Sealing of the Holy Spirit, pt 2

Ephesians 1:13-14

In Him you also were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and when you believed. The Holy Spirit is the down payment of our inheritance, until the redemption of the possession, to the praise of His glory.

In the last post we started looking at these verses, today we will continue.

The sealing of the Holy Spirit is also part of the filling of the Holy Spirit. God gives us His Holy Spirit that we might be able to live the life we are called to live. As children of God, we are not left alone to figure this out. We are not left orphans but as Jesus promised another is here.

The sealing of the Holy Spirit empowers us and gives us the way to move forward as we follow God.

2 Peter 1:3 says,

His divine power has given us everything required for life and godliness through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.

The sealing of the Holy Spirit gives us the power to continue to follow after God. God marks us as His own and then gives us what we need to follow Him. We have power as God’s children. We have authority as His marked ones. We have access to everything we need because of the sealing of the Holy Spirit.

This marking gives us security, marks us as authentically Gods, and gives us what we need to follow after God. This in total gives us identity. Our identity is found in our markedness. When we are marked by God, sealed by the Holy Spirit, labeled as God’s chosen ones we have an identity that is unchangeable. Just like in a museum we see things that belonged to people and look at them in awe, wonder, or amazement because they belonged to a specific person, we have value because we are sealed, marked, and chosen by God. It is not in our own strength, power, or wisdom but because we are marked by God.

Our identity is in our belonging to God. This means you do not have to strive, vie, or insist on value it belongs to you because you belong to God. You belong to the King. You are a son or daughter of the Most High!

All people have value as image-bearers of God but as sealed ones, we have an unchangeable identity.

Next, what does it mean to mean that the Holy Spirit is the down payment of our inheritance? Because we are owned and marked by the Creator we have more coming to us. God sets His seal upon us because of Christ’s work on the cross and rising from the grave. There is more coming.

As amazing as it is to be sealed by the Holy Spirit and to be empowered to live the life God calls us to it is only a shadow of what is to come. We have an unchangeable identity and destiny. In this world, we have trouble and tribulation. We have sickness. We have issues, to say the least, but the Holy Spirit is a promise that more and better is to come. Paul writes here and says that the Holy Spirit is a down payment. The sealing is not the full measure of what is to come but a promise that greater is coming.

When we think about the miraculous gifts of the Spirit, the signs the wonders, the healings, the power that is displayed we should see a picture of what is to come. On this side of eternity, we have pain, but the gifts are in part meant to show what is to come. What is to come is perfection, completion, total restoration. We should seek the gifts but we seek them to build up the church! (! Cor 14:12

We have the gifts now because we live in a world that requires gifts. When Christ comes back, we do not need those things because everything will be made new. We need the right view of eschatology. That is a fancy theology word for the end times. Sometimes people think that the end will come, and God will destroy everything, but it is more of a restoration, a reconciliation, a recreation. God will make heaven on earth. It will all be new, and the sealing of the Holy Spirit is a promise that we are included in that.

I mentioned this earlier, but I want to close with this reminder:

The sealing of the Holy Spirit gives us the power to continue to follow after God. God marks us as His own and then gives us what we need to follow Him. We have power as God’s children. We have authority as His marked ones. We have access to everything we need because of the sealing of the Holy Spirit. And we have a promise of what is to come.

If you are here and you have never trusted in Christ and received the Gospel. If you have not repented, believed, and received then I beg you know do that. We will have some people upfront and if you need to do this come forward. If you need to have someone pray with you so you can walk in the sealing, you have come forward. If you need prayer for anything else, come forward now.

  [1] African Bible Commentary, 1428

Just a thought,

Mike

Sealing of the Holy Spirit, pt 1

Ephesians 1:13-14

In Him you also were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and when you believed. The Holy Spirit is the down payment of our inheritance, until the redemption of the possession, to the praise of His glory.

If you give me an opportunity to speak about the Holy Spirit, I am instantly a little giddy. But I am going to resist temptation and stay on point. This passage talks about the Holy Spirit and while His gifts and fruit are always a part of the conversation there are some large topics at play here.

I want to answer the question what does this passage have to do with me?

In short; God seals and marks us as His own and gives us the power to follow Him

Mystery is inherently part of the Christian faith and message. We can only explain so much and that is ok. It is ok to not have all the answers and it is ok to be left with questions. It is ok to only understand some things in part because the questions before us are God-sized questions. I struggle with this, but my wife has helped me tremendously.

In this passage, there are I believe there are some important things we can and should take away.

One question before us is this: Does God keep His people? You might have heard the phrase, “once saved always saved” or the classical doctrine “the perseverance of the saints.” But what does that mean?

God is able to keep what He owns. I cannot tell how you many times as a pastor, preacher, and leader people have asked me if once saved always saved is true. I get random messages from people I have not spoken to in years asking me this, and I always reply the same way. The right question is can God keep you? My answer is, you could not save yourself so you cannot keep yourself. This I believe allows for God to remain in control and you to still have your part. I believe the Bible teaches there are two parts although they are not equal. God seals us with the Holy Spirit and keeps us.

This passage teaches us that first that we are sealed by the Holy Spirit and second that the Holy Spirit is a down payment for what comes next.

What is the sealing that is spoken of in this passage? Well to start with there are many nuances in this idea that I will try to look at as best as possible. What does it mean to be sealed by the Holy Spirit? First, we must understand that this sealing is for those who have heard the Gospel and believed. This is an important distinction because the sealing applies only to those who have heard and believed. No assurance is guaranteed outside of those conditions.

There is salvation in no other name than Jesus. As Paul says in Romans 10:9

“If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord, “and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” 

Peter in Acts 2:38 says that we must repent and then we can receive the Holy Spirit. To receive the message of the Gospel is to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and repent of our sins.

John in his Gospel (1:12) says,

“But to all who did receive Him, 

He gave them the right to be children of God, 

to those who believe in His name,”

The formula (if I may) is to repent, believe, receive. There is nothing else. Repent, believe, receive. That is, it. It is as simple as simple can be because we as humans tend to overcomplicate and exacerbate everything so God has made it as simple as can be.

The sealing of the Holy Spirit is only available to those who have heard the Gospel and received it. Once that occurs, the very moment it happens, we are sealed by the Holy Spirit. We are marked as God’s and we join the worldwide body of Christ. We are in a moment saved and sealed as God’s people.

In the ancient world, they fully understood the idea of sealing because it was a common practice. Things, letters, and correspondence were sent on long journeys. Once they reached their destination people would look and see if the seal was still intact. If it was then the one who received the item or letter would know this was from the person who sent it. It was a mark of authenticity. The sealing of the Holy Spirit is a mark of authenticity.

It was also a mark of security. Depending on who sent the item you would not dear break the seal because they might have your head (quite literally). If the person sending the sealed item was of power, then you know the sealed item was protected. The seal meant it carried the security of the person sending it.

The Igbo people in Nigeria seal a visitor with a chalk mark on their wrist and this tells the whole community that this person “is to enjoy the privileges and protection of the community.”[1] A seal is a mark of authenticity and security. The sealing of the Holy Spirit is a permanent mark on a person that they belong to God and are entitled to the privilege and protection of God.

Paul writing in Romans 8:38-39 expounds on this idea and says:

For I am persuaded that not even death or life, angels or rulers, things present or things to come, hostile powers, height or depth, or any other created thing will have the power to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord!

Once we are marked as God’s people we are under the protection of God. We are His and we can always call on that sealing.

As an American, you are protected by the American Government. If you are overseas somewhere and people are chasing, you. You can run to the American consulate and be granted access. Once there you are on American soil and the enemy who is chasing you cannot enter. They are outside the protection and security of the place you ran to for safety because you are sealed as one who can enter. Nothing can change that.

So, what is the sealing of the Holy Spirit, it is you being marked as God’s person! You are marked as one who is authentically and securely protected by God. God is able to keep His own. 

To be continued.

Commissioning, Instruction, and Mission

Luke chapter 10 has the sending of the 70 or 72. There is debate as to whether it was 70 or 72 because some older manuscripts have one or the other. The table of nations in Genesis 10 records 70 nations. There is also 70 people who go to Egypt with Jacob in Genesis 46:27. 70 in the Bible is a number of completion. This has given rise to two interpretational theories. Some scholars suggest that Jesus sent 70 and others say that 72 is the correct number because it is a reference to the Table of Nations and to you and I. This interpretation leads to a symbolic idea that Jesus is saying everyone is included in the sending. This means you and I as well. We could spend more time here but the important thing for either number is that Jesus sent. I prefer the 72 and say this suggests we are, in a very real sense included in the mission. Not the exact mission but the broader mission as we will see below.

The 72 go out with purpose and intentionality. They have marching orders. They are called to a mission. Jesus sent them out. Just like in the calling of the Disciples it is Jesus who calls and Jesus who sends. The job of the disciple is to respond to the call of the Master. The disciples did not create this mission on their own, but they were sent. They were commissioned for a specific mission. But what is the mission they were sent on?

First, we can break this passage and sending into three parts. The first is the commissioning which we just looked at. The second is the instructions. In verses 2-6 we see the instructions Jesus gives the new missionaries. We see the plan of how they are to go out.

The first instruction is to pray. Jesus says the harvest is plentiful, but the laborers or workers are few. There is a great need in the world. In my area of New Orleans, there are nearly one million people. Most of them have no religious affiliation, attend no church, have no relationship with Christ, and have no eternal hope. In many other places around the globe, this is a common theme. People are lost and feed their lostness. They have an emptiness and they feed that emptiness. I think it was Pastor John Mark Comer who said people are looking for a savior in the culture, we just have to see it (paraphrased). People are looking to be saved so they turn to all sorts of things. Sports, sex, drugs, money, public service, helping the poor, good deeds, and so on. I recently spoke with a young man who was living in a gym in Mobile Alabama. He thought he could find help in Austin so he took the little money he had and flew to Austin where he knew no one just because he thought he could find help there. I met two young men one night in Knoxville that were recently homeless. They had everything they could carry and needed a ride so they could catch the public transportation. One of them told me “If we can just get to the KAT, we will be ok.” He was not only desperate but certain this was their salvation from the situation. People are looking for salvation. This is what Jesus means by the harvest is plentiful.

Because of this, we need to pray for workers. It is a command from Christ to pray for them. We must have more men and women who are willing to work the harvest. Too many are lost to the enemy. Too many walk around unknowing. Too many suffer needlessly. A great English preacher Charles Spurgeon said “If sinners be damned, at least let them leap to Hell over our dead bodies. And if they perish, let them perish with our arms wrapped about their knees, imploring them to stay. If Hell must be filled, let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let not one go unwarned and unprayed for.” We must pray for workers. We must pray. I was able to share the Gospel with the people in these stories but how many more countless stories like this exist without someone to share the Good News that sin, and death have been defeated by Christ on the cross and His empty grave?

The second instruction is to stay focused and be wise. The 72 and us are to be wise in a difficult and hard world. The task of carrying the Gospel requires wisdom and carefulness. Many are ok with you being a Christian as long as you stay lukewarm. The moment you begin to proclaim the Gospel you become an enemy to the world. This does not mean you need to be difficult. We must always be careful to ensure we are walking like our Lord, in grace and truth. One of the hardest things we can do is to be careful not to mix ourselves with the Gospel. If someone rejects the Gospel make sure they are rejecting it and not your presentation of it. The only way to do this is to be wise and stay prayerful.

In verse 4 Jesus tells the 72 and us to not worry about possessions or what we need. God will provide what is needed for the journey. We must stay focused and preserve. We are called to the mission not to worry about everything along the way. Faith is paramount!

The third instruction is to be on the lookout for a person of peace. A person of peace is someone God has primed for the Gospel. Someone who is ready and can take you in. In our Western world, this often means someone of influence who receives the Gospel and can then carry it to others you would not have the ability to reach. I know many persons of peace. I have seen what happens when a person of peace receives the Gospel. I have seen churches nearly double in size because one of these people receives the Gospel with joy. We should all be looking for and praying for a person of peace. It is a marvelous thing to behold. When you encounter a person of peace stay with them. Invest in them. Pour into them. Disciple them. Stick with them.

Some will reject you and the Gospel. This is sad but it will happen. When it does, don’t worry as long as you are presenting it with grace and truth you have done what you need to.

Next, we move on to the mission itself. Up to this point, we have looked at the commissioning and the instructions. Now we see the mission they were called to. We have alluded to it but to be clear it is to heal the sick and proclaim the Gospel. Healing the sick is something that can only be done by the filling, equipping, and power of the Holy Spirit. It is not something that we have within us on our own to do. The Holy Spirit is the one who does the healing, we are merely the tools He uses. Here we must deal with a difficult topic. The disciples were sent out to heal and I am saying that we are called to a similar mission. But we do not all have the gift of healing, so what do we do?

I have prayed for the gift of healing for years and it is not a gift a see active in my life. I desire the gift to glorify God and yet it is not active. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 12:29-30 that not all have all the gifts. He says a little further up that “the Spirit is active in all these, distributing to each person as he wills.” So, what am I do to do what are you to do? The first thing is that we are to pray for the gifts needed for the work God calls us to. There is a saying “God does not call the qualified, He qualifies the called.” I cannot control the call of God or the gifting of God, but I can submit to the call, pray for the needed gifts, and welcome the Spirit in my life. I am commanded to respond to the call.

Maybe it is better if we ask who are the sick Jesus sent the disciples to and who are the sick in our day. First, there is the physically sick. There are many especially in our world who are sick from cancer, COVID, and many other illnesses. Some have mental disorders. Some have missing limbs, bad eyes, and so on. One article I read said there are roughly 10,000 diseases in the world, and while many are rare that is still a large number. Add in everything else that can cause a person to be sick or weak and we get the picture. When the disciples returned they said that even the devils responded to Jesus’ name. What we see then is that everything was subject to Jesus’ name and the disciples went out doing the work of God by the power of Jesus name.

So how do we go out and heal the sick if we do not all have the power of healing? In the same way, the disciples went out. They went out working in the name of Jesus! Maybe this means healing the sick maybe it is praying for those who need freedom in their minds, maybe casting off years of generational curses, maybe discernment. Whatever it is do it in Jesus name and let the Spirit work through you in the situation you are in.

Second, we have that Jesus commanded them to tell that the Kingdom of God is at hand. What is the kingdom of God? It is the rule and reign of God. Could there be a more Gospel-centric message? Jesus is the king and what we are to proclaim is the Kingdom of God. Jesus ruling and reigning. When we submit to Christ, we make Him Lord over everything. Part of the call of the Christian is to proclaim the Kingdom of God and to make it a reality. This is not a political kingdom but to allow the truth of God to permeate our lives. When we are called into the kingdom, we are called to be ambassadors of that kingdom here on earth (2 Cor 5:20). 

This is the call Jesus gave to the 72, this is the call Jesus gives to us. We are called to heal the sick and announce the kingdom. To call people to repentance. To announce that Jesus has come, and freedom has come with Him. The Bible says where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom. Freedom in Jesus name! Freedom from sickness, freedom from sexual sin, freedom from addiction, freedom from past pain, freedom from whatever holds you in bondage! Freedom has come. You are free in Jesus name. 

Just A thought,

Mike

New Word and New Year

It’s time for a new year so it’s time for a new word. If you are new to this idea the word of the year was something I was introduced to about a decade or so ago. The idea is that resolutions can be easy to accomplish or easy to fail at. Also, unless you are really good at crafting it then it probably only applies to one or two areas of your life. A word however can be far-reaching.

Last year my word was “willing”, and it was a good year to be willing. I wanted to be willing to do bigger things for God, willing to go deeper, be more obedient, or whatever else God wanted to do in and through me. I wanted to be willing to take chances in my relationships with my wife, daughter, friends, and so on. I wanted to be willing to try new things. Willing was good but if I am honest willing played to my strengths. I am naturally looking for a change and a little crazy. It is not a hard thing for me to be willing. It is not a bad thing to play to your strengths because they need work too. If we put all our energy into our weaknesses, then our strengths can start to wane. For this new year, the new and exciting 2022 I desire to stretch myself.

My word for this year is not a strength but a weakness. This year I will be intentional. I am naturally pretty good at reacting. I am pretty good at responding to something and getting things done. I am a doer. I am a mover and a shaker. I am not nearly as intentional as I would like. So, this year will be the year of intentionality.

I want to be intentional in my time with God, my wife, my daughter, my boys, my friends, my quiet time. At the end of the year, I want to be a more intentional person.

Jesus is a great example when we think about intentionality. In Luke 9:51 it says that Jesus set His face towards Jerusalem, but some translations add a little spice and say He was steadfast (KJV), resolute (BSB), fixed (LSV), either way, you slice it Jesus was determined and intentional, He was going to Jerusalem to take His cross and die for the sins of the world.

In Mark 10:13-16, Jesus is blessing children. The disciples in their grand wisdom try and stop this but Jesus was intentionally doing what He wanted so he became indignant. We could go on and on, but the point is Jesus was intentional about everything He did. There is also the thing about being conformed into the image of Christ (Rom 8:29) so it is not just a word but an attempt to be more like the Lord I love.

I would highly encourage you to pick a word. Find something that can fit into as many areas of life as possible and then go after it. An example would be healthy. Healthy while usually thought of in terms of physical can mean healthy relationships and a healthy view of God. You are only limited by your imagination and prayer life. So, find a word, and explore the possibilities.

Just a thought,

Mike

Looking out for Others

For me and a lot of you, life gets busy. Between work, family, gym, hobbies, or whatever else you are into life is busy. We wake up and hit the ground running. I read one article that said the average American sleeps eight hours and has five hours of leisure time a day. I am not sure who these people are but good for them (I guess). I and a lot of you are probably not average. We are taxed to the max. I am chugging a Cotton Candy Bang at Nine AM as I write this.

I read another article that said the average American spends $164.55 a day. This total is from everything to housing, gas, groceries, masks (let’s be honest COVID is costly), coffee, and more. I am not complaining I am just pointing out that we spend a lot of time, money, and energy every day on things we need and have to do. This is fine, and I have no major issues with this (maybe I do). What I am reminded of today is Philippians 2:4 which says, “Everyone should look out not only for his own interest but also the interest of others.”

Because we are so busy and must spend so much money to live in this great country of ours, we can easily forget to look out not only for our own interest but also the interest of others. We need to pay attention to the things we need to do. We have to go to work, pay bills, pick the kids up from school, etc. We even need that leisure time we all keep hearing about. These things must get done and that is ok but we have to remember that other people are doing it too and I think that is how we remember to look out for others.  

If we remember that other people are also doing the same thing we are, if others are striving for the same things we are, if we remember that other people are annoyed with the check line length then we can remember to look out for their interest as well. When we keep people as a priority, we can look out for them.

I ride a motorcycle and I love the bumper stickers that say lookout for motorcycles. What I love even more is when people look out for my motorcycle. The idea is nice, but I much prefer the action of people looking out for me. When can notice people and that is great but if we do not act on that then we are not really doing anything. So how do we make people a priority and look out for their interests as well as our own?

I think really it is a culmination of a lot of little things. Saying hi to the cashier, smiling at someone, letting someone merge into traffic, letting someone with one item go in front of you at the store, not yelling at other drivers, and so on. If in the little things, we slow down and look out for the people around us then we start to do something amazing. We have to be intentional because by nature we are selfish. Human nature prioritizes self-preservation and self-focus. That is just one of a thousand reasons we need Jesus to save and sanctify us. And looking out for the interest of others is part of the sanctification process, the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit in us conforming us to the image of Christ. That is why right after Paul writes this he jumps into Christ’s humility and exaltation. It is part of a larger process.

These little actions start to build into something larger, they start to accumulate in you. If we do ten little random things a day for other people to look out for them it might not make a huge difference in those ten people, but it does make a huge difference in you.

At some time or another many of us have thought about what we do if we won the lottery. Maybe we think about the charities we would give to, the family and friends we would help, the cars we would buy (let’s be honest). We think about what we would do with all that money, but what can we do with the time we have today? What can we do with the money we have in our wallets? It is great to dream but it is better to act. We have the opportunity every day to do something for someone, to look out for the interest of someone else but it starts with making people a priority.

Here is what I propose as you go through your day today notice someone else who is going through their day and imagine what it would be like if someone made you a priority at that moment. How would it change your day, hour, or ten minutes if someone looked out for your interest and then try to do that thing? If you do this it might help them but it will definitely help you become more like Christ as you walk out your faith.

Just a thought,

Mike

Sowing and Reaping – Six Month Challenge

Video Version can be found here

I think in general we all want something more or different out of life. It might not be huge changes or monumental differences but there is probably some change you want in your life. There is a good chance that somethings in your life need to change. I am not talking about things you just need to learn to be content with, I am talking about when things need to change. Serious things like losing weight, saving money, getting a good job, building healthy relationships, and so on. Important things in life that you should want to be changed. Because we can all have areas and things that need to change, I want to give you two tools from the Bible that will help you do this but first a word about time.

Time is going to move forward whether we like it or not. Time moves regardless of personal desire or preference. Time moves forward. I am going to say something that right now does not sound profound or all that clever but in six months it will be six months from now. I know what you are thinking “well duh.” But think about that for a second, what if six months ago you decided to make a change. What if six months ago you decided you wanted to lose weight? By now you might have hit your target. What if six months ago you decided you wanted a better relationship with your spouse? By now you would have a better relationship. What if six months ago you decided you wanted to be in a better job? Chances are by now; you would have that job. Six months is going to go by whether we like it or not. But what does six months have to do with changing your life?

We think about changing our lives but what if instead, we thought about changing the next six months? What if instead of focusing on something so monumental as changing our life we thought about being in a different place in six months? Would that help? Would that make a difference? Would it do anything? I say yes, yes it would because six months is manageable, and six months is attainable. Six months is something we can see. Six months is something that can grow. I am going to give you two tools from the Bible that can help you change the next six months. Also, I should note that these two things are really two pieces of the same tool.

The first is that you reap what you sow (Gal 6:7). This is sometimes thought about in a negative sense. You find yourself in trouble and someone says “well, you reap what you sow.” They mean you got what you deserve, and this is partially true. Sometimes this is used when talking about finances. We talk about sowing and reaping in church and we are talking about giving and receiving. This is also partially true. However, the bigger principle is that you get out what you put in. If you sow (plant) corn you get corn. The thing is sowing (planting) takes time. You don’t just plant some corn and boom you get a harvest. Corn takes between 60 and 100 days to grow so you need to plant, water, and wait. You need to plant, nourish the thing planted, and wait.

If we pick weight loss for example, then we need to do things now that will help us achieve our goal later. The weight loss is the goal or the fruit, but the planting is what we do beforehand. we change our eating habits, we exercise, we do what it takes now to see the fruit later. If we want a better relationship with our child or children in six months, we need to start planting different things now to reap better things later. We will get in what we put out. If you keep eating Oreos (I love Oreos) you get an Oreo body. If you keep ignoring your children, you get children who don’t want to spend time with you. You get out what you put in. Change what you put in the ground now and you will get something different in six months.

The second tool is that things reproduce after their own kind (Gen 1:11). God has designed the world that things reproduce after their own kind. Again, corn kernels make corn stocks. Humans reproduce and make little humans (babies). Dogs make dogs. Peace makes peace. Laughter makes laughter. Things reproduce after their own kind. So not only do we get out what we put in but what we get out reproduces and makes more of the same. If we make changes now to see different results in six months, then in six months we have something new that will reproduce after its own kind. The small seeds we plant now to make changes start to compound and reproduce after their own kind.

If we decided that in six months, we want a better job and we planted the seed for a better job (change in work ethics, determination, applying, studying) then we not only end up with a better job we are different as a person with different habits, motivations, and goals. Those things reproduce after their own kind and a new system has been created that creates other changes as well. If you want a better relationship with your kids and you put in the work to make that happen then your kids will more than likely also have a better relationship with their kids. Things will reproduce after their own kind but first, we must plant the right seed.

This can all happen in six months. Whether we like it or not six months is going to go by. In six months from today, it will be September 8th, 2021. It does not matter if you want it to be something different you don’t get a choice. What we do get to decide is what will be different in six months. What will be different for a lifetime after that?

Just a thought,

Mike

Seeking and Pruning

(Video version can be seen here)

Have you seen the video about the sheep named Barrack that was found? It is pretty cool and if you have not seen it, I recommend checking out one of the videos. Barrack was lost in the Australian wilderness for about 5 years and when he was found he had about 77lbs of extra wool. He could barely see, drank water from puddles, and his wool was full of twigs, dirt, and insects. It took them about an hour to cut away all of the wool that was weighing him down. They found this sheep, cleaned him up, and he is on the road to recovery. It is a very cool story and one that made me think about Luke 19:10 and John 15:2-5 among other things.

In Luke 19:10 Jesus says that He has come to seek and save the lost. Jesus says His mission is to find those who are lost and then make them unlost. He says the whole point of His coming is to look for those who are missing and then make them found. In John 15:2-5 Jesus says that we are the vine, and He is the branch but before this, He says that the Father prunes us to make us more fruitful. We get this picture that we are pruned or that we have bad things cut back so we can produce more fruit. First, we are found and then we are pruned. That is the process. The hard part is that like the lost sheep Barrack when we are found we often have a lot that needs to be pruned.

Some people come to Christ and have less that needs to be pruned and some people have more. The point is that we all have pruning that needs to occur. With Barrack, the initial pruning (shearing) took over an hour, and all that extra was cut off. The external had changed but he still needs to heal from 5 years in the wilderness. When you and I come to Christ there is an initial pruning that happens in the way of the Holy Spirit coming in and changing us from the inside. We are forgiven of sin and made new. Sometimes, like in my case, there is a lot that He removes right away but even if that happens there is more and continual pruning that needs to occur.

Coming to Christ and finding freedom and salvation requires nothing from us except to accept it. He has done all of the work because we cannot. Salvation is a free gift. The pruning takes work. The pruning takes time. The pruning takes cooperation on our part. This is because pruning requires that you submit to what God is doing for it to be effective. God can remove things in your life that are holding you back but if you keep returning to them or trading them for new versions of the same vices then the pruning is not effective. Your submission to the will and leading of the Lord is needed. What if tomorrow Barrack decides he does not like being kept in a pen and then heads back out to the wilderness? He will be covered in mud, dirt, and weighed down again. The pruning that freed him will not be effective because he will once again be the same as he was. What if after coming to Christ you decide forgiveness from past sins is enough and you just want to go out and do as you please again? You will get weighed down, covered in mud, and need heavy pruning again. The pruning process of God is non-negotiable. It must occur.

What does this mean for us? How do we get the pruning, how do we respond in the pruning, how do we cope? Hebrews 7:25 says, Therefore, He (Jesus) is always able to save those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to intercede for them. Jesus is always able to save because He lives to intercede for us. This saving is not just the initial salvation either. Jesus can save us daily. When we are being pruned and unsure how we will move forward Jesus saves us and intercedes for us. He owes us nothing, but He chooses to live for us. What can He not do? Who can He not save? What is beyond His ability? The Lord of all the universe, the Word of God, the Author of Life chooses to intercede for you and me. Whatever you require, whatever you lack He can provide and make a way for! In the pruning, we must move forward and push towards Jesus. That is how we get through it, that is respond, that is how we cope. We push towards the one who is available and able to save us. 

There is so much more we could talk about with this, but I would just encourage you today that if you are in the midst of a pruning season, and you know when you are, that you submit to the pruning and seek Christ. Press into Him because that is the only way you will get through it with the fruit you were meant to bear. Be pruned and be changed. Embrace the process and welcome His direction. Maybe it means you let things go, maybe it means you move, maybe it means you admit something. Whatever it is, however hard it is be pruned and see how you can be made new today. 

Just a thought,

Mike

Holy Zeal

Do you have a holy zeal? The word zeal is sometimes seen in a negative light. We talk about someone being overzealous which means fanatical or radical. I am not sure I have a problem with that, depending on the context and thing we are being zealous about. We can have zeal, passion, or a firm commitment to all sorts of things but not all of them good.

Have you ever met anyone who is a die-hard fan of a particular sports team? They have merch all over their house, maybe a tattoo, and can usually tell you everything you never wanted to know about the team. These people are sold out to the team and show it. If you meet them, you will know shortly that they are fans. They bleed the team colors. Because they think about the team so often and know so much about them, they can find a way to bring it up at any point. These people recruit new fans and create new enemies depending on where they are. We might call these people overzealous. I am not saying this is bad, but it is a good example.

How about for God? Is there a proper amount of zeal that we are allowed to have for Him? What if like the previously mentioned sports fan we had a zeal for God and the things of God? What if we had a holy zeal? That is what I want. I want a radical, total, and fanatical dedication to the things and holiness of God. I want to be willing to drop everything for the cause of Christ. I want to lay down all my desires and other devotions to pick up the things of Christ. I want to be able to recall information about every stat, fact, and detail about God. This last part is hard because God is infinite, and I am finite. God is omnipresent and on a good day I am hopefully present at the moment, but the goal is the same: A sold-out, radical, fanatical life.

Abraham is and has always been an inspiration to me in this way. Hebrews 11:8 says that when Abraham was called, he obeyed and went out not knowing where he was going. That line and the story of Abraham have always captured me. Can we live like that or is that sold out radical dedicated life reserved only for heroes like Abraham?

It can be easy to think that the kind of faith we read about in the Bible is reserved for heavy hitters of old but that is not what the Bible says. Maybe, just maybe, sometimes we want that to be the case so we have an out, but Hebrews 12 goes on to say that because we have this great cloud of witnesses, we should lay aside what hinders us and focus on Jesus.

Jesus is the key to a radical, fanatical, sold out holy zeal lifestyle. When we fix our eyes on Christ we will walk into some crazy and amazing things. We will go into places we never imagined and do things beyond us because they are unimaginable and beyond us. Fixing our eyes on the Light of the World means we follow Him into what He is doing. We walk in step with God and walk where and how He walked. We are always walking towards the light.

Faith in Christ and identification with Him is the key to holy zeal. It is the only thing that can give us the ability and desire to have holy zeal. When you take your eyes off Christ and place them on anything else you will lose the holy part of the zeal and just become a zealot. If you lose the love, grace, and mercy of God then you are left with fanaticism without a compass. We should desire a holy zeal, but we can only have it if we keep our faith in Christ and our eyes fixed on Him.

Just a thought,

Mike

The Image We Bear

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I like country music and there is one song by Jessica Andrews called Who I Am. In the song, she says she knows who she is, and even if she never sees the great things of the world or wins great accolades that is ok because she knows who she is. She then starts saying who she is. She is Rosemary’s granddaughter, she looks like her dad, her mommas her biggest fan. The point of the song is that she has a firm grasp on who she is so that determines how she lives and what she does.

I know that before Christ I looked like what I was. I was a sinner. I was selfish. I was only concerned with my own desires and wants. That is what I was. I had the nature of sin in me and I reflected that nature. I reflected Adam’s nature. Adam’s nature is one of sin. He was not made that way, but we all know what happened. Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit and sin and death entered the world. All of their children followed in their footsteps. Now some are worse than others, but we all carry around the propensity for sin. Without Christ, we look like our parents Adam and Eve. We bear their image. Before Christ, I looked like Adam. I did not know that, but I showed it well.

Now in Christ, I am new. I have been changed and made new. My life has been changed and the Bible says because of that, I should reflect Jesus. The question is, do I? When I was in Adam, I did not have to work at showing who I was it just happened. I could embrace it and show it more, but it was always there. However, in Christ, I have to work at it. I have to be conformed to His image. So, the question is, do I?

If I now bear the image of Christ do I show that when I am at Walmart, Sonic, the dentist, in traffic, in Social Media? Do I show the image of whose I am? In Adam, it just happened but in Christ, I must choose to show His image. After a while, it becomes easier and natural. It does not become second nature, but it becomes primary nature.

If I know who I am do others? Do they see that in me? If you belong to Jesus do you show it? Do others see it? Do you see it?

Just a thought,
Mike

Fully Human and Fully God

One of the things I love so much about Jesus is His humanity. Jesus is God the Bible does not leave room for any other option (see here) but He is also human. One of my favorite theological terms is the hypostatic union of Christ. It a really fancy term but it just means that Jesus is fully God and fully man and these two natures do not diminish each other. Really cool right? Sometimes I am so in awe of Jesus as God that I forget about some of the important human features of Jesus.

When we ask the question WWJD (what would Jesus do) we sometimes think about how He would trust God and have hope or something else. These are true statements but there is also so much more that Jesus would do and in fact so much more that Jesus did do. Hebrews 4:15 says that we have a high priest (Jesus) who can empathize with our weaknesses. He can understand our humanity. He knows the human condition because He while being fully God is also fully human.

This sounds comforting and it should but for it to be truly meaningful we need to look at Jesus’ life to see how He expressed His humanity. Warning this is not for the faint of heart because for some it might shatter your expectations and show you a whole new Jesus, but that’s OK because we are always seeing Him in a new and more glorious light. We move from glory to glory and faith to faith. We need to always study Christ and when we do, we see more of Him that we did before. So, what would Jesus do, and what did He do?

He called His friends dull and foolish. In Matthew 15:16 Jesus tells the disciples a parable and they just are not getting it. Jesus asks Peter if he is still dull. The Greek for the word there is asynetos and can mean without understanding, foolish, and stupid. Jesus was asking Peter how he could still not get it.

Jesus would flip tables and get mad at people who were stopping others from coming to the Father and I think we all know that story.

He asked the Father for another way. In the garden we see Jesus praying, sweating blood, and asking the Father if there was another way to do this. In the end, He accepted the Father’s will but still, there was a moment when His humanity wanted to know if there was another option. He was honest with the Father about His feelings. He chose obedience but He was still honest with the Father about His emotions.

He did His job. This should probably go before the last one, but Jesus did His job. He knew what was coming and in Luke 9:51 it says He set His face towards Jerusalem. Again, here we see Jesus choosing to make the choice to do His job.

He wept with those who were weeping. Every child’s favorite verse to memorize is John 11:35 “Jesus wept” but this is a huge statement. We do not need to get into why Jesus was weeping right now but what we can see is that He wept. I think it was Charles Spurgeon who said, “a God who never wept could never wipe away my tears.” Jesus can comfort us in times of crisis and pain because He felt crisis and pain. Jesus knows what it means to cry. He knows what sadness feels like. He knows what it is to be broken-hearted. He understands. That is huge, and it gives me great comfort.

He knows what it feels like to be alone. I could talk about the disciples fleeing but instead, I would say look to the cross. In Matt 27:46 Jesus does not say “My God my God why have you forsaken me” He cries out in a loud voice. Those are two very different things. I cannot even express how important that is. Jesus in the middle of His pain and suffering cries out God, where are you? He is feeling alone, and, in His pain, He yells out. This is huge and should give all of us comfort and hope. I don’t care how big you are, how tough you are, or what a fake face you can make, at times we all feel alone and confused. Jesus says Yes, I get it! He knows that feeling and when you feel that He is right there with you saying it’s OK to let it out.

We could go on, but the point is that Jesus expressed the full range of human emotions. He gets it. He understands. He empathizes with us. Because of this, there is nothing you cannot take to Christ and have Him help you with. He is fully human, so He gets it, but He is also fully God, so He is present with you. He is able to understand and be there.

Back to the question. What would Jesus do? He would be honest about how He is feeling. He would be straight with the Father and say I am scared, I am hurt, I am feeling alone, I feel abandoned, I would prefer another way. Whatever it is He would be honest about how He is feeling. That is the Savior we have. We have a Savior who can completely understand what we are dealing with. We have a God who can relate to us because we could never relate to Him. We have a Comforter.

The world is crazy, and people will hurt you. Dreams and people will die but Christ gets it. He knows what you are feeling so do not go to Him, run to Him. Do not say God where are you, let it out and cry out God I need you!

Just a thought,

Mike