Water from Within

WATERFROMWITHIN (1)“Even though I walk through the shadow of the valley of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.” – Psalm 23:4

This “shadow of the valley of death” what David is talking about can range between going through hard times in life, to falling into a sin. Paul talks about this in Romans 7:15-25 when he writes, “For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” Don’t we so often realize that external battles aren’t the hardest but rather the battles that we face from within? Battles against our own sinful desires. We begin to realize that we are our own enemies. But the verse doesn’t stop at the valley of death, just like life doesn’t stop when we sin again. No, the Bible continues and reveals that David feared no evil; but how? He knew the Lord was with him. God is with us in the midst of the storms, He is not loud, He is not flashy, He is stable and restrained. The key to overcoming the darkness, and killing the sin is a constant relationship and refilling of Jesus and His Holy Spirit. In order to receive more of Him, we must first open the door and let ourselves be molded. For when we are weak, He is strong. And even if we lose a battle, in Him we will win the war.

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Who Is He?

WHOISHE BLOGLike Pastor Vasile Cinpean said, the Holy Spirit is a Divine Person of the Trinity. The Holy Spirit has so many attributes and characteristics that we can see in the Bible, but just like with Jesus and our Father, there is so much mystery that we can barely begin to understand on this side of Eternity. So who is the Holy Spirit? Here are a few more revelations of who He is, but this isn’t everything, as we could never fully understand every ministry and characteristic of the Holy Spirit. 

 

The Holy Spirit is our ever-present helper that Jesus promised the disciples (Acts 1:8). The Holy Spirit came to them in the upper room while they were praying and made Himself known by baptizing them; giving them the power and ability to speak in tongues while proclaiming the wonders of God. When I think about speaking in tongues, one thought that comes to mind is that the Holy Spirit unites us. We have brothers and sisters in Christ all over the world who speak different languages, and although speaking in tongues is for our own personal edification, I love to think that it is also a way to unite all Christians; without a language barrier. All Christians are worshipping and praying to God across the world in whatever languages they speak, but when the Holy Spirit enables us to speak other languages, it represents in a miraculous way the unity of all Christians under God. When God promised the Holy Spirit to the disciples, that promise was given to all Christians as well. So if you are not baptized in the Holy Spirit yet, all it takes is being persistent and earnest in prayer, coming to God with an open and thankful heart to receive. 

 

It is the Holy Spirit’s ministry to make us holy. More than anything, “it is God’s will that you should be holy” as He is holy (1 Thessalonians 4:3), (1 Peter 1:16). The Holy Spirit is the Helper in our heart that convicts us when we sin, to stop us in our tracks and repent. He encourages us to draw nearer to God during worship and when we are invited for alter calls, and seems to pull on our hearts to go talk to someone who needs to be reminded of Jesus’ love. He can be grieved when we ignore His conviction, just like Ananias and Sapphira grieved Him when they lied to Him (Acts 5:1-11). The Holy Spirit is loving and patient, but He is also righteous and just. He cannot dwell in a Christian who is living in sin. I heard a preacher say that the Holy Spirit is like a dove on our shoulder. We have to be careful to love and honor Him, allowing Him to do His work in us without grieving Him by denying the strength He gives us to flee temptation and to repent immediately with our whole heart. It is a beautiful life when you are sensitive to the Holy Spirit. You see God move in beautiful ways through you, you see God’s hand in everything, you feel so near and connected to God, and you feel guided and protected in the direction of the Holy Spirit. 

 

The Holy Spirit is also the One who allows us to understand the Word of God. Peter was the first disciple to realize that Jesus is the Son of God. And in Matthew 16:17, Jesus tells Peter that he did not realize this on his own, he was given a revelation from God. The Holy Spirit is the One who opens up our minds and hearts if we allow Him to, so that we may understand what God is trying to tell us in a sermon, in a conversation with a friend, while we’re praying, and when we’re reading the Bible. The Holy Spirit enlightens us, gives us revelations, guides us into all truth, and gives us the faith to believe what He reveals to us. Without the help and power of the Holy Spirit, we would be too narrow-minded and unable to grasp any concept of the infinite because we are finite beings. The Holy Spirit is the Eternal, Everlasting God within us, and His presence within us makes us new creations who are born again and eternally connected to the Father. 

 

The Holy Spirit gives us power. We have the power of Jesus’ blood in us and the power of the Holy Spirit. This power is the strength to flee sin and defeat it’s influence in our lives, the power to testify the truth of God’s Word, and the power to run and finish the race of life and persevere in our relationship with God. God never promised us that life would be easy as a Christian, but the Holy Spirit is our Comforter and Helper in every moment. He gives us the power to pray and helps us think of what to pray for. He gives us the strength to get back up and He speaks to us, assuring us in His love when no one else can. The Holy Spirit loves us, just as God and Jesus does, and He wants us to feel His presence. All we have to do is ask that He would reveal Himself to us more and more, and that we would be sensitive to Him in every moment. Then we will be able to live lives that are guided directly by the Holy Spirit and we would be effective in our callings in life. 

 

Which brings me to another ministry of the Holy Spirit. He is a Giver of Gifts. He gives us Spiritual Gifts and helps us to produce fruits. God tells us in 1 Corinthians 12:11 that He gives us gifts “as He determines,” the Holy Spirit knows what gifts you can handle and what work you would be most effective doing for the Kingdom of God. That same verse tells us that all the Spiritual Gifts are the work of “one and the same Spirit,” and He distributes a gift, or a few gifts, to each person according to the grace given to each of us (Romans 12:6). The Holy Spirit not only gives us these gifts, but He helps us carry them out effectively and with humility so that we may honor God in all we do. He equips us, encourages our hearts towards God’s will, guides us in what we should say and do and where we should go, and He gives us grace as imperfect people trying with all our might to do the perfect will of God in the callings He’s given us. The Holy Spirit also gives us the Fruit of the Spirit, being love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. These are the FRUIT. Singular. All of these characteristics are encompassed in the Holy Spirit, and He continues to work in our heart, making us more holy by developing in us a greater measure of the Fruit of the Spirit as He shapes us through life’s circumstances and through our thoughts. 

 

The Holy Spirit is God dwelling within us, helping us know which path to take and when we’ve stumbled onto the wrong one. He really is speaking to us, stirring our hearts, and convicting our thoughts to make us more holy by shaping our characters so we have a greater measure of the Fruit of the Spirit. So that as we go through life we would be chiseled, mended, and shaped to look more like Christ; being made as holy as possible and guided to fulfill God’s will for our lives so that when our times comes to enter into God’s Kingdom, we would be ready. We would have fulfilled our callings to the best of our ability through the help and power of the Holy Spirit, and we would have been as effective as possible in being willing, humble, and Spirit-led vessels for the work of God on earth. Whatever your gifts and callings are in life, wherever you are in your relationship with God, and no matter what sin you face, ask the Holy Spirit to reveal Himself to you and guide you in everything. May He change our lives and draw us nearer to our Father. 

Don’t Give Up

Beach1 (7)The process of self-examination, as we have learned, is a determined pursuit of self-discovery towards who God has truly called us to be. By evaluating our hearts and intentions, behaving in conformity to our Spirit-inspired principles, and putting these goals into practice, we can become more like the people we are intended to be: God’s people. As we become more like Christ, we identify with His resurrected life. As His power fills the very essence of who we are, our lives are given a higher calling.

In the story of Joshua, God calls him to lead the Israelites across the Jordan River and into the promised land. It was a frightening task, but Joshua set his mind on the promises of God and pressed on with confidence. God’s promises aren’t seasonal; they are eternal and they are for everyone who believes in Him, not just the people we read about in the Bible. These key Biblical figures were world-changers and yet, they were as human as the rest of us. What did they do differently? They had a goal, a purpose, and a strategy.

In Numbers 13, we read about the 12 men Moses had sent to explore Canaan. Upon returning from their travels, they spoke of the abundance of milk and honey, but they also explained the giant and powerful inhabitants of the land. Amidst the crowd of men, Caleb considered the seemingly intimidating news as a challenge. His response to them was, “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.”

As we continue examining ourselves before God—our shortcoming, our weakness, our dying bodies—the task of continuing on through life victoriously can seem impossible.

How can we press forward with the confidence and boldness of people like Joshua and Caleb?

We must remember to never give up! Giving up is always an option, but never for God’s people. We must never give up! Great things will always take time. And once again I say, we must never give up! Jesus never gave up on us. Though opposition is inevitable, we must look past our present condition and towards the greater purpose set out for us; for God is more interested in who are becoming rather than what we have accomplished. Our goal is the Kingdom of Heaven, our purpose is to serve God and people, and our strategy is to preach the gospel to the ends of the earth. We must keep our eyes fixed on these three things. Let us be faithful, even in the little things, for God promises us that He will be with us every step of the way. Let us never give up!

What Now?

Processed with VSCO with k3 presetWe’ve examined what’s good and what needs work in our lives, we’ve learned the principles of how to conquer that change, so now how do we take it from concept to doing it?

It’s going to be all through Jesus Christ.

As Valentine’s day comes and goes some of us might still be searching for that perfect love, or that perfect person to encourage us in the right direction. But Jesus commands us in Matthew 6:33 to seek His face first. Even David knew that by striving to seek God’s face it would lead to his victory. Now let’s take a step back. How have we been doing so far? Have we been letting our goals collect dust, just like our Bibles? Have we accumulated the “I wish I would have” mindset even when it comes to our spirituality? 1 John 3:18 charges us to not merely love with words, but with our actions. This correlates into not only talking about our goals, but actually doing them. Have we settled on being comfortable bench warmers? Is it because we’re scared of the opinions of our peers who pull us down?

Have we let the devil tell us we’re incapable of doing the great things we dream of, or even trick us into being too afraid to fail that we don’t even try? The Bible says that, for though the righteous man falls seven times, they rise again. And how we rise again is knowing that Jesus overcame the devil. Got fear? Jesus conquered fear. Got sin? Jesus separated you from your sin on the cross. Got family problems? Jesus says call on Him in the day of trouble and He will deliver you. Got stress? Jesus says take heart for He has overcome the world. We are more than conquerors through Him who loves us. And no one has ever loved us more than Jesus.

Principles

Processed with VSCO with k3 presetLast week we saw that having principles are essential in being an imitator of Christ. In our series of Waking Up, as we examine our hearts and realize exactly how much we need Jesus to transform us, we have to hold on to principles that will govern our behavior and hold us accountable for being Christ-like in every area of our lives.

Looking at Hebrews 6: 1-3

“Therefore, leaving the elementary message about the Messiah, let us go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, faith in God, teaching about ritual washing laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And we will do this if God permits.”

We see that God wants us to stop focusing so much on the elementary principles in Christianity. We focus so much on repentance from dead works specifically, and just trying to be better than we were yesterday, but this is an endless cycle of picking ourselves out of the mud, staring at it, and slipping into it again. We get caught up in our own self-righteousness and cannot look past ourselves to see what else God wants us to do. God wants us to realize that there is so much more to focus on as His children. He has so much in store for us and wants to use us in so many ways for His glory.

We must become mature and find principles to live by that are according to God’s Word. God wants to take us deeper into the understanding and knowledge of who He is, and He wants to use our gifts and our hearts to a greater measure. Although these elementary principles of faith are important, we have to stop drinking milk and start eating meat. If day by day all we can focus on is being right with God and perfect enough based on our own expectations, we will not be available to be used in greater measures. It is important to dig into God’s Word and find principles for ourselves that encourage and challenge us to push deeper into our relationship with God so that we may be prepared and ready to be used as effective servants. We have to long to know God more, be more persistent of experiencing His presence in every moment, and pray continuously asking Him to speak to us so that we would be guided by Him in every moment. We need to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit to let Him mold and shape us as we examine ourselves.

I heard a sermon where it was said that “it is the Holy Spirit’s ministry to make us more like Christ”. We have the Holy Spirit as our help and guide. We must allow Him to do His work within us to take us from glory to glory. May we wake up by examining our hearts and challenging ourselves by having more mature and character-challenging principles so that by the power of the Holy Spirit we may be effective and bear fruits, and be made more like Christ for the sake of this World.

Examine

Processed with VSCO with c3 presetWho are we really? Do we hide behind our deeds, how many times we go to church, or how good we look in front of everyone? But does that reveal your heart, especially when actions may deceive others, even ourselves? Through examining ourselves, we can hopefully discover who the real us is.

But first, what self-examination is not. Too often we look to others and think if we are doing as good as them, then we are in good standing, but Matthew 7:3-5 could not be clearer – we are to look to ourselves. The only standard we need compare ourselves to is Jesus Christ, because one of the dangerous pitfalls of comparing ourselves to man is that we judge their actions as worse than ours, therefore we must be good. This is wrong because comparing ourselves to others leads to a false sense of self-righteousness. God is the only standard we hold ourselves to for holiness.

So then, why is self-examination so difficult? Why is it so hard for us to be real with ourselves? It’s hard because we are prideful, because we think we’re better than we are. C.S. Lewis once said that “pride is a spiritual cancer: it eats up the very possibility of love or contentment or even common sense.” We’re prideful, we don’t want to admit that we are messed up, not to others, and especially not to ourselves, because being honest about our faults makes us vulnerable. Being told were wrong makes us uncomfortable, and known, but that’s exactly how God wants us to be with Him.

How do we do it? How do we examine ourselves? The first step is to create space. Just you and God. If Jesus Christ needed to create space to commune with God, there is no reason why we shouldn’t either. The second step is to pray. Slow down. Speak clearly. Imagine you are in the same space with God, and just talk with Him. Ask God to show where in your life you need to repent. This is the hard part, because it’s scary and you must be real and vulnerable with yourself to God. In your prayer ask God to give you the courage and boldness to identify and call out your weakness before Him. Next, we need to read scripture. Ask God that his word be a double-edged sword, ask for conviction and divine reflection. If you need to, ask Him to show you direction when you’re reading. Now here is the most important step: listen. It’s hard for us because we live in a world of instant gratification, but slow down, and listen. Really listen, stop, think, and He will tell you what you need. Lastly, ask for help. Ask Holy Spirit to kill the sin in your life, ask to be filled every single day, and trust that He will change you from one degree of glory to another.

Who is the real you?

Who is God calling you to be?

What needs to change?

Rock of Ages

Rock of Ages“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.” – James 1:2-6 ESV

The heading for this passage in James is called Testing of Your Faith, and what I want to focus on is the last verse. A person who is doubtful is like a wave that is DRIVEN and tossed by the wind. I want to compare this to my favorite quote by Charles Spurgeon.
“I have learned to kiss the wave that DRIVES me against the Rock of Ages”

The Lord has taken me through some brutal seasons of testing recently that have produced so much in me. In these times of growth, I have learned to grow increasingly fond of my trials. And I think that is what God intends. Because there are varying degrees of intensity and duration, and there are all sorts of trials, I know that they are innumerable, and I would not be fond of, or have the maturity and faith to be equipped for now. But even though the trials I have endured so far have been challenging, and at times excruciating to endure – because I have seen the blessings and the fruit that has been produced as a result – I have learned to esteem them. I have seen them as good, and I would go through them all over again; without changing a thing, because I see the beautiful outcome God created out of every piece of the mess. And that is worth all the temporary pain and confusion trials may bring.

Trials, although extremely confusing and seeping with sacrifice and suffering, serve so many unique purposes, but there is an underlying truth and reason for why trials exist.

Going back to Spurgeons’ quote: waves, or trials, are meant to DRIVE us against the Rock of Ages. God intends for trials to wrap us back into the safety of His presence, under the shadow of His wing, and to renew our focus, foundation, and the center of our lives back on Him. He is our Rock of Ages. Our Firm Foundation, Strong Tower, and the Rock that is higher than I.

There are two things I love about this quote, and it is the words: “kiss” and “drive.” To kiss someone implies an intimacy with them. You do not kiss something unless you love, admire, and adore them. Trials are something we must learn to kiss. We must be trained and disciplined to not only embrace trials, but to love and admire them for what they are worth. I do not know if I could be so bold as to say we should or even could adore them, but we have the incredible gift and opportunity to adore the One who either (depending on the trial) is the wave sender or the wave absorber. We must believe that the Rock of Ages loves us unconditionally and only allows trials to happen because He causes them to be for our good and His glory. We must adore the One who loves us enough to allow us to go through hardships so that we can grow through them. Because He loves us too much to let us stay immature and caught up in sin and ignorance, He has a perfect plan to mold and shape us through each wave.

James 1:2-6 states, those who doubt are “like a wave of the sea that [are] driven and tossed by the wind”. When we doubt and do not ask of God in faith or do not believe what God says or who He is, we are wandering in the waves, vulnerable and able to be pushed around wherever the wind takes us. This is dangerous because when we are vulnerable and not planted firm in the promises of God, the Enemy has a foothold to tell us lies and push us further into the deep; further into our doubt. We should thank God then, for the wave that DRIVES us.

There are several versions of this quote that replaces the word “drives”. Some say “crashes”, “throws”, “slams”, “strikes”, etc. But I like drives better. This is because drive comes off as intentional, more carefully determined and planned. God uses these trials to drive us to Himself, making sure that these tests are crafted to us uniquely. God created us, so He knows exactly how to get our attention and what kind of trial to send us through to produce in us what He intends. He uses each trial; specially planned and catered to our needs, to drive us directly and firmly into a place of surrender in Him so we are led into His arms of provision and protection.

Obviously, if we are not obedient to Him, if we do not train ourselves to appreciate the purpose of trials, and consumed in doubt we do not believe that God’s arms are the safest place for us, we may fight the wave or sink underwater to avoid being pushed by the wave and therefore thrown against the Rock. Although trials are intended to bring us deeper into God’s presence and in a place of surrender, it is our choice whether we let the wave drive us to the Rock of Ages. It is our choice whether we fight against the reality of the wave, sinking into apathy and depression, or we let the wave do what it was created to do.

Because God is tirelessly protecting us and not allowing us to go through more than we can handle, He is not only sometimes the wave sender; He is always the wave absorber. No matter what trials we go through in life, and always; good and bad, God asks us to always rest in His presence, release our burdens at the foot of His throne, and surrender our hearts with all its doubts and concerns into His loving and almighty hands. Although we suffer due to trials, He asks us to rest in Him. One of the greatest reasons for trials is for us to be driven further into His loving arms in surrender. So, although we suffer the blows of trials; by resting in Him, having our eyes fixed on the One who is our Answer, and having a mind that is steadfast in the truth of who God is, we are in a position that aligns us to have the weight of the trial held not on our shoulders, but on the shoulders of our gracious and sacrificial Father.

When we are firm in Him, our trials become less taxing, less confusing, less consuming, less imminent, less threatening, less powerful, and less deprecating. Instead, because we have embraced the presence of the trial and therefore allowed God to have complete access to our heart and the ability to mold us as He sees fit, trials become beautiful seasons of growth. Trials produce fruit, character, perseverance, patience, a deeper intimacy with and a greater understand of God, and so many blessings that God wills to give us for having withstood the test. We are in the arms of a God who sustains us and gives us His perspective into trials. When we see trials from His point of view; understanding they are intended to refine us and mold us into becoming more like Him, we can feel the uninhibited freedom, unexplainable joy, and perfect love that our Creator holds out willing for us to grasp.