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Pentecost

Acts 2:38  And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

In Christ, the many promises of God to His people, the Jews, came to pass.  He encompassed all that God had chosen to reveal to man.  In the Holy Spirit then, all of the promises of Christ to His people, the Christians, were fulfilled.  Jesus had told His followers to go and wait for Him after He had resurrected and reappeared to them.  He promised if they waited they would receive power.

And so they waited.  They hid, really.  They were all together in one place on that day, the day of Pentecost.  And when they received the Holy Spirit they all were given the power to speak in languages they didn’t know, for the purpose of evangelizing to others in his/her own tongue.  Those who heard them were amazed that these uneducated men were able to speak many languages.  Some scoffed, some mocked…but they listened.

As they listened, the previously timid disciples who were in hiding boldly came out among them and preached the gospel.  Peter delivered a sermon that brought around 3,000 to Christ that day.  It wasn’t a “here’s how to get a better life” sermon, or even a “Jesus loves you” speech.  Peter simply pointed to the truth through events that had taken place and then let the conviction of the Holy Spirit do its work in the hearts of the people.  They heard it and were “cut to the heart” (Acts 2:37).  Then Peter gave them a chance to respond, which they did.

The work of the Holy Spirit in believers on Pentecost is the same power He employs today in us.  Things may not always be so drastic as to see thousands of people saved in one moment, but His conviction in their hearts and His work in us to be bold in speaking the truth is still very real, just as it was for Peter and the eleven. He may not ever urge you to speak in tongues or to preach in front of a massive crowd, but He will empower you to do God’s will in whatever situation you do find yourself in.

To God be the glory.

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What path will you choose?

Genesis 24:57-58 They said, “Let us call the young woman and ask her.” And they called Rebekah and said to her, “Will you go with this man?” She said, “I will go.”

Sometimes in life we’re given a choice.  A path is laid out before us and we have the choice either to walk down that path or to take our own path.  Which way we decide to go can change our destiny and affect many others.

We often hear “The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob” because those men were called by God and given a promise.  But the very same God also called Rebekah to take part in fulfilling the covenant He made.  When Abraham’s servant left Canaan to find a wife for Isaac, he found Rebekah because he had prayed for God to show him which young woman had been chosen.  Yet the choice of whether to go with the servant was left up to Rebekah.  Though her family and the servant believed God’s hand was in all of this, they let her decide.

With three simple words, “I will go,” Rebekah made a choice that would have a profound impact.  It was through Rebekah that Jacob and Esau would be born, two men who were critical to the plans God had.  Her obedience to God was more than she could have even known.

What path has been laid before you?  What way has God called you to follow in obedience?  What might happen if you choose His way over your own?  There’s only one way to find out.

 

This devotional is derived from a sermon message by Matthew J. Cochran.  Listen to the sermon here:

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Joking aside, let’s give thanks

Ephesians 5:4 Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.

Have you ever been around someone who said or did something that just seemed really out of place for who they are or what they are? For instance, a Catholic nun smoking a cigar while drinking a shot of whisky would seem different from what’s expected.

Followers of Jesus are held to a higher standard of conduct when it comes to things that come out of our mouths. Filthy talk, dirty jokes, or crudeness are just out of place among believers. Sometimes we’ll have to be in situations around other people who conduct themselves in such a way, especially if we hope to lead them to Christ, but we need not get in on the dirty jokes.

It’s so tempting, though, to join in when people are having a good time and making inappropriate comments; isn’t it? The choice we end up having to make in such situations is to be what God has called us to be rather than being popular among the people making the jokes. It can be a tough move to make, but it’s always worth it to obey the Lord.

There are several reasons to keep our talk clean, and we won’t go into all of them, but one is that we have so much to be thankful for that we have better ways to spend our time than wallowing in filth. Instead of making crude jokes, give thanks to God. Instead of bringing others down, life them up. The family of God in Jesus Christ is set apart. Our words (or lack thereof) should make that apparent.

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The importance of words

Our small group is doing an excellent study by Rick Warren, and our latest installment discussed truthfulness, forgiveness and patience. All hard things. All important things.

 

We all have the power to emotionally debilitate someone with our words; they are immensely powerful. We also have the power of providing infinite healing to others with the words that we choose.

 

I think that many people have been in a situation of uncomfortable confrontation. Sometimes warranted, sometimes not. At times, feelings of defensiveness, being misunderstood and hurt, and betrayal as the realization that the confronter has discussed your faults with others may abound.

 

The Bible calls us to care enough about others that confront one another when a person has a stronghold of sin in their life. In my experience, this is very difficult. We often imagine a twosome of classic dogooders, rightfully confronting in love, but bracing for the confrontee’s escape from their grasp. We pretend like it’s black and white, and that we ourselves can manage the situation with a co-confronter, and maybe a little elbow grease. We don’t like to do it, but bygolly, we’ve got to because the Bible says to do so. Why would damage come to the relationship if we are Biblical about our approach?

 

But what if we are wrong? What if the Bible is calling us for a different level of confrontation?

Ephesians 4:29 ESV 

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. 

Please consider to do the following, when the burden to confront a friend arises:

 

Remember the effort. Validate that person for the effort and the cost that has been required in their situation and in their life. Give credit where credit is due within confrontation and outside of confrontation. Leave your pride at the door. Really. Every person has value- find it and pierce them with it. Even if it hurts you to do so.

 

Remember the emotion. A childhood victim of abuse must still suffer the consequence of any adult crimes that they commit. This is no excuse. But their experiences and their emotions are valid. Don’t forget to validate them. When we don’t validate emotion, we give people no other option than to defend themselves. When we don’t recognize their feelings, we slay them with judgement. The consequence must still come, and the confrontation must still come, but the circumstances are valid.

 

Proverbs 12:18

Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.

 

Recognize the exhaustion. A person who is treating an area of their life or another, is often hopeless and tired. Recognize it, name it, and put it away. The runner needs validation of the exhaustion of the race, even if they have lost their way. Validate, and help them to find the right path.

 

 

Validate the effort, validate the emotion, allow the hurt or pain to do the backstroke around the room, but don’t make excuses for the behavior.

 

1 Corinthians 13:1-13 ESV 

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; … 

A loving relationship requires much, but I encourage everyone to remember that it is difficult to confront in love and truth, if your words and actions don’t represent words and truth. When confrontation isn’t necessary, I continue to believe in the need to validate the effort, exhaustion, emotion and validate. The times in which we lay down our pride and get uncomfortable about reality may just be the times in which it is the most important. If we give credit where credit is due with our words in good times, then we will be heard when times are bad. If a person is recognized and knows that they are appreciated and heard, then they will likely be less likely to feel under appreciated, unheard or slayed when a confrontation arises. If we practice removing the layer of pride that we take everywhere with us, then the confrontation will feel more natural to both parties.

 

1 Thessalonians 2:1-20 ESV 

For you yourselves know, brothers, that our coming to you was not in vain. But though we had already suffered and been shamefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we had boldness in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in the midst of much conflict. For our appeal does not spring from error or impurity or any attempt to deceive, but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts. For we never came with words of flattery, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed—God is witness. …

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Leave behind sexual immorality

Ephesians 5:3 But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. 

Sex sells, so so the saying goes. Everywhere we look there is some sexual temptation being thrown in our faces. We, as Christ followers shouldn’t give in though; right?  Right? See, that’s just it. Many who name themselves among God’s people have bought into the lie that sexual sin isn’t so bad. The truth is — it kills.

Today in the American Church we’ve glossed over sexual immorality as though it’s just part of life, not really a sin. Sins are things like murder and cheating on your taxes. Sex is just sex, no matter who it’s with or whether it’s in a marital relationship or not. It’s a lie and we’ve bought it, hook, line, and sinker.

We even convince ourselves that Jesus never talked about sexual immorality or that the Bible never condemns certain things. Who are we fooling? It’s all right there in black and white. Sexual immorality is sin and it’s not to be part of the lives of believers. This is one thing that we must absolutely be free from because it kills our relationship with the Lord. It comes between us because, when you boil it down, sexual immorality is idolatry; it’s putting something else before God.

This isn’t intended to beat you down. If you find yourself in the midst of sexual sin the last thing you need is condemnation. The truth is that Jesus paid the price to win victory over your sin and even over your temptation to sin. You don’t have to feel condemnation and you don’t have to struggle against this sin. You just have to claim the victory that’s already yours in Jesus Christ.

Lighthouse

Got A Light

Matthew 5:14-16  “You are the light of the world–like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden.  No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house.  In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.

Luke 11:36  If you are filled with light, with no dark corners, then your whole life will be radiant, as though a floodlight were filling you with light.

We usually separate The Beatitudes from the following verses about being salt and light and don’t put the two concepts together but I think that shining our light has some prerequisites.

Living for him with the attitudes and character that please him will make you a bright light in this dark world, if you are not doing that then there won’t be any light, you will look like everybody else that is living in the dark. But if you are living the beatitudes lifestyle you will stand out.

You are going to be strange in a world that seeks happiness in favorable circumstances and pleasant emotions, the world tells us to look out for ourselves but God’s expectations are different, he taught that happiness is found in living for him and when we live for him we will be a shining light in this dark world.

You have the potential to be the light, as a child of God you already have the light in you but you have a choice whether you will let it shine out for everyone else to see. Are you going to put a lamp shade or even worse a blanket over it so that it doesn’t help anybody else?

The light of good deeds are for God’s glory, don’t put the light on yourself so that you will get the credit, the world needs the real source of light and what it can do in their lives. If we live like his chosen people and have the beatitude attitude then we will want our light to shine on Jesus instead of ourselves so that they can see his love and kindness. That’s what this dark world needs.

RECENT POST ON DIGGING THE WORD:

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Love like God loves

Ephesians 5:1-2  Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

There are many difficult mandates given in the Bible, none more impossible than the command to be imitators of God. How could fallen, sinful human beings possibly imitate a holy, perfect God?

This may seem like a setup for failure, but that’s far from the truth. God knows very well that we can’t be perfect and He’s only asking us to pursue following His commands with His help, not on our own. Anything He’s asked us to do is something He’s equipped us to do.

It’s interesting how important the theme of love is in God’s Word. So many of the laws and rules boil down to loving the Lord and loving other people. It would seem that there is no better way to imitate God than to love. Maybe there’s not even anything God wants us to do more than He wants us to love. To do so is a “fragrant offering and sacrifice” to Him.

We don’t try to be like God in order to gain favor with Him, we follow in His footsteps because we already have favor with Him as His adopted children. We don’t love Him and other people because we want to earn our place with Him, we love because He first loved us (1 John 4:19) and we’re responding to that epic love in the only way we can. We won’t do it perfectly like only He can, but we’ll be honoring Him by doing it.

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We owe it to each other to forgive

Ephesians 4:32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

If I asked you why Jesus had to die on the cross you would likely mention forgiveness. It’s true, the only way we can obtain God’s forgiveness is through a relationships with Jesus Christ. He paid for all of our sins, past, present, and future. But still we hold on to grudges against the people that have caused us harm.

How can we accept the forgiveness offered to us for every single bad things we’ve ever done and will ever do without being willing to show the same grace to people who do us wrong? Haven’t we done worse to God and yet been granted a pardon?

How arrogant we are when we hold onto the grace of God for ourselves and don’t pass it along to others. May we have eyes to see how wrong it is for us to do such a thing, how much it goes against God’s will for us. Who do you need to forgive right now? Have they really done something so much worse to you than you have done to the Creator who not only forgives you but does so through the sacrifice of His own Son? We owe it to each other to forgive, just as God in Christ forgave us.

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All He has his yours

Philippians 4:19 “And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.”

A father loves his children and wants what is best for them. He doesn’t want to see them burdened and stressed out, but strives to see them overflowing with joy and peace. A father will lay awake in bed at night thinking about his children. He would go to the ends of the earth and give all he had to make sure his kids are provided for. If our earthly fathers love us this much, how much more does our Heavenly Father love us?

Your Heavenly Father wants to supply all your needs and it is not His plan for you to be full of anxiety or weighed down with worry. God bankrupted heaven for us when He sent His only son, that through faith in Christ, we would not only have eternal life with Him but also have the right to become His children. If God loves us that much, do we seriously think He is not going to take care of us?

When a thought like that enters your mind, just know that it is the world trying to separate you from your relationship with your Father. Don’t let the obstacles and troubles of this world separate you from the rich inheritance that He has in store for you. God’s love for us is perfect and so is His provision. It was His grace that saved us from our sinful nature and it’s by His grace that we will live. He’s your eternal dad and He loves you very much. All He has is yours.

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Forget about it

Ephesians 4:31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.

Revenge is never worth it. Holding a grudge does nothing to help anyone. Bitterness is a cancer that eats away at the soul. God wants so much more for your life.

Paul’s letter to the Ephesians deals mostly with unity within the body of believers, so it’s important to note that this refers to forgiving those who are our brothers and sisters in the Lord’s family. When we don’t forgive our own church family we can’t live the lives that God intends for us. The Church can’t function as it’s supposed to when we live with anger and bitterness towards someone.

Forgiveness, though, is a cure for many of the faults within the Church. Letting go of the hurts we hold on to brings healing that can release all of us from the shackles that we find ourselves in. Jesus didn’t die for our forgiveness just so that we can refuse to show the same grace to the people God’s placed around us. Forget about it. Let it go. Love those who have hurt you and pray for them – and yourself.

Equipping believers to follow Christ and make Him known