Who is the Holy Spirit?

 

The Holy Spirit is perhaps the most misunderstood person of the Trinity. Just the word “spirit” draws different imagery for people, some positive some not so positive. Change the word to “ghost” and that is a whole other level of confusion.

The Holy Spirit is a travel guide along our faith journey. As Jesus went up into Heaven He directed His followers to tell the whole world the Good News and how the Holy Spirit will be with them enabling them to go and make disciples.

“And when the Holy Spirit comes on you, you will be able to be my witnesses in Jerusalem all over Judea and Samaria, even to the ends of the world.”
— Acts 1:8 The Message

The disciples did not need to rely solely on themselves. The had the Holy Spirit with them giving encouragement, empowerment and fully equipping them to tell the Good News.

Since Creation the Holy Spirit has been with the people of God guiding them as they serve and share the Good News.  The still small voice whispering in one’s ear to go and tell.  The bold confidence to face one’s enemies without fear despite the obvious obstacles. The strength to carry on when the body grows weary.

The journey of faith can grow tiring at times, discouraging from time to time.  It does become difficult to keep trusting when you cannot physically see or hear God.  Faith is bolstered by the Holy Spirit through the Spirit’s comforting nature.  For one to know it does not rest solely on one’s self reduces the anxiety levels.  An individual can exhale and not keep the stress all inside. We are equipped and empowered by the Holy Spirit as the followers of Jesus Christ to be His witnesses to the ends of the earth.

One does not need to be scared by the Holy Spirit.  Rather, be comforted by your travel companion given to you by your Heavenly Father.

So the question to you is this: how can you rely on the Holy Spirit to guide you along the journey of faith? What area of faith would you like to grow more in?

Growing in faith and trusting the leading of the Holy Spirit does require a surrendering of control on each of our parts.  We cannot be led if we continue to insist to retain control and make the final decision.  Whatever area of faith you would like to grow in trust the Holy Spirit.  The Spirit will not misguide you.  Be not afraid of where you are being led.  Follow in the footsteps of the Holy Spirit knowing the details of the journey have already been planned by God.

This Week’s Challenge:  Give one thing over to God and trust the Holy Spirit to guide you through it.  Pray and listen to learn how you are being led by the Holy Spirit.  Go serve and share and see how God is using you to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ.

How Can You Hear God Speaking?

 

Us Christians have a habit of using the phrase “hear God speaking…” To someone who is not a follower of Jesus Christ it does sound a little strange.  How can one physically hear God speaking? How is it is possible to hear a person who is not even seen visibly?

What do Christians actually mean when they say they listen to the voice of God?

First things first, it is possible to physically hear the voice of God.  He does not very often audibly speak to a person but He has and does speak audibly to us.

More often God communicates with individuals through one’s reading of the Bible. It is the Word of God. It has been written down for all over the world to read and hear the voice of God. We hear directly from God each time we read it.

Have you ever gotten a gut feeling about something? You can’t explain it but you know it is the right choice?  That gut feeling is another way God speaks to us.  He uses the Holy Spirit to guide us along the pathway God has planned for each of us. It feels like an urge, push in a certain direction. A still small voice in one’s soul speaking the voice of God in a quiet manner.

A third way God speaks with us is through our fellow believers. Listening and learning from their experiences and perspectives can help one know where God is leading her. We hear the voices of our friends but it is the words of God that we are hearing. Praying directly to God helps us understand what He is saying to us.

One final way we hear God is the doors that open and the doors that close before us. The circumstances we can find ourselves in can be signs of how God is leading us. There are times things or opportunities that seem to fall right out of the sky into our laps. God guides us and brings us to places and people at just the right time so we can serve and share Him in all we do and say.

There are many different ways that God speaks to us. However loud or soft spoken He may be we need to slow down and fully listen to Him. It gets easier over time as we draw closer to Him in our relationship with Him. No matter what it requires humility to always be willing to listen and learn from our Father in Heaven Who loves us no matter what.

This Week’s Challenge

Take time this week to notice those moments you sense God talking to you.  What does God teach you when reading the Bible? What did a friend say to you that seemed like God was talking directly to you? What opportunity arose this week that could only be God orchestrating it? Write each moment down and see the common thread in them in what God is saying to you.

Why Read the Bible?

 

Classic literature can be so boring to read. How did someone ever think this was really good? Moby Dick, anyone?  There must be some piece of entertainment to it if it has lasted over the decades, centuries or even millennia. People keep reading the classics and keep recommending them to read.

At times the Bible can be boring to read and appear to be irrelevant to modern day times. So why would one want to read it?

The Bible is more of a portable library then one book. It is comprised of 66 books written by different authors, to different audiences, in different styles over a couple thousand years in various languages. It has war stories, family drama, love affairs, political and religious upheaval, start of a new movement, unjust persecution, hope-filled love stories.  It has a little bit of everything for everyone.

A person would read the Bible to learn how to be in relationship with God the Father. In it one reads how much God loves us and never gives up on us. An individual will see through the stories that God works in and through people who have made mistakes and been cast aside by society. It gives hope, confidence to anyone who reads it. No one is too far away from God.

But how do you read the Bible?

First find one that feels comfortable for you to read.  There are many styles & translations that make it more approachable for anyone to read the Bible. There are also Bible apps you can download for free (YouVersion Bible app is a good one) to help you get started in reading the Bible.

It does seem scary at the start to read the Bible.  Fancy phrases.  Long lists of people. Rules. Poetry.

Where to begin?  Genesis? Matthew? Psalms? Acts? And much should one read at one time.

All are great questions.

I recommend people start with a Gospel (Matthew, Mark, Luke or John). Read as much as you want at a time. There is no set timetable to get it “done.” What is important is to read and listen to what God is teaching you.  Reading the Bible is not an academic experience. It is meant to be a time growing one’s relationship with Jesus Christ.

The Bible is how God communicates directly with us. It is the Word of God. It is timeless. It applies to every person in every context, culture.

When you read the Bible read to learn, to explore. Take time to process it. Whether it be by journalling, doodling, contemplating, running/biking/hiking, or whatever. Approach it as spending time with a friend and listening to his stories.

This Week’s Challenge

Pick a book of the Bible to read each day this week.  Read at your own pace. After each day’s reading spend time writing, doodling, thinking/praying, exercising, whatever to better understand what God is teaching you. Be surprised by what you learn.

How Do You Pray?

 

“Let us pray.”

(Did you have an innate urge to bow your hear and fold your heads?  I certainly did.)

Many people hear that statement and get nervous. They don’t know what to say or how to pray. What if one says the wrong thing? Will God get mad and stop listening?

What is the best way to pray?

To best answer the question we must first understand what prayer is.

It is communicating with God. It involves both talking and listening. We share with God our thoughts, feelings, concerns. He, in return, comforts and cares for us, share His love for us, let us know what He has planned for us. Prayer is a two way conversation. We listen and learn from God.

Prayer is not a vending machine. We cannot go through life doing everything on our own and when we are unable to get what we want we turn to God to make it happen. Prayer is the time we spend with God communicating and building our relationship together.

Prayer helps us practice the Missional Life Habits of “Be Present” and “Listen and Learn” We put away the distractions and spend time with Jesus alone. We share our highs and lows.  We listen to learn what God has to share with us.  We simply talk with God in a conversation.

So, how can you pray?

You can bow your head and fold your hands.  Another way is to go to a quiet place, sit in a comfy chair maybe with a cup of coffee and talk with God.  Or go out for a walk/run/bike ride. The exact how of prayer looks different for each person because everyone’s relationship with Jesus looks different.

However you pray focus on being authentic with God. Share your honest thoughts and feelings. Be open to hearing from God and learning new things from Him.

Keep it simple.

Keep it real.

Talking with God does not have to be fancy with archaic sounding words. It can be a casual conversation like one you would have with one of your friends. What is most important is building the trust and relationship between you and God. Prayer is the communication tool you use to do just that.

This Week’s Challenge

Find time each day this week to talk with God. Write in a journal. Go for a walk/run/bike ride. Sit in a comfy chair and talk with God over a cup of coffee. However you pray listen to what God is telling you.

What is Faith, Anyway?

What is faith? How do you know faith when you see it?

The technical definition of faith:

“complete trust  or confidence in someone or something”

Each person has faith in something or someone. Trust in your car’s brakes to stop when you step on them. Confidence the floor won’t collapse out from under your feet. Trust that a loved one remains by your side through thick and thin.

Faith is an interesting thing. It is a living thing. It grows though shared experiences and wanes by non-use. It must be practiced in order to grow and continue to exist.

The Christian faith is not simply a religion. It is a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. It is learning to let go of yourself and embrace more of Him. A surrendering of the need to control. Letting God be God and placing ourselves second.

So how does one have faith in Jesus Christ?

It begins with sitting with Him and listening. Reading the Bible and learning from the Holy Spirit. Asking a disciple/student of Jesus Christ why s/he loves Jesus.

Faith in Jesus is similar to a muscle that needs to be practiced in order to grow and strengthen. One must take a courageous step to grow and learn about faith. Similar to trying something new. You are not sure what to expect but you are going to try anyway. Could be bad. Could be good. Who knows unless you try.

As you begin your faith journey try new things, ask questions, learn from others. Explore. Experience. Enjoy. Follow where the Holy Spirit leads. Be not afraid. Have every confidence that God is in complete control and will not steer you wrong.

You can have faith by trusting Jesus. You have faith when you humble yourself and follow Him. Faith will grow as you dare greatly and try new things as He leads you.

This Week’s Challenge

Try something new this week and trust God to protect you.

What is one thing you have been wanting to do but scared? Take the courageous step forward in faith and see what happens.

All for Love

On my right ankle there is a tattoo which represents two great loves of my life, Jesus Christ and baseball. It is two baseball bats in the shape of a cross. Not your typical cross emblem. It is a visual summary of where my heart lies, my faith and baseball.

Many people when they see it ask me about it. I share how my Mom and Grammy shared their own faiths with me as I grew up through the baseball games we watched together.

The cross in many respects is the logo for Christianity. Whenever a person sees it, regardless of his/her own faith, they associate the cross with the Christian faith and Jesus Christ. What was once used as a brutal device for death is now a highly recognizable symbol of love, grace and forgiveness.

So why would millions of people wear something that brutally killed thousands? It is because of one man who died on the cross but 3 days later rose from the grave. Jesus’ death on the cross changed the entire world. He willingly gave all of Himself so that each of us may live eternally with Him, the Father and the Holy Spirit in Heaven.

Question: But couldn’t we solve the problem ourselves? Why would we need a Savior?

Answer: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23).

No one, nary a one human being could save him/herself by his/her own effort. God the Father demands perfection. One mistake and all is lost. There is not one human being who would be able to meet that standard. All of humanity is need of a Savior. Jesus Christ willingly gave of Himself to die on the cross on our behalf to pay the entire price for our sins.

Jesus died because He loves you. He died to redeem you from the bondage of sin, death and the devil. He did not stay dead. He rose from the grave conquering sin, death and the devil.  Because He lives we can live too.

This Week’s Challenge – Do something for another person to show him/her how much you care for them.  Cook a nice dinner for a loved one.  Surprise a friend with a small gift. Wash a friend’s car just because. Serve one because you love them.

The Question We All Will Answer

I cannot exactly remember when I met my best friend. There was not a specific event where we met, instantly connected and knew we would be best friends forever.  Our friendship found its beginnings in a more subtle way. We hung out in the same circle of friends and over time, slowly but surely we became best friends.

We have been friends now for several years. Share experiences together. Been by each other’s side through thick and thin. Through it all our bond deepens.

It was similar experience with Jesus Christ. Growing up in the church we hung out together and over time we became best friends. I would not say there was one significant moment that solidified our relationship.  It grew gradually over time, deepening at different experiences. Each time Jesus stood by my side asking the same question, “Who do you say that I am?” (Mark 8:29)

Most people have heard the name Jesus Christ.  Some call Him Savior.  Others a wise man who lived thousands of years ago. Still others think He was a crazy guy who thought He was God.  Wherever you fall on that scale you have a general idea for yourself who Jesus Christ is.

Jesus is One Who loves unconditionally, whether we love Him back on or not. He walks beside us through thick and thin helping and caring for us every step of the way.  He waits for us to turn back to Him and journey with Him sharing the wonderful experiences in life.

One time while Jesus was teaching His disciples He asked them who do they think He was. Their answers came from what others were saying about Him. A reincarnation of a great prophet from Israel’s past, to His recently killed cousin to the long-awaited Messiah, Savior of the people. He did not care what others said He wanted to know they thought for themselves.

The same is true for us today.  It does not matter what our parents, spouses, friends say.  Jesus wants to hear from us directly. He longs for a personal relationship with us alone.  Another person’s faith cannot save us. Faith is non-transferable.  While one shares his/her faith story we all are called by God to have our own faith story.

The question that is front of each us — Who do you say Jesus is?

Is He some crazy dead guy who thought He was God?

Is He a wise man with good teachings?

Is He the Lord and Savior Who loves you unconditionally and wants to have a relationship with you alone?

We all will answer this question for ourselves one day. I pray as you seek the answer for yourself you listen to Jesus speak to you and hear how deep His love is for you.

Listen to one’s faith story. Read Jesus’ words in the Bible. Have the conversation with Him alone. May you answer for yourself, “You are the Christ, Son of the Living God.” (Mark 8:30)

This Week’s Challenge

Read the Gospel of Mark (only 16 chapters).  Ask a friend to share why s/he loves Jesus Christ.

Shaken or Firm Foundation in the midst of the Storm?

The summer before I began high school my life completely changed.  It was something I saw coming but it nonetheless drastically changed my life. My world changed in every way possible never to be the same again.

It was as if a tornado came in blowing everything from one side to the other. There was complete chaos.  In a desperate but ineffective attempt I tried to restore order.  Whatever I chased, it was for naught as the beloved item blew away in the wind.  Whatever it was I sought after was gone forever, never to be restored again. My life felt as a natural disaster. There was no restoration only rebuilding.

Amidst the rubble one question lingered in the air: What can I rely on?

All that I had built my life upon was gone.  All that I thought to be true and reliable was gone. The very things, people I fully trusted to be reliable proved to be shaky.  What I thought was a solid foundation turned out to be an unstable foundation.

Before I could begin to rebuild I had to find a new foundation that would not crumble. If I was going to rebuild it was going to be on a firm foundation.

So what was that firm foundation?

There was one thing that was blown away by the tornado — Jesus Christ. I could return to Him and collapse in His arms. Tired from rebuilding I sat in His arms remembering I am loved. I learned I am not alone. Jesus is the firm foundation I sought after and have since built my life on. There are certainly no cracks in that foundation.

There are still storms in life. They will be unavoidable. The difference now is I do not rely on myself to power through them. I turn to Jesus Christ alone for the calm in the storm I seek. The hurricane may be blowing all around us but the sky above is blue and the winds are still. The storm could be at its harshest immediately around us but we remain calm standing beside Jesus Christ in the midst of it.

What/Who do you rely on?  Is the foundation for your life able to withstand any storm?

“[Jesus said,] A thief is only there to steal and kill and destroy. I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.” (John 10:10 The Message) 

The things of this world will fade away. People will disappoint us.  But one thing remains: Jesus Christ.  He does not get blown away from a tornado.  He stands firm and holds our hand through it all.  He is our firm foundation.

As we have Jesus Christ as our firm, steady foundation we are able to weather the storms of life.  If a tornado comes in and blows away everything we have His peace to remain calm and ready to rebuild.  The storms will still come but how we view them will be changed.

We have The Firm Foundation, Jesus Christ, whenever a storm arises.  There is no need to fear. Jesus is the Calm in the storm.

This Week’s Challenge:

Is there a struggle in your life that is on a shaky foundation?  How can you hold Jesus’ hand and stand on His firm foundation through it?

Social Media: #missional #discipleship #thefirmfoundation

Live a Creative Life

“ [Creative Living is]…living a life that is driven more strongly by curiosity than by fear.” Big Magic (Elizabeth Gilbert)

We serve a creative God. A God Who speaks the entire world into creation. We are created in His image. We have been given a spirit that is curious to seek and learn. But since the Fall, the Rebellion of humanity, that curiosity has been stymied by fear.

The fear of the unknown stalls us from stepping out in faith to explore, to experience, to enjoy.  Fear keeps us feeling “safe and warm” in our small comfort zones. It whispers in our ear what could go wrong, how we could be hurt. Fear causes us to question our Creator God.

But what we must remember is we have been created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). Curiosity is deep within our souls. God desires to walk with us and help us experience His beautiful creative world. Fear, being afraid, has no room on our journey. It only hinders; it does not help us grow or explore.

To live a creative life requires us to open ourselves up to God’s leading and be curious. To surrender ourselves wholly to the Creator God Who loves us unconditionally. We cannot even begin to imagine what God has all ready to show us. And once we take the first step of faith we begin to be amazed at God’s creativity.

So a question for you…How are you held back by fear in your life?

Where would you like to explore God’s creation with a creative life?

What do you want God to show you?

Have no fear!

Go live the creative life God has just for you!

Explore. Experience. Enjoy.

Walk by faith. Keep in step with the Holy Spirit.

Take the step of faith into the grand adventure with God. Leave fear behind and ask the curious questions.  They may seem small and insignificant. Always remember, you do not know what you do not know.  God may just have an incredible teaching moment prepared to unfold before you.

So keep your eyes open.  Ask questions.  Be ready to be amazed by the Creator God.

You have been created to live a creative life with Jesus Christ.  Be not held back by fear.  Step out of the comfort zone to explore.  Journey with Jesus Christ to experience. Be curious and enjoy.  You have been freed from fear by the blood of Jesus Christ to live the creative life.

Be creative!

Do you have a Shaky or Firm Foundation during a Storm?

The summer before I began high school my life completely changed.  It was something I saw coming but it nonetheless drastically changed my life. My world changed my life. My world changed in every way possible never to be the same again.

It was as if a tornado came into my life blowing everything apart. There was chaos and I tried to restore order.  Wherever I chased, it was for naught.  Whatever it was I sought after it was gone forever. I declared my life as a natural disaster. There was only rebuilding.

Amidst the rubble I was left with this question: What can I rely on?

All that I had built my life upon was gone.  All that I thought to be true and reliable was gone. The very things and people I fully trusted to be reliable proved to be shaky.  What I thought was a solid foundation turned out to be an unstable foundation.

Before I could begin to rebuild I had to find a new foundation that would not crumble. If I was going to rebuild it was going to be on a firm foundation.

So what is a firm foundation?

There was one thing in my life that was blown apart by the tornado — Jesus Christ. I could return to Him and collapse in His arms. Tired from rebuilding I sat in His arms remembering I am loved. Through my life I learned I am not alone. Jesus is the firm foundation I sought after and have since built my life on. There are certainly no cracks in that foundation.

There are still storms in life. They do seem to be unavoidable. The difference is I do not rely on myself to power through them. I turn to Jesus Christ alone for the calm in the storm. It’s as if the hurricane is blowing all around us but the sky above is blue and the winds are still. The storm could be at its harshest immediately around us but we remain calm in the midst of it.

A question for you: What/Who do you rely on?  Is the foundation for your life able to withstand any storm?

“A thief is only there to steal and kill and destroy. I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.” (John 10:10 The Message) 

The things of this world will fade away. People will disappoint us.  But one thing remains: Jesus Christ.  He does not get blown away from a tornado.  He stands firm and holds our hand through it all.  He is a firm foundation.

As we have Jesus Christ as our firm, steady foundation we are able to weather the storms of life.  If a tornado comes in and blows away everything we have His peace to remain calm and ready to rebuild.  The storms will still come but how we view them will be changed.

We have The Firm Foundation, Jesus Christ, whenever a storm arises.  There is no need to fear. Jesus is the Calm in the storm.

This Week’s Challenge:

Is there a struggle in your life that is on a shaky foundation?  How can you hold His hand and stand on His firm foundation through it?