The Presence of God #1 May 29, 2018

Welcome to a new study in our ongoing quest to know the LORD, to love Him with all our heart, soul and strength and to learn His ways.

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Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor has it entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.  1 Cor. 2:9 NASB

Most of us read this verse and apply it to what lies in store for us when we get to heaven.  While that is absolutely true, there is more to be said about this verse in the here and now because of its context.  Look at the very next verse:

But God has revealed them to us by His Spirit. I Cor. 2: 10

Look at it in the Passion Translation:

Things never discovered or heard of before, things beyond our ability to imagine – these are the many things God has in store for all His lovers.  But God now unveils these profound realities to us by the Spirit.  I Cor. 2: 9-10  TPT

Can we actually know and sense His presence here and now on this earth? YES – unequivocally YES!

To be sure, when we get to heaven we will be changed. We will be glorified as our perishable bodies will be exchanged for imperishable ones (I Cor. 15: 51-53) We will see Him just as He is and all of what Paul calls ‘the former things’ will have passed away –  sin, sickness, pain, sorrow, insecurity, anxiety and the like.  What a glorious day that will be!

However, here on earth in this life, we can experience the presence of God and in doing so, get a taste of what heaven will be like.  Look at I Cor. 10 again: But God has revealed them to us by His Spirit. (NASB) and But now God unveils these profound realities to us by the Spirit. (TPT)

Our study over the next few weeks will demonstrate that we not only can experience the presence of God in this life but even more, that the Lord wants us to.  Knowing and sensing His presence now is an appetizer for what’s to come in eternity.

We know that without faith, it is impossible to please God. Hebrews 11:6  Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Hebrews 11:1

Therefore, faith is the foundation for learning everything and anything contained in the Word of God. There is no miracle, no healing, no experience in God that will ever remove our need for faith.  You will never experience the manifest presence of God on this earth without faith as the foundation of that experience.

Yet when God at times makes Himself so real to us, we may momentarily feel as though we’ve somehow reached a place beyond faith. Not so, for the manifest sense of His presence in our lives here on earth does not last indefinitely but the memory of it is a gift that lasts a lifetime and engenders a hunger in us for more and more of Him.

To actually feel the presence of the Lord is beyond wonderful for His presence is far greater than anything that we can say about it. But we are often like Jacob, who upon awakening from the dream of a ladder going up into heaven, cried out, Surely the LORD is in this place and I did not know it. Genesis 28:16

The disciples en route to Emmaus had the same problem. Did not our hearts burn within us while He talked to us on the way? Luke 24:32a  Jesus was manifestly present yet they did not recognize Him.  In this series we want to become more conscious of the presence of the LORD and explore some of the surprising ways in which He may decide to show up in our lives.

Know this as we begin: though we be unconscious of His presence, He is as real and as operative in our lives as in those moments when His presence is manifest. He is constantly at work in us, even when we are clueless! Paul wrote: For it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to do His good pleasure. Phil. 2:13

Before we embark on this quest of experiencing His manifest presence, let us first thank Him for His ‘unconscious’ presence in our life every moment of every day of our earthly sojourn.  He is ALWAYS with us, He will NEVER leave us.  On that bedrock truth, we stand in utter faith.  You are NEVER alone!

If you are hungry for more of God in your life, if you long to sense His vibrant presence in your daily walk, stay with us for the next few weeks and together, let’s learn how to enjoy His manifest presence more than we ever have before.

The Power of Words #12 May 22, 2018

With the same tongue, we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men…Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing.  James 3:9-10

Worship is one of the greatest privileges and responsibilities of the disciple.  It honors our beloved Lord and looses blessing into our own lives.  Jesus said to the Samaritan woman, you may remember, that ‘the Father seeks those who will worship Him in spirit and truth.’  John 4:23

I dare say that our worship on earth, at its best, is less than perfect for perfect worship will be our joy once we are in the presence of God in heaven.  Eternally gracious as He is, God accepts even our imperfect worship.  However, for the heart that loves God with passion and devotion, there are guidelines for making our worship as honorable to the Lord as possible.

In the verse quoted above, James directs our attention to an important consideration.  With the same tongue that we spit out sarcastic or hurtful words to someone, we then turn and ‘worship’ God.  Considering everything we have pondered in the past eleven lessons, this one may well be the most important of all.

In writing of praising God and cursing men with the same tongue, James by the Holy Spirit’s inspiration, calls us to sit up and take notice.

1. Do we bless the Lord in the morning in our private prayer time and with the same tongue criticize and judge others throughout the day?

2. Do we sing praises to God in our fellowships while holding a grudge towards another?

3. Do we glance at our watches while singing the praises of the Lord, wishing it would end?

4. Do we meet with the Lord in our quiet place with no shame or remorse over the gossip we spread yesterday?

5. Do we express our love for God while outside of church or our place of prayer we easily slip into making critical and judgmental remarks about our fellow disciples?

6. Do we listen to the Pastor’s sermon and apply it to everyone but ourselves?

7. Do we faithfully attend church yet routinely speak critically of the pastor?

8. Do we enter into praise and worship with anger in our hearts towards another so that our lips sing the words but our minds are on revenge or self- defense?

9. Do we thank the Lord for the power of the Blood of Jesus in washing away our guilt while we easily send others on guilt trips?

10. Do we sing our praises while being jealous of the person singing next to you or in the seat in front of you?

James says very simply: ‘this should not be.’  James 3:10

Not only is our worship imperfect in situations such as I have described, but additionally, we grieve the Holy Spirit.  ‘Do not grieve the Holy Spirit with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.’ (Ephesians 4:30)

Before Jesus ascended, He promised that the Holy Spirit would be given to us as our Helper and our Teacher. He would abide with us to remind us of all the Jesus said and He would ‘show us things to come.’ The word ‘grieve’ in Ephesians 4:30 literally means ‘to get your feelings hurt.’  There is a reason why the Holy Spirit is often portrayed as a dove.  The dove is a very shy bird that cannot bear tension and dissension.  It will fly away quickly. When we grieve the Holy Spirit – which means when we are acting and speaking in ways that do NOT reflect the presence of Jesus within us – we grieve Him and the result is that we are left to ourselves, usually irritable, confused and less than pleasant to be around.  Entering into conversations that Jesus would never enter into grieve the Holy Spirit.

James asks: ‘Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring?’ James 3:11.  Every born again child of God has a well, a spring within their spirit.  That well is the Holy Spirit and that which flows from Him is described in Galatians 5 as love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, etc.  Grieving the Holy Spirit most often happens when we open our mouths and what comes out bears no resemblance to Galatians 5: 22-23.

It is offensive to the Lord – and it should be to us as well – to worship and praise Him, sit under anointed teaching of the Word and enjoy the fellowship of those with like precious faith and than allow words to roll off our tongues that reveal bitterness, anger, jealousy and selfishness.

‘Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you know how to answer everyone.’  Colossians 4:6

‘Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.’  I Peter 3:9

Here’s a simple guideline to help us improve in controlling our tongues?  Ask your self these four questions before you speak.

N – Is it necessary?

E – Is it liberating? Will it free or bind the listener?

E – Is it inspiring and edifiying?

D – Is it dignifying to the listener?  Does it affirm them as a child of God?

Do I N-E-E-D to say this?  If it doesn’t meet the criterion, let’s zip our lips.

This series on the Power of Words comes to a close today with this final post on the subject.  I pray that it has been an exhortation and encouragement to all of us to grow in the area of tongue control so that when we stand before the judgment seat of Christ, He will be able to say to us ‘Well done, My good and faithful servant.’

‘Think on these things.’  Philippians 4:8b

The Power of Words # 11 May 15, 2018

This week I want us to look at one verse and in particular one word.

No man can tame the tongue.  It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.  James 3:8

We’ve already learned that our words mirror the state of our heart.  As we listen to what we say, we get a glimpse of what our heart is really like – and sometimes we cringe at our own words, don’t we?

The verse quoted above says that the tongue is ‘full of deadly poison’.  James is speaking about an undisciplined tongue that spews harsh, angry, sarcastic, hurtful and profane words without compunction.   He’s talking about his own tongue, Peter’s tongue, Daniel’s tongue, Isaiah’s tongue, Abraham’s tongue, King David’s tongue…and your tongue and my tongue.

So let’s talk about that word ‘poison’.

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Poison destroys. In order to injure, cripple or paralyze members of the Body of Christ, the enemy of our souls appeals to our fallen nature to speak words that our full of deadly poison; i.e. to say things that make other people look bad and feel bad.  That’s the currency he trades in – words that kill.  Didn’t the Lord say ‘The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy…’ John 10:10?

The old saying, ‘Sticks and stones can break my bones but words can never hurt me’ is utterly false!  Words can do far more damage to the human soul than physical violence.

Because the Word of God tells us that the tongue is ‘full of deadly poison’, it follows that the degree to which we say unkind, hurtful and negative things to and about other people is the degree to which we have an undisciplined and un-Christlike tongue.

Speaking without thinking is tantamount to swallowing deadly poison, writes R.T. Kendall. It is almost like committing spiritual suicide.

So, how do we poison others? When we speak harshly, sarcastically, profanely, unkindly to other people it is tantamount to giving them poison to ingest.  Poison can make you deathly ill, or kill you.  There are too many people walking around today deeply wounded inside from the ‘blows’ of another person’s tongue.  They may look alive on the outside but their emotional person inside is bleeding and perhaps dying slowly because of verbal abuse.

It really doesn’t matter whether the person you’re speaking to is old or young, saved or lost, red, yellow, black or white, each person is made in the image and likeness of God.  Mark Twain once wrote: ‘Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.’

Never assume that people are unmoved or untouched by what you say.  They may cover it up but your negative or harsh words leave an internal scar. People who appear to take everything in stride and therefore we think they’re thick-skinned are often the most sensitive of all.  Even Jesus was affected by what people said.  The only difference between Him and us is that He was able to handle it without sinning.

Secondly, it’s not just what we say to people but what we say about them behind their back that emits a poison.  Gossip and slander poison the attitude of others towards the person you’re talking about and it poisons your own soul because gossip and slander are sins.  And here’s something else to remember: Don’t assume that what you say about someone will never get back to them.  More often than not, it does and that never ends well.

What about those ugly or unpleasant things that people say to you?  You have a choice.  Will you drink the poison? In other words, will you take it to heart and get angry, resentful, bitter?  Or fall into the trap of shame, guilt and self-condemnation?

Or will you make the godly choice to forgive quickly lest the poison make you spiritually ill?  You may say, “I forgive but I can’t forget what they said.”  That’s understandable but not an excuse for holding a grudge or staying angry.  The anger of man does not work the righteousness of God.  James 1:20

So what do you do if you find it difficult to forget what was said? Maintain a forgiving spirit, remembering the forgiveness is a choice, not a feeling.  When the thoughts try to get you down, put on some praise and worship music, get busy with a worthwhile activity or find something to distract you from the devil’s attempt to chain you to anger or depression.

The whole purpose of James’ letter to the early disciples – and to us – is to change lives, to help us in practical ways as we seek to become more like Christ in our thoughts, words and deeds.

Application:

We react with horror when we hear that someone committed suicide by drinking poison or murdered someone else by poisoning their food.  As tragic as those situations are, there is something more tragic that affects all of us.  A holy fear and awe of the LORD calls us to be utterly serious in disciplining our tongues that words of life, peace and encouragement would be the currency in our relationships with others.

‘The words that I speak to you are spirit and life,’ said Jesus in John 6:63

 

The Power of Words #10 May 8, 2018

Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark.  The tongue is also a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body.  James 3:5-6

Death and life are in the power of the tongue. Proverbs 18:21

It’s hard to imagine how we would live without our tongues. We use them to speak, to feel, to taste, even to express emotions at times.  I think of Zechariah in Luke 1 who lost his power of speech for several months.  How hard that must have been!

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Our tongues are instruments for tremendous good.  With our tongue we praise the Lord and sing to His glory.  The psalms are full of verses that allude to this privilege.  With the same tongue, we can share our testimony and draw others to the Lord. The tongue is the instrument by which we teach our children and build lasting friendships through honest and open conversations.  And it will be with our tongues one day that we will proclaim the name and glory of our Savior throughout the universe for Paul wrote in Philippians: ‘every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.’

All of that said, in the course of my studying to present this series, I was shocked to discover that the word ‘tongue’ is used in the Bible one hundred and thirty times.  What was even more shocking was that a great majority of those times, it is in the context of a negative or potentially damaging situation. I had to really look to find verses that used the word ‘tongue’ in a positive light!

Look at these examples:

Trouble and evil are under his tongue.  Psalm 10:7

Keep your tongue from evil.   Psalm 34:13

Your tongue plots destruction; it is like a sharpened razor.  Psalm 52:2

I will watch my ways and keep my tongue from sin.  Psalm 39:1

Dear friends, the potential for good is unlimited: ‘A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.’ Proverbs 25:11

Gentle words can end arguments and resolve strife.

Kind words can lift a downcast spirit.

Prayerful words touch the heart of God.

Yet James warns us that ‘no man can tame the tongue.’(vs. 8)

What then do we do??

Control of our tongues cannot be achieved by an gift or talent we may have. It is not a matter of education or the level of our intelligence. James offers us no promise that if we meet a certain condition, God will swoop in and fix our tongue!

What James – and the other epistles teach us – is that God expects us to take responsibility for our tongues.  His enabling grace is always there, ready to empower us but you and I have to make a FIRM decision that we want to clean up our manner of speaking.

WE have to decide that we want our words to reflect the Lord that we love.

WE have to ask the Holy Spirit to impart His grace and when we fail, to convict us QUICKLY!

It boils down to this: How much do you want to be like Jesus?  How much do you want to delight His heart? How much do you want Him to look upon you and smile?

If we are able to discipline ourselves to curtail our eating in order to lose weight, then we can surely discipline ourselves to bring our speech under the control of the Holy Spirit.

Application:

A favorite morning prayer of mine is this one: Holy Spirit, please keep me on a very short leash today. Hold me close and if I even begin to think of something to say or do that does not reflect the Lord Jesus, yank my chain and do it quickly!

It may not be the most sophisticated prayer, but I promise you, it works.

He will do it if you ask Him.