, and then in mutual surrender to one another? I think not! Because if we did exhibit Christlike surrender, there would not be the degree of strife that we see in today’s churches. How often do we see churches splitting because the will of a few, who desire control? Too often, I’m afraid, we see splinter groups buffeted against the will of the designated or recognized leaders of the church or the Pastor. And how often do we see people gossiping or angry because of their unwillingness to submit to others, especially the leaders of the church? Yes, all too often.

The point here is that mutual surrender or submission, being humanly unnatural, is a definite sign, when it occurs, that an individual Christian has allowed God’s Spirit to take control of his/her spirit so that the love of God can become expressed in Christian surrender to the needs of others. And when this happens in a body of believers, Christ, being lived out in His disciples, becomes evident to a lost and dying world (see also John 1: 7 or 13: 34).

My Prayer Today: Lord, I surrender all! Ame

Sunday, September 18, 2011

September 18, 2011 … Spirit-filled Gratitude

Passage of the Day: Ephesians 5: 20 [see in bold below] … 18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. 19 Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

My Journal for Today:
John MacArthur begins his devotional entry for this date in Strength for Today with a rather stark declaration: “I’m convinced that gratitude is the single greatest act of worship we can render to God.” And, of course, he is using the Apostle Paul’s exhortation in Eph. 5: 20 as support for this contention, pointing us toward this attitude of gratitude as a foundational element in our relationship with Christ.

When we have a life sustaining attitude of thankfulness (see also 1st Thes. 5: 18), it is probably one of the most “visible” evidences for the ministry of the Holy Spirit in our lives; and it is released by our surrender to God’s Spirit working in our heart. It is the visible evidence of God’s love working in and through the Christian (see John 13: 34, 35) which shines the Light of our Lord into a dark world and glorifies our Father in heaven (see Matt. 5: 16).

Certainly being thankful or grateful “… for everything,” as today’s verse exhorts, is not something my human, ever deceitful, heart can sustain (see Jer. 17: 9), especially in times of dire challenge, privation, or physical tribulation (see also James 1: 2 – 5 or 1st Peter 2: 20 – 21). A believer who can carry the attitude of thankfulness, which only God can provide, into and through the trials of life certainly is one who never forgets God’s goodness and mercy (see Ps. 106: 1), the gift of Christ Himself (see 2nd Cor. 9: 15), the triumph of the Gospel (see 2nd Cor. 2: 14), and Christ’s victory over death (see 1st Cor. 15: 56 – 57).

MacArthur closes his devotional for this date by pointing his readers, as I will here, to Hebrews 13: 15, which presents a perfectly apt summary of this lesson of the heart …

SCRIPTURE: Heb. 13: 15 [NASB] Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His Name.

I have to ask myself, “Is my life being lived out as an offering of gratitude in worship?” I’m afraid not as much as it should; but I’m bolstered by 2nd Cor. 12: 9 as always, telling me that God’s grace is sufficient, even in my weaknesses, to allow His strength to give me the attitude of gratitude which the Holy Spirit offers me continually.

My Prayer Today: Thank you, Lord! Amen

Journal Author’s Note: As with today’s journal entry above, I often cite quite a few Scripture references to support what I’m writing with the authority of God’s word. I hope that anyone who reads my writings will have the Berean attitude and motivation to check me out, looking up the passages cited if the reader doesn’t already have any of these references committed to memory. I don’t pretend to be a biblical scholar or anything but a pursuer of God’s truth; and I pray that you are equally seeking the guidance of the Holy Spirit as we study His personhood this month. … <’BB><

Saturday, September 17, 2011

September 17, 2011 … Spirit-filled Song

Passage of the Day: Ephesians 5: 19 [see in bold below] … 18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. 19 Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord,

My Journal for Today:
What’s your song? If you are a Christian and reading this, you have the Holy Spirit dwelling eternally in your heart. So, do you find yourself, as Paul declares in today’s verse, “making music in your heart,” or [speaking] “to one another with … spiritual songs?”

If not, and you are truly a Christian, what does Paul mean by this verse? Is he saying that Spirit-filled Christians will always be walking around singing “songs” as we normally think of “singing.” Well, I suppose there are believers and followers of Christ who might do that some that, some of the time. However, I think Paul, here, is reflecting on the attitude of the Christian’s heart, as he was in 1st Thes. 5: 17 when he exhorted believers to be “praying continually [NIV].”

In our church culture, we often equate “worship” in a church service with the singing of hymns or praise songs. And today’s passage may be one reason why that equation has developed. As I’ve said earlier this month, when it comes to Spirit-filled living, “worship” is the 24/7 expression of our lives in surrender to our Lord. It is the life of “living sacrifice” expressed by Paul in Rom. 12: 1. Yes, it can be an expression of our love and/or praise for God in song; but it more often is the way our heart sings for God in the way we think, say, and do things. And that is what I think Paul was expressing in today’s verse.

I believe he’s saying that the born-again, transformed heart of a sold-out follower of Christ will openly share an attitude of “song,” praising God with an enthusiastic praise-born life, where God is worshipped and praised by what the Christian thinks, says, and does.

Yes, sometimes that life of worship might involve actual melodic singing; but I’m sure you’ve encountered brothers and/or sisters in Christ whose very presence sings a song of joy and praise and is evidence of God’s Spirit in that one’s heart. Our Pastor is that way. His life is an open song of praise wherever he goes; but thankfully, with his singing ability (or lack thereof as is the reality), though he might like to sing his praises, he doesn’t do his “singing” with traditional song [though he does love to sing the refrain to the old hymn, God Is So Good, anytime he is leads the men of our church in any type of teaching]. And when Pastor Ernie sings in public, I hope that he’s in tune with God’s chorus of angels; because he certainly can’t carry a tune in a bucket here on this earth. But my point is that my dear Pastor and brother in Christ exhibits the “singing” referred to by the Apostle in Eph. 5: 19 by the way he lives his life, which is a soulful witness to His love of Jesus in all he says and does. Ernie Frey’s life is a song of joy for Jesus; and his life song certainly has to be a praise chorus of delight in the mind of God.

I pray that we all could be so filled with God’s Spirit that our witness is a song-filled life of worship. I certainly aspire to be a “soul-singer” of Christ’s song in the way I live, hopefully not being off-tune with selfishness in my life song; and prayerfully I can let my life be tuned to the Christlikeness God’s Spirit wants to sing through me.

My Prayer Today: Lord, may my life be Your song. Amen

Friday, September 16, 2011

September 16, 2011 … Filled with the Holy Spirit

Passage of the Day: Ephesians 5: 18b [see portion in bold and underlined below] … Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.

My Journal for Today:
If we, as Christians, are to live Spirit-controlled lives (i.e., to “walk in the Spirit”), we must be, as the Apostle Paul exhorted in today’s verse, “… filled with the Spirit.”

John MacArthur in his Strength for Today devotional for this date reminds his readers that the Greek concept of “filled with” from this passage is the word “pleroo,” which has three (3) shades of meaning in translation. One of these is the word picture of wind filling the sails of a sailboat and driving that boat toward its destination. This is a wonderful picture of what the Holy Spirit does for the Christian. When we surrender our ship to God’s Spirit, we turn our vessel of life into such an attitude as to allow God’s winds to fill our sails and drive us toward God’s destination (i.e., His will) for our lives … that of Christlikeness.

The second of the “pleroo” word pictures might be that of Alka-Seltzer tabs being dropped into water, totally changing the flavor and essence of the water into which it’s dropped. This is much like the transformation or “filling” [i.e., completion] that takes place in the soul/life of the believer when we receive the essence of God in His Spirit. After God, the Holy Spirit, is “dropped” into us by His grace and our surrendering to Him by our faith, we bubble and change over time; and others can taste and savor the flavor of that change as our lives are transformed into a new essence – again, that of Christlikeness. [see 2nd Cor. 5: 17]

And the final picture is one of a person yielding to the dominance of a higher power, as one might who obeys a higher authority in the military. It’s a total yielding of one’s behavior to the leading of a higher power. As MacArthur puts it, “In practice, the Spirit-filled walk is a matter of knowing God’s word and obeying it.” (see Colossians 3: 15) It’s a matter of yielding self to the ultimate authority of our Savior and letting His Spirit guide and lead us from His word (see Prov. 3: 5-6).

And using all three word pictures of “pleroo,” we can only be empowered, transformed, or guided when we are in complete SURRENDER MODE to God’s Spirit …i.e., “filled with” the Holy Spirit.

My Prayer Today: I am totally yours, Lord! Fill me! Amen

Thursday, September 15, 2011

September 15, 2011 … Bearing Burdens

Passage of the Day: Galatians 6: 2 [see bold/underlined] … 1 Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. 2 Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

My Journal for Today:
The Apostle Paul, in today’s verse, refers to bearing the burdens of fellow Christians as being a fulfillment of “the law of Christ.” That “law,” which Jesus proclaimed to His disciples, we can read in Matthew 22: 37 – 40, which was Christ’s summary of the entire Law of God. It reads as follows …

SCRIPTURE: [Jesus] …Matt. 22: 37-40 " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' [restatement of Deut. 6: 5] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' [restatement of Lev.19:18] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."

James in James 2: 8 called the latter [i.e., the restatement of Lev. 19: 18] the “royal law.” And it is God’s “Royal Law,” because it is surrendering to God’s Spirit as a believer in the body of Christ to allow God to lift and carry the burdens through His body [the Church], which any individual Christian would find hard, if not impossible, to carry alone.

If you look at the term “burdens” in today’s verse, it is the Greek term “baros;” and it refers to a heavy, essentially unbearable, load. So, when we Christians see other Christians trying to carry such a load, whether it be physically, emotionally, or spiritually, in order to fulfill the “law of Christ [i.e., the ‘royal law’],” which is the law of love (see John 13: 34), we [and I emphasize the “we” referring to the whole body of Christ] must be there to help shoulder the “baros” for the one so burdened. And the one with this load must also be willing to set aside pride and humbly allow the body of Christ to become agents of God’s love as burden bearers. It is this demonstration of love, this caring and humility, which allows the lost to see God in and through His body in this exhibit of burden bearing, all of this being done in Christ’s Name (see John 13: 34 – 35).

But how many times to we Christians dampen or block this process by letting our pride get in the way of some Christian agent of God’s love by refusing to receive the offer of help from a Christian simply responding to the conviction of the Holy Spirit to reach out with Christ’s love. I see Christians all the time who’re in financial trouble being unwilling to come to the body of Christ of help. I regularly encounter Christian men who pridefully keep silent, unwilling to share their sin burdens and thereby blocking the help from other men, like myself, who’re very willing to share their burdens.

It is God’s Spirit Who orchestrates and exercises His Ministry of Love, Mercy, and Grace, which allows Christians to overcome their sin nature and become involved in the ministry of mutual burden bearing; and we Christians, as we mature in Christlikeness, will feel the Holy Spirit enabling us to do this more willingly and more effectively. However, when we need fellow Christians to come along side us when we’re burdened, we need to be able to set aside our pride and receive the Holy Spirit’s enabling grace by humbling ourselves to receive that grace through other Christians. And as the world can see this process going on, they can’t help but be drawn out of the fog of their lives toward the light of Christ (see Matt. 5: 16).

My Prayer Today: Help me, Lord, be a burden bearer in Your Name. Amen

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

September 14, 2011 … Spiritual Restoration

Passage of the Day: Galatians 6: 1 … Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted.

My Journal for Today: This month John MacArthur’s devotional, Strength for Today, has been helping me focus on our relationship as Christians with the Holy Spirit, …learning more as to walking, praying, and living “in the Spirit.” Well, now we get down into the trenches with this walk; and as today’s verse implies, having a relationship with God’s Spirit expresses itself with a daunting degree of spiritual responsibility and the need for Spirit-supplied courage … i.e., to reach out to other Christians who are not walking worthily in Christlikeness (as is also the subject of Ephesians 4: 1 – 2) and to help them to be restored in the faith.

To the Galatians, and to the church at large, the Apostle Paul in today’s passage was exhorting Christians to reach out to a wayward brother or sister in Christ, … one who is discerned to be walking outside of God’s way in sin. And all Christians know that this admonition may be one of the toughest responsibilities of a believer … to confront, with the love of God, a fellow believer, who has given in to an obvious pattern of sinfulness, … and to help restore the entangled believer, drawing him/her from fleshliness into fruitfulness in Christ. How many times do we Christians shirk our responsibility from Gal. 6: 1, cringing in fear or enabling the sinfulness with our own sins of omission or fearfulness? In fact, in today’s culture of “tolerance” it has become politically incorrect to be a “Galatians 6: 1” Christian, especially discerning and labeling anyone as a “sinner.”

However, I feel this charge and challenge acutely because Paul’s exhortation in today’s highlight verse is one of the heartbeat scriptural truths which drives Battle Plan Ministry [BPM - linked], the ministry I was called, and led by God’s Spirit, to found and lead. BPM is here for surrendered and/or broken disciples of Christ, reaching out to help pull these wounded warriors out of the tar pits of sexual sin into which they have become immersed or entangled. However, at times I admit that I have shirked my “Gal. 6: 1 duty” because of fears of failure or confrontation.

But at the same time, I strongly feel that any fruit-bearing Christian, especially those who have matured in their faith, knowing what it’s like to walk in Spirit-led fruitfulness (see Gal. 5: 22 – 23), should do all we can to help restore any carnal Christian, who has become mired in the entanglements of the flesh (see Gal. 5: 19 – 21). And so, I’m especially convicted by today’s reminder of my Christian responsibility to do more in this area of discipleship.

It is also my firm belief – and experience – that any true Christian disciple, who reaches out to help a flesh-driven Christian under the conviction of God’s Spirit of the truth involving today’s verse, will be bolstered by the power of the same Spirit of God to help that Christian move toward a more worthy walk in Christ. Certainly that is driving me in BPM as I post this entry on this date; and I would predict that this may be the conviction of others who read this.

If you are reading this, you may know someone who’s into some stronghold of sin and maybe they’ve even admitted that they hate that bondage. Perhaps you know of someone who declares that he/she is “gay” and even though that one hates their own same-sex attractions, they may feel that they were “born that way” and wondering why God made them that way. If you’ve encountered someone like that, how are you helping them to be restored to an abiding relationship with Christ?

Maybe you know of a Christian who smokes and hates the habit; or perhaps you know of a Christian friend who frequents gambling establishments for entertainment, even admitting that they know that these behaviors are sinful. Well, my friend, what are you doing to help them come out from under a life of living in denial and bring them back to a truth-bearing relationship with Christ?

I’m sure we all can do more to be witnesses in the Spirit for Christ under this admonition from God in Galatians 6: 1. But what will we do from here forward to live up to this Spirit-led exhortation.

My Prayer Today: Help me, Lord, to reach out to help others to be restored in You. Amen

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

September 13, 2011 … The Spirit and Prayer

Passage of the Day: 1st Peter 4: 7 … The end of all things is near. Therefore, be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray.

My Journal for Today: This exhortation by Peter is like the Apostle Paul’s, in Eph. 6: 18, where Paul wrote, “…pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying.” Paul was writing about how Christians deal with life in our constant spiritual warfare; and Peter was referring to the immediacy and urgency for prayer as “the end of things is near.” And both of these two exhortations, inspired by God’s Spirit, is just as applicable to Christians today as it was for those oppressed Christians of the 1st century.

John MacArthur in Strength for Today is right on track when he writes, “… walking by the Spirit is a lifestyle of continual prayer; …” and wasn’t that Paul’s exhortation in 1st Thes. 5: 17? Yes, … we, as Christians, are to live with an attitude of moment-to-moment prayer. A fellow minister brother of mine in my church says, “Prayer should be like breathing; … we should just do it all the time as Christians without thinking.” And as MacArthur points out in his devotional for this date, this prayer posture, to which Peter is addressing in today’s verse, brings us into a Spirit-led walk with God. It is living out what G. Campbell Morgan referred to as his definition of prayer, and that is “… a burning heart for God.” It’s where we, as disciples of Christ, bring every temptation into captivity, … where we thank Him for every blessing and yes, even every challenge, … where we ask God to bolster us against every evil, … where we’re sensitive to and looking for every opportunity to witness our faith, … and … where we ALWAYS turn to God first in the face of trials, tests, troubles, and tribulations.

In this way prayer becomes a lifestyle of the heart and a 24/7 attitude of continual worship, where, as G. Campbell Morgan might say, we are burning for the presence, purpose, and power of God, i.e., the Holy Spirit, in our lives. It is taking, as we say in Battle Plan Ministry, the high ground in the spiritual battles which we will face every day of our lives (see Eph. 6: 18). And when we have this high ground, God’s Spirit becomes full within us, shining a light of enlightenment on our paths of life and bringing the presence of Christ into full illumination. And in the Spirit of prayer we can fulfill Christ’s command to reflect His light into this very darkened world (see Matt. 5: 16) and thereby glorify the same heavenly Father the Holy Son glorified in the power of the Holy Spirit.

My Prayer Today: My heart burns for you, Lord, and hence, my life is my prayer! Amen

Monday, September 12, 2011

September 12, 2011 … Focusing on Scripture and the Lord

Passage of the Day: Galatians 5: 16 … So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.

My Journal for Today: All Christians know or learn that we will have to deal with the wiles of Satan and his system, the world, in our day-by-day walk with the Lord. However, probably our most dangerous spiritual enemy is found in today’s verse – “the desires of the sinful nature.” [In other translations, that phrase is translated, “… the desires of the flesh.”]

To counteract our personal anti-Christ desires, or even to deal with Satan and the world, Paul exhorts believers to “…live [or ‘walk’] by the Spirit.” That is strong rhetoric; but what does that command entail?

Well, John MacArthur in his Strength for Today devotional on this date posits that such a walk (or life) must first/foremost involve the daily intake, meditation, and yes, even the memorization of God’s word. Psalm 1: 2 says that the Godly man or woman delights in God’s word, “…meditating in it day and night.” And that was the same formula for spiritual prosperity and success given by God to Joshua as he was about to undertake the monumental task of taking God’s people across the Jordan and into the promised land (see Joshua 1: 8, which I really hope you have memorized). So, to follow MacArthur’s first premise, assuming all Christians desire to have spiritual success [i.e., to follow Christ’s mandate of Luke 9: 23], we must ask ourselves, “ Are we into God’s word with the consistency and with the intensity directed by God’s word itself?”

And the second point made by MacArthur in this regard concerns the seriousness or intensity of our commitment to live for God in God’s way; and MacArthur contends that we’ll never experience the full effect of the life-transforming ministry of God’s Spirit if we don’t CHOOSE to focus on God by becoming the “LIVING SACRIFICE” written about by Paul in Romans 12: 1 – 2 [and that is a memory verse which I really implore you have in your heart]. Our lives as Christians – which is our worship of our Lord - must become a 24/7 lifestyle of discipleship and worship in the Spirit (see also John 14: 23 – 24).

What God, the Holy Spirit, wants to do is to take our surrender and turn it into Christlikeness [see Phil. 1: 6]. So, what we have to decide is how much we want Him to do that!

My Prayer Today: I walk with You, precious Spirit. Transform me! Amen

Sunday, September 11, 2011

September 11, 2011 … The Spirit and God’s Will

[Sober remembrance of 9 - 11 - 01! – Ten Years Ago!] …

Passage of the Day: Ezekiel 36: 27 [see bold, underlined verse in context] …
[God through the Prophet to Israel] 26 “I will give you a new heart and put a new Spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. 28 You will live in the land I gave your forefathers; you will be my people, and I will be your God. … ”

My Journal for Today: There is no doubt, when one carefully studies both the Old and New Testaments, that the Holy Spirit has a pertinent, practical, and powerful ministry to shine God’s light on His will for His people (which is stated to Israel by God through His Prophet, Ezekiel, in today’s verse, but applies to all of God’s people by extension). Today’s verse, as well as Isaiah 63: 11 – 14, both written centuries before Pentecost, where God’s Spirit was given by God to His New Covenant Church, clearly indicate that it has been God’s purpose [i.e., His will], to guide all of His people to His way and to protect them through their (our) obedience to His will. And now, beyond Israel and His Old Covenant promises, God’s Spirit has been imparted to all believers to give all of His children clear direction and the covering of His power (see Romans 8: 14).

The ministry of the Holy Spirit is God’s light, shining on His path of righteousness to insure that His faithful and obedient followers would see His way clearly and follow His path (see Ps. 119: 105 – I hope you have that one memorized!). And as long as we, who are His followers (see another memorable verse Luke 9: 23), search for His light, trusting it from His Spirit, God will lead us on the right path (and a third verse we all should have in our hearts … Prov. 3: 5 – 6).

Are you, as I am, a follower of Christ – i.e., one of His disciples? If you respond affirmatively to that question, I would think that you would be feeling the weight of conviction, as am I, from God’s Spirit in this moment (and that is God, the Holy Spirit, shining His light on your - our - path). Therefore, we must ask ourselves how God can and will shine His light more clearly on our path; and the answer to that is through the Spirit’s most clearly defined source of light, … His Holy Word! If one believes the truth of 2nd Tim. 3: 16 – 17 as well as the reality of Isaiah 55: 11 and all of Psalm 119, you will believe as I do, that we Christians can best find God, the Holy Spirit, leading us by the light of His truth in and through His word. And when we do delve into God’s word, searching for His light, God will be there in the Person of His Spirit edifying and enlightening us to His will through His word.

My Prayer Today: Even now as I search your word, Lord, shine Your light on my path, precious Spirit! Amen

Saturday, September 10, 2011

September 10, 2011 … Empowered for Service

Passage of the Day: Ephesians 3: 20 … Now to Him Who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, …

My Journal for Today: Sometimes, when I read the Pauline epistles, I’m awed – maybe “overwhelmed” is a better word – by the Apostle’s strength in the face of all Paul endured [see 2nd Cor. 11: 23 – 29]. In essence, in this latter passage, we read of Paul who was boasting of what God had given him to endure all that he had gone through; and today’s verse, as well as 2nd Cor. 12: 7 – 11, documents how that could take place in the face of all the weaknesses imposed on him by his life. I became especially impressed by Paul’s fortitude this past month when my wife and I were blessed to travel to Athens, Ephesus, and other sites where Paul traveled in his three missionary journeys to the Asia- Minor and Europe. What the Apostle went through to carry the Gospel to the Gentile world, as documented in 2nd Cor. 11: 16-33, shows us that any person can endure much more than we think we can with the power given to us by the Holy Spirit to deal with our weaknesses (again see 1st Cor. 10: 13 and 2nd Cor. 12: 9 and Phil. 4: 13).

Yes, having stood on Mars hill in Athens, where the Apostle preached to lost Greek intellectuals about their idolatry; and having been in Ephesus where this missionary of the Gospel was almost stoned to death, I’m awed by Paul’s strength in the face of human weaknesses. But then I realize the truth in Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians, from which today’s verse is extracted. Paul, by contextual extension was praying for all believers (you and me included) to have the same power exhibited in our lives which was exhibited in his … that power activated when we surrender to God’s Spirit in the same way as Paul was Christ’s bond-slave.

So, when you or I surrender our lives in faith, as did Paul, the same infinitely powerful Holy Spirit, Who raised Christ from the dead and Who indwelt the Apostle Paul, is there for us … to empower and enable us to be overcomers as was Paul. Go to 2nd Cor. 4: 8 – 9, 16 and Rom. 8: 38 – 39; and from God’s truth you will see that the same Holy Spirit Who gave Paul his power is God’s Spirit, Who will allow no temporal circumstance to claim victory over us, in spite of our human weaknesses.

The Spirit of God, Who dwells in me, is the same Spirit whom Peter recognized would (and does) give any believing Christian all the spiritual resources necessary to face anything this life can dish out (see 2nd Peter 1: 3). And the only thing that limits the expression of God’s Spirit in and through me is ME. It is only my disbelief or my broken fellowship with Christ which limits me from becoming the Spirit-empowered Christian God wants me to be.

God, the Holy Spirit, is in me; and as Paul prays and declares in today’s verse, God can do, and will do, far more than I can ever ask or even imagine. So, it behooves me - and you if you’re reading here - to think big, …to ask big, and …to act big … because we have a big God in us, Who wants to do big stuff through us!

My Prayer Today: Lord, mold my belief to be big like You! Amen

Friday, September 09, 2011

September 9, 2011 … We Need One Another

Passage of the Day: 1st Corinthians 12: 7 … Now to each one [i.e., Christian] the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.

Hebrews 10: 23 – 25 23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. 25 Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

My Journal for Today: One of the most important aspects of the ministry of the Holy Spirit is found in the dovetail of these two verses. When one becomes a Christian he/she is given Spiritual Gifts (see the discussion of spiritual gifts in 1st Cor. 12, Rom. 12, and Eph. 4) so that Christians individually and collectively (in the Church) can reach out and minister to other believers and to witness to the lost. And as we read in the passage from Hebrews above, these Spirit-driven, Spirit-given functions are most effectively carried out from a unified body of believers.

As individual Christians, endowed by God’s Spirit with at least one spiritual gift (and maybe more than one), each of us can use those gifts individually for God’s glory (above see 1st Cor. 12: 7). But there are times when my spiritual gift of teaching does not match the needs of a person who might best be served by someone with the gift of mercy. It’s not that I can’t be merciful; but those who have the gift of mercy could more easily and more effectively come along side me from the Body of Christ to provide the mercy needed by a needy one if that one were being served by God’s Spirit through His Church. All of God’s gifts, as provided by God’s Spirit, are evident and available in God’s Church. Hence, when the Body of Christ is working in unity, all of the needs of His Body can be met by His Body when the Church is functioning as indicated in Heb. 10: 23 – 25.

Everyday, through my home church, I see people being helped, encouraged, directed, and/or ministered to by the brothers/sisters in Christ with gifts that perfectly match the circumstances and/or needs of those in need. Sometimes I can use my spiritual gifts of teaching or encouragement; …but then again, sometimes it takes the gifts of others to effectively be Christ in a given set of circumstances. But when the Body of Christ comes together for the Body of Christ, there is not a need that cannot be met in that Body. That’s God’s church doing God’s work, i.e., shining His Light, by the administration of His Spirit in His Name for the Father’s glory [see Matt. 5: 16].

I pray that you’re a vital part of a vital church, using your gifts, along side your brothers/sisters in Christ for God’s glory.

My Prayer Today: Use me, Lord, in Your Body. Amen

Thursday, September 08, 2011

September 8, 2011 … The Spotlight Stays on Christ

Passage of the Day: John 15: 26 … "When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, He will testify about Me.”

My Journal for Today: In these words from Jesus to His confused disciples the night before His passion unfolded, … He spoke about the coming of the Holy Spirit; and we read a clear specification of one of the ministries of “The Counselor,” … that of putting a spotlight on the preeminence of Christ. About this in his Strength for Today devotional for this date, John MacArthur writes, “How foolish it is for any of us who profess Christ to then follow Him by looking to our own strength rather than to that of His glory.”

In today’s verse from the Upper Room Discourse, as in John 16: 14 – 15, Jesus clearly lays out the illuminating ministry of His Spirit, “The Comforter” or “The Advocate,” … Who would bear witness to God, the Son, and to glorify God, the Father. And this would imply that we must do all we can in developing our relationship with God’s Spirit to allow Him to illumine our Lord and Savior so that we can be freed from the sin-binding magnetism of Satan, the world, and our own deceitful hearts (see 2nd Cor. 3: 16 – 17). Surrendering to God, the Holy Spirit, as Paul stated in that passage to the Corinthian Christians, causes the veil of deceit to be taken from our eyes; and we can see Truth for Who HE is – and that, of course, is Jesus!

More than once in my devotional journaling this year, I have returned to the words of that old hymn … [and as I write/type this on this lovely morning, I’m listening to Alisha Dishong sing her luscious version to me through my earphones from my I-tunes playlist on my computer] …

Turn your eyes upon Jesus;
Look full in His wonderful face.
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace.

So, any time we are able, as Christians, to move away from self and clearly see the Savior in this life, it is because God, the Holy Spirit is shining Christ’s light more clearly on our lives or path. After meditating on the truth of Ps. 119: 105 [and if you don’t know that one by heart, I charge you to go back and meditate upon it], you’ll understand why I open God’s word unto my life as often as I can – most certainly daily! - to give me direction and why I pray so often in the Spirit as I do here …

My Prayer Today: Precious Holy Spirit, shine Your light brightly, Lord; help me to see You and my Lord clearly! Amen

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

September 7, 2011 … Freedom From Condemnation

Passage of the Day: Romans 8: 1 – 2 … 1 Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, [in some later manuscripts, “Jesus, Who did not live according the flesh but according to the Spirit”] 2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.

My Journal for Today: I believe that many Christians, immediately prior to conversion, catch the vision of their own sinfulness, having their spiritual eyes opened by God’s prevenient grace, which is God’s Spirit drawing the sinner to the Savior. This yielding to the reality of their sin causes these convicted sinners to repent and receive the saving grace offered by Jesus through His Spirit, and those who do so are saved (see the description of this process in Romans 10: 9 – 13). That was yours truly on April 13, 1983, when for the first time at age 39, I was able to see the depth of my brokenness; and I was able to ask for Christ into my life.

However, it is also the case, as it was for me, that these newly saved souls, CHOOSE to allow the enemy’s spirit of condemnation to keep them incarcerated in those old chains [i.e., sinful habit patterns] that bind even Christians into fleshly disobedience. If you go back and read Romans 7, the Apostle Paul wrote about this in a very personal way. But today’s matchless passage from God’s declaration of liberty in the New Testament (i.e., Romans 8) is the same Paul declaring the truth of our freedom in Christ.

Yes, you and I, as born again Christians, are now free to receive our Lord’s enabling grace and, through His Spirit, to live free in the reality and truth of 2nd Cor. 5: 17 as well as Col. 3: 3 – 10, which is the boundless freedom I can have – and do now have - when I fully receive and appropriate God’s sanctifying grace, casting off any self-imposed shackles Satan would love for Christians to choose to wear which would bind our spirits to him in fear and condemnation.

But the truth, expressed in today’s verse, as well as 2nd Tim. 1: 7, is that I need not walk in any fear or to cave in to any feelings of condemnation, because I now have God’s Spirit of love and His power welling forth in my heart; and I can now walk in the reality that I am now dead to sin and alive in Christ (see Romans 6: 8 – 11). If we choose to believe these truths and receive God’s empowering grace, we will walk in freedom from our chains of self and sin, and we will have the self discipline and confidence, again mentioned in 2nd Tim. 1: 7, which may convict our hearts and help us to move away from sinfulness and onward toward Christlikeness. But it will never cause us to buckle under to the condemnation ploys of our enemy.

If you, who read this don’t know if you’re saved, and you are feeling the enemy’s condemnation, you need to recognize that God is convicting you to respond to His call for you to come to Him and be saved, finally and forever. I would charge you to contact anyone you identify as a strong Christian and ask that person how you can be saved and set free from your sin. Or you can do it right here by internalizing the passage I mentioned above in Romans 10: 9 – 13. If you do that … all you need to do is recognize, in a simple prayer to God, that you believe that Jesus died for your sins, and ask Him to save you, … then go and declare to someone [you can email me –] that you have made that commitment of faith. If you do that, the promise of eternal life is yours forever (see John 3: 16).

However, as I’ve written here, Satan will then try to get you to think that you’re not worthy of God’s saving grace; and he will try to wrap you up in his chains of condemnation. He will try to get you to believe that your sins will never allow you to walk in the freedom and power promised by God’s Spirit. And if you choose to believe the lies of the enemy [and it’s always a choice], you will be thrown into your own self-imposed prison of self condemnation. But if you believe the truth of Romans 8: 1 – 2 above, as well as Romans 12: 1 – 2 and Galatians 2: 20, you can walk with power into the transforming freedom that God promises when your heart and mind is renewed by God’s Spirit through Christ Jesus.

Oh, how I pray that you will believe the truth of today’s passage and join me to walk in the freedom God’s Spirit has for you in following Jesus (see Luke 9: 23).

My Prayer Today: I walk free in You, Lord! Amen

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

September 6, 2011 … The Reality of the Promise

Passage of the Day: 1st Corinthians 12: 13 … For we were all baptized by [or “with”] one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.

My Journal for Today: It has been over 2000 years since Pentecost. However, even today the most potent evidence of the reality of God’s Spirit is a unified and living Church where God is seen in the transformed lives of Christians coming together into the collectively fruitful ministry of the Body of Christ.

When one Christian is truly saved, we see that life metamorphose from a life lived for the flesh (see Gal. 5: 19 - 21) to one brimming with the fruit of the Spirit (see Gal. 5: 22 – 23). But when that life is joined into a collective body of believers, God’s Spirit is magnified and loosed into the world with the collective witness of many fruitful Christians, who become the river of living water written of in John 7: 37 – 39, … a torrent of God’s power working in an anti-God world. Many today try to find this kind of power in science, technology, politics, new-age pursuits, or far-eastern mysticism. However, as today’s passage declares, we really only find the evidence of God’s Spirit when we see Him in all of His presence and power working in a united and collectively surrendered church.

I have been privileged in my life to see this on display in my local church – Central Church in Collierville, TN – where God has transformed my life from one who was obsessively driven by sexual drives to an Elder and Ordained Minister in this body of believers. I could tell story upon story of God working through the life of our body of believers to help yours truly become what is described in 2nd Cor. 5: 17, “a new creation in Christ.” You’ll never be able to get this witness to deny what I’ve seen many times over when God’s people come together in what I call “surrender mode,” allowing God’s Spirit to be loosed in their collective and unified efforts for God’s glory.

Oh, I know that “the Church” collective is not perfect. There are many stories that can be told of churches splitting or becoming impotent in their outreach for Christ. However, in every one of those instances you can probably find a story similar to what caused the Church at Ephesus to fail (see Rev. 2: 4 - 5) by losing their “first love, which is ”… that singular, unified dedication to Christ and His great commission (see Matt. 28: 19 – 20). I pray that God’s Spirit flows in and trough your church in these days where God’s church is being surrounded and embattled by growing worldly evil.

But we should be uplifted by the promise of Jesus Himself, where He was teaching His disciples at Caesarea Philippi, and more specifically trying to show Peter, that once He [Jesus] builds His church with Himself as the cornerstone, the very powers of hell itself will not prevail against it (i.e., Christ’s Church) [see Matt. 16: 18].

My Prayer Today: Dear Lord, flow like a river through Your Church today. Amen

Monday, September 05, 2011

September 5, 2011 … Need for the Promise

Passage of the Day: John 16: 13 … But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on His own; He will speak only what He hears, and He will tell you what is yet to come.

My Journal for Today: Here’s an image presented by John MacArthur in his Strength for Today devotional for this date. … Imagine a really “snazzy” car, sitting on a showroom floor. It looks great; but it has a damaged engine, making it essentially useless as an automobile.

It’s an apt word picture of any Christian (or the church collectively) who is not surrendered to the Holy Spirit. I could be an orthodox, and even highly disciplined Christian, … one who lives rigorously close to God’s commands; but without being totally dependent upon God’s Spirit, I would be as worthless as the beautifully appointed car with a useless engine. And my ineffectiveness as a Christian would express itself as impotence of witness and in personal ministry for God’s glory. God cannot get the glory for a pretty car that can’t go anywhere because of a useless engine.

However, the opposite is true as well. Imagine an old jalopy, looking very broken-down on the outside; but having a highly-tuned and an extremely high-powered engine, capable of driving that old, broken, chassis at very high speeds.

An empowered witness for God could be like a Billy Sunday, who was certainly unpolished, and maybe even at times crude. But Billy Sunday was a man who was totally sold out to Jesus and filled by God’s Spirit; and in his day, the Holy Spirit empowered this highly charged, but very unorthodox, man for God’s mission and ministry with thousands saved by Sunday’s highly unpolished, but effective, outreach for Christ. To return to the auto word picture, Bill Sunday was a beat up old car; but he had an engine which was highly tuned and energized for speed.

Such witnesses for Christ are cut in the mold of Acts 1: 8 [hopefully you have that one memorized! - But, linked here in NIV]. We read of such a one when we read of the newly energized Apostle Peter in Acts, chapters 1 & 2. Here is the big, foot-in-the-mouth fisherman, … the one who had almost crashed and burned in his devotion to Jesus before Christ’s ascension; … but early in Acts, Peter becomes fully surrendered and sold-out to God’s Spirit; and he is used as God’s candle to ignite the Church, which, in turn, would light up the world for Christ.

We have a lot of innovative programs and ministries in today’s seeker-friendly Christian world. However, without a total reliance on God’s empowering Spirit, these ministry programs are merely “Christian” window dressing, which can do little for God’s Kingdom. They are fancy autos with impotent engines. What we need, however, are Christians, like those in Acts 1 & 2, … Christians who are fully charged for action and speed by God’s Spirit. They don’t have to look good; but their engines have to be highly-tuned by God for what they were designed to do … go fast and win the race for Christ in this world.

My Prayer Today: I move, Lord, when You give me the power! Amen

Sunday, September 04, 2011

September 4, 2011 … The Promised Holy Spirit

Passage of the Day: John 14: 16 – 17 … 16 And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Counselor to be with you forever — 17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept Him, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him. But you know Him, for He lives with you and will be [some early manuscripts state “is” instead of “will be”] in you.

My Journal for Today: What a pronouncement; … what a promise! In fact, this promise that Jesus made to His inner circle of disciples in the upper room discourse just hours before His time of passion and death was fulfilled for the church at Pentecost as it has been for every individual believer who receives the indwelling Holy Spirit upon believing and receiving Christ as Lord and Savior.

As John MacArthur points out in today’s Strength for Today devotional, this promise and its ultimate fulfillment actually has four elements …

#1 … A supernatural Helper identical in Spirit to God, the Father, and God, the Son (John 14: 27b); …
#2 … A supernatural or divine perspective on the world and life (John 14: 19); …
#3 … A supernatural Teacher Who provides believers with the mind of Christ (John 14: 26); and …
#4 … A supernatural peace which assertively and positively allows us to deal with our spiritual enemies (see Phil. 4: 7; 1st Cor. 10: 13; and Eph. 6: 10 – 13).

And as we read in John 14: 21 and 15: 5, all that Christ demands of His disciples (i.e., you and me as born-again Christians) is that we believe enough to obey the teaching and leading of His Spirit. Now, this devotional entry may be short; but is that not the most provocative and powerful promise that God could give to anyone who believes and submits to our Lord? The question is … are we discerning it, believing it, and acting on it?

My Prayer Today: O Lord, help me in my unbelief! Amen

Saturday, September 03, 2011

September 3, 2011 … The Spirit of Transformation

Passage of the Day: 2nd Corinthians 3: 18 [see in bold] … 12 Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold. 13 We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to keep the Israelites from gazing at it while the radiance was fading away. 14 But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away. 15 Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. 16 But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect [or “contemplate”] the Lord's glory, are being transformed into His likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

My Journal for Today
Though today’s verse is from Paul’s teachings in 2nd Cor. 3: 18, and I give you the contextual passage from which it’s taken to help you understand the imagery of our being unveiled in God’s New Covenant so that we can be “transformed” into Christ’s likeness.

This transformation process, of course, is called sanctification, which is a progressively humbling and awakening experience in our lives life after conversion as a Christian. It is the process by which God, the Holy Spirit, reveals more and more of the reality of Christ in our being. It is the specter of growing newness also revealed by Paul in 2nd Cor. 5: 17. It is the opportunity we have, with God’s Spirit planted in our heart, to make choices which allow us to morph into Christlikeness. Now, … is that not wonderfully cool?!!

As Paul refers in today’s passage, it’s like looking at our reflection in God’s mirror of truth, which progressively reveals our unworthiness; and yet, at the same time, we see, excitedly (I hope for you as much as for me), more of what is wrought by the Spirit’s transforming grace as He molds and completes us into our predestined image of Christlikeness (see Romans 8: 29 and Phil. 1: 6). Just as in the allegory of The Ugly Duckling, one day (which will be in glory) our ugliness will be completely transformed into the beauty and full grace of the swan we desire to be and were created like in God’s image, and that image we are predestined to become … i.e., the image of Christ.

I hope it’s as exciting for you as it is for me, as I look into God’s mirror of truth (i.e., His word) day-by-day … to see more and more of Christ’s beauty being shaped into my countenance. The reshaping process is certainly not all that easy; but it most certainly is worth it! It’s as John wrote (see 1st John 3: 2), “ …now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known." Though we don’t exactly know what we’ll look like in our spirit-body (see 1st Cor. 15: 42 – 49), we do know that somehow it will reflect Christ’s image; and that’s good enough for me to have heightened hope in what God, the Holy Spirit, is doing in shaping my life – now and forevermore in this live – and the next.

How wonderful is the transforming power and grace of the Holy Spirit!

My Prayer Today: O Lord, shape me into Your image. Amen

Friday, September 02, 2011

September 2, 2011 … Two Spirits or One

Passage of the Day: Ephesians 4: 4 … There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope when you were called …

My Journal for Today: Okay then, let’s begin to get to know God, our Holy Spirit.

You know that there are some who read the Old and New Testaments and somehow get the idea that the character of the Holy Spirit was somehow different under the dispensation of the Old Covenant than in the New. However, in today’s verse (and you can also read so in 1st Cor 12: 11, 13) the Apostle Paul declares strongly the truth that there is only ONE Holy Spirit. And just like the essence of Jesus, as we read in Hebrews 13: 8, the Holy Spirit is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

No matter the false teachings of an open theism or any others who believe that The Holy Spirit is somehow different now than the times of Genesis; God is immutable! The Holy Spirit was, is, and forever will be the ministry agent of the Godhead, ever reaching out to the lost and edifying/empowering God’s only body, His Church. That was true in the Genesis account; … it was true when Paul proclaimed today’s truth to the Ephesians; … and it was true when John wrote of his Revelation. And dear one, it is true today!

Since repetition is the teaching of emphasis, …The Holy Spirit of the Old Testament was/is the same Spirit Paul wrote about to Ephesus and, by extension, to you and me. He is, and will be, the same Spirit written of in the entire body of Scripture, … and the same Spirit Who will bring me – and you if you are in Christ – to completion, as predestined, into the likeness of our Savior. [see Phil. 1: 6]

Therefore, we must not be deceived into thinking that God, in three Persons, is somehow growing or evolving with time. God is God; and therefore, being immutable, His Spirit, Who empowered Moses and raised Jesus from the dead, empowers you and me now and will one day resurrect us into the presence of Jesus in glory. And for that we can – and must – praise and thank our God.

My Prayer Today: I thank you, God, my ever present, immutable Holy Spirit. … Amen