Uphill Or Downhill?

…And because of this I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice (Philippians 1:18).

Paul is in prison, yet he tells his friends that he is choosing to rejoice. Wow! 

Not only that, but this same imprisoned man also reminds his friends to…

  • … let their joy in Jesus overflow 
  • … conduct themselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ
  • … continue to have a servant’s attitude like Jesus
  • … don’t give in to complaining or arguing 
  • … look out for the interests of other people 
  • … rejoice in the Lord
  • … don’t rest on their laurels
  • … forget the past and press on toward the future 

John Maxwell has noted that most people have uphill dreams but downhill habits. That is definitely not a winning combination! 

Paul is making his friends aware of the possible downhill habits that may hold them back from their uphill dreams, and using himself as an example. This first step—awareness—is vital if we are going to break free of the things that are pulling us away from our God-given dreams. 

Solomon wrote, “The path of life leads UPWARD for the prudent to keep them from GOING DOWN to the realm of the dead” (Proverbs 15:24). 

Being prudent is saying, “I’m always on the lookout for what’s best.” 

None of us can go UP by ignoring our downhill habits, or even trying to coast through life. The only way to achieve our uphill dreams is to ask the Holy Spirit to reveal our downhill habits so that we can make a plan to turn those around. 

Check out these characteristics that Paul shares—

Downhill Habit              Uphill Habit
Complaining                    Rejoicing (4:4)
Selfishness                      Gentleness (4:5)
Worrying                         Praying (4:6a)
Grumbling                       Giving thanks (4:6b)
Fixing it myself                Giving it to God (4:6c)
Idle thoughts                   Thinking about my thinking (4:8)
Making my own way         Getting a mentor / partner (4:9)
Being discontent              Being content (4:11-12)
Trying to be self-made     Striving to be Christ-reliant (4:13)

A good prayer for all of us who have uphill dreams that we want to achieve—Holy Spirit, reveal to me my downhill habits. I acknowledge that I need Your help to see and break these habits. Then help me to replace them with Christ-honoring uphill habits that will allow me to achieve the purpose God has for my life.

Everyday Evidence

Last week we learned that speaking in tongues was one of the most noticeable and consistent characteristics of those who were baptized in the Holy Spirit. 

Speaking in tongues as the Spirit enables you is the unmistakable, objective, outward, initial physical evidence. The Bible makes clear that continuing to pray in tongues has huge benefits for both our personal prayer lives and for the corporate church body. But don’t stop there! 

The initial, outward evidence is primarily for the individual Christian—it’s a way of knowing that you know that you have indeed been baptized in the Spirit. But there also needs to be some everyday evidence for others that testifies to them that something is different about your life. 

Consider the disciples of Jesus before and after being baptized in the Holy Spirit…

Their vocabulary

Before being baptized in the Spirit they said stupid things because they didn’t know what to say (Mark 9:5-6) But after being baptized in the Spirit there was no more foot-in-mouth disease. Just as the Holy Spirit enabled them to praise God in an unlearned tongue, He also empowered their natural dialect. The same Greek word is used in Acts 2:4 (enabled by the Holy Spirit), 2:14 (Peter addressed the crowd), and 26:25 (what I am saying is true and reasonable). 

Their spiritual power

Before it was limited, and often thwarted, but afterward, it was limitless and effortless (Mark 9:17-18; Acts 3:1-8; 5:15; 6:8).

Their understanding of servanthood

Before they argued about who was the greatest. Afterward, they gladly gave all that they had to others (Mark 9:33-34; Acts 2:44-45). 

Their boldness in the face of adversity

Before they abandoned Jesus, ran away, and hid in locked rooms. Afterward, there was no intimidating or silencing them (Acts 4:8, 13, 18-20). 

Their understanding of Scripture

Before they had virtually no understanding of Scripture’s application. Afterward, they understood how to apply God’s Word in almost every situation (Acts 2:16, 33-35; 4:24-26). 

Jesus promised that the baptism in the Holy Spirit would empower us TO BE His witnesses (Acts 1:8). Not just to do things for Him. There’s nothing wrong about doing Jesus-glorifying things, but in themselves, they are too short-sighted. Jesus doesn’t want us empowered to do things, but TO BE a living, breathing, walking, talking witness of a life transformed by His power. That’s the reason why I say to you again and again: Don’t stop at salvation. Press on and press in to be baptized in the Holy Spirit so that you can BE an empowered, transformed and transforming witness for Jesus!

Join me this Sunday as we continue to explore what it means for Christians to be Pentecostal. 

The Fire Of Greatness

“It is not wrong to aspire to greatness. The warning here is to be careful to never confuse fame with greatness. Otherwise, you may be aspiring to what is not really greatness at all. Fame is what you do for yourself; greatness is what you do for others. Jesus has unveiled to us how greatness is achieved in His kingdom. To be great, you must serve. So don’t give up on your ambition to be great; instead, change your definition of what it means to be great and how greatness is achieved. … 

“The words samurai and deacon have the same core meaning. They both mean ‘servant.’ … Too often we have confused humility with powerlessness. Humility cannot be achieved from a posture of powerlessness. As long as we see ourselves as victims, humility does not come from a position of strength. True humility can be experienced only when we have come to know our power and use it for the good of others and not for ourselves. … 

“Greatness is never found; it is gained. Greatness never comes easy; it’s always the outcome of great discipline and hard work. If you’re comfortable with where you are, if you’re complacent, you will never discover the greatness that lies within. Complacency is like pouring water on coals. It is so important not to misunderstand the words of Jesus. Remember, He never said, ‘Don’t be great.’ In fact, His invitation was for only those who aspire to greatness: ‘Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant.’ You will never know the power of servanthood until you know the fire of greatness.

“Whatever God has placed within you that could ever be described as great was never meant for you, anyway. It’s a stewardship that has been given to you. Greatness never belongs to the one who carries it; it belongs to the world that needs it.” —Erwin McManus, The Way Of The Warrior (emphasis mine)

You can read other quotes from The Way Of The Warrior here and here.

Am I Interruptible?

Time after time, Jesus was on His way someplace when someone “interrupted” Him. But was it really an interruption? Do we ever hear Jesus saying, “Not now, I’m busy with someone else”? No! 

Jesus said that every step He took during the day was directed by His Father, so Jesus is our example for dealing gracefully with any “interruptions” by those who need help.

If I pray as Jesus taught—“Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”—then the people He sends my way are never interruptions. Instead, they are people who also need to experience God’s kingdom for themselves, and since God has allowed them to cross my path, that means that God entrusts me with the privilege of showing them God’s kingdom love.

If I am God’s servant, that means I must be interruptible by my Master. 

A servant doesn’t get up in the morning and sit around waiting for the master to tell him every single task to be done that day. The servant gets up and gets busy with what needs to be done. 

But neither does the servant put off the master’s request because he’s busy with a task. The servant doesn’t respond, “I’ll get to that request after I finish what I’m doing,” but instead the servant responds immediately to the master. The master’s requests have priority. 

So too with me. I get up and get busy, but my heart is listening for my Master to “interrupt” me (although it’s not truly an interruption!) with someone who is in need. 

May my heart always be ready to say an immediate “yes!” to anyone my Master sends across my path today. 

Sunday In Jerusalem

The Sunday before Christ’s crucifixion is typically called “The Triumphal Entry.” But was it really? One thing’s for sure—Jesus didn’t come to Jerusalem the way the people expected! 

To fully get the picture of what’s happening we need to turn back the calendar several hundred years. Ever since Jerusalem fell to invading armies, the Jews hung on to the promise that God would restore their king and their kingdom. They were awaiting a descendant from the line of King David who would drive out their overlords and restore Jerusalem to its rightful place. 

They clung to a promise in Psalm 118 that included these words—“Lord, save us! Lord, grant us success! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord. From the house of the Lord we bless you. The Lord is God, and He has made His light shine on us. With boughs in hand, join in the festal procession up to the horns of the altar” (vv. 25-27). 

But Jesus was prophesied to come as the Prince of Peace, gentle and unassuming, the Servant of all people (Isaiah 9:6; 42:1-3). Jesus simply didn’t do things the way the crowds expected! He was born in a manger in Bethlehem (not as a king in Jerusalem), and hailing from Nazareth caused people to mock, “Nazareth? Can anything good come from Nazareth?!” 

So on that Sunday as Jesus approached Jerusalem, it wasn’t as a conquering King but as a humble servant. As He came near, He wept a sobbing lament over Jerusalem (Matthew 23:37). 

The crowd took palm branches (as Psalm 118 suggested) and shouted, “Hosanna!” That word means “Save us,” but what they really meant was, “Save us NOW!” Jesus came riding a mule—a lowly work animal, not a war horse—to remove any fear people may have, and to show them His servant’s heart. 

Even His disciples didn’t get this. But the Pharisees sure did: They wanted Jesus to rebuke the crowd for their insolence and blasphemy! Many of the worshippers were eyewitnesses to the resurrection of Lazarus, so Jesus said to the Pharisees, “They have to give praise to God for this!” 

Jesus made His way to the temple but there were no sacrifices, no anointing, no coronation. Mark tells us Jesus simply “looked around at everything and then left.” 

Have you ever noticed that Jesus never rushes? He’s never early. He’s never late. He’s never confused. He’s never trying to catch up. 

This is because Jesus was in complete sync with His Father. Jesus said that everything He did was directed by His Father, and every word He spoke was given to Him by His Father. 

We, too, should be able to move in that same unrushed pace. Because of what Jesus did for us on Calvary, we may have the same “oneness” with our Father as Jesus did (John 14:20). 

Worry creeps into our lives when—like those cheering crowds in Jerusalem—we try to make our agenda happen on our timetable with our own resources. But when we look to Jesus, we see such a perfect peace as He relied on His Father. 

Christ’s passionate journey was out of love for us, so that we could know peace with God as we journey through life with Jesus. 

Join me this Sunday as we take a closer look at the Monday of Christ’s Passion Week. 

Thursdays With Oswald—Isaiah 42

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

Isaiah 42

[These are notes on Oswald Chambers’ lecture on Isaiah 42.] 

     If you want to know what a servant of God is to be like, read what Isaiah says in this chapter and the following ones about the great Servant, Jesus Christ. The characteristics of the great Servant must be the characteristics of every servant; it is the identification of the servant of God with the immortal characteristics of God Himself.

     In service for God we have to be abandoned to Him, let Him put us where He will, whether He blesses us or crushes us with burdens, we have nothing to do with what it costs. … May God make us understand that if we are in His service He will do exactly what He likes with us. We are not saved and sanctified for ourselves, but for God to crush us with burdens if He chooses. … A servant of Jesus Christ is one who is willing to go to martyrdom for the reality of the Gospel of God. …  

     The servant is absorbed in Jesus as He was in God. The mark of false service is the self-conscious pride of striving after of God’s favor. … 

     The whole conception of the work of a servant of God is to lift up the despairing and the hopeless. Immediately you start work on God’s line He will bring the weak and infirm round you, the surest sign that God is at work is that that is the class who come—the very class we don’t want, with the pain and the distress and limitation. We want the strong and robust, and God gathers round us the feeble-minded, the afflicted and weak. Pain in God’s service always leads to glory. We want success, God wants glory. 

From Notes On Isaiah 

God calls His followers to be servus servorum Dei: a servant of the servants of God. We don’t seek glory for ourselves, but we seek glory solely for God. We live our lives just as Jesus demonstrated: “Not My will, but Yours be done.” 

Are you living as a true servant of God? 

10 Quotes From “The Servant As His Lord”

Whenever I read an Oswald Chambers’ book, I know I’m going to get exceptional content that is really going to make me think. The Servant As His Lord lived up to my expectations! I have shared several passages from this book already in my weekly “Thursdays With Oswald” posts (more about that in a moment), but here are a few more quotes I wanted to pass along to you.

“I continually come across people with rusty ‘thinkers,’ they think about their business but about nothing else, and the forces within have become desperately weak; consequently when tribulation comes their minds are confused, and the result is that errors come into the life. If the forces within are strong and healthy they give us warning and enable us to crush in a vice on the threshold of the mind everything that ought not to come there. God can impart to a man the power to select what his mind thinks, the power to think only what is right and pure and true.”

“God has no favorites, but when we let Him have His right of way through us He begins to unveil something more of His purposes in our lives. … Is tribulation making you wilt? making you swoon for sympathy? making you stagnate? It is an easy business to want to get away from tribulation, but fighting makes us strong, gloriously strong.”

“God grant we may be so filled with the Holy Spirit that we listen to His checks along every line. No power can deceive a child of God who keeps in the light with God. I am perfectly certain that the devil likes to deceive us and limit us in our practical belief as to what Jesus Christ can do. There is no limit to what He can do, absolutely none. ‘All things are possible to him that believeth.’ Jesus says that faith in Him is omnipotent. God grant we may get hold of this truth.”

“Look at the world either through a telescope or a microscope and you will be dwarfed into terror by the infinitely great or the infinitely little. Naturalists tell us that there are no two blades of grass alike, and close inspection of a bee’s wing under a microscope reveals how marvelously it is made. What do I read in the Bible? I read that the God of heaven counts the hairs of our heads. Jesus says so. I read that the mighty God watches the sparrows so intimately that not one of them falls on the ground without His notice. I read that the God who holds the seas in the hollow of His hand and guides the stars in their courses, clothes the grass of the field. Through the love of God in Christ Jesus we are brought into a wonderful intimacy with the infinitely great and the infinitely little.”

“The great need today amongst those of us who profess sanctification is the patience and ability to work out the holiness of God in every detail of our lives.”

“We are only safe in taking an estimate of ourselves from our Creator, not from our own introspection.”

“There is no one in the world more easy to get to than God. Only one thing prevents us from getting there, and that is the refusal to tell ourselves the truth.”

“God does not do what false Christianity makes out—keep a man immune from trouble, there is no promise of that; God says, ‘I will be with him in trouble.’ … No matter what actual troubles in the most extreme form get hold of a man’s life, not one of them can touch the central citadel, that is, his relationship to God in Christ Jesus.”

“The afflictions after sanctification are not meant to purify us, but to make us broken bread in the hands of our Lord to nourish others.”

“If we are self-willed when God tries to break us and will do anything rather than submit, we shall never be of any use to nourish other souls; we shall only be centers of craving self-pity, discrediting the character of God.”

“Thursdays With Oswald” is a weekly feature where I share a longer section from an Oswald Chambers book, along with a thought or two of my own. You can subscribe to my blog and get notified each time I share one of these posts, or you can type Thursdays With Oswald in the search box.

You can read my review of The Servant As His Lordclicking here by .

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