Tuesday, March 27, 2018

How do you train the spirit?

A young man, who was brought up in Christian parental guidance and a graduate of Christian education, was called into the bosses' office.  The boss declared how much the company appreciated his faithful work and wanted to do more than just words, so they gave him a significant financial bonus.  The young man left the office, looked up, and said, "God, I know that was you!"  That is an example of how a person who has a trained spirit reacts to things that happen rather than just think such events are good luck or happenstance.

If our greatest need (see prior post) is to train the spirit, how do you train the spirit?  A beginning answer is to depend upon the Holy Spirit.  The Word declares that the Spirit of God joins our spirit and comes to reveal Jesus, teach and guide us into all truth, and establish the relationship as sons who cry "Abba Father."   He will show us and lead us in the ways we should go, as we desire and seek to let Him work in us.

Man, similar to Peter's infamous declaration that he would never deny Jesus, seems to always think he can change himself, or by his own strength he can improve.  There are millions of self-help articles written with this underlying premise: man can better himself.  However, Paul points out that the ways of the flesh lead to death, it is the spirit that gives life.  Therefore, everyone falls short unless he learns to live by the spirit (empowered by the Spirit).  

Consider the foundation.  God wanted man to be spiritually alive so we could walk with Him (who is Spirit - John 4:24). Our spirit was intended to direct our mind, will, and emotions, just as we move in our body.  However, when man sinned, the central part of our existence, the spirit, died.  God the Father, desiring us to be reconciled to Himself, sent Jesus to pay for the consequences of sin.  Now through the power of Jesus' resurrection, it is possible for all men to be born again, and to receive a new spirit that can know God.  Born-again believers, are not only free from sin and eternal death in hell, but now can become sons of God (John  1:12) with promises that allow them to partake of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4).  Man, Romans 8:29 reveals, is predestined to be conformed to the image of His son.  The purpose of training the spirit is to become in our nature what Jesus Christ is.


Jesus, who is the Word personified, revealed to us the heart of the Father and accomplished all that was needed to bring man (us) back to God.  He further declared that He would send the Spirit who would teach us and lead us into all truth.  Now those born of the Spirit are given a new recreated spirit by which they can know God and His ways by revelation.  The Spirit confirms the truth of who Jesus is, and what He has done and taught, so our spirit, our inner-man can grow in wisdom and understanding.  Clearly the more we wait on God and allow the Spirit to show us truth, the more our inner man becomes strong and is able to direct our minds and body to line up.


What do we need to learn and apply to be trained in our spirit to live as God intended?  Obviously it starts with acknowledging that He is God and His promises are true.  Hebrews 6 states that "he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him."  So the foundation truth is that God is exactly who He says He is, that He loves each one of us enough to have Jesus die for us, and that He desires us to know Him and be with Him forever.   Since the Word contains His promises, Jesus describes (in John 6) his words as "spirit and life."  The Word of God reveals God's nature, His power, His love, His truth, and everything about Him and His plan for man.  All is available for "Whosoever will," meaning the requirement is that we have to choose life over the death that reigns in our flesh.  We can choose daily to pick up our cross (death to flesh) and submit to the Spirit teaching and training our spirit to take control in how we live.  


So what does the Spirit teach our spirit? The first revelation is who God is and how much He loves us, which produces a new freedom that desires from the inside to respond to this love and please God rather than being forced to keep a set of rules.  Our spirit also learns spiritual disciplines such as prayer, thanksgiving, and praise which helps develop an intimate relationship with God.  Furthermore, the Spirit teaches our spirit to hear and discern the voice of God and His leading, and provides the power to obey Him.  Scripture in Philippians 2:13 describes this as "God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure."  There are many aspects of knowing God and living in the spirit, of seeking His presence and having a constant awareness of the leading of the Holy Spirit, and of being transformed in our thoughts and choices that flow from being taught daily  precept upon precept, line upon line, here a little, there a little. 

The purpose of parental education is to teach and train up a child in the ways he should go.  As the child becomes school-aged and grows in his understanding, nothing is more important than continuing to train the child's spirit, both at home and at school.  Children need to come to Jesus and accept His love and forgiveness at an early age.  Then it is important that all knowledge and truth presented is subject to the spiritual understanding of God's perspective and purpose, so the child's own spirit is trained to know God and to discern the voice of God so he can learn to make godly choices.  Sources of knowledge, such as public education, that can only teach the mind and body, do not have the capacity to train the spirit and instead are a detriment to growing in the spirit.


When public education was first instituted in this country, the Massachusetts law, called the "Old Deluder Satan Act of 1647", was designed to teach the Word of God so Satan wouldn't be able to deceive.  Unfortunately, public education has rejected the Word of God and now can only teach the mind and body, ignoring and often contradicting the spiritual development.  Children, or adults for that matter, who are not continually being taught and trained in spirit will always be immature and not capable of knowing the truth which sets them free indeed. 

From an eternal perspective, what could possibly be so important that it would distract us from daily being trained in the spirit by the Word and the Spirit, or from making sure that those in our charge are placed in an environment that acknowledges the Holy Spirit and is open to training our spirit to rule over our mind and body?




Greatest Need: To train the spirit


You reap what you sow.  So what's wrong with this picture.  We spend many hours and much money on training the mind and body, but have only token concern for training the spirit.  Yet in Ephesians 2, Paul points out that following the desires of body and mind makes us children of wrath, enemies of God.  Obviously man needs to be educated and changed, and the only way that really happens is when the recreated spirit is developed to lead the mind and body, yet little is mentioned and less done in the area of training the spirit.

True change comes from within.  When a man is born again he receives a new spirit as a new creation.  As this recreated spirit grows and becomes strong, our empowered inner-man is able, by the Spirit of God working through our spirit, to put to death the deeds of the flesh (Romans 8:13).  The spirit of the believer is to dominate the desires of the mind and body.

In similar manner to the way we received Christ Jesus, we are called to walk in Him.  How do we learn to walk in Him?  Rather than just be saved from sin and hell, we are called to be transformed into the image of Jesus Christ through renewing the mind (Romans 12:1-2; Romans 8:29).  The spirit, knowing the truth and ways of God, directs the thinking of the mind, adjusts the emotions, and enables the will to choose the life-giving way of the Spirit.  Jesus declared (John 6) that the word was spirit and life, so obviously the Word contains the principles and encouragement to accomplish the task.  There is a need to having teaching and training to learn the ways of the Lord and to be corrected when we fall back into the old man ways.

What did God intend when He made man, and then after the fall, when He redeemed man?
Man was created by God in His own image and likeness, as a spirit that has a mind (soul) and lives in a body.  Everyone knows that we are not our body, since it is possible to lose various body members and still be the same person inside.  Understanding how the soul or mind relates to our central being is more difficult.  Our soul, often broken down into our mind, will, and emotions, controls many of our actions.  Our born-again spirit, where the Holy Spirit resides, is the inner man, the new man that is called upon to direct the soul (mind) and to controls the actions of the body.  Notice David saying, "Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless His holy name." 

Once the Spirit of God reveals to our spirit who God is, His nature, and His infinite love shown through Jesus' death and resurrection, then we can only fall on our knees and desire in responsive love to please Him.  Love of God is stronger than duty, than the proverbial "I should do better." The Spirit then leads us into all truth, line upon line, precept upon precept, in a process of training our spirit until we become like Christ Jesus.  1 John 2:6 states we should "walk just as He walked."

Why are there so many immature Christians and why are there so many headlines of Christians who do ridiculous things that make us look bad?  Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 3:2 that some were not ready for meat, but needed the milk of first principles again.  How long do we need to hear over and over that God loves us and forgives us our sins before we receive it and move on to being transformed? Very few Christians press in to let the Spirit complete the good work He has begun in us.

The world can only offer training for the mind and body.  The major fallacy of public education is likewise, its inability to train the spirit and thus, produce real change.  Even Christians are often deceived to think that the purpose of  education is to achieve a worldly career and financial success.  However, God's purpose for education is to train up a child in the way he should go, meaning the young person develops into one who knows God, thinks in the ways of God, and walks humbly in obedience to the Spirit of God.  Those who are led of the Spirit are sons of God according to Romans 8:14.  What value is mind education and worldly success if a person loses his soul, or fails to be the light and salt God intended them to be.  Jesus says salt that has lost its flavor is to be trampled on as the dust on the path. 

Now that we understand the need and the problem, the question is, how to train the spirit so that we become what God intended?

The next post will speak to this issue.



Friday, December 22, 2017

Worthy of ALL Glory

"Glory to God in the Highest" were the first words the angel multitude declared when appearing to the shepherds at Christmas to announce the birth of Jesus.  The angels were absolutely right.  Christmas is the beginning of God's incredible gift to man and shows His ultimate and eternal glory.  Simply stated, He is worthy of all glory.

The whole Christmas story only points to the nature of an awesome, amazing God who  
(1) has such love for "all men" that He is willing to become one of us,
(2)  walks as we walk experiencing every weakness, trial, and joy,
(3)  teaches the truth about the nature of God in the midst of man's incredible pride and resistance,  
(4)  demonstrates an all-consuming love that willingly lays down His life and pours out His blood to pay for every sin,           
(5)  concludes with a glorious, definitive resurrection that establishes His total victory over sin, sickness, and death,           
(6)  and rather than condemn man, invites all men to receive His gift and join Him forever in overcoming, abundant life!  Good News of great joy to all men!

Clearly we have a God who shows His greatness (glory) through a completely inconceivable plan that is so beyond the imagination of man, and that only can be humanly understood by God revealing His nature through Jesus Christ's coming and living among us.  Man's darkened mind has a difficult time grasping such a wonderful, loving God paying such an incredible price for us and then, instead of rejecting us, remarkably invites us to receive His Son.  Receiving Jesus and what He did provides complete forgiveness and allows us to be changed into His children, to be like His Son.  To selfish, proud, sinful man, this seems too good to be true, and frankly, so many million times better than we know we deserve.  Only God's glory explains it.

Once man receives this truth and accepts that Jesus is God's lamb, or sacrifice for our failures, that person's heart is changed forever to want to please Him, let Him be Lord.  2 Corinthians 5:14 points out that "He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again."  Now we are able to fulfill God's actual purpose for man, which is stated in Ephesians 1, we are destined and appointed to live for the praise of His glory.  Paul further instructs us in 1 Corinthians 10:31, that "whatever you do, do all to the glory of God."

So how do we live for His glory, or give glory to a God who has given us everything?  Jesus answered the question in John 15, 7-8: "If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.  By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples."  God wants us to be fruitful.  He is pleased to do things for us, to answer our heart's desires and prayers.  The good soil, in which seeds grow and bear fruit, is the condition of abiding in Him and letting His words live in our hearts and minds. In short, when we desire for and need to have His presence, and choose to let His Word be the truth and standard for our thoughts and actions.

My heart's desire is simply to be fruitful, which gives Him glory. 

Forever, in heaven, as our eyes and understanding are opened, we will join in the chorus, "Holy, holy, holy," and bow before Him in total, awesome worship.  He is worthy!  The challenge is to live by this truth now, by faith rather than sight.  He is worthy of all glory.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

From Trouble to Greatness: Need to Partner with God

A ten-year old boy is terrified and deeply troubled when he overhears his mom and dad screaming crude expletives of hate toward each other.  A teenage girl doubts whether she is worth anything after being ridiculed for being fat, ugly, and dumb by her peers.  A business man, who crossed the line in drinking too much, blows an important account and loses his job.  A mother of three is served divorce papers, because her husband is involved with another woman, and now she faces having to provide for and raise the children by herself.  An old man, lonely and distraught in a nursing home feeling like his life was a total failure, is at the mercy of high school dropouts who work there because it was the only job available to them and who have no regard for the needs of the clientele.  What do these people and their situations have in common?

God has called them to "reign as kings in life" (Romans 5:17 AMP).  WHAT?

Yes it is true, everyone has life situations that seem overwhelming and defeating; the last thing we would call them is winning or reigning.   It is so easy to get depressed and feel sorry for ourselves, especially if we compare ourselves to others who seem to "have it made."  However, you are you and not someone else, so the question is "how are you going to face your problems?"

The good news is that God's plan for you hasn't changed, He has a way to rule as kings in your every situation by becoming a partner with God. There are three steps in our partnership with God.  First, God initiates what He wants by declaring it in His Word and having the Holy Spirit stir our hearts to believe it.  Second, we respond in obedience with prayer, fasting, or whatever He has called.  Third, God honors our response by releasing His power in that situation for which we have cried out. 

God will not do our part and we cannot do His part.  If we do not do our part, some of the help and blessing that God would have given us are withheld.  Our part includes making quality decisions to deny ourselves (say no to sin and pride); to feed our spirit on the Word, to ask for Divine help and intervention through prayer and fasting; and to embrace godly activities (service to others) and relationships.  There are many things that God will not give us individually until we pursue them in faith and obedience.

God's part includes releasing supernatural influences on our hearts (power, wisdom, desires); on our bodies (healing, strength); on our circumstances (provision, protection, direction); and on our relationships (favor).  God governs the universe in intimate partnership with His people through intercession. He has chosen to give His people a dynamic role in determining some of our quality of life, based on our response to the grace of God, particularly in prayer, fasting, obedience and meekness.  God opens doors of blessing and closes doors of oppression in response to prayer.  There are blessings that He has chosen to give, but only if His people rise up in the partnership of prayer to ask for them.  James said that we do not have because we do not ask (James 4:2).  Jesus spoke of demons that would not stop tormenting people until driven out by prayer and fasting (Matt. 17:21).  Our prayers matter greatly, even when we do not feel their power.

God has given us the blueprint, His Word.  Prayer causes us to internalize God's Word as we speak His ideas back to Him.  Each time we say back to God what He has declared to us, it marks our spirit, illuminates our mind and tenderizes our heart.  Our character is transformed.  God's requirement that we pray reflects His desire for intimate partnership and connection with us.

In the world we have trouble (Scripture calls them tribulations.), but God says to be of good cheer, He has overcome the world.  He calls us to give all those cares to Him, declare His promises, and walk forward in simple obedience to God and the truth He has given.  Then, the eternal law of sowing and reaping allows Him to multiply our efforts with His response.  God is faithful and will never overlook our labor of love.  The very problems that the enemy meant to destroy us are the same stuff God uses to allow us to partner with Him and reign in life.  You can choose to partner with God and reign as kings.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Greatest Appointment of Your Life is Coming!

Good news.  You won't be late.  The greatest appointment of your life is coming, and you will be ushered in right on time! Every person has the interview of their life awaiting them, and what's more, the conversation will be exactly true, about everything you ever thought, every emotion, every choice, and every action you ever did.  You see, this inevitable appointment is with the Lord Jesus Himself who knows the very intents of your heart and mind.  His eyes of fire burn through every fa├žade and deception and hidden thing.  He knows the complete truth about each of us.  Our lives will be completely exposed in that look.

What will He will say to you?  What does He see?   To whom much is given, much will be required.  Each of us will give an account of what we did with our lives, with what He gave us according to 2 Corinthinans 5:10.  Usually this thought arouses overwhelming fear and panic.  If all we had was our own worth, we should tremble.   However, Jesus the righteous judge, is on our side.  The cross and His shed blood really did pay for our failures.  Amazingly, He not only has taken our sin, but He also has given us His righteousness, His divine nature (2 Corinthians 5:21).

God is so good, so kind, so wonderful.  The purpose of the judgment is not to condemn us, but to reward us.  What?  Can that be true?  Many times in Scripture, for example in Revelation 22;12, it declares that He is coming and His reward is with Him.  Even the "Bema" judgment seat is not a reference to a judge in the courtroom, but rather a picture of where the judge stood in the athletic games handing out the gold and silver medals.

Let me suggest that the purpose of this "judgment" is to summarize our 70-80 year internship to determine where we will serve for our 1000 year assignment, and beyond.  God is the master at calling us to choose His way, and then our one step of obedience yields a mile of reward.  God, who loves the cheerful giver, demonstrates this quality through Jesus who is the ultimate giver.

God highly treasures fear of the Lord.  However, we are not meant to fear the judgment of being sent to hell if we know Jesus as Savior.  Jesus went to hell for us.  Fear of the Lord, rather, is our response to a great, loving Father, by hating any evil thing that would separate us from a pure, clean relationship with Him and by seeking whole-heartedly to know and love Him.  When you realize all that He did for you, your only honest response is to lay your life, your choices, down for Him.  But God knows our frame, so He also promises great rewards.  He declares rewards for praying in secret, for fasting in secret, for giving in secret, even for giving a glass of cold water to a child.   See this principle in Jesus' words, "If anyone desires to be great, become servant of all."  He isn't against us being great for Him or desiring His reward, but He does clearly lay out what we must do to receive this desired award.

One more important thought: (found in 1 Corinthians 3:11-18)  Everyone must build on the one foundation, Jesus Christ.  Then everything we do will be tested by fire (maybe the fire of His eyes).  What an incredible warning to evaluate what we are doing, whether we are building with silver and gold, or wood, hay, and stubble.  Can you imagine the regret, of standing before God on that final most important appointment, and having Jesus say, "Your soul is saved, but all you have done with your life is wasted."

"Father, search me O God, and help me see what is fleshly and what is Spirit-led so that there will be great rejoicing and reward, rather than failure in the review of all I have done.  Lord, prepare my heart and teach me to walk in the fear of the Lord, so that I am unashamed and ready for the greatest appointment of my life."


Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Run with Horses

Are Things Going to Get Better or Worse?  
Yes.....Both.

In all four Gospels Jesus warns about the signs of the times and the incredible distress that will come on the earth at the conclusion of the age.  Consider a few descriptions from Jesus in Matthew 24, "nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom.  And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places."  Then He adds "Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name's sake."   Because of such overwhelming statements, many people have such a fear of the end times that they don't even want to think about it.

However, on the other hand, God declares that of the increase of His government and His peace, there will be no end (Isaiah 9:7).  God further declares great anointing coming on His people, such that we will shine as lights and His glory will be seen on us (Isaiah 60:1-3).  Therefore, the end time sounds much like the passage of Psalm 23, "He prepares a table for me in the presence of my enemies."  Jesus explained that "a servant is not greater than his master.  If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you." (John 15:20)  Therefore, just as Jesus turned Satan's greatest attack into glorious victory, His Spirit in us will provide the strength and power, the love and peace, to overcome all the plans of the enemy.  He will (always) lead us in triumph.

Perhaps the famous introduction by Dickens, in A Tale of Two Cities, is an appropriate description,
"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times."  Clearly the Holy Spirit is preparing the Bride of Christ, convicting of sin and establishing righteousness, and calling us into an "Abba, Father" relationship that is so real and unshakeable, that nothing can separate us from the love of God the Spirit has poured into our hearts.  All who loved God through the ages longed to see what we and hear what we hear in these days.  It also follows that the enemy, the accuser of the brethren who tested Job, will likewise test us.  Yet Scripture states we are not ignorant of his designs.  Therefore, it is not a little thing to build ourselves up in the Holy Spirit and be so prepared that we know "God is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day (2 Timothy 2:1:12).  

How does the enemy attack?  First of all, consider the "why" that Jesus revealed, that Satan is a liar, and that he comes to "steal, kill and destroy."  In the parable of the sower, the enemy stole the "Word" from those who didn't understand or receive it.  Secondly, those who weren't well established in knowing Jesus Christ fell when there was persecution or conflict arising from holding God's truth.  Thirdly, those who held on to the world, loving the things of the flesh such as pride, immorality, money, and selfishness more than God, fell because these "weeds" choked the Word.  Is this not a clear trumpet calling us to seek a solid revelation of Jesus through His Word, to choose that which pleases God over what satisfies our fleshy desires, and to look upon Him who rewards forever so that we can stand the temporary sufferings of persecution.

Prophet Stanley Frodsham, friend of Smith Wigglesworth and author of his biography, prophesied in 1965 five years before he died, that God would empower His people with great glory and holiness in the last days.  However, he suggested that many would fall because we would be tempted, just like Jesus, with being offered the kingdoms of this world, and secondly, with severe rejection and persecutions.  He strongly calls for believers to let the Lord lead them into a walk of holiness where there will be great glory and "unspeakable joy."  (This prophecy entitled "Preparing for the Coming Glory Amid Tribulations, Persecutions" can be read in in its entirety on the Charisma Magazine website, charismamag.com)

Obviously, according to Paul's instruction to Timothy, all those who live godly lives will have tribulations.  Jesus said they are sure to come.  However, we need to learn how to "count it joy" and have "peace" and "glory in tribulations" (James 1:2-4, Romans 5:1-5) so God can grow us up.  He does not waste things, but uses all for our good.  God is faithful and He waits for us to choose to obey His Word so He can do it.

Stop, repent from being lukewarm, because now, before things get worse, is the time to seek God seriously. Ask the Holy Spirit to build you up in the truth of the Word and to form in you His character.  Quit complaining, but instead, be thankful and let Him work in and through you.  God told Jeremiah, “If you have run with the footmen, and they have wearied you, then how can you contend with horses?" Let God work in you now so when the day comes, you can run with horses.




Monday, July 10, 2017

What are You Going to Do with Your Life? (Now that You Have Graduated)

"What are you going to do with your life now that you have graduated?" is the typical question that every high school or college graduate is presented with by friends and family.  Even though people are just trying to make conversation and to encourage the graduate in his future challenges, there is a more serious aspect to the question.  Many graduates are only thinking about getting out of their current school and do not have a thoughtful answer, because they have not really stopped to ask themselves this question in a long-term way.  However, graduation is a good time to seek and ask God what is His plan for your life.
Misty Edwards has written a powerful book entitled, "What is the Point?" in which she shares her challenge to find meaning in life and to give herself to something that really matters.  The truth is that each of us has to face that basic question at some point; otherwise, we could not survive or have the inner strength to fulfill our daily responsibilities.  We need a reason for living and doing what we do.

The secular world suggests the answer is to find something where you can make money and have all the pleasures and luxury that life affords.  However, there is something else far more important to consider.  Ecclesiastes declares that God has put eternity in our hearts.  Most people have a deep desire to do something with their lives that matters (even forever), that in some way contributes something to mankind that produces a measure of satisfaction.  Yet even stronger than this general longing is the revelation found Ephesians 2:10, that clearly states "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them."  What an amazing thought, that God has specific works prepared for each of us to do!  All we need to do is find out what they are and do them.

Back to the key issue: What are you going to do?  How are you going to find out what those works are?  Jesus knew we would need direction, so that is why He promised to send another comforter ("another" meaning like Himself) who would guide us into all truth. The Holy Spirit is given to all who ask and is here to help us find this truth.   Romans 8:14 declares "as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God."  We can know the Spirit's leading, and proceed knowing with confidence our relationship with God.  

First of all, to be a son of God, one must let the Holy Spirit reveal Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, as the One who paid the price (His blood) for your sins and to whom you willingly commit your life. 

Secondly, God promises to give to those who ask.  Ask the Holy Spirit to show you God's plan.  It sounds so simple a little child could do it, which is the point.  Simply come as a little child admitting you need His help and trust Him to guide you through His peace.  As Colossians 3:15 points out, we are to "let the peace of God rule in our hearts..."  (The Amplified actually states "continually be the umpire").  So to the best of your knowledge, begin doing what is on your heart, what you feel is right.  Then let God re-direct you and guide you with His peace as you calmly present each step to Him in prayer and quietness. 

God is not mocked and cannot lie, so it follows He will faithfully guide each one who asks Him and trusts Him.  Sometimes we see this clearer when we look back at how God has led us through many ways into the place we now are.  Each one of us does not have to be some kind of big hero, but just simply be content as the person He has made us and doing the work that He has led us to do.  The rest of that Colossians 3:15 verse says "and be thankful."  With thankfulness, enjoy the peace and presence of God in all you do.  Since you are His workmanship, He will lead you into the work He has prepared for you.  He made you for this!