Wobbly Stool – Conclusion

3 legged stool - conclusion

Our key Scripture for this series is found in 2 Corinthians 13:14: “May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

The Holy Spirit in us is one thing, and the Holy Spirit on us is another.

DL Moody

Luke’s Baptism Account

Luke wrote about the baptism of the Holy Spirit. This baptism is something Jesus does rather than the universal imparting of the Holy Spirit that came from Father God (1). Luke’s account (2) is obviously not about the salvation of the Apostles since Jesus had already imparted the Holy Spirit into His disciples (3). What we see is that Jesus was quoting what John the Baptist prophesied at the beginning of Christ’s earthly ministry (4).

The baptism Luke wrote about in Acts is Christ’s baptism of the Holy Spirit. Jesus’ first Holy Spirit baptism was recorded in Acts, chapter 2. This baptism was what John the Baptist prophesied (6) and what DL Moody was referring to for the baptism “on” believers. 

Paul’s Baptism Account

So, we have the universal imparting of the Holy Spirit that Paul wrote about. For all Christians, the Holy Spirit desires our fellowship, leads us into all truth, helps us pray, is the seal of our salvation, and will be with us forever. We can summarize the work that the Holy Spirit does for all believers is this: He guides, comforts, and provides.

The Holy Spirit Brings Power With Him

What if you want more of God? If you feel like your prayers aren’t what they should be, if when you pray with people it seems there’s something lacking, if you know God has a job for you but you don’t know what it is, then ask Jesus for more of the Holy Spirit. Ask Jesus to baptize you as He did the 120 in the upper room (7). Then you can say as Paul said, “What am I to do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind also; I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will sing with my mind also. (8)”

Though Christian men and women have the Holy Spirit dwelling in them, yet He is not dwelling within them in power; in other words, God has a great many sons and daughters without power.

DL Moody

Conclusion

Living for Jesus is an exciting adventure. Thankfully, He provides all we need to do what He desires us to do! That wobbly stool will be rock-steady when we are fully engaged with God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.


References:
1) John 14:16: And I [Jesus] will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever,
2) Acts 1:4–5: And while staying with them he [Jesus] ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”
3) John 20:19, 22 19 On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you…” 22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” 
4) Luke 3:16: “I [John the Baptist] baptize you with water, but he [Jesus] who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He [Jesus] will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”
5) 1 Corinthians 12:12-13: 12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves[a] or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.
6) Acts 19:4-5 4 And Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus.”  5 On hearing this, they were baptized in[a] the name of the Lord Jesus.
7) Acts 1:13-15: 13 And when they had entered, they went up to the upper room, where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot and Judas the son of James.  14 All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers. 15 In those days Peter stood up among the brothers (the company of persons was in all about 120)
8) 1 Corinthians 14:15: “What am I to do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind also; I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will sing with my mind also.

The Ubiquity of His Grace

I’ve written a lot about grace, but today I would like us to look at an additional facet in God’s diadem of grace. This aspect of God is the ubiquity of His grace.

A simple definition of grace is unmerited favor, and that meaning is sufficient for this devotional. We don’t need to dig deeper. For now, let’s consider two words: unmerited and favor.

Nothing Without Grace

If you’ve ever worked for a large company, then you’ve probably sat through job reviews. Your supervisor probably talked about your contribution to the success of the company, and then you were told you would receive an x% increase in your pay based on merit. That meant you deserved your raise because you earned your raise. Likewise, if you were in the Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts, then you’re familiar with merit badges that you deserve for your specific accomplishments.

In our English language, “favor” means many things. I may have injured my right leg so, when walking, I “favor” my right leg, meaning I’m treating it with care. I may do someone a favor by helping them without receiving full payment for my effort. And, we can substitute the word “prefer” with “favor,” as I favor t-shirts to button-downs.

Right now, wherever you are, you are living within God’s grace. Why? Because you can receive nothing from God without it being given by God’s grace, unearned and given because God’s favor is with you. If God ever did anything for you because you earned it, then God would be sharing His glory with you; God doesn’t do that (Isaiah 42:8). 

Our walk with Jesus begins within His grace for “grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” (John 1:17). Let that sink in.

Promises

As believes we harvest God’s promises from God’s Word. Does that mean that we are earning God’s grace? Hardly. We are told to study God’s word (2 Timothy 2:15). As we study, we find God’s promises. We receive answers from God’s promises through faith, by His grace.

Here’s a promise from God for Christians: For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. (Romans 6:14 ) You may ask, “How is Romans 6:14 a promise?” Since grace is unmerited favor, it doesn’t matter what your condition or circumstances are, you still have God’s favor. If by faith, you turn your sin over to God, then this sin will lose its mastery over you. It may take time and effort on your part to recover from the ravages of that sin, but that sin will no longer be your master.

Throne of Grace

In closing our quick survey of the ubiquity of God’s grace, consider this verse from Hebrews 4:16, “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” We find God’s grace in God’s throne in heaven. We see God’s grace as part of the very nature of Jesus. And we know that everything God has ever done for anyone has come by the grace of God.

Isn’t God good!

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A Good Name

man walking past a wall that has the word "good" on it

Do you remember when it was important for a person to have “a good name?” For you youngsters, I don’t mean having a name like Michael or Michell instead for Schweinestall (German for pigsty). No, a good name comes from possessing noble qualities such as being truthful, generous, trustworthy, courageous and so forth.

There are many accounts in the BIble of people that had a good name. One of those is found in Acts 10:22And they said, “Cornelius, a centurion, an upright and God-fearing man, who is well spoken of by the whole Jewish nation, was directed by a holy angel to send for you to come to his house and to hear what you have to say.”

Developing a good name takes years but it can be lost by a single inappropriate moral action. Mess up and to the back of the line you go. Thankfully, through confession and repentance Jesus forgives and restores but this isn’t synonymous with recovering a good name. A good name only comes with time.

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A Cluttered Mind

A cluttered room full of books

My wife and I taught each of our kids how to clean up their rooms. So what, you may be thinking. Well, for some reason, each of our kids reached a breaking point when they were overwhelmed by the mess in their room. 

We would tell one of our kids to go clean their room. About 30 minutes later one of us would go into the bedroom and there our cherub would be, laying in their pile of stuff crying. The mess was so overwhelming that they had no clue where to begin.

Unfortunately, my wife and I have different approaches to room cleaning. They both work and kids easily understand both. I’ll give you my version since it’s the right one. 😉

Clutter, Clutter, Everywhere

I’d give our child time to compose himself or herself. I reassure our child, and then I’d have him/her gather everything that was part of the mess and throw it into the middle of their room. When the bed was cleared, all four walls accessible, and the closet door could be opened then I would sit in the middle of the mess. My munchkin was the goffer.

First, the trash went into a large garbage bag and was taken to our trash container. Next, we’d do the clothes and shoes. And that’s how it went. Category by category, we “filed” the stuff away until my child had a tidy, clean room. We both felt good once everything was where it belonged.

I learned about a cluttered mind from a wonderful pastor of our church when we lived on the west coast. He helped me understand the value of uncluttering my mind before I prayed. To this day I still try to do this, and every time I think of Pastor Dwayne. 

Sporadic Thoughts Shoot Thru Your Mind

A cluttered mind can be so wholly distracting that it becomes nearly impossible to pray. With a cluttered mind, as soon as you become quiet, then all these sporadic thoughts begin shooting through your brain. I don’t need to enumerate them, but you know. When you do finally reach the place where you can concentrate on prayer, you start thinking about praying instead of praying. 

When you start to pray, remind yourself that worry is worthless. Take time to honor the God of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob; the ancient of days. Of course, the best thing is not to let your mind become cluttered. That’s where Isaiah 26:3-4 comes in.

Isaiah 26:3-4 (ESV)

You keep him in perfect peace
    whose mind is stayed on you,
    because he trusts in you.
Trust in the Lord forever,
    for the Lord God is an everlasting rock.

The phrase “whose mind is stayed on you” is a key to an uncluttered mind. The Hebrew for “stayed” is simply “supported” (סמוּך sâmûk) – shored up, braced, carried. 

Shored up, Braced, and Carried by our God

If we keep our minds shored up, braced, and carried by our God, then we will have less of a mess to clean up during our prayer time. Trust Jesus. Trust the work He has done for you. Go to the Father in the name of Jesus with the guidance and anointing of the Holy Spirit, and pray!

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I Love Words

If you’ve read my devotionals in the past, you know I love words. Perhaps my favorite word puzzle is that the English language has the words “to,” “two,” and “too.” However, it’s impossible to write the sentence, “There are three toos (sp) in the English language. We don’t have a word for the combination of those three words.

Anyway, words are fun, and words also carry power. As we see in the New Testament, Jesus tells us, “Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.” (Matthew 5:37 ESV) and “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak,” (Matthew 12:36 ESV) Why would careless words matter unless every word we speak matters?

Sensitivity to Verbiage

So, it’s evident that for our good and to please God, we need to watch what we say. Surprisingly, we find sensitivity to verbiage regarding an aspect of Jesus observed by all the writers of the New Testament. The New Testament never refers to Jesus as the Redeemer.

Why might you ask? Probably because the writers of the NT books, being inspired by the Holy Spirit, did not want Jesus coupled to the nationalistic view the Jews held concerning the coming Messiah-Redeemer. So, Jesus is never referred to as the “redeemer” (lytrotes [lutrwthv”]) in the New Testament. However, the theological concept of Jesus as our Redeemer is evident in the NT. For example, in Romans 4:25 (ESV), we find, “who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.”

Filling Our Speech With Fluff

Therefore, as we’ve seen, how we use words is very important. I heard a preacher say that one of the things that make our prayers ineffective is that we fill our speech with empty and contradictory words. We say things to our kids like, “Be careful” instead of “Be cautious.” Do we want our kids to be full of care, or do we want them to be safe? Or, do we greet someone by saying, “Hi, how are you?” But we have no expectations or intent to hear their honest response.

If we fill our thoughts and speech with contradictions and foolish words, then why would we expect God to believe what we say to Him? If we want our prayers to be acceptable to God, we need to obey what Jesus said, and we always should say what we mean and mean what we say.

Good News

Simply by being watchful and truthful in our thoughts and words, we can be closer to God, and our prayers will be more acceptable to God. I would say that’s good news!

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The Fifth Sparrow

Sparrow

Watching sparrows – When I look out the window in my study, I see an elaborate vine on the top of my wooden porch. Though I don’t like this vine, I love to watch the vast array of birds that visit, with some making their summer homes there.

I’m not an ornithologist or even a card-carrying bird watcher. Sadly, I couldn’t tell you if I’m looking at a wren or a sparrow. Nevertheless, I enjoy watching God’s creation busily working to follow their inborn nature. Their work refreshes me for none of these creatures are capable of evil. Only the fallen progeny of Adam can, and gleefully do sin. But I diverge from this good news from Jesus which He communicates to us through His beautiful creation, the sparrow.

Sparrows

Luke 12:6 (NIV), “Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God.

Matthew 10:29, 31 (NIV), “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care…So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”

Jesus tells us that two sparrows sell for a penny, yet five sparrows sell for two pennies. Sparrows are of such little value, at this time in history, that if you buy four, you get one free. So, God highly regards a life that the world says is devoid of value.

Peace

Verse thirty-one of Matthew, chapter ten, is an anchoring promise for us. We see two marvelous declarations from Jesus. Jesus says, “So don’t be afraid.” Someday I may try to count how many times the Bible records Jesus saying, “Don’t be afraid” or “Peace, be still.”

Fear is the go-to tool the enemy in his fight against the saints of God. From hero’s like Abram (i.e., Abraham) when, in Genesis 15:1, the LORD says, “Do not be afraid, Abram.” to Jesus speaking to His Apostles in John 6:20. … “It is I; don’t be afraid.” And, here in Matthew 10:31, we are told, “don’t be afraid.” From these statements we know two things. One is that people become afraid; even anointed heroes become fearful. Secondly, no matter what may befall us, we should rest in Jesus.

You Are Valued

Also, and perhaps more surprising, we have Christ’s promise to us in Matthew 10:6, “…you are worth more than many sparrows.” God values us even when the world sees no value in us – two sparrows for a penny and five sparrows for two pennies. The fifth sparrow is of no value to the world. But God switches around the world’s economy. Here, Jesus says we are worth more than the fifth sparrow because that fifth sparrow is among the number of “many sparrows“; “yet not one of them is forgotten by God.” (Luke 12:6).

So, don’t be afraid of how this world values you. In fact, don’t be afraid at all. Many of us may be the fifth sparrow, the one that is of no value in the economy of this world, but we know God has not forgotten us so we will not give in to fear.

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Asking

The back-story of Genesis 24:57-59 is terrific. The Scripture states, “Then they said, ‘Let’s call the young woman and ask her about it.’ So, they called Rebekah and asked her, ‘Will you go with this man?’ ‘I will go,’ she said. So, they sent their sister Rebekah on her way, along with her nurse and Abraham’s servant and his men.”  

My understanding is that the moral imperative of asking a woman if she will marry a man is a Jewish teaching based on Genesis 24:57-59. This is where the servant of Abraham asked Rebekah if she would go to be the wife of Isaac. She said “yes”. 

Within God there’s a compelling respect of choice. He made mankind as “free moral agents” meaning that He has given each of us the freedom to choose. What we chose reveals our character, who we trust, and who we love. Every choice carries an aspect of morality. It’s like the French language which carries gender characteristics to its words, so our choices carry moral characteristics. God gave us the freedom to choose even when our choice can harm us and others. And, He holds us accountable for our choices.  

God doesn’t do evil, we do evil because we can, not because He made us do it. God can and will stop evil, but it seems this usually requires much prayer from His children. Not until there is a unity of God’s people asking Him to intervene in the affairs of mankind does He step in and say, “No more!” This is one of the reasons we are admonished to pray for our leaders: leaders in church, in government, in all positions of authority.  

As I mentioned earlier, with every choice there is a moral imperative – an immediate moral impact from our choice. It seems that God holds this freedom so highly that nothing He does will override our freedom in this life. People can even choose to shoot people, steal money or reject Jesus – each of these carry a moral impact.  

We are told by Jesus to: “ask and ye shall receive”. Asking changes our direction, from selfishness to surrender. That very action of asking is a surrendering and a recognition that the one you ask has something you don’t have. 

The power of asking is under appreciated. All around the world today somewhere a young man will ask a young woman to marry him. He may not know it, but he is following the tradition set forth in Genesis chapter 24. If we say “yes” then we are bound by our moral commitment to fulfill that to which we’ve committed. Rebekah committed herself to marry Isaac. I asked Jesus to be Lord of my life, so I committed myself to yield to Christ’s will.  

Photo by Edward Cisneros on Unsplash

Ford 9N

As a young man living on a small farm, I learned how to plow a field. We had an old, underpowered Ford 9N tracker. Unfortunately, anything I tried to do would kill the engine every few minutes. There were times when I thought 9N should be pronounced “nein” because its answer to everything I tried was “No!”

There’s a skill one has to develop to plow effectively. Plowing takes work, especially with a 9N. I was constantly adjusting the depth of the plow over uneven terrain, keeping the furrows straight, adjusting the speed of the tractor to create consistent furrows while compensating for varying densities of the ground, varying moister content and other factors, all of which requires an unrelenting focus. And, I had to set my sight on something at the very end of the field and then plow my way to that place, never wavering.

As I grew older, I grew careless. I thought I had mastered this skill. I would let my mind wander, and then I started making mistakes. Even worse results occurred when I’d get in a hurry because I had someplace else I wanted to be. I put my hand to the plow but looked back (or ahead in my case). I would get to the end of the field and discover I missed my mark by three feet; trying to fix it was just an act of futility. Look what Jesus said about this problem:

Luke 9:62 (NIV) Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”

It is perilous to tamper with the world; we must not look at its pleasures or seek its society. I’m not implying losing our salvation, but I am saying we can miss out on our reward in God’s kingdom. Our disqualification from a work Jesus has called us to rarely is due to actually returning to the world, but rather a reluctance to break from it. Christ will not accept “conditional service.”

Neither hardship, nor bereavement, nor home ties are an acceptable “absence from work (see Luke 14:25-33).” Let’s keep our focus where it belongs, not for fear of what we might lose but for the joy set before us to join with Jesus in His work “while it is still called today (Hebrews 3:13).”

Larry Norman wrote a song about this condition called “I am your servant.” Here’s Honeytree singing this powerful song:

I am Your servant

“Ford Ferguson 9N tractor 1942” by Charles01 – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ford_Ferguson_9N_tractor_1942.jpg#/media/File:Ford_Ferguson_9N_tractor_1942.jpg

Thanks

Thanks for taking the time to read these devotionals. I am taking some time off. I hope to restart these in the near future.

There’s a coupon for you

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If you hand a full-price coupon on soap to the cashier in your grocery store they take the coupon as a substitution for cash for the amount due. When you do this you are redeeming the soap with the coupon. The coupon is the substitution for the full amount required for you to get the soap; the store, as the owner of the soap, accepts the substitutionary transfer of ownership, and the soap is the “redeemed” as its ownership has been transferred from the store to you. 

Now, let’s apply this to John 3:16 (NIV): For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

  • For God so loved the world  – God is the purchaser. 
  • that he gave his one and only Son – Jesus, God’s Son is the coupon. This is the substitutionary work Christ did on the cross. There is an excellent study on Substitution here: https://www.ligonier.org/blog/jesus-our-substitute/
  • that whoever believes in him – The believer is the soap that “asks to be purchased” – think VeggieTales 😉 
  • shall not perish but have eternal life – The transfer of ownership is complete. The soap (redeemed) now belong to God.

The redemption of people is the driving message of the Bible. God’s love of humanity is beyond anyone’s ability to understand but we should all be thankful for it. 

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