Word of the Day

Space of Grace

Ephesians 4: 29

Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, that it may give grace to those who hear.

If you do not stumble here, then you are a perfect person for this is where we usually trip up ourselves, with our mouths. That is the ultimate insight. We damage ourselves with our mouths.

At first reading, this passage is clear enough. However, as we continue to ponder this scripture, one begins to hear a lifestyle emerging through it. Paul was encouraging Christian unity in this chapter. Clearly, there will be no unity in any group if its members do not police their words. Paul leads us a step further though. His words direct us to edify one another with our words. In this he creates a distinction. He didn’t say, “Just keep your mouth shut,” which, by almost anyone’s standard, is good advice. Paul teaches us, instead, to speak words of grace. Our words can lift the hearer. They can build up the group.

Here is the hard part, Paul would have us avoid making statements that are even true if they are likely to disparage another. We are not talking here about lying, never let it be said, but some things just don’t need to be said. As a former lawyer, I can tell you that I struggle with this. Truth is truth and so often I think the scoundrel should be exposed. This is where the world’s way of thinking diverges from God’s way of doing. That is why we have to pay such close attention to the Word. The world’s teaching is engrained within us. Sometimes we have to root it out by really seeing what the Word teaches.

Everything God ever told us, or ever will tell us is for our own good. He didn’t give us a bunch of rules to steal the life from us. He gave us rules to give us life, and that more abundantly. When we let unwholesome speech out of our mouths, we damage ourselves, those who hear, and we do no great favor to the heart of God. However, since we are growing up in the things of God, let us not stop with bridling our tongues. Let’s learn to direct our language in a way which edifies others. Find the space of grace and share it with others. Words can hurt but they can also heal. Use yours to unite and console.

Billy Graham

John 3: 16

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.

As a fellow North Carolinian, I am blessed today to honor the Reverend Billy Graham who passed over into glory yesterday. The word “reverend” has, at its base, “revere” which describes people’s feelings about Graham and his ministry. He shared God’s love to millions of people, the list of people in heaven because of his compassion and message is quite long. I, too, made a declaration for Christ at a Billy Graham function.

He was an evangelist amongst evangelists. He preached John 3: 16 in over 400 crusades in 185 countries. He literally took the good news of Jesus Christ to the world. He was a friend and confident to presidents and people of influence around the globe. He, more than any other minister, was considered the pastor of the United States. He was personal friends with Martin Luther King and long before it was popular, conducted integrated services, having personally removed the ropes that segregated blacks from whites at his meeting. He was, and is, a man of renown.

He is also a man of humility. He never forsook his rural North Carolina roots nor was he embarrassed by his humble beginnings. He also never seemed impressed by his popularity or fame. He was impressed by the life of Jesus, his savior and it was that story he told convincingly throughout his life and ministry.

When I decided to write about Reverend Graham the verse John 3: 16 leapt to my mind but what set Reverend Graham apart in my mind is John 3: 17, “For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through Him.” He certainly was challenged in this stance, especially as his friend Richard Nixon admitted to misdealings in the Watergate scandal. However, he unleashed the power of John 3: 17 when speaking about Bill Clinton’s white house troubles, Graham revealed that we are not given the job to judge but rather to love.

What will be Graham’s legacy? Time will tell. However, the answer lies, at least in part, in the hearts of you and me. Can we answer the call to love without judgement? Will we live our lives to God? Can we preach John 3: 16 to people not because of what we believe they are doing wrong but because of what Jesus did right?

Each generation must be a flag bearer. The mantle has certainly passed but to whom? I believe in my heart that it has passed to you. From the one, to the many we carry forward the message of Jesus, the one who loves us enough to die for us, and of the Father, He who loves us enough to sacrifice His only begotten child, and of the Spirit who has vacated paradise to live with us. If it is true that the Reverend Billy Graham’s legacy is left to you, what would you have that legacy be?

Be Still

Exodus 14: 13 – 14          NIV

Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”

This is one of my favorite passage in the Bible. It is so bold and declarative. There isn’t a bit of wishy-washy in it. Reading it today, though, I saw a little something new.

The setting here is that the Israelites have fled Egypt only to become trapped between the Red Sea and the pursuing Egyptians. Moses stood before the nation of Israel and proclaimed God’s provision and greatness. He told Israel they would see their deliverance by the hand of God. They need not raise a sword in defense. Their part was to believe rather than fear, stand firm in that faith, and be still.

That reminded me of another verse. In Psalm 46: 10 we read these words, “Be still, and know that I am God.” Do you see the similarity? The thing that surprises me most about this paradigm for success is that it is a very New Testament, post-Pentecost way of thinking and yet here it is buried in the Old Testament. The Holy Spirit has now been sent to dwell in the earth. Even more significantly, he lives within each one of us. So, this is our pattern of success. We pray and believe, and the Holy Spirit delivers.

This is God’s design for our lives. It was always God’s plan. He never meant for us to fight the battles. He is God, He is our Lord. The Lord cares for His subjects. Like the ancient Israelites, we only need to learn and perform our responsibilities and leave God to His work.

We need to practice the three parts of victory outlined in today’s passage: 1) Do not be afraid, 2) stand firm, and 3) be still. Be still and hear the voice of the Lord. Listen to what He is telling you. Then do it. If He says, pray, then pray. If He says sing, then sing. If He says to go dip three times in the river, then you better be getting wet. We just need to be still and allow Him to be God. No matter what challenge you are facing God has an answer. “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”

Filling Station

Acts 2: 4

And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit.

Back in the old days, we called gas stations, filling stations. You drove your car into the station and someone would come out and fill it up with gasoline. It was good. Wouldn’t it be great if we had a Holy Spirit filling station, a place where we could pull in and be topped off with the Spirit?

Yesterday, we looked at Ephesians 5, verses eighteen and nineteen. In verse eighteen, Paul tells us to “be filled” with the Spirit. His directive is a bit challenging. He writes “be filled” as if there is a filling station we can visit to fill us up with the Holy Spirit. It would have been good for us if he would have continued to write, how we should be filled. Was it so simple for the believers of that day that instruction was not needed?

Today’s passage is from the account of the Day of Pentecost. Jesus told his disciples to wait in Jerusalem until they received this promised pouring out from God. The Bible says, “When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place” (Acts 2: 1). The first thing we learn is that they obeyed the Word of the Lord. That is always a good starting point. Secondly, what were they doing? This was a Jewish feast day therefore, we might safely assume they gathered together to worship and honor the Lord. They gathered in his name. And they were filled. It seems the key to their being filled by the Spirit was obeying Jesus’ word.

Another good example comes from Acts 4: 31, “And when they had prayed, the place where they had gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God with boldness.” Here we find believers gathered together, praying.

God sent Peter to Joppa to the home of Cornelius, A Roman soldier. Even though Cornelius and his household were all gentiles, the Holy Spirit fell upon all of them even while Peter was still preaching (Acts 10: 44).

While I am not saying that the Holy Spirit can only fill you when you are assembled with other believers, I am saying that being in a Spirit filled environment certainly does recharge your batteries. An atmosphere of praise and worship invites the presence of the Holy Spirit. I believe the early church celebrated Christ with such enthusiasm and spoke so boldly about Christ, the anointed one, that the Holy Spirit was constantly being poured out. Praise and worship are powerful tools that many of us overlook far too often. As you immerse yourself in the Spirit you will find your faith grow stronger, your ability to hear improved and you will immerge renewed in your faith.

Spiritual Wine

Ephesians 5: 18 – 19

And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms, and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord.

The Apostle Paul has a way of stretching one’s mind beyond its current limits. His vision of the church is quite different from what most of us experience today. I am curious, but then frightened to imagine what the Apostle might write to us today. Are we advancing the gospel? Better still, am I the Christian I could be?

Paul expected the saints to speak to one another in spiritual songs and psalms. Can you even imagine what that is like? How about making melody with your heart? Is that joyous praise or is there even more to it?

There is a spiritual realm all about us. Many have seen it. Angels have appeared and assisted people and even Jesus has made appearances. We can walk and move in this spiritual realm too. That is the invitation from Paul. It is a decision away.

The decision is whether we choose to drink of the world or of the Spirit. Is our life patterned more according to the world or by the Spirit? Paul tells us to be filled with the Spirit. What does that require of us? I believe he is telling the church that first we must choose the life of the spirit over the life of the flesh and its pleasures. Do not misread me to say that I believe you are going to hell if you have a drink. I am saying, however, that Paul is calling us to choose which is more important to us. People who don’t have time to read their Bible or don’t have time to pray find the time for drinks with their friends.

Paul is suggesting that we can have social time around and with the Spirit of God. We can actually have fun flowing in the Spirit. In fact, it is the most fun you will ever have. Nothing compares! When you hang out with the Spirit of God, especially socially with your other friends, it is not a far leap to begin to speak in psalms, hymns, etc.

There is likely no limit to the wonders we can experience as we walk with our Buddy, the Holy Spirit. First, however, let us be filled.

Day Planner

Isaiah 30: 1

“Woe to the rebellious children,” declares the Lord, “Who execute a plan, but not Mine, and make an alliance, but not of My Spirit, in order to add sin to sin.”

This is one of those verses which is easy to read right over, never seeing how it may apply to us. “I am not a rebellious child,” I say to myself, then discount the rest of the verse. However, look at how God defines the rebellious child. Rebellion is found in one who makes and executes a plan which is not of God or sanctioned by Him. Rebellious children are those who make a partnership not of God’s Spirit. This goes to the very heart of our New Testament relationship with the Divine Trinity.

In the Old Testament, very little was known about either Jesus or the Spirit. The Jews had the promise of the Messiah and the Holy Spirit. In the New Testament, we are introduced to Jesus. Then, at Jesus’ exit from the surface of earth, he told us that he was about to send us this promised Spirit. He also told us that the Spirit would not only be with us but that he would live in us. Jesus said that the Spirit would lead us and be our teacher. So, here is the tricky part, we discover that we are supposed to walk with and by the Spirit every day and in every way. Everything we do is supposed to be in partnership with the Holy Spirit. Even in the Old Testament, God said that to make plans relying on our own intellect and strength was to add sin to sin. If God revealed that to pre-Messianic believers, how much more truth does it carry for us.

Even our partnerships, our alliances are supposed to be formed in the guidance and advice of the Holy Spirit. God calls us rebellious when we fail to involve him in these decisions. So, now I have gone from denying my rebellion to realizing that my sin is every bit as great as those of the Israelites we like to condemn.

God insists that the plans of our lives must be made by Him or at least with Him. Actually, He has already made a plan for us and it is a good plan (Jeremiah 29: 11). I cannot overemphasize how important this topic is to God. He requires us to cooperate with His plan for us rather than to run around making our own plans, which, by the way, are almost always destined to fail. So, if this is such a big deal to God, how are we going to co-author our plans with the Spirit and thus avoid adding sin upon sin?

How did you come to know Jesus? How did you develop a relationship with the Father? The Holy Spirit is the third person of God. Therefore, you get to know him as you did the Father and the Son. First, you find him in the Bible. Second, go to our website and search the key words Holy Spirit which go down the right-hand side of the page. There is article upon article there. There are books about him too, but don’t neglect simple prayer. Talk to him. Ask the Father for guidance. Petition Jesus for insights.

The Holy Spirit was sent here for you. He wants to be found by you. Once you begin your search, I think you find that he is hiding in plain sight. Then, since he was sent here to guide us into all truth, ask him how to walk with him all day every day. He will guide you. It’s his job and his heart’s desire.

Bonding Agent

Ephesians 2: 20 – 22

Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, in whom the whole building being fitted together is growing into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.

The Holy Spirit is the glue which holds the church together. You know he is our teacher, comforter and the one who goes alongside us daily. You have learned many of his roles in the earth. Here is another of his important roles, to bind us together as one.

I have written previously about the things of the Spirit having actual substance, things like faith, for example. Well, you too have substance in the Spiritual realm. In Christ, we all are bricks which are being glued together to form the church, one edifice built for the glory of God.

We come from many different backgrounds. We represent many denominations, countries and ethnicities. Some of us are protestant; some of us are not. However, we all have one thing in common and it is the only thing of true importance. That, of course, is Jesus Christ. How do you get so many people of such varied backgrounds and beliefs together? The Holy Spirit binds us together in Christ to form one holy temple unto the Lord.

Have you ever used a glue which required a activating agent in order to function as an adhesive? A chemical reaction occurs when you mix the two components. Without that chemical reaction, there is no adhesion. So it is with the body of Christ. We do not stick together very well but, in the Spirit, we become one. We can bond to one another in the Spirit because he is the bonding agent. He joins us as one to Jesus. When you are in the Spirit, differences dissipate, overshadowed by the glory of Christ, the anointed one.

This is very important for these latter days. We must unite as one body. What good is an arm all by itself? It is useless. However, put us all together and we are strong and powerful. We are functional. The key is not our individual adherence to Jesus. It is our adherence to Jesus in the Spirit. Unity is essential. I think we all can agree to that. The challenge we have faced is ignorance of the Spirit. We can be like some of Paul’s followers. Paul asked them, “‘Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?’ And they said to him, ‘No, we have not even heard whether there is a Holy Spirit,’” (Acts 19: 2).

Most of us have at least heard of the Spirit but as a group, we do not know this third person of the trinity. We certainly have not fallen in love with the Spirit. Neither have we developed a personal relationship with him. Honestly, it is difficult to even understand what it means to be in him or led by him. That is the challenge of our generation. We are the ones who were destined, from the beginning of time, to pursue and know the Spirit of God. Until we have the divine glue on us, we will have difficulty bonding with all the varieties of other Christians. Jesus’ departure opened the door to this great gift of the Holy Spirit. Now we must pursue him relentlessly until we understand what it means to be in the Spirit and can live every day in his company.

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