Are You Healthy Enough To Love Serving Others?

Jesus was wholly healthy. That is to say, He was healthy in every aspect of His life—mentally, physically, spiritually and emotionally (see Luke 2:52). This is important to note because Christians are called to be healthy in all of these same areas.

The phrase Dr. Luke uses about Christ’s growth is a telling one: Jesus grew in favor with men. People liked having Jesus around. The word for favor is from the same root word where we also get grace. So Jesus was a graceful man.

What does it mean when someone is graceful? It means they are pleasant to be around … you feel safe around them, knowing they will never belittle you or put you down … their focus is on your agenda, not their own … they are a “there you are!” person, not a “here I am!” person.

Bottom line: they are filled with love for others.

Jesus was healthy in His mind, His body, His spirit and His emotions, which allowed Him to be in a unique place where He fully knew how powerful He was, yet He chose to use His power not for His own benefit, but to serve others (see John 13:1-4).

Healthy love loves God and then serves God by loving and serving others. Only a wholly healthy person can truly serve with a right attitude…

  • People with unhealthy thoughts won’t serve because they don’t know they’re supposed to serve.
  • People with unhealthy bodies can’t serve because their disease won’t let them.
  • People with unhealthy spirits shouldn’t serve because they are promoting hypocrisy.
  • People with unhealthy emotions don’t serve because their attitude gets in the way.

Jesus not only told us His loving service was an example for us (John 13:15-17), but He went on to say that our loving service would be an example for others (vv. 34-35).

Healthy love loves God and then serves God by loving and serving others.

Do you have that kind of healthy love? Are you becoming wholly healthy enough to serve?

Ask yourself these questions:

  1. What do I know that I’m not yet doing?
  2. What will it take for me to turn knowing into doing?
  3. Can people tell I am growing wholly healthier year by year?

Seeing Jesus (book review)

seeing-jesusB.B. Warfield once commented that the Old Testament is like a beautiful mansion, but the lights are turned off; with the Advent of Jesus, the lights have come on and we can now appreciate the beauty that was always there. In Seeing Jesus, Nancy Guthrie shows us the beauty of Jesus that is on full display from the opening words of the Bible, shining a bright light on passages that many may have previously missed.

Sadly, a lot people mistakenly believe that Jesus first shows up at His birth in Bethlehem, forgetting that Jesus Himself said that all the Scriptures point to Him. Nancy does just what Jesus said: She links together passages from both Testaments to show how all the Scripture finds its fulfillment in Jesus Christ.

Each chapter opens with a passage from the Old Testament and a passage from the New Testament. Then Nancy masterfully shows how Jesus links the two Testaments by the work He completed at Calvary. I appreciate how there is a satisfying conclusion to each chapter, but also how there is an open door to explore each particular topic more in my own Bible study time.

Especially for those who have thought the Old Testament is confusing, or outdated, or even boring, Seeing Jesus will bring a whole new excitement and insight into your Bible study time.

I am a Tyndale book reviewer.

Jesus—100% God And 100% Human

gnosisOn paper it seems so simple: “We believe in the Deity of the Lord Jesus Christ. As God’s Son, Jesus was both human and divine.” But trying to wrap our finite human minds around the concept of the full humanity and the full deity of Jesus is challenging!

First off, Jesus was fully human. Both Matthew and Luke record details about Christ’s physical birth, and the writer of Hebrews says that Jesus was made every bit as human as us (Hebrews 2:17).

But Jesus was also fully God. John records how God became flesh in the Person of Jesus (John 1:1-2, 14), and Paul tells us how Jesus chose not to use His deity when He came to earth as a human (Philippians 2:6-8).

I know that anytime we say, “God is like…” we’ve already sold ourselves short, but I’d like to try one analogy that’s been helpful for me.

Imagine a coin that has two distinct sides. While we are looking at one side (heads), we cannot see the other side (tails) but that doesn’t mean the other side has ceased to exist. In fact, if we were able to split that coin in half, so that there was only a heads and a tails, we haven’t cut the value of the coin in half, but we’ve made the coin of no value at all! 

In the Greek language of the New Testament, there are a couple of words for “knowing”: one is gnosis and the other oido. Together these words combine head knowledge and heart knowledge, or knowledge by study and knowledge by experience.

C.S. Lewis captures the idea this way: “It is Christ Himself, not the Bible, who is the true Word of God. The Bible, read in the right spirit and with the guidance of good teachers, will bring us to Him.”

Just as Jesus was both God and Man, we are to use both our mind and our heart to know Him.

To focus on the “heads” side—the deity of Jesus—is to pervert gnosis into gnosticism, and deny the humanity of Jesus. To focus on the “tails” side—the humanity of Jesus—is to pervert gnosis into agnosticism, and deny the deity of Jesus. True gnosis keeps both sides in mind: Deity and humanity.

To truly know THE Word of God (Jesus) in all His humanity and in all His deity, we need to study the Word of God. We also need the help of the Holy Spirit. I like the Old English wording of this verse—Ye have an unction [charisma] from the Holy One, and ye know [gnosis] all things (1 John 2:20).

So read your Bible, but not just to read your Bible. Ask the Holy Spirit to make THE Word known to you. Live in the balance of gnosis as you get to know Jesus more deeply and personally.

This post is a part of our series studying our foundational beliefs. If you would like to read more about the first foundational beliefs we have discussed, check out this post on the inspiration of Scripture, and this post on the Trinity.

Streams In The Desert (book review)

streams-in-the-desertGod said, “Behold, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs forth; do you not perceive and know it and will you not give heed to it? I will even make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert” (Isaiah 43:19). This verse perfectly sums up the dominant message in Lettie Cowman’s book Streams In The Desert.

Everyone has been there: things haven’t gone as we planned … we’re not sure how we could have ended up in such a dry, barren place … it seems like nothing is working out right … we begin to think that even God has lost sight of us. But it’s in this painful, desert place that God is ready to do something unheard of!

Lettie Cowman knew the pain of sickness and disappointment and thwarted dreams. Yet in the midst of her desert place, as she poured out her raw emotions, she began to see a river springing up in her wilderness. This book is a heaven-sent blessing to anyone in those dark, barren places.

Each day you will get a glimpse of God’s spring, as Lettie shares her personal discoveries, insights from Scripture, quotes from other desert wanderers, poems of reflection, and even prayers for help. Each day’s short reading is thirst-quenching and soul-satisfying.

If you are going through a desert place, get a copy of this book for yourself. If you have a friend who is struggling, buy a copy for them, and find times to get together to discuss each day’s reading. There’s a reason why this book has stood the test of time and has been an immense help to so many throughout the years.

Praying With The Authority Of The Creator

pray-boldlyJesus had a way of praying that sounds unusual to our ears because He didn’t pray “normal” prayers. His prayers were bold statements! But Jesus also taught us to pray just like He did.

Most prayers that Christians pray sound like they come from the same formula. We may start with something like, “Heavenly Father” or “Dear God.” Then we probably spend some time praising God for His greatness before we make our requests of Him. Often our requests include something like “If this is Your will, I ask You to please heal/help/answer/etc.” And then almost always the prayer concludes, “In Jesus’ name, Amen!”

When Jesus prayed, His prayers sounded more like commands than requests. He would say things like, “Be clean” or “Rise up and walk” or “Blind eyes, be opened.” He usually didn’t ask His Father if it was His will to heal/help/answer/etc. And He never concluded a prayer by saying, “In My name, Amen!”

In Luke 6 there is a story about a man with a withered hand. Jesus healed him by speaking to the man, not to God. He said, “Stretch out your hand,” and when the man did so, his hand was completely restored. Jesus spoke with the authority of the Creator. 

I believe this was possible because Jesus had an unbroken conversation with His Father and the Holy Spirit. Certainly He had set times of prayer (see Mark 1:35, Mark 6:45-46, and Luke 6:12-13 as examples), but Jesus also told us that He only did what His Father told Him to do (John 5:19), and He only said what His Father told Him to say (John 12:49).

I know sometimes people want to say, “Yeah, but this is Jesus we’re talking about! C’mon, He’s the Son of God, so of course He could do these things.” But remember that the miracle of Christ’s Incarnation is that He chose NOT to do these things out of His Deity while He was on Earth, but restricted Himself only to His humanity. That’s why the Bible says that everything we face, Jesus also faced in the flesh (Hebrews 2:14-18).

But perhaps another example from someone who had no Deity in his nature might help. Consider Joshua—this man spent more time in God’s presence, listening to His voice, than even Moses (Exodus 33:11). So when the time came, Joshua could pray an incredibly bold prayer: He actually spoke to the sun and the moon and told them to stand still in the sky, AND THEY OBEYED HIM!

Just like Jesus spoke to the man with the withered hand in the authority of the Creator, Joshua spoke to the sun and the moon in the same authoritative voice. How could these men do that? Because they were familiar with God’s voice, and when He told them to speak out boldly, they simply obeyed.

Jesus said we could pray the same way—Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in Me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in My name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask Me for anything in My name, and I will do it (John 14:12-14, emphasis added).

How can we learn to pray this boldly? We need to spend more and more time in dialogue with God. We need to become increasingly aware of the His abiding presence with us. Then we, too, can pray in the Creator’s authority.

Praying this way glorifies God!

Get together with a friend this week and work through these application questions:

  1. Am I spending time in planned prayer and Bible reading?
  2. How can I make myself more aware of God’s perpetual presence?
  3. What’s holding me back from praying more boldly?

11 Quotes From “Absolute Surrender”

absolute-surrenderThis book is a challenging book for any Christian to read. Check out my review by clicking here, and then check out a few quotes that especially caught my heart.

“I have a pen in my pocket, and that pen is absolutely surrendered to the one work of writing, and that pen must be absolutely surrendered to my hand if I am to write properly with it. If another holds it partly, I cannot write properly. … Can God work His work, every day and every hour, unless you are entirely given up to Him? God cannot.”

“How much Christian work is being done in the spirit of the flesh and in the power of self! How much work, day by day, in which human energy—our will and our thoughts about the work—is continually manifested, and in which there is but little of waiting upon God, and upon the power of the Holy Ghost!”

“One of the great causes why God cannot bless His Church is the want of love. … It is only when God’s people stand as one body, one before God in the fellowship of love, one toward another in deep affection, one before the world in a love that the world can see—it is only then that they will have power to secure the blessing which they ask of God.”

“A great many of us try hard at times to love. We try to force ourselves to love, and I do not say that is wrong; it is better than nothing. But the end of it is always very sad. ‘I fail continually,’ such a one must confess. And what is the reason? The reason is simply this: Because they have never learned to believe and accept the truth that the Holy Spirit can pour God’s love into their heart.”

“You can deceive yourself with beautiful thoughts about loving God. You must prove your love to God by your love to your brother; that is the one standard by which God will judge your love to Him. If the love of God is in your heart you will love your brother.”

“God has a plan for His Church upon earth. But alas! we too often make our plan, and we think that we know what ought to be done. We ask God first to bless our feeble efforts, instead of absolutely refusing to go unless God go before us. God has planned for the work and the extension of His kingdom.”

“God can only reveal His will to a heart that is humble and tender and empty. God can only reveal His will in perplexities and special difficulties to a heart that has learned to obey and honor Him loyally in little things and in daily life.” 

“May God forgive me that I have allowed self and the flesh and the will actually to have the place that God wanted the Holy Ghost to have.”

“The cause of the weakness of your Christian life is that you want to work it out partly, and to let God help you. And that cannot be. You must come to be utterly helpless, to let God work, and God will work gloriously. … All God’s servants in the Old Testament counted upon the omnipotence of God doing impossibilities. And this God lives today, and this God is the God of every child of His. And yet we are some of us wanting God to give us a little help while we do our best, instead of coming to understand what God wants, and to say: ‘I can do nothing. God must and will do all.’”

“Ah, the great question for us to ask of God in self-examination is that we may be shown whether our religious life is lived more in the power of the flesh than in the power of the Holy Spirit.”

“Ah, yes; you failed because you do not accept the strength of God. God alone can work out His will in you. You cannot work out God’s will, but His Holy Spirit can; and until the Church, until believers grasp this, and cease trying to by human effort to do God’s will, and wait upon the Holy Spirit to come with all His omnipotent and enabling power, the Church will never be what God wants her to be, and what God is willing to make of her.”

I will be sharing more quotes from this book soon. To be notified immediately when these quotes are posted, fill in your email address in the field to the right and click “Sign me up!” Also be sure to follow me on Tumblr and Twitter for great quotes I share every day.

Absolute Surrender (book review)

absolute-surrenderAnyone who calls himself a Christian is more than likely searching and striving for a way to become a closer follower of Jesus Christ. That, says Andrew Murray in this book, is where that Christian will perpetually remain stuck. Rev. Murray makes the case that the only way for a Christian is Absolute Surrender.

Andrew Murray never pulled his punches when he spoke and wrote. Whether he was challenging fellow pastors or the congregation in his church, he spoke directly and authoritatively, like a New Testament apostle. For instance, he warned, “The great hindrance to trust is self-effort. So long as you have got your own wisdom and thoughts and strength, you cannot fully trust God.”

In nine short chapter, Rev. Murray brilliantly shows how God’s Word calls the Christian to absolutely, unreservedly yield to Jesus. We cannot progress in our Christian walk by our own best efforts, but we must daily make the decision to surrender to His hand.

In one sense this is an easy book to read. Rev. Murray doesn’t use big words or deep theological concepts. But in another sense, it’s a very challenging book, in that I found the Holy Spirit convicting me through Murray’s biblical messages. In the opening pages, Rev. Murray asks a simple question: Are you willing to surrender yourselves absolutely into His hands? If you can answer “yes” then this book is for you; if your answer is “no” or “I’m not sure” then you should probably wait awhile before attempting to read Absolute Surrender.

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