Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Remnant

Today we are going to look at Zephaniah 2. If you haven't read the first two days of this study, please do. This isn't going to make nearly as much sense if you don't. Go ahead and grab your Bible and read Zephaniah 2. Yep, the whole chapter. It isn't long, and it is well worth the seven or eight minutes that you put into it.

In this chapter, a group of Hebrews, referred to as the remnant, are described. In verse 2, the prophet describes a way for those who are righteously seeking God to possibly receive mercy. What is it?

Verses 8-10 explain the problem that God has with the other nations. What is that problem?

God is contrasting two groups. There is the remnant. They are able to seek mercy through righteousness and humility. Humility is mentioned twice in this one verse. When describing the sins of foreign countries, God refers several times to the pride of the nations around His people. They have been taunting the people of God, and He won't stand for that. Through this contrast, we can see that humility is precious to God while pride is completely unacceptable. Why? Pride says that we can do things ourselves. We are able to achieve true, eternal greatness in our own ways. Pride ignores God, or maybe it just reduces Him to a level that is less than where He should be. Humility understands that dependence on God is strength. Humility is available to bring glory to God on His terms in His way. Humility allows God to exalt us in His time (Matthew 20:16). Verse 15 makes this abundantly clear. The greatest things that we have worked toward can be destroyed in a day. When we refuse to recognize God in all we do, we are working in vain. Only what we do for Him will remain.

The remnant is going to be rewarded. Even in the midst of God's anger, He has chosen a group of people to receive blessing. Verses 7 and 9 talk of how even while He brings the great nations to nothing, He raises this small group to inherit the land that they have left behind. Even when all but a handful of people refuse to give God glory for what He has done, He will be glorified. A handful of people is enough. They are the ones that will be blessed. How often do we feel like fundamentalists or extremists for believing what the Bible says? How many times are we treated as if we are insane for refusing to let go of what we know to be true? We are the remnant, Christian. We have to continue to seek righteousness, even when it means being considered a nut. The remnant spoken of in this passage was probably mistreated for being "out there", but God needs out-there folks to take His message and live by it!

Finally, look at verse 11. When we put things on the throne that belongs to God, He may decide to remove them by force. He isn't second, and He doesn't share the title of God. When we put people or things in the place of God, we aren't protecting them. God, in His sovereignty, may rip the idols from our hands. It will be painful, but He will be glorified! If that isn't good news for you, it's time to make some changes.

Are you willing to be humble enough to throw out anything that pulls at your devotion? Be radical. Be a freak. Be righteous! Allow God to take full possession of the throne of your heart. He won't share, and He will remove anything that competes with Him for your love and devotion if He is present in your life. And that is good news!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

My God's No Santa Clause

I thought about titling this post, "Now you went and done it," but the grammarian in me just couldn't allow such a phrase to be typed. Get out your Bibles again, ladies. It's going to be an interesting ride.

Read Zephaniah1:13-18. Don't worry if you have trouble understanding some of it. We'll work to make sense out of it as best we can.

Well, God's not too happy. The Bible word that most translations use for this kind of anger is "wrath". Webster's Pocket Dictionary defines wrath as, "violent rage, anger or fury." Yep, God can be violent. These verses describe "the day of the Lord." That is, the time when God when bring justice to the people.

What are the people in these verses trusting in? (Hint: look in 1:13 and 1:18.)

These are hard working people. They stay busy with their jobs. They build homes and plant vineyards, but that's where their faith lies. They are looking to the possessions that they gain through their own labors to save them. We all have a head-knowledge that material possessions are worthless, but how well do we understand that? The economy stinks right now. We, as Christians, have an excellent opportunity to say, "It wasn't mine to begin with. I can't control the stock market or cost of gas, but God can, and I'm going to trust Him to take care of me." And yet, how many churches are suffering because people don't believe that they can afford to tithe? How many good, seemingly strong, Christians are frantic over their stocks, savings, or retirement plans? We should be responsible with what we have, but when we can't control something, it's faith time! These are the times when it is most important to give where we should and rely on God for His care. When we do, the world will see that we are different.

What words and phrases does Zephaniah use to describe "the day of the Lord"?

Here's a list from the English Standard Version that I use:
  • near (v. 14)
  • hastening fast (v.14)
  • bitter (v.14)
  • a day of wrath, distress, anguish, ruin, devastation, darkness, and gloom(v.15)
  • a day of trumpet blast and battle cry (v.16)
Any volunteers? Does anyone want to be around for that party?

Read 1:17 again. God is so angry about the sin of mankind that He is going to punish them severely. So severely, in fact, that they will be stumbling around, desperate for help. Their blood will cover the ground and their bodily tissue will fill the streets. That's how bad our sin is. That's how disgusting our mistakes are. The reason that this is so important for us to understand is because we are incredibly nonchalant about sin. Because it's paid for, we forget that it has a cost. The greatness of the gift that we have received is undermined by our lack of understanding of the high price of sin.

In the book of Luke, Jesus is eating dinner with some religious leaders when a prostitute runs in and starts cleaning off His feet... with her hair! She used some crazy expensive ointment or perfume to clean them as well as possible, and she even kissed His feet. His feet were gross. He may be God, but dirt is dirt and His feet were still feet. They didn't have Timberlands. They wore sandals, and those sandals were made for walking, in the dessert. The host of the dinner party thought that Jesus should be offended by such a sinful woman touching Him, though He didn't say it out loud. Jesus responded:

Luke 7:41-47 Then Jesus told him this story: "A man loaned money to two people -- 500 pieces of silver to one and 50 pieces to the other. 42 But neither of them could repay him, so he kindly forgave them both, canceling their debts. Who do you suppose loved him more after that?" 43 Simon answered, "I suppose the one for whom he canceled the larger debt." "That's right," Jesus said. 44 Then he turned to the woman and said to Simon, "Look at this woman kneeling here. When I entered your home, you didn't offer me water to wash the dust from my feet, but she has washed them with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You didn't greet me with a kiss, but from the time I first came in, she has not stopped kissing my feet. 46 You neglected the courtesy of olive oil to anoint my head, but she has anointed my feet with rare perfume. 47 "I tell you, her sins -- and they are many -- have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love."

The pharisee was a sinner, just like the woman, even if his sins were more socially acceptable. Jesus isn't saying that people should sin more so that they will love more (Romans 6:1-2 "Well then, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of his wonderful grace? 2 Of course not! Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it?"). He is saying that when we are aware of the greatness of our sins, we love Him better. When we ignore our sins, try to explain them away, or blame someone else for our shortcomings, we aren't able to love Him as well as we could if we fessed up and thanked Him for the forgiveness that He has bought.

Lastly, I want you to notice something in verse 18. What kind of fire do these verses say is going to destroy the land? Jealousy. Our God is a jealous God. This comes right after Zephaniah refers to the inability of gold and silver to save the people. When the people paid attention to possessions, they were stealing the devotion that rightfully belongs to God. They trusted in stuff, so God had to remind them that He was (and still is) bigger than stuff. He had to destroy it. We'll look some more at this tomorrow, but I want you to think about something. Is there anything in your life that God could be jealous of? Is there anything, even good things count, that takes the number one spot in your heart? Kids shouldn't. Husbands shouldn't. Jobs shouldn't . Even really good things can be idols. Yes, we should take care of our families with a powerful love, but that love overflows from the love that we have for Christ. When we misprioritize (yeah, I made that word up), we aren't doing anyone a favor. We will love our kids more, love our husbands more, and do a better job at work when we put Christ at the very top of our list of priorities. (There are possible exceptions, like when you shouldn't have a certain job in the first place.) That may mean that we have to re-think what is really necessary. Maybe church is more important than football or dance class. Maybe having a daily quiet time is better than the extra half-hour of sleep (ouch!).

Think on it, and I'll talk to you very soon!


Monday, October 27, 2008

An Angry God

There are times when we think of God the same way that we think of Santa Clause. He's sweet. He gives us stuff. He may threaten to hold out if we're bad, but it's not true. He'll give us stuff because He likes it when we're happy.

We're going to look at Zephaniah this week, or more. It's a Minor Prophet, so it's small, and not studied too often. I'm hoping that it will help us get to know God better, for who He really is. You're going to need your Bible for this one. I usually cut and paste the verses, but we're going to look at large chunks of Scripture this week. It's good to use your own Bible anyway. You can write notes, underline, and get familiar enough with it that you can find the passage on Sunday morning before the invitation. Good all around.

Look at Zephaniah 1:2-6, and answer the following questions:

1. In verses 2 and 3, who is God talking about destroying?

2. In verses 4-6, who is God talking about punishing?

3. What are the people doing in verses 4-6 that God is angry about?

The first verses start with a general warning. God is going to wipe out the earth as we know it. Clean slate. All the stuff that we work our whole lives to build is going to be gone. He is bigger. He owns the place. And one day, He is going to undo all that we have done, so that it can be done His way, the right way.

Then the verses move to Judah and Jerusalem, God's people. They are His chosen people, His children, but He is angry with them and is about to punish them. They have been idolatrous. It isn't that they don't worship Him. They are worshiping Him while worshiping other gods.

Now look at verses 7-13.

4. What is the sacrifice God has prepared in verse 7?

5. In verse 8, God is going to punish a specific group; who is that?

6. Pay special attention to verse 12. Who does He say He is going to punish? Why?

God has prepared a sacrifice. He is going to sacrifice His own people. They have sinned and refused to repent. Now blood must be spent to pay for it. God does not accept sin from His followers. If you are saved, you are expected to act like it. Sin is a big deal. It cost Jesus His life. God doesn't take it lightly; neither should His people.

God is specifically angry at the priests and religious leaders. They are supposed to be leading God's people in righteousness, but they have misled their followers into sin. When we accept positions of leadership in the church, we must be prepared for higher standards. That doesn't mean that pastors, deacons, or teachers should be expected to be perfect, but we should hold each other accountable. Spiritual leadership isn't supposed to be easy.

Verse twelve is going to be our main verse of the day.

Zephaniah 1:12 (New American Standard) "It will come about at that time That I will search Jerusalem with lamps, And I will punish the men Who are stagnant in spirit, Who say in their hearts, 'The LORD will not do good or evil!'

Zephaniah 1:12 (New Living Translation) "I will search with lanterns in Jerusalem's darkest corners to punish those who sit complacent in their sins. They think the LORD will do nothing to them, either good or bad.

God is going to search out the people who are stagnant, complacent with their spiritual maturity. This is a huge issue in American churches today! We are fine with our "minor sins". We fight amongst ourselves. Eat ridiculously too much. Talk about each other. Start arguments over nothing of any value. Watch television that has no right in our home. Talk to our husbands and children as if they were worthless. But as long as we aren't sleeping with anyone that we shouldn't be or drinking heavily, we consider ourselves safe, never mind if we are neglecting the relationships that we have or treat our bodies as if they are our own. Sin, even the secret ones that are small, or the church sponsored ones, like over-eating, is a big deal! Complacency over our sin is unacceptable. We should mourn it, repent of it, beg God to burn it out of us!

Just because you don't feel guilty for it, that doesn't mean that it isn't sin. Just because the people around you think that it "isn't that bad" doesn't mean that it isn't sin. You belong to God, Christian. He gets to choose what is sin and what isn't.

The next part of this verse is interesting as well.

Who say in their hearts, 'The LORD will not do good or evil!'

How often do we think that God isn't going to do anything? Life is what we make it, right? We leave God right out of the equation. We don't expect Him to judge us for our sin. We don't expect God to do great things through us. We survive. We try to find things to make us feel complete because we don't expect God to do anything worth waiting on. How sad is that existence.

Maybe there are exceptions. When someone we love is in the hospital or we're really hoping for a new job, we start hoping. All of the sudden, God seems bigger. What if we were to look to Him in everything? What if we expected Him to act? What if we really waited on Him to take the lead?

We'll continue looking at what we can learn about God, and how we relate to Him, from Zephaniah tomorrow. Until then, keep asking yourself what you expect from God and what you think God expects from you, and have fun saying "Zephaniah".

Friday, October 24, 2008

One Last Thing About Love

Maybe everything that I've said about love this week seems a little crazy, unrealistic. Maybe you're left with the thought, "No one can love like that." Let me tell you, One has loved like that. Not just any One... God has loved you like that! His love for you endures all things, and the hope for that love is that you will come to know Him. He isn't just sitting back, hoping that you will come to Him, though. He came to you! He died for you. He rose for you. He defeated death. By the beatings, pain, and resurrection that He experienced, you are able to receive eternal life! That is love. He is our example. You may want to re-read some of this week's entries with that in mind. You may want to email me and talk some more about this love, the love that changes everything. I would love nothing more than to talk to you about it, without judgment, just love.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Love: Part 4

1 Corinthians 13:7 [Love] bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

1 Corinthians 13:7 Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.

I put the verse for today in two versions (New American Standard Bible and New Living Translation). The NASB uses the word bear. The Greek word for that is the same for roofing a house in order to prevent rain from getting in. What does that have to do with love? Love builds a resistance to prevent damage. Love expects problems, prepares for them, and prevents them from taking over. Sometimes we like to blame failed relationships on someone else, but this love, God's love, doesn't do that. Even if the other person involved chooses to leave the relationship, the love that we have for them doesn't stop. We don't retaliate. Yes, someone else can choose to leave a relationship against our will. That doesn't change how we act toward them. We are still required to love them.

Romans 12:21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

My parents quoted the verse above a lot. It was especially common when my brother and I were fighting. We would always blame the other for our bad decisions. That's a hard command to swallow. I'm not only supposed to put up with the wrong committed around me and to me, but I'm supposed to see that wrong as a reason to do right. When the people around us act badly, or even cruelly, we have an opportunity to show just how different we are as Christians.

Matthew 5:43-44 You have heard that it was said, 'YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR and hate your enemy.' 44 "But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,

Do you see the wrong people have done to you as a reason to be kind to them? Jesus tells us to pray for our enemies. One of the reasons that is a good idea is because it is a reminder to us that they are people, desperate for God's help, just like we are. When we pray for our enemies, we remember that God is still in control. He loves them, and He loves us.

The next thing that we see about the love God has given us to give to others is that it believes all things. The word for believe can also mean "entrust". We don't lose faith in God when bad things happen. We entrust that God will take care of us. By maintaining faith in our Lord, we are able to love the people around us. We are freed from the belief that justice is in our own hands. That isn't to say that the government shouldn't punish criminals. The government's authority is a way that God maintains justice in this world. It's right that there should be a system to place consequences on crime. We know, though, that if a crime slips through the cracks here, He will bring justice about. That may come in the form of Jesus' payment, and not punishment for the person who has hurt us. We can have faith that the death of God's Son is good enough to pay for the hurt we experience. Remember, you have caused pain in the lives of people in your life. By God's grace, you will not have to pay the price before it because it is already paid for you.

Love has hope. God's love is able to hope for reconciliation, even after a horribly messy divorce. God's love hopes that we can one day rebuild a relationship with an alcoholic father. God's love hopes that our children will see the evil of their actions and come into a relationship with Christ that restores our relationship with them. God's love hopes that our parents will someday forgive us for the horrible things we said that caused our relationship to fall apart. God's love has a hope that makes it last.

Because of that hope, God's love can endure every situation. God's love isn't always easy or fun. It is based in servitude. (We discussed that yesterday, so you may want to look back.) When we place the needs of those around us above our own, we will get hurt. That's when we simply have to endure, hold on. Remember, as you are holding on to the love you are commanded to have for the people around you, that He is holding on to you. You have hurt Him, but His love endures.

You may wonder what the pay-off is. The glory of God. When people see you loving with God's love, they are going to know that there's something different about you. They are going to know that the true love of God is powerful; it changes things. If that doesn't seem like a good enough reason, pray that God will change your heart. Pray that He will give you a desire to love His way.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Love: Part 3

If you haven't read the last couple of posts, let me encourage you to do so. We are talking about love. Specifically, the kind of love that God commands us to show each other.

John 15:12 "This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you.

John 13:34-35 "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 "By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."

Jesus is our standard. It's impossible for us to attain it when we depend on ourselves, but He has given us His Spirit. We have to trust that when He tells us to do something, His Spirit will enable us to do so, by His power. We have no excuse to refuse to love the same way that Christ loved us.

Today, we are going to continue looking at what this love, agape love, looks like.

1 Corinthians 13:5 [Love] does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered,

The English Standard Version and New Living Translation use the word "rude" for "act unbecomingly". This isn't referring to putting your elbows on the table, though you really shouldn't. Webster's Pocket Dictionary defines becoming, in this sense, as, "showing to advantage." When we love people, it should make God look good. It should be to His advantage. Love doesn't make scenes. Love is aware of how our actions look to the people around us. We don't always like hearing that our reputation is important to God, but it matters. Let's give the Church a good reputation by acting out of love.

Love doesn't seek it's own. That's not easy. We naturally want to get the good things that we deserve, and not the bad things that we deserve (thus, lawyers). If you're married, you are aware of this one. When we first meet a new person, we try to act as politely, kindly, selflessly as possible. After a little while, though, we go back to looking out for numero uno, ourselves. That is sin. If Jesus had been looking out for Himself instead of for us, He wouldn't have died on the cross. Selfish love is not God's love.

When you first met that special man in your life, he made you feel good just by the way he looked at you. His words gave you the "warm feelies". Being around him made you happy. It was beneficial to you to listen to him, because he was just that fascinating. Looking at him was quite enjoyable too. After a little while, though, the newness ran out. You've heard that same story a thousand times. Cooking his meals is no longer the highlight of your day. And boy, that man sure can go through laundry! That is when agape love is required. It's not always about the big sacrifices. Sometimes we need to be loving through the little things. That may mean making "the mood" happen when you just aren't feeling it. It may mean accepting that you will pick up his socks from the same spot in the middle of the bedroom floor everyday, and he will never know how annoying that is. You may have to make that one, special meal two or three times a month, just like his mom did. It may mean respecting his decision, even when you know that it isn't the best decision (as long as it isn't unbiblical). Or, if you are a very different person from me, you may have to take the risk of conflict in order to give him the wise counsel that he may need to receive from the one God has given him as a helper. When we love, we give up our own rights to look out for the needs of others.

My dad has a saying. "He can't get your goat unless you have a goat to get got." There are people who like picking fights. They thrive on conflict. They know that they can win the argument, so they pick one just to prove it. We have to be strong. We have to refuse being provoked. We will have to choose to put on a happy face and say something annoyingly pleasant. "You always have such interesting theories." "I respect your opinion. Did you see that big sale at Baby Gap?"

Love keeps no record of wrongs. This is another one that is especially applicable to married couples. Sometimes we keep a running list of all the bad stuff that the other person has done to us. It may not be on purpose. It may be something that is in the back of our heads. We may think, "Well, I may have said something mean last night, but he totally forgot to compliment me after I took two hours getting ready the other day. We're even." These things have a way of coming out in the middle of an argument. Or it may just be your way of quietly manipulating the situation. This can be a problem between friends, church members, or other relatives, as well as married couples. We have to choose to forgive, and intentionally let go of, past wrongs. We may need to be aware of a weakness, like alcoholism or a dangerous temper, but we also have to make every effort to prevent that from changing our relationship.

1 Corinthians 13:6 [Love] does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth;

Has there ever been someone that you were just waiting to take a moral nose dive? Someone who hurt you deeply in the past, maybe? Sometimes we enjoy seeing people fall. Two words: Brittany Spears. She is someone that a lot of people have taken a kind of perverted joy in watching fail. It may be that we're jealous, or we could just dislike her for some of the things she's said and done. It doesn't matter. We should never, ever take joy in the mistakes of other people. When we hear that a politician from the other side of the aisle took money that they shouldn't have or slept with someone that they really shouldn't have, it is not okay to be happy about it. We should mourn sin, even in the lives of people that we dislike.

On the other side of the same coin, the truth should always be respected and valued. We should take pride in the honesty of our children. We should make a point of telling the whole truth to our husbands about how much we spent on our last shopping venture. We should lovingly point out that our best friend's choice in boyfriends is just not a good one. When someone asks us for advice, and we know that the truth will hurt, it is not loving them to soften the truth or water it down. We should care about people's feelings, but God does not accept lies in the name of protecting our friends from the truth. God hates lies. We should too. Be kind in telling the truth, but tell the truth.

I intend to conclude this look at love tomorrow. But I intended for the whole thing to last two days, not four. I hope that this has been as much benefit to you as it has to me. I'll leave you with one more passage for your mind and heart to chew on.

1 John 5:1-3 Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ(1 )has become a child of God. And everyone who loves the Father loves his children, too. 2 We know we love God's children if we love God and obey his commandments. 3 Loving God means keeping his commandments, and his commandments are not burdensome.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Love: Part 2

We are going to continue looking at the kind of love that God commands us to have for each other. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 gives us a description of the kind of love that we should show to each other. The word used for love is "agape". Greek has four different words for love.

Agape- God's love. The kind of love that we are commanded to have for each other. The kind described in this passage. Generally characterized by sacrifice.

Philia- brotherly love. Friendly, but imperfect.

Eros- sexual, romantic love. Often times this love presents itself in selfish ways.

Storge- motherly love.

The following verse uses the agape form of love:

John 15:12 "This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you.

We are commanded to show God's love to the people around us. It is a sin not to. Just as it is sinful to lie, steal, or commit adultery, it is sinful to refuse to do everything possible to love other people with a godly love. Now, let's go ahead and look at our passage for today.

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, 5 does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, 6 does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Allow me to note that this passage isn't describing love so that you know it when it comes along. The idea isn't "If you feel this way about someone, you're in love." Instead, this passage is explaining, "When you love people, here's how it should look." It's going to require effort. You may think that you can't make yourself love someone. That's a lie that Satan tells you so that you are willing to disobey God's command to you. You can't make yourself like someone, or enjoy their company, but by God's grace, you can choose to act lovingly toward them. Love, in this passage, is a verb.

The first thing that this passage says about love is that it is patient. When you love someone the way that God tells us to, you are going to intentionally fight the urge to get impatient. The word here can also mean "to persevere". God's love sticks with it. When we love someone the way that we are supposed to, we are going to have to put up with junk. People are going to be rude. They are going to get on our last nerve. They may even hurt us or act cruelly toward us, but none of that voids the commandment we received to love them.

Love is kind. We are supposed to look for opportunities to show kindness toward those around us. That may mean a kind word, as long as it is true. It may also mean taking dinner to a new mom, or speaking to someone that other people prefer to to stay away from. Kindness requires us to look for ways to help the people around us. When we are kind, we may have to move out of our comfort zone, or sacrifice our own wants.

Jealousy is not loving. Jealousy requires us to think that we deserve something more than someone else in our lives. According to Webster's Pocket Dictionary, jealousy means, "Hostile or envious over the advantages, good fortune, etc. of others." When we are jealous of the people around us, it prevents us from being kind to them or being patient with them, and we won't be loving toward them. When we are jealous, we are telling God that He was wrong for blessing someone else instead of us. We forget that God has the right to give to whomever He pleases. He has created us and bought us with a price. If He wants to give to one of His creations and not to us, that is His right. We have to respect that God is going to do what is best for us, and that may not always be fun or easy.

A quick note: Married couples belong to each other. Although it is possible to be too possessive of a spouse, a husband or wife has the right to expect faithfulness from the other. It isn't unloving to have such an expectation. If you feel that your husband is being too possesive, first check to make sure that your actions aren't impure. He should be angry if you are flirtatious toward other men. He may be overly sensitive, but try to respect his wishes by making him second only to God.

Love doesn't brag. It isn't arrogant. Why? We can't show God's love while thinking that we are great in and of ourselves because we are sinners. We aren't good. We aren't righteous. Jesus, who deserved to brag, (He is God, after all), chose to humble Himself for our sake.

Philippians 2:5-8 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Arrogance puts self first. Love puts others first. The two cannot co-exist.

We will continue tomorrow. Consider your relationships. Are you more worried about what you deserve than what shows God's love? Jesus didn't deserve to die. You and I deserve Hell. Aren't you glad that He gave up what He deserved so we could receive His love? Strive to show the kind of love that He has shown us. It won't be easy, but we are commanded to do difficult things for Christ. He gives us His Spirit to help us as we live for His glory.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Love: Part 1

For the next couple of days, we will be looking at love, specifically the love that people have for one another. 1 Corinthians 13 is often referred to as "the love chapter", so it's a good place to start. The goal of this chapter is to give a thorough description of the kind of love that God desires for us to have for each other. Love is a feeling, but not just a feeling. If it were just a feeling, I'm not sure that He could command us to have it for each other. In the following verses, Jesus is commanding His disciples to follow His example in love:

John 13:34-35 "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 "By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."

Now, let's look at the importance of love in the life of the Christian.

1 Corinthians 13:1-13 If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.

There are lots of preachers, and speakers, and talkative church members in this world who love the sound of their own voice. Some of them are very good at speaking well. They can draw emotion from people, moving them to actions of service. That just isn't enough, though. If we can speak beautifully, but we speak out of any motive other than love, it is just plain annoying to God. It sounds to him like a clanging cymbal.

There are lots of people who are incredibly wise. They understand verses quickly and can make deep, theological questions seem simple. There are some who never doubt God. They take Him at His word. But without a loving heart behind their knowledge and their belief, it amounts to nothing. Those gifts are meaningless, useless to God.

There are some who seem incredibly generous. They are willing to sacrifice of themselves for the sake of others. There are those that are willing to place themselves on the altar, not thinking of their livelihoods. But if those actions are motivated by fear, anger, or anything other than love, it's of no benefit. It isn't the kind of gift that God wants.

Are those things bad? No. In fact, they are listed as gifts that the Spirit has given men upon entering their lives as a way of helping them to serve. The problem is, they aren't enough without love. Love is the ingredient that makes our gifts what they should be. Without it, we are working hard, but not for God. We are working for ourselves. It is the love that we receive from God, and are charged from God to give, that makes our efforts worth it.

Tomorrow, we are going to continue looking at 1 Corinthians 13. We will be studying what God's love, the kind He wants us to give, looks like. Remember, our love for each other begins with His love for us.If you don't know Him, and haven't received His love, you will not be able to love as you should until you do. Your relationships will suffer, and you will suffer. Please, email me if you have any questions about how you can receive the love that changes everything.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Holy Spirit's Faithfulness

The Holy Spirit is active in the life of the Christian. As we have mentioned before, He guides us through suffering and gives us wisdom. We have said that sin limits the power of the Spirit in our lives. The ultimate end to the Holy Spirit's work within us, though, is our purification. The suffering that we endure, as well as the times of joy and success, are tools for making us more like Jesus.

1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 Now may the God of peace make you holy in every way, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ comes again. 24 God will make this happen, for he who calls you is faithful.

What joy, sweet sisters! He has promised us that He will make this happen. His method for accomplishing that goal is the Holy Spirit. He put Himself in us out of His faithfulness to us. He didn't start a job that He couldn't complete. Did you notice the phrase "be kept blameless"? The grammatical term for what's going on there is "passive voice". That means that although we are receiving a command, we are not the ones accomplishing the work. He's the One that changes us. We can refuse His gift, but we can't earn it.

Let's look at a few more verses that talk about the Holy Spirit's faithfulness to us.

2 Corinthians 3:18 So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord-- who is the Spirit-- makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.

First, God enabled us to see Him for who He is and reflect what we see to the world around us. But He didn't stop there. He doesn't do anything half-way. He works through His Spirit to make us like more like Him.

2 Thessalonians 2:13 As for us, we can't help but thank God for you, dear brothers and sisters loved by the Lord. We are always thankful that God chose you to be among the first to experience salvation-- a salvation that came through the Spirit who makes you holy and through your belief in the truth.

1 Peter 1:2 God the Father knew you and chose you long ago, and his Spirit has made you holy. As a result, you have obeyed him and have been cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ.May God give you more and more grace and peace.

God's grace is abundant. It grows with our circumstances. We all have those moments when we look in the mirror and wonder if we're ever going to get there. We will, but not because of anything that is inside of us, apart from God Himself. His Spirit is at work within you, and He is faithful to His people. His love doesn't change; He is always good. We will be made perfect, if we will just submit ourselves to Him.

Philippians 1:6 And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Holy Spirit's Power Over Suffering

Let's move on to the power of the Spirit over times of suffering. More than just not sinning, we have the power to minister, to bring the Light of the Truth into the lives of those around us, no matter the circumstances. After Jesus had fasted in the wilderness for over a month, He went back into town to begin His ministry. This is just after coming face-to-face with Satan. He had resisted the temptation to turn rocks into bread, after forty days without food. I'm pretty sure that what I would do is go home, let Mary cook me a really good dinner, and sleep. What Jesus did is a little different. He started teaching. How did He do that? You may think that it has to do with the fact that He is God. He may be God, but He is also human. He was tired. He was hungry. He was also filled with the Spirit.

Luke 4:13-15 When the devil had finished every temptation, he left Him until an opportune time. 14 And Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about Him spread through all the surrounding district. 15 And He began teaching in their synagogues and was praised by all.

Jesus had been in suffering, but He made it through the wilderness. He kept going, by the power of the Spirit. The Spirit that empowered our Savior is the same that empowers us!

Acts 1:6-8 So when they had come together, they were asking Him, saying, "Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?" 7 He said to them, "It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority; 8 but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth."

Here, the new Christians are asking the resurrected Jesus if the glory days had finally come. The Jewish people had been waiting on the Messiah, believing that His main goal was to restore Israel to her rightful political status and financial glory. They were ready for the days of difficulty and struggle to be over. Their time of suffering had not ended, but their time of ministry had begun. They asked Him for hope, and He handed them work. Why? Because they had the Spirit now. Earthly things, like political power and a healthy economy, aren't what matters to the Spirit-filled person. Spreading the Word of God, ministering the dying who don't know the Good News, that's what matters!

The Book of Acts has several examples of people who are standing at death's door. Peter was in trouble with religious leaders (the same people that hung Jesus on a cross), but then the power of God's Holy Spirit came upon Him and He got to preaching! (Acts 4)

Stephen was under attack from the Jewish leaders for performing miracles in the name of Jesus. He started telling them the Good News. They argued with him, but the power of the Spirit was so overwhelming that they "were unable to cope" with the wisdom given to Him. (Acts 6)

This is exciting stuff, isn't it? It makes me want to shout and throw up my hands and praise. But the stories above aren't complete. Jesus had been led into the wilderness, into temptation, even, by the Spirit.

Luke 4:1 Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led around by the Spirit in the wilderness

Peter was eventually martyred for following Christ. Acts 7 tells the story of Stephen's death. He was stoned, becoming the very first Christian martyr. Here's the conclusion of Stephen's story:

Acts 7:54-60 Now when they heard this, they were cut to the quick, and they began gnashing their teeth at him. 55 But being full of the Holy Spirit, he gazed intently into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God; 56 and he said, "Behold, I see the heavens opened up and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God." 57 But they cried out with a loud voice, and covered their ears and rushed at him with one impulse. 58 When they had driven him out of the city, they began stoning him; and the witnesses laid aside their robes at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59 They went on stoning Stephen as he called on the Lord and said, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!" 60 Then falling on his knees, he cried out with a loud voice, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them!" Having said this, he fell asleep.

We like to focus on the fact that Stephen got a glimpse of Heaven, but if that were you, or your son or daughter, how would you feel about it? I fear for my children as Edwin and I plan to go overseas. I don't like the idea that one my daughters could get hurt, or even die, as we follow Christ's leading, even if Heaven does open up as she takes her final breaths! But that is the power of the Spirit! I can go; I will go! It will bring hardship, to my children as well as to myself. That is the power of the Spirit! It is more than power to be victorious over hard times. It is the power to praise. It is the power to preach. It is the power to pray. It is the power to minister.

You may have thought that this study was going to have a focus on peace and joy in hardship. Allow me to point you to a couple of passages that are often cited in connection with suffering:

Romans 8:28-39 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.

Sometimes, we stop there, but when we do that, we miss the point. As the passage continues, it explaines what "good" all things are working toward in the life of the Christian.

29 For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; 30 and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.

The good that God is working on isn't our happiness. It isn't simple circumstances. The goal of our suffering is to make us look more like His Son. We are being glorified through the pain of difficult times. We were meant to reflect the glory of God, and through the refining of fire, i.e. hardship, we are able to do that better.

31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? 32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? 33 Who will bring a charge against God's elect? God is the one who justifies; 34 who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. 35 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 Just as it is written, "FOR YOUR SAKE WE ARE BEING PUT TO DEATH ALL DAY LONG; WE WERE CONSIDERED AS SHEEP TO BE SLAUGHTERED." 37 But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Did you see where it says that we are considered sheep to be slaughtered? That's right. We could die. Victory isn't found on this Earth. When we hope in the temporal, we limit the greatness of God in our lives. We are conquerors over the temporal! Right after talking about how we may very well die for the cause of Christ, Paul says that we "overwhelmingly conquer". Why? Because the "good" that he refers to in verse 28, isn't circumstantial. We are made to be more like Christ; that is good. We are forced to depend on the Spirit of God; that is good. We are able to minister the Good News for His sake; that is good.

James 1:2-4 Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 4 And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

Perfect and complete... There's only One who fits that description. His name is Jesus. We can be joyful as we endure the most difficult parts of our lives because God is at work. By dwelling in the Spirit, from whom we receive joy and patience (Galatians 5:22), we are able to see more than a silver lining. We see the point. The glorification of our King. That is our joy, because He is within us. We are joyful because through the suffering of our flesh, our spirit is renewed!

The man holding the coats as Stephen was being stoned to death was named Saul. Just a little bit later, Jesus threw him off of his horse, blinded him, adopted him as His own, and changed his name to Paul. Paul wrote more of the New Testament than anyone else. Paul was the first missionary. Paul died in prison due to following Christ.

We don't conquer by having a better life on this earth. We conquer by doing God's will through the power of the Holy Spirit! Don't limit what God can do through you by evading suffering. Don't allow yourself to become fearful of the joyous ministry to which you have been called (2 Timothy 1:7 For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.). When you are willing to walk through the fire that comes from following Christ, you are enabling the Spirit to work in you with more power! That means joy, my friend. True joy. Joy that cannot be extinguished by a jerky boss or a stock market crash. The joy of the Spirit is infinitely greater than the happiness of the flesh, and you can only experience it when you are willing to suffer.

Monday, October 13, 2008

The Guidance of the Holy Spirit

Last week, we began looking at the role of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Christian. Now we're going to look at the guidance that the Spirit provides the believer.

We've all had those moments. We're standing at an intersection, afraid of the negative effects that either path may include. So we remain still. But we aren't told to stand still. We are told to walk. (2 Corinthians 5:7 "for we walk by faith, not by sight"; Galatians 5:16 "But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh"; Galatians 5:25 "If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.") What do we do when we get to those places of uncertainty? The verses that I listed above point to a solution. We walk by the Spirit. He lights our way. He directs our steps. Let's look into that at a greater depth.

There was a time when the Holy Spirit was not at work in the hearts of people as He is today. He was present, but not in His full power. He wasn't inside the hearts of all of His people as He is today. That may help us understand why there are so many rules in the Old Testament. If you don't have an internal compass by way of the Holy Spirit, everything has to be written out. The prophets spoke of a time when the Spirit of God would be poured out into the hearts of God's people.

Isaiah 44:3 For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour my Spirit upon your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants.

Joel 2:28-29 "And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. 29 Even on the male and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit."

This was an exciting prospect to the writers. And yet, we take it for granted. We hear this and accept it without thought or emotion. "I have the Spirit of God living in me, gotcha." Then we complain that we don't know what to do when a decision needs to be made. I'm guilty of it. How do we tap into that power inside of us? How do we benefit from the blessing that we have received?

1. Understand that the Spirit isn't the only force at work. The Spirit is there, working, directing, leading, but there's something else in us that is trying to get us to go in a different direction.

Galatians 5:17-18 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

Because of Adam's sin, we are all cursed. Our flesh, which was once perfect, designed to reflect the glory of God without error, has been tainted by sin, and now it pulls in opposition of the Spirit. There is a tug of war going on inside of you (and me) that causes confusion at times, which leads us to...

2. Look for Spirit-quenchers. The Holy Spirit doesn't try to hide His will from us. Sometimes He asks us to wait until the timing is right, but even that is guidance. If no answers are coming, you may want to see if you have some Spirit-quenchers in your life.

1 Thessalonians 5:19 Do not quench the Spirit.

John 3:34-35 For he is sent by God. He speaks God's words, for God gives him the Spirit without limit. 35 The Father loves his Son and has put everything into his hands.

Jesus led a perfect life, and because of that, the Spirit was poured on Him "without measure". There was no limit to the power He was able to receive. He was in total communion with God through the Spirit because there were no Spirit-quenchers in Him.

Ephesians 4:30 And do not bring sorrow to God's Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption.

How we live affects the Holy Spirit that dwells within us. When we live a life of sin, we grieve Him. Sin makes God unhappy. We ignore this at times because it makes us uncomfortable. Why would a perfect God reveal His glory in a life full of sin? If you continue in sin, judging other people harshly, lying, being envious of other people and their possessions, hating others based in skin tone or financial position (or for any other reason, including the simple fact that they are evil and deserve the plague of boils to come upon them), or any other sin, mental, physical, or emotional, you will quench the power of the Spirit in your life. You won't be able to hear His guidance or understand His will.

Test the leading by the Word of God. Later in Galatians 5, Paul lists two sets of characteristics.

Galatians 5:19-23 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

When you reach a place of decision, this may be a good place to look for guidance. Ask yourslef questions like:

  • Am I doing this out of impatience, because I'm tired of waiting?
  • Do I want to do this because I'm jealous of someone else?
  • Am I acting out of anger?
  • Is this an action coming from love, that isn't based in rivalry or cliquishness?
  • Am I looking to God for joy, or am I trying to generate happiness my own way?
  • Am I practicing self-control, or am I just giving in to things that I know are excessive?
  • How hard am I working to make peace? Am I giving in to my desire for confrontation or us vs. them?
The book of Proverbs is another good place to look for wisdom. In general, the more time that you spend in the Bible, the easier it is going to be to make wise choices. Remember that the Spirit of God, and the Word of God will not contradict each other. The Holy Spirit is the source from which we receive the Bible, so we can trust that He will never guide us against the Bible. (Jesus never wants for you to lie or have an affair, for example.)

4. Set your mind on things above.

Romans 8:6 So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace.

Philippians 4:8-9 And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. 9 Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me-- everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.

The more that you think like God, the more that you are going to act like He wants you to. If you are at a loss for direction, consider if your mental diet is hurting you. Somehow, watching Grey's Anatomy, may lead you to believe that certain things, like sleeping with... anyone or taking revenge on someone who has seriously wronged you, are okay, encouraging your flesh in its wrong thinking. Reading romance novels (the kind that aren't exactly sold in LifeWay), listening to junk music, or talking to the wrong people can cause undue confusion and lead you down paths of sin. The wrong people category includes "good people" who don't test their wisdom by Christ (Dr. Phil and Oprah are celebrity examples, but Aunt Irene counts too). They can easily lead you astray.

5. Accept it when you get an answer, even if it's not the one you were hoping for. Over the years, I have heard a lot of people ask for advice from ministers, but they already knew the answer. They just hoped that they would get a different answer. "No, it's perfectly fine to sleep with him, if you really, really love him." "If he isn't caring for your needs, you should file for divorce." "Three pieces of cake isn't really gluttony, just a little bit of a treat." We all hope to hear those answers, but we know that they aren't what God really thinks. We've all been there. We know we should turn off the television, but we really like this show! We know that we should get off of our behinds and go for a walk, but we just don't feel like it. You aren't always going to like the answers, to big questions, or little ones, but they are the answer.

One more thing, remember that the Spirit can lead you through suffering. We sometimes get it into our head that the Spirit's main job is to prevent any hardship. That is a lie from the pit of Hell. It's His job to walk with us through the suffering, not prevent it!

2 Corinthians 4:7-11 We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves. 8 We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. 9 We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. 10 Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies. 11 Yes, we live under constant danger of death because we serve Jesus, so that the life of Jesus will be evident in our dying bodies.

In the midst of difficulty, the power of God is being perfecting in us! In the darkest days of our lives, we are being made more like Him. Sometimes we are experiencing discipline for bad choices we made in the past. Others we suffer because we made the right choices. But just because we are in pain, we aren't excused from behaving in a Christ-like manner:

1 Peter 2:20-24 Of course, you get no credit for being patient if you are beaten for doing wrong. But if you suffer for doing good and endure it patiently, God is pleased with you. 21 For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his steps. 22 He never sinned, nor ever deceived anyone. 23 He did not retaliate when he was insulted, nor threaten revenge when he suffered. He left his case in the hands of God, who always judges fairly. 24 He personally carried our sins in his body on the cross so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right. By his wounds you are healed.

Even in our suffering, as we patiently look to God for our help, He is there, comforting and loving us. If you are being led through suffering, I hope that the following promise will bring you joy:

2 Corinthians 1:5 For the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ.

Friday, October 10, 2008

The Holy Spirit's Role in the Believer

We are going to talk about what it means to dwell in the Spirit of God. We will use this as a starting place for a better understanding of what God wants from us and for us.

One of the first things that I saw when I was going through various verses that talk about the Holy Spirit, is that is our guarantee of things to come. I didn't really understand this at all when I first read it. Read the following verses and see what you can learn from them:

2 Corinthians 5:5 He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.

2 Corinthians 1:21-22 And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, 22 and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.

Ephesians 1:13-14 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

What does it mean to be sealed by the Holy Spirit? For one thing, the Holy Spirit's presence in our lives is proof to everyone around us that something is happening in us. We are marked. We are characterized by certain qualities that set us apart, make us holy, for God's purposes. That means that we may seem to be freakish at times. We won't always fit in. We are sealed shut, so that only God has access to us. We are His, and He is not going to let Satan or his minions get their hands on us.

Secondly, being sealed by the Holy Spirit means that we can be sure that He is coming back, and He will claim us. We noted that the Holy Spirit doesn't sit back and watch His beloved (that would be us, Christians!) be desecrated by sin. He is active. He changes those that belong to Him. He produces fruit. (Galatians 5:22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.) Let me assure you, if the Holy Spirit is present in someone's life, He will be evident. A seal is meant to be seen. We can know that because of the changes that the Holy Spirit makes within us, we belong to God, and He will return for us! Although our bodies may die, we can find peace in knowing that this is just the beginning. At the end of this life, we will exchange that precious Seal for an eternal home in glory where we can worship our Maker and bask in His glory. We will be able to love Him as He should be, fulfilling everything that our inner spirits were meant to do from the day that God breathed life into the dust of the ground! Such joy is ours, sweet sisters, that because we have been set apart for the purposes of God, He will use us on this Earth until the day that His work in us and through us has been completed and we can return to our true Home with our Groom!!! The Holy Spirit, then, is a sort of engagement ring. By it, we know that our future husband (Christ) is going to come and take us on one amazing honeymoon, but this one lasts for eternity, without growing boring, and without awkwardness. Only pure love and passion as we have never known them.

The next thing that I want us to see about the Holy Spirit is that He lives in the Word of God. The Bible is a meeting place for our soul to meld with the Spirit. Look at the verse below.

Ephesians 6:17-18 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints,

The Spirit protects us from unrighteousness and our own stupidity. He slaughters the evil in our own hearts and the world around us. By spending time in the Word, we are able to fend off bad decisions, fear sent from Satan to prevent us from the glorious work for which we are destined, and the people around us who constantly try to pull us from the heart of our King. By the Word of God, we receive the wisdom of God. Think about it: The Bible is a collection of the thoughts and feelings of God, open for us to read. It's God's diary! He has nothing to hide. He longs for our hearts to beat in sync with His, and the best way to get there is to read His Word and pray to Him. Notice that the Word of God and prayer go hand in hand. He speaks to us, and we speak to Him. Just as in any relationship, sharing our thoughts and feelings with complete openness allows us to grow closer, and prevents us from building walls that could separate us from Him.

Finally, I want us to look at the promise of the Holy Spirit.

1 John 4:13 By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit.

Romans 8:15-16 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, "Abba! Father!" 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,

Galatians 3:2 2 Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith?

We know that we know God, that we have been counted among God's children, by knowing the Spirit is alive within us. It is by the Spirit that we were adopted into the family of God. There are two human relationships used as metaphors for the relationship between God and the Christian. One, as already discussed, is the marital relationship. The other is the Father-child relationship. Neither of these metaphors are complete. Even together, they cannot begin to fully explain the kind of unity that we will experience with Him in Heaven. They are as close as we can get, though. We have been adopted. To be adopted required to adopting parent(s) to say, "You aren't mine, but you will be. You don't have to do anything to receive my love, and you may not understand it at first, but you will. There will be no difference between you and a biological child. You are precious to me, and I choose to love you. You can't change that, and I won't change that."

Before Edwin and I ever got serious, I told him that I was going to adopt one day. I've had my heart set on it from the time I was fourteen. To be completely honest, I'm much more excited about the idea of adopting than I ever was about having a child naturally. There's something incredibly beautiful to me about a family and a child uniting. They may look different. They may come from totally different parts of the world. They may have never found each other, but they did, and now they are a family. The love is just the same as the love between any parent and child. They get the same allowance, the same groundings, the same rules. I just love it! I can't imagine a greater modern picture of what Christ has done for us. He paid a price so that we can be the children of the one, true, and living God! He loves us as if we were born to Him, without sin, without blemish. He loves us as if we look like Him, as if we hadn't marred the image of Him that He once placed in us.

He hasn't brought us home yet, but He's a-coming! He is on His way. We are doing everything to get our house ready for Him, because we want to make Him happy. He has already given us everything. He has already accepted us as His own, if we know Him and have been adopted by His blood. It wasn't because we deserved it, and it wasn't because we could ever earn it. He hated our sin, and it was worth the punishment of Hell, but in His wrath and His love, He paid the price. Now He has placed His Spirit, His own presence, inside of us. We are marked to be set aside for Him. We can't be used for silly, earthly things, like material wealth, or serving our own priorities. We are getting things ready for our Precious Betrothed. Our wedding day's coming, and we are going to look good! Have you taken the time to look into the mirror of God's Word and check your heart? Remember your first date? Remember all the time that you took making sure that your shoes looked just right? Remember getting ready for the prom, and all the time you spent on your makeup? Are you as concerned with looking good for the One who will never let you down, who paid an astounding price for you, as you were then? Are you as horrified at the thought of being covered in sin the day that our King arrives to take us home as you would be if your wedding dress was splashed with mud walking into the church? It's time to re-prioritize. Greatness is calling, and His name is Jesus.

Formal Introductions

My name is Hannah Attaway. I am the mother of two precious little girls, to whom I will refer as De and El for this blog. De is 2 1/2 and El is 6 months. They are my full-time job, and a total joy to me. My husband is the pastor of a small church in Kentucky. He is my best friend, and I love him more than anyone else on Earth. We are preparing for the likely possibility that we may be heading overseas to work as missionaries. It's an exciting thought, and it's requiring us to trust in the Father more than ever.

I write a devotional blog for the women of my church. I decided to post the Bible studies here as well, to be shared publicly. I hope that they benefit you as you grow closer to our King.