Saturday, October 16, 2021

God’s Love Is Extravagant


 The praise and worship time in the evening service was coming to an end. The beautiful chorus we were singing was Darrell Evans’ song, Your Love Is Extravagant...”Your love is extravagant...Your friendship intimate...I find I'm moving to the rhythms of Your grace...Your fragrance is intoxicating in our secret place...”

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I had my eyes closed, lost in the music, feeling the presence of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, so real, as if His arms were wrapped around me. 

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I opened my eyes and looked down at the Bible book cover on the seat in front of me. It was as if my Savior was speaking to me through the words I was reading on the cover. 

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There was an embroidered daisy with three small petals gently drifting down, and beside each petal were the words...

                    “He loves me”

                                  ”He loves me”

                                                ”He loves me”

...usually a girl playing the daisy game alternately speaks the phrases, "He loves me," and "He loves me not," while picking one petal off a daisy for each phrase. The phrase she speaks when picking off the last petal supposedly represents the truth about the object of her affection loving her or not.

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As the music faded and I sat down, I knew I had just experienced one of “those moments.” There was no doubt in my mind or my heart, I knew it was real, it was the Truth, my Savior loves me with an everlasting love and underneath are His everlasting arms...He loves me...He loves me...He loves me...

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In his book, “The Ultimate Conversation: Talking with God Through Prayer,” Dr. Charles Stanley writes, “Your intimacy with God–His first priority in your life–determines the impact of your life.” Stanley goes on to say there was a time in his life when he wrestled with knowing God more deeply. He couldn’t identify what the encumbrance was, no matter how much he sought the Lord and prayed. Then, he called his four closest friends, who were all godly men, and said, “God is trying to teach me something, but I don’t know what it is and I need your help to figure it out.”  He says they conversed for several hours. 

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Finally, he writes that one of the men said, “Charles, put your head on the table and close your eyes.” Stanley says he did this and quietly the man asked him, “Imagine your father just picked you up in his arms and held you. What do you feel?” The friend knew Dr. Stanley’s father had died when he was nine months old and that his loss had had a tremendous impact on Stanley’s life.

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Dr. Stanley says he immediately began crying, and he continued weeping for a long time. Still, Stanley says, he did not understand what was causing so much emotion. The friend again asked, “What do you feel Charles?” Stanley writes, “The feelings were so overpowering, it was a long time before I could answer him. At last I replied, “I felt hugged, like I was warm and secure. I felt…loved.” 

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He realized that until that day, he had never really experienced God’s love. He said he told others about God’s love, but had never truly sensed it for himself. Stanley says, “That day changed my life. The time with four of my friends transformed my ministry and everything I felt about the Christian life; the Father’s love had become real to me and extremely powerful.”

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Dr. Stanley invites us to do the same, writing: “I challenge you to do the same. Put your head down and imagine the Father holding you. You may be surprised by the emotions you feel. You may, as I did, realize His overwhelming love for you. You may realize that you’ve been running away from Him all of your life when all you’ve wanted to do is feel safe in your heavenly Father’s arms. Be still and allow God to deal with whatever emotions and issues arise. He will draw you into a deeper, more intimate relationship than you have ever known. Trust Him.”

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Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly. —Matthew 11:28-30 The Message

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Whatever stress or chaos may be in your life right now, Jesus invites you, just as he did the crowds he was teaching: “Come to Me. Give Me the heavy load you’re carrying. And in exchange, I will give you rest.” Jesus knows the challenges and deadlines we face and the weariness of mind or body we feel. 

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He understands the stress, tasks, and responsibilities that are weighing us down. As we lay all that concerns us before him, His purpose replaces our agenda, and his lightness and rest replace our burden. 

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The verdict is final. The case is never going to be re-tried—irrevocable. On that we can rest—we are justified on the basis of the finished work of Jesus Christ on the Cross. It is a blessing to know that I am, right now, under the completely sufficient imputed righteousness of Christ. Because I have placed my trust in the finished work of Jesus Christ, I am redeemed by His precious blood. The threat of failure, judgment, and condemnation has been removed. Knowing that God’s love for me and approval of me will never be determined by my performance is the most encouraging promise to which I cling.

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Lord Jesus, Thank You that I can rest in Your finished work on the Cross. Thank You that I can rest as You carry my burdens for me. I give them all to you and I gladly receive Your rest! Teach me Your wisdom that is humble and pure, and help me to walk in the ways you set before me. Thank You for Your mercy and love that invite me to continually experience Your Peace and enjoy Your Presence, living my life resting and trusting in You! 

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Look Up—meditate on Matthew 11:28-30

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Look In—as you meditate on Matthew 11:28-30 pray to see how you might apply it to your life.

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Look Out—as you meditate on Matthew 11:28-30 pray to see how you might apply it to your relationships with others.

Friday, September 24, 2021

Reach out and touch the robe of Jesus today


When you feel outcast or in need of healing, cry out to Jesus. The woman with the issue of blood did in Luke 8. As her story shows, Jesus meets us where we are and reminds us of our belovedness. Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ the Son, and Holy Spirit, meet us in this space, whatever space we find ourselves in. Help us to learn more about who You are through this woman. Help us to see Your image in the image-bearer we find in this story. Help us to sympathize, grow, and lean into her story. Give us wisdom and gentleness with ourselves today. In the precious name of Jesus Christ we pray, amen.

Luke 8:43-48:

“Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years; and though she had spent all she had on physicians, no one could cure her. She came up behind Jesus and touched the fringe of his clothes, and immediately her hemorrhage stopped. Then Jesus asked, ‘Who touched me?’ When all denied it, Peter said, ‘Master, the crowds surround you and press in on you.’ But Jesus said, ‘Someone touched me; for I noticed that power had gone out from me.’ When the woman saw that she could not remain hidden, she came trembling; and falling down before him, she declared in the presence of all the people why she had touched him, and how she had been immediately healed. He said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.’”

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The unnamed woman in this Gospel story is a woman who has suffered for 12 years from a certain kind of bleeding; it is often translated as “hemorrhaging.” She has visited many doctors and healers, and none of them has been able to heal her. It seems frenetic and like she is acting out in a last ditch effort. Her very presence in a large crowd would be frowned upon in this society because she is considered “unclean.” Her normal existence would often have been spent watching people skirt around her to avoid the possibility of contact. No brushing or touching or sharing friendly gestures on the path. She lived in isolation and would have been known for her uncleanliness.

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To give a little background and context, this story of the woman with the issue of blood is found in three of the gospel texts. For a different angle to this story, let’s detour to Mark’s gospel. In the Gospel of Mark, the writer gives us a richer understanding of Jesus’s capacity to love by using a particular literary method and another precious story of healing. The method is what some scholars affectionately call a “Markan Sandwich.” The structure is: A1 – B – A2. The larger story begins (“A1”) with Jesus being abruptly greeted by a synagogue leader, Jairus, who falls at Jesus’s feet imploring him to heal his little daughter who is at the point of death. In the “sandwich” story (“B”), a large crowd is gathering around Jesus and is pressing in on many sides. From this large crowd, our woman enters the scene by touching the hem of Jesus’s cloak. She is healed. Power leaves Jesus. We’ll return to this. Then we return to the original story (“A2”) as Jesus is swept away to the home of Jairus and is told that his daughter has died. But, Jesus tells the girl, “Talitha cum,” which is Aramaic for “Little girl, get up!” Immediately, the girl gets up and walks around.

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There are some lovely things that weave these stories together and enhance the sandwiched story of this study. There are so many delightful connections between the two stories. Some are pointed out by biblical scholar Beverly Zink-Sawyer, who observes:

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Both victims of illness are female and ritually unclean, one as a result of death and one as a result of hemorrhage; both represent the significance of the number twelve in Jewish tradition (the twelve years of hemorrhage and the twelve-year-old girl); and both are regarded as “daughters” (the little girl being Jairus’s daughter and the woman who is addressed by Jesus as “Daughter”). An act of touch restores both women to new life even as those surrounding them lack understanding.

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Immediately, we can notice the biblical significance with the number 12 that has connections all over the place. For these women, 12 years of bleeding and 12 years of age. We also can see that these two feminine characters are unnamed by society, but then beautifully placed by Jesus when he refers to both of them as “daughter.” A sweet, intimate naming that is so needed by both of these women. Another intimate moment is the act of touch seen in both stories.

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This unnamed woman, whose story the text brings to light, not only suffered from continuous bleeding for many years, but also that dirty, unclean feeling resulting from being stigmatized and isolated. Hers was a continual existence of pain and being cast out. Jesus meets her in this space—or, rather, is met by her—and does the opposite of what is expected. Instead of being repulsed or disgusted by her, he responds with peace. He responds with acceptance and grace. He seems to respond with understanding. He calls her daughter. He accepts her. He offers her peace and heals her.

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This bleeding woman’s story interacts with all of our stories because we, like her, have been in need of healing at some point or another. We have been outcasts or have felt abandoned by our communities or our friends. We have been in need of a merciful touch by God and by the body of Christ incarnate in our sisters and brothers here with us. Think of a time when you felt like you were at your end. Think of that space and ask God to show you where Jesus was in that space. What was he like? What did he refer to you as?

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These stories are not telling us that we will always be healed, but rather, what it looks like to reach out to Jesus in times of pain and heartache, isolation and loneliness, in order to receive the gift of truth: you are beloved and known intimately by your Creator.

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Know that you are beloved and known by God. Healing does not always look exactly like what we are hoping for, but sometimes healing looks like acceptance, belonging, and connection. Sometimes healing looks like not letting fear have a hold in your life. Love looks like a touch from a friend or loved one in a moment of shame, hopelessness, or deep pain to draw us out and remind us that we are loved and called children of God.

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Reach out and touch the robe of Jesus today and ask for the reminder, the grace, and the knowing that comes from Him. Let Christ find you wherever you are and meet you there—at your lowest lows and your highest heights. Remember that you too are the hands of Christ and have the ability to offer healing to those who are suffering. Ask for wisdom and pray for strength and courage this day.

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Take a moment to watch this video from the location at Magdala on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, where this beautiful painting of the moment the woman with the issue of blood is healed, is located next to the stones where our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ walked . . . absolutely breathtaking . . . 


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Lord Jesus, thank You for facing the same temptations and problems we do and for fully understanding our weaknesses. Thank You for pouring out your life on the cross, for rising again and reigning at the right hand of the Father. Your throne is a place of grace for Your children, where we can receive Your mercy and help when we most need it…in Jesus’ name we pray, amen.

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Look up – Meditate on Luke 8:43-48. Pray to see what it reveals about the character of God.

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Look in – Meditate on Luke 8:43-48. Pray to see how you might apply it to your life. Be propelled to ask galvanizing questions about your discoveries: “Because God is ______________, I will ______________.”

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Look out – Meditate on Luke 8:43-48. Pray to see how you might apply it to your relationships with others. Let the nature of God impact on every relationship, for your good, and for His glory.  




Monday, July 5, 2021

Power of the Holy Spirit


When I saw this beautiful artwork by Krista Hamrick, I felt led to do a word study based on Romans 15:13:

ESV: May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

Amplified: May the God of your hope so fill you with all joy and peace in believing [through the experience of your faith] that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound and be overflowing (bubbling over) with hope.

NET Bible: Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you believe in Him, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Greek = “in the believing” or “as [you] believe,” with the object “him” supplied from the context.

NIV: May the God of hope fill you with great joy and peace so you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

NLT: I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in Him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Phillips: May the God of Hope fill you with joy and peace in your faith, that by the power of the Holy Spirit, your whole life and outlook may be radiant and alive.

Wuest: Now the God of the hope fill you with every joy and hope in the sphere of believing, resulting in your super-abounding in the sphere of the hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Young's Literal: and the God of the hope shall fill you with all joy and peace in the believing, for your abounding in the hope in power of the Holy Spirit.

Pastor Ray Stedman writes: “What a magnificent verse! Whenever I am asked to give an autograph, I almost always include this verse in it. It is such a beautiful expression. Look how much you have got going for you. All the great words of the Christian faith appear here: hope, twice (once it is called "overflowing hope"); and joy, great joy; and peace, calmness and confidence; and trust, belief in a living God; and finally, the power of the Holy Spirit, the invisible force that can open doors and no man shuts them, and can shut and no man opens -- the power of God released among us.”

The God of Hope - The truths conveyed are that God is both the origin of hope and the object of our hope. God is the Source of hope and the Giver of hope. Stated another way, the great benefits (hope, joy, peace) Paul prays for the saints at Rome, cannot be possessed apart from God. In the same manner, believers today can possess them only as He gives them to us.

Pastor John Piper in discussing the name God of hope writes: ”Everything starts with God. If there is hope for joy that is deep and eternal it will be hope that is founded on God. Any other foundation will fail. God is, and God is a God of hope. This we must believe.”

Pastor Matthew Henry writes on the importance of God's names like the God of Hope: “It is good in prayer to fasten upon those names, titles, and attributes of God, which are most suitable to the errand we come upon, and will best serve to encourage our faith concerning it. Every word in the prayer should be a plea. Thus, should the cause be skillfully ordered, and the mouth filled with arguments. God is the God of hope. He is the foundation on which our hope is built, and he is the builder that doth himself raise it: he is both the object of our hope, and the author of it. That hope is but fancy, and will deceive us, which is not fastened upon God (as the goodness hoped for, and the truth hoped in), and which is not of his working in us.”

May...fill (pleroo) means literally to fill "to the brim.” Metaphorically, “pleroo” means to make complete in every particular, to pervade, to take possession of and ultimately to control. This is the same verb used by Paul to command the saints at Ephesus to be continually "filled with the Spirit." The idea is that what fills a person, exercises control over the person's affect, attitude and actions.

Pastor J B Phillips paraphrases this prayer: “May the God of Hope fill you with joy and peace in your faith, that by the power of the Holy Spirit, your whole life and outlook may be radiant and alive.

Abounding in hope ideally should be the description of every follower of Christ. Of all people, the Christian should be the one who manifests the inner strength (and Spirit) to look ahead with a contagious enthusiasm. God has given us hope, the absolute certainty of that God will do good to us in the future.

All joy and peace - "All" in Greek means all without exception. In other words Paul is praying not for a percentage, portion or fraction, but for all the joy and hope that God has promised to those who love Him! God is not a stingy grinch, but He is a gracious Giver and Paul desires that the saints at Rome (and you and I dear child of the Most High God) experience this supernatural joy and peace to the max!

Pastor Alexander Maclaren has a beautiful description of the joy given by the God of hope...”If I am living in an atmosphere of trust, then sorrow will never be absolute, nor have exclusive monopoly and possession of my spirit. But there will be the paradox, and the blessedness, of Christian experience, ‘as sorrowful yet always rejoicing.’ For the joy of the Christian life has its source far away beyond the swamps from which the sour drops of sorrow may trickle, and it is possible that, like the fabled fire that burned under water, the joy of the Lord may be bright in my heart, even when it is drenched in floods of calamity and distress.”

Joy (chara from chaĆ­ro = to rejoice) is one of Paul's great themes, with charas being used by him 21 times. The Christian life is to be a life of "JOY." It is founded on faith in Jesus, whose life on earth began as "good news of great joy for all people.” Joy is the deep-down sense of well-being that abides in the heart of the person who knows all is well between himself and the Lord and is independent of whether circumstances are favorable or unfavorable. Joy is God’s gift to believers, a component of the fruit of the Spirit. Nehemiah declared, "The joy of the Lord is your strength.” So Paul prays that they would be filled with all joy, that inner gladness and deep seated pleasure which is independent of one's external circumstances. It is a depth of assurance and confidence that ignites a cheerful heart. It is a cheerful heart that leads to cheerful behavior.

Pastor John Piper writes: “The pathway that the Spirit cuts through the jungle of our anxieties into the clearing of joy is the pathway of faith. Luke says of Stephen in Acts 6:5, that he was “a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit,” and he says of Barnabas in Acts 11:24 that he was “a good man full of the Holy Spirit and of faith,” The two go together. If a person is filled with faith, he will be filled with the Spirit, the Spirit of joy and peace. The most important text in Paul’s writings to show this is Romans 15:13, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” Notice that it is in or by believing that we are filled with joy and peace. And it is by the Spirit that we abound in hope. When we put those two halves of the verse together, what we see is that through our faith (our believing) the Spirit fills us with his hope and thus with his joy and peace. And, of course since hope is such an essential part of being filled with joy by the Spirit, what we have to believe is that God is, as Paul says, the God of hope. We have to rivet our faith on all that he has done and said to give us hope.”

Pastor Jerry Bridges writes: “It is by the power of the Holy Spirit that we experience the joy of salvation and are enabled to rejoice even in the midst of trials. The Holy Spirit uses His Word to create joy in our hearts. Romans 15 contains an interesting connection between God and the Scriptures. God is the Source. The Scriptures are the means. Every believer needs this divine encouragement because our opposition is relentless, and there are plenty of disappointments along the way. Sometimes we think we’ve turned the corner on a particular sin, only to discover a few days later that we’ve merely gone around the block and are dealing with it again. But there is hope in our battle with sin, and it lies in placing our dependence on the power of the Holy Spirit, our ever-present Helper.

Pastor Warren Wiersbe defines joy as "that inward peace and sufficiency that is not affected by outward circumstances. This "holy optimism" keeps him going in spite of difficulties."

Pastor Donald Campbell writes: “Joy (chara) is a deep and abiding inner rejoicing which was promised to those who abide in Christ. It does not depend on circumstances because it rests in God’s sovereign control of all things.”

Peace (eirene from verb eiro = binding or joining together what is broken or divided) means literally that which has been bound together. It is freedom from disquieting or oppressive thoughts or emotions. Peace in this verse is that inward state of quiet which is independent of circumstances and is that inner attitude which God's Spirit gives His people. Note that this peace is only possible after one has been justified by faith and experienced peace with God. In short peace with God must precede and is the basis for the peace of God.

In believing - The Greek literally reads "in the believing" or as Pastor Kenneth Wuest renders it "in the sphere of the act of habitually believing."

Believing (pisteuo from pistis; pistos; related study = obedience of faith) means to consider something to be true and therefore worthy of trust. To have a firm conviction as to the goodness, efficacy or ability of something or someone. “Pisteuo” means to entrust oneself to an entity in complete confidence. “To believe in” also conveys the implication of total commitment to the one trusted. To be confident about or to be firmly persuaded as to something. “Pisteuo” is in the present tense which pictures this believing is one's practice or lifestyle.

Pastor Ray Stedman helps us understand how “all joy and peace” is related to the phrase “in believing” as he writes: “What we need is to believe what we read in Scripture, and believe what we pray--that is the answer. These other things are merely mechanics which make possible the believing, but believing is the real answer. It isn't Bible reading, or prayer or Christian fellowship that unlocks the power of the Holy Spirit. It is believing what you read or what you pray. When you believe that Jesus Christ indwells you, when you believe that He is all that you need, when you believe that He intends to act through you, then you can act! You discover that all that he is becomes visible through you and accomplishes all that needs to be done. The result is power and joy and peace, as Paul prays here. This is the way I learned to drive a car, didn't you? I believe that, when I get into a car, there is gas in tank (and usually I am right) and there is an engine under the hood, and I believe that these are fully adequate to take this car over any road I choose to drive it, and I believe that all of it was designed to be responsive when I turn on the key and step on the gas. So I do it, and it works. I don't get into a car, and say to myself: "I believe there is gas in the tank, I believe there is an engine under the hood, I believe that it will work," then get out and start pushing! No! I do it, I try it, I step out on it, and it works! That is exactly what Paul is talking about. The God of hope cannot fill us with joy and peace if we don't believe -- which means to act on what we know. But it is when we believe and act that the power of the Holy Spirit begins to work through us and causes us to abound in hope -- for all around us are the evidences that God is at work accomplishing His purposes in our lives.

May abound (perisseuo from perissos = abundant, exceeding some number, measure, rank or need, over and above - from peri = in sense of beyond) means to cause to superabound, to be superfluous, to overflow, to be in affluence, to excel or to be in abundance with the implication of being considerably more than what would be expected (and in the present context certainly far more than we deserve!) Notice also that “perisseuo” is in the present tense which pictures the saints as continually abounding in this great quality of Spirit empowered hope. “Perisseuo” carries the idea of exceeding the requirements or of overflowing and is pictured by a river which overflows its banks! It means to exceed a fixed number or measure and so to be more than enough. Thus, “perisseuo” was used to describe what was "left over" of the loaves after Jesus had fed the 5000! God's supply exceeded their need. When the God of hope supplies hope there is more than enough so that some is even "left over" so to speak!

Hope (elpis) in Scripture is not the world's definition of "I hope so.” Hope is defined as a desire for some future good with the expectation of obtaining it. Hope is confident expectancy. Hope is the looking forward to something with some reason for confidence respecting fulfillment. Hope as the world typically defines it is a desire for some future occurrence of which one is not assured of attaining. The ancient world did not generally regard hope as a virtue, but merely as a temporary illusion. Historians tell us that a great cloud of hopelessness covered the ancient world. Philosophies were empty; traditions were disappearing; religions were powerless to help men face either life or death. People longed to pierce the veil and get some message of hope from the other side, but there is none outside of Christ. Hope is a unique word in Scripture, where it indicates “confident expectation.” The person with hope has complete assurance about the future. And the overflow of the hope we have as we trust in God fills us with joy and peace.

Power (dunamis) refers to inherent power residing in something by virtue of its nature. Here the power Source is the Holy Spirit. In the context of Romans 15, we learn that the Holy Spirit's inherent enabling power is the means by which unity will be accomplished as He causes believers to abound in hope. The Holy Spirit supernaturally enables the stronger and weaker brothers to abound in hope and to see each other’s positions in a clearer (eternal) perspective which causes them to refuse to let their differences mar the unity that they have in Christ. Christ is our Hope and to paraphrase an old hymn, when we fix our eyes on Jesus "the things of this world will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace" and the result will be true spiritual power to accept one another.

Pastor Arthur Pink has some wise words on the meaning and practical significance of the power of the Holy Spirit: “The Father is the Giver, but the Spirit is the Communicator of our graces. Though it is the Christian’s duty to be filled with joy and peace in believing and to abound in hope, yet it is only by the Spirit’s enablement such can be realized. Here, as everywhere in the Word, we find the kindred truths of our accountableness and dependency intimately connected. The joy, peace, and hope here are not carnal emotions or natural acquirements but spiritual graces, and therefore they must be divinely imparted. Even the promises of God will not produce these graces unless they be divinely applied to us. Note that it is not merely "through the operation" but "through the power" of the Holy Spirit, for there is much in us which opposes! Nor can these graces be increased or even maintained by us in our own strength—though they can be decreased by us, through grieving the Spirit. They are to be sought by prayer, by eyeing the promises, and by looking for the enablement of the Holy Spirit. That hope is but a vain fancy which is not fixed on God and inwrought by Him.”

Notice Paul’s words in Romans 15:13,
“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” The power of the Holy Spirit provides for us the things that human effort and human religion and human righteousness could never achieve. He is there to empower our living with a glorious sense of joy, peace, and hope that can carry us through the trials and hardships that are the inevitable by-products of life in a fallen world. The power we need is found in a Person Who has been sent by the Father to bring fullness to our lives. In a world that is in mad pursuit of happiness, we can have JOY by the power of the Holy Spirit. In a world that is crying out from the grief of constant conflict, we can have true PEACE. In a world that is filled with empty despair and a bleak future, we can have a bright HOPE. Why? Because the power of the Holy Spirit can equip us for life in a way that the world cannot grasp. His power can enable us to experience the things that the world craves and cannot secure, but are ours by the Spirit. This is the ABUNDANT LIFE Jesus spoke of (Jn 10:10) —a life that is full and rich and deep and lasting. A life that is lived by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Practical strategies for growing in God’s joy, peace, and abundant hope:
• Begin each morning by spending time in God’s presence, reading and meditating on His Word, praying, and singing. If you lack joy and peace and hope, ask God to fill you with these qualities for His glory.

• Memorize some of God’s wonderful promises that kindle joy, peace, and hope in your soul so that you can meditate on them throughout the day. Romans 15:13 and many other verses like them will help you to set your mind on the things above rather than on the problems that are getting you down. The Psalms are loaded with verses of trust in God in the midst of life-threatening situations.

• Immediately confess all grumbling as sin and instead deliberately think each day of things that you can thank God for. Begin by thanking Him each morning for sending His beloved Son to save you from your sins. Thank Him that you have His Word to guide and sustain you. Thank Him for all your blessings and even for your trials, which help you to grow.

• When you feel overwhelmed with despair or depression, talk to yourself: Tell yourself again and again to hope in God. The depressed psalmist did this repeatedly: “Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him for the help of His presence…Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God…Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why are you disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God…Show me the path where I should walk, O Lord; point out the right road for me to follow. Lead me by your truth and teach me, for you are the God who saves me. All day long I put my hope in you.”

Have you ever been on an airplane as it flew through a thunderstorm? All around you, you see and hear the storm’s beating rain and the wind whipping against the cabin wall. Looks of worry and panic cloud passengers’ faces, and they wonder, When will we ever get to the other side of this storm? They long to see the sun, and even before the plane has landed, a few of them may have begun forming a line to get off. On such a turbulent flight we can dramatically experience the light and peace after a storm almost instantly. Peace replaces anxiety in just a moment as we break through a cloud and see the sun and its radiance just on the other side of the storm. As God’s children we do not need to wait until our personal storms have passed in order to see and experience the light and peace of the Son. The Word of God, his truth, not only sustains us in the storms of life but also opens our eyes to see the Son, the radiance of God’s glory, while we are soaring through them.

Heavenly Father, we do thank You for the peace and joy and righteousness that are gifts to us from Your Spirit at work in our hearts. Thank You for the liberty and freedom that you give us in these areas. We want to know Your will. We are willing to do Your will, and we will wait, in hope, for your truth to lead us in it. No matter what storms of life we may face, we will keep our eyes on the brightness of Your Son—the radiance of Your glory! In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.

Look Up—meditate on Romans 15:13 …pray to see what it reveals about the character of God.

Look In—as you meditate on Romans 15:13 …pray to see how you might apply it to your life. Be propelled to ask galvanizing questions about your discoveries: "Because God is_________, I will_____________."

Look Out—as you meditate on Romans 15:13 ...pray to see how you might apply it to your relationship with others. Let the nature of God impact on every relationship, for your good, and for His glory.

Saturday, April 24, 2021

Lord Jesus, I want to delight in You!

When I saw this beautiful artwork by Krista Hamrick, I felt led to share this devotional based on one of my favorite Scriptures--Psalm 37:4 . . . “Delight yourself in the LORD; and He will give you the desires of your heart.” I discovered a great acrostic memory tool for the word, “delight,” which describes how I have come to apply this verse to my life:
Daily
Everything
Laid
Into
God’s
Hands
Totally

I recently heard this true story about Eddie Rickenbacker. He was a famous pilot and hero in World War II. Every Friday evening, almost without fail, when the sun resembled a giant orange and was starting to dip into the blue ocean, Eddie came strolling along the beach to his favorite pier. Clutched in his hand was a bucket of shrimp. Eddie walks out to the end of the pier, where it seems he almost has the world to himself. The glow of the sun is a golden bronze now. Everybody is gone, except for a few joggers on the beach. Standing out on the end of the pier, Eddie is alone with his thoughts...and his bucket of shrimp. Before long, however, he is no longer alone. Up in the sky a thousand white dots come screeching and squawking, winging their way toward that lanky frame standing there on the end of the pier. Before long, dozens of seagulls have enveloped him, their wings fluttering and flapping wildly. Eddie stands there tossing shrimp to the hungry birds. As he does, if you listen closely, you can hear him say with a smile, 'Thank you. Thank you.' In a few short minutes the bucket is empty. But Eddie doesn't leave. He stands there lost in thought, as though transported to another time and another place. When he finally turns around and begins to walk back toward the beach, a few of the birds hop along the pier with him until he gets to the stairs, and then they, too, fly away. Eddie quietly makes his way down to the end of the beach and on home. Eddie Rickenbacker was a famous pilot and hero in World War I, and then he was in WWII. On one of his flying missions across the Pacific, he and his seven-member crew went down. Miraculously, all of the men survived, crawled out of their plane, and climbed into a life raft. Captain Rickenbacker and his crew floated for days on the rough waters of the Pacific. They fought the sun. They fought sharks. Most of all, they fought hunger and thirst. By the eighth day their rations ran out. No food. No water. They were hundreds of miles from land and no one knew where they were or even if they were alive. Every day across America millions wondered and prayed that Eddie Rickenbacker might somehow be found alive. The men adrift needed a miracle. That afternoon they had a simple devotional service and prayed for a miracle. They tried to nap. Eddie leaned back and pulled his military cap over his nose. Time dragged on. All he could hear was the slap of the waves against the raft...suddenly Eddie felt something land on the top of his cap. It was a seagull! Eddie would later describe how they captured the bird and he and his starving crew made a meal of it - a very slight meal for eight men. Then they used the intestines for bait. With it, they caught fish, which gave them food and more bait...and the cycle continued. With that simple survival technique, they were able to endure the rigors of the sea until they were found and rescued after 24 days at sea. Eddie Rickenbacker lived many years beyond that ordeal, but he never forgot the sacrifice of that first life-saving seagull . . . And he never stopped saying, 'Thank you.' That's why almost every Friday night he would walk to the end of the pier with a bucket full of shrimp and a heart full of gratitude.


I have found over the years that many times my prayers center on what I want the Lord to do: I intercede for people who are critically ill battling disease. There’s a great need in a missionary family in Burkina Faso, West Africa, so I petition daily for God’s help on their behalf. On the home front, I may pray for my children to do better in school, a friend’s job situation or marriage to improve, relief from stress, or many other desires. All of these are valid requests, which if answered in the way we hope, would delight us. But I have learned that this verse calls us to a different prayer focus: to stop and center our heart on the Lord and make him our delight.


According to Psalm 37:4, if we delight ourselves in the Lord, He will give us the desires of our hearts. To delight means to take great pleasure or to find joy and satisfaction in something. If it’s hard for us to find our greatest pleasure and delight in God, take heart. Though it’s impossible for us to find our greatest pleasure and delight in God through our own strength, our Heavenly Father has provided a way: His Spirit graciously reveals Jesus to us and causes us to fall more and more in love with Him. Then we find great delight in Him and in His presence.

Lord Jesus, I want to delight in You! Center my heart in knowing You more and loving You more day by day. Help me to discover that there is fullness of joy in your presence and to take great delight in my relationship with You. May my heart desire You above everything else. Give me a heart which yearns for Your Presence, a yearning for You that draws me over and over into Your Presence, a yearning that makes only a few days without time in prayer and Your Word seem like an eternity. Give me a heart which is motivated first and foremost by a desire for You, not for what You can do for me, but a yearning for Your Presence. Give me a heart that wants You more than anything else You could give, to love You and know You more than anything in life. Give me a heart that takes what You have made known to me and makes You re-known to everyone else, a heart that makes Your name and renown the desire of my heart. Give me a heart to feel Your Holy Spirit woo me once again to the place where I meet You. In the simplicity of my prayer time, give me a heart to be suddenly confronted by the majesty of my Redeemer—the One Who is responsible for any good in me. Lord, each morning, give me a heart that seeks Your forgiveness for past sins, and welcomes Your fresh mercies which fall like manna from Heaven, and once again move my heart. I surrender all. Morning after morning. In Your Precious Name Above All Names we pray, amen.


Look Up—meditate on Psalm 37:4 …pray to see what it reveals about the character of God.


Look In—as you meditate on Psalm 37:4 …pray to see how you might apply it to your life. Be propelled to ask galvanizing questions about your discoveries: "Because God is_________, I will_____________."


Look Out—as you meditate on Psalm 37:4 ...pray to see how you might apply it to your relationship with others. Let the nature of God impact on every relationship, for your good, and for His glory.


* If you liked this post, you’ll love this bookName Above All Names Devotional: Focusing on 26 Alphabetical Names of Christ

Saturday, April 10, 2021

a calm assurance...because He lives!


This year, 2021, is the 50th Anniversary of the song, “Because He Lives,” by Bill and Gloria Gaither. So many memories come flooding back to me, as I listen to the anointed lyrics of this beautiful song. I was a senior at Sebring High School in 1971 when this song was written, and we began to sing it at our church, First Baptist Church of Sebring. I also remember how meaningful these lyrics were to me as I held our first-born child, Tracy, in 1979…

How sweet to hold a newborn baby, And feel the pride and joy he gives; But greater still the calm assurance: This child can face uncertain days because He Lives!
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These are uncertain days in which we now live, but just as the lyrics of this song proclaim, “Greater still the calm assurance; this child can face uncertain days because He lives!”
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God sent His son, they called Him, Jesus; He came to love, heal and forgive; He lived and died to buy my pardon, An empty grave is there to prove my Savior lives!
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How sweet to hold a newborn baby, And feel the pride and joy he gives; But greater still the calm assurance: This child can face uncertain days because He Lives!
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And then one day, I'll cross the river, I'll fight life's final war with pain; And then, as death gives way to victory, I'll see the lights of glory and I'll know He lives!
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Because He lives, I can face tomorrow, Because He lives, all fear is gone; Because I know He holds the future, And life is worth the living, Just because He lives!
(Because He Lives by William J. Gaither, 1971)
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Jesus slept on a pillow in the midst of a raging storm. How could He? Because He slept in the calm assurance that His Father was in control. (Mark 4:37-39)
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Jesus Christ wins, He conquers death, He walks out of the empty tomb.
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He knows the end from the beginning.
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He began with the end in mind.
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"From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us." (Acts 17:26-27)
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"I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me...Because I live, you also will live." (John 14:6, 19)
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Nothing satisfies my mind, my heart, and the deepest longings of my soul like Jesus does. He is not only the way, the truth, and the life; He is personal to me. He is my way, and my truth, and my life--just as he can be for anyone who reaches out to him..."He is not far from each one of us." (Acts 17:27)
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Peace is the calm assurance that Jesus knows what He’s doing. It is not related to our environment or circumstances. Peace is a gift, something Jesus gives. Through thankful, fervent prayer—articulating our burdens to Jesus—we exchange anxiety for peace.
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We seize His promises and assurances. The peace of God is powerfully vigilant, for it literally guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. We can imagine this peace as a fortress encircling us. It protects our mental, emotional, and spiritual health; our stability; our steadfastness; our confidence in God.
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As we pray, we experience His peace, the walls grow taller and stronger, protecting us more and more. Peace guards our hearts, we live behind the safe protection of our fortress of peace. No matter what, ruling our hearts is the calm assurance that Jesus knows what He’s doing.
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Heavenly Father, God of peace, teach me the path of peace. Teach me to pray with thanksgiving, to submit my requests and needs to You—and to leave them there. Forgive me for trying to carry my burdens on my own. You don’t want me to live in the clutches of anxiety; You want me to live freely, guarded by Your peace. Please flood and guard my heart with peace. Remind me, Father, that peace is not the absence of problems in my life but the calm assurance that You know what You’re doing. You have never failed me, and You will never leave me or forsake me—my confidence is in You. In the name of Your Son, Jesus, the Prince of Peace, amen.
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Look Up—meditate on Acts 17:26-27… pray to see what it reveals about the character of God.
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Look In—as you meditate on Acts 17:26-27… pray to see how you might apply it to your life. Be propelled to ask galvanizing questions about your discoveries: "Because God is_________, I will_____________."
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Look Out—as you meditate on Acts 17:26-27…pray to see how you might apply it to your relationships with others. Let the nature of God impact on every relationship, for your good, and for His glory.
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* If you liked this post, you’ll love this book – Name Above All Names Devotional: Focusing on 26 Alphabetical Names of Christ

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