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Insight from the Spirit

By |2021-10-17T09:06:03-04:00October 17th, 2021|

As the French soldier dug in the desert sand, reinforcing the defenses of his army’s encampment, he had no idea he would make a momentous discovery. Moving another shovel-full of sand he saw a stone. Not just any stone. The Rosetta Stone, containing laws and governance from King Ptolemy V written in three languages. That stone (now housed in the British Museum) would be one of the most important archaeological finds of the nineteenth century, helping to unlock the mysteries of the ancient Egyptian writing known as hieroglyphics.

For many of us, much of Scripture is also wrapped in deep mystery. Still, the night before the cross, Jesus promised His followers that He would send the Holy Spirit. He told them, “But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come” (John 16:13). The Holy Spirit is, in a sense, our divine Rosetta Stone, shedding light on the truth—including truths behind the mysteries of the Bible.

 While we are not promised absolute understanding of everything given to us in the Scriptures, we can have confidence that, by the Spirit, we can comprehend everything necessary for us to follow Jesus. He will guide us into those vital truths.

No Misunderstanding

By |2021-09-22T09:06:05-04:00September 22nd, 2021|

Alexa, Siri, and other voice assistants embedded in smart devices in our homes occasionally misunderstand what we’re saying. A six-year-old talked to her family’s new device about cookies and a dollhouse. Later her mom received an email saying that an order of seven pounds of cookies and a $170 dollhouse were on their way to her home. Even a talking parrot in London, whose owner had never bought anything online, somehow ordered a package of golden gift boxes without her knowledge. One person asked their device to “turn on the living room lights,” and it replied, “There is no pudding room.”

There’s no such misunderstanding on God’s part when we talk with Him. He’s never confused, because He knows our hearts better than we do. The Spirit both searches our hearts and understands God’s will. The apostle Paul told the churches in Rome that God promises He will accomplish His good purpose of maturing us and making us more like His Son (Romans 8:28). Even when because of “our weakness” we don’t know what we need in order to grow, the Spirit prays according to God’s will for us (vv. 26–27).

Troubled about how to express yourself to God? Not understanding what or how to pray? Say what you can from the heart. The Spirit will understand and accomplish God’s purpose.

Fix Up Time

By |2021-09-01T09:06:03-04:00September 1st, 2021|

It was time to give the inside of our home a fresh, new look. But just as I’d begun prepping a room for painting, our state government announced it would be halting the sale of many home improvement items due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As soon as I heard the announcement, I rushed to the store and nabbed the essential materials. You simply can’t remodel without the proper supplies.

Paul had a bit of a remodeling project in mind when he wrote Ephesians 4. But the changes he was talking about went far beyond superficial alterations. Of course, trusting Jesus as Savior makes us a new creation, for the Holy Spirit lives within us. But there’s still some ongoing work the Spirit needs to do. And it takes some time and work for Him to accomplish “true righteousness and holiness” (v. 24).

The presence of the Spirit makes needed changes on the inside that can help us reflect Jesus in our words and actions. He helps us replace lying with speaking “truthfully” (v. 25). He can guide us to avoid sin in regard to anger (v. 26). And He can direct us to speak words that are “helpful for building others up” (v. 29). These Spirit-controlled actions are part of the internal change that is manifested in things like kindness, compassion, and forgiveness (v. 32). The Spirit works in us to enable us to imitate Jesus Himself and reflect the hear of our heavenly Father (4:24; 5:1).

The Life of Peace

By |2021-06-18T15:45:04-04:00June 18th, 2021|

In Perth, Australia, there is a place called Shalom House where men struggling with addictions go to find help. At Shalom House, they’ll meet caring staff members who introduce them to God’s shalom (Hebrew for peace). Lives crushed under the weight of addictions to drugs, alcohol, gambling, and other destructive behaviors are being transformed by the love of God.

Central to this transformation is the message of the cross. The broken people of Shalom discover that through the resurrection of Jesus, they can find their own lives resurrected. In Christ, we gain true peace and healing.

Peace is not merely the absence of conflict; it is the presence of God’s wholeness. All of us need this shalom, and it is only found in Christ and His Spirit. This is why Paul pointed the Galatians to the Spirit’s transformational work. As the Holy Spirit operates in our lives, He generates His fruit that includes love, joy, patience, and more (Galatians 5:22–23). He gives us that vital element of true, enduring peace.

As the Spirit enables us to live in God’s shalom, we learn to bring our needs and concerns to our heavenly Father. This in turn brings us “the peace of God, which transcends all understanding,”—the peace that “will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7).

In Christ’s Spirit, our hearts experience true shalom.

Unseen Wonder

By |2021-06-11T09:06:07-04:00June 11th, 2021|

In the twilight of her years, Mrs. Goodrich’s thoughts came in and out of focus along with memories of a challenging and grace-filled life. Sitting by a window overlooking the waters of Michigan’s Grand Traverse Bay, she reached for her notepad. In words she soon wouldn’t recognize as her own she wrote: “Here I am in my favorite chair; With my feet on the sill, and my heart in the air. The sun-struck waves on the water below; In constant motion—to where I don’t know. But thank You—dear Father above; For Your innumerable gifts—and Your undying love! It always amazes me—How can it be? That I’m so in love with One I can’t see.”

The apostle Peter acknowledged such wonder. He had seen Jesus with his own eyes, but those who would read his letter had not. His words reflect their unseen reality, and ours: “Though you have not seen him . . . you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy” (1 Peter 1:8). We love Jesus not because we’re commanded to, but because with the help of the Spirit (v. 11) we begin to see how much He loves us.

It’s more than hearing that He cares for people like us. It’s experiencing for ourselves the promise of Christ to make the wonder of His unseen presence and Spirit real to us, at every stage of life.

Dwelling in Our Hearts

By |2021-05-01T09:06:06-04:00May 1st, 2021|

Sometimes the words of children can jolt us into a deeper understanding of God’s truth. When my daughter was young, I was telling her about one of the great mysteries of the Christian faith—that God through His Son and Spirit dwells in His children. As I tucked her into bed, I said that Jesus was with her and in her. “He’s in my tummy?” she asked. “Well, you haven’t swallowed Him,” I replied. “But He’s right there with you.”

My daughter’s literal translation of Jesus being “in her tummy” made me stop and consider how when I asked Jesus to be my Savior, He came and took residence within me.

The apostle Paul referred to this mystery when he prayed that the Holy Spirit would strengthen the believers in Ephesus so that Christ would “dwell in [their] hearts through faith” (Ephesians 3:17). With Jesus living within, they could grasp how deeply He loved them. Fueled by this love, they would mature in their faith and love others with humility and gentleness (4:2–3) while speaking the truth in love (4:25).

Jesus dwelling inside His followers means that His love never leaves those who’ve welcomed Him into their lives. His love that surpasses knowledge (3:19) roots us to Him, helping us to understand how deeply He loves us.

Words written for children can say it best: “Yes, Jesus loves me!”

Jesus’ Promise to You

By |2021-04-20T09:06:09-04:00April 20th, 2021|

Jason wailed as his parents handed him over to Amy. It was the two-year-old’s first time in the nursery while Mom and Dad attended the service—and he was not happy. Amy assured them he’d be fine. She tried to soothe him with toys and books, by rocking in a chair, walking around, standing still, and talking about what fun he could have. But everything was met with bigger tears and louder cries. Then she whispered five simple words in his ear: “I will stay with you.” Peace and comfort quickly came.

Jesus offered His friends similar words of comfort during the week of His crucifixion: “The Father . . . will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—the Spirit of truth” (John 14:16–17). After His resurrection He gave them this promise: “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). Jesus was soon to ascend to heaven, but He would send the Spirit to “stay” and live within His people.

We experience the Spirit’s comfort and peace when our tears flow. We receive His guidance when we’re wondering what to do (John 14:26). He opens our eyes to understand more of God (Ephesians 1:17–20), and He helps us in our weakness and prays for us (Romans 8:26–27).

He stays with us forever.

Like Jesus

By |2021-02-22T08:05:17-05:00February 22nd, 2021|

As a boy, theologian Bruce Ware was frustrated that 1 Peter 2:21–23 calls us to be like Jesus. Ware wrote of his youthful exasperation in his book The Man Christ Jesus. “Not fair, I determined. Especially when the passage says to follow in the steps of one ‘who did no sin.’ This was totally outlandish . . . . I just couldn’t see how God could really mean for us to take it seriously.”

I understand why Ware would find such a biblical challenge so daunting! An old chorus says, “To be like Jesus, to be like Jesus. My desire, to be like Him.” But as Ware rightly noted, we are not capable of doing that. Left to ourselves, we could never become like Jesus.

However, we are not left to ourselves. The Holy Spirit has been given to the child of God, in part so that Christ can be formed in us (Galatians 4:9). So it should come as no surprise that in Paul’s great chapter on the Spirit we read, “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son” (Romans 8:29). God will see His work completed in us. And He does it through the Spirit of Christ living in us.

 As we allow the Spirit to work in us, we truly become more like Jesus. How comforting to know that is God’s great desire for us!

Deep-Rooted Faith

By |2020-06-24T16:55:03-04:00June 25th, 2020|

The Holy Oak stood next to Basking Ridge Presbyterian Church in New Jersey for more than six hundred years until it had to be removed. At its prime, the twisting branches spanned high and wide. Cool breezes rustled its green leaves and acorns. The sun peeked through wind-blown gaps, creating dancing glimmers of light in the shade below its canopy. But beneath the ground’s surface lay its true magnificence—its root system...

Easy Does It

By |2020-05-22T11:52:32-04:00May 31st, 2020|

My father and I used to fell trees and cut them to size with a two-man crosscut saw. Being young and energetic, I tried to force the saw into the cut. “Easy does it,” my father would say. “Let the saw do the work.” I think of Paul’s words in Philippians: “It is God who works in you” (2:13). Easy does it. Let Him do the work of changing us...

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