Foreword:

Ever wonder what God might have to say to YOU today? Here are things to ponder, and things to receive into your heart. If you have a question, put it in the comments. I respond as much as I can.

A note for all my readers: I've been experimenting with YouTube videos for Bible teaching for a while, and I'm working through Revelation here. My YouTube videos are currently short studies in Matthew, and at present I'm posting videos on Revelation as well. Both appear on the blog, which is turning into a Vlog. I encourage you to subscribe to my YouTube channel for better coverage.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Finding your Way...

I remember, over 40 years ago, when I was a young pastor...
I was out doing cold-calling (people actually used to be home back then), and I was trying to build up the little church I had begun to pastor...so I was out door-knocking in the afternoon, after classes had let out (I was in Seminary), and a young woman answered the door.  She was about my age.  I had not really worked up a presentation, so I just said to her, "I'm a local pastor, I pastor the Community Church in the next town, and I'd like to talk to you about eternal life." Not exactly the smoothest introduction, but she looked at me with the oddest look on her face, and said, "Eternal life? Come in."  So I went in, she offered me a glass of water, which I accepted, and then she said, "So tell me about this eternal life. I've been going to the Baptist church over in Columbus, and I know there is something I need to do about this, but I don't know how to do it."
You could have knocked me over with a feather.  Most times, I got skepticism, rejection, annoyance, and so on.  Here was someone who knew there was something more than she had in life, and she wanted it.
She lived in a nice house, I might add, and (if I remember correctly) had at least one little one roaming around the house.  So she was a stay-at-home Mom, her husband made enough to keep the family, and life was good.
Except.
She knew she was missing something.  She thought it might be what I was telling her about--eternal life.
As an aside, I've known many people like this.  They want to live forever, and receive what God has to offer, they just don't know the path. They don't know the way to get into the group of people who have eternal life, and they can't seem to understand what the preachers are saying.
So I sat with her, and explained the following:
1.  Eternal life is a gift.  It is not something you earn, or buy, or be "good enough" for.  It is "The free gift of God." (Reference for this teaching is Romans 6:23)
2.  Eternal life comes through the Son of God, Jesus Christ (she already believed in Him). You can study forever, but eventually it comes down to a decision--"Yes, I want to follow Him"--or "No, I don't want to follow Him."
3. Eternal life, like any other gift, must be received in order to possess. Gifts are funny things. Someone can offer a gift to you, but until you have actually taken it, it's not yours.  We are all familiar with the scene where a man brings a ring to his girlfriend, and asks her to marry him.  We've seen it replayed on national TV many times.  Most times, she takes the ring, and accepts the gift of his love. Sometimes (and we've seen this as well), she returns the ring, and says "NO." Receiving eternal life is just like that.  God, through His Son, offers eternal life as a gift.  You can take it.  You can reject it.
How do you take the gift? It's a spiritual act--that's what I told the woman.  I told her, "You can receive eternal life right now, simply by bowing your head and telling God that you believe in Jesus Christ, and that you want the everlasting life that He offers you.
I admit, I did emphasize the "now" aspect of this, because it should be emphasized.  Most times, a decision like this needs to be done right away, because although the offer is always there, we as humans let lots of "other stuff" intervene, and we don't ever respond--we just let the offer "hang there," and spend our lives in other ways.
So what did SHE do?  She wanted to receive eternal life that day, and she prayed to God--almost immediately, she told me later, she KNEW God had received her request and given her what she asked.
How did she know?? I can't say.  I can only tell you that this is the common experience of Christians the world over and from the beginning until now.  They KNOW they have received eternal life--that they have taken the free gift of God, which He offers, and that God, in turn, has accepted them into His family.
Why can't I communicate this properly?? Because it can't be fully explained.  It is something you have to do to understand.
What is interesting is that I've run into this exact situation many times in my life--the man or woman who wants eternal life, wants God in their life, KNOWS that there is something missing, but doesn't know how to act on their desires.
If that's you, feel free to contact me.  I will do my best to answer any question.
And of course, if you want to live forever, Say "I do" to God, and mean it.
Romans 6:23:
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

The Holy Spirit and you

Most people in our western world are so accustomed to living without contact with the spiritual world that they've lost the ability to experience it.  There is a hunger in mankind, though, for the world of the spirit, and therefore many people seek for spiritual things in "other places."  Vampires. Zombies. Aliens. Any connection at all with the world of the spiritual, or something like it.  In reality, the world of the spiritual is all around us, pretty much unperceived in the west, pretty much "not a part" of the rationalistic, closed universe in which we think we live.  However, the world of the spirit is just as real as your body.  It's not ethereal, mystical, like you would find in a seance.  It's reality, but in a different form.  It's the world of angels. Demons & Satan (only for a while, as they themselves tell us).  God. Jesus. The Holy Spirit--and He is the Christians' contact with the spiritual world, the world that we can't see, but which is as real as you. The work of the Holy Spirit is to connect us with God, and through Him, to all the world of the spiritual.  That is why the ministry of the Spirit is so maligned in some quarters, and so misstated in others. Some deny the Spirit's work in a practical sense, by saying, "The day of miracles and gifts is past"--by which they really mean, "Don't bother expecting God to actually DO something--it's all up to you." So we believe this, because it agrees with the experience we are told we should have, and if we seek the ministry of the Spirit in our lives, we have to do it somewhat secretly, since the Spirit is the original Nonconformist, and will make us stick out like a sore thumb in the more "staid" churches.
In the Charismatic-Pentecostal churches, the opposite problem exists.  The Spirit is emphasized, but He is often seen as more of a "bellhop"--Someone you seek for gifts, healings, self-importance, and the like, not as the "Other Comforter," who in reality is the earthly and permanent replacement for Jesus in our day.  As that, He's Lord; He's Master; He's King, because He and the Father and Son are One.  He's the Person who introduces us to God's spiritual world.  If you are reading these words, and you live in the East, you'll often know the powers of spirits, demons and Satan, but not the true power of God, who is over all. Whatever your circumstances now, when you turn to Jesus Christ, He offers, but does not force, the power and strength of the Holy Spirit on your life. You can reject His offer in practical ways, or open yourself to Him and let Him fill your life.
I spent many years in the nonCharismatic churches, and my Seminary degrees come from a school that basically denied the current ministries of the Spirit--unless they were nonmiraculous. This was pretty awful, and really oppressive ("the miracles are not for today...don't bother telling me about the gift of prophecy, that's not needed because we have the Bible, etc. etc.")
I also spent many years in the Charismatic ministries, and they often refused to accept the sovereignty of the Holy Spirit in the ministry of the gifts ("Everyone has to speak in tongues. Why aren't you healed? You could be healed if you just had the faith")--sought His power separately from Him ("I can heal you.."), and were abundantly deceived by charlatans and their own desire for things to happen that the Spirit was NOT doing right then.  They also were plagued by dishonesty, since some of the gifts can be "manufactured" (prophecy, tongues, words of knowledge, etc.) without true input from the Spirit.  This is a terrible evil.
The fact is that the Spirit is real.  He is a Person. He is also Lord, just as the Father, and the Son. He seeks contact with you, through your faith in the Son, Jesus the Messiah.
The only way to really see and experience the spiritual world in all its entirety is through the Son, Jesus Christ. When you call upon Him, all the Persons of the Trinity answer at once.  The Spirit comes to you, and as you open yourself up to Him for whatever He wants, He fills your life.  You'll do this initially, and then as He "nudges" you, again and again.  You'll also open yourself up to Him as your life changes and grows and you meet new challenges. Being open to the Spirit requires vigilance (He's always discussing things with you, if you listen), an understanding of the Bible (your own feelings can be mistaken for the Spirit), and a sane approach to life (He's not crazy--He's God, the ultimately intelligent and logical Being).
Crazy people sometimes think that they are the particular "vessels" of the Spirit, as do proud, arrogant people (and sometimes arrogant and crazy go together).  Nothing could be further from the truth.  The Spirit works with people who love God, who submit to Him, and who don't try to "use Him" for their own purposes. He is on your side, and wants to do good for you always, but He is seeking men and women who desire to serve God with their lives, whatever they do. When those two things meet--His desire to care for you and do you good--and your desire to do His will, life is very special, indeed.
He is totally sane, completely intelligent, and normally directs you into the commonsense way of doing things.  When He demands a different course, it really is logical.  You just can't see it yet.
Turn to the Lord Jesus.  Open your heart to what the Spirit offers, and wants to do with you.  You will NOT be sorry.