Leaving Laodicea
447 - The Two Invitations

447 - The Two Invitations

January 23, 2020

One of the vital truths regarding our desire to follow Christ is to fully understand our union with Him.  After all, we are invited to become one with Him and are described in Scripture as being "in Christ."  In Romans 8 we are called “children of God” that are "adopted" into His family and are now "joint heirs with Christ."  Romans 6 tells us our old man has died and Christ now lives in us in the Presence of the Holy Spirit.  But do we really understand the implication of what this means?

Wayne Grudem, in his Systematic Theology, states "Union with Christ is a phrase that summarizes several different relationships between believers and Christ, through which Christians receive every benefit of salvation. These relationships include the fact that (1) we are in Christ, (2) Christ is in us, (3) we are like Christ, and (4) we are with Christ."   Ok, I've got that.  But is there more to this union with Christ than dry theology?  Can I really experience union with Him?  And, if so, how is that done?  What do I have to do to experience the fullness of my union, my relationship, with Christ?

Great questions.   And the simple answer is, "Yes, you can know the wonder of our union with Him."  And the wonder of it comes with the invitation of Christ to be joined with Him.

Consider the following invitation found in Matthew 11:28.  It is a familiar passage:

"Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest."

Now, let's see what it means by defining a few terms.

"Come to Me, all you who labor (to be worn out, fatigued, faint, weary) and are heavy laden (to overload, heavily burdened, like with the freight of a ship), and I will give you rest (to cease from labor, to refresh, relax, loosen, to be at peace or rest)."

Do you see the trust relationship implied in this invitation?  Do you see Christ's invitation to let Him carry your troubles and you rest in Him?  To be united in Him?

Many of us struggle with this and ask how is that accomplished?  How can I truly experience rest in Him?  Is it just a mental thing?  Or is it some sort of resolution I make and then fail at when things get uncertain or tough?  Is it a mantra I go over and over again in my mind, like "I think I can, I think I can, I think I can"?  Or is it something else?

Oh, it is definitely something else.  Let's look at the second invitation.


To Abide in Him

The second invitation reveals to us the "how" of our union and complete trust in Him.  This invitation is found in John 15:4, and elsewhere in that chapter.

"Abide in Me, and I in you.  As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me."

Note the two-fold relationship.  One, I abide in Christ.  And two, He abides in me.  This is vital.  And "abide" means, "to remain, dwell, live, to make one's home, to be united with one heart, mind, and will."  So I "remain" and "make my home" in Christ, "to be united with one heart, mind, and will" with Him.  And He will "remain" and "make His home" in me, "to be united with one heart, mind, and will" with Me.  This is what it means to abide.

As you listen to this podcast in order to understand more of this marvelous relationship we have with the Lord, remember the following:

The branch (you and I) does not produce the fruit.  That comes from the Vine (Christ). The branch does not secure the nutrients necessary to produce the fruit.  That again comes from the Vine (Christ). The branch does not position the buds to get the most sunlight.  The Vinedresser (Father) does that. The branch does not prune dead wood.  Again, that is the Father's job. The branch does not provide water nor sunlight. The branch does not participate in harvesting. The branch (you and I) only bears the work of the Vine (Jesus) for the glory of the Vinedresser (the Father).

The key to all Christ has provided for us is found in a dependent, branch to vine, relationship with Him.  He would not require from us what He has not equipped us to give.  This kind of life is possible and provided for you and is the default position as a believer in Christ.  But to experience the fullness of this relationship, we must surrender our petty desires to Him.

So, once again, the choice is ours.  We can continue to live in lukewarm Laodicea satisfied with less than the abundant life Christ promised.  Or we can jump into the deep end of the pool and surrender all to Him.  It's not complicated.  It's just hard.  What do you want to do?  The ball is in your court.

The following is a study on being Fully Surrendered to God from John 15.

446 - Experiencing the Fullness of the Holy Spirit

446 - Experiencing the Fullness of the Holy Spirit

January 20, 2020

How does one receive the Holy Spirit?   Simple.  As Peter said in Acts 2:38-39, you "repent" and "believe."  Which just happens to be the same requirements for salvation.  After all, the guarantee of our inheritance in Him is the Holy Spirit (Eph. 1:13-14).  This is a truth most Christians know and understand.  No Holy Spirit, no salvation.  It's as simple as that.

But how does one experience the fullness of the Holy Spirit?  How do we find our joy in Him?  Or, how do we experience the "unsearchable riches of Christ" (Eph. 3:8) as a daily, living reality?  How is that possible? Consider the following:

Every believer has received the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is only received by repentance and faith in Jesus at salvation.
There is a fullness of the Holy Spirit that is usually greater than what is experienced at conversion.  Your own experience confirms this truth.
As there are certain conditions for receiving the Holy Spirit, there are also certain conditions for experiencing the fullness of the Spirit.
They are primarily found in Romans 6 and 12.

Let's dig a bit deeper, shall we?


Two Words:  Deny and Surrender

The fullness of the Holy Spirit is found in the same way, and under the same conditions, as following Jesus.  Do you remember the requirements Jesus placed on those who desired to follow Him?  They are self-denial and surrender and are found in Matthew 16:24-25, among other places.

Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.  For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it."

Denial and surrender.  Or, by letting the Lord be Lord over our lives.  The same principle is required to experience the fullness of the Spirit.  To experience the fullness of the Spirit requires the absolute, unqualified surrender of your life to God, to do His will and not your own.  But this shouldn't surprise you.  You had to do this to receive salvation by declaring someone other than yourself as Lord.

Remember, when we surrender our sins and believe, we receive the Holy Spirit with salvation.  And when we surrender our lives and believe, we are filled with the Holy Spirit.  Why?   Because the receiving of the Spirit is God's answer to repentance and faith and the guarantee of our salvation.  And, in a like manner, experiencing the fullness of the Spirit is God's answer to a life surrendered to Him.  When we are saved the Spirit enters into our life.  But at surrender, the Spirit takes full possession of our lives and brings us the blessings that come from a life that is fully surrendered to God.

So the choice is ours.  We can continue to live in lukewarm Laodicea satisfied with less than the abundant life Christ promised.  Or we can jump into the deep end of the pool and surrender all to Him.  It's not complicated.  It's just hard.  What do you want to do?  The ball is in your court.

The following is a study on being Fully Surrendered to God from Romans 6.

445 - What it Means to Follow Jesus

445 - What it Means to Follow Jesus

January 17, 2020

When Jesus began His earthly ministry, His initial message was the same as John the Baptist.  He said, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Matt. 4:17).  And throughout the next three years, one underlying theme in His teaching was about life in His Kingdom.  When Jesus sent out His disciples to preach His message, He said, "As you go, preach, saying, 'The kingdom of heaven is at hand' " (Matt. 8:11).  Jesus even told those close to Him why He spoke to the crowds in parables.  And His answer had to do with concealing from some the knowledge of the kingdom of heaven.  He said, "Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given" (Matt. 13:11).

Finally, He shared parables specifically pointed to revealing what the kingdom of heaven, His Kingdom, was like.  He said it was like a "man who sowed good seed in his field" (Matt. 13:24).  Or, it was like a "mustard seed" which, being small, grew into a tree "so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches" (Matt. 13:31).  Jesus likened His Kingdom to "leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal till it was all leavened" (Matt. 13:33).  And to express how wonderful His Kingdom is for those who possess it, He said it was like a "treasure hidden in a field" (Matt. 13:44) or a "pearl of great price" (Matt. 13:46) that was worth all one had on earth.

Jesus then asked His disciples, "Have you understood all these things?"  They said to Him, "Yes, Lord" (Matt. 13:51).

I wonder what our answer would be today?  Do we understand His Kingdom?  Do we fully know what it means to follow Him?  Can we honestly say we are proficient in following Jesus?

I'm not so sure.  And maybe you aren't either.


What Life is Like in the Kingdom

Let's just take a flyover view of the first few chapters in Matthew and see if we can determine some principles and instructions for what it means to live in the kingdom of heaven.  And then compare them to what we teach in church today, and I think you'll be as shocked as I was.

Blessed… or Not So Blessed - Matthew 5:3-12
Self Identity - Matthew 5:13-16
His Standard of Righteousness - Matthew 5:20
Anger - Matthew 5:21-26
Lust and/or Sexual Sin - Matthew 5:27-30
Marital Relationships - Matthew 5:31-32
Oaths and Dishonesty - Matthew 5:33-37
How to Respond to Evil - Matthew 5:38-42
How to Respond to Haters - Matthew 5:43-47
Be Perfect - Matthew 5:48
Self-Promotion - Matthew 6:1-4
How to Pray - Matthew 6:5-13
How Much Forgiveness? - Matthew 6:14-15
Fasting and Other Disciplines - Matthew 6:16-17
Our Life Focus - Matthew 6:19-21
Everyone Serves Somebody or Something - Matthew 6:24
Worry, Doubt, and Fear - Matthew 6:25-34
I’m Right and You’re Wrong - Matthew 7:1-2
I’m Good and You’re Bad - Matthew 7:3-6
What is a Life of Faith - Matthew 7:7-11
Treat Others Like You Treat Yourself - Matthew 7:12
Turnstile or Interstate - Matthew 7:13-14
Fruit Inspector - Matthew 7:15-20
Doing and Not Just Talking - Matthew 7:21-23
Don’t Be Stupid! - Matthew 7:24-27
Minister Within Your Reach - Matthew 8:1-17
Everything Costs Something - Matthew 8:18-22
And so much more!

Remember, following Christ means to forget everything we think we know about everything but Him, and simply trust in child-like faith.  Our entire reality now changes, as citizens in His Kingdom, to something incredible and supernatural.

Do you want to learn more about what it means to follow Jesus?  If so, then keep listening.

The following is a study on What it Means to Follow Jesus.

444 - It All Comes Down to Denial

444 - It All Comes Down to Denial

January 10, 2020

When Jesus instructed His disciples, and the others, about what it meant to follow Him in Matthew 16:24-25, He spoke of "desire to come after me" and then "let him deny himself."  We looked at desire in our last message, and now we will turn our focus to what He meant by "deny himself."  Note the requirement and sequence in the verse below.  First, there must be desire ("if anyone desires to come after Me").  Then, a denial and the corresponding action showing the commitment to deny himself ("take up his cross").  And finally, the invitation to "follow Me."  Jesus shows surrendering to Him must follow in this order.  In essence, first meet the conditions, and then come "follow Me."

Jesus said, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me" - Matthew 16:24-25.

The word deny (aparnéomai) when followed by the pronoun heautón (oneself, himself) means "to deny oneself, or to disown and renounce self and to subjugate all works, interests, benefits, and enjoyments to another."  The word is also translated "to speak against, contradict, to avoid, reject, nullify, to stand firm against, resist, oppose." When Jesus said we must "deny" ourselves, the impact of our denial affects all areas of our life.


Deny, Denial, and Denied!

In Matthew 10, Jesus speaks of confessing Him before men or risk having Him deny us before His Father.  It is an extremely troubling warning from Christ that left no room for doubt or excuses.  He said,

"Whatever I tell you in the dark, speak in the light; and what you hear in the ear, preach on the housetops.  And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.  But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell" - Matthew 10:27-28.

Who is the One we are to fear?  Exactly, the Lord.  If so, do you have the fear of the Lord in you?  How has that fear changed your life so far?

"Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin?  And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.  Do not fear therefore (the consequences of speaking what the Lord tells you to say); you are of more value than many sparrows" - Matthew 10:29-31.

But then it gets quite serious for those who do not heed the Lord’s warning.

"Therefore whoever confesses Me (where) before men, him I will also confess (where) before My Father who is in heaven.  But whoever denies (refuse, avoid, reject, resist, oppose) Me (where) before men, him I will also deny (refuse, avoid, reject, resist, oppose) before My Father who is in heaven" - Matthew 10:32-33.

Can you imagine being denied by Christ before the Father?


Fear and Excuses

But if I confess Jesus, my friends will not include me.  Or my spouse will reject me even to the point of separation or divorce.  Or I’ll lose my job and source of income.  Or I’ll be persecuted, even to the point of possible imprisonment.  Or… you choose the excuse.  They are all the same, lame.  But Jesus anticipated these excuses.  He continued:

"Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword.  For I have come to ‘set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter in law against her mother in law ’; and ‘a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.'  He who loves father or mother more than Me is (what) not worthy of Me.  And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is (what) not worthy of Me.  And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is (what) not worthy of Me. (Therefore) He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life (why) for My sake will find it" - Matthew 10:34-39.

Or are you a follower of Jesus according to what works best for you?  Have you truly counted the cost of being one with Him?  Is He the center of your life?  Is He your very life?  Do you want Him to be?  If so, everything begins at the beginning.  And it all begins with desire.

Do you want to follow after Jesus?  No matter what?  Come what may?   If so, then keep listening.

The following is a study on What it Means to Follow Jesus.

443 - It All Comes Down to Desire

443 - It All Comes Down to Desire

January 9, 2020

On any given Sunday, if a pastor asks by a show of hands how many in the congregation consider themselves followers of Christ, most would raise their hands.  But if he followed up that question with: "And how many of you know what it means to be a follower of Jesus today?" - the number of raised hands would drop considerably.  Maybe even to none.  Why?  Because our view today of following Jesus is a far cry from what it meant in the time of Jesus.  Think about it for a moment.  Today, following Jesus means agreeing to a set of doctrinal facts, going to church regularly, tithing, volunteering for some service ministry, adhering to a moral code, and reading and praying as often as we can.  But in the New Testament, following Jesus meant something quite different.

Jesus said, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me" (Matt. 16:24).  Note the components of His invitation.  First, it begins with a conditional clause, if, like a classic if / then statement.  "If you desire to come after Me, then these are the conditions."  Next, we have self-denial or self-subjugation to God.  "If you desire to come after Me, the first condition is to deny yourself."  And finally, we are now privy to the degree to which self-denial must take place.  "If you desire to come after Me, the first condition is to deny yourself even to the point of death, and a horrific death at that."  And only then does Jesus say, "and follow Me."  First, meet the conditions, and then "follow Me."


But What About Desire

Exactly.  The entire invitation of Jesus hinges on the word, desire.  If you desire, then do the following.  If you don't desire, then this message must not be for you.  Which begs the questions, what is your desire regarding following Jesus?  And is your desire great enough to pay the price necessary to meet His conditions?  Ouch.  This is where it often gets personal.

In order to fully understand all of what Jesus said when He revealed His conditions of following Him, let's look at this invitation from all three Gospel accounts.  Only then can we fully understand all the implications and the Cost of Discipleship (to quote Bonhoeffer).  The following is from Matthew 16:24-25, Mark 8:34-35, and Luke 9:23-24:

Then Jesus (MK) called the people to Himself (LK) and said to them all, (MK) with His disciples also, (MT) "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross (LK) daily, (MT) and follow Me.  For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake (MK) and the gospel’s (MT) will find it.  For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul (LK) and is himself destroyed or lost? (MT) Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? (MK)  For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes (LK) in His own glory, and (MT) in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works."

Today, we will primarily focus on the issue of desire.

What is your desire regarding Christ?
Have you counted the costs of a deeper relationship with Him?
Are you ready to pay the price?  No matter what that price might be?
Are you paying any price right now for your commitment to the Lord?
Do you know if it will be much different in the future?

Are you tired of taking two steps forward and then losing ground once again because you desire something less than all of His fullness manifested in your life?  If so, then keep listening.

The following is a study on our Desire to Follow Christ.

442 - How to Surrender Your Life to Him

442 - How to Surrender Your Life to Him

December 16, 2019

We have looked at what it takes to become a Faith Prepper over the last few weeks.  We did this by learning to pray at all times by letting the Holy Spirit, through God’s Word, direct your prayers.   And we also spent some time learning how to trust at all times by allowing your faith to grow by having it exercised in often unpleasant situations.  But even with all of this, we still are plagued with a few questions.

How do we go from talking about faith to living by faith?
How do we learn to trust the Lord in all things?
How do we know and understand His will?
What are the practical steps we need to take to surrender our all to Him?
And how can we go about doing just that?

The answer, according to Scripture, is found in the single word, surrender.  It means "to yield, give up or over, submit, abandon, relinquish, cede, waive, or capitulate.  From the Christian perspective, it means to relinquish ownership of what we consider ours: our property, rights, time, decisions, future, independence, basically our life.

Surrender, like most things, is a choice.

The classic passage on total surrender is found in Galatians 2:20.  It reads: "I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me." But there is so much more.


Everybody Serves Somebody

In order to surrender our life to the Lord, we must first recognize we are created as a triune being.  We consist of three parts: mind, body, and will.  Total surrender comes when we purposely and with intention surrender all parts of ourselves to Him.

First, we must surrender our mind.

For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every (what)  thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ - 2 Corinthians 10:4-5.

Next, we must surrender our body to the Lord. 

And then finally, we must surrender our will to the Lord.

Then He said to them all, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.  For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it" - Luke 9:23-24.  Note both "desire" and "deny himself, and take up his cross daily".  This speaks of both the surrender of the will and the body or flesh.

Remember, you are not filled with the Holy Spirit because you desire to be filled nor because you confess your sins or present your body a living sacrifice— you are filled by faith.  So it is with a surrender to the Lord.  If we are willing but find your flesh weak, God is strong and will complete what you are unable to do.  What God is initially looking for is your willingness to be all His.  It all begins with desire.

One final note, if you believe God is good and He is sovereign, can you give me one reason not to fully submit and surrender yourself to Him?

Me neither.  Other than pride.  And that's not a good thing.

So where are you in your journey to surrender your life to the Lord?  Have you surrendered yourself and left your life in His hands?  Or have you, like many today, surrendered one moment and then snatched it out of His hands the next?  Are you tired of the endless struggle and sense of failure?  If so, then keep listening.

The following is a study on How to Surrender Your Life to the Lord.

434 - Preparing for the Invite

434 - Preparing for the Invite

October 30, 2019

When we come to the Lord's table, often we spend little time in spiritual preparation to meet with our Lord.  But this is His table and He has offered to each of us, regardless of our sins and failures, the blessing to come and dine with Him.  Remember His words to His disciples?

Then He said to them, “With fervent desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer" (Luke 22:15).

With "fervent desire I have desired."  Can you feel the intensity in His words?  This is something Jesus was passionate about, something that He truly wanted to do.  And it involved each of us.


Spiritual Preparation for the Invite

In the Philadelphia church age (Rev. 3:7-13) where the Lord only had good things to say about the church, just a few generations ago, the church took the Lord's Supper much more seriously than we do today.  In fact, they had printed prayers and a devotional study they spent the week going through to make sure they were not taking this in an "unworthy manner" (1 Cor. 11:29).  For example, let me give you the text for just Saturday, the day of Self-Surrender to the Lord.

My Father, You call me to Your table to participate by faith anew in the sacrifice of Your Son: I cry to You, in turn, to make me partaker of the power, the inclination, and the spirit of His self-sacrifice, that I, in fellowship with Him, may in like manner offer myself up to You. “Through the Eternal Spirit, He offered Himself up to God.” My God, let the same Spirit make me also, on my part, a complete offering to You.

My Father, grant unto me to see that self-offering constitutes the essence and the worth of His sacrifice. Let the surrender of my feeling and will to the will of God be the mark of my piety. Yes, Lord, let me live as one who offers himself wholly to the desire of God and man to further Your honor and their salvation.

My Father, at the Supper I desire truly to present myself as a living, a holy sacrifice, well-pleasing, to God—an offering that shall be wholly consumed.

For this end, I entreat You for grace to prepare myself for this sacrifice, as Your Son prepared Himself for the sacrifice on Golgotha by saying in Gethsemane: “Not My will, but Yours be done." So would I offer myself as a sacrifice to You with the complete surrender of my will: may Your will be all in all to me, O my God. Lord enable me to say in truth: “I live only to do the will of God.” In the strength of Jesus Christ, who lives in me and in whom I offer myself to You, I venture to make His language my own: “I come to do Your will, O God!”

Lord, prepare me also to say: I desire here before You to renounce every known and unknown sin. All self-seeking and self-will I desire to abandon before You. I take Jesus Christ as my holiness, my strength, my victory; and in virtue of the new nature which He has prepared for me, I say: Father, no more sin, but Your will only— Your will wholly, Your will always and in all.

Lord Jesus, who did give Himself for me, I give myself to You.  Yes, Lord, in this very moment, where I in solitude am this morning preparing myself for the Supper, I say before heaven and earth: Jesus, Son of God, I will give myself wholly to You, to live now and henceforth only for You. Lord Jesus, I do this now. And as one who is offered to the Father and to You, I will go to the Supper table, there to be confirmed in the faith and confession; I am no longer my own: I have been bought with a high price: I will glorify God in my body and my spirit, which are God’s.

Are you humbled?  Convicted?  Maybe you should be.  I know I am when I read this and the rest of what they prayed during their week of preparation for the invite.

Take some time and read through the days of prep the church of a time gone by spent preparing themselves to meet with the Lord.  And see, like me, if it doesn't give you a deeper view of what this Lord's Supper is all about.

The following is a study on preparing to dine with the Lord.

431 - How to be Filled with the Holy Spirit

431 - How to be Filled with the Holy Spirit

August 20, 2019

As we begin to see the darkness come over our land and persecution confront the church in ways unimaginable just a generation ago, it is well past time for each of us to understand and embrace the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit like never before.  As Appollo Creed said to Rocky to shake him from his fear, "There is no tomorrow!"

And Appollo was right.  There is no tomorrow.  The time for spiritual preparation is today.  Actually, it should have been yesterday, or last week.  The time for fervency towards our Lord cannot be put off any longer.  The well-worn excuses about family responsibilities, career advancement, and the general business of life seem trite at best, and will mean nothing when persecution comes.  And it will come.  Most assuredly it will come.  The Scriptures promise persecution.

Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution - 2 Timothy 3:12

That is, of course, unless you aren't particularly interested in living godly in Christ.  Then you may be pretty safe, right up until the time you take the mark on your hand or forehead.  But that's another issue for another time.


How to be Filled with the Holy Spirit

The key to living a life of assurance and confidence in Him is learning how to remain filled with the Holy Spirit.  And before you can remain filled, you have to be filled in the first place.  This is what this message talks about. We talk about some steps you can take to prepare yourself for His filling.  They are as follows:

First, you must desire to live a life that will please the Lord.

Second, be willing to surrender your life totally and irrevocably to our Lord Jesus Christ.

Third, confess every known sin that the Holy Spirit calls to your remembrance and experience the cleansing and forgiveness that God promises in 1 John 1:9.

Fourth, ask Him, by faith, to fill you with the Holy Spirit. You can pray something like this:

Dear Father, I need You. I hunger and thirst for a more vital relationship with You. I admit that I have been in control of my life. And, as a result, I have sinned against You. Thank You for forgiving my sins through Christ’s death on the cross for me. I now confess and turn from my sins and surrender the control of my life to the Lord Jesus. By faith, I invite You to fill me with the Holy Spirit as You commanded me to be filled. You promised to fill me if I ask according to Your will. I pray this in the authority of the name of Jesus Christ.

To demonstrate my faith, I now thank You for filling me with Your Holy Spirit and for taking control of my life. Amen.

But that's not the end of it.


There is so much more to learn.

You will need to understand the basis of God's filling, and it has nothing to do with the amount of time you spend praying or the people who lay hands on you.  The basis is on the command (Eph. 5:18) and promise (1 John 5:14-15) of God.  And the filling of the Holy Spirit is given to you the same way you received salvation, by faith.

But there is so much more about all this that we cannot do it justice in this simple summary. 

To find out more, you will need to keep listening. The following is a study on How to Be Filled by the Holy Spirit.

428 - The Forgotten Discipline of Remembering

428 - The Forgotten Discipline of Remembering

June 26, 2019

Unfortunately, in our walk with the Lord, Chaucer's ancient adage proves true:  Familiarity Breeds Contempt.  It breeds contempt in the form of apathy, laziness, indifference, lack of honor or respect and, finally, of misplaced love.  It seems to be the curse of Western Christianity that wants for nothing save the things that matter. What can we do when we find our relationship with the Lord boring at best?  What happens when, to quote the classic song by the Righteous Brothers, "we've lost that lovin' feelin'"?  What happens then? How can we recapture what we have a hard time even remembering?  We find the answer in the Lord's letter to His church in Ephesus.


Familiarity Breeds Contempt

The church at Ephesus, when John penned the Revelation, was only one generation removed from the life of the Lord.  They were a hard-working bunch of committed believers who had a resume and doctrinal purity that would be the envy of almost any church today.

“I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil.  And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary" - Revelation 2:2-3.

In fact, they worked for the Lord to the point of sheer exhaustion.

“I know your works (the results of employment, duty, business, something to be done), your labor (to toil to the point of exhaustion, the labor which demands the whole strength of a man exerted to the utmost to accomplish the task), your patience (to remain under, to bear up under), and that you cannot bear (support, stand) those who are evil (bad, worthless, wicked, vicious, harmful, bad in heart, conduct, and character).  And you have tested (tried, to prove either good or bad) those who say (affirm, proclaim) they are apostles (messengers, sent ones) and are not, and have found (by examination, search, or inquiry) them liars (false); and you have persevered (to bear up under patiently) and have patience (to endure, to remain under), and have labored (to be fatigued, worn out, weary, faint) for (what) My name’s sake and have not become weary (faint from constant work)."

I get tired just reading all that they did.  But, like the church today, they had missed the most important part of their relationship with Jesus.  The relationship!

“Nevertheless (in spite of all this) I (Jesus) have this against you, that you have left (to forsake, quit, abandon, desert) your first love ( agapē)" - Revelation 2:4.

Sobering words.  The Lord said He is "against" them... even after all the good they had done.  How could that be?  And what can they do to right their sinking ship? It may seem simple, but it is hard to remember the right things.  Sometimes it is painfully hard.

"Remember (to call to mind, to keep on remembering) therefore from where (why, how) you have fallen (to fall off or from, to fall away, to fail, to be without effect, in vain); repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place— unless you repent" - Revelation 2:5.


Do You Remember?

It may seem simple, but it is hard to remember the right things.  Sometimes it is painfully hard.  Consider the following questions to help begin the process of remembering:

What does it mean to remember? Take a moment and remember your first few weeks as a new creation in Christ. What were you like? Back then, how would you feel about yourself now? Did you make any promises to the Lord that you would not even think of making today? Did you keep whatever promises you made to Him? Has your relationship with Him cooled over time? If so, did it happen gradually, like a slow leak? Or did it happen all at once? What do you remember about that time?

There is so much more to remember.  To find out about the forgotten discipline of remembering, keep listening. The following is a study on Revelation 2:2-3.

427 - Are You In?  Or Are You Out?

427 - Are You In? Or Are You Out?

June 17, 2019

There comes a time in each of our spiritual lives when the Lord brings to us His divine interruption that always comes with a choice.  And that choice, other than obedience, seems to focus on our willingness to let Him move us into an area that we are totally unfamiliar with.   Or will we choose to remain where we feel safe and comfortable?  The choice is either to follow Him into the deep or remain in the kiddie pool holding fast to our water wings.  And as always, the choice becomes a matter of faith, of trust.

After all, we sing songs about Him being a "good, good Father."  Do we really mean it?  Or is that just for church?

The question or choice is simply this:


Are you in?  Or are you out?

If you look at the major faith personalities in the Bible, you will find every one of them had to ask themselves the same question.   Every one of them was faced with a choice that comes with a set of troubling questions:  "Do I continue in the course that seems right to me?  Or do I trust I actually heard from the Lord and go in a direction totally unfamiliar to anything I’ve ever done or known?  How much faith do I really have?”

We call these moments Divine Interruptions.

In this message, we'll look at these interruptions from the vantage point of:

David
Paul
Mary
Matthew
James and John and Peter and Andrew
Moses
And finally, Hosea.


A Personal Note

And I will share with you the divine interruption I received this week while preparing for this message from Jude.  In fact, in the weeks to follow I will share more about the changes the Lord has brought in my life regarding what His will is for me and this ministry.  And I rejoice in that.  Why?  Because He has simply answered a prayer I have prayed for almost two years in a most profound way.

But we will talk more about that at a later time.

The following is a study on Jude 1:1-3.