Live By God’s Power

These are our sermon focus verses today at our church:

So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do. Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, and making music to the Lord in your hearts. And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. And further, submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. (Ephesians 5:15-21 NLT)

I pray this day and this year I would be filled with God’s Holy Spirit, to know and do God’s will. I pray our church would be filled with God’s Holy Spirit and overflow with the gifts He gives is through the indwelling of his Spirit.

Called to Be Witnesses

I’ve started a new year-long Bible reading plan in the free YouVersion Bible app. It’s called “For The Love of God” and has a short commentary which accompanies each day’s readings from both the New and Old Testament.

This verse stood out to me today:

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8 NLT)

In these last words of Jesus, before he ascended into heaven, he reminds us that we are all called to be witnesses. But we are called to be witnesses when we are filled by the Holy Spirit, and his power comes upon us.

Dear God, I pray you would fill me this day and this year with your Holy Spirit. Make me attentive to your words and your will. Mold me into a good listener, who is not afraid to share my witness of your power and your love. In Jesus’s name I pray, Amen.

Angels and Signs

A reading today from the Gospel of Luke:

Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:9-12 NLT)

Reading these verses this morning, I am reminded of how the shepherds were struck with fear when they first heard the Angel of The Lord speak. The first words of the Angel were to not be afraid, however. Many people today deny or fail to understand the reality of angels, and the reality of God speaking directly to his people throughout history and continuing to speak today through his Holy Spirit.

I’m also reminded of how God chose to speak to the shepherds, who were among the lowliest of people living and working at that time in the Holy Land. God did not come in a vision to the king, and he did not come to the newsagency of the day and ask for an all points bulletin. I think God came to the shepherds to help us understand that his son, Jesus, comes for all of us, no matter what our station or situation in life may be.

God, I pray you would reveal yourself to us this day, and help us to understand in our hearts the joyful gift you gave us through your son, Jesus. Through the commercials and the gifts and the food and the distractions of this season, help us to clearly see and embrace the gift of Jesus in our hearts. In the holy and powerful name of Jesus I pray, Amen.

Bearing fruit in all good work

This is a pretty long sentence from the Apostle Paul. The phrase “bearing fruit in every good work” is what stands out to me this morning:

For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. (Colossians 1:9-12 NIV)

I pray God will fill me “…with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives.”

Compassion in Action

These verses resonated with me today:

If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. (1 John 3:17, 18 NIV)

This weekend when I was shopping at Walmart, I had a man come up to me when I got in my car and ask for some money. This is something that is fairly common when you live in the city, instead of living in the suburbs. I have not had a tremendous amount of experience living among the poor, but I certainly got my eyes open to a lot more of this when I lived in Mexico City in 1992 to 1993.

When someone who is poor confronts you personally and asks for a handout, it challenges you at several levels. It encourages you to ask, what am I doing right now to help the poor and this person specifically? I know it is generally a bad idea to give cash to people who ask for handouts, because many of them will use the money to buy drugs, alcohol, or something else that is probably not in their best interest to consume. It can seem very harsh and callous, however, to reject every single request for help when you confront someone personally.

In the case I am describing, I went ahead and gave the man $10. He said he was homeless, and I asked him if he had been to the City Rescue Mission or any of the other shelters in town. He said he had, but said some things about how they didn’t meet his needs and he did not like them. I held his hand and said a prayer for him and over him. He told me he knows God has many names, and one of them is Jehovah. I encouraged him to seek God and call on his name. His name was Rodney, and when I prayed and I prayed for God to bless my brother Rodney.

I am not sure what I did in the situation was right, but I was inspired to pray by Paul Burns book, “Prayer Encounters,” which our spiritual parenting class will be using this fall. Paul’s basic message is, instead of telling someone we will pray for them, we should take an opportunity and pray for them right then in that moment.

There are many things I do not know, but I do know it is right and good to lift each other up in prayer. Giving Rodney $10 provided an opportunity to say a prayer together. I continue to pray that God will open up doors of love, kindness, and help for Rodney and his family.

Be Patient

God calls us to be patient and wait on Him to fulfill the promises He has made. Patience is a virtue, and we rarely hear it extolled in the worldly messages which surround us. In the book of James we read:

Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near. Don’t grumble against one another, brothers and sisters, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door! (James 5:7-9 NIV)

Dear God, help me be patient and have faith in your promises. I see the fullfillment of so much around me and in my life, and I am thankful. I pray that your patience would fill my heart, and rather than look to tomorrow, I would rise up to meet the challenges and opportunities of this day with you by my side.

Amen.

Humble yourselves and Let There be Tears

These are verses that are probably not heard very often in sermons on Sunday. This is an exhortation that is both challenging and needed, however.

So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world. Let there be tears for what you have done. Let there be sorrow and deep grief. Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor. (James 4:7-10 NLT)

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Bring Your Petitions to God

In this story of the blind beggar, Bartimaeus, it is significant that Jesus asked him to verbalized the desires of his heart. Jesus knew Bartimaeus’ situation, but he still asked him to state his petition aloud. We should similarly bring our needs and the desires of our hearts to God, verbally in prayer.

When Jesus heard him, he stopped and said, “Tell him to come here.” So they called the blind man. “Cheer up,” they said. “Come on, he’s calling you!” Bartimaeus threw aside his coat, jumped up, and came to Jesus. “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked. “My rabbi, ” the blind man said, “I want to see!” And Jesus said to him, “Go, for your faith has healed you.” Instantly the man could see, and he followed Jesus down the road. (Mark 10:49-52 NLT)

God’s Peace

Today we light the Advent candle for God’s peace. We pray for God’s peace to come into our hearts, into our communities, to our nation and to our world. God promises peace, but we have to seek it from HIM. We need to RUN to God, for He wants peace for His people. Consider these words from Matt Jones’ sermon at our church this morning.

I will listen to what God the Lord says; he promises peace to his people, his faithful servants— but let them not turn to folly. Surely his salvation is near those who fear him, that his glory may dwell in our land. Love and faithfulness meet together; righteousness and peace kiss each other. Faithfulness springs forth from the earth, and righteousness looks down from heaven. The Lord will indeed give what is good, and our land will yield its harvest. Righteousness goes before him and prepares the way for his steps.

(Psalm 85:8-13 NIV)

We find peace as we place our faith in God and His son, Jesus.

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.

(Romans 5:1-2 NIV)

We have to listen carefully to what The Lord God says about peace. We don’t search for peace in areas where peace is not found. These verses show us the signs to watch for. Righteousness, faithfulness, and love are the signs.

God keeps His promises. Let us seek peace through our faith in God and His promises.

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