Finding God Part Six

It’s hard for us to admit we have sinned against God. We’d like to think his love will cause him to ignore our short-comings. But let’s think about this from God’s perspective.

By way of analogy, if you’re at the top of a cliff, it doesn’t matter if you take a small step or a flying leap off the edge. The end result is the same. So it is with our sin. Whether we have sinned a little or a lot, we have all abandoned God, and the end result is horrifically tragic.

Because God is infinitely holy, the consequence of our fall is also infinite. We cannot pay the price ourselves. Without God’s help, we are doomed. We need a Savior.

Share – How to spread the Good News

One of the first steps we all should take as followers of Jesus is to be baptized. This is how we follow Jesus’ example of being baptized and how we publicly proclaim that we are followers of Him. It is an illustration of how we identify with the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. This does not save us as no works of our own can do that. Being baptized is an important symbol of what has happened to our lives and hearts as someone that has trusted Jesus.

We are called by Jesus to share the Good News and make disciples of others. It is not a suggestion or an option but a command. We know this sounds scary and it is hard to think about how to talk about God with those that may not know or believe in Him. Therefore, start with some basics.

We must live our life genuinely in service to God so we are not seen as hypocrites. Start praying for those you want to share with and that you believe don’t know Jesus. Keep in mind that you are not asked to save anyone but rather share the Gospel. Only the Holy Spirit can open eyes and hearts to God’s truth.

When you get that opportunity to bring this up, don’t be afraid. God is with you and wants to help. Don’t feel like you need to know the answer to every question. Focus on sharing your story and the difference God has made in your life. Use simple words in explaining how we are all sinners and in need of forgiveness.

Use “we” and “us” to let them know you are no different and just blessed enough to have heard the Good News and accepted Jesus. Don’t expect results immediately. Be faithful and let God use you in the amazing process of Him revealing himself to others. Finally, you have no idea how long God has been working on you, so don’t get discouraged if it takes a while with others.

The Carpenter

The Bible gives us very little detail of Jesus’ life between the ages of twelve and thirty, when He began his public ministry. One of the only things Scripture notes about this significant chunk of time is that Jesus was known in His community for His work as a carpenter. This is remarkable! The only thing the Bible tells us about what Jesus was doing for half of His life was doing the work of a creator and entrepreneur, revealing to us this important characteristic of the Trinity.

Given Jesus’ ultimate purpose for coming to earth, you might have expected God to choose for the Messiah to grow up in the home of a priest, like the prophets Samuel and John the Baptist, or maybe in a Pharisaical household, like the Apostle Paul. Instead, God placed Jesus in the home of a carpenter, where for eighty-five percent of His working life, He would reveal God’s character as a creator and an entrepreneur, creating new things for the good of others.

In just three years of public ministry, Jesus revealed countless characteristics about His Father. To the five thousand, Jesus showed us that God is our provider. To Lazarus, Jesus showed us that God is the giver of life. And on the cross, Jesus showed us that “God so loved the world” that He would sacrifice His only Son in order to spend eternity with us. If Jesus was able to reveal so much of God’s character in such a relatively short period of time, the fact that Jesus spent twenty years revealing God’s creative and entrepreneurial spirit should stop us in our tracks.

Think back to the first entry in this reading plan. What God created in the first six days is astonishing, but what’s equally remarkable is what He did not create. After six days of work, God left the earth largely undeveloped and uncultivated. Then He called you and I to join Him as His co-creators, “filling and subduing” the world. When we create, we are emulating the entrepreneurial and creative character of the Godhead: Father, Spirit, and Son. Your work as a creator is not “secular” or “less than” the work of a “full-time missionary” or pastor. No, you are doing God-like work for His glory and the good of others. Glorify Him through your creating today!

Who Is the Holy Spirit?

It’s probably no surprise to you that there’s a lot of abuse done in the name of the Holy Spirit—even within the church. At one end of the spectrum you’ve got the Spirit-phobia crowd, and on the other end there’s the Spirit-mania groupies. And here’s the common denominator: both operate in the extremes. One group is afraid to see the Spirit work through anything and the other group sees the Spirit working through everything.

Can we make sense of some of the mystery?

I think we can.

To do so, let’s go back to where we began by asking, “Who is the Holy Spirit?” Some don’t ask who; they ask what. That is the case with Jehovah’s Witnesses. To them, the Holy Spirit isn’t a Who but a powerful What—a life force, not a person, and most certainly not God. But as Christians, we believe the Holy Spirit is a Who. And who is He? He’s the third person of the Trinity. He’s God the Spirit.

Now you might ask, “How is it that Christians understand the Holy Spirit to be personal?” The Scriptures speak of Him as such. For example, the Holy Spirit can be lied to (Acts 5:3), resisted (Acts 7:51), grieved (Ephesians 4:30), quenched (1 Thessalonians 5:19), blasphemed (Mark 3:29), outraged (Hebrews 10:29), and much more. A force can’t be affected that way. Now, don’t confuse person with human. The Holy Spirit is a divine Personwhereas we are human persons. By person, I’m speaking relationally. God the Spirit is a relational God. And like us, as a personal God He has mind, will, and emotions (though some philosophers would argue whether God can emote). When the Bible speaks of the Holy Spirit, it doesn’t refer to the Holy Spirit as an “it”; rather the Scriptures use the personal pronouns he, his, and him (for example, see John 16:7-15).

But not only is the Holy Spirit a person, He’s a divine person. He’s the third person of the Trinity (Matthew 28:19; 2 Corinthians 13:14). He has all the divine attributes of God the Father and God the Son. The Bible depicts the Holy Spirit as all-powerful (Luke 1:35), ever-present (Psalm 139:7-8) and all-knowing (1 Corinthians 2:10-11). And to top it all off, His name is Holy.

That’s who the Holy Spirit is in crash course fashion. Call it Holy Spirit 101.

 

Reflection

If you were to err on the side of Spirit-phobia or Spirit-mania, where would you lean and why?

God’s Dream: Threads of People (Part 2)

It is our turn to be Jesus to this world. We exist for God and for those who need God. Within the church, we use our gifts to build up and equip the body. Outside of the church, we show love to show God.

Next time you are in a public space, be awkward and look in people’s eyes. People, nearly every one of them, are hurting, even if they don’t say it. And we hold armfuls of their cure. We get God, and we get to give God away; it is for our joy. I am never more content than when I am meeting need.me to call the righteous, but sinners.”

In the movie Amazing Grace, William Pitt’s character races barefoot through a field with William Wilberforce and says to him “Why is it you only feel the thorns in your feet when you stop running?” When we run for God and for people, we forget for just a moment about ourselves, and it feels amazing. Nothing makes a soul sicker than too much time given to itself.

So who needs God around you?

Pray.
Pursue them.
Ask them great questions.
Share your struggles and your God.
Dream of ways you can meet their needs.

There will be people you know who need you. But also seek out relationships with people outside your circles. Some of my favorite moments in my life have happened as I have stepped out of my comfort zone. Like taking some women from a local halfway house out to bowl with some of my friends. I remember sitting in a bowling alley with a woman just out of prison who exuded more joy than I remember ever feeling in my life. Her joy and perspective changed me-and I needed to be changed. God’s economy makes beautiful exchanges: as we give, we grow.

Seek the uncomfortable. Life is short, and it is worth the risk. You do not risk like a fool; you are wisely investing in the only two things that will not die: God and people. No better reason to make piddling a thing of the past.

Respond:

Prayerfully create a list of five names of people who need you. How can you begin to invest more in these people?

What are some practical ways you can keep all your time from going to casual friendships?

Changed

Being changed by Christ means understanding who you really are in Him. You are His disciple. Over the next four days, you will read from God’s Word about what a disciple is and explore the various things disciples do.

A great example of a disciple can be found in the early church as they worked towards carrying out the Great Commission of spreading the good news of Christ into all the nations.

Jesus’ parable of the vine and branches offers us a perfect picture of what being a disciple of Christ should look like.

As a disciple of Christ you will find a need and meet it, find a hurt and heal it, and Jesus will ask you to do a lot of things that won’t fit neatly into a point on a page.

As a disciple of Christ, it’s important that you publicly stand with Him in celebrating your new life, which is why baptism is a great first step for a new follower of Christ. Over the next three days, you will explore what the Bible has to say about the importance of baptism.

There is spiritual power in baptism. This spiritual power is experienced in the fact that you are publicly standing with Christ. You are being baptized into Christ’s death and you are also being raised into new life.

Baptism is a symbol of your being changed by Christ. If you have never been baptized, let these verses serve as encouragement to you in taking that very important next step.

Being changed means reading and studying His Word regularly. Over the next seven days, you are going to explore verses related to understanding what the Bible is, where it came from, the power of the Bible, the reliability of the Bible, and the importance of mastering the text and being mastered by it.

God’s Word is eternal and has and will continue to withstand the test of time. It is absolute and we must submit to His Word in the way the writer of Psalm 119 explains.

Where did the Bible come from and how do we use it? Paul answers these questions in 2 Timothy 3:10-17.

We know the Bible is reliable because it passes the internal test in answering the question do the writers of the Bible claim their writings are true? It also passes the external test in answering the question what does outside evidence say about the Bible? Finally, it passes the bibliographic test by answering the question how well were the original documents translated to today? Today’s scriptures give answers to these questions.

God calls us to master the Bible and to be mastered by the Bible. As a follower of Christ, we must read the Bible regularly so that we can learn what it says, understand what it says, and do what it says. More importantly, we must allow His Word to transform and change us.

In order for God’s Word to change us into what God desires us to be, we must read His word regularly. Today, you will learn what the Bible says about the importance of reading and studying His Word on a regular basis.

There are four things the Word of God brings us: power, healing, direction, and freedom.

Being changed means understanding who God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are and how they interact in your life. This week you will read passages that will help you understand more about God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. Today you will read about God being your spiritual father.

Not only does the Bible show us that God is our spiritual father, but it also illustrates three characteristics of His fatherhood: He is a patient father, a forgiving father, and an intimate father.

Jesus is Immanuel meaning God with us. God came in the form of His son Jesus to live among us so that He could ultimately provide us eternal life by dying on the cross. Today you will explore what the Bible says about Jesus’ birth, death, and resurrection.

Jesus is Immanuel, and as Immanuel the Bible tells us that He comforts the afflicted and He afflicts the comfortable.

God sent the Holy Spirit to be our counselor. Being our counselor also means that the Holy Spirit serves as our intercessor, our advocate, comforter, and helper.

The Bible says there are three things the Holy Spirit does for you: He comforts you, counsels you, and convicts you.

You are empowered by the Holy Spirit. The Bible tells us that the Holy Spirit gives you the power to share Christ boldly, gives you power when you are weak, gives you power to have hope in a hopeless world, and gives you power to experience all the fullness of God.

Being changed means you connect with God through prayer. Our relationship with God is like any other relationship we have. We must spend time and connect with God and we do this through prayer. Over the next seven days you will spend time reading what God’s Word has to say about the importance and the power of prayer.

How should we talk to God? The Bible shows us that we should talk to God with gut-level honesty and talk to Him about everything that matters to you.

How should we talk to God? The Bible also says we should talk to God continually and that we should listen for His response.

Not sure how to pray or where to start? Start with Jesus’ example that He shared with His disciples, which is known as The Lord’s Prayer.

What matters to God when you pray? The Bible says your relationships and motives matter.

What matters to God when you pray? The Bible says the way you live matters, your faith matters, and God’s will matters.

Jesus encouraged us to pray without giving up. He illustrated this through the parable of the persistent widow.

Being changed means supporting and regularly attending your local church. Over the next seven days, you will read what the Bible says about what the church is and how you should support the local church through serving and tithing.

The church is not just a building. We are the church and each one of us is called to be ministers.

God has called you to meet the needs in your church.

God has given you both talents and spiritual gifts to use in serving His church and in ministering to others.

We support the local church through the tithe. All throughout the Bible God asks us to give Him a tithe, which is 10 percent of our earnings. In fact, the only time God ask us to test Him in the Bible is related to the tithe in Malachi 3.

Not only does God ask for our tithe, but He also desires us to be cheerful givers beyond the tithe.

During His ministry, Jesus often discussed the importance of tithing and giving generously.

Being changed means engaging in Biblical community. God did not design us to do life on our own, which is why it is vital that we engage in Biblical community with other believers. You will conclude this reading plan over the next six days by reading about the importance of Biblical community from God’s Word.

You’ll never do all God wants you to do without the right people around you. You need people in your life that are with you heart and soul. A great example of this can be seen with Jonathan and the armor-bearer.

One of the benefits of Biblical community is being around other believers that help you grow both spiritually and relationally.

Biblical community comes in many forms, the most common of which is within your local church in the form of regular church attendance and in small groups.

One of the greatest benefits of being in Biblical community with other followers of Christ is having people that support you during difficult times.

Biblical community can occur within a group of believers or between two people. In fact, some of the strongest forms of Biblical community happen between just two people. It’s important that we have believers in our life that can mentor and counsel us, as well as keep us accountable.

On this final day, you will read about the life change that has taken place inside of you as a result of your accepting Christ as your Savior. You have been forever changed as a result of your decision to follow Christ. The old is gone, and the new has come!

New 2 Faith: “Keys to Successful Relationships”

Every relationship, whether with a friend, family member, spouse, or even with God, has two fundamental components which make it successful: the love and affection shared between the individuals, and putting that love into action.

The truth is that real love is always accompanied by action; a true friend seeing another in need will respond with help. The same is true in our relationship with God. A true love for God is accompanied by action; touching God’s heart by touching the lives of those around us.

Making the most of our relationships with others begins with our relationship with God. In fact, God asks that our relationships with others be an extension of our relationship with Him.

As believers, our vertical relationship with God and our horizontal relationships with one another are what’s most important to God – loving Him and loving others.