Self-made Or Spirit-led?

“And behold, two men were conversing with Him—Moses and Elijah, who appeared in splendor and majesty and brightness and were speaking of His exit from life, which He was about to bring to realization at Jerusalem.” (Luke 9:30-31)

Jesus was constantly making decisions that kept Him on the path straight toward Calvary’s Cross. He would let nothing deter Him from God’s appointed mission. Even when His own friends and family urged Him to find another route. 

It was at a moment like this—when Jesus had yet another choice to make about what path He would follow—that Moses and Elijah talked to Him, reminding Him of the ultimate outcome of His obedient and correct choices. 

At every crossroads—at every decision point—Jesus chose correctly. He chose to do God’s will for His life. He could have decided to do things His own way, but He leaned into the unmistakable voice of the Holy Spirit pointing Him toward the right path.

What does that mean for us today?

I have failed to make the right choice.
That means that I could have chosen correctly.
Jesus was human just like me.
Which means He had choices too.
He always chose correctly, even though the other possibility was there.
So the question is: Will I try to be a self-made man or a Spirit-led man?
I cannot be both.

Favorable Influence

Twice the 80th psalm declares—Restore us, O Lord God Almighty; make Your face shine upon us, that we may be saved (Psalm 80:19). 

But if we are already a Christian that has been saved from the penalty of our sin and saved to an eternal reward, then that also means that God’s face IS already shining on us, He HAS already restored us, and He HAS already given us His favor. 

I like how the Amplified Bible renders this verse: Restore us, O Lord God of hosts; cause Your face to shine in pleasure, approval, and favor on us, and we shall be saved! 

What we have received is too wonderful for us to keep to ourselves, so we must let His pleasure, approval, and favor now shine out of us! 

“If the result of our experience of God does not compel and propel us into global mission, it is doubtful whether we have really encountered the God of the Bible.” —Dick Brogden 

Jesus stated His mission simply and then sent us out on the exact same mission (Luke 4:18-19; John 20:21). We do this best by living closely among people so they can also see us shine with God’s favor.

Paul called us to shine as well: Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people (Philippians 2:15). I believe this is a perfect definition of the word influence. The origin of the word meant the supposed flowing of ethereal fluid from the stars thought to affect the actions of men. Christians that let their good deeds shine in the darkness can influence the entire culture around them!

“Radical Christianity is not going on a missions trip or a big conference. Radical Christianity is staying steady for decades.” —Mike Bickle 

Being a person that shines with favorable influence requires staying involved for the long haul so that you can build trustworthiness. It’s being in visible places not to get glory, but to let people see God’s glory. When they see His glory shine on you and out of you, they will want what you have too!

Solomon said, By the blessing of the influence of the upright and God’s favor—because of them the city is exalted (Proverbs 11:11). So, my fellow Christian, let me ask you: 

  • Has God shined on you?
  • Are you letting Him shine out of you? 
  • Are you living a noteworthy, trustworthy, visible life in your dark community? 

“It’s your choice: You can be a part of your city’s elevation or its deterioration.”

—Craig T. Owens

Serving By Praying

Paul and Timothy, bondservants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, with the bishops and deacons (Philippians 1:1). 

In just his opening line, Paul lists three types of servant-leaders: bondservants, bishops, deacons. 

The servant-leaders are all called to put the needs of the saints ahead of their own needs. They all serve so the saints can shine! And as the saints shine, they attract others to Jesus Christ. 

Jesus is our example of the Ultimate Servant (Philippians 2:5-8), and we are called to follow His example (John 13:12-17). 

One thing that clearly kept Paul, Timothy, and the other servant-leaders in Philippi in this servant’s posture was prayer. Even the physical posture of kneeling in prayer is a posture of a servant who is actively serving. 

  • Paul prayed for the Philippians frequently—In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy (1:4). 
  • He prayed for them to grow in love and knowledge—I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding (1:9). 
  • Paul was grateful for the prayers of the saints—I know that as you pray for me and the Spirit of Jesus Christ helps me, this will lead to my deliverance (1:19). 
  • And he closed his letter with a call for them to continue to pray about everything—Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all he has done (4:6). 

Here are four powerful lessons for all Christians to live out…

(1) Leaders need to pray for the saints, and leaders need the saints to pray for them. 

(2) Leaders need to be prayerful to keep their posture right as servants. 

(3) Saints need to be prayerful for their leaders so that their leaders can continue to serve them in God-honoring ways. 

(4) We all serve best when we are diligent to keep our prayer life vibrant and healthy. 

Don’t Go—Flow

“…My time has not come…” —Jesus (John 7).

Jesus never rushed. He was never late. He was never early. Nor did He ever remain silent when He should have spoken. Nor did He ever misspeak. 

His timing and His wording were always spot on.

This wasn’t just a “Jesus thing,” as He told His followers that we could flow in God’s timing just as He was doing. 

We don’t have to try to figure out our timing or our wording by external standards (v. 24). But when we are so immersed in the same Holy Spirit that directed Jesus, we simply flow in His living water to where we need to be, when we need to be there. Whether it’s time to speak or time for silence, the Holy Spirit can again flow our thoughts and words perfectly. 

Others won’t understand. 

They have their own agenda, and they will want me to be a part of their plans (vv. 3-5, 18, 32-36, 42, 52). I must listen to the unmistakable voice of the Spirit and squelch the voices of the crowd. 

A mark of a godly leader is one who flows with the Spirit of God.

Don’t go with the flow of culture or others’ agendas. Don’t try to figure out where you need to be or what you need to say. Simply flow in the Spirit. Then your timing and your wording will be just as spot-on as Jesus showed us. 

This is part 38 in my series on godly leadership. You can check out all of my posts in this series by clicking here.

8 Quotes From “When Faith Fails”

We’ve all been there: an unexpected calamity has rocked our faith, making us question what we previously believed to be true. What do we do with these times of doubt? Dominic Done has given us a helpful resource in his book When Faith Fails. Please check out my full book review by clicking here. 

“An anonymous fourteenth-century mystic once said that we find ourselves ‘in a cloud of unknowing.’ That is why we doubt. We don’t always see the sky. However, what we have to be reminded of here is that all of this was part of God’s design. He purposefully made it like this. He built limits into the system. It wasn’t an accident. He knew we would have to live with so many unknowns. And yet He chose for the human story to look this way. … When God decided to create, He could have said yes to a thousand other possibilities. But He didn’t. He chose this world. He chose you. He chose me. Limits and all. And still, He called it ‘good.’ All of this means that doubts are normal. They’re a natural consequence of living in this world.” 

“If all we care about is certainty, we lose the beauty of mystery. If all we value is explanation, we lose the joy of exploration.” 

“We need to stop vilifying those who live in the tension of conflicted faith. Doubt isn’t a malevolent demon that we need to exorcise out of our brothers and sisters with sanctimonious words. It’s part of their story. It’s part of my story. Jude 22 says, ‘Be merciful to those who doubt.’” 

“What if God made the world like this to push us to deeper faith? … Doubts aren’t just an obstacle; they’re an opportunity. Uncertainty can lead us into the beautiful mystery we call God.” 

“What’s vital to note here is that when the Bible uses the word doubt it’s different from the word unbelief (Matthew 14:31 and Hebrews 3:19). This is important because some Christians assume that doubt and unbelief are synonymous. They’re not. Doubt can lead to unbelief, just as doubt can lead to faith. But the two are not the same. Doubt says, ‘I am unsure of what is right.’ Unbelief says, ‘I don’t care about what is right.’ Doubt is searching for the light. Unbelief is choosing to gouge out your eyes. Doubt is pursuing truth, wherever it may lead. Unbelief is content with a lie. Doubt exists somewhere between belief and unbelief. Doubt is the moment of tension, which in and of itself isn’t good or bad. It’s somewhere in between. … Doubt isn’t the end of the story; it’s the suspense within it.” 

“Doubt’s greatest strength is secrecy.… But if we name our doubts and drag them into the light, we may find resolution, or we may discover the tension of authentically living in a doubt-filled faith.” 

“Abraham and Sarah doubted God’s promise (Genesis 17:17-22; 18:10-15). Gideon doubted his calling (Judges 6:36). Job doubted God’s character (Job 7:20-21). John the Baptist, whom Jesus called ‘the greatest of all the prophets,’ doubted if Jesus was the Messiah (Matthew 11:1-6). Peter doubted his faith (Mark 14:66-72). Thomas doubted the resurrection (John 20:24-29). The list goes on. Scripture doesn’t edit out the stories of those who struggled to believe. It weaves their heart-rending struggles into the narrative.” 

“If your faith is being shaken by the suffering you see, don’t be content with cheesy Christian truisms or Facebook clichés. … Lean into the chaos. Cry out to God. Talk to people who have gone through pain and have come out on the other side awash with hope. Immerse yourself in Scripture’s lament and redemption. Dare to say, ‘I will not let You go until You bless me.’” 

40 Days With Jesus (book review)

Martin Luther said, “The Bible is alive, it speaks to me.” Truly, the Bible is God’s Word speaking to us every time we peer into its pages, so I love how Sarah Young strings passages of Scripture together to allow us to hear Jesus speaking to us in a first-person voice. 

40 Days With Jesus was designed as a series of readings during the Lenten season, as we walk with Jesus to the Cross and His resurrection from the dead. But any time is a good time when we can walk with Jesus and hear His unmistakable voice reassuring our hearts. 

Are you walking through a dark time in your life? Know that Jesus is walking with you. 

Do you want to live a life of purpose and lasting value? Listen to Jesus counsel you. 

Are you standing at a crossroads trying to make the right decision? Let Jesus point the way. 

Each time I read a Sarah Young book, it reignites my heart to read the Bible as though Jesus is personally speaking to me. Because He is! 

40 Days With Jesus is a great starting point for you to learn to hear Jesus speaking to you every time you open your Bible. The Holy Spirit will then use those words read in your quiet time to continue to bring you direction and reassurance all throughout your day (John 14:26). 

I highly recommend this book (or any other book by Sarah Young)!

4 Holy Spirit-Enhanced Habits

According to Paul, there are only two ways people can live: in the flesh or in the Spirit. That is—(1) operating separate from God, or (2) with a soul/body that is operating with God’s full involvement. 

The trouble is: we’re always—as long as we’re alive—still in the flesh because we need these bodies to carry around our soul and spirit. But changes begin to occur first at salvation (when the connection of our spirit to God’s Spirit is reestablished), and even more so after being baptized in the Holy Spirit (when we are not trying to work out things on our own). 

As a result, we have the same brain, but a mind that is being renewed; the same eyes, but insight that is being expanded; the same ears, but learning new ways to hear what the Holy Spirit is saying. 

Remember that Jesus promised that the baptism in the Holy Spirit would empower us TO BE His witnesses (Acts 1:8). Not just to do things differently, but to have our spirit so enlivened by the Holy Spirit that we are living, breathing, walking, talking witnesses of a life transformed.

Have you noticed that there wasn’t a steep “learning curve” for the disciples of Jesus following Pentecost? Part of that is due to four key habits that the Holy Spirit helped form in their lives. 

  1. Correct biblical application—We immediately see people going from “They didn’t understand from the Scriptures” to quickly applying biblical texts to their current situations. This is exactly what Jesus promised would happen (John 20:6-9; Acts 2:16, 25, 34; John 14:26). 
  1. Intercessory prayer—To intercede is to take someone else’s needs to God on their behalf. The Holy Spirit can help us apply Scripture to our prayers, and can even help us without words at all (Acts 4:24-26; Romans 8:26-27). 
  1. Creative thinking—Christians should be the most creative thinkers in the world (Psalm 119:99; Jeremiah 33:3; 1 Corinthians 2:10). 
  1. Healthy conflict resolution—We’re all different, so not seeing eye-to-eye is bound to happen, but Spirit-empowered Christians will be able to resolve conflicts faster and with better results (Acts 6:1-8; Acts 15:1-31). 

“Your life as a Christian should make unbelievers question their disbelief in God.” —Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Amen! Your life as a Christian that is living out daily habits that have been empowered by the Spirit should make everyone around you want to go deeper and deeper into all that the Holy Spirit has in store for them too. 

Join me next Sunday as we take another look at what it means when we say We Are: Pentecostal. 

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