Love Does

The Most Reverend Doctor Foley Beach, Archbishop of the Anglican Church in North America, and Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of the South, headquartered in a suburb of Atlanta, Georgia, opened his article titled, Loving One Another Like Jesus,” with the following words: “One of the distinguishing marks of a follower of Jesus is supposed to be our love for one another. Jesus said this love for one another would be how people would know that we are his people” (John 13:35). He went on to state:

On the night before he was crucified, he exhorted his disciples: “A new commandment I give to you: Love one another as I have loved you.” (John 13:34). The commandment to love was not new as Leviticus 19:18 taught God’s people to love their neighbors as they love themselves. What is new is that Jesus adds that God’s people are to love one another as “he” loved. This begs the question: How did Jesus love?

Jesus loved by sharing his life and entering into our world. He left the glory, power, and majesty of heaven and entered our world (John 1:14). He was born as a baby and shared life with us. To love as Jesus loved means to leave the comfort and security of our own world and enter into another’s world by sharing one’s life. This could mean going to another culture and loving people, or this could simply mean entering into the world of those people you live with every day.

Jesus loved by serving humanity. He taught, healed people of their diseases, performed miracles, walked many miles, and washed feet. He said: “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve.” (Mark 10:45). To love as Jesus loved means that it is not about me. It is about how I can help the other person. It is about how I can make their life better by serving them.

Jesus loved by sacrificing his life. His death on the cross made atonement for sin which humanity couldn’t make. Its power brings about forgiveness of sins and allows humans to have a personal relationship with God: “But God demonstrates His own love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8). To love as Jesus loved means sacrificing selfish desires and ambitions for the sake of another. It means taking up one’s cross daily and dying to my selfish ways so that others may be blessed.

Many of us have bought into the “love is a feeling” concept, which is popular in our culture. If I feel love, I love you. If I don’t feel love, I don’t love you. Jesus has modeled for us that real love is about what I do and say, not just about what I feel. It is about sharing oneself. It is about service to the other. It is about sacrifice for the sake of the other person.

What would happen if followers of Jesus began to take seriously his new commandment: “Love one another as I have loved you”? (Quote source here.)

The world “love” is tossed around so casually today that it doesn’t have much meaning beyond a feeling, which is not always actually love (for example, as in lust). We say things like “I love my car,” or “I love my friends,” or “I love my job” (that one might not be as popular), but it’s not really, at it’s core, what genuine love is all about. Love is an action word. It requires that we do something beyond just saying, “I love you.”

The Apostle Paul tells us in Romans 12:9-21:

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary:

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Paul goes on to state in 1 Corinthians 13:

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient,
love is kind.
It does not envy,
it does not boast,
it is not proud.
It does not dishonor others,
it is not self-seeking,
it is not easily angered,
it keeps no record of wrongs.

Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

That pretty much says what needs to be said about love. It’s up to us to put it into action. I’ll end this post with the words from the chorus to the song, The Message is Love (YouTube video below). which states: Love is the message and the message is love, From the streets to the mountains to the heavens above. Tell everybody what you’re dreaming of . . .

That love is the message . . .

And the message . . .

Is LOVE . . . .

YouTube Video: “The Message is Love” (1990) by Arthur Baker & The Backbeat Disciples (ft. Rev. Al Green):

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

Faith vs. Doubt

There’s a story in Mark 9 about a father who has a child who is possessed by an evil spirit that has robbed his child of his speech; and it seizes him and throws him to the ground, and causes him to foam at the mouth and become rigid. It’s a story that is not often referenced in many pulpits today because it doesn’t fit in with the genre of Christianity most often heard today. We don’t like to talk about evil spirits or the supernatural (better yet, we tend to think folks who believe in them might be a bit, well, crazy); yet the Bible is quite clear that they exist, and Jesus often dealt with evil spirits who inhabited people. Let’s look at the story mentioned above in Mark 9:14-29 (NIV):

Jesus Heals a Boy Possessed by an Impure Spirit

When they came to the other disciples, they saw a large crowd around them and the teachers of the law arguing with them. As soon as all the people saw Jesus, they were overwhelmed with wonder and ran to greet him.

“What are you arguing with them about?” he asked.

A man in the crowd answered, “Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech. Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth and becomes rigid. I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not.”

“You unbelieving generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.”

So they brought him. When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth.

Jesus asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?”

“From childhood,” he answered. “It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”

“‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.”

Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”

When Jesus saw that a crowd was running to the scene, he rebuked the impure spirit. “You deaf and mute spirit,” he said, “I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.”

The spirit shrieked, convulsed him violently and came out. The boy looked so much like a corpse that many said, “He’s dead.” But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him to his feet, and he stood up.

After Jesus had gone indoors, his disciples asked him privately, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?”

He replied, “This kind can come out only by prayer and fasting.”

First off, this blog post is not about the subject of evil spirits. It is about the subject of faith versus doubt. But if a reading of the above passage makes anyone uncomfortable, it most likely speaks to the matter of just how uncomfortable we are in dealing with the supernatural. However, God operates in the world of the supernatural; and so does evil. Ephesians 6:10-18 is quite clear on this matter:

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.

In my last blog post, Unshakable Hope,” which is the title of Max Lucado’s newest book, he devotes a chapter (Chapter 12) to the subject of the Holy Spirit’s power in our (believers) lives. That chapter is titled, You Will Have Power” (an excerpt from that chapter is available at this link). Here are a few sentences from this excerpt:

Many believers settle for a two-thirds God. They rely on the Father and the Son but overlook the Holy Spirit. You wouldn’t make that mistake with a tripod, trike, or prism. You certainly don’t want to make that mistake with the Trinity. Your Bible refers more than a hundred times to the Holy Spirit. Jesus says more about the Holy Spirit than He does about the church or marriage. In fact, on the eve of His death, as He prepared His followers to face the future without Him, He made this great and precious promise:

You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you. — Acts 1:8

Imagine all the promises Jesus could have made to the disciples but didn’t. He didn’t promise immediate success. He didn’t promise the absence of disease or struggles. He never guaranteed a level of income or popularity. But He did promise the perpetual, empowering presence of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is central to the life of the Christian. Everything that happens from the book of Acts to the end of the book of Revelation is a result of the work of the Holy Spirit of Christ. The Spirit came alongside the disciples, indwelled them, and gave the early church the push they needed to face the challenges ahead. (Quote source here.)

So why is it that we (Christians) are often embarrassed to address, or comes to grips with, the supernatural world when the Bible makes quite clear that it exists and that, in fact, it is more real then the physical world we live in? We may acknowledge the Holy Spirit (some denominations do more than others), but we shy clear away from dealing with evil spirits or, as they like to refer to evil in movies, “the Dark Side.” Hollywood has made a killing off of movies that focus entirely on this “dark side,” yet many Christians find it hard to deal with the subject or perhaps even call anyone who might actually believe in evil spirits as being a bit on the crazy side. Well, was Jesus crazy? No, he was not, even though his family thought he was out of his mind (see Mark 3:20-21, and this article titled, Jesus and His Family,” at Ligonier Ministries).

In looking at the story in Mark 9 of–well, yes–the child possessed by an evil spirit that the disciples were unsuccessful at getting rid of from the boy, what was Jesus response? At first, it was a hard response:

“You unbelieving generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.”

Unbelief–doubt–was at the core of why the disciples were unsuccessful in their attempt to rid the boy of the evil spirit. And what did Jesus do?

[Jesus] rebuked the impure spirit. “You deaf and mute spirit,” he said, “I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.”

The spirit shrieked, convulsed him violently and came out. The boy looked so much like a corpse that many said, “He’s dead.”But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him to his feet, and he stood up.

After Jesus had gone indoors, his disciples asked him privately, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?”

He replied, “This kind can come out only by prayer and fasting.”

The issue at stake is this–are we an “unbelieving generation” who claims to believe, or do we really possess the faith to believe in all kinds of circumstances and situations–a faith that sometimes requires both prayer and fasting? And it’s not just about this story of the evil spirit who was ruining that young boy’s life and the inability of Jesus’ disciples to help the boy. Read on . . . 

In a book titled, Lord Change My Attitude Before It’s Too Late (2001, 2008, 2015) by James MacDonald, DMin, founding and senior pastor of Harvest Bible Chapel and Bible teacher for his broadcast ministry, Walk in the Word, he covers five negative attitudes (e.g., complaining, covetous, critical, doubting, and rebellious) and their attitudinal solutions (being thankful, contentment, love, faith, and submission). Specifically, Chapter 7, “Replacing a Doubting Attitude…” and Chapter 8, “…With an Attitude of Faith” deal with the topic of this blog post.

Dr. MacDonald uses Number 13:1-14:11 as the context for Chapter 7 (when the Israelites rebelled at God’s command and listened, instead, to the “majority report” of the spies); and Hebrews 11 (the “Hall of Faith” chapter in the Bible) as the context for Chapter 8. Regarding Chapter 7 (pp. 167-187) MacDonald states:

Doubt is the mindset that keeps saying, “Well, I just don’t know if God will keep His promises….” Doubt involves a settled and persistent choice to live with uncertainty. It’s not the stubborn “show me” of Thomas [a disciple of Jesus who doubted Jesus’ resurrection until he could actually touch Jesus after he was resurrected], that went looking for answers, but the steady unresolved attitude of Jonah that said, in effect, “I don’t know and I don’t care. I don’t believe and nobody can change that.”

Such doubt is dangerous. It’s destructive and completely detrimental to any kind of relationship with God. I mean, if you don’t have confidence that God will keep His promises, what do you have? (Quote source: “Lord, Change My Attitude,” p. 168).

In this chapter MacDonald gives us five principles that God uses to test our faith (as well as our doubt). I will briefly state each one here and then you can get a copy of the book for further reading.

Principle One: God places regular tests of faith before His children (pp. 169-172): “Faith is so important and doubt is so detrimental that God places regular tests of faith in front of his children, These are not intended for our failure but for our success” (p. 169).

Principle Two: The circumstances of life will either shrink or stretch your faith (pp. 172-176): MacDonald describes over the next few pages an harrowing experience that happened to his middle son, Landon, right after he was born. The result was that Landon was miraculously healed. As MacDonald states, “I know very well that the medical crisis could have gone a different way. I could tell you other stories about when I trusted God just as much, but things didn’t turn out the way I thought they should. All that to say this: God places regular tests of faith in front of us” (pp. 175-176).

Principle Three: Doubt sees the obstacles; faith sees the opportunities (pp. 176-180): “Two people can look at the same situation and see the exact opposite. One heart filled with doubt focuses only on the obstacles. Another person, looking at the same situation, not filled with doubt but filled with faith, can only see the opportunity” (p. 176).

Principle Four: When surrounded by doubters, doubting comes easy (pp. 180-183): “Doubting comes easy when all my best friends, my coworkers, and my neighbors… are not filled with faith, and I’m continually surrounded by doubters…. Here are four reasons doubts come so easily: (1) Doubting is contagious; (2) doubting is passive–faith requires action, doubting does not; (3) Doubting satisfies our tendency towards self-protection–nobody likes to be wrong; and (4) Doubters are easier to find than friends of faith” (pp. 181-183).

Principle Five: It’s a short journey from doubt to despair (pp. 183-184): Doubt never stands still. It’s always sliding somewhere worse. It’s a short journey from doubt to despair. It’s not weeks, nor months; it’s just a matter of a few days. A crisis can make the trip very short. In the case of the children of Israel, who were really good at doubting, reaching despair was a matter of only a few hours (see Number 14:2-4)” (p. 183).

Now it’s time for some positive reinforcement found in Chapter 8 with an attitude of faith (pp. 190-211):

The Christian life is a life of faith. Genuine believers trust God and exercise active confidence in God. They believe the Word of God [the Bible], and act upon it no matter how they feel, because God promises a good result. When I’m doing that, I’m going forward in a phenomenal way spiritually. When I’m not doing that, I’m backing up and losing ground and falling away from Him. (Quote source: “Lord, Change My Attitude,” p. 202).

MacDonald starts off by stating what faith is not on page 190:

  • Faith is not an ostrich, head-in-the-sand and denying the obvious or the inevitable. It’s not pretending that something is real when deep down you really don’t believe it. That’s fear, not faith.
  • Faith is not anti-intellectual, either. Faith is not a warm feeling that requires you to check your intellect at the door. That’s feeling, not faith.
  • Faith is not a stained-glass and dreamy sort of “Little-House-on-the-Prairie” escapism. I cannot stay in church again, hiding from reality, ignoring the world around me. That’s fluff, not faith.
  • Faith is not some motivational seminar, with some high-powered guru calling for breathing exercises or self-relaxation and self-confidence, telling you to picture a better future. That’s fad, not faith.
  • It’s not some stupid positive mental attitude, a you-have-to-keep-believing thing. It’s not ignoring the pain and embracing optimism regardless of the evidence in front of you. That’s foolishness, not faith (p. 190).

Genuine faith is as follows (on pp. 191-211):

Faith is rooted in a God who is real! Faith finds itself founded on a person–the creator God of the universe. The One who created the universe is with you this moment! He loves you. Faith is active confidence in the God who has revealed Himself, not some presumptuous uncertainty about someone, somewhere out is space. God has proven Himself real again and again, and if you’ve not experienced His reality, you can (p. 191).

Faith has substance (read Hebrews 11). “I take a need before God in prayer. My faith, my active confidence in God, in the thing that I hold on to while I wait to see how the Lord is going to answer what I’ve brought before Him. If I have a painful circumstance in my life and I’m asking God to change that or to change me, my faith is the substance that I hold while I wait upon God to do the things that I’ve asked Him to do. So faith is substance” (p. 192).

Faith is also evidence.Psalm 90:1 says, ‘Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations.’ People have been trusting God for thousands of years. This is not a foolish thing to do. The faithfulness of God–not just in generations past, but in my own life–provides me with evidence” (p. 192).

Faith is believing the Word of God. “Faith is so integral to the Christian life that over the years we’ve boiled it down to a very practical definition: ‘Faith is believing the Word of God and acting upon it, no matter how I feel, because God promises a good result.'”Believing is “I have all my eggs is that basket. I’ve got all my dreams in that place. I’m 100 percent in, and I don’t have an escape route.” That’s faith (p. 193).

One final note on faith (there is so much more in the book). “Acting upon our faith (e.g., faith without works is dead, see James 2:14-26) will impact every area of life, including our families, our finances, and even our sense of fulfillment” (quote p. 195; see pp. 195-211). On page 201 is this statement:

Faith is not part of the Christian life. It’s not like patience or kindness or other character traits. It’s not one part among many other assorted components that may or may not be lacking in our lives at any one time. It’s not like teaching or showing compassion or ministering or other Christian activities. It’s not like worship or prayer or meditation or other actions that we take toward God. Those are all parts.

Faith… is not a part of the Christian life; it’s the whole thing (p. 201).

Yes, it IS the whole thing! I’ll end this post with Hebrews 11:6But without faith it is impossible to please Him [God] for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder…

Of those . . .

Who diligently . . .

Seek Him . . . .

YouTube Video: “Everything” by TobyMac:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here
Photo #3 credit here

Unshakable Hope

The title of this blog post comes from the latest book hot off the press written by Max Lucado titled, appropriately, Unshakable Hope (2018). Max Lucado is a best-selling Christian author and senior pastor at Oak Hills Church in San Antonio, Texas. He “has spent the last 40 years telling the story of God’s grace in books, in pulpits, on broadcasts, on music tours…every chance he gets” (quote source here).

This book is Max Lucado’s fortieth book. As he states in his “Acknowledgments” page at the opening of the book:

Forty.

Noah floated for 40 days in the flood.

Moses spent 40 years in the desert.

The Hebrews wandered 40 years in the wilderness.

Jesus endured 40 days of temptation.

There’s something significant about the number 40.

So if you’ll allow me to mention the fact, this is my fortieth book. No one could be more grateful than I am. To think that God would let a converted drunk prone to self-promotion and self-centeredness, write one page, much less forty books’ worth, is yet another testimony to his goodness and grace.

Thank you, Father. (Quote source: “Unshakable Hope,” page XIII.) [He then goes on to thank an “invaluable team of colleagues and friends” for their help and assistance.]

Forty books . . . I can’t imagine writing one. And while I haven’t read all forty of Max Lucado’s books, they are always inspirational, and the same goes for his latest offering. On the inside front cover of his latest book, it states:

What is shaking in your world?

Possibly your future, your faith, your family, or finances? It’s a shaky world out there. Could you use some unshakable hope?

If so, you are not alone. Hope in hard to come by these days. Many people believe this world is as good as it gets, and let’s face it, it’s not that good.

Though we’ve never been more educated, entertained, and connected, the suicide rate in America has increased 24 percent since 1999–24 percent. How can this be?

One of the reasons must be this: people are dying from lack of hope.

But what if we filtered our lives and our challenges through the promises of God? God’s promises are pine trees in the Rocky Mountains of Scripture: abundant, unending, and perennial.

Because life is filled with problems. God’s Word is filled with promises. In “Unshakable Hope,” Max Lucado unpacks a dozen of the Bible’s most significant promises, equipping us to overcome difficult circumstances, experience lasting security, and make wise decisions.

These promises work. They can secure you in the midst of horrific storms. They can buoy you in the day-to-day difficulties. When the winds and waves of life rage, God’s promises are like lights on the shoreline, guiding us home.

And since his Word is unbreakable, our hope is unshakable. (Quote course: “Unshakable Hope,” inside front cover.)

A description on Amazon.com for the book includes the following:

After forty years of counseling and ministry, Max Lucado has learned that nothing lifts the desperate, weary heart like the promises of God. In a world full of despair, depression, anxiety, and instability, we do not need more opinions or hunches; we need the definitive declarations of our mighty and loving God. 

“Unshakable Hope” examines twelve of God’s promises that Max has turned to over the years to encourage himself and others. Each chapter explores one significant promise and reveals how it will equip you to:

  • Overcome challenging circumstances
  • Live through sadness and renew hope
  • Experience lasting security
  • Make wise decisions 

What is your life built on—the circumstances of life or the promises of God? The answer to that question changes everything. For every problem in life, God has given you a promise. Join Max as he takes a closer look at Scripture’s unbreakable promises and shows you how to live with an unshakable hope. (Quote source here.)

An excerpt from Chapter 11 in the book titled, Joy is Soon Coming,” is available online at this link. Here are a few sentences from that excerpt:

Joy comes. Watch for it. Expect it as you would the morning sunrise or the evening twilight. It came to Mary Magdalene. And it will come to you, my friend.

Keep coming to Jesus. Even though the trail is dark. Even though the sun seems to sleep. Even though everyone else is silent, walk to Jesus. Mary Magdalene did this. No, she didn’t comprehend the promise of Jesus. She came looking for a dead Jesus, not a living one. But at least she came. And because she came to Him, He came to her.

And you? You’ll be tempted to give up and walk away. But don’t. Even when you don’t feel like it, keep walking the trail to the empty tomb. Open your Bible. Meditate on Scripture. Sing hymns. Talk to other believers. Place yourself in a position to be found by Jesus, and listen carefully. That gardener very well might be your Redeemer.

Weeping comes. It comes to all of us. Heartaches leave us with tear-streaked faces and heavy hearts. Weeping comes. But so does joy. Darkness comes, but so does the morning. Sadness comes, but so does hope. Sorrow may have the night, but it cannot have our lives. (Quote source here.)

Another excerpt from Chapter 12 titled, You Will Have Power,” is also available online at this link. This chapter is on the power of the Holy Spirit to transform us. Here are a few sentences from this excerpt:

Many believers settle for a two-thirds God. They rely on the Father and the Son but overlook the Holy Spirit. You wouldn’t make that mistake with a tripod, trike, or prism. You certainly don’t want to make that mistake with the Trinity. Your Bible refers more than a hundred times to the Holy Spirit. Jesus says more about the Holy Spirit than He does about the church or marriage. In fact, on the eve of His death, as He prepared His followers to face the future without Him, He made this great and precious promise:

You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you. — Acts 1:8

Imagine all the promises Jesus could have made to the disciples but didn’t. He didn’t promise immediate success. He didn’t promise the absence of disease or struggles. He never guaranteed a level of income or popularity. But He did promise the perpetual, empowering presence of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is central to the life of the Christian. Everything that happens from the book of Acts to the end of the book of Revelation is a result of the work of the Holy Spirit of Christ. The Spirit came alongside the disciples, indwelled them, and gave the early church the push they needed to face the challenges ahead.

Perhaps you could use a push.

Several years ago when my legs were stronger, my belly was flatter, and my ego was bigger, I let my friend Pat convince me to enter a bike race. Not just any bike race, mind you, but a race that included a one and a half mile climb up a steep hill with a gradient of 12 percent. In other words it was a tough, climb-out-of-the-saddle, set-your-thighs-on-fire, and prepare-to-suck-air-for-ten-minutes section of the race. Appropriately called the Killer Diller, it lived up to the hype.

I knew its reputation. Still, I signed up because Pat, my riding buddy, told me I could make it. Easy for Pat to say. He is fifteen years my junior and has competed since his elementary school days. He was riding in pelotons before most of us knew what they were. When I balked at the idea of completing the race, he assured me, “Believe me, Max. You will make it.”

I almost didn’t.

In quick fashion the riders who belonged there left those of us who didn’t far behind. We, the barrel-bellied laggards, made jokes about the upcoming ascent. But we didn’t joke for long. It takes wind to talk. We soon needed all the wind we could muster to climb. I pushed and huffed and puffed, and about that point the ascent began. By the time I was halfway to the top, my thighs were on fire, and I was having less-than-pleasant thoughts about my friend Patrick.

That is when I felt the push. A hand was pressing against the small of my back. I turned and looked. It was Pat! He had already completed the race. Anticipating my utter exhaustion, he had hurried back up the hill, dismounted his bike, and scurried to give me a hand. Literally. He began pushing me up the hill! (The fact that he could keep up with me tells you how slowly I was pedaling.) “I told you that you would make it,” he shouted. “I came to make sure you did.”

The Holy Spirit promises to do the same. After Jesus ascended into Heaven, the Holy Spirit became the primary agent of the Trinity on earth. He will complete what was begun by the Father and the Son. Though all three expressions of the Godhead are active, the Spirit is taking the lead in this, the final age.

The Spirit promises to give us power, unity, supervision, and holiness: P-U-S-H. Need a push?

He promises power to the saint. He is the animating force behind creation.

All creatures look to Youto give them their food at the proper time. When You give it to them, they gather it up; when You open your hand, they are satisfied with good things. When You hide Your face, they are terrified;when You take away their breath, they die and return to the dust. When You send your Spirit, they are created,and you renew the face of the ground. — Psalm 104:27-30

Every unfolding flower is a fingerprint of God’s Spirit.

If God were to withdraw His Spirit, all life would disappear and mankind would turn again to dust.— Job 34:14-15 TLB

The Spirit of God is a life-giving force to creation and, more significantly, a midwife of new birth for the believer. Jesus told Nicodemus:

Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, “You must be born again.” The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.— John 3:5-8

The Holy Spirit enters the believer upon confession of faith (Ephesians 1:13). From that point forward the Christian has access to the very power and personality of God. As the Spirit has His way in the lives of believers, a transformation occurs. They begin to think the way God thinks, love the way God loves, and see the way God sees. They minister in power and pray in power and walk in power.

This power includes the gifts of the Spirit.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.— Galatians 5:22-23

These attributes appear in the life of the saint in the same way an apple appears on the branch of an apple tree. Fruit happens as a result of relationship. Sever the branch from the tree, and forget the fruit. Yet if the branch is secured to the trunk, nutrients flow, and fruit results.

So it is with the fruit of the Holy Spirit. As our relationship with God is secured and unmarred by rebellion, sin, or stubborn behavior, we can expect a harvest of fruit. We needn’t force it. But we can expect it. It simply falls to us to stay connected.

Want to see [the Holy Spirit’s] to-do list?

The list of his activities is varied, wonderful, and incomplete without this word: holy. The Spirit of God also makes us holy. After all, is He not the Holy Spirit? One of His primary activities is to cleanse us from sin and to sanctify us for holy work. Paul reminded the Corinthians:

But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. — 1 Corinthians 6:11

Make it your aim to sense, see, and hear the Spirit of God. Would you use a two-legged tripod? Two-wheeled trike? Two-sided prism? Of course not. Avail yourself of all God has to offer. Fix your heart on this promise: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you” (Acts 1:8). (Quote source here.)

I hope these two excerpts have whet your appetite for more. Max Lucado’s latest book is available at most bookstores and online as well. If you’re needing some encouragement today (and who isn’t), let this book full of God’s promises encourage you (as well, of course, as the Bible). And when you think you’re reaching a point of giving up and throwing in the towel, remember that it is not your power, but God’s power, that will sustain you. Just ask…. 

You will receive power . . .

When the Holy Spirit . . .

Comes on you . . . .

YouTube Video: “Don’t Give Up” by Calling Glory:

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The Journey to Joy

I just finished a blog post on my new blog, Reflections,” and I decided I would share it on this blog since the readership is much higher, and the topic is on “joy” in whatever circumstances we may happen to find ourselves in right now (or any other time, too). Here it is . . . .

This past Sunday I heard a sermon on TV by Joel Osteen, senior pastor of Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas, titled Keep Your Joy (click here for YouTube Video of the sermon). It was a very good reminder of just how important it is for us to keep our joy in the midst of trying circumstances, whether it’s the daily hassle of dealing with rush hour traffic or something more long term such as losing a job and whole lot more that can come along with it, or coming to terms with the death of a significant other– a parent, sibling, friend, etc.

I tend to believe that joy is difference from happiness. Joy doesn’t depend on the immediate external circumstances but comes from within and has deep roots if we’ve learned how to cultivate joy in our lives. Happiness, on the other hand, is a more immediate feeling that comes from something good (usually external) that has happened in our lives, such as listening to a favorite song on the radio that we haven’t heard in years; or a sunny day after days of dreary weather, or a job promotion… it’s any number of things that bring a smile to our face.

Joy has more depth. Happiness is flighty–here today and gone tomorrow. Joy sticks around when happiness is long gone. Joy is in it for the long haul. Joy is still there when the job is lost, or the divorce is final, or the parent dies.

An article titled, What is the Difference between Joy and Happiness?” found on CompellingTruth.org states the difference between the two:

Happiness is based on an experience or other external stimulus. For instance, getting engaged to be married may result in happiness. Happiness also tends to disappear when the situation changes. If, shortly after becoming engaged, a person wrecks his/her car, the happiness generated by the pleasurable experience of becoming engaged will most likely disappear because of the terrible experience of wrecking the car. The Greek word translated “happy” in the New Testament appears approximately fifty times in the New Testament. Five times it is translated “happy” and forty-five times it is translated “blessed” (numbers vary in different translations).

On the other hand, joy is based on internal well-being or the anticipation of well-being. To follow the above example, an engaged couple is often not happy. Circumstances in their lives—disagreements, for example—are not pleasurable and generate unhappiness rather than happiness. But, at the same time, most engaged couples would say they have joy almost all the time because of their anticipated marriage. The joy they have is independent of the current circumstances. The New Testament has several words that are translated “joy” or “rejoice” in the New Testament, and they appear several hundred times. 

One of the most striking places is in James 1:2, where the Scripture says, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds.” Having “trials of various kinds” will definitely not lead to happiness, but Christians are told that it is reason for joy. The reason for joy is found in the following two verses, “for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:2-4). Joy here is based on the anticipated results of the trials, not the trials themselves. 

Another place in Scripture that emphasizes joy is the entire book of Philippians. Paul wrote this book from prison in Rome, which was not a happy place. He begins with a profession of joy in chapter 1, verses 3 through 6, when he says “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” He didn’t say that he was happy—indeed, circumstances fought against that—but he prayed with joy because of the confidence he had in the anticipated results of God’s work. He admits that some were preaching the gospel thinking it would cause trouble for Paul, but he goes on to say, “… what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice” (Philippians 1:18 NIV). Paul goes on to exhort the Philippians to seek a relationship with God that will bring them joy.

It is evident in the Scriptures that joy because of our relationship with God is to be desired more than happiness in our circumstances. Happiness may be good, but joy is much better. Happiness is often fleeting because circumstances change, but joy in Christ is eternal. (Quote source here.)

In an article titled, Is there a Relationship Between Happiness and Joy?” by Dr. Cheryl A. MacDonald, clinical psychologist, RN, writer, and business owner, she states:

Happiness is subjective. What matters is someone’s perception of happiness. Scientists say this emotion can be studied and measured because people can reliably and honestly self-report their increases and decreases in happiness levels. Joy is a state of mind, a combination of emotions, and in the spiritual context is localized in our heart. Joy contains elements of contentment, confidence and hope….

Happiness is a blurred emotion. It can mean different things to many people, and part of a psychologist’s quest is to identify all of the distinctive applications of the word. Most of us will agree that happiness is an emotional state of well-being defined by positive feelings ranging from contentment to intense joy. Those who believe in positive psychology strive to apply research methods to answer questions about what happiness is and how it can be attained. It is well known that happy people are physically and emotionally healthier than unhappy ones. There is evidence suggesting that individuals can increase their level happiness with actions like exercising to release endorphins. It is also well known that various practices have been associated with happiness, such as eating well…. 

Being joyful requires feeling connected to other people in life, with nature, by appreciating the arts, and it requires an acceptance of life, as it is, in the present. Sometimes life does not treat us well, financial devastation, becoming ill, a divorce, developing a chronic illness, becoming disabled, death of a loved one, or adapting to growing older. These transitions or challenges are all aspects of life, and we all will experience them in varying degrees until the day we die. Some believe that joy is a conscious commitment to be happy, to have a sense of contentment for the moment, despite life’s challenges. Joy is an internal lasting emotional condition…. 

Joy is an attitude or a belief, which soothes even in the most sorrowful of situations. Joy comes from within; it is an internal view.  Joy in the Biblical context, is not an emotion. It is not based on something positive happening in life, but is an attitude of the heart or spirit….

Is there a relationship between happiness and joy? Yes and No. Joy is something that lasts. Happiness is something that is temporary. Joy is an inner, conscious belief. Happiness is external. Something people may feel for a short time, for example, when they buy something that they desire. Joy brings with it a feeling of contentment when someone is in the middle of a life storm. Happiness is not present in a life storm….

[So] strive to feel the consistency of joy, and, of course have a little happiness in your life today! (Quote source here.)

Need more joy in your life (regardless of your circumstances)? Ask for it. Jesus stated in John 16:24Until now you have asked nothing in My name…

Ask, and you will receive . . .

That your joy . . .

May be full . . . .

YouTube Video: “Joy” by for KING & COUNTRY:

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