Those men are shooting bullets but God decides where they land!
~Andy Garcia from movie: For Greater Glory
“He will give you another Advocate who will never leave you” John 14:16
The men were wrapping up their weekly Bible study, choosing last minute snacks for the trip home, putting away the fold-up chairs and shifting into another mode of Dad, husband and sports fan. In the midst of this, Norm took Al aside and said, “Do you have time for a question, Al?”
“Of course. Let me tell John I’ll lock up.”
Five minutes later the two men sat alone. “I am really confused about the Holy Spirit, Al. Just when I think I understand His purpose, I hear another sermon that sends me in a different direction which makes me scratch my head and wonder. I need some simple guidance to understand the Holy Spirit.”
“Ok, let’s look at the Gospel of John and follow what Jesus said.”
John 14:16-17 ~I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you.
John 16:13 ~When the Holy Spirit, who is truth, comes, he shall guide you into all truth, for he will not be presenting his own ideas, but will be passing on to you what he has heard. He will tell you about the future.
Acts 1:8 ~But when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, you will receive power to testify about me with great effect, to the people in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth, about my death and resurrection.
1 Corinthians 12:1-11 ~Now, concerning what you wrote about the gifts from the Holy Spirit.
I want you to know the truth about them, my friends. There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit gives them. There are different ways of serving, but the same Lord is served. There are different abilities to perform service, but the same God gives ability to all for their particular service. The Spirit’s presence is shown in some way in each person for the good of all. The Spirit gives one person a message full of wisdom, while to another person the same Spirit gives a message full of knowledge. One and the same Spirit gives faith to one person, while to another person he gives the power to heal. The Spirit gives one person the power to work miracles; to another, the gift of speaking God’s message; and to yet another, the ability to tell the difference between gifts that come from the Spirit and those that do not. To one person he gives the ability to speak in strange tongues, and to another he gives the ability to explain what is said. But it is one and the same Spirit who does all this; as he wishes, he gives a different gift to each person.
“There it is, Norm, straightforward and clear. Jesus told his disciples that He would ask God to send an advocate, a comforter who would never leave them. Never! And then He tells them He is the Holy Spirit who will lead them into all truth. That is part of His job, leading all followers of Christ, you and me included, into all truth.
“He goes on to explain that the world, those who do not believe in Christ as Savior, cannot receive the Holy Spirit but you and I know Him because he lives in us! Now that is a mind-bender to think that the Holy Spirit lives in us but it’s true.”
“When I became a Christian, I was taught to ask God for wisdom each time I opened the Bible, Norm, and I pass that advice on to you. God wants us to know Him, His Holy Spirit and the Lord Jesus. I recommend that you take your Bible and read all the verses you can find about the Holy Spirit, ask God for wisdom and believe He will answer you. One day you will be teaching someone too.”
Men are God’s method. The church is looking for better methods; God is looking for better men. . . . What the church needs today is not more machinery or better, not new organizations, not more methods, but men whom the Holy Ghost can use—men of prayer, men mighty in prayer. The Holy Ghost does not come on machinery, but on men. He does not anoint plans, but men—men of prayer . . . The training of the Twelve was the great, difficult and enduring work of Christ. . . . It is not great talents or great learning or great preachers that God needs, but men great in holiness, great in faith, great in love, great in fidelity, great for God—men always preaching by holy sermons in the pulpit, by holy lives out of it. These can mold a generation for God.
~E. M. Bounds
“God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah!” Acts 2:36
Mary Mitchell Slessor (2 December 1848 – 13 January 1915) was a Scottish missionary to Nigeria. A simple sentence without emotion; factual and brief. Her actual story is filled with powerful examples of trials and tribulations of a small (5’ tall) woman overcome with desire to spread the gospel in Nigeria, Africa at a time when women did not do such things alone. This red-haired Scottish woman faced down fierce tribal chiefs, witch doctors and others to show the love of Christ through teaching the Gospel while living in primitive huts.
Mary quickly learned the local language and spent her life showing Jesus to Africans who had never seen an outsider before. She risked her life daily, rescued and raised rejected children scheduled to be killed while trudging through the jungles to share God’s love.
Mary also fell victim to the ravages of malaria more than once and had to return to Scotland for recovery. She gave up convenience, comfort and congeniality to serve God according to His plan for her life in a remote and dangerous land.
As for her rewards, she had but one question: “What would I do with starry crowns except to cast them at His feet?”
Jesus was so very real to Mary Slessor. Her Lord and Savior was the beacon whose light shined on a path He carved out for her; a path she determined to follow until her final breath.
Compare the sacrificial life of Mary Slessor to those of wealthy, influential, powerful megachurch pastors in America. Men who command six and seven figure salaries, immense wealth from book royalties and exert mind control over many thousands through sermons, devotionals, and conferences around the world,
Currently, Mark Driscoll, the senior pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle is waging a battle to maintain his position in that church. Driscoll began with a sincere desire to spread the Gospel, change lives and heal the broken and wounded people who may hear and read his messages.
Time, comfort, fame, loads of money and thousands of followers have tarnished Driscoll’s legacy and brought him to a place of regret and shamefulness. The megachurch is crumbling, the flock has been fleeced and God’s Word has been trampled. Is Jesus real to Mark? Or has his desire to feed from the trough of fame and fortune skewed his vision and replaced his love of Christ with personal satisfaction. Satan is smiling as Mars Hill Church falls into ruin.
Acts 2:32-36 “God raised Jesus from the dead, and we are all witnesses of this. Now he is exalted to the place of highest honor in heaven, at God’s right hand. And the Father, as he had promised, gave him the Holy Spirit to pour out upon us, just as you see and hear today. For David himself never ascended into heaven, yet he said,
‘The Lord said to my Lord,
“Sit in the place of honor at my right hand
until I humble your enemies,
making them a footstool under your feet.”’
“So let everyone in Israel know for certain that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, to be both Lord and Messiah!”
Colossians 1:13-23 He rescued us from the power of darkness and brought us safe into the kingdom of his dear Son, by whom we are set free, that is, our sins are forgiven.
Christ is the visible likeness of the invisible God. He is the first-born Son, superior to all created things. For through him God created everything in heaven and on earth, the seen and the unseen things, including spiritual powers, lords, rulers, and authorities. God created the whole universe through him and for him. Christ existed before all things, and in union with him all things have their proper place. He is the head of his body, the church; he is the source of the body’s life. He is the first-born Son, who was raised from death, in order that he alone might have the first place in all things. For it was by God’s own decision that the Son has in himself the full nature of God. Through the Son, then, God decided to bring the whole universe back to himself. God made peace through his Son’s blood on the cross and so brought back to himself all things, both on earth and in heaven.
At one time you were far away from God and were his enemies because of the evil things you did and thought. But now, by means of the physical death of his Son, God has made you his friends, in order to bring you, holy, pure, and faultless, into his presence. You must, of course, continue faithful on a firm and sure foundation, and must not allow yourselves to be shaken from the hope you gained when you heard the gospel. It is of this gospel that I, Paul, became a servant—this gospel which has been preached to everybody in the world.
Is Jesus real to us or a fascinating person, Son of God and Savior who lives in my mind? Have I given Him free reign over my life? Am I willing to follow whatever path He chooses for me?
“…Our spirits are being renewed every day.” 2 Corinthians 4:16
Sitting in the park one afternoon, Frank allowed himself a rare opportunity to completely relax. No worrying. No frustrations. No “crying over spilt milk” as his mother used to say. Ah, but there is so much spilt milk, mom, life is filled with broken bottles of milk: Bad decisions, poor choices, sinful behavior, wrecked lives, an ocean of spilt milk.
Then from the children playing he heard something that penetrated his self-pity…”Do over, do over! Let’s have a do over.” A flash of hope jolted him. A do over, can there be a do over? Just like that? Oh, God, can I have a do over with you, with my life?
The voice of his mother spoke in his heart, “Son, There’s always hope! No matter what happens. The Lord welcomes us with new hope and a fresh start every day. As we repent, all is forgiven, washed clean by the everlasting blood of the Lamb. The past is just that…past.
We struggle with sin but God has provided the antidote that never fails; an antidote that we can claim each and every day filled with eternal hope fortified with God’s promises.
Life without Christ is hopeless when disaster strikes or personal calamity befalls; we’re on our own to sort all our feelings. But with Christ as Savior, we know forgiveness is ours each time we face our actions and repent. His absolute love and compassion stretches forth throughout the ages, ready to cleanse the vilest sinner;. a person just like me.
“I was sinking deep in sin, far from the peaceful shore” Hymn
Mark had been disappointed with himself lately; keeping track, as he often did, of the failures, uncompleted tasks, unfulfilled promises, and feelings of inadequacy that build daily. Struggling to keep his head above the waters of lethargy and self-pity, he noticed a barely discernible voice in the background of his mind. Little by little, as he set aside the mountain of disappointment he saw before him, the voice seemed louder and more distinct. It was a hymn he used to sing in the Baptist church. Focusing on the voice, the hymn’s melody grew louder and very familiar. And now the words followed. He hummed a few bars to himself and then they were there…
I was sinking deep in sin, far from the peaceful shore,
Very deeply stained within, sinking to rise no more,
But the Master of the sea, heard my despairing cry,
From the waters lifted me, now safe am I.
Love lifted me! Love lifted me!
When nothing else could help
Love lifted me!
All my heart to Him I give, ever to Him I’ll cling
In His blessed presence live, ever His praises sing,
Love so mighty and so true, merits my soul’s best songs,
Faithful, loving service too, to Him belongs.*
Yes, of course, Love Lifted Me by Rowe and Smith. This wonderful hymn, written in 1912 was based on Matthew 14, where Jesus calls Peter to walk on water with Him; at first Peter steps out of the boat, miraculously walking on top of the waves, joyfully heading toward Jesus. But then doubt and fear demand an explanation. Peter sinks, calling out to Jesus, “Save me, Lord!”
That’s me, Mark realized. At first stepping out of the boat of fear, uncertainty, doubt, failure, looking steadfastly at Jesus, walking on water. And then what happens? Do I grow weary with the effort; Believe the lies of satan; Desire to feed my flesh; Or do I become something far worse and even less palatable to God. . .lukewarm!
That’s it, he realized, I’ve become lukewarm toward my Savior, the loving God who saved me from eternal damnation and gave me the hope of a jubilant eternity with Him. I’ve treated the One who has infused me with His Holy Spirit as though He were a buddy. “Hey, thanks God for my salvation. Really great. And before this day is over, I promise to make time for you. Well, gotta go, Lord, I slept in this morning and I don’t want to be late for work.”
That’s when Mark understood that concentrating on his failures instead of asking God for forgiveness and a fresh start, sent him into the pit of pity and despair. But, as he reflected on this wonderful hymn, he realized that God’s grace breathes hope into his soul. In the words of the hymnal, But the Master of the sea, heard my despairing cry…Love lifted me!
And then, like a Wall Street banner, Bible verses scrolled past Marks mind.
1. Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 2 Corinthians 4:16
2. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:10
3. 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. Ephesians 6:10, 11
4. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead. I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:13, 14
5. Don’t worry about anything whatever; tell God every detail of your needs in earnest and thankful prayer, and the peace of God, which transcends human understanding, will keep constant guard over your hearts and minds as they rest in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6, 7
And then the fog and guilt and self-pity was gone. Mark’s mind was clear. God had restored his hope and balance. He was filled with new resolve, thankful for God’s eternal, everlasting love as one final Scripture gave him the day’s sailing orders:
6. Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones. Proverbs 3:5-8
Now with a fresh cup of steamy coffee and new resolve to acknowledge Him in all his ways, Mark knew God’s healing and transformation were already at work.
I have not yet reached my goal, and I am not perfect. Phil. 3:12
Colonel Timmons, Chad to his friends, was a West Point Graduate, a decorated career officer and had graduated with honors from a well-known seminary. Chad now basked in his position of prestige as an ordained Bishop. Not content to simply wear his robes on Sunday and Wednesday, Colonel Timmons worked earnestly at being a true pastor or shepherd of his flock. He wanted to share Biblical truth and help change damaged lives. But he had a stumbling block; one common to veteran Christians, he felt as though he had arrived. He understood the Bible and was prepared to dispense advice and minster prayers to anyone who called upon him. Without realizing it, Chad had taken control of his life. He and God had become equals of sorts. Why bother God with little details like counseling, teaching, and preaching?
Although very gifted, talented and sincere, Chad had not arrived, not according to a significant Biblical figure who’d gone before; the Apostle Paul:
Philippians 3:12-16 I have not yet reached my goal, and I am not perfect. But Christ has taken hold of me. So I keep on running and struggling to take hold of the prize. My friends, I don’t feel that I have already arrived. But I forget what is behind, and I struggle for what is ahead. I run toward the goal, so that I can win the prize of being called to heaven. This is the prize that God offers because of what Christ Jesus has done. All of us who are mature should think in this same way. And if any of you think differently, God will make it clear to you. But we must keep going in the direction that we are now headed.
Because Chad’s heart was open, it was at a men’s weekend retreat that these verses from Philippians jumped off the page into Chad’s heart. He was transformed, once again, by the mighty power of God’s living word. The Holy Spirit took those verses and embossed them on Chad’s welcoming soul. He drank from the pool of Living Water and was nourished. The Holy Spirit directed Chad to verses to remind him that it is God, after all, who can change our hearts and form us into agents of hope.
Galatians 3:3-5 How foolish can you be? After starting your Christian lives in the Spirit, why are you now trying to become perfect by your own human effort? Have you experienced so much for nothing? Surely it was not in vain, was it?
I ask you again, does God give you the Holy Spirit and work miracles among you because you obey the law? Of course not! It is because you believe the message you heard about Christ.
1 Timothy 6:12 Fight the good fight for the true faith. Hold tightly to the eternal life to which God has called you, which you have confessed so well before many witnesses.
1 Peter 5:6-11 If you will humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, in his good time he will lift you up. Let him have all your worries and cares, for he is always thinking about you and watching everything that concerns you. Be careful—watch out for attacks from Satan, your great enemy. He prowls around like a hungry, roaring lion, looking for some victim to tear apart. Stand firm when he attacks. Trust the Lord; and remember that other Christians all around the world are going through these sufferings too. After you have suffered a little while, our God, who is full of kindness through Christ, will give you his eternal glory. He personally will come and pick you up, and set you firmly in place, and make you stronger than ever. To him be all power over all things, forever and ever. Amen.
Now that God had Chad’s undivided attention, He reminded him of the Apostle Paul’s discussion with the Him about taking away a thorn in his side:
2 Corinthians 12:8-10 Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
God reminds us that our lives are wrapped around spiritual warfare and will require an intense energy and alertness to compete. We do not “arrive” here on earth, our destination is heavenly and eternal. For now, we are to compete in the battle, knowing the victory is ours.
George Müller cared for 10,000 orphaned children in Bristol during the 19th Century. He never made appeals for money, trusting implicitly in God, he received £1,500,000 in answer to prayer. At present day prices, this would be well over £86,000,000.
“Don’t be afraid, just believe.” Mark 5:36
As long as we are able to trust in God, holding fast in our heart that He is able and willing to help those who rest on the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation and in all matters that are for His glory and their good, the heart remains calm and peaceful. It is only when we practically let go of faith in His power or His love that we lose our peace and become troubled. Remember that it is the very time for faith to work when sight ceases. The greater the difficulties, the easier for faith. As long as there remains certain natural prospects for help, faith does not rise up as easily as when all natural prospects fail.
All children of God, whatever their position in the world or in the church, should put their trust in God for everything connected with their body, their soul, their business, their family, their church position, their service for God, etc. And it is impossible to do so without enjoying the blessedness that results from it. First comes the peace of God that keeps the heart and mind like a garrison, and second comes a true liberty with regard to circumstances, times, places, and people.
Faith is above circumstances. No war, no fire, no water, no business panic, no loss of friends, no death can touch it. It goes on its own steady course. It triumphs over all difficulties. It works most easily in the great difficulties. Those who really confide in God, because they know the power of His arm and the love of His heart as demonstrated in the death and resurrection of His only begotten Son, are helped, whatever their trials and difficulties might be.
Compiled and edited by Lance Wubbels. http://www.ywampublishing.com
“Coarse and foolish talking are not suitable” Ephesians 5:4
Greg came home early to pack for his favorite twice-yearly Men’s Fellowship gathering at Camp Angelus above the San Joaquin Valley. Away from the wilting heat, smog and everyday life, nearly 500 Christian men gathered to sing, pray, learn, share and be changed by a desire to serve God with all their hearts.
By dinner, most of the men had checked in, found their room assignments and changed into comfortable clothes. They headed for the dining room to find a dazzling spread of snacks to satisfy their light hunger and prepare them for the evening’ speaker, Dan Wilson.
Dan was a young pastor of an impressive church with more than 3,500 in attendance. He was fast becoming well-known among pastors and book readers. His first book, Jesus Broke the Rules was selling quickly, even though some thought the cover art of a muscular Christ, punching gigantic pillars into rubble seemed rather worldly and crude as though Jesus used his powerful physique to accomplish his examples.
Within seconds, the wood-paneled conference room was filled with men laughing uproariously, tears running down their cheeks. Dan was charismatic and excelled with comedic illustrations. Just before he finished, Dan managed to slip in a prayer and send the men on their way, recalling some of their favorite stories.
At one of the tables, four men were still smiling, except for Steve. “That guy was fantastic,” Bill said. “His stories about wives and husbands hit the nail right on the head. But I’m not sure my wife would appreciate the humor as much as we did. But that’s the difference between men and women, right?”
As the others were nodding heads in agreement Steve said, “Are you sure we should have been laughing? At first I thought he was funny too but then I was convicted by the Holy Spirit and I think most of his stories were crude and foolish. I don’t think we would have been laughing so hard if Jesus had appeared.”
Silence at the table. Steve knew they were upset so he left the table, headed for a walk to clear up his mind and talk with the Lord. This was a first for him. Before tonight, he would have been laughing just as hard as everyone else. God was changing him and he wanted the change. Allowing himself to become crude and foolish for the sake of getting a laugh paled in comparison to walking closer with the Lord.
o Ephesians 4:29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.
o Ephesians 5:4 Dirty stories, foul talk, and coarse jokes—these are not for you. Instead, remind each other of God’s goodness, and be thankful.
o 2 Timothy 2:15-16 Work hard so you can present yourself to God and receive his approval. Be a good worker, one who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly explains the word of truth. Avoid worthless, foolish talk that only leads to more godless behavior.
o 1 Timothy 6:20 Timothy, guard what God has entrusted to you. Avoid godless, foolish discussions with those who oppose you with their so-called knowledge.
o Matthew 12:34-37 You serpent’s brood, how can you say anything good out of your evil hearts? For a man’s words depend on what fills his heart. A good man gives out good—from the goodness stored in his heart; a bad man gives out evil—from his store of evil. I tell you that men will have to answer at the day of judgment for every careless word they utter—for it is your words that will acquit you, and your words that will condemn you.
o Colossians 3:8 But now you must get rid of all these things: anger, passion, and hateful feelings. No insults or obscene talk must ever come from your lips. Do not lie to one another, for you have put off the old self with its habits.
o Colossians 4:6 Your speech should always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you should answer each person.
Our words can harm, hurt, divide and create sinful images in the mind. But God’s word is always pure and precise. If we choose to use each other as examples or measuring sticks, then our words will ultimately do harm. But when we choose to follow the Holy Spirit’s guidance then our words will represent God, bringing healing and comfort to all who hear.