Monday, November 26, 2012

How the Holy Spirit Works on All

Did you ever come across an explanation of something that finally put into words what you had been trying to say, but couldn't? 

Well, a daily devotional in Charles Stanley's October 2012 devotional magazine, In Touch, has done just that regarding the working of the Holy Spirit. 

See, people have often asked me how an individual comes to belief in Christ, and I believe the following explains the process. Then, people will ask me how the Holy Spirit works in a Christian's life, and again, I believe the following explains that process as well. Certainly one can delve more deeply into this. But for a plain-as-day summation, this is how the Holy Spirit began its work on me before I was saved, and how it works on me now that I am saved. 

Here it is:

"Jesus assured His disciples that it was to their advantage that He go away so the Helper could come (John 16:7). God sends His Spirit to convict people of their sin. Since the Holy Spirit is unlimited by time or space, He can reach out to every individual on the planet. However, His work differs with regard to believers and unbelievers.
God's spirit penetrates the unbeliever's heart and brings awareness of wrongdoing. He reveals that according to God's holy standard, that person has sinned and stands condemned by his or her transgression. Unbelief is the greatest sin against God, so every prick of the heart is meant to point out one's need for the Savior. 
As for believers, the Holy Spirit deals with us on the basis of our relationship with Jesus Christ and convicts us of disobedience to the Lord. In other words, He makes us aware of specific sins and God's attitude about such behavior. He also prompts us to confess our wrongs and repent, which helps us to become accountable.
Convicting believers of sin is an important part of the Holy Spirit's job, but He is equally delighted to make them aware of the Lord's approval. God commends righteous living, obedient actions, and loving acts done in his name.
While conviction is often uncomfortable for unbelievers and believers alike, it's a beautiful demonstration of God's love. He desires to bring us into the center of His will and keep us there for our good and His glory. The Holy Spirit's work makes that possible, if we choose to follow His promptings." 
From "The Nature of Conviction," Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012, In Touch 

"But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment: in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me; in regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; and in regard to judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned. I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. " John 16:7-13a

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Grateful That He Watches Over Me

"Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows." Matthew 10:29-31

"Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows." Luke 12:6-7

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Can’t See Jesus? Get Out of the Way…

How you see yourself determines how you see Jesus: if you see yourself as being self sufficient, you won’t see any need for a Savior. This comment was made yesterday in a radio sermon by Dr. J. Vernon McGee.

Making a similar point is a quote I jotted down a few years ago from the Wall Street Journal which says, “Perspective is often the first casualty of self-righteousness.”

If our perspective of our self is based on our own high regard for our self, we are viewing our self from a warped perspective. We will be blind to the truth about ourselves, and that will blind us to seeing Jesus.

God is the one true plumb line against which we can measure ourselves. Only when we go to Him to see ourselves from His perspective will we see rightly.

And that’s a good thing. Because the last place I want to live in is denial, not to mention bondage to the darkness that is me. I don’t want to pathetically search and navel gaze into oblivion, making “me” a personal pastime, only to leave a “trail of busted stuff” (in the words of Dave Matthews) in my wake.

The old saying goes, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” The truth is, we’re all broke. And we’re excellent at breaking things and hearts. All of us. No exclusions. For those prone to using the “certainlywe’re notperfectwe’reonlyhumanafterall" line of thinking, stop a minute and ask yourself if that isn’t just the lamest excuse? So because we’re human beings we’re off the hook from change; from personal transformation? We can just carry on in our hit and miss pursuit of daily life because we’re not perfect? As if there is no number line when it comes to progress? Funny, man—imperfect as he is—has managed to progress and improve upon transportation, medicine, electronics, creature comforts, etc. But that same man cannot make the same progress in personal integrity? “I’m only human” is the fastest way to mediocrity and a wasted life.

It’s precisely because we are human, created by God, that we can progress. But only in the context of the author and finisher of our faith. He who created us also reveals how we operate. In His word we discover why we do what we don’t want to do and don’t do what we want to do. We also see the picture God has drawn for us of what life with him can be like, and it will contrast sharply with the picture of how we are living without Him.

The good news is that, over time, as we enter His presence and let Him work in our hearts, we will progress, in spite of our being fallen humanity. God is the one who makes it happen, but we are the ones who let it happen through our cooperation with Him. It’s a pretty sweet deal. We get to see who we are without Christ, and then who we can become with Christ. 

Once our self-esteemed selves get out of the way, the path is clear to see ourselves the way God sees us, and we begin to experience the personal transformation we have so long tried to bring about through our own efforts. Our perspective is reborn in His righteousness, and we accept, finally and gladly, our need for Him.

“Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters;” Isaiah 55:1

“Give ear and come to me; hear me, that your soul may live.” Isaiah 55:3

“Seek the LORD while he may be found;
call on him while he is near.
Let the wicked forsake his way
and the evil man his thoughts.
Let him turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on him,
and to our God, for he will freely pardon.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.” Isaiah 55:6-8

“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:2

Monday, November 12, 2012

Thank You, Veterans

 National WWII Memorial, Washington DC

 Korean War Veterans Memorial, Washington DC

Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Washington, DC              
Photos, Barb Harwood, 11/2012

"With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations." Abraham Lincoln, Second Inaugural Address, Saturday, March 4, 1865

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

What a Wonderful World

"Many, O LORD my God,
are the wonders you have done.
The things you planned for us
no one can recount to you;
were I to speak and tell of them, 
they would be too many to declare." 
                                                Psalm 40:5

Saturday, November 3, 2012

For Some Perspective, Look Up at the Stars

Tonight, go out and look at the stars.
Let a contrite and humble heart confirm:
God is much bigger than all of us.
Our God who created the stars created us;
We don’t worship stars but Him.
Tonight, go out and look at the stars.
Know who we are in Him.

“He also made the stars.” Genesis 1:16b 

“Then the LORD answered Job out of the storm. He said, ‘Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge? Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me.’” Job 38:1-4
“Have you comprehended the vast expanses of the earth? Tell me, if you know all this.” Job 38:18
“Can you bind the beautiful Pleiades? Can you loose the cords of Orion? Can you bring forth the constellations in their seasons or lead out the Bear with its cubs? Do you know the laws of the heavens? Can you set up God’s dominion over the earth?” Job 38:31-33

“O LORD, our LORD, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” Psalm 8:1
“When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?” Psalm 8:3-4

“He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name. Great is our Lord and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit. The LORD sustains the humble…” Psalm 147: 4-6a

“Praise him, sun and moon,
praise him, all you shining stars.” Psalm 148:3

Friday, November 2, 2012

Tired of Politics? Que Sera Sera

Okay. It is an exasperated consensus among most of us that the presidential election cannot come too soon. Most people know who they're voting for, and have for quite a while, so wouldn't it be nice to ignore the junk mail, turn off the radio and TV and stop reading online news coverage and just kick back and remember what life outside of politics is like? 

In the days leading up to the election, I thought it would be fun to post some happy songs to help re-focus on the joyful side of life. This first song by Doris Day speaks to me, not fatalistically as some might interpret it, but humbly; it is an encouragement to do my part by praying and voting and then leaving the outcome to the Lord. 

Many folks feed an insatiable need to control through politics. But we are not in control. And so when people don't get their way in politics, they become angry and fixated on what is wrong, losing a balanced perspective. Dr. Ralph F. Wilson, writing about the Psalms for the JesusWalk Bible Study Series explains it this way:

Trust, he writes, "Begins with an attitude of humility. We can't rest when we feel we have to be in control. We can't relax when we have to feel like we're in charge." Wilson cites Psalm 131:1: 

"My heart is not proud, O LORD, my eyes are not haughty; I do not concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me."

Wilson continues: "Resting in God begins with humility--and perspective. He's (King David) not talking about squelching normal curiosity and inquiry. But there comes a point of obsession where we must understand. That attitude is part of the urge to control everything. There are some things beyond my knowledge. Therefore, those things that I can't fathom, that I can't understand why, I must be willing to let them go in order to rest in God."

We may not fathom why a politician thinks the way they do, or why people vote the way they do, or why the laws that are passed are passed. And we can't control outcomes; we can influence outcomes by prayer and voting and obeying God in His call on our lives. But we can't control outcomes other than how we personally choose to respond in any given situation. And even then we sometimes slip, later lamenting, with the apostle Paul, that we didn't do what we wanted to do but did what we didn't want to do (Romans 7:15). 

The only One who is truly in control at all times is God. And our trust, our "que sera sera," must be in Him: not the political process, or any given politician, or cause or law. Just Him. Que sera sera.

"But I trust in you, O LORD;
 I say, 'You are my God.' 
My times are in your hands;" Psalm 31:14-15a