An Unmistakable Response

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When something goes wrong, the response from most people is pretty predictable, isn’t it? Some try to ignore the problem, some complain about it, many get quite angry, and most people try to find someone or something to blame. 

These responses don’t sound very Christian-like, do they? What many people think the Christian response should be is something closer to the opening words of Rudyard Kipling’s poem—“If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you….” 

And yet, though this sounds Christian-like, it still misses the mark for Spirit-baptized Christians. Remember that a couple of weeks ago I described the baptism in the Holy Spirit as a “distinctive doctrine.” There is nothing distinct about a Christian responding predictably like everyone else does. 

A Spirit-baptized Christian is distinguished by the miraculous ways God confirms His presence in that person’s life. What really honors God is not a predictable response or even a learned response, but an unpredictable, miraculous response: A Spirit-baptized Christian’s response to bad news should be peace and joy. 

I believe the Holy Spirit can so transform our hearts that our response becomes an unmistakable testimony of the power of God. We may experience the initial pang of regret and pain but our next response turns all the focus off of us and on to God.  

The Holy Spirit uses trials to transform our hearts and minds into Christlike thinking and action. 

Our Heavenly Father’s desire is for everyone to come into a close, personal relationship with Him. Before Jesus came this was first pictured for us in the operations of the temple and its sacrifices. Yet man’s attempts to control this hijacked what God intended. This is why we see Jesus acting in righteous anger to clear out the temple of merchants and money-changers (John 2:12-17; Luke 19:45-48). 

Oswald Chambers noted the similarities between what Jesus did in the physical temple and what the Holy Spirit does in our hearts: 

“Immediately the Spirit of God comes in we begin to realize what it means—everything that is not of God has to be cleaned out. People are surprised and say, ‘I asked for the Holy Spirit and expected that He would bring me joy and peace, but I have had a terrible time ever since.’ That is the sign He has come, He is turning out the ‘money-changers,’ that is, the things that make the temple into a trafficking place for self-realization.” 

The Holy Spirit has to disturb our man-made peace so that His peace can take its place. Or as Jesus said, “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword” (Matthew 10:34). 

Jesus told us that the indwelling Holy Spirit would bring about this heart and mind transformation in His followers. The Holy Spirit doesn’t teach us how to respond in a learned, predictable way, but He transforms us to respond in an unmistakably unpredictable way (John 16:12-15, 20-22; 14:26-27). 

The transformed response of the Spirit-baptized Christian is joy in place of anger, and peace in place of frustration (James 1:2-4; Romans 5:3-5). I like how the Amplified Bible defines “blessed” in the Beatitudes Jesus lists in Matthew 5: “happy, to be envied, and spiritually prosperous—with life-joy and satisfaction in God’s favor and salvation, regardless of [the] outward conditions.” 

This transformation brings God glory and is exactly what Jesus prays for us (John 17:13-18), which is why I keep on saying: Don’t stop at salvation—press on to be baptized in the Holy Spirit! 

Your unpredictable, unmistakable peace and joy in the face of trials becomes a testimony to a watching world. 

If you’ve missed any of the posts in our series on the empowerment that comes from being baptized in the Holy Spirit, you can find the full list by clicking here.

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Confirmation Of The Baptism In The Holy Spirit

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The baptism in the Holy Spirit is what Pentecostal Christians frequently refer to as our distinctive doctrine. Notice I said distinctive, not better. Can someone go to heaven without being baptized in the Spirit? Yes! But I’ve found that living in this distinctive empowerment makes the journey to heaven so much more productive and joyful.   

After the resurrection of Jesus, everything took on a whole new meaning, because the “light” had been turned on in the Old Testament palace. All of the practices that Jews had been observing for thousands of years suddenly had a new illumination in the New Testament.  

Pentecost had always been a celebration 50 days following the Passover. In the Old Testament, the law was given from Sinai on the fiftieth day after the deliverance from Egypt, so in a sense, the appearance of God on Sinai was the birthday of the Jewish nation. In the New Testament, the first outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the first Pentecost after Jesus ascended to heaven was the birthday of the Christian nation for all people. 

One of our foundational truths says: “All believers are entitled to and should ardently expect and earnestly seek the promise of the Father, the baptism in the Holy Spirit and fire, according to the command of our Lord Jesus Christ. This was the normal experience of all in the early Christian Church.” 

And another foundational truth is a corollary: “The baptism of believers in the Holy Spirit is witnessed by the initial physical sign of speaking with other tongues as the Spirit of God gives them utterance.” 

God has always confirmed His presence with signs and wonders. From the signs in Egypt to convince Pharaoh that Jehovah was greater than the Egyptian gods to the ministry of Jesus. In fact, Peter said that the signs and wonders done by Jesus were God’s authentication of His ministry (see Luke 5:17-26; Acts 2:22; Acts 10:38). 

Jesus said this should characterize our ministry too (see Mark 16:15-20; Acts 1:5, 8).  

R.A. Torrey noted, “The baptism of the Holy Spirit always imparts power for service…. The baptism of the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of God falling upon the believer, taking possession of his faculties, imparting to him gifts not naturally his own, but which qualify him for the service to which God has called him.” 

Check out this chart that walks us through the book of Acts to see how God authenticated the ministry of those who were baptized in the Holy Spirit by performing signs and wonders through them:

You may download this chart in a PDF format by clicking here Chart of signs in Acts ←

When a Christian is baptized in the Holy Spirit there are two types of evidence:

  1. Initial evidence—typically speaking in a language that hasn’t been studied but has been supernaturally given by God. 
  2. Ongoing evidence—I would sum this up in the word sanctification (or as I like to remember it by saying “saint-ification”). This is the lifestyle change, the empowered living, and even the miraculous that cannot be counterfeited by man’s efforts alone. 

Let’s not try to put God in a box—telling Him when, where, how, and through whom He can work. Instead, let’s yield ourselves entirely to Him by letting the Holy Spirit empower us to be effective, unmistakable witnesses for Jesus Christ. 

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I will be relaunching our series called We Are: Pentecostal in two weeks. Please follow along with all of the messages in this series by clicking here for the details.

And if you would like to check out the other messages in our series looking at our foundational belief statements, you can find the full list by clicking here.

Blessing Over Judgment

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My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast; I will sing and make music. (Psalm 57:7) 

David is on the run, hiding in a cave. The bad guys are described as lions, ravenous beasts with teeth like spears and arrows, and tongues like swords. They hotly pursue David, setting traps for him everywhere he would go. So it’s no wonder that David begins this prayer crying out to God, 

Have mercy on me, O God have mercy on me, for in You my soul takes refuge. I will take refuge in the shadow of Your wings until the disaster has passed (v. 1). 

As David is prone to do in many of his psalms, he inserts the word Selah, reminding both himself and his readers to pause for a moment. He records how God answers his prayer: “God sends from heaven and saves me, rebuking those who hotly pursue me” (v. 3). 

But the Selah comes in the middle of the verse, almost as if David is pausing to ask, “How exactly does God save me?” In this instance, it’s not so much God rebuking the wicked as it is God blessing David. After the Selah pause he says, “God sends forth His love and His faithfulness. 

By blessing His righteous servant David, God rebukes the wicked and vindicates David by creating a longing in those wicked men to also be blessed by God. 

In the New Testament we see that the arrival of Jesus was an act of God’s kindness: “Because of and through the heart of tender mercy and loving-kindness of our God, a Light from on high will dawn upon us and visit us” (Luke 1:78). And it is God’s kindness that continues to draw us to Himself: “…Are you unmindful or actually ignorant of the fact that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repent—to change your mind and inner man to accept God’s will?” (Romans 2:4). 

David foresees his enemies falling into the very traps they have set for him (v. 6). And then once again he calls for a Selah pause to consider how God has and is blessing him. 

From this point on, David expresses no more thoughts about the wicked people pursuing him, but all of his words through the remainder of this psalm are worship, praise, and exaltation (vv. 7-11). 

When evil people are assailing you perhaps you could pray this prayer: 

O God, that my heart could be so transformed that I desire Your blessing on my life more than I look for Your judgment or retribution on the wicked! I pray that my heart would be a place of continual praise to You, and not a hotbed of anxious thoughts about wicked people. Father, may Your kindness to me be such a powerful testimony to even evildoers, that they will repent—change their mind to accept You as their God too. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen. 

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“Father, Into Your Hands I Commit My Spirit”

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I have some sobering news for you: You are going to die. 

Death is the great equalizer. It comes for the rich and poor, the scholar and the illiterate, all races, all ages, the healthy as well as the sick. Unless you’re still alive when Jesus comes back again, your odds of dying are 1-in-1. 

What happens “on the other side”? What happens after this life is over? Since it seems dark and mysterious to most people, they tend to ignore it until it’s thrust upon them. That’s why I find the dying words of people interesting. Like P.T. Barnum asking, “How were the receipts today at Madison Square Garden?” or W.C. Fields reading a Bible on his deathbed and telling a friend, “I’m looking for a loophole.” 

Or the very last words of Jesus: “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit.” 

Jesus is steeped in Scripture, so nearly everything He says in His final four declarations come directly from the Psalms, including His final phrase which comes from Psalm 31:5. 

When Jesus broke a three-hour silence with His cry, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me,” both Matthew and Mark use the Greek words megas phoné to describe how loudly Jesus spoke. And now with His final words, Luke uses the same megas phoné description. 

Notice in the first megaphone cry Jesus calls on God the All-Powerful Creator. And with His last megaphone declaration, He calls on His Father who is All-Loving. How comforting it is to know that God is both All-Powerful and All-Loving! Not only can He answer our cries, but He delights to answer them! 

The word Jesus uses for “commit” is in the future tense and it means “to entrust as a deposit.” Jesus believed that God was going to do more than just give Him life again, but that He would give life to all who would believe in Him. 

Unlike atheist Bertrand Russell who said, “I would never die for my beliefs because I might be wrong,” Jesus DID die for His beliefs, and by rising from the dead proved He was right in trusting God. 

Job saw an inescapable death for all mankind, but he also foresaw the forgiveness of God (Job 14:5, 16-17). Jesus died once for all mankind and was then resurrected, bringing about the death of death by making forgiveness accessible to anyone (Hebrews 9:27-28; 1 Corinthians 15:19-22). 

We can now have the peace that comes from trusting the only One to Whom we can safely entrust our souls. Because Jesus brought death to death, we can have the same peace when we die that Jesus had when He died. 

With faith in Jesus, you can…

…live today knowing you’re invincible until God calls you home 

…live today full of joy because your home in heaven is secure

…live your very last day in peace because you know to Whom your soul is entrusted 

Because Jesus died at peace with God, we can face death triumphantly! 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our series on the dying declarations of Jesus, you can access the full list by clicking here.

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“Today You Will Be With Me In Paradise”

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Dying declarations are powerful statements!

As Jesus was nailed to the Cross, His first dying declaration prompted such a change of heart in a hardened criminal that the criminal’s own dying declaration caused Jesus to say, “Amen!” The story is found in Luke 23:32-43.

But first, we need to ask, why were criminals crucified alongside Jesus? An obvious answer is that it fulfilled a First Testament prophecy—He poured out His life unto death, and He let Himself be regarded as a criminal and be numbered with the transgressors (Isaiah 53:12). 

How did this come about? Maybe…

  • Pilate was trying to justify his actions? 
  • the Sanhedrin had used these criminals as “evidence” that Jesus was stirring up a rebellion against the crown? 
  • a Roman centurion suggested, “Let’s kill three birds with one stone”? 

Whatever the case, they couldn’t have been very happy about this, especially since Barabbas (a fellow criminal) had just been released. They probably blamed Jesus for their awful predicament, so they naturally joined in the mockery. 

And what cruel mockery it was! 

  • the people stood watching these crucifixions and, since Luke uses the word for a sports spectator, it appears they were cheering the bloodshed they were observing
  • the Pharisees and Sadducees derided Jesus
  • the Roman soldiers continued the inhuman mockery and abuse that they had begun hours before 
  • the criminals crucified on either side of Jesus blasphemed Him 

Luke kindly records that only one criminal was hurling insults at Jesus, but Matthew and Mark make it clear that both criminals were blaspheming Jesus (Matthew 27:44; Mark 15:32). 

It appears that one criminal, although at first a blasphemer, had a change of heart. 

Perhaps it was because He heard this Jesus, who was being so horribly mistreated, ask His Father to forgive His tormentors instead of asking for retribution. The apostle Peter says that when we follow Christ’s example in this it can actually make people become ashamed of their slander against us (1 Peter 2:23; 3:14, 16). 

Or perhaps this criminal had been in the crowd earlier that week on Monday when Jesus taught about the Kingdom of God all day. If he was, he would have heard Jesus talk about the rewards for the righteous and the punishment for the wicked, and he would have heard Jesus talk about how even criminals like himself could be allowed into God’s Kingdom (Matthew 21:28-32). 

All of this was working on him until his own slander against Jesus stuck in his throat and he rebuked his companion for his blasphemy. He said, “We are guilty and deserve this death sentence. But this Man is totally innocent!” 

Then turning to Jesus, he delivers his faith-filled declaration, “LORD Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” He called Him Lord, asked for a reward, and acknowledged that Christ’s Kingdom was not of this earth. This dying declaration was more faith-filled than even the disciples of Jesus could make, since all but one of them had fled in fear!

Jesus is so moved by this man’s declaration that His first word to him is Amen: “I tell you the truth [literally: Amen!], today you will be with Me in paradise. 

King David taught us that the sacrifice that God accepts is a broken heart, and the apostle Paul agrees by saying that it is the heart change and the confession of our mouth that brings our salvation (Psalm 51:16-17; Romans 10:4-11). 

My friend, Jesus has opened the way to Paradise for you by His death on the Cross. When our humbled hearts speak the truth about God’s Kingdom, Jesus says, “Amen!” and God welcomes us into His presence for ever and ever! Don’t wait another day, but cry out to Jesus today: tell Him that you are guilty, but you believe He has paid for your sins. He will then say the same word to your heart: “Amen! You will spend eternity in Paradise with Me!” 

If you would like to follow along as we look at all seven of the dying declarations Jesus made from the Cross, please click here. 

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“Father, Forgive Them”

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In our system of law, special attention is given to someone’s dying declaration. If our legal system gives such weight to the last words of an imperfect man, it seems to me that we should take special note of the dying declarations of the only truly innocent Man who ever walked this earth: Jesus Christ. 

After being nailed to the Cross, the first dying declaration from Jesus was: Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing (Luke 23:34). 

Let’s say that Billy is dying on a hospital bed after being fatally shot, and all he can muster the strength to do is point at Johnny and whisper, “He… shot… me….” We would know who the “he” was in that situation, but who exactly is the “them” in this declaration of Jesus? 

Who offended Jesus? Who mortally wounded Him? Who caused Him such anguish? Maybe it was…

  • His disciples who couldn’t stay awake to pray with Him 
  • Judas who betrayed Him with a kiss 
  • the nine disciples who ran away 
  • Peter who denied three times that he knew Jesus 
  • the false witnesses in Caiaphas’ house
  • the members of the Sanhedrin who hit Him and spit on Him 
  • the members of the Sanhedrin who were silent 
  • the temple guards who mocked Him 
  • those who spewed lies when Jesus stood before Pilate
  • those who lied about Jesus when He stood before Herod 
  • Herod and his soldiers who mocked Him 
  • the Roman soldiers who abused Him 
  • the Roman soldiers who stripped Him naked and crucified Him 

To all of the above, Jesus said, “Father, forgive them”!  

Listen to how Peter described the response of Jesus to all of this: When they hurled their insults at Him, He did not retaliate; when He suffered, He made no threats… (1 Peter 2:23). That word for insults means to heap abuse on Him or to pile on. This was a fulfillment of a 700-year-old prophecy: He was oppressed and afflicted… (Isaiah 53:7). Isaiah uses similar words, where oppressed means tyrannized, and afflicted means a humiliating, painful loss of dignity. 

Christ’s own disciples afflicted Him, and so did the temple guards, and Pilate, and King Herod, and the Roman soldiers… and you and me. All of this mistreatment and humiliation and tyrannizing was handed out by us too (see Isaiah 53:6; 1 Peter 2:24-25). That’s why His arms were spread so wide when He said, “Father, forgive them,” because there were so many that needed forgiveness! 

When Jesus said forgive, He was asking His Father to take away our guilt that kept us out of God’s presence. Think of a courtroom scene where God the Father is the Judge, satan is the prosecutor, Jesus is the victim, and I am the defendant. The evidence is overwhelming and incontrovertible, and I am pronounced guilty. My punishment is a death sentence. When Jesus says, “Father, forgive him,” He is taking the death penalty in my place! 

In another beautiful fulfillment of an Old Testament practice, Jesus became both our sin offering and our scapegoat, making atonement for us at the mercyseat in the Most Holy Place, and allowing us to be welcomed into God’s holy presence (Leviticus 16:15-16, 20-22; Hebrews 9:12-14). 

When Jesus said, “Father, forgive them,” He was saying, “Father, bring them into Your presence!” 

You and I need to accept by faith the atoning work done on the Cross, the forgiveness of sins that was purchased for us. Jesus didn’t come to condemn us, but to lovingly restore us, and for that we are eternally and humbly grateful. 

Please don’t miss out on any of these dying declarations from Jesus. You can find my thoughts on all of the confessions of this dying Man by clicking here.

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Prideful Prayer

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To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:9-14) 

I think the NIV footnote on verse 11 is the most accurate rendering of “the Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself.” The footnote says, “He prayed TO himself.” He made himself God, which, if you will recall, is exactly how satan tempted Adam and Eve—you will be like God (Genesis 3:5). 

In a portion of William Cowper’s poem Truth, he addresses the pride of the Pharisee, and warns us that this could be our pride too if we aren’t carefully guarding our hearts. 

Who judged the Pharisee? What odious cause
Exposed him to the vengeance of the laws?
Had he seduced a virgin, wrong’d a friend,
Or stabb’d a man to serve some private end?
Was blasphemy his sin? Or did he stray
From the strict duties of the sacred day?
Sit long and late at the carousing board?
(Such were the sins with which he charged his Lord.)
No—the man’s morals were exact. What then?
‘Twas his ambition to be seen of men;
His virtues were his pride; and that one vice
Made all his virtues gewgaws [gyoo-gaws] of no price;
He wore them as fine trappings for a show,
A praying, synagogue-frequenting beau.
The self-applauding bird, the peacock, see—
Mark what a sumptuous Pharisee is he!
Meridian sunbeams tempt him to unfold
His radiant glories, azure, green, and gold:
He treads as if, some solemn music near,
His measured step were govern’d by his ear;
And seems to say—“Ye meaner fowl give place;
I am all splendour, dignity, and grace!”
Not so the pheasant on his charms presumes,
Though he, too, has a glory in his plumes.
He, Christian-like, retreats with modest mien
To the close copse or far sequester’d green,
And shines without desiring to be seen.
The plea of works, as arrogant and vain,
Heaven turns from with abhorrence and disdain;
Not more affronted by avow’d neglect,
Than by the mere dissembler’s feign’d respect.
What is all righteousness that men devise?
What—but a sordid bargain for the skies!
But Christ as soon would abdicate His own,
As stoop from heaven to sell the proud a throne.

When the writer of Hebrews says that we can approach the throne of grace boldly, it is clear that it is not because of our righteous deeds, even if they are as exacting and as perfect as a Pharisee. We can only come boldly into God’s presence because we come in the name and the righteousness of Jesus. “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God.” 

Adding “in Jesus name” to the end of our prayers isn’t a password that opens the storeroom of Heaven, but it is a reminder that we have nothing in ourselves to commend us to God. We come boldly only in Jesus.

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The Deity And Divinity Of Jesus

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Some really silly guys did a series of videos called “Neature Walk” because they wanted to share how neat is nature! In episode one Vic sees a tree that he really likes and says, “Score! This is an aspen tree. You can that it’s an aspen tree because of the way it is.” This is either circular reasoning or an obvious statement. “Just look at this thing. You can tell it’s this thing because it looks and acts like this thing.” 

I feel a lot like this when I look at the first part of our third foundational truth statement: “We believe in the Deity of the Lord Jesus Christ.” (As a side note, I covered the second part of this statement—“As God’s Son, Jesus was both human and divine”—in another post, which you may find here.) 

Check this out: the definition for Deity is the divine character of God, and the definition for divine means things relating to the Deity. In saying we believe Jesus is God we are really saying, “You can tell that Jesus is God because of the way He is.” 

In order to make this definition work, we need evidence for both the divinity and the deity of Jesus. That being said, let me remind you of J. Warner Wallace’s instruction on faith. There is:

  • Blind faith—believing in something without evidence 
  • Unreasonable faith—believing in something in spite of the evidence 
  • Reasonable faith—believing in something because of the evidence 

Here is some evidence that I think makes it reasonable to believe that Jesus is divine:

  1. Virgin birth—Isaiah 7:14; Luke 1:34-35; Matthew 1:22-23 
  2. Sinless life—Isaiah 53:4-6, 9; Hebrews 7:26-27; 1 Peter 2:22 
  3. Miracles—Acts 10:38; 2:22-24 
  4. Death, resurrection, exaltation—Isaiah 53:10-12; Philippians 2:6-8; Hebrews 1:3 

(Check out all the Scriptural references listed above by clicking here.) 

I think the best evidence for the Deity of Jesus is the connection He Himself made between the “Jehovah” titles of the First Testament and His “I AM” statements in the Second Testament:

  • Jehovah Jireh (I Am Your Provider) → I am the Bread of Life (John 6:35)
  • Jehovah Rapha (I Am Your Healing) → I am the Resurrection and the Life (John 11:25-26)
  • Jehovah Nissi (I Am Your Source) → I am the Vine (John 15:5)
  • Jehovah Shalom (I Am Your Peace) → I am the Light of the world (John 8:12)
  • Jehovah Raah (I Am Your Shepherd) → I am the Good Shepherd (John 10:11)
  • Jehovah Sabaoth (I Am Your Wall Of Protection) → I am the Gate (John 10:9)
  • Jehovah Tsid-kenu (I Am Your Righteousness) → I am the Way, Truth, and Life (John 14:6)
  • Jehovah Shammah (I Am Here) → I am the Alpha and Omega (Revelation 1:8; 22:13). 

(Check out all the Scriptural references listed above by clicking here.)

The Jewish leadership understood perfectly what Jesus was claiming! But the more pertinent question is this: Do we understand what we must do with this evidence? 

We cannot claim that Jesus was born of a virgin, or lived a sinless life, or did miracles, or died and rose again and then not believe He is God. We cannot pick and choose the parts of Jesus we want. 

The apostle Paul reminded us that someday “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:11-12). 

Every knee will bow to Him one day: Either in worship of Jesus their Savior, or in abject terror of Jesus their Judge. 

I pray that you believe in Jesus as your Lord and Savior today… don’t wait another moment! 

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If you’ve missed any of the other messages in our Foundational Stones series, which is exploring our foundational beliefs, you may access all of them by clicking here.

Our Daily Diet

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A couple of weeks ago I shared how Jesus made prayer the literal heart of His Sermon on the Mount. Prayer is what empowers us to live a perfect, God-honoring life. In the introduction of His model prayer, Jesus gives us two don’ts and one do. 

DON’T #1: Don’t be a hypocrite. That word literally means a play-actor. More than anyone else ever will, God sees who we really are. We cannot fool Him so there is no reason to fake it. For proof, check out some of the gut-level-honest prayers David records in the psalms!  

DON’T #2: Don’t babble. The Greek word here is unique: It’s made up of the name of a poet named Battus who was needlessly wordy, and the Greek word for word. In Greek, the word battologeō is an onomatopoeic word (like our English words that sound like what they really are describing: words like whoosh, buzz, or smack). It means rambling with our mouth, but our hearts and heads simply aren’t engaged as well. 

DO: Jesus gives us a DO, which is built right into the two don’ts: Do come to God as your Father (also see Luke 11:9-13). Our perfect Father knows perfectly what we need, and He alone can perfectly meet that need. Jesus uses our need for daily food to show how even earthly fathers provide for their children. So the very first petition in His model prayer for us is, “Give us today our daily bread.” 

“When prayer has become secondary, or incidental, it has lost its power. Those who are conspicuously men of prayer are those who use prayer as they use food, or air, or light, or money.” —M.E. Andross 

My friend’s trainer recently told him, “You cannot out-exercise a bad diet.” I think this is just as true in the realm of prayer: You cannot out-________ a bad prayer diet. You cannot…

  • …out-religion a bad prayer diet, as though your religious exercises can make up for a lack of prayerful food.  
  • …out-talk a bad prayer diet, or “babble,” as Jesus said.  
  • …out-strategize a bad prayer diet, as one successful man attempted to do (see Luke 12:16-20).

Jesus said our heavenly Father is just waiting for us to ask Him for what we need. In Psalm 5, David explained how attentive God is, even understanding our cries, our sighs, and our groans. So David’s conclusion was: “Lord, every morning You hear my voice. Every morning, I tell You what I need, and I wait for Your answer. 

Friends, we need to be first responders in prayer. Make it a habit every morning to let God hear your voice before anyone else does. DON’T make a show out of it or babble some words you don’t really feel, but DO talk with your loving heavenly Father about what you need for this upcoming day. He has already prepared a good, healthy diet for you, so ask Him to give you this day what you need, and then be expectant all day long in the ways your Father will answer you.

If you’re missed any of the other messages in our Be A First Responder series in prayer, you can access the full list by clicking here.

God Is One, God Is Love

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on Apple or Spotify.

There is a common characteristic among every human civilization: they all have had a pantheon of gods. It seems that no one god could capture all of the attributes each civilization thought were important, so they created multiple gods to help fill in the gaps. 

Onto the world scene comes the account recorded for us in the Bible of a God who creates the universe. The Hebrew word for this God is elohiym which means “a divine one.” This name is used throughout the Creation story in Genesis 1. 

Then in Genesis 2:4, a new name appears, one that is used over 6500 times in the Bible. It is the unpronounceable name YHWH: often pronounced Yahweh or substituted with the word Jehovah. In most Bible translations this name is designated by all capital letters: LORD. Yahweh or Jehovah means “the existing One.” 

The first part of our second foundational truth states, “The one true God has revealed Himself as the eternally self-existent ‘I AM,’ the Creator of heaven and earth and the Redeemer of mankind.” This Creator is uncreated: He sustains the universe without needing to be replenished Himself. He is utterly complete in Himself; hence, His name means I AM (see Exodus 3:13-15). 

The second part of this foundational truth statement says, “He has further revealed Himself as embodying the principles of relationship and association as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” 

The I AM is One (see Deuteronomy 6:4), but He reveals Himself in three Persons—Father, Son, Spirit—that we call the Trinity (although this is not a word found in the Bible). 

Sometimes Christians have done a disservice to the I AM by making it appear He is divided. For instance, we might say, “The Father is the Creator, the Son is the Redeemer, and the Spirit is the Regenerator.” But remember that our One God is not a pantheon of gods; He is One. We see the fullness of the Trinity operating in every area. Here’s just a short sampling:  

  • The creation of the universe—Genesis 1:1; Colossians 1:15-16; Psalm 104:30 
  • The creation of man—Genesis 1:26-27 
  • A prophecy about Jesus’ advent—Isaiah 9:6 
  • The incarnation of Jesus—Luke 1:35 
  • The baptism of Jesus—Matthew 3:16-17
  • The resurrection of Jesus—Acts 2:32; John 10:18; Romans 1:4 
  • Our atonement—Hebrews 9:14 
  • A Christian’s baptism in the Holy Spirit—John 14:16 

(You can read all of these verses for yourself by clicking here.) 

A good question for us to ponder is: Why would this I AM God create humans? If He needs nothing to complete Himself or sustain Himself, why make us? 

The apostle John captures the essence of the Trinity in three words: God is love.

God created us out of an overflow of His love so that we too could enjoy the intimate, eternal pleasure of being at-onement with Him forever. God then wants our love to overflow to everyone around us, so that they will also be drawn into this at-oneness with the I AM. 

When Jesus was asked to state the greatest commandment, He first quoted from Deuteronomy 6: “Hear, O Israel: The LORD [Yahweh] our God, the LORD [Yahweh] is one.” Christ’s conclusion was for us to love this All-Loving God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. And then Jesus added an obvious overflow of that love: “And love your neighbor as yourself” (see Mark 12:29-31).

Love to God and from God should overflow from us to others to bring them into the One God who is love itself.  

The more we understand this love that the I AM has for us: (1) the better able we will be to love and worship Him, (2) the more we will love others out of this overflow of love, and (3) the more glory our awesome GOD will receive. Which is exactly what the apostle Paul prayed for us in Ephesians 3:14-19. 

This idea of an I AM God who reveals Himself as Father, Son, and Spirit has been described by the Latin phrase mysterium tremendum. It is indeed a mystery: not one that frightens and confuses, but one that energizes and enlivens. Pray Paul’s prayer for yourself, so that you can see more dimensions of this awesome love that God has for you! 

If you missed any parts of this series exploring our foundational belief statements, you can check out the full list by clicking here.

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