Enough.

yokeChristians know that the shed blood of Jesus is enough for our salvation; you can’t add to it by good works or some other sacrifice. That is 100% true.

But the Apostle Paul said, “Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” (Phil. 2:12 KJV)

Paul also said, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. ” (II Cor. 5:17) Why then did he give us things to do, not do, things to put off or put on?

Because Jesus had said, “It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master, and the servant as his lord.” (Matt. 10:25) Being born again instantly made us new creations, but it did not instantly make us like Jesus.

Peter said, the divine power of Jesus has given us everything pertaining to life and godliness through the knowledge of him, Jesus. Then he went on to say, add to your faith goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, mutual affection, and love. If you possess those qualities, you will become effective and productive in your knowledge of Jesus. (see II Peter 1:3-8)

Being born again was a life-changing, life-giving event, but carrying out God’s assignments from that point on is a process, an often troublesome process. Frustrating sometimes, joyful sometimes, puzzling sometimes, but it’s still a process. A listening, learning and doing process.

Some Christians live as if we have a free pass to heaven when we die, but between now and then we have to figure things out on our own. Like how to obey the Ten Commandments, how to know if you’re in God’s will, and a host of other thorny theological questions.

Even with help from a Sunday School teacher or the pastor, they’re not sure if they’re doing what they are supposed to. They’re not sure if they are doing enough. Be like Jesus? They’re not sure they ever could be like Jesus.

But thankfully Jesus didn’t just save us, then point us to a nearby church and say “Good luck!” He said, “I will pray the Father and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever… I will not leave you comfortless; I will come to you.” (John 14:16, 18)

He knew we were going to need help. “In the world you shall have tribulation; but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) Through the person of the Holy Spirit he provides help – guidance, power and provisions – enough for us to succeed, if we listen to him. If we pay attention. If we follow instructions.

Those who are led by the Spirit are sons of God, Paul said in Romans 8:14. Not those who were led one time to attend a church service, or hear a gospel message. Those who are led, present tense. Jesus said, follow me. Paul said, follow me as I follow Christ.

Well, “follow” implies forward motion, doesn’t it. Jesus goes places and does things. He has work in mind for you, for the remainder of your natural life. Work assignments. “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Eph. 2:10)

The Holy Spirit will tell you what those assignments are, when and where and how to do them. Here’s a couple of side notes:

  • Proficiency and maturity take time – they are not automatic. Be patient! See Phil. 3:12.
  • Accomplishing our assignments is a cooperative project – we are co-laborers with Christ, not “lone wolves.” (I Cor. 3:9)

Jesus said, “Come to me all who are weary and heavy-laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me for I am gentle and humble of heart and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

A yoke is a wooden beam normally used between a pair of oxen or other animals to enable them to pull together on a load when working in pairs, as oxen usually do. The young ox doesn’t decide where to go or how to get there. He doesn’t choose the load (burden) he’s pulling.

Once he’s in the yoke, he goes where the trained one leads him. The lead ox may be older, bigger, and may be pulling more of the load, making the yoke easier by taking some weight off the young one. And the lead ox only goes where his master directs him to go.

Of course, we have a distinct advantage. We are yoked with Jesus, and we have the Holy Spirit on the inside of us, imparting power to carry out the assignment. Enough power.

Paul knew about assignments. In Jerusalem, he described to the Jews what had happened to him on the road to Damascus: “‘What shall I do, Lord?’ I asked. “‘Get up,’ the Lord said, ‘and go into Damascus. There you will be told all that you have been assigned to do.'” (Acts 22:10 NIV) He had an assignment to do while working out his salvation.

Paul was not left ignorant of how to fulfill that assignment. The Holy Spirit led him, enabled him and provided him with enough information and ability to complete his assignment.

All he had to do was listen and follow instructions. That’s all we have to do, too. It will certainly be enough. Less than that won’t be.

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Fear of their faces

“You can do it, he said. The Holy Spirit said, You can do it.” Quoted from my last post… This is a story about the first time I heard him say that, although he used a friend as his mouthpiece.

I was a member of Parkwood Presbyterian Church in the early 1970’s, playing the organ for services and attending the adult Sunday School. I have loved Sunday School all my life, studying the lessons ahead of time, soaking in the discussions and enjoying the fellowship.

Our class at Parkwood was small, only a dozen or so of us who sat around a long conference table. In that small circle there was a freedom to ask questions and express opinions without fear of rejection. As long as I was just one of the circle, I was okay. No “fear of their faces” (see Jeremiah 1:8-9).

Everywhere else, however, was a different story. For years I’d been painfully shy, unable to speak in public even to store clerks. In those days there were small stores on just about every corner, selling milk and bread, soft drinks and candy. You didn’t just help yourself, you walked to the counter and told the clerk what you wanted.

But I couldn’t do that. I had to write out a list and hand it over, I could not bring myself to actually speak to the clerk. That was true in dime stores, drug stores, grocery stores, department stores, everywhere.

If I was forced to speak in public, my heart would pound, my hands would shake, I’d get nauseated and break out in a sweat. I’d be almost physically sick from this unnatural fear. Piano recitals made me nervous but since I didn’t have to talk to anyone, just sit down and play, I got through them. Oral book reports? Forget it. I was probably the only junior in high school who was allowed to write down my “oral” book report — the teacher was aware of my painful problem and had mercy on me.

Then after class one eventful Sunday morning, our teacher who was also the Sunday School Superintendent, asked me to take over the class. He wanted to step down from teaching and thought that since I studied the lessons and asked intelligent questions in class, I would be the logical next teacher. “You can do it,” he said.

I stammered, hemmed and hawed and said I couldn’t, no way, never, not me, about a dozen times. “Why not?” he asked. That stopped me in my tracks.

We had been studying about Jesus healing and delivering people from their problems, and I had a problem, no doubt about it. A devastating, hindering, restricting problem, fear of their faces. Could Jesus heal me? Deliver me from this fear? Or had He stopped doing that 2000 years ago?

As the teacher stood there waiting for my answer, I knew I had to find out. With a horrible premonition of disaster, I said I would try the following Sunday and we’d have to see after that.

That entire week I worked on the lesson. I read the student’s book, the teacher’s book, I looked up every Bible reference, made a poster, did an outline, prepared handouts, wrote out Bible verses, illustrations and quotations to use, everything I could think of to make the lesson a success.

I would stand at the end of the conference table with my poster on an easel, distribute the handouts and read from my notes. If I kept my head down and my eyes on the notes I wouldn’t have to look at their faces, and maybe the fear wouldn’t get me. That was my plan.

God’s plan was something else. I arrived early the next Sunday morning, unfolded the easel and propped up my poster, laid the handouts around the table, flipped my Bible open to the first passage and my notebook to my outline, then sat down to wait.

My classmates came into the room as usual, chatting with each other and catching up on news from the week. They took their usual seats around the table and it was time to start.

The Superintendent introduced me as the new teacher, everyone smiled a welcome, my heart pounded and I opened my mouth. For the next hour I taught the lesson, asked questions and directed the discussion — without any memory of it afterward, whatsoever!

The Lord had done it! In an instant He had delivered me from the fear that had tormented me for years. Everyone thanked me, said they looked forward to me being the teacher and headed into the sanctuary for the morning worship.

As I gathered up my materials, I just said “Thank you, thank you, thank you,” over and over. My eyes were full of tears and my heart full of amazement and gratitude.

No-one else in that room knew the struggle I’d had. A grown woman afraid to speak to a store clerk? How ridiculous. That’s what would they have said, I thought, and so for a long time I kept this testimony to myself.

In recent years I have shared this story several times. Sometimes folks who didn’t know me back then are amazed; they think I’ve always “had it all together.” As we talk I’ve learned that many people are tormented and hindered by fear of various kinds, and they need to be delivered too.

I’ve had the privilege of praying with a number of them over the years, affirming that the Lord is both able and willing to deliver us from fear.

(Originally titled Testimony, part three, reprinted from 4 March 2011)

You can do it

WriterThinkingYou can do it, he said. The Holy Spirit said, You can do it.

YOU can do it.
Not someone smarter, stronger, wiser. Not someone younger, more educated, more influential or powerful. Not someone else. You.

You CAN do it.
Not may be able to eventually, with lots of help and lots of advice from lots of other people. Can, now, as you are.

You can DO it.
Not think about it, not postpone it until you understand it fully, after examining all the pros and cons, not delegate it to someone more capable. And not try and fail. You can DO it, now, present tense.

You can do IT.
Whatever he says. Nothing excluded, everything included, if he says it, you can do it.

“And I thank Christ Jesus, our Lord, who hath enabled me, in that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry.” (I Tim. 1:12 KJV)

Armor of light

light-explosionThe Armor of Light is another type of armor we are instructed to “put on”:

“The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light.” (Rom 13:12 KJV)

The apostle Paul is talking about daylight and darkness here, but not ordinary days or ordinary darkness. He means the day of the Lord’s return is coming soon; because of that we should discard our old life’s works of evil and prepare for our new daytime assignments. Good religious instruction.

But is that all he means?

I thought about Jesus and his inner circle at the Mount of Transfiguration. “After six days Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone. There he was transfigured before them.” (Mark 9:2)

“There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light.” (Matt. 17:2 NIV)

I thought about Jesus having to assist the Roman soldiers in arresting him. He said, “I am” and they all fell down flat. He patiently waited around until they recovered. (See John 18:6)

In meditating on the concept of armor made of actual light, I started thinking again about an old question:

What exactly is light? And is matter made of the same elemental particles as light?

God himself is light. “This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.” (1 John 1:5)  And yet,

“And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.” (Gen. 1:3) Literally “Light be,” meaning Light appear, or Light come into existence.

Before any physical matter came into existence, there was light energy. Scientists who study the “Big Bang” theory accept that, though they can’t explain the initial source of it. See http://science.nasa.gov/astrophysics/focus-areas/what-powered-the-big-bang/

For a more simplified explanation, see http://www.big-bang-theory.com/

After reading online some explanations and descriptions of quantum mechanics, bosons, elemental particles and other material I couldn’t fathom, I found these comments on the Forbes.com website from 10-9-13 (excerpted):

The Higgs Boson and the Nobel: Why We Call It the ‘God Particle’

The Higgs boson, the subatomic particle that has brought a Nobel Prize to Francois Englert and Peter Higgs, is so small that its discovery took 40 years. It is so big for physics, though, that it took on the nickname the “God particle.” Colleagues theorized in 1964 that there must be something that explains why other particles have mass, why things hold together, why you and I are able to exist. That something is the Higgs boson.

Higgs bosons could be described as making up an invisible field of energy through which other particles fly, slowed by it as it imbues them with mass. Some writers have likened a field of Higgs particles to molasses—except that molasses can be seen with the naked eye and doesn’t decay in a tiny fraction of a second.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesleadershipforum/2013/10/09/the-higgs-boson-wins-the-nobel-why-we-call-it-the-god-particle/

Physicians at CERN, the vast European laboratory in the Alps, were successful in discovering the Higgs boson in 2012.

Then I also found this fascinating article online, published last year in Phys.org:

Scientists create never-before-seen form of matter
Sep 25, 2013

Working with colleagues at the Harvard-MIT Center for Ultracold Atoms, a group led by Harvard Professor of Physics Mikhail Lukin and MIT Professor of Physics Vladan Vuletic have managed to coax photons into binding together to form molecules – a state of matter that, until recently, had been purely theoretical. The work is described in a September 25 paper in Nature.

The discovery, Lukin said, runs contrary to decades of accepted wisdom about the nature of light. Photons have long been described as massless particles which don’t interact with each other – shine two laser beams at each other, he said, and they simply pass through one another.

“Photonic molecules,” however, behave less like traditional lasers and more like something you might find in science fiction – the light saber.

“Most of the properties of light we know about originate from the fact that photons are massless, and that they do not interact with each other,” Lukin said. “What we have done is create a special type of medium in which photons interact with each other so strongly that they begin to act as though they have mass, and they bind together to form molecules. This type of photonic bound state has been discussed theoretically for quite a while, but until now it hadn’t been observed. ….

Lukin also suggested that the system might one day even be used to create complex three-dimensional structures – such as crystals – wholly out of light.

http://phys.org/news/2013-09-scientists-never-before-seen.html

Continuing his thought about armor, in Romans 13:14 Paul tells us to put on (endue ourselves, clothe our bodies, our spiritual selves with) the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the natural, physical body.

With Jesus as our armor, and the Holy Spirit as our indwelling power source and communicator, we should be able to carry out whatever assignment we’ve been given — no matter what the opposition is. And there will be opposition.

Paul found a lot of opposition as he carried the gospel message to both Jews and Gentiles who didn’t want to hear it.  II Corinthians 11:23-28 lists some of it: imprisonment, beaten with rods, given 40 lashes, shipwrecked, adrift in the sea, stoned and left for dead, if not killed… not to mention being “constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked.”

Yet despite all that, Paul’s biography also includes: “Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds.” (II Cor. 12:12)

“And God wrought special miracles by the hands of Paul: So that from his body were brought unto the sick handkerchiefs or aprons, and the diseases departed from them, and the evil spirits went out of them.” (Acts 19:11-12)

Many believers today face the same violent and brutal opposition, especially in Africa and the Middle East. Many are in prison for their faith. Many have been murdered in recent days. We need God’s armor as much or more today than any other time in history. We need to be equipped as fully and as effectively as Paul was. God provided armor for a reason. He knew we’d need it.

“Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.” (Eph. 6:10) Be strong, we are commanded. Be dynamically empowered with the might that created the universe in the very beginning of everything that exists.

Put on the armor of light, Paul said. Be strong “in the Lord”  — i.e. inside the Lord. That’s a very good place to be. That’s the best kind of armor.

Armored, front and back

x-default“Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t after you.”
— Joseph Heller, Catch-22

I’ve been thinking about armor lately. The apostle Paul told the Ephesians, “Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.” (Eph. 6:13)

You don’t wear armor to play tennis. Or golf. Or lay around on the beach. Or just to work in an office, or push a vacuum, or cook dinner.

Ordinary people doing ordinary jobs don’t even own armor. A hunting rifle, maybe, a utility knife, maybe. But surely not armor.

It got me to thinking. Who does wear armor? Who even owns armor? Hmm. Soldiers. People who are trained to fight, who know what armor is for and how to use it. People who know there’s going to be a fight – not just a scuffle, but a serious fight. Up close and personal, with somebody out to hurt you. To kill you.

If you read through Paul’s epistles, you’ll see that he didn’t write the same things to everybody. He wrote to the Ephesians things that he didn’t tell anyone else. So, then, they don’t apply to anyone else, right?

Well, that would be nice, if it wasn’t for the fact that the devil doesn’t hate Ephesians only. In this fight, we all need this particular armor, whether on the tennis court, the golf course, in the office and in the kitchen. Every place can be and often is a battlefield in the spirit.

  • John 10:10 – Jesus: the thief comes to kill, steal and destroy; Jesus comes to give abundant life
  • I Cor. 10:4 – Paul: we have powerful weapons and a war to fight; they are spiritual, not physical
  • Eph. 4:27 – Paul: give no place to the devil
  • I Pet. 5:8 – Peter: the enemy prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking to devour someone
  • James 4:7 – James: submit first to God, then resist the devil and he will flee

Here’s that whole passage from Ephesians:

Finally, 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. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.

RomanBattleArmorStand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.

In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. (Eph. 6:10-18 NIV)

Paul, a Roman citizen, is describing a Roman soldier’s armor – notice, every piece is worn in a place where Jesus shed his blood, from head to hand to foot. Some sandals even had metal spikes in the soles.

RomanArmorBreastplateBackParticularly notice, the back of the breastplate was also armored.

Some people claim the armor is only on your front, so you’re supposed to only advance. That’s not true. Isaiah 58:8 says that the glory of the Lord will be our rear guard (rereward, rear-ward in KJV).

If sometimes it seems like the enemy comes at you from all sides, the Lord has provided protection from all sides.

An offensive weapon, a sword presupposes offensive actions by a soldier trained in wielding it. The fully equipped Roman soldier had two swords, a short one and a long one. The short sword was used for hand-to-hand fighting – this is the word used in most of the New Testament. A long sword or javelin was worn over the soldier’s right shoulder – this is the word used for Jesus’s two-edged sword in Revelation.

“Having done all to stand, stand…” it says in the King James Version. Done all… all what?

Having acknowledged the need for this armor, having acquired it, clothed yourself with it and trained in its use, stand up strong in it. That sounds like we’re defending something, doesn’t it? And we are.

Stand firm in the faith, Paul says in his letters. Faith is the devil’s most valuable target. If he can’t kill you outright, he’ll steal your health. If he can’t steal your health, he’ll destroy your reputation. Whatever he can do to nullify your faith, he’ll do.

Standing firm in your own faith is not all we do, of course. Spreading faith, advancing the kingdom of God is the Christian’s primary business. But if you’re so busy fighting off attacks in the mind, emotions, health, family, job, reputation, etc., you won’t share your testimony much. You won’t advance the kingdom much.

Reading the news from around the world, I realize just how much of a war is going on. How violent, how hate-filled, how horribly cruel – how evil – the attacks on Christians are. How much we need God’s full armor! Too many believers in this country assume it will never happen here.

What I believe and why

(Reprinted from March 6, 2011.)

John 10:10. Jesus said it.

I made a decision many years ago to believe the Bible, accept it as God’s truth, and base my existence on its veracity and dependability. I accepted Jesus as savior and manager (Lord) of my life, studied what he did here on earth and how he did it. What he said, to whom, and on what occasions. Instructions he gave.

These days I am re-studying the Gospel of John. It’s a fascinating book. Recently I read a statement made by someone that Jesus never claimed to be God so why did Christians think he was? That person obviously never read John’s gospel where Jesus repeatedly claimed to be God, declaring it to followers and detractors alike.

I take Jesus at his word, and these days especially John 10:10: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

Who is they? Verse 9 tells us. “I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture.” Saved is from the Greek word “sozo,” meaning healed, rescued, kept safe, made whole… a very positive word.

Jesus said he was the gate for the sheep. The sheep are “they.” I’m one of his sheep so I’m included in “they.”

I know full well that human beings have a vicious enemy. He hates all humans but especially believers. After all, if he can wipe out one Christian, he can potentially wipe out many others who might have come to Christ through their testimony.

His specific goals are listed by Jesus in this verse:

(1) Steal — your belongings. Home, car, money or peace of mind. Marriage, children. Health. Reputation. Job, savings or retirement plan. He will use economic depression, natural disaster, fire, flood, earthquake, whatever he can.

(2) Kill — you, your family and friends. With whatever weapon he can use. Cancer. Heart disease. Accidents. War. Famine. Murder. Suicide.

(3) Destroy — anything he couldn’t steal or kill. Especially your faith. Listening to his doubt and fear, gossip, rumors and uncertainty, erodes your self-confidence. He’ll try to nullify your testimony. It’s hard to witness when your mind is full of fear.

The rest of verse 10 tells us that Jesus is proactive. “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” Not just life, but full life. God-life. Not depressed, not defeated. Overflowing! Abundant!

John 16:33 says, “I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Jesus didn’t warn us about the enemy so we could worry when he attacks or blame God for the attacks, but so we could stomp the enemy in Jesus’ name. Defeat him. Destroy his works as Jesus did. (See Acts 10:38). Believe Jesus. Worship Jesus. Obey Jesus. Quote Jesus!

John 14: 12, “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things that these, because I am going to the father.” Well, what had Jesus been doing?

“Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves.” (John 14:11) Miracles, is what he had been doing. Healing the sick.

Some well-meaning Christians think those particular verses don’t apply today or at least don’t apply to everyone today. If that was true, salvation – from the same Greek word, sozo – isn’t available today, either. But it does, and they do.

 

Holy Spirit, humorist

Thinking again about what God is like, I’ve meditated some about what each person of the Godhead is like. Identical in nature, they are not identical in function, relationship with humans, or personalities.

Over the years I’ve discovered that the Holy Spirit has a wonderful sense of humor.

I’m reading several books at a time, not sure which one this comment was in – “… the Lord always by my side.” I kept on reading, but then was stopped short by the Holy Spirit himself. “And IN your side, too…” he said, with a chuckle.

Oh, that’s good, I answered. “Thanks,” he responded. I could sense a smile in his voice.

The problem with that first phrase, is that’s how the author was looking at God’s presence in his life. Omnipresent. In the room. In the air, even. But mostly outside of you, not inside.

Parakletos, the Greek word translated Comforter (KJV) or Advocate (NIV) in John 14:16 means “One called alongside to help.” That could be a counselor, consoler, advocate, advisor, or mentor.

But that word – alongside – there’s a problem with that. It’s as if the Holy Spirit is just floating around somewhere, on pause. When you need help with something, just call him over and here he comes. But unless you have a specific need, just leave him on hold, don’t give him a thought.

But that’s not what Jesus had in mind. That’s not how Jesus lived and worked with the disciples, and he said the Holy Spirit would be a replacement for himself. Jesus was alongside of them. He was with them – but the Holy Spirit would be inside them (John 14:17).

He would be their teacher, convictor, encourager, comforter, and “reminder” of everything Jesus had told them.

From the inside of their bodies, he would be to them – and to us – a permanent empowerer, enabler, inspirer, instigator, interferer, intervenor, informer, healer, restorer, and deliverer.

Revealer, explainer, enlightener, guide, and trainer, he is a generous giver of gifts such as wisdom, knowledge, discerning of spirits, faith, healing, prophecy, and many others.

The Holy Spirit is also an excellent thrower-of-monkey-wrenches and setter-of-stumbling-blocks for the enemy. A weapons expert. A warrior.

The Holy Spirit is not a vague, ethereal, spiritual impression. He’s a real person. He’s a person with a personality, a mind of his own, a voice, and a distinct presence.

After all, he is God. Powerful. Creator. Inventor. Designer. Engineer. Scientist. Playwright. Author. Humorist…