Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Mighty Fortress

My fears, my sins, my pride
Rage and foam and crash,
Broken against Your eternal shore.

I recede, spent and fading,
Until I run again
But gentled against the smooth warm sand.

You stand serene and steady,
A mountain in the frantic sea,
Mighty fortress.

I finally slip and sigh
And feel Your granite, forged eternal
Above and below me.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

"What is God's Promise?" - Casting Your Burdens on the Lord, Part 3

When we cast our burdens on the Lord, what happens? What does He promise to do about our distress and pain? Cast your burden on the LORD is His command, in Psalm 55:22. And His promise follows: and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.

God’s promise in Psalm 55:22 is in two parts. He makes a promise for right now, while we’re struggling with our burdens, and He also makes a promise for forever, for any and all burdens we might experience in the course of our lives.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Casting Your Burden on the Lord - Part 2: "What are Your Options?"

Everybody has burdens, and Psalm 55:22 tells us what to do with them. Cast your burden on the LORD, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.

Last time I asked “what is your burden?” Burdens may seem heavy, wearisome, painful, unfair, and destructive. But they are also given to us by our wise, kind, loving, and all-powerful Heavenly Father. 

So in this post I want to focus on how we’re supposed to deal with our burdens.

What are your options?
As in most things, there are only a limited number of possibilities to deal with the burdens of life.
  1. Resent them. Sometimes people express their resentment at the burdens they carry by bitterness and blaming. But resentment only increases the weight of the burden. Not to mention that ultimately the resentment is aimed at the God of the universe. Not a good option.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Casting Your Burdens on the Lord - Part One: "What is Your Burden?"

When I became a Christian many years ago, one of the first verses I ever “hid in my heart” was Psalm 55:22: Cast your burden on the LORD, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.

At the time, those words seemed almost too good to be true. They helped me deal with my problems and encouraged my growth in grace. I read them over and over, memorizing them without even trying. Now, four decades later, Psalm 55:22 is even more precious to me. Its truth and comfort and promise remain constant, even though my life circumstances (and burdens) are much different.

I thought it might be a blessing to share the verse that has been such a blessing to me. My plan is to focus on asking and answering three questions: for this post, what is your burden? Next time, what are your options? And for a final post on the verse, what is God’s promise?

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Four Steps to Climb Out of a Pit of Depression

Mark Alan Williams, one of my oldest and closest friends, has a great blog you should read called Making Life Count. Here's a guest post from Mark that should encourage all of us. Thanks for writing this, Mark!

While planting my first church I experienced the worst depression of my life. It seemed as though I had worked so hard with such minimal results. I felt like a terrible failure.

At meals I hardly spoke and stared blankly. I was too embarrassed to share my feelings. I suffered silently, miserably and alone.

Sadly, I even doubted God’s love and His Word. This caused me to question whether I should be a pastor. My negative doubts and thoughts threw me into a tailspin of confusion and despair.

I was stuck in the pit of depression.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Jesus, the Judge, and You

You stand there before the bar of God’s justice. You feel anxious and your heart is pounding. Right next to you is Jesus. He looks at you, and His smile is kind, but somewhat sad. He doesn't say anything.

Seated facing you, across that holy bench, is God the Father. He looks at Jesus, and smiles with radiance and love and fatherly pride. You know His deepest delight is His Son. “This is My Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased!” Then He glances at you without speaking.

The Judge of all the earth is holding in His hand a stack of papers, and you can see that they are a list of many, many sins. With dismay you realize this is a personal list – an exhaustive description of all your sins.

The Father begins to read. “Lying.” The word hangs there, like a rude noise in a still room. You immediately remember a half dozen times where you lied just recently. You’re about to confess, when Jesus speaks. “I did it.” “What?” the Father says. “You’re the liar?” Jesus nods.

The Judge returns to the paper. “Pride, and treating other people with contempt.” Again you flash on many occasions when you've been guilty. But again Jesus confesses. “That’s Me. I did it.”  The Father seems to be looking at Jesus differently.

He keeps reading – a whole string of things: lust, murder in your heart, cheating, anger to manipulate others, blasphemy, callousness toward the pain of others, coveting and envy. You know in each case that you did all these things multiple times.

But Jesus says, “Yes, that was Me. I did them all.”

A dark cloud seems to cross the Father’s face. He stares at Jesus for a long minute. “You? You did all these things? I am of purer eyes than to look upon sin. You disgust Me.” And even as He turns away from Jesus, He pronounces sentence: “You’ll be punished to the full extent of the Law, even unto death.”

Then the Father looks at you. His smile is radiant as He says, “My beloved child, in whom I am well pleased.”

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:21

Monday, May 5, 2014

The Signs of the Filling of the Holy Spirit

What does the “filling of the Holy Spirit” look like? What signs or evidences mark the Spirit’s fullness in the life of a Christian?

Some Christians might be inclined to answer, The signs of the fullness of the Spirit are ecstatic utterances, or prophetic words of knowledge, or supernatural power. But the passage that gives the most complete answer comes from Ephesians 5:18-21. And the real evidence of the Holy Spirit’s fullness might surprise you.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Are You "Filled with the Holy Spirit"?

Are you “filled with the Holy Spirit?”

And what does “full of the Holy Spirit” mean, anyway? What does "the filling" look like?

I’d like to tackle those two questions in this post and the next one. And to do so, I’ll rely upon the most definitive passage on this subject in the Scriptures, Ephesians 5:18-21.

18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.

So first, what is the filling of the Holy Spirit?

Here are four key words that summarize my understanding of the Holy Spirit's filling: 1. Contrast. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but…Paul points out a striking difference between two experiences: alcoholic drunkenness versus Holy Spirit filling. Instead of of abandoning ourselves to a drug, we are to yield ourselves to the Spirit. Instead of being an embarrassment (debauchery) to the name of Christ, we are to be under the sway of His Spirit.

2. Control. Essentially Paul is talking about who or what is the dominant influence in the life of believers in Jesus. When we repent of our sins and believe in Christ, the Holy Spirit takes up residence in our lives (see Romans 8:9). He is the one who supplies the power to live our faith in Jesus. Spirit-filled Christians are people who submit to the Holy Spirit.

3. Command. Be filled with the Spirit. Scripture lists the fullness of the Spirit not as a suggestion or a good idea to investigate, but as God’s directive for all His children.

4. Continuous. Literally, God’s command is “be continually filled with the Holy Spirit.” Some people speak of the Holy Spirit’s filling as an event that happened to them, but God’s word describes it as an ongoing flow of life. More like water flowing through a pipe than water being poured into a container.

The filling of the Holy Spirit is God’s desire (His command) for all believers in Christ. Obeying His command that we be filled is not complicated. Simply pray, confess any known sin, and yielding by faith to the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

And for next time, let’s talk about the evidence of the filling of the Holy Spirit.