Skilled In Scripture

Last week I shared how in a span of a month and a half Peter went from a man who crumbled before a little servant girl, to one who boldly stood up for Jesus before a huge crowd. Don’t you think that some of the other disciples that had spent the previous 3-plus years with Peter were thinking, “Who is this guy?! He’s preaching this amazing sermon that he didn’t even prepare for ahead of time!” 

That’s what the Holy Spirit does for us: He opens up God’s Word like we’ve never seen it before! It wasn’t just for Peter, or the original 12 disciples, or the first-century Church. This is still available to you and me today!  

Please note that it’s not just a relationship with Jesus that opens up the Scriptures to us. No one spent more time in the presence of Jesus than His disciples. And yet even after Jesus explicitly shared truth with them, we read, “His disciples didn’t understand at the time that this was a fulfillment of prophecy. But after Jesus entered into His glory, they remembered what had happened and realized that these things had been written about Him” (John 12:16). 

Notice those words “after…they remembered…and realized.” 

After what? After they were baptized in the Holy Spirit on Pentecost (see Acts 2:1-16). In every setting after that we see their new understanding and correct application of the Scriptures (check out Acts 2:16, 25, 34; 2:42; 4:25-26; 8:35; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; Hebrews 4:12; 2 Peter 1:21).

This is still available to you and me today! Jesus told us that He had more to say to us, and that’s why the Holy Spirit would come. The same Holy Spirit that inspired the Word of God is available today to illuminate it to us! 

R.T. Kendall made this observation about the teachings of Jesus, “[His teachings] cannot be truly understood until you see that it is our Lord’s doctrine of the Holy Spirit. It means we must embrace His interpretation of the Law and how it is fulfilled in us.” 

This is what God foretold through Ezekiel—I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. Then they will follow My decrees and be careful to keep My laws… (Ezekiel 11:19-20). In other words, God is saying, “When the Holy Spirit is in you, you will know how to apply My laws to your every-day life. You will become skilled in the correct and timely biblical application.”  

ALL Scripture is for ALL servants of God. ALL Scripture is applicable to ALL the circumstances we will ever face in life. But we need the illumination of the Holy Spirit in order to make the connection from the written Word to the real-life application. 

So don’t stop at salvation—press on to be baptized in the Holy Spirit. 

If you have missed any of the other lessons in this series, you may access them by clicking here. 

Stand-Up Christians

“I’ve searched all the parks in all the cities and found no statues of committees.” —G.K. Chesterton 

It’s true that no statues have been erected to committees or groups, but groups of people have been allowed to stand up because just one strong leader stood up for them. And history has shown that never has been a greater servant leader—lifting and rescuing more people than we can count—than Jesus of Nazareth. 

Before He ascended back to heaven Jesus said to His followers, “As the Father has sent Me, I am sending you” (John 20:21). He has called us to stand up as His representatives in the world. Jesus didn’t send His followers out under their own power, but He directed them to first be empowered by the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:7-8). 

Last week I shared how Hannah’s persistence in prayer led to a revival in Israel. Hannah’s physical barrenness was a picture of Israel’s spiritual barrenness. When Hannah prayed, we read a key phrase: Hannah stood up (1 Samuel 1:9). She was really saying, “God do something IN me that will turn people to You!” 

And God literally did something IN her: she became pregnant, and the son that came from her was the spiritual leader Israel needed. 

New Testament Christians can have a new life conceived IN them when they are baptized IN the Holy Spirit. They can then spiritually give birth to a revival, just as surely as Hannah’s son Samuel led a revival in Israel! Being baptized IN the Holy Spirit empowers us to be stand-up Christians.  

Consider the disciple Peter. On the night Jesus was arrested, Peter couldn’t stand up for Jesus, even though it was just two little servant girls who confronted him. Then Pentecost Sunday came, Peter was baptized IN the Holy Spirit, and this Spirit-empowered man now became a stand-up Christian (Matthew 26:69-72; Acts 2:1-4, 14). 

As Aimee Semple McPherson noted, “The Holy Spirit, when He endues you with power, puts a real ‘stand up for Jesus spirit’ within you, and removes your cowardice.” 

Peter not only stood up before a questioning crowd, he stood up to the same religious leaders who had Jesus crucified, and he stood up for the Gentiles who became Christians (Acts 4:5-10; 15:6-11).

In Peter’s first letter to the Church, he explained how Spirit-baptized Christians could…

  • stand up joyfully in trials (1:6-9; 4:7, 12-19) 
  • stand up for holiness in a wicked culture (1:13-16; 2:11-12)
  • stand up to be able to submit to and serve those in civic government positions (2:13-17)
  • stand up to serve your employer (2:18)
  • stand up like Jesus did to the people who revile and slander you (2:19-25)
  • stand up for your spouse’s salvation (3:1-7) 
  • stand up for your Church family (3:8-12) 
  • stand up to fear (3:13-14) 
  • stand up to give testimony to your faith in Jesus (3:15-17)
  • stand up to live counter-culturally (4:1-6)
  • stand up for the shepherds and the sheep in God’s family (5:1-5)
  • stand up to anxiety (5:6-7)
  • stand up against the devil’s growling (5:8-11) 
  • stand up for Jesus until the very end of life or until Jesus returns (5:12-14) 

All of this from a man who couldn’t stand up to a little servant girl! 

That’s why I’ve said it before and I’ll keep on saying it—Don’t stop at salvation! There is SO MUCH MORE for those who will receive the baptism IN the Holy Spirit. If you want to stand up for Jesus and stand up for others who are being pushed around by the devil, you must be empowered with the stand-up-for-Jesus spirit that only comes from the Holy Spirit. 

Will you let the Holy Spirit put that stand-up spirit in you?

If you have missed any of the other messages in this series, please click here to access them.

Thursdays With Spurgeon—Precious Jesus!

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

Precious Jesus! 

Therefore, to you who believe, [Jesus] is precious. (1 Peter 2:7)

     It is important, while looking at these words of the apostle Peter, that we should lay our hands upon our hearts and ask, ‘Do I know what this means? Is Jesus more to me than gold or any other thing that can be desired? Can I truly say:

Yes, You are precious to my soul,
My transport and my trust:
Jewels to You are gaudy toys,
And gold is sorted dust’? … 

     Dear friends, if we can verify the statement, it is not only satisfactory to ourselves but glorifying to our Lord! …  

     Those who are actually trusting Him and us putting Him to the test are those who have the highest opinion of Him. … Usually men feel sadness at an increase of obligation, but in this case the more we are His debtors, the more we rejoice to be so. … 

     How do believers show that Christ is thus precious to them? They do so by trusting everything to Him. … Our affection flows toward Him as all our hope flows from Him. … We have deposited with our Lord everything that concerns us, and we have no secondary trust wherewith to supplement His power or love. … Our implicit faith in Him proves our high estimate of Him. …

     When saints have outward goods, they enjoy Jesus in them, and when outward goods are gone, they find them in Him. 

From Christ Precious To Believers

Have you learned how precious Jesus really is? 

The more you get to know Him, not only does His preciousness grow, but so does the hunger to know Him even more intimately! Don’t ever stop—let the Holy Spirit reveal more and more and more of this priceless Savior and Friend to you!

Praying The Word

The more consistently we pray on the ordinary days, the more prepared we will be to pray on the extraordinary days. But some people say, “I don’t know how to pray” or “I don’t know what to ask for.” That ignorance hinders a lot of people—even someone like Peter who not only spent huge amounts of time with Jesus but was with Him when He was in one of His most glorious states (Luke 9:28-33). As Jesus is transfigured before his very eyes, both Mark and Luke say this about the statement Peter blurted out: He did not know what he was saying. 

While Peter was still speaking from his ignorance, God the Father gave him (and us) some invaluable advice: This is My Son, whom I have chosen; listen to Him. 

So when the disciples ask Jesus to teach them to pray, Jesus didn’t reprimand them for asking. In fact, He told us how much He wants us to pray and how much His Father wants to answer our prayers (Luke 11:1-13; 12:32).  

There is a consistent theme about the “name” of God that permeates all that Jesus teaches about prayer. We see Him instructing us to address our prayer to our “Heavenly Father” and to pray “in My name” (Luke 11:2; John 14:13-14; 15:7; 16:23-24). This doesn’t mean that simply saying, “Dear Heavenly Father” at the beginning of a prayer or “in the name of Jesus, amen” at the end of a prayer makes our prayer magical. 

It’s about praying in the character of Jesus, directing our prayer to the only One who can help us, all with the guidance of the Holy Spirit. 

To help us do this, we have an invaluable prayer resource preserved for us in the pages of the Bible. The Scriptures are inspired by the Holy Spirit—the same Holy Spirit that lives in a Christian and helps the Christian pray according to God’s will. The same Spirit who inspired the Word can illuminate the Word to us, so we need to get into the Word and let the Holy Spirit get the Word into us! 

No matter what you’re going through, you can apply God’s Word to your situation. Look through the prayers of the Psalms, read the prayers of other great saints throughout the Scriptures, check out the prayers the apostles prayed in the New Testament, and even read the prayers of Jesus Himself. Then make those prayers your prayers!

If you let the Holy Spirit show you how the Bible applies to your situation, you will NEVER again be at a loss of how to pray to your Heavenly Father in the name of Jesus!

Join me this Sunday as we continue to learn how to to be ready to pray by making our plan to pray. 

How Foreigners Pray

I am a foreigner and stranger among you… (Genesis 23:4). 

Abraham and Peter remind us that God-fearing people are foreigners; they are not citizens of Earth. Christians are respectful of the people, laws, and customs of the land in which they sojourn, but they know that this land is not their home. 

Abraham wanted his son to have a wife who was of the same mindset—not attached to the place of sojourning but looking forward to Heaven. Abraham knew how an earthly–focused wife (like Lot’s wife) could distract her husband, so he sent his servant on a mission to find a heavenly-minded, godly woman for his son Isaac.

This servant was a godly leader in his own right. He was loyal and loving to Abraham’s family. Abraham gave him two simple boundaries: don’t take a wife from Canaan, and don’t take Isaac back to Mesopotamia (the land from which God had called Abraham). 

Notice how this godly leader undertook his mission:

  • He prayed a very specific prayer for success (24:12–14)
  • After praying, he “watched closely” (v. 21) to see how God would answer his prayer
  • He praised God when it appeared that his prayer has been answered (vv. 26, 27, 46)
  • He shared his answer to prayer with others to get confirmation (v. 50)
  • He quickly followed through with what God had provided (v. 56)

A mark of a godly leader is one who bathes his activities in prayer.

When God calls us to live in a certain way, it is fitting that He will answer our prayers that align with that way of living. This is exactly what Jesus meant when He told us to “ask for anything in My name.” 

This is part 42 in my series on godly leadership. You can check out all of my posts in this series by clicking here.

The Day Of The Lord

All we know about the prophet Joel is that he is the son of Pethuel, and his name means Jehovah is God. He appears to be addressing the southern part of Israel (Judah/Jerusalem). 

What is interesting to note about Joel’s writing is a recurring theme that goes something like this: 

Foreshadowing (or prophetic foretelling) → Calling for a godly response → God’s blessing on a right response or God’s punishment on a wrong response → An outcome which foreshadows or foretells another more dire event → repeat…

For instance, in Joel’s prophesy the massive invasion of locusts was intended to get the Israelites to pay attention to their sins. Joel calls for fasting and repentance and warns (foreshadows/foretells) that an invading army at a later date would do even greater damage (1:2-14). 

Likewise, the invading army—which would do more damage than the invading locusts—should also call the Israelites to repentance and imploring God for His help. 

Jesus, just like Joel, taught that whether it was an evil man, an accident, or even a natural disaster, painful things should cause us to consider the state of our eternal soul (see Luke 13:1-5). And Jesus and Joel both foretell of the Day of the Lord when there will be no more opportunities for repentance. 

To prepare God-fearing people for this dreadful day of the Lord, Joel foretells if the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. This is the same empowering Spirit that Jesus said would equip His followers to take the message of salvation to all four points of the compass (Acts 1:4-8). And just as Joel foretold 800 years earlier, on the first Pentecost Sunday after Christ’s ascension back into heaven, the Christians were baptized in the Holy Spirit, prompting Peter to quote an extension passage from Joel (compare Joel 2:28-32 with Acts 2:14-21).

Joel’s final chapter talks about Judgment Day, and about the multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision. Peter confronted his audience as well about the decision they should make to turn to Jesus as their Savior and Lord. 

The Day of the Lord could come at any moment and millions around the world are still in the valley of decision. I find these words quite sobering—

“Someone asked, ‘Will the heathen who have never heard the Gospel be saved?’ It is more a question with me whether we—who have the Gospel and fail to give it to those who have not—can be saved.” —Charles Spurgeon 

We are even closer to the Day of the Lord today than we were yesterday. What will you do?

Please join me this Sunday as we continue our series learning the major lessons from the minor prophets.

3 Lessons From A Devoted Dad

If you were to pick a man that would have been desperately devoted to Jesus as his Savior, Cornelius wouldn’t make anyone’s “top 10” list! 

Just take a look at all the strikes against this man. He was a… 

  • Gentile—to Jews, Gentiles were just the fuel to stoke the fires of hell. 
  • resident of the city of Caesarea—since this was the headquarters of the Roman government for Palestine, not many Jews would venture there. 
  • Roman—historians say only 10% of Romans in this era were monotheistic. 
  • centurion—not just any centurion, but an extremely powerful centurion from the Italian Regiment (not just a local mercenary who was in it for the money). And he took his name from Cornelius Sulla, a Roman general known both for his mercy and his ruthlessness.

All of this makes Cornelius a fully self-sufficient and a well-to-do man who was not likely to look for help from God. Nor was he the type of person that a Christian missionary might seek out. 

But clearly, something was missing in Cornelius’ life because he was completely countercultural in his pursuit after God. Not just his pursuit of God, but his quick understanding of exactly who Jesus was. 

Luke the historian describes Cornelius as:

  • devout and God-fearing. The Greek word for devout literally means “a right worshipper.” It’s a word Luke only uses three times in Acts, and two of those times are describing Cornelius. 
  • prayerful. The word Luke uses for him means someone who makes prayer personal and ongoing. 
  • generous. Cornelius took care of people who couldn’t take care of themselves. 

All of this got God’s attention (see Psalm 141:2; Revelation 5:8; Proverbs 19:17), and He sent an angel to direct Cornelius to Peter. 

When Peter came to Cornelius’ house, twice he said “as you know” (vv. 36, 37), showing us that Cornelius was aware that there was not only one true God, but that a relationship with Jesus was the only way to be in right relationship with God. As Peter spoke with Cornelius, his family, his relatives, his close friends, and even his fellow soldiers, the Holy Spirit baptized them just as He had done with the disciples of Jesus on the day of Pentecost. 

So here are 3 vital lessons for all men to learn from the life of Cornelius the centurion—

  1. Your devotion to God is influential. People around you do notice your devoted pursuit of God.
  2. Your openness to all that God has puts your family, friends, and coworkers in a place to receive God’s blessings too.
  3. God’s blessings flowing through you have lasting and far-reaching results. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit on Cornelius may have opened the door for Christian evangelism to Gentiles unlike anything that had happened before.

Dads, be devoted to God. Desire all He has for you, and all He has for those around you. Pursue Him no matter how many “strikes” there may be against you. 

If you missed any of the messages in this series, you can access the full list of messages by clicking here.

Shepherding God’s Flock (book review)

T.M. Moore founded the Fellowship of Ailbe, a ministry patterned after the example of the Irish Christians who kept the spread of the Gospel alive during history’s dark times. A key component of the Fellowship’s ministry is the equipping of pastors for their tasks, and Shepherding God’s Flock masterfully lays out the role of pastors like few other resources. 

Throughout the Scriptures, God uses the picture of a shepherd caring for his sheep as a consistent image of how God cares for His people, and how He desires for pastors/elders to care for those under their care as well. God has stern warnings for shepherd-leaders who misuse or abuse their positions, but He also showers His blessings on those shepherd-leaders whose hearts beat with God’s heart. David talked lovingly of the Lord being our Shepherd, Jesus called Himself the Good Shepherd, and the Apostle Peter called for elders in the church to shepherd the flock under their care. 

Shepherding God’s Flock helps pastors work through the practicalities of their shepherding role. And I do mean work through these concepts. This book is as much a workbook as it is a textbook. T.M. Moore gives valuable insights for pastors, but he intersperses penetrating discussion questions throughout his teaching. You will also need to keep your Bible handy while reading Shepherding because Moore will send you to passage after passage to undergird the principles he is teaching. 

I can’t recommend this book highly enough to both current pastors and those preparing to enter into pastoral ministry. It would probably be a good idea for lead pastors to read this book alongside their elder/deacon boards. 

As Moore notes in his closing words, “Shepherding is the work God has chosen for the care and nurture of His flocks. We’ve neglected this ministry for too long. Let us resolve to bring the work of shepherding to bear on the task of building Christ’s Church.” 

To that, I add my hearty “Amen!”

Undeniableness

…we cannot deny it (Acts 4:16)

The healing of a 40-year-old man who has been lame from birth is truly undeniable! But the Sadducees (the truly religious elite) took issue with the fact that Peter and John were then telling people about God’s resurrection power (which they did not believe).

It was undeniable that…

  • … the lame man was healed
  • … Peter spoke boldly with the help of the Holy Spirit
  • … Peter and John’s eloquence in spiritual matters was not bookish learning but divine illumination
  • … Peter and John had been with Jesus
  • … Peter and John could not be silenced by threats
  • … the admiration of the crowd following the healing and Peter’s sermon
  • … God was glorified

So what did the church do? They prayed for more “undeniableness” to be demonstrated by God through their lives!

They knew none of these threats took God by surprise, but they all happened as God had “determined before to be done” (v. 28). So they said, “We are Your servants in this—do more undeniable things through us. Enable us to speak Your Word boldly, and empower us to do signs and wonders in the name of Jesus” (vv. 29, 30).

And God answered that prayer!

What about us? Are we willing to pray that prayer today? Will we allow God to do undeniable things through us? Persecution may follow, but so will God’s glory, and saved souls, and healed people!

Remind, Refresh, Recall

It’s been said that repetition is the mother of all learning. Keep on reminding yourself in refreshing ways again and again, and the lessons will become permanent. 

Over the course of a year at Calvary Assembly of God, we cover a lot of ground biblically, crisscrossing the Bible, meeting old friends, learning timeless truths, and discovering how to apply those truths to our everyday lives. 

The apostle Peter wanted his friends to keep biblical truths in the forefront of their minds—So I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have. I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body. … I want you to recall the words spoken in the past by the holy prophets and the command given by our Lord and Savior through your apostles (2 Peter 1:12-13; 3:2). 

In the spirit of that constant reminding, I will be presenting a year-end review of all the topics we covered throughout 2018. This will be a great morning to invite your friends, as they will get a quick snapshot of what we’re learning. It will also be a wonderful morning for our regularly-attending church family to be reminded and refreshed. 

Join us in person or on Facebook Live.

%d bloggers like this: