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Archive for the ‘Holy Spirit’ Category

Too Overwhelmed To Pray

SOURCE:  Jenny-Lyn de Klerk

Your Helper in Prayer: Spurgeon on the Holy Spirit

When I think of Charles Spurgeon, my mind goes to one story before anything else. I once heard that when Spurgeon’s depression flared, his wife Susanna propped him up and pushed him back into his chair so he could continue working. I was so taken aback by my imagining of this scene — it made me think about all of the times me and the other women in my family had been that low in depression. Spurgeon’s weakness ran much deeper than work-related stress, and was not just a symptom of physical exhaustion.

This kind of weakness is hard to overcome. Spurgeon touches on this deep weakness in his explanation of the Holy Spirit’s help in prayer. The reason the Father gives us his Spirit to help us pray is because we are weak; we don’t know how to pray properly, we often don’t feel like praying, and we struggle to put our worst life pains into words.

Spurgeon brings out the beauty of this doctrine by explaining that God is not angry because of our failures in prayer, but has compassion on us as his children. Instead of acting the disinterested King who says, “if you do not have grace enough even to ask properly, I will shut the gates of mercy against you,” God says, “I will write out your petition for you, I will put it into proper words and use fitting phrases so that your petition shall be framed acceptable.”

“If you cannot put two words together in common speech to men, yet [the Holy Spirit] will help you to speak with God; ah! and if at the mercy seat you fail in words, you shall not fail in reality, for your heart shall conquer. God…never reads our petitions according to the outward utterance, but according to the inward groaning. He notices the longing, the desiring, the sighing, the crying…

God knows our needs without hearing words, like a mother knows the needs of her baby when it “makes very odd and objectionable noises, combined with signs and movements, which are almost meaningless to stranger” but are understood by the mother who “comprehends incomprehensible noises.” If that were not intimate enough, the Spirit even claims our groanings “as his own particular creation.”

Prayer is for your own benefit and comfort—it’s an “outlet for grief” and a “lotion” to “bathe our wound in.” Rely on the Spirit to help you know what to say in prayer, and in the worst times, when you do not have the words or the strength to say anything, know that the Spirit is propping you back up into your chair so you can press on.

The Basics for Living a Meaningful, Balanced, and Godly Life

SOURCE:  Dr. Bill Bellican

(1) The most important decision in life is the one made by you concerning Jesus Christ.

God has said that everyone who sins must pay the penalty for his/her sins, and there is no one, including you, who is righteous and free from sin. There is no payment you can possibly make, nor nothing that you could do that would satisfy a Holy and Just God. The penalty or payment due for your sin is eternal death and separation from God – forever.

The only hope you have is to recognize you are a lost, helpless sinner before God, be genuinely sorrowful, and ask God for forgiveness. Then you must realize that God loves you so much that He planned and provided for you a once-for-all-time opportunity to accept His forgiveness, His free gift of eternal life, and adoption into His family.

You do this by believing in and accepting the Son of God, Jesus Christ, as your personal Savior and Lord of your life. Jesus, being the sinless and perfect God-Man, willingly took upon Himself your penalty for sin (as your substitute) thereby completely satisfying God’s righteous-holy wrath against you. Jesus died actually to pay for your every personal sin – past, present, future. Jesus was resurrected from the dead which showed God’s approval and acceptance for what He did for you.

After you have accepted Jesus as your Savior and Lord and, as a result, are eternally saved and now are in a “forever relationship” with God, there are some important next steps to begin growth and maturity in Christ:  (a) be water-baptized – an outward sign of the inward cleansing you have received; (b) become active in worshipping God in a Christ-centered church; (c) daily, call upon Jesus for the filling of the Holy Spirit, strength, guidance, and empowerment to live as He requires in the following key areas, which will lead to a Meaningful, Balanced, and Godly life:

(2) Love the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. Love your (spouse/others) as you love yourself.

(3) Seek to know God, His Ways, and His Word before anything else – even more than desiring solutions to your problems. Trust that the Lord knows you and your needs better than you do.

(4) Seek knowledge, wisdom, and understanding from the Holy Spirit.

(5) Invite the Holy Spirit to totally empower and control you moment by moment, hour by hour, day by day.

(6) Pray continually. Meditate and fast. Seek to be joyful/content always, giving thanks for God’s loving control in sending or allowing all circumstances in your life. Choose to believe in God’s goodness no matter what the circumstances.

(7) Choose to forgive others as Christ has forgiven you. Continually ask Christ for forgiveness of your daily sins He makes you aware of. By faith, receive and give thanks for His forgiveness.

(8) Think of others as better than yourself. Do nothing out of selfish ambition/pride. Hate what is evil. Cling to what is good.

(9) Excel in the grace of giving – time, money, and devotion/worship to God. Allow yourself to be a living sacrifice to God.

(10) Clothe yourself with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Think about whatever is pure, lovely, admirable, good. Avoid anger, rage, filthy language, sexual immorality, evil desires, greed.

(11) Mutually submit to each other. Husband-love your wife as yourself and even sacrificially as Christ loved you enough to suffer and die for you. Wife-respect and submit to the position your husband has been placed in just as Christ submits to the Father. Parent-be reasonable in your love and discipline toward your child(ren) – avoid extremes. You must honor and respect all those in authority over you as well as those who are under you.

(12) Bless and pray for any that mistreat you. Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. Allow love to cover many shortcomings of others. Do not repay evil for evil. Let God repay as He determines.

(13) Trust in the Lord always; Do not depend on your own understanding; acknowledge Him in everything and all circumstances. Realize your powerlessness to face any issue, and look only to God for guidance, help, and hope.

(14) Choose Life over Death (right over wrong) in every life situation. Trust God to bring your choice about and make it happen. Realize the Lord is your life.

(15) Seek to live and act holy just as God is holy. Seek to fear/honor/respect God and keep His commandments. Don’t grow weary in doing good.

Reference Notes

1) Joel 2:32. Mt. 16:16. Lk. 1:77-78. Jn. 3:16-18, 36; 5:24; 6:29, 40; 8:24; 14:6; 20:31. Acts 2:21, 38; 4:12; 10:43; 13:39; 15:11; 16:31; 22:16; 26:18. Rom. 3:10-12, 20, 22-26; 4:22- 25; 5:1, 6, 8; 6:9-10; 8:1-2, 24a; 10:9-10, 13. 2 Cor. 5:21; 7:10. Gal. 2:15-16; 3:13-14. Eph. 1:3-8; 2:8-9. Col. 1:21-22; 2:13-14. 2 Thess. 1:8-9. 1 Tim. 2:3-6. 2 Tim. 1:9-10; 3:15. Tit. 3:5-8. Heb. 5:8; 9:12, 22; 7:25-27; 10:10, 25. 1 Pet. 3:18. 1 Jn.3:1a; 4:9-10; 5:1, 11-12, 17.

2) Deut. 6:5; 10:12-13. Mt. 10:37-39; 22:36-40. Mk. 12:30-31. Rom. 13:8-10; 1 Cor. 13:4-8.

3) Job 28:24. Ps. 119:11, 168. Mt. 6:8, 25-33; Lk. 12:31. Rom. 8:26-27. Eph. 3:16-19; 5:10, 17. 2 Pet. 3:3-8.

4) Prov. 2:6, 13-15; 8:10; 16:16. Col. 1:9-12; 2:2-3. Jas. 1:5.

5) Jn. 16:13. Rom. 8:26-27. Eph. 5:18.

6) Job 42:1-2. Ps. 119:68; 136:1. Eccles. 12:14. Mt. 6:17-18; 7:7-8; 17:21. Rom. 8:28; 12:12. Eph. 3:12. Phil. 4:4-7, 11-13, 19. Col. 4:2. 1 Thess. 5:16-18. 1 Tim. 6:6-10. Jas. 5:11. Heb. 13:5. I Pet. 5:6-7. Ps. 119:48, 78, 97.

7) Ps. 103:1-5. Mic. 7:18-19. Mt. 6:9-14. Lk. 11:4a. Eph. 4:30, 32. Col. 3:13-14. Heb. 12:15. 1 Jn. 1:9-10.

8) Rom. 12:3, 9. Gal. 6:3-5. Eph. 4:31. Phil. 2:3. Col. 3:1-10. 1 Thess. 5:21-22. 2 Tim. 2:22. Jas. 4:7-8a.

9) Rom. 12:1. 2 Cor. 7: 16b; 8:7; 9:6-15.

10) Gal. 5:22-23. Eph. 4:2. Phil. 4:8. Col. 3:2, 5, 8, 12.

11) Eph. 5:21-6:9. Col. 3:18-4:1. Heb. 13:17. 1 Pet. 1:13, 18; 3:1-8.

12) Mt. 5:44. Rom. 12:14, 17-21. 2 Thess. 1:6-7a. 2 Tim. 4:14. Jas. 1:19. 1 Pet. 3:9; 4:8.

13) 2 Chron. 20:12, 15. Job 41:11b. Prov. 3:5-6. Ezek. 37:1-14. Dan. 3:16-18. Hab. 3:17-19. Jn. 5:16-18. Rom. 15:13. 2 Cor. 12:9, 10b. Gal. 2:20; 3:3; 5:16-18. Heb. 4:7-8.

14) Deut. 6:18; 30:11-20. Eph. 1:11b. Phil. 2:12-13. Heb. 13:20-21.

15) Lev. 19:2. Eccles. 12:13. Is. 40:28-31. Mt. 5:48. 2 Cor. 13:11a. Gal. 6:9. Eph. 5:1-2. Phil. 1:9-11. 2 Thess. 3:13. Heb. 12:14. 1 Pet. 1:15.

Praying in the SPIRIT

SOURCE:  Scotty Smith/The Gospel Coalition

A Prayer for Praying in the Spirit

Pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints. Ephesians 6:18

Heavenly Father,

How we praise you for the gift of the Holy Spirit—who has marked us as yours and who makes us like Jesus. What comfort, assurance and peace we have in knowing that nothing can separate us from your love; nothing will disconnect us from your will; nothing is left up to chance. You will bring to completion the good work you have begun in us and in your world—and you will do so by the power and presence of your Spirit. For so glorious a gospel, so grand a salvation, and so great a hope, we worship and adore you.

As we lean into this day, we gladly give ourselves to the work of your Spirit in us and through us—in particular, our calling to “pray in the Spirit.” We would surely despair if we had to pray in the smallness of our strength, or on the basis of our godliness, or by the limitations of our perspective.

So Father, in the name of Jesus, by the power of the Spirit, for the revealing of your glory, we bring our prayers and requests to you. Do exceedingly beyond all we can ask or imagine. Startle us with your faithfulness. Shock us with your goodness. Astonish us by your generosity. We won’t mind being embarrassed by our lack of faith if it will highlight the greatness of your love.

We bring you our children and the children of our friends. Make the gospel beautiful and believable to them, Father. May we neither despair of our failures nor rely on our parenting for their salvation. Capture them and free them for your purposes and praise.

We bring you our churches. Bring renewal, bring restoration of first love, bring deep repentance. Free us from our boring ingrown-ness, our paralyzing pettiness, and our predictable sameness. Stir us up, shake us up, and send us out. Make us like gospel fountains, for our cities and communities.

We bring you our friends. Wounded hearts, broken marriages, strained relationships, depleted finances, destructive addictions, failing health… Holy Spirit, bring your resurrection power to bear. Work miracles in our midst, for the fame of Jesus and the glory of God.

We bring you ourselves. Nobody needs the gospel more than us, more than me, Father. Gentle us, refresh us… let us hear you again, singing over us in Jesus; let us experience your great and transforming delight; quiet our restless hearts with your irrepressible love. So very Amen we pray, in the Spirit and in Jesus’ name.

Partial Conversion + A Little Gospel = A Dangerous Thing

SOURCE:  D. A. Carson/The Gospel Coalition

Exodus 8Luke 11Job 25 – 261 Corinthians 12 

ONE OF THE MOST STRIKING PICTURES of what might be called a “partial conversion” is found in Luke 11:24-26. Jesus teaches that when an evil spirit comes out of someone, it “goes through arid places seeking rest ant does not find it” – apparently looking for some new person in whom to take up residence. Then the spirit contemplates returning to its previous abode. A reconnoiter finds the former residence surprisingly vacant. The spirit rounds up seven cronies who are even more vile, “and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that man is worse than the first.”

Apparently the man who has been exorcised of the evil spirit never replaced that spirit with anything else. The Holy Spirit did not take up residence in his life; the man simply remained vacant, as it were.

There are three lessons to learn.

First, “partial conversions” are all too common. A person gets partially cleaned up. He or she is drawn close enough to the Gospel and to the people of God that there is some sort of turning away from godlessness, a preliminary infatuation with holiness, an attraction toward righteousness. But like the person represented by rocky soil in the parable of the sower and the soils (8:4-15), this person may initially seem to be the best of the crop, and yet not endure. There has never been the kind of conversion that spells the takeover of an individual by the living God, a reorientation tied to genuine repentance and enduring faith.

The second lesson follows: a little Gospel is a dangerous thing. It gets people to think well of themselves, to sigh with relief that the worst evils have been dissipated, to enjoy a nice sense of belonging. But if a person is not truly justified, regenerated, and transferred from the kingdom of darkness and into the kingdom of God’s dear Son, the dollop of religion may serve as little more than an inoculation against the real thing.

The third lesson is inferential. This passage is thematically tied to another large strand of Scripture. Evil cannot simply be opposed – that is, it is never enough simply to fight evil, to cast out a demon. Evil must be replaced by good, the evil spirit by the Holy Spirit. We must “overcome evil with good” (Rom. 12:21).

For instance, it is difficult to overcome bitterness against someone by simply resolving to stop being bitter; one must replace bitterness by genuine forgiveness and love for that person. It is difficult to overcome greed by simply resolving not to be quite so materialistic; one must fasten one’s affections on better treasure (cf. Luke 12:13-21) and learn to be wonderfully and self-sacrificially generous. Overcome evil with good.


Article printed from For the Love of God: http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/loveofgod

“How can I know what Jesus wants me to do? If I knew – I would do it!”

SOURCE:  Taken from an article by Tim Clinton/American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC)

Doing What He Says

Too often, the thought that echoes through the corridors of our minds is, “How can I know what Jesus wants me to do? If I knew – I would do it!”

You can know.

God has given us three wonderful gifts in this “following Christ” journey:

His Word.

The Psalmist declares that “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (Psalm 119:105 ESV) The Bible will clearly guide you as you “resolve” to do all that Jesus asks. Even Jesus, when faced with temptation, responded with “It is written…”

Spend some time in the gospels – in the “red letters” – the very words of Jesus. Soak in everything He spoke about grace…about forgiveness…about facing challenges…about a relationship with God the Father.

As those words take root in your heart and soul, resolve to follow His guidance, and whatever He says to you, do it.

Holy Spirit.

Jesus gave us the Holy Spirit – our Helper – and promised that “He will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” (John 14:26 ESV) In chapter 16 Jesus added “He (Holy Spirit) will guide you into all the truth” (vs. 13).

Listen and hear what Jesus says to do through the whispers of His Spirit.

Other Believers.

The great Apostle Paul reminded the Philippians “What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me – practice these things…” (Philippians 4:9 ESV) Again in 1 Corinthians 11:1 Paul admonishes, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” (ESV)

You are who you spend time with.

Each one of us need spiritual leaders and “coaches” in our lives from whom we hear and see and learn and receive guidance in doing what Jesus says.

Know the Father; Seek the Son; Don’t forget the Spirit

Source:  Charles Spurgeon/TolleLege

“The Trinity” by Charles Spurgeon

“Endeavor to know the Father. Approach Him in deep repentance, and confess that you are not worthy to be called His son; receive the kiss of His love; let the ring that is the token of His eternal faithfulness be on your finger; sit at His table and let your heart rejoice in His grace.

Then press forward and seek to know much of the Son of God who although He is the brightness of His Father’s glory humbled Himself and became man for our sakes. Know Him in the singular complexity of His nature: eternal God, and yet suffering, finite man; follow Him as He walks the waters with the tread of deity, and as He sits down at the well tired in the weariness of humanity. Do not be satisfied unless you know much of Jesus Christ as your Friend, your Brother, your Husband, your all.

Do not forget the Holy Spirit. Endeavor to obtain a clear view of His nature and character, His attributes, and His works. Behold the Spirit of the Lord, who first of all moved upon chaos and brought forth order, who now visits the chaos of your soul and creates the order of holiness. Behold Him as the Lord and giver of spiritual life, the Illuminator, the Instructor, the Comforter, and the Sanctifier. Behold Him as He descends upon the head of Jesus, and then as He rests upon you.

Such an intelligent, scriptural, and experiential belief in the Trinity is yours if you truly know God; and such knowledge brings peace indeed.”

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–Charles Spurgeon, “May 8 — Evening” in Morning and Evening (Geanies House, Fearn, Scotland, UK: Christian Focus, 1994), 275.

Taking the Initiative Against Depression

SOURCE:  Oswald Chambers

 Arise and eat—1 Kings 19:5

The angel in this passage did not give Elijah a vision, or explain the Scriptures to him, or do anything remarkable. He simply told Elijah to do a very ordinary thing, that is, to get up and eat.

If we were never depressed, we would not be alive—only material things don’t suffer depression. If human beings were not capable of depression, we would have no capacity for happiness and exaltation. There are things in life that are designed to depress us; for example, things that are associated with death. Whenever you examine yourself, always take into account your capacity for depression.

When the Spirit of God comes to us, He does not give us glorious visions, but He tells us to do the most ordinary things imaginable.

Depression tends to turn us away from the everyday things of God’s creation. But whenever God steps in, His inspiration is to do the most natural, simple things-things we would never have imagined God was in, but as we do them we find Him there.

The inspiration that comes to us in this way is an initiative against depression.

But we must take the first step and do it in the inspiration of God. If, however, we do something simply to overcome our depression, we will only deepen it. But when the Spirit of God leads us instinctively to do something, the moment we do it, the depression is gone. As soon as we arise and obey, we enter a higher plane of life.

I Can’t Pray — But I Can Look At The Promises

SOURCE:  Richard Sibbes/Tolle Lege

“Look at the promises”

“A Christian complains he cannot pray. ‘Oh, I am troubled with so many distracting thoughts, and never more than now!’

But has He put into your heart a desire to pray? Then He will hear the desires of His own Spirit in you.

‘We know not what we should pray for as we ought’ (nor how to do anything else as we ought), but the Spirit helps our infirmities with ‘groanings which cannot be uttered’ (Rom. 8:26), which are not hid from God. ’My groaning is not hid from thee’ (Psa. 38:9).

God can pick sense out of a confused prayer. These desires cry louder in His ears than your sins. Sometimes a Christian has such confused thoughts that he can say nothing but, as a child, cries ‘O Father,’ not able to express what he needs, like Moses at the Red Sea.

These stirrings of spirit touch the heart of God and melt Him into compassion towards us, when they come from the Spirit of adoption, and from a striving to be better.

‘Oh, but is it possible,’ thinks the misgiving heart, ‘that so holy a God should accept such a prayer?’ Yes, He will accept that which is His own, and pardon that which is ours. Jonah prayed in the fish’s belly (Jon. 2:1), being burdened with the guilt of sin, yet God heard him.

Let not, therefore infirmities discourage us. James takes away this objection (James 5:17). Some might object, ‘If I were as holy as Elijah, then my prayers might be regarded.’ ‘But,’ says he, ‘Elijah was a man subject to like passions as we are.’ He had his passions as well as we, or do we think that God heard him because he was without fault? Surely not.

But look at the promises: ‘Call upon Me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee’ (Psa. 50:15). ‘Ask, and it shall be given you’ (Matt. 7:7) and other like these.

God accepts our prayers, though weak, because we are His own children, and they come from His own Spirit, because they are according to His own will, and because they are offered in Christ’s mediation, and He takes them, and mingles them with His own incense (Rev. 8:3).

There is never a holy sigh, never a tear we shed, which is lost. And as every grace increases by exercise of itself, so does the grace of prayer. By prayer we learn to pray. So, likewise, we should take heed of a spirit of discouragement in all other holy duties, since we have so gracious a Saviour.

Pray as we are able, hear as we are able, strive as we are able, do as we are able, according to the measure of grace received. God in Christ will cast a gracious eye upon that which is His own.”

–Richard Sibbes, The Bruised Reed (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1630/1998), 50-51.

Suffering Together

SOURCE:  Jerusha Ann Clark

Allowing pain to nourish your marriage

I’m not sure how long Jeramy and I sat in the hospital parking lot. It might have been fifteen minutes; it could have been forever. The bitter cold of Colorado winter wrapped its arms around our silver Jetta, scattering ice crystals on the windows. Maybe on a different night they would have been beautiful to me.

For me, any response to the world would have been a welcome relief. I hadn’t been able to carry on a normal conversation in weeks. Often Jeramy would catch me staring off into space, but when I “came to,” I could explain neither where I’d been nor what I’d been thinking. As far as I can remember, I only thought, breathed, and lived pain during those hellish days.

St. Stephen’s loomed in the not-so-distant foreground. It was one of those seventies-style concrete hospitals that looks more like a communist tenement than a place of healing. It was a psychiatric hospital.

I had been placed on a 5150, a psychiatric hold for people who are a danger to themselves and others. The social worker who did my intake evaluation told Jeramy that, based on her 20-plus years of experience, I was suffering from the most severe level of postpartum depression possible. At least they let Jeramy drive me from the ER to St. Stephen’s. Still, he had to leave me there—alone. Not until years later did he tell me that he wept for the entire 40-minute drive home.

Neither of us knew what to do. Neither of us felt the comfort the Bible promises for those in pain. Neither of us could pray with any conviction of hope. We knew God was there, but he seemed distantly cold. The pain was wreaking havoc on our marriage.

We were Christian authors, a pastor and pastor’s wife, a couple who wanted to honor God with life and marriage. We were in agony. Up to this point, we didn’t understand what it meant to suffer together, and—to tell you the truth—we didn’t want to learn how to let God walk us through the valley of the shadow of death…together. We would have traded what authors have deemed the “gift of suffering.” And yet we would have missed the very things that have shaped our marriage and ministry in the most powerful ways.

An Era of Pain

It seems as if every marriage is hurting during these difficult times. Several of our closest friends are facing financial ruin. Husbands and wives are looking at one another across the dinner table, wondering how their relationship dissolved into an endless string of loveless, lifeless days. Two couples we’re close to are going through divorce and custody battles. Infertility is robbing those we love of the joy they desperately want to experience. The children of our friends are straining their parents’ marriages with choices to live alternative lifestyles, to cohabitate—seemingly without guilt—to stridently abandon the faith of their youth. The death of loved ones, the news that it’s cancer, teen pregnancy, horrific violence in elementary schools—it’s hitting everyone we know. We live with the constant awareness of deep suffering.

Christians may understand this on an intellectual level: “When troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow” (James 1:2-3). We want to do this. But did anyone ever teach you how to suffer as a couple? Our premarital counseling didn’t address it, and we had the “best of the best” mentoring us. What we’ve come to realize is that the joy of suffering together can be won only by actually suffering together.

Since we fought the battle against postpartum depression, Jeramy and I have faced other pains: a best friend’s betrayal, suffocating challenges at work, confusion about the future of our work and ministry, my diagnosis with fibromyalgia, the murder of a family member. Life overflows with pain, doesn’t it? But what we’ve learned about suffering together has changed the way we face pain.

We choose—though we don’t always do it well—to let suffering together untie us and bless others.

The Hidden Invitations in Suffering

Although most of us have figured out there’s no perfect, one-size-fits-all formula for how to suffer with our spouses, we also know that our Father gave something far better—his Holy Spirit, the Comforter, God’s indwelling presence to guide and guard. The Spirit who walks alongside us picks us up when we stumble and screw things up and ache from the consequences of our sin or the awful, uncontrollable circumstances we never could have planned for.

The Spirit who guides us directs tenderly and compassionately. Suffering is an invitation to know the Spirit on a level more preciously intimate and real. Do you desire this? Will you walk with your spouse through pain to experience it?

Suffering together produces fellowship with Jesus, God the Son, who agonized here and understands well our pain. I love The message translation of Hebrews 4:15-16: “We don’t have a priest who is out of touch with our reality. He’s been through weakness and testing, experienced it all—all but the sin. So let’s walk right up to him and get what he is so ready to give. Take the mercy, accept the help.” His mercy is there for you and your spouse. Do you ache for it? Will you reach out for it together? Jeramy and I have had to choose this. It hasn’t happened naturally. Every one of the pains we’ve faced together has extended us two invitations: draw close to one another through Jesus or allow the wedge of anguish to drive us apart.

Suffering together is likewise an invitation to know the character of God the Father, not as a list of Sunday-school attributes, but as the very life and breath of our marriage. Grace, peace, hope, goodness, faithfulness—these are not resources God metes out. They are the incarnation of his person within us. Love isn’t merely a characteristic of God; it is the very essence of his power and presence, pouring himself into you and through you to your spouse.

I realize that very few of us would opt to know God through the agony of suffering. But as A.W. Pink wrote, the truth is “the promises of God never shine as brightly as in the furnace of affliction.” You and your spouse, suffering together, can know the truth of who God is in a way that would not have been possible on a road unmarked with pain.

But how do we do that?

Okay, so we don’t have a formula. We’re invited to know God on a deeper level. But how do we walk—day by day—through the pain?

Jeramy and I, not only in our battle with postpartum depression, but also in the anguish of various broken dreams, unmet expectations, and delayed hopes, have discovered some practical helps for suffering together. Perhaps these three will encourage you.

1. Offer one another the gift of presence. Suffering often drives couples apart, and it’s far easier to stay a few extra hours at work than come home to a house in chaos, a house filled with pain. It’s easier to check out emotionally than to talk to one another about what you’re facing. But, just as Emmanuel— the God with us—models, we are called to be present to and for one another.

The Greek verb tense used in Galatians 6:2, “Share each other’s burdens,” might be better translated “Keep onsharing one another’s burdens.” You can share in carrying the burden only if you are present with one another.

It takes so little…holding her hand, speaking a word of respect to him, offering to serve in a way that enlivens and unites the two of you. I remember the night Jeramy came home from Wal-Mart with two movies I loved as a kid: The Three Amigos and Ghostbusters. All we did was sit on the couch together and watch. I could barely laugh. I’m not even sure—to this day—what Jeramy was thinking. But he was next to me; he spoke love to me without words. He was present with me.

After I was physically and mentally stable, Jeramy needed to work through anger, resentment, and confusion about what we’d gone through. I listened, trying as far as I was able to be present with him.

2. Choose to press in. All of us would like to end our suffering right away. Who wants to prolong pain? Often, we think that rushing through the valley of the shadow would be best for everyone involved. Instead of trying to escape or just “get through this,” what if you pressed into what the pain says about you, your spouse, your marriage, and your God?

Jeramy and I went through months of therapy—together and individually. During one of the sessions, my counselor asked that I read Matthew 5:4 aloud. “God blesses those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” I parroted the words, not feeling blessed in the slightest. She asked me what the verse meant. Seriously? I thought. I just got out of a psychiatric hospital. You want me to exegete Scripture? I looked at the words again, and it hit me with ferocity. Tears of illumination burned in my eyes. “I have to go through the mourning to get the comfort, don’t I?” Yes. Yes. We cannot escape the pain, but we can allow it to lead us further up and further in.

It didn’t happen all at once, but slowly, as Jeramy and I pressed into the pain rather than avoiding it, we found that we were not alone there. Jesus was with us and we experienced it, not just “knew it.” And as we grew in intimacy with Christ, we grew in intimacy with one another.

3. Remember the days of your suffering. Over the years, Lamentations 3 has become a beloved passage of Scripture for Jeramy and me. This portion of God’s Word is most famous for its declaration that “Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning” (Verse 23).

Perhaps it’s been a while since you read what comes before and after this beautiful assurance. In verse 1, the prophet Jeremiah wails, “I am the one who has seen the afflictions that come from the rod of the LORD’s anger.” You do not need to bury the memory of your suffering. Indeed, you cannot. The memory of his anguish was what allowed Jeremiah to shout, “Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this: The faithful love of the LORD never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness” (21-23).

This can be your experience, too. As you and your spouse allow the memory of your pain to nourish your marriage and spill out of your relationship into the lives of those around you, you will be able to help others see “No one is abandoned by the Lord forever. Though he brings grief, he also shows compassion because of the greatness of his unfailing love. For he does not enjoy hurting people or causing them sorrow” (Lamentations 3:31-33).

Perhaps it’s difficult for you to imagine exactly how remembering your suffering as a couple can help anyone else. Here are a couple of ways that has worked in our marriage. Together, we actively remember significant dates. We choose to recall the day I was admitted to the hospital. We remember the moments in therapy—individual and couples—when God broke through our suffering in order to heal. We don’t try to erase those memories. We embrace them as ways to recall God’s faithfulness.

Letting God use your memory and your openness isn’t always easy. But it is true and good and beautiful. And, as is so often the case, allowing God to use us becomes every bit as significant a blessing and source of healing for us as it is for those we desire to bless. Picture this for a moment: how different might the world be if all of our marriages proclaimed the truth that pain can heal, can unite, can be transformed into praise, can bless the body of Christ, wounded in so many ways?

Our hope as a couple, and my prayer through these words you’ve read, is that God will comfort your marriage with the comfort he has given ours.

Indeed, in everything we can choose to say, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).

May it be so, Lord, for Jeramy and me and for my brothers and sisters.

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Jerusha Ann Clark is a writer who lives in Escondido, California. She is the author of several books including The Life You Crave: The Promise of Discernment.

The Reality of the Holy Spirit

SOURCE:  Charles Spurgeon

You tell the worldling, “I have the Holy Ghost within me.” He says, “I cannot see it.” He wants it to be something tangible–a thing he can recognize with his senses.

Have you ever heard the argument used by a good old Christian against an infidel doctor?

The doctor said there was no soul, and asked, “Did you ever see a soul?” “No,” said the Christian. “Did you ever hear a soul?” “No.” “Did you ever smell a soul?” “No.” “Did you ever taste a soul?” “No.” “Did you ever feel a soul?” “Yes,” said the man–”I feel I have one within me.” “Well,” said the doctor, “there are four senses against one; you only have one on your side.”

“Very well,” said the Christian, “Did you ever see a pain?” “No.” “Did you ever hear a pain?” “No.” “Did you ever smell a pain?” “No.” “Did you ever taste a pain?” “No.” “Did you ever feel a pain?” “Yes.” “And that is quite enough, I suppose, to prove there is a pain?” “Yes.”

So the worldling says there is no Holy Ghost, because he cannot see it. Well, but we feel it. You say that is fanaticism, and that we never felt it. Suppose you tell me that honey is bitter, I reply, “No, I am sure you cannot have tasted it; taste it and try.” So with the Holy Ghost; if you did but feel his influence, you would no longer say there is no Holy Spirit, because you cannot see it.

Are there not many things, even in nature, which we cannot see? Did you ever see the wind? No; but ye know there is wind, when you behold the hurricane tossing the waves about, and rending down the habitations of men; or when, in the soft evening zephyr, it kisses the flowers, and maketh dew-drops hang in pearly coronets around the rose.

Did ye ever see electricity? No; but ye know there is such a thing, for it travels along the wires for thousands of miles, and carries our messages; though you cannot see the thing itself, you know there is such a thing.

So you must believe there is a Holy Ghost working in us, both to will and to do, even though it is beyond our senses.

~Charles Spurgeon~

Spurgeon’s Sermons Vol. 1 (Southwark, England; New Park Street Chapel, 1855) No. 4; A Sermon titled: The Personality of the Holy Ghost. Delivered on Sabbath Morning, January 21, 1855

Basic Steps to Being Filled with the HOLY SPIRIT

SOURCE:  Excerpted from Disciplines Of The Holy Spirit by Siang-Yang Tan and Douglas Gregg

“Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. . .” (Ephesians 5:18, NIV)

Although there is no “text-book formula” to being (continually) filled with the Holy Spirit, Scripture does shape a process that we can naturally follow to enter in this deeper aspect of our relationship with God through Christ. The following is excerpted from Disciplines of the Holy Spirit by Siang-Yang Tan and Douglas Gregg:

Do you want everything God has for you? Are you ready to be filled – empowered, released, guided, and controlled – by the Holy Spirit? Are you eager to experience the abundant and fruitful life that Jesus promised to each of his followers? If so, then you are ready!

*Stop and realize that your sincere desire to be filled, directed, empowered, and controlled by the Holy Spirit is itself the first step. Thank God that he has been at work to create this desire in you and that he is willing to give you more of his Spirit.

*Now confess any sin that you are aware of, thank God that in Jesus he has forgiven all your sins. Receive his promised forgiveness, and surrender every part of your life to God.

*Ask to be filled with the Holy Spirit in obedience to his command to “be filled with the Spirit” (Eph. 5:18).

*Don’t be disappointed if nothing dramatic seems to happen. Expect that great things will happen, in God’s timing. He knows you best – where you are and what you need and how best to work to bring abundant blessing to you and through you to others. Sometimes dramatic things will happen! Praise God for his work. Thank God for this great adventure in Christian living that he has called each of us into.

Below is an example of the kind of prayer to pray on a daily basis (in your own words):

“Dear Father, thank you for your love for me. I want to confess my sins to you as specifically as possible. [Guided by the Spirit, confess specific sins.]

I am sorry for grieving you. I know I have hurt you by doing things that are wrong and that displease you. I thank you that by the blood of Jesus Christ I can now receive your forgiveness and cleansing.

I want to yield to you every area of my life, including those areas where I might have strayed, and I do so now. [Let the Spirit guide you to surrender anything in question.]

I pray, in the name of Jesus, that you will fill me with the presence and power of the Holy Spirit, that you will enable me today to become more like Jesus and to do what will glorify you, touch lives, and bring people closer to you. I commit to you all the events of this day. I ask that you will glorify yourself through me today and draw me closer to you.

Thank you, Lord. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.”

Has Life Knocked the Song Out of You?

Source:  Adapted from an article by Dr. Robert Kellemen

[Recently], our pastor shared the apparently true story of Chirpy the parakeet. Chirpy is the stuff with which legends are made.

Chirpy the Parakeet

A lonely woman bought Chirpy, and he brought song and beauty into her life. One day, while vacuuming, she thought, “Chirpy’s cage is dirty. I think I’ll vacuum it.”

Then the phone rang. As she reached for the phone, she inadvertently lifted the vacuum hose, and it sucked Chirpy inside, all the way down the tube and into the bag.

The woman tore open the bag and dug and dug till finally she found Chirpy! Alive, but a mess! So she jammed him under a faucet and ran water all over him. But then he was wet, so she turned a blow dryer on him!

Surviving, but Not Thriving

A reporter asked later, “How’s Chirpy doing?”

The woman replied, “Well, he doesn’t sing anymore! He just sits on his perch and stares straight ahead.”

Sucked in, washed up, and blown over!? That’s enough to steal the song from even the stoutest heart!

Can you relate? Has life sucked you into a black hole and sucked the song out of your soul? Are you stunned, sitting, and staring? Surviving but not thriving?

Who Puts the Song in Your Soul?

Our pastor shared Chirpy’s story as an introduction to a message on Ephesians 5:18-20.

“Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Work your way backwards in this paragraph to learn how to move from just surviving to thriving.

We’re told to always give thanks for everything to God the Father.

We’re further told to sing and make music in our hearts.

We’re further told to speak to one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.

These words are written by Paul, for whom this was not pie-in-the-sky dribble but real life reality—he could sing while jailed, sing while persecuted, sing while deserted by everyone.

By the way, this does not mean in Paul’s life, or in ours, that we can’t feel and express the pain. For this same Paul said:

“We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead” (2 Cor. 1:8-9).

From Surviving to Thriving

How did Paul, how can we, sing when the vacuum cleaner of life seeks to vacuum out our joy?

Let’s keep tracking our way back through the passages.

Be filled with the Spirit.

In self alone, at best we survive. In self alone, in our hearts we feel the sentence of death, we despair of life, when life puts us under great pressure far beyond our own ability to endure.

But as we cling to, depend upon, and are filled with the Spirit, we learn not to rely upon ourselves but to rely upon God who raises the dead. It is God our Father through the Holy Spirit who resurrects the song in our soul, who empowers us to move from surviving to thriving.

Releasing the Holy Spirit’s Power

Editor’s Note:  Attachment to anything that turns into a life-controlling problem (or addiction) and becomes idolized brings slavery and not the freedom God intended for us to be able to freely love Him.  It is through the lifelong practice of surrendering to the presence and power of the Holy Spirit that we find the grace and ability to be liberated from addiction — any controlling thought, attitude, behavior, relationship contrary to God’s will for us to become like Christ.  

SOURCE:  Charles Stanley

Romans 8:26-27

The Holy Spirit indwells believers at salvation, which means His power is available from that moment (Eph. 1:13). God created a simple way for us to access that strength every single day.

First, we must accept the truth that within ourselves, we are powerless to live out God’s will. No matter how capable we may be, our own strength and wisdom are insufficient. Sometimes Christians get proud over the good they have done or the number of years they’ve been saved. Imagine how much more we could serve the Lord if we would humbly get out of God’s way and let Him work through us.

Second, we surrender our entire life to the guidance and governing of the Holy Spirit. In other words, we choose to conduct our spiritual walk—as well as our vocation, finances, family, and relationships—as God desires. His Spirit is not going to release supernatural power into a life that is continuing in rebellion.

Third, we exercise faith, which means demonstrating belief and trust in the Lord. Faith is the “switch” that releases the Spirit’s power. It’s like saying, “I believe You’ve got a plan, God, so I’m going to trust You to give me what I need in order to do Your will.” Then He will move heaven and earth to provide for your need, whatever it may be.

Merely memorizing and reviewing the steps isn’t enough. Instead, commit to these principles as a way of life. Get used to thinking, I can’t but God can— I’ll submit to His will because His plans are for my good and His glory. That’s the kind of life that surges with the Holy Spirit’s power.

Are “Inner Voices” Real? Yes!

SOURCE:  Adapted from an article by Radio Bible Class

“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” John 10:27

Hearing voices has to be the most haunting of all the mental disorders. After all, which voice do you listen to? Talk about massive confusion! But before you think that you are among the blessed ones who don’t hear voices, think again. Today will be full of voices that compete for a piece of your life. Your boss, your spouse, your children, close friends, advertisements, and talk shows all will bombard your psyche with conflicting advice or demands.

It’s not just the voices on the outside. No matter how sane you think you are, we all have inner voices that compete for control; voices that are not always positive. I confess to hearing the compelling whispers of the dark side of my heart on a regular basis. Whispers that advise and plan ways for me to live for my own advantage. Whispers that convincingly argue that a life lived by the lure of my desires is life at its best. Whispers that tell me I am clever enough not to get caught, that nobody is perfect, that God understands my weakness and will forgive me. Tell me that I am not alone and that you can identify!

I have learned that when those kinds of inner voices dominate, I often look back in regret and shame for letting them grab the control levers of my life. They promise me life at its best but consistently leave me empty, disappointed, guilty and embarrassed.

That’s why I am forever grateful that there is a voice within that I can trust. A single voice that puts all the other voices into perspective. A voice that speaks wisdom clearly and confidently. A voice that has my best interest in mind and wants to lead me to life at its best.

Over the years as I have followed the advice and counsel of that voice, I have never been disappointed. It hasn’t always been easy advice, and sometimes it hasn’t made a lot of sense—like telling me that I should forgive someone who has hurt me or that I need to die to myself—but it has reliably been the right advice.

It’s the voice of Jesus. When you get on line in your heart to hear His voice and His alone, you will be liberated from the conflicting voices that in the end you really can’t trust. Thankfully, He has given you all the equipment you need. Talk about high tech! The indwelling Holy Spirit actually lives within you to decode God’s Word as you read it. He speaks to your mind, heart, and conscience as your eyes scan the lines of the bestselling how-to-live book ever written.

So put the “earbuds” in and tune to the one frequency where you are loved and led to life as God meant it be—life at it’s best!

Remember, His is the only voice you can finally and fully trust. He loves you and died to prove it!

Who is the Holy Spirit?

Source:  Billy Graham

It is impossible to understand the Bible, Christian living, the structure of the church, or our own relationship with God without understanding the Person and work of the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit is not an “it.”  The Holy Spirit is a person.  The Bible says that He is not something. He is Someone.  He is God.

There are three persons in the Trinity—God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit.  The Bible teaches that the Holy Spirit is all-powerful.  We read in Micah 3:8, “I am full of power by the Spirit of the Lord” (NKJV).  The Bible says that God is present everywhere. No matter where we go, He is there. “Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence?” (Psalm 139:7, NKJV).  The Holy Spirit can be in your heart and my heart, and we may live a thousand miles apart.

The Holy Spirit has all knowledge.  The Bible says, “The Spirit seaches all things, even the deep things of God” (1 Corinthians 2:10).  It is the Holy Spirit who teaches us and takes us deeper into God’s truth as we go along in our Christian life.  We are to grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ, but we can grow only by the help of the Holy Spirit.

The moment that we receive Christ as Savior, the Holy Spirit comes to live in our heart. Our Body becomes the temple of the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit helps us live the Christian life.

There is not a person anywhere who can be a Christian without the Holy Spirit.  There is not a person who can follow Christ without the help of the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit sees everything that goes on.  He knows what goes on in our hearts.  He knows what goes on in our minds. Nothing is hidden from Him.

And the Bible says that the Holy Spirit is eternal.  In Hebrews 9:14 we read “the eternal Spirit.”

The Holy Spirit is called holy.  The Bible says, “Be holy, because I am holy” (1 Peter 1:16).  One of the Holy Spirit ministries is to help make us holy.  We ought to be more holy today than we were yesterday.  We should always be conforming more to the image of Jesus Christ, and it is the Holy Spirit who helps us in this growing process.

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