We recently returned from 3 1/2 weeks in Israel. I stood where Jesus would have surely walked on the south steps up to the Temple Mount. That was a moving experience, but to know Jesus more is not about physically walking where He walked. Paul writes in Philippians 3:9-10, “. . . and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith–that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death” (ESV). We enter a relationship with Jesus through believing that He is God who died for our sin and rose from the dead. We grow in that relationship, i.e., know Him more, by learning to yield to the Holy Spirit’s control in our lives. The power that raised Jesus from the dead is available to empower you and me to live our lives in a way that pleases Him.
Luke 4:1-2a says, “And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil” (ESV). After Satan tempted Jesus, Luke 4:14a says, “And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee” (ESV). Jesus depended on the Holy Spirit. If Jesus depended on the Holy Spirit in the face of temptation, how much more do I need to do the same? How do I place myself under the control (filling) of the Holy Spirit? I do two things: confess sin and tell God I need Him. “Father, please fill me with your Holy Spirit today. Help me to live today under the Spirit’s control.”
Luke 1:77-79 says, “to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace” (ESV). This sunrise at Blue Rocks, Nova Scotia broke through the darkness! Jesus’ birth broke through the darkness! How? Jesus, the Christ-Child, broke into our dark world to provide a way of salvation from our sin. He came to die! He died and rose again to be a bridge between us and God. Let’s remember, this Christmas, the light of Jesus! Through faith in Him we are made right with God! Jesus, the Christmas light, provides us “the way of peace!”
Hebrews 10:24-25 says, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching (NIV). Earlier this week I was discouraged about some stuff. I was down. Then I spent time with four other brothers in Christ, and they helped me. Being with other people who love Jesus can encourage us! We need each other. God does not call us to live on islands. He calls us to experience community. Be encouraged! Spend time with others who follow Jesus!
I’ve been wrestling for joy and peace the last couple of weeks. But according to Galatians 5:22, I don’t have to fight for it. Galatians 5:22 says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace . . . .” Joy and peace don’t come naturally to me. And I can fight for both with all my might, but I cannot attain it. I can put myself into peaceful, tranquil settings, like this sunset in Maui, but I cannot manufacture joy and peace. That is because the Holy Spirit is the only true source of joy and peace. The Spirit produces them both by replicating Jesus’ life in us, His followers. So instead of fighting for joy and peace, I need to be releasing my life to the control of the Holy Spirit. I do that by making sure that sin isn’t at home in my life and by consciously depending on the Holy Spirit. “Holy Spirit, please be in control of my life today so that I may experience Jesus’ life in and through my life. Holy Spirit, let me experience Jesus’ joy and peace!”
Ezekiel 39:21a says, “Thus, I will demonstrate my glory among the nations” (NLT). God always does what He says He will do. In Ezekiel 39, God says that His attributes and character will be magnified when He does what He says He will do for Israel. One future day, when King Jesus rules here on earth, all the earth will see God’s glory! While we see God’s glory in His creation (e.g., this pic from Mittenwald Germany), one day all people will see Jesus magnified when He ultimately fulfills all His promises. That means I can rest in His promises today! God always does what He says He will do!
There are so many ways to read the Bible! The important thing is that we read it! I like to mix it up. Sometimes I like to just read a few verses and think about them, asking the Holy Spirit to teach me from them. Right now I am reading entire books at one sitting. The “Readers Bible” from Crossway is a great tool for that. There are no chapter divisions or verses numbered. It is just like reading any book. Remember, the Bible is the only book that God ever wrote! I have so appreciated reading a book of the Bible in its entirety in one or two sittings. When I am done, I just write down a few gleanings about God I have seen. For example, I just read Genesis. What rich truths stood out as I experienced the overall flow of the book! Give it a try! Remember, there are many ways to read the Bible. The important thing is to read it! God uses the Bible, by means of His Holy Spirit, to speak to us!
This week we celebrate Christmas, that day Jesus left the glorious throne room of God to arrive in a barn. He did that for you. He did that for me. That barn did not look like this one. But I would guess it was humble looking. Why would the Son take such a step down? He did it to make a way for us to God, to pay the price of our sin. This is where our focus should be this week. This is our source of joy regardless of the circumstances we are facing in our lives. “And the angel said to them, ‘Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord'” (Luke 2:10-11; ESV).
Jeremiah 32:17 has encouraged me, “Ah, Lord GOD! It is you who have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm! Nothing is too hard for you” (ESV). Just looking out at this sunrise caused me to reflect on the great power of our God. As Jeremiah said, “Nothing is too hard for you.”
Every spring, turtles emerge from our pond to lay eggs. If you approach them, they will view you as trouble! What does a turtle do when faced with trouble? They withdraw into their shell! Do you ever feel like you act like a turtle when trouble comes? You want to thrive, but your instinct is to just survive. Let us not forget, during these troubling days, the words of Psalm 46:1-2a, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way. . . .” (ESV).