Being Intentional

Being intentional means doing something “with intention or on purpose” (see definition at this link). It can be something good, or bad, or anywhere in between, and it is done on purpose and with awareness that we are doing it. Romans 8:28 is the classic “intentional” verse for Christians. It’s about God’s intentions towards those of us who are believers in Jesus Christ. That verse states:

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

Ephesians 5:1-20 gives us our response in being intentional followers of Jesus Christ. While what is written it’s not popular in today’s world (it never has been), Here are those verses:

Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a person is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be partners with them.

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. This is why it is said:

“Wake up, sleeper,
rise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”

Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

This is intentional living as a Christian. It’s not a tightrope walk or a list of rules to be followed, but a way of life that blooms from a relationship with God. It stems from a willing heart and mind, and the key is found in verse 10–“find out what pleases the Lord.” While we are certainly not perfect at it all of the time, it is the direction we should be heading in. And it’s not done out a sense of legalism or following rules. It is done because God calls us to live that way.

An article titled What is Intentional Living?” on Family Life Resources, a network of 40 Christian Radio Stations, states:

Intentional living is a lot like a GPS system found in many cars. It shows you the path to where you want to go. A GPS requires putting in the right destination, where you are headed. It also has a beginning point. A GPS knows where you are starting your journey. And once you enter a destination, it calculates a route, a path for you to follow. In the same way, Intentional Living points you toward the path in God’s Word. Psalm 119:105 says, “Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.” (NIV)

The key to “intentional living” is found in Ephesians 5:10, “Figure out what will please Christ, and then do it” (The Message). It’s a roadmap for life. When put into practice each and every day, living intentionally changes your life.

You can experience the best God has for you when you live intentionally. Intentionality happens when you combine information, insight and action.

  • Information: gathering the facts you need to know about the situation. It’s your thinking.
  • Insight: looking at the situation in a new, heartfelt way. This insight often comes from Scripture; it also represents how we relate at an emotional level with other people and with God. It’s how you feel.
  • Action: doing something with the information and insight you’ve gathered. Without action, nothing happens. It’s what you do.
  • A balance of intentional Thinking, Feeling and Doing will result in an extraordinary life filled with peace, passion and progress.

Even though we have a path to follow, it’s easy to get so turned around in this world that we don’t know where we’re going. Always remember that God does the saving through His Son Jesus on the cross. The Bible says we are saved by grace through faith. (Ephesians 2:8 NIV)

So, there’s nothing we can do to earn salvation. But we do show our faith by how we live our lives. We decide how we’re going to think and what we’re going to do when we wake up every day. By taking responsibility for our own thoughts, emotions and actions, the journey of intentional living has begun.

And, the best is yet to come in the five essential areas of life: Faith, Family, Health, Finances and Work. When you apply the teaching in Ephesians 5:10 to each area, you will embark on the intentional life in Christ that you desire. (Quote source here.)

In another article titled, Is ‘Intentional’ the Christian Woman’s New Perfectionism?” by Brenda Rodgers, wife, mom, and blogger at BrendaRodgers.com, she makes a very valid point that being intentional is not about perfectionism. In her article she states:

In some ways my new habits of intentional living were helpful. I discovered areas of my life where I had been flippant and lazy. I realized that a dessert every day is probably not the healthiest choice and that my words to my husband often do come across as disrespectful.

However, there was another part of me that began to revert back to a pattern of behavior that I thought I had buried – a pattern of perfectionism. In my efforts to be intentional with my life, I started trying to control every aspect of it. I thought that the more intentional I was, the more smoothly my life would run.

Intentional living became a mask for perfectionism….

Living intentionally has nothing to do with being perfect and everything to do with knowing who qualifies us. Colossians 1:12-13 says, “May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.” Our behavior or works never qualifies us. Only God qualifies us. When we know who qualifies us, then we are willingly and freely intentional in other areas of our lives without the bondage of perfectionism.

Since God qualifies us, we no longer have to focus on intentionality in all areas of our life, but just in our relationship with Jesus. This is made clear in Proverbs 9:10. “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.” To fear the Lord means to honor Him, to put Him first, to revere Him above all else. When we fear the Lord, we gain wisdom into how to be intentional in our lives. As Psalm 90:12 states, wisdom comes from numbering our days. Numbering our days is being intentional in our relationship with Jesus because it acknowledges His sovereignty. The wisdom we gain from our intentional relationship with Him shows us how to be intentional in other areas of our lives. Proverbs 3:5-6Proverbs 16:3, and Psalm 143:8 also explain that being intentional with God produces wisdom for being intentional in all areas of life.

If you’re like me and have been busy trying to be “intentional” in your life, ask yourself if it is a mask for perfectionism. Anything we do in Jesus’ name should bring us joy – not burden. I, however, experienced anything but joy. Instead, I felt anxious to produce the perfect system that in turn would produce the perfect results.

Today make a commitment to only be intentional in your relationship with Jesus. Allow intentionality in other areas of your life to be from the overflow of your relationship with Him. (Quote source and entire article here.)

In a blog post titled, On Being Intentional,” by Pastor Steve (no other identification is given but I assume the author is a pastor), he writes:

Too many things in our lives just happen – we don’t plan for them, we don’t anticipate them, we don’t even want some of them, they just happen. Even things that are part of our regular routine have a degree of ambiguity about them. We know that we have to show up at work at a certain time but then what? We don’t know – we just react to whatever crosses our path.

And that’s often how we live life – unintentionally. Life just happens and we react to it. Sure there will always be a degree of uncertainty in life. You can’t plan for every event, especially when you depend on other people. But what about the areas of life where you have a choice? What about the areas under your control? Things like – oh, let’s say encouraging someone, or showing kindness, or helping someone.

Here’s my suggestion – as Christians let’s begin to live life intentionally. I think this is the point of scripture that is often missed. When the Bible tells us to be something or to do something the idea is that we have to intentionally plan to be/do that thing. The “one another” passages of the Bible come to mind:

Serve one anotherGalatians 5:13
Be kind and compassionate to one anotherEphesians 4:32
Comfort one another1 Thessalonians 4:18
Love one anotherJohn 13:34
Pray for one anotherJames 5:16
Care for one another1 Corinthians 12:25
Build up one another1 Thessalonians 5:11
Forgive one anotherEphesians 4:32

These passages, and others, take for granted that we are being intentional in the way we live. It’s difficult to do any of these things without some forethought and planning on our part. I think that God wants us to live intentional Christian lives.

How would your life change if you became more intentional? If you planned to encourage someone today instead of waiting until the opportunity presented itself? If you planned to serve someone even if they haven’t expressed a need? If you planned to love someone even if you don’t see any specific reason other than that God put them in front of you today? More importantly how would the lives of other people be affected if you became more intentional?

God is a God of the intentional. He plans and He acts according to His plan. As His people we also need to be intentional. We need to plan how we will express His love to others in concrete, specific, intentional ways. (Quote source here.)

“God is a God of the intentional”…. I’ll end this post with the words from 1 Corinthians 5:17Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. . . .

The old has passed away . . .

Behold . . .

The new has come. . . .

YouTube Video: “Intentional” by Travis Greene:

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Running the Race

The author of the Book of Hebrews in the New Testament opens Chapter 12 with the following verses (vv-1-4, NLT):

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith [see Hebrews 11], let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up. After all, you have not yet given your lives in your struggle against sin.

Opposition comes not only from our own propensity for “the sin that so easily trips us up,” but also from others trying to keep us down, and it is an active and ongoing part of our lives. The author of Hebrews states that as Christians we should “run with endurance the race God has set before us.” And the only way to do this is to “keep our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.”

Dictionary.com defines opposition as follows:

  1. the action of opposing, resisting, or combating.
  2. antagonism or hostility.
  3. a person or group of people opposing, criticizing, or protesting something, someone, or another group.
  4. the major political party opposed to the party in power and seeking to replace it.
  5. the act of placing opposite, or the state or position of being placed opposite.
  6. the act of opposing, or the state of being opposed by way of comparison or contrast.

On this subject of opposition, the other day I ran across a book first published in 2006 with a title that piqued my interest–The Confident Woman–at Half Price Books. It was also at a bargain price ($3.00 for a hardcover edition in excellent shape) so I couldn’t resist, and it is by a very well known Christian woman author, teacher, and speaker who’s name you’ll recognize as soon as I mention it. One of the themes in this book is how to deal with opposition.

In her book, The Confident Woman,” Joyce Meyer, author, Bible teacher and speaker, and President of Joyce Meyer Ministries, wrote the following in Chapter 15 titled, “Winners Never Quit” under the subtitle of “Opposition Will Always Be There” on pp. 211-212 (first edition 2006):

In the beginning of my ministry, God gave me a dream. In the dream, I was driving down a highway and I noticed cars pulling off. Some were parking and others were turning around to go back where they came from I assumed there must be trouble up ahead but could not see what it was. As I boldly continued to drive forward I saw a bridge with water from the river below starting to flow across it. I realized that the people in the cars were afraid they might get hurt or get somewhere and not be able to get back. My dram ended with me sitting in my car looking first at the water-covered bridge, back where I had been, and to the side of the road, trying to decide if I should park, retreat or keep moving forward. Then I woke up.

God used that dram to show me that there will always be opposition when pressing toward a goal. There will always be opportunity to park and go no farther or turn around and give up. It was up to me to decide each time if I would give up or go on. That dream has helped me many times to press on when difficulties came and I was tempted to quit. I have decided that even though I don’t always get the result that I hope for, I will never quit! Determination will get you a lot farther than talent. So if you feel you lack in talent, take heart. All you need to win in life is more determination than anyone else you know. (Quote source, “The Confident Woman,” pp, 211-212)

Opposition comes to everyone at some point in life and maybe from lots of people and places throughout life. However, we as Christians are in good company as there isn’t one instance from Genesis to Revelation where those who follow after God and Jesus Christ get to just “coast along” in life (also reminiscent of John Bunyan‘s allegorical book, Pilgrim’s Progress,” first published in 1678).

In the opening of Chapter 15, Joyce starts with the following story regarding the beginning of her ministry in the St. Louis area:

Quitting is not an option for the confident woman. She must decide what she wants or needs to do and make her mind up that she will finish her source. You will experience some opposition no matter what you attempt to do in life. The Apostle Paul said that when doors of opportunity opened to him, opposition often came with it (1 Corinthians 16:9). Confidence believes that it can handle whatever comes its way; it doesn’t fear what has not happened yet.

I still remember the first Sunday morning I ministered at a church we started in the inner city of St. Louis. Our goal was to help the hurting people in that area and give them hope. I stood in the pulpit that day and announced loudly, “I’m here to stay. I knew others who had tried to do similar works and, after a period of time, gave up. I made up my mind when I started that I would finish.

We have endured opposition. Local churches got upset because a new church was coming into the area. They were afraid that we would take their congregations. There comment was, “We don’t need a big ministry coming in here and taking our people.” Attitudes such as that are fear-based and foolish.

One of our staff members was injured in a drive-by shooting, but we still didn’t leave and neither did he.

Occasionally, members of the congregation had windows broken in their cars during the church service, but they did not leave. A couple of times cars were even stolen, but we still stayed.

The pastor was caught in an affair with another employee and we became more determined than ever. We said, “Even if we have to start all over, we are not going to leave.” Fear said, “the people in the congregation will leave when they here this.” I said, “If anyone leaves, God will send two more to replace them.” I addressed the congregation and openly shared the truth with them. I told them we would get someone good to pastor the church, that Satan wanted to use the situation to divide the church, but we weren’t going to let that happen. People really appreciated the honesty and no one left. The church has grown and is one thousand members strong at this time [circa 2006].

When you attempt to do something and fear rears its ugly head, you must remember that the wold goal of fear is to stop you. Fear wants you to run, to withdraw and to hide. God wants you to finish what you began.

The Apostle Paul was given a job to do and he was determined to do it even through he knew that it meant imprisonment and suffering. he kept his eyes on the finish line, not on what he knew he would go through. he said he wasn’t moved by the opposition, but that his goal was to finish his course with joy. Paul not only wanted to finish what he started, he wanted to enjoy the journey. Enjoyment is not possible if we are afraid all the time. Fear brings present torment concerning future situations that may not happen anyway. Paul knew that whatever did happen, God would be faithful to strengthen him so that he might patiently endure it.

If we stare at our giants too much, the fear of them will overtake us. Keep your eyes on the prize, not the pain. In the Bible, Paul explains how they were pressed on every side and troubled and oppressed in every way. They could see no way out but they refused to give up. he explains in 2 Corinthians 4:9 how they were persecuted but not deserted or left by God to stand alone. Paul said, “We are struck down to the ground, but never struck out and destroyed.” I can feel my heart being stirred with courage even as I listen to Paul. he made his mind up that no matter what happened he was going to finish his course. Paul explained that they did not get discouraged (utterly spiritless, exhausted, and wearied out through fear) because they looked not at the things they could see but to the things they could not see (2 Corinthians 4:8, 9, 16, 18),

If we stare at our problems too much, think and talk about them too much, they are likely to defeat us. Glance at your problems but stare at Jesus. We don’t deny the existence of problems, we don’t ignore them, but we do not permit them to rule us. Any problem you have is subject to change. All things are possible with God!

When David came up against the giant Goliath, he did not stand for hours looking at the giant wondering how to win the battle. The Bible says that he ran quickly to the battle line, all the time talking about the greatness of God and declaring his victory ahead of time. David did not run away from his giant; he courageously ran toward him.

Robert Schuller [American televangelist, pastor, motivational speaker, and author–he died in 2015 after this book was published] said, “If you listen to your fears, you will die never knowing what a great person you might have been.”

If David had run from Goliath he would never have been King of Israel. He was anointed by God to be king twenty years before he wore the crown. During those years he faced his giants and proved that he had the tenacity to endure difficulty without quitting.

Did David feel any fear as he approached Goliath? I think he did. In David’s writings he never claimed to be free from the feelings of fear. As a matter of fact he talked about being afraid:

What time I am afraid, I will have confidence in and put my trust and reliance in You.

By [the help of] God I will praise His word; on God I lean, rely, and confidently put my trust; I will not fear. What can man, who is flesh, do to me? (Psalm 56:3-4, AMPC)

David was clearly saying that even though he felt fear, he chose to be confident!

Paul said that we are each running a race and that we should run it to win. Winning requires preparation, training, sacrifice and a willing to press past our opposition. It often required failing many times but continuing, always keeping going, despite any opposition we many encounter along the way. (Quote course, “The Confident Woman,” pp. 203-206).

In an article titled, Run the Race to Finish,” published on August 11, 2017 on DesiringGod.org by Jennifer Brogdon, guest contributor and a former collegiate distance runner, she states:

Runners not only properly nourish their body and recover well, but they also work hard to build endurance. They endure long runs. They do speed workouts. They lift weights. They stretch. They push through pain. They have sore muscles and tired lungs.

Likewise, as Christians, we work hard to strengthen our faith to endure the race of faith. We must seek him daily in his word and in prayer. We must seek fellowship among other believers and let our fellow church members encourage us in the faith. We must welcome rebuke and embrace trials. Personal discipline is essential if we are to keep our eyes focused on Jesus.

Every ounce counts in a foot race. The lighter the endurance runner, the swifter the runner. The same is true in the Christian life. Many things slow us down and eventually stall us in the race of faith. In my case, chasing self-centered joy and personal accolades. Sin clings closely. It’s hard to get off, and it’s heavy. We lay aside every weight and clingy sin. The farther we are from sin, the closer we are to Jesus.

When we sin, we take our eyes off Jesus and put them on ourselves. We choose to do our will instead of his. But we can’t make it to the finish line without looking to Jesus—the author and finisher of our faith. When we set our eyes firmly on him, we will not grow weary in the fight against sin and in the race to persevere in faith. We remember the crown waiting for us in glory and continue running. (Quote source and complete article available at this link.)

I’ll end this post with a quote from Bill Crowder from his 2010 devotion titled, Running the Race,” in Our Daily Bread

The Christian’s race . . .

Is not a sprint . . .

But a marathon . . . .

YouTube Video: “Standing Up for Something” by Andra Day (feat. Common):

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The Last Word

The title of this blog post actually comes from Isaiah 55:10-11 which states the following:

As the rain and the snow
    come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
    without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
    so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
so is my [God’s] word that goes out from my mouth:
    It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
    and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

I read an interesting article published yesterday (October 13, 2018) in the New York Times titled, It’s Getting Harder to Talk About God: The decline in our spiritual vocabulary has many real world consequences,” by Jonathan Merritt, award-winning writer on religion, culture, and politics; contributing writer for The Atlantic, and contributing editor for The Week.

Merritt opens his article with the following statement:

More than 70 percent of Americans identify as Christian, but you wouldn’t know it from listening to them. An overwhelming majority of people say that they don’t feel comfortable speaking about faith, most of the time.

During the Great Depression, the playwright Thornton Wilder remarked, “The revival in religion will be a rhetorical problem—new persuasive words for defaced or degraded ones.” Wilder knew that during times of rapid social change, God-talk is often difficult to muster.

We may have traded 1930s-level poverty and hunger for a resurgence in racism, sexism and environmental cataclysm, but our problems are no less serious—or spiritually disorienting. While many of our most visible leaders claim to be religious, their moral frameworks seem unrecognizable to masses of other believers. How do we speak about God in times like these when God is hard to spot? (Quote source here.)

I have noticed a difference especially in the past decade which has also been, as Merritt notes above, a time of rapid social change. Stray too far from traditional Christian settings (mainly church and church type activities or hanging out with other Christians) and it’s as if we are entering foreign territory right here in America. It’s not that we don’t see Christian stuff everywhere in America (after all, it is a billion-dollar business), but we’ve become too absorbed in the culture and there isn’t a lot of difference between our actions and the actions of most of the rest of society.

Merritt goes on to state:

As a student of American Christianity and the son of a prominent megachurch pastor, I’ve been sensing for some time that sacred speech and spiritual conversation are in decline. But this was only a hunch I had formed in response to anecdotal evidence and personal experience. I lacked the quantitative data needed to say for sure.

So last year, I enlisted the Barna Group, a social research firm focused on religion and public life, to conduct a survey of 1,000 American adults. This study revealed that most Americans—more than three-quarters, actually—do not often have spiritual or religious conversations.

More than one-fifth of respondents admit they have not had a spiritual conversation at all in the past year. Six in 10 say they had a spiritual conversation only on rare occasions—either “once or twice” (29 percent) or “several times” (29 percent) in the past year. A paltry 7 percent of Americans say they talk about spiritual matters regularly.

But here’s the real shocker: Practicing Christians who attend church regularly aren’t faring much better. A mere 13 percent had a spiritual conversation around once a week.

For those who practice Christianity, such trends are confounding. It is a religion that has always produced progeny through the combination of spiritual speech and good deeds. Nearly every New Testament author speaks about the power of spiritual speech, and Jesus’ final command to his disciples was to go into the world and spread his teachings. You cannot be a Christian in a vacuum.

And yet even someone like me who has spent his entire life using God-talk knows how hard it has become. Five years ago, I moved from the Bible Belt to New York City and ran headfirst into an unexpected language barrier. Sure, I could still speak English as well as I always had. But I could no longer “speak God.” (Quote source here.)

When I look at the results of the Barna Group survey stated above, I’m not actually surprised by the finding that a large percentage of Christians don’t actively engage in “spiritual conversations” in general. I don’t mind a dialogue, but I’m not looking to get into arguments which can occur even among Christians. And in our society people do have a right to live however they want to live as long as they aren’t breaking any laws or harming other people, and our Constitution gives them that right. It’s a part of what our democracy is all about, and it is what sets America apart from much of the rest of the world.

One this issue of spiritual speech, I had an interesting encounter this past week when I saw an ad on Craigslist for a senior apartment complex advertising one-bedroom apartments. I decided to go take a look, and as I drove through an area that is heavily traveled I was stopped at a red light and what looked like a homeless guy with very long hair walked up to the window on the passenger’s side of my car. I rolled down that window to briefly talk with him, but he wasn’t seeking money. Instead, he asked me if I was a Christian and I said yes. At that point he unleashed a soliloquy of sorts about how America was going to hell because of its acceptance of homosexuality and he asked me if I was familiar with the story of Sodom and Gomorrah in the Bible. I said yes. As I listened to his speech he reminded me of what an angry Old Testament prophet might have sounded like (he sort of looked like one, too), and he was absolutely not interested in engaging in a dialogue. His eyes actually flashed with anger as he talked (but he wasn’t aggressive at all–just very passionate about what he was talking about).

Fortunately, the light turned green and his soliloquy came to an end. He was apparently a “one issue prophet” of sorts as his only message was about homosexuality and the city government (specifically a previous mayor who was female and a lesbian) here in this city. Apparently, he was not aware that she was no longer mayor, but I don’t think that would have mattered to him. He was speaking “hell, fire, and brimstone” regarding homosexuality.

As I pulled away from my brief exchange with him, I found myself feeling a bit guilty but I didn’t know why. Some folks might write him off as some crazy guy spouting nonsense. I felt more verbally badgered by him then I felt guilty. He talked as if he expected me to resolve the issue and “save America from it’s doom and gloom,” yet he would not allow me to contribute to the conversation.

I tend to be the type of person who is open to conversation with anyone who is also open to conversation, and it can be about anything and not just “religious” stuff. In fact, it is rarely about religious stuff unless the person I am conversing with brings it up first. One would be hard pressed, living in America, to not encounter elements of Christianity everywhere in our society. I’m not sure how much influence that “one issue prophet” might have on others, but, and I say this for the benefit of everyone living in America, he has a right to do and say what he wants to do and say as long as he isn’t breaking any laws. That he might not help the conversation of being “Christian” in America, he may or may not have a negative effect on those he speaks with towards Christianity in general.

Merritt is right in noting that our society is rapidly changing. And he’s also right when he says it’s getting hard to talk about God at all especially in settings outside of the church or other Christian settings. And while his emphasis is on the issue of “speech,” it is also about “actions.” While most people probably don’t hear us speak or express our opinions on issues going on in our society, but they do pay attention to our actions when we are around them or out in public. And our actions sometimes betray what we say we believe.

On this issue, Merritt states:

That toothy televangelist keeps using spiritual language to call for donations to buy a second jet. The politician keeps using spiritual language to push unjust legislation. The street preacher keeps using spiritual language to peddle the fear of a fiery hell. They can dominate the conversation because we’ve stopped speaking God. In our effort to avoid contributing to the problem, we can actually worsen it. (Quote source here.)

First and foremost, the way that we as Christians should live in a rapidly changing culture is to make sure that love is a part of our actions that we send out to every person we encounter. We can’t change the toothy televangelist who wants a second jet, or the politician who is trying to push through unjust legislation, or the street preacher (like that one-issue prophet I ran into at the red light) peddling the fear of a fiery hell, but we can change how we respond to a culture that is rapidly changing.

Merritt makes a very valid point when it comes to speech, but we also need to consider our actions. Nonverbal communication often speaks louder than any words we can say. However, as for our speech, Colossians 4:6 has the final answer, and I’ll end this post with this verse: Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt . . .

That you may know . . .

How you ought to answer . . .

Each one . . . .

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

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Real Power

 

It seems appropriate at this time of the year when the month of Halloween begins and Halloween movies are out in full force that we think about another kind of Power that is out there. What brought this to mind this morning was an article I ran across written by A.W. Tozer (1897-1963), who was a pastor, author, magazine editor, and spiritual mentor, in a small volume of his writings published in 1988 titled, We Travel An Appointed Way: Making Spiritual Progress,” compiled and edited by Harry Verploegh (1909-1999).

As I read this particular article which is Chapter 33 in the book titled “Religion of the Intellect versus Religion of the Spirit,” it gave me cause for reflection considering that it was written by Tozer probably years before he died in May 1963. Keep in mind while you are reading it that it was most likely written approximately 70+ years ago. Here is what Tozer wrote (pp. 99-102):

There is a deeply spiritual and thoroughly mystical quality in New Testament religion that we cannot afford to ignore if we would be Christians in fact as well as in name.

I think it well to let our worshiping hearts decide our theological questions. After the purity of the text has been established and the mind assured that the translation is trustworthy, the best source of true light is always the Spirit-illuminated heart. A praying heart, aglow with love for God, will intuit truth, will pass behind the veil and see and hear that which is not lawful to be uttered, which indeed cannot be uttered or even intellectually understood.

It is my opinion that the real battle line in theological war today is not the line the separates fundamentalism from liberalism. That war has been fought and won. No one need be in any wise confused on the question of Bible theology versus man-conceived liberalism. Both sides have said their say boldly. Everyone can know where he stands on such matters as the inspiration of the Scriptures, the deity of Jesus Christ, salvation through the blood of atonement, death and judgment, heaven and hell. The true battle line is elsewhere.

Always the decisive conflict in religion will be where important concepts are joined in opposition, concepts so vital that they are capable of saving or wrecking the Christian faith in any given generation. At this critical juncture in church history, the real conflict is between those who hold to an objective Christian capable of being grasped in its entirety by the human intellect and those who believe that there are far-in areas of religious experience so highly spiritual, so removed from and exalted about mere reason, that it takes a special anointing of the Holy Spirit to make them understood by the human heart. The difference is not academic merely. Should the advocates of religious intellectualism succeed in setting the direction for the church in this generation, the next generation of Christians will be come helpless victims of dead orthodoxy.

In conversation with one of the better known devotees of neo-intellectualism in evangelical circles, I asked the question bluntly, “Do you actually believe that everything essential in the Christian faith may be grasped by the human intellect?” The answer was immediate–“If I did not, I would be on my way toward agnosticism.” I did not say, but might properly have said, “And if you do, you are on your way toward rationalism.” For such indeed is the truth.

One of the heaviest problems the inquiring Christian faces today is why so many good and apparently sincere religious leaders are going so far astray from the plain teachings and practices of the New Testament. Destructive elements are being innocently introduced into present-day worship and service by Bible-loving evangelicals, elements so opposed to the true genius of Christianity that the two are mutually exclusive. One or the other must go. Either these new parasitic growths must be destroyed, or they will in a short time destroy the Christian faith. Yet these deadly things are encouraged in the churches by some of the most zealous orthodox leaders. Why?

The answer is simpler than we might suppose. These leaders are depending on their brain to guide them in their religious practices. They conceive the truth to be a doctrinal deposit, a kind of a theological road map to lead them to heaven. They check the map to make sure they are going the right direction, and after that they are on their own. No Unseen Guide is necessary. If they should be attacked by doubts, they need only stop under a lamppost and reassure themselves that they have indeed “accepted” Christ. Then they get underway again with complete confidence that they are on the same road as the apostles and prophets.

The question being discussed by many these days–why religion is increasing and morality slipping, all at the same time–finds its answer in this very error, the error of religious intellectualism. Men have a form of godliness but deny the power thereof. The text alone will not elevate the moral life. To become morally effective, the truth must be accompanied by a mystic element, the very element supplied by the Spirit of truth. The Holy Spirit will no be banished to a footnote without taking terrible vengeance against His banishers. The That vengeance may be seen today in the nervous, giggling, worldly-minded and thoroughly carnal fundamentalism that is spreading over the land. Doctrinally, it wears the robes of scriptural belief, but beyond that it resembles the religions of Christ and his apostles not at all.

The mysterious presence of the Spirit is vitally necessary if we are to avoid the pitfalls of religion. As the fiery pillar led Israel through the wilderness, so the Spirit of truth must lead us all our journey through. One text alone could improve things mightily for us if we would but obey it: “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5 KJV). (Quote source: “We Travel An Appointed Way,” pp. 99-102.)

The emphasis of Tozer’s article was and is on the power of the Holy Spirit, and the next generation that Tozer refers to has already arrived on the scene (e.g., it’s my generation known as the Baby Boomers–born between 1946-1964) and now includes three younger generations along with it (Gen X, Millennials, and Gen Z).

With another Halloween quickly approaching, today we think nothing about all of the Halloween stuff going on all around us or even, on a larger scale, the incredible amount of evil and violence that fill so many movies in theaters and on TV, and in social media, and not just at Halloween but throughout the year. However, in today’s society if one should bring up the subject of the Holy Spirit especially in secular quarters or even among nominal Christians today, the smirks and laughter will be readily apparent, and at the very least you might be thought of as being a little “mentally unhinged.” Apparently, evil is okay, but the Holy Spirit? Seriously? That’s how far we have come in the 70+ years since Tozer penned those words above.

In a short article published in 2016 titled, The Dynamic Power of the Holy Spirit,” by Dr. Michael Youssef, Senior Pastor (Rector) of the Church of the Apostles, and the Executive President of Leading the Way, he describes the power of the Holy Spirit:

When we speak of the power of the Holy Spirit, many people–even Christians–misunderstand the meaning of “power.” They tend to define power as the world defines it.

In the world’s view, power conveys the ability to control people, events, and circumstances for our own advantage. In the world, power brings independence and self-sufficiency, with no need for God’s help or the assurance of others.

While many devote their lives to achieving this goal, this type of power can never satisfy the soul or bring joy or peace. The world’s power is temporary, leaving a person always wanting more.

In describing the power of the Holy Spirit, the Bible paints quite a different picture (see Luke 24:49Acts 1:82 Corinthians 12:9). The word translated as “power” in the English Bible is the Greek word “dynamis,” from which we get the word “dynamite.” In Acts 1:8, Jesus told His disciples that before they would be able to evangelize the world, they must receive the “dynamis” of the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit possesses a dynamite-like power that works within a believer to blast out anything that is unlike God. It is not a power that exalts one person above others. It does not manipulate or control others. Instead, the Holy Spirit uses His power to break us so that He might remake us. The more we get self out of the way and yield our will to His, the more powerfully He is able to pour Himself out through us to others, and the more powerfully He is able to transform our lives. We are merely the conduits, the channels through which God’s power moves.

The Holy Spirit empowers us to be witnesses of God’s love, to live in a way that pleases God, to meet fully the demands and pressures of life, and to resist temptation. The power of the Holy Spirit is the only power that is sufficient to win spiritual battles against our own selfish desires and the wiles of Satan.

Set aside some time today to ask God to free you from the desire to control others and to lead you to become a clean vessel that can be used to transmit His power. Ask Him to do the same for your spouse, your children, your coworkers, and your friends.

Prayer: Lord, teach me about the true power of Your Spirit and grant me the willingness to submit to Your power. I confess that You alone are God. Please display Your power in and through my life today. Make me a clean and willing vessel. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen. (Quote source here.)

And consider this article written at Halloween on October 23, 2013, titled, Come, Holy Spirit,” by Neal Bowes, Director of Youth Ministries at Jesse Lee Memorial UMC:

This Thursday evening, doorbells will be ringing, and Americans will be distributing about 600 million pounds of candy while answering the call of “trick or treat” from their costume-clad, plastic-pumpkin toting neighborhood children. Today Halloween is regarded by most as simply a fun time to dress up, go out with some friends, collect candy, and maybe play a good-natured prank. The name Halloween actually comes from “All Hallows Eve,” meaning the eve of All Hallows Day, or All Saints’ Day. Christians celebrate All Saints’ Day on November 1 to remember our brothers and sisters in Christ who have died. But Halloween also corresponds to the ancient Gaelic festival of Samhain (SOW-in). The ancient people of Ireland believed that spiritual beings entered our world on Samhain and began the tradition of carving lanterns into vegetables and wearing masks to ward off or confuse evil spirits.

The idea of scaring away evil spirits may seem foolish to our twenty-first century sensibilities, but as Christians we cannot simply brush off the idea that spirits are active among us. Jesus frequently encountered evil spirits during his ministry, and many people came to Jesus asking him to deliver them from such evil spiritual forces. The apostle Paul reminds us that we are in an ongoing struggle against “forces of cosmic darkness, and spiritual powers of evil” (Ephesians 6:12). On the other hand, we have a greater spiritual presence—the Holy Spirit—on our side, equipping and protecting us.

Who Is the Holy Spirit?

The Holy Spirit is, like God the Father (or Creator) and Jesus Christ, one person of the Holy Trinity. Christians recognize God in three different manifestations. We know God as the Creator of all things, who reigns from heaven. We see God most clearly in the person of Jesus, the human incarnation of God, who lived with us, taught us, and sacrificed his life for us. And we experience God through the Holy Spirit, who prepares us to do God’s work and blesses us with a growing faith and an ever-increasing understanding of God.

Youth may be confused about who the Holy Spirit is and what the Spirit does. No doubt many adults are, too. It might be because the work of the Holy Spirit occurs on such a personal level that it is nearly impossible to come up with a description of the Spirit that applies to everyone. For instance, the Holy Spirit reveals God’s truth to us, convicts us of our sins, and offers us guidance and comfort. But these revelations come to us individually and we receive them differently, depending on where we are in our faith journey and what we need to hear at a particular time.

Many Gifts, One Spirit

The Spirit not only reveals God’s will but also equips us with spiritual gifts. The Spirit’s gifts are unique to each person. Some people are very comfortable talking about their faith with a complete stranger, while others are not. But those other people may have the ability to bring life to a Bible story for a group of three- and four-year-olds. Still others might be especially good at making people who are new to a Christian community feel welcome or at caring for those are sick. Some have an amazing command of Scripture; some can preach; some can organize mission and outreach projects.

Every person has a particular and personal relationship with the Holy Spirit. Despite the differences, the Spirit works in all persons for the glory of God and for the good of all people. We are incredibly blessed when we learn to recognize the presence of the Holy Spirit, come to rely on the power of the Holy Spirit, and open up our lives to God’s continual presence. (Quote source here.)

So, as we move through the month of October with all of the Halloween festivities and movies, let’s not forget about where the real source of power for the Christian comes from–the power of the Holy Spirit. For further understanding of who the Holy Spirit is, read this article titled, Who is the Holy Spirit?–5 Things You Need to Know,” at BibleStudyTools.com.

I’ll end this post with the words of Jesus found in Acts 1:8: But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses . . .

In Jerusalem . . .

And in all Judea and Samaria . . .

And to the ends of the earth . . . .

YouTube Video: “Here I Am Send Me” by Darlene Zschech:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here