Category Archives: The Holy Spirit

Religion!

“I got religion” was the folksy expression I sometimes heard growing up in the deep South when someone accepted Jesus.  As for me, I spent most of those years running awayfrom religion.  And from God. But the Lord was relentless in His pursuit.  In time, I surrendered to His free gift of Grace.  I came to understand that following Christ was about a relationship—not a religion.  Salvation was made possible only through the costly blood of God’s Son. No wonder they call it “Amazing Grace.”

James prods us to practice true religion.  He’s not talking here about religion as a ticket to heaven.  Rather, religion in this context, refers to the practical expression of our devotion to the Lord:

Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you(James 1:27 NLT).

The Greek word translated “religion” is threskosseldom used in the New Testament.  Threskos describes outward service rather than our inward piety of heart. It’s all about our actions. True religion, according to James must involve acts of mercy, love, and holiness.

Let’s look at this same versein the Amplified Bible:

External religious worship[religion as it is expressed in outward acts] that is pure and unblemished in the sight of God the Father is this: to visit and help and care for the orphans and widows in their affliction and need, and to keep oneself unspotted and uncontaminated from the world (James 1:27 AMP).

We are saved only by grace through faith. Our faith is the foundation for all of our good works. Good works cannot earn our salvation. But If we truly want to please the Lord, we’ll be intentional to pour our life out in service to the hurting ones around us. Especially the widows and orphans.

James reminds uswe must also not forget the purity of our own life. We are called to holiness. That’s the kind of religion, he challenges, that pleases the Lord.

So I’m asking God to show me who is on His heart.  I want to be sensitive to His Spirit. Alert to practical ways I can serve those in need.  Especially during this Christmas season as we celebrate the birth of His son.  I’ve also prayed for the Holy Spirit to correct me in areas I need to clean up—it’s so easy to slide into the self-centered ways of the world.

Today, as we step out into our world, let’s dare to pray the prayer God always answers:  Lord, break my heart for what breaks Yours.


Execute!

Execute is the translation of ideas into action. For any business, the ability to execute is critical to the bottom line.

In spiritual matters, we execute when we live out the truths we’ve learned in Scripture—we put feet on our faith. James exhorts believers to execute—to be doers as well as hearers of God’s Word. “Faith without works is dead,” he challenges. His words can make us squirm.

James calls us to dig deep.  Do we really believe our beliefs or do we merely hold an intellectual assent to the faith?

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves.  Do what it says.  Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and. after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.  But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do. 

Some believe James treads dangerously close to a works-based theology.  Apparently the Reformation champion, Martin Luther, thought so. He once called the book of James an “epistle of straw” and thought it shouldn’t even be included in the New Testament.

I disagree. In fact, the book of James has been one of my strongest faith-builders. He puts me in hard places that grow my trust in God.

Do I truly believe that Jesus’ death and resurrection covered my sin?  If so, that belief should propel me into a life of action and good deeds. Have I found practical ways to be both a hearer and a doer of God’s commands and His calling?

I’ve heard that mother eagles are quite nurturing. Yet their method for teaching their young ones to fly is a swift push out of the nest!  Yikes! They swoop down and catch the baby eaglets as they falter, repeating the flight lesson again and again until the little ones are soaring like….eagles!

Just like a mama eagle, James sometimes pushes me out of my cozy nest of faith with a call to action. I hear the Holy Spirit whisper, “ Go there, to that one who need’s the Father’s love. Serve this broken one over here. Share your living water with the thirsty one.”

My heart beats fast.  I step out…take a risk…and find that my faith takes wings.  My trust grows big, and before you know it, I’m soaring like an eagle!


21 Day Experiment-Day 20

Someone once said “seeing is believing.” It is much easier to believe when we can see the evidence. Yet sometimes faith is the belief in the unseen—otherwise, it wouldn’t be called faith. Much like the t-shirt I saw recently with this bold slogan across the front: BELIEVING IS SEEING!

The disciples fought to cling to their faith as they watched Jesus die on that wretched cross.  Everything they could see pointed to utter defeat! But what they could see with their eyes was not the whole story as they would soon discover.

The word SEE is sprinkled throughout today’s reading of John 20:

Mary Magdalene was the first to visit Jesus’ burial site. All she could see was an empty grave! Peter and John raced to the tomb to see for themselves. They looked inside to see the grave cloths folded, but no sign of Jesus anywhere!  The Bible says they “saw and believed” (John 20:8).

Later, Jesus appeared to Mary. She sees and believes. Then, He walks though a locked door and appears to the trembling disciples. They were overjoyed to see Jesus—and they believed!

Somehow Thomas missed out. So he refused to believe unless he saw for himself the nail marks in Jesus’ hands.  Jesus makes a special visit to “doubting Thomas.” He lets him see and touch the nail holes—then challenges Thomas to stop doubting and believe (John 20:27).

The Lord understands we sometimes wrestle to believe. Especially when it looks like evil has won the battle. That’s why John’s Gospel leaves us with these words of encouragement:

Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of His disciples. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing, you may have life in His name” (John 20:30,31).

Signs are like God’s fingerprints.  He wants us to believe that Jesus is the Christ. That’s why Jesus left signs—to help us believe!

Have you seen God’s fingerprints during our 21 Day Experiment? Maybe there’s a friend or family member that would be encouraged by your story. In tomorrow’s post, I’ll share the story of one of my own fingperprints from God.

As we come to the end of our 21 Day Experiment, I encourage you to carve out some extra time tomorrow to reflect on—and even write down—what you’ve seen. What’s you’ve heard from God. And what you believe about Jesus the Christ.

Prayer: Lord, thank you for Your fingerprints. Keep me watchful. Alert. Above all, help me to believe, even before I see what You are doing in and around me. That’s called trust—so today, I simply trust You.

 


21 Day Experiment-Day 19

I noticed my well-worn Bible sitting on my bedside table; the collection of prayer journals stacked below. Reminders of the times I’d seen God move in my life. Answered prayers, healings, even a few miracles. A testimony to my close walk with the Lord.

Then, it hit me. If my Christian life was only about my relationship with the Lord, my world of personal concerns, and my blessings, then so what?

Now don’t get me wrong. I am incredibly thankful for my relationship with the Lord. I treasure those prayer journals—their record of answered prayers; footsteps of my journey with Christ; knowledge I’d gained through years of Bible study.

But as important as these blessings are, they were given to me so that I would be a blessing to others.  As God said to Abraham, we are blessed so that we will be a blessing to others (Genesis 12:2,3).

I sensed the Holy Spirit quietly whispering, “Your life is either a so what or a so that.”

That scenario—just as I described it—happened over twenty years ago. My epiphany that day marked a dramatic shift.  I began to look for ways to step out of my well-managed life and into a broken world. That shift has since taken me to those who are hurting in my own neighborhood. To fragile communities all over the world.

So many are thirsty for the good news of Jesus Christ. As we approach the final chapters of John’s gospel, we catch a glimpse of John’s purpose in sharing his eye witness account.

He writes, “The man who saw it has given testimony…He knows that he tells the truth, and he testifies so that you also may believe” (John 19:35).   John’s words are for us.  He told his story of Jesus so that you and I, and all that have come before us or after us, may believe!

No doubt John was blessed by his close relationship with Jesus. He was also blessed to be an eye-witness to Jesus’ signs and wonders. All of these blessings were so that he would be a blessing. So that others will believe. How can we do less?

Prayer: Lord, once again, I ask this same questionIs my life a “so what?” or a “so that?” I listen for Your whispers today, alert to Your nudges. Who is on Your heart? Show me how, even in a small way, I can be a blessing to someone who needs Your touch.


21 Day Experiment-Day 16

Spirit. What comes to mind when you hear the word spirit? There’s a lot of talk these days about what it means to be “spiritual.”   And some confusion about the Holy Spirit—the One Jesus calls the “Spirit of truth.”

For starters, the Holy Spirit is not an “it.” Or even a ghostlike vapor.  Jesus calls the Holy Spirit a He—a person. In John 16, we read about the Holy Spirit’s personality and His job description. I’m so glad you’re still with us for the 21 Day Experiment in Prayer. The Lord rewards us today with some special secrets that will strengthen both our walk and our prayer life.

Jesus, knowing the cross awaits Him, prepares His followers for the trying days ahead. They will face persecution, He warns them. But they will not be alone because the Holy Spirit will be with them. Jesus gives a wonderful glimpse into the person and work of this somewhat mysterious Spirit.

The Amplified Bible is one of my favorite study tools.  I appreciate the way its translators explain the finer nuances of the original languages. See if you can pick out the different roles the Holy Spirit plays in our Christian life. Click here to read the entire chapter in this version.

Jesus’ words are my watchword for the day: However, I am telling you nothing but the truth when I say it is profitable (good, expedient, advantageous) for you that I go away. Because if I do not go away, the Comforter (Counselor, Helper, Advocate, Intercessor, Strengthener, Standby) will not come to you [into close fellowship with you]; but if I go away, I will send Him to you [to be in close fellowship with you] (John 16:7 AMPC).

Comforter. Counselor. Helper. Advocate. Intercessor. Strengthener. Standby.  Jesus promised that it would be for our good that He would go to the Cross. Because only then would He be resurrected and send the Holy Spirit to be with us—to dwell in us—forever. Wow!

Today, as my “doer of the Word” focus, I think I’ll simply reflect on each word in Jesus’ job description for the Holy Spirit:

Comforter

Counselor

Helper

Advocate

Intercessor

Strengthener

Standby

Prayer: Lord, thank you for the astounding gift Your Holy Spirit. Help me understand more fully what it means to have “close fellowship” with the Holy Spirit. To pray in the Spirit. To walk by the Spirit. Today, I especially ask for strength to abide in Your Holy Spirit.