From Messes to Miracles: Giving Your Life to God

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Today’s guest post is by Tammie Head, author of More: From Messes to Miracles, a new ebook coming soon to Vyrso. Head is the founder of Totally Captivated Ministries, and resides in Cypress, Texas with her husband, Erin, and their two daughters. 

 

Messy.

We’re all feeling it.

People everywhere are anguished inside for something more. Churched and non-churched alike. I’ve met them in malls, talked with them in nail salons, prayed with them in my church, encouraged them in my friendships, visited with them at speaking events, cried with them in my home and, honestly, I’ve been that person myself.

None of us have to stay this way though. God has a miraculous plan for our lives. If I know you like I think I do, you want it. So much so, the desire for it probably drives you crazy sometimes. We’re each longing for something more. What if we found the more in this season of Lent?

But I just have to ask:

Have you ever seen something so unbelievable you scratched your head in wonder? And your jaw dropped to the floor? That’s what God wants to do in your life. Would you like to know how to tap into his plans?

It starts by encountering his presence, by becoming his disciple.

When I was young, I struggled to understand what made life worth the living. Before God saved me, it seemed to me as if life wasn’t worth the effort, you know? Restless thoughts tirelessly entertained my mind. I longed for a different version of life and, furthermore, I longed for a different version of me. Deep in my soul’s fabric was an irksome sense of void and vacancy.

I used to think my upbringing was the initiator of my pining for something more. But then I grew up and discovered many of my friends felt it too. And their backgrounds were dazzling compared to mine. What I realized is all of us engaged with life as human garbage disposals looking for something, anything, to whet our appetites and satisfy us.

Some of us sought it in seemingly good ways—pursuing good deeds, being respectable, and passionately watching our every single p and q. Others sought it in rebellion—pushing the envelope, climbing out windows, and sailing the gusty winds. Neither avenue, respectable or not so respectable, was able to provide what we yearned for.

The truth is, everything sold us short. Finding lasting love. Amassing popularity, power, and control. Working our way up the corporate ladder. Making great money. Having gorgeous bodies. Accumulating loads of material possessions. Owning fabulous homes. Living however, wherever, and with whomever—getting our own way for a change. When our heads hit the pillow at night we each still knew:

Somethings missing.

Perhaps you can relate?

Later on in life, I discovered this need for more stems from the same empty well in all of us—even if our attempts to satisfy our emptiness play out differently in each of our lives. I think this emptiness was created in us by God and for God. I think the “more”we’re longing for is God.

So the question is, how do we find him?

We find him by living a life that is sold out to following hard after God. To discipleship. Like those we read of in the Scriptures. People like Abraham, David, the prophetess Anna, and John the Baptist.

But I’ve also learned a few things about this life of a disciple that I want us to talk about for a minute. These are the very things that keep us from living a life of following hard after God, a life of devoted discipleship:

1. Following God kills usand that scares us.

As Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said, “Salvation is free, but discipleship will cost you your life.” In God’s economy, dying precedes all living. The Lord’s way is to push us up and out of our comfort zones all the way into his strong arms of a thousand dichotomies; rest and risk, safety and unknown, death and life, worship and warfare, wounds and healing, suffering and joy. Yet, what we must remember is that while he pushes us right into that spacious place where nothing is sure, we can also know that all will be well in our Father’s presence.

2. Many of us are in troubling situationswe feel stuck.

Struggles can have a crippling effect on us, leaving us empty and dry. We can’t see past our present disappointments, confusions, and despair. Does this sound familiar? Listen, I have good news for you. You don’t have to stay stuck. God can and wants to help.

To begin tapping into what God has for you starts by throwing down your crutches of self-reliance and giving God what he wants. He wants your life! What if this Lent season you gave up hesitating to obey? What if you opened his Word more, and inhaled it? Or what if you made more room in your life to soak in his abiding presence, and took the time to relax in his arms? What if you gave him full access to everything?

What if you gave him your whole heart?

I am asking God to do a mighty work in your life during this season of Lent—a now work, where you experience a hunger for his presence, his Holy Scriptures, and to walk with him like never before. You were made for more than mere survival. Why not give God your whole life? [Click to Tweet!]

The life of a sold-out, surrendered, on fire, obedient disciple of Christ.

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What Will You Preach Next Month?

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One month from today, Easter will be upon us. I’m hoping that the sun will be shining, that birds will be singing springtime songs, and that the weather will be warm. I also hope that those of you who are preaching will impart the beauty of the gospel to those around you. I hope that your message will be an engaging story of how the gospel intersects with everyday life. I hope that you have a plan.

As Greg Gilbert and Mark Dever argue below, a plan can have a big impact on your congregation. The following is an excerpt from Preach: Theology Meets Practice—you can get it today on Vyrso for $9.99.

The famous third-century preacher John Chrysostom told his congregation in his third sermon on Lazarus and the rich man, “I often tell you many days in advance the subject of what I am going to say, in order that you may take up the book in the intervening days, go over the whole passage, learn both what is said and what is left out, and so make your understanding more ready to learn when you hear what I will say afterwards.”

We think that’s a great idea, and we both try to follow that practice in our own churches by publishing a card that gives our preaching schedule—texts and titles—for the upcoming months. Doing something like that offers a number of benefits. First, like Chrysostom said, it gives your people time to read the passage in advance, to let the Holy Spirit begin to work in their hearts with the themes of that text, and to prepare their hearts to hear the Word of God preached on Sunday. That, in turn, can create a unique sense of excitement in the church. The people come with thoughts of their own, questions and insights about the text; and your words in the sermon are then able to interact with and catalyze with the thoughts they already have. Publishing a preaching schedule will give your people another tool for talking with their non-Christian friends and family about spiritual things. People take those cards, highlight or circle a particular sermon title they think a non-Christian friend might be interested to hear, and then hand it to that person as an invitation to come hear that sermon.

Sometimes people ask us if we think planning a preaching schedule so far in advance could squelch the Holy Spirit. What if something comes up in the life of the church that begs to be addressed? What if you get sick? What if something happens in the world such that your planned series seems out of place all of a sudden? Good questions all. But we don’t think planning a schedule in advance squelches the Holy Spirit.

For one thing we don’t think the Holy Spirit only moves “in the moment.” Of course He does that sometimes, but that’s not the only time He does it. The Holy Spirit also moves and directs months in advance when we are planning a preaching schedule. Both of us have been amazed at how people in our congregations have been impacted by a particular sermon or series in specific and time-sensitive ways. That’s not because we planned for that to happen. On the contrary, we believe the Holy Spirit worked it all together in His providence. Take a look, for example, at this church card from Capitol Hill Baptist Church for the fall of 2001, which included September 11, 2001.

That preaching schedule was made months in advance of the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington. Nothing was adjusted; nothing was changed in the aftermath of the attacks. But look at God’s provision for this congregation right in the heart of one of the cities that came under attack: “The Quest for Justice,” “The Quest for Security,” “When Bad Things Happen: Questions and Confidence.” The Holy Spirit was planning, even months before, to feed His people with truth from His Word that would impact their lives and their needs directly and specifically in the aftermath of—and even in advance of—a world-shaking event.

Not only that, but adherence to a preaching plan doesn’t have to be slavish. Mark tends to stick to a preaching plan more doggedly than I (Greg) do. If Mark gets sick or something else intervenes, the church card is what the church card is—even if it means skipping a sermon in a series. I, on the other hand, have been known to pull all the sermon cards from our pews and print another batch.

We both have the same approach, more or less, to holidays. We both try to plan series in which the sermons that land nearest Christmas and on Easter won’t be utterly weird—though Mark preached once on Christmas Day an entire sermon on death! But we don’t insist that Christmas be from Luke 2 and Easter from Matthew 28. On Christmas Day 2011, I’m scheduled to preach on James 5:13–20, the prayer of the righteous for the sick. For Easter 2011, though, I shifted some things around so that I’d be preaching on Hebrews 8 rather than Hebrews 6. That was in the expectation that we would have an unusual number of visitors in the congregation who would attend church only infrequently, and I wanted a text that would have the gospel itself as the main point.

However you end up doing this, and however tightly you stick to a plan once it’s made, the point is that planning your preaching schedule well in advance can give your people a good tool both for their own spiritual growth and for evangelism.

So, how do you decide what to preach? Well, as we said before, everything should be done for the edification of the church. We would argue that preaching through entire books, preaching from both testaments and all genres of Scripture, preaching from varying altitudes, and publishing in advance what you’re going to preach will best accomplish that goal in the long run.

***

Want more insight on how to preach? Download Mark Dever and Greg Gilbert’s ebook, Preach: Theology Meets Practice for just $9.99.

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A Bundle for Deepening Your Devotion

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With just over a month until Easter, there’s still plenty of time to prepare your heart for Holy Week. Whether you’re preparing your heart for Easter or want to stock up and build your ebook library, we’ve created an exclusive deal that will help.

Our best deal this spring has arrived—the Focused Devotion Bundle.

The Focused Devotion Bundle retails at $215.80, but right now, you can save $140.81 when you download the bundle for $74.99! That’s over 50% in savings.

The limited-time Focused Devotion Bundle has 20 titles from authors like Tony Evans, Kay Arthur, Steve McVey, Erwin W. Lutzer, and others. Get a variety of titles including resources on prayer, biblical studies, devotions, and guides for Christian living. Get must-reads, like:

- Praying Through the Names of God by Tony Evans

- 25 Keys to Life-Changing Prayer by Terry Glaspey

- Conversation with God by Lloyd John Ogilvie

- Following Jesus with Luke by Stonecroft Ministries

 

For a less than $4 per book, the Focused Devotion Bundle is the perfect way to build your library with quality content. This deal won’t be around for long—it expires April 5 at 11:59 p.m. (EST), so get it today!

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Discounted Titles on Discipleship

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This week we’re discussing discipleship—you’ll have the opportunity to hear from some top authors on what discipleship means in the context of Lent. We have a discipleship bundle for men that’s just $12.99 (learn more here.)

There are also a handful of individual titles that you can get for 50% off or more for a limited time during Lent:

Apprenticeship with Jesus: Learning to Live Like the Master by Gary W. Moon—get it for 99 cents!

In this winsome book, Moon provides a 30-day apprenticeship with Jesus, where readers will actively practice being with Jesus day in and day out. Each day’s reading uses compelling stories and scripture to illustrate a point and closes with a suggested apprenticeship activity.

Get this ebook for 99 cents through March 7 at 11:59 p.m. (EST).

 

Loving God with All Your Mind: Thinking as a Christian in the Postmodern World by Gene Edward Veith Jr.—get it for just $7.00!

Loving God with All Your Mind shows us that the answer is neither wholesale rejection of intellectual life and culture, nor blind acceptance of it. The answer lies in understanding that Jesus is Lord of all of life and that everything in life must be carefully viewed in the light of what Christ’s lordship means. Gene Edward Veith unfolds a dazzling critique of the postmodern intellectual world and culture. He affirms the part that is good and true, but he also shows crucial weaknesses that have such a hold over contemporary thought. This book shows Christians how to survive and flourish in a postmodern world while affirming the truth of the Christian faith.

Get this ebook discounted through March 8 at 11:59 p.m. (EST).

 

Disciple Making Is. . . : How to Live the Great Commission with Passion and Confidence by Dave Early and Rod Dempsey—get it for just $6.00!

Grounded on a solid biblical foundation, authors Dave Earley and Rod Dempsey—both veterans of one-on-one, collegiate, small group, and local church discipleship—share their practical insights on how to best reproduce reproducers of Christ’s message.

Get this ebook discounted through March 8 at 11:59 p.m. (EST).

 

Breaking the Discipleship Code: Becoming a Missional Follower of Jesus by David Putman—get it for just $5.00!

Breaking the Discipleship Code, written by Putman with a foreword fromEd Stetzer, opens the door to a greater understanding of what it means to personally be a missional follower of Jesus in relation to every aspect of our changing world. Balancing cultural relevance with biblical faithfulness, the book invites ordinary believers, whether on Wall Street or in a Waffle House, next door or across the ocean, to begin having an extraordinary spiritual impact in their unique context.

Get this ebook discounted through March 8 at 11:59 p.m. (EST).

 

The Master’s Plan for Making Disciples: Every Christian an Effective Witness Through an Enabling Church by Charles and Win Arn—get it for $8.00!

The Master’s Plan for Making Disciples contends that individual Christians should focus on disciple-making as a part of their lifestyle, sharing their faith naturally within their own network of friends and relatives. After articulating principles for making disciples, the authors offer ideas for reaching friends and family, insights on how congregations can support evangelism, and suggestions for more effective incorporation of new converts into the church community.

Get this ebook discounted through March 8 at 11:59 p.m. (EST).

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Personal Discipleship: Get the New Ebook Bundle!

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For most of 2013 and 2014 I oversaw the small group ministry at my local church. A lot of my focus was on the idea of discipleship. Needless to say, we asked a lot of questions and tried to formulate a plan and process for helping people that came through the doors of our church experience God. We asked questions like, how do we help people in their next step? How do we help someone realize they need Jesus? How do we help someone move from having a relationship with Jesus to living out the calling on their life?

From my experience, the single greatest contributor to someone’s spiritual maturity came from personal discipleship. In other words, spending focused time with God reading the Bible and praying for people to experience God, take a next step in their faith journey, and to ultimately live out the calling on their life. With this idea in mind, we’ve created a personal discipleship bundle for menyou can get it for just $12.99 through March 8 at 11:59 p.m. (EST). Here’s what you’ll get in the bundle:

 

A Husband After God’s Own Heart: 12 Things that Really Matter in Your Marriage by Jim George

The closer a husband is to God, the closer he will grow to his wife. That’s why it’s so vital for husbands to pursue God’s heart and get to know his perfect design for the man’s role in the marriage relationship. Husbands will find their marriages growing richer and deeper as they discover how to win a wife’s heart through loving leadership, enjoy better communication through careful listening, build a happier home through wise guidance, encourage the family’s spiritual growth by example, and excel at a career without sacrificing family priorities.

A Man After God’s Own Heart Devotional by Jim George

Author Jim George looks at what the Bible says about the key areas of a man’s life—and offers guidance for excelling at every one of them. This devotional will equip men with the spiritual wisdom and tools they need for making a real difference in all they do.

A Man After God’s Own Heart by Jim George

God knows what it will take for you to experience the satisfaction that comes from living a life of purpose—His purpose. In A Man After God’s Own Heart, you’ll discover God’s perfect design for how you can make a difference in all the key areas of your life.

One-Minute Insights for Men by Jim George

This devotional resource is sized and designed to help busy men discover the rich spiritual wisdom and tools they need for making a real difference—a godly difference—in all they do.

 

Grow in your personal devotional life with the Personal Discipleship Bundle for Men. Get all four ebooks for $12.99—that’s a savings of $28.97! Through March 8 at 11:59 p.m. (EST) you can bundle and save big!

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Lent Devotional: Exalting Jesus in 1 & 2 Thessalonians

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I believe that practicing discipline in our spiritual devotion causes a natural overflow of life into every aspect of our lives. Today’s post is an excerpt from Exalting Jesus in 1 & 2 Thessalonians edited by Mark Howell—which analyzes Paul’s letter to the Thessalonian church. We’ll be diving deep into a small portion of 2 Thessalonians 3 in today’s excerpt. Before we dive in, I’d like to mention that through Friday, March 6, at 11:59 p.m. (EST) you can get Exalting Jesus in 1 & 2 Thessalonians for just $2.99, exclusively on Vyrso. 

2 THESSALONIANS 3:6-10

In his letter to the Colossian church Paul sets forth an all-encompassing pattern for how Christians should conduct their lives:

Whatever you do, do it enthusiastically, as something done for the Lord and not for men, knowing that you will receive the reward of an inheritance from the Lord. You serve the Lord Christ. (Col 3:23-24)

Because Christ’s followers aim to please Him, they seek to live their lives and do their work with passion and excellence. Christians will thus be guided by a different set of convictions about why they work and a different standard for how they do their work.

Although Paul previously taught the Thessalonians these things, some in the fellowship had failed to take his instruction to heart. Even a cursory reading of this passage reveals Paul’s deep concern for how their poor work ethic was reflecting on the Lord and His church. As this passage vividly illustrates, Paul had little tolerance for lazy Christians. He tackles this matter head on by drawing their attention to two reasons why they should avoid laziness: the traditions they received and the example he set.

 

Be Informed by the Truth (2 Thess 3:6,10)

“The tradition” refers specifically to Paul’s previous teaching on the subject of work. In his first letter Paul gave them the following instruction:

But we encourage you, brothers . . . to seek to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you, so that you may walk properly in the presence of outsiders and not be dependent on anyone. (1 Thess 4:10-12)

Considering the profound theological instruction found in the Thessalonian letters, we might wonder why Paul would devote such a significant amount of time on the mundane idea of work. For Paul, Christianity was worthless unless it found its way into the fabric of life. How the church lived said much about what the church believed. If we take God’s Word seriously, then we will take it to work with us. That is, how we do our work will reflect on the One we claim to worship.

So adamant is Paul that Christians should lead by their example that he reminds them of his previous injunction: “If anyone isn’t willing to work, he should not eat” (3:10). His use of the imperfect tense of the verb indicates the repetitiveness with which he previously issued this command. In the strongest words possible, Paul wishes to persuade the irresponsible Thessalonians to go to work. Those who refuse this directive must be subject to the discipline of the church.

 

Be Challenged by the Example of Others (2 Thess 3:7-10)

Added to their reluctance to heed Paul’s instruction was their unwillingness to learn from his example. With confidence that his life was patterned after God’s standard for how to live and work, Paul challenged the Thessalonians to “imitate” him (3:7,9). Morris notes the significance of such a claim:

No preaching of the gospel can ever be really effective unless the life of the preacher is such as to commend the message. Those who hear must feel that they are listening to one whose life shows his sincerity and the power of the message he brings. (Morris, First and Second, 254)

The Greek philosopher Aristotle described the preacher’s trustworthiness, sincerity, and credibility as ethos (Rhetoric and Poetics, 1356a, 1–21). The audience’s receptivity to a message is closely connected to the credibility of the one who shares the message. Paul makes clear to the Thessalonians that his credibility is not in doubt, and he appeals to their personal observation of his life to back this up:

For you yourselves know how you must imitate us: We were not irresponsible among you; we did not eat anyone’s food free of charge; instead, we labored and struggled, working night and day, so that we would not be a burden to any of you. (3:7-8)

In other words, Paul recognized the vital importance for the matching of his life with his words.

Avoid the temptation to move past these words too quickly. There exists today an unhealthy sense of entitlement among many who claim to be called to serve as ministers in God’s church. All too often, before considering a new pastorate, the first question many pastors ask is, “What’s in it for me?” While churches have a responsibility to care for those who serve (1 Tim 5:17; 1 Cor 9:3-14), those who are called to lead the church can learn much from Paul’s example. Paul, Silas, and Timothy provided for their own needs and at the same time poured their lives into the Thessalonians. Their willingness to support themselves and thus not to burden the church reveals much about the depth of their love for God’s people. One could imagine their diligent work at their jobs during the day and passionate preaching of the gospel at night. It is no wonder that Paul notes how they “labored and struggled” to keep from being a burden to the church (3:8). Such a commitment had to be exhausting. To have more concern for the people to whom they preached and the message they were charged to proclaim than for their own welfare reveals much about the character and integrity of these men.

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Get Exalting Jesus in 1 & 2 Thessalonians for $2.99 today! We’ve also discounted Exalting Jesus in Song of Songs for $2.99 through through Friday March 6 at 11:59 p.m. (EST).

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A Lent Devotion: Wrestling with God

A Lent Devotion: Wrestling with God

Today’s Lent guest post is by Daniel Hochhalter, author of Losers Like Us, an ebook that shows how our worst mistakes and greatest failures bring us to a place of teachability, egolessness, brokenness, and empathy. 

People often describe discipleship and the Christian life as a series of hills and valleys through which Jesus leads us. But to me, discipleship is more like a struggle, a wrestling match with God. And during Lent, as we wrestle with sin vs. redemption, I think of Jacob—the ultimate wrestler with God.

In Genesis 32, Jacob gets ready to meet his older brother Esau—who he tricked, years earlier, out of the birthright and blessing (Genesis 25, 27). Thinking Esau might still be a little peeved about that, maybe even peeved even to kill, Jacob spends a night alone in the wilderness, preparing himself.

Thus begins a series of strange events.

During the night—a detail both literal to the story and metaphorical to the spiritual journey— a mysterious man appears and for some odd reason, the two immediately start mixing it up (verse 24). This man turns out to be God (verses 28, 30).

Then it gets even weirder.

At daybreak (verse 25) —again, a detail literal to the story and metaphorical to the spiritual journey —God realizes that, incredibly, he cannot overpower Jacob. So he does what referees would call cheating: he cripples Jacob by wrenching his hip.

Yet even after this crippling, Jacob refuses to concede; instead, he demands: “I will not let you go unless you bless me” (verse 26). And God does bless him: he changes his name and identity from Jacob, meaning “heel grabber,” to Israel, meaning “struggles with God” (verse 28).

Finally, when it’s all over, Jacob makes an amazing claim: “I have seen the face of God” (verse 30).

Like Jacob, my experience with God has been a throwdown. I demand explanations from God. And I don’t want clichés; I want real answers.

So I wrestle with him until he cripples me.

My divine crippling came in February 2008. After seven years of study in a British postgraduate program, I flew to England to defend my thesis—the final step toward the PhD degree I needed to teach college. While there were no guarantees, my supervisor deemed my thesis “ready to submit” and explained that by far the likeliest outcome was that it would pass, with some changes required.

At the appointed time, I walked into the examiners’ office.

An hour later, I staggered out with . . . nothing. My thesis was utterly rejected, with no grounds for appeal.

All that time, money, and effort —gone.

It was a long, somber flight home.

To this day, I am certain God led me into that program. But what kind of God would lead me into such a death-trap? Isn’t he loving enough to fight fair? Isn’t he strong enough to subdue me without cheating like that?

Seven years later, I still have few answers. However, those years have affirmed some key points in my understanding of discipleship.

First: Discipleship is messy and unpredictable because we can’t tame God; we never know what he will do.

Second: Sometimes discipleship involves believers mentoring each other, but other times it’s a long, solitary night of just one person, wrestling with God.

Third: In the wrestling match called discipleship, human motivations may vary, but God’s motivation is always the same—to give us a new identity and draw us closer to him.

Since my PhD disaster, out of my wrestling with God have come two unexpected new directions: a book (Losers Like Us – Redefining Discipleship After Epic Failure) which I wrote about my own broken life, reflected in the lives of Jesus’ twelve disciples; and a new focus on encouraging other broken people.

Yes, I still limp. My PhD failure will limit me, at least in academia, for the rest of my life. Yet at the same time, God has blessed me: he has renamed me from Daniel the Failure to Daniel the Published Author—a new identity I still can hardly believe.

I can’t say the wrestling is over; I continue to mix it up with God, demanding answers for things too hard to understand. But I can say I’m amazed to discover how creatively determined God is to pursue intimacy with me, at all costs.

And that discovery is the heart of true discipleship.

During Lent, I urge you to wrestle with God. Shout out your rawest, angriest, most painful questions. Go for the headlock and yell: “I will not let you go unless you bless me!”

By baring your soul and laying everything on the altar—all your hopes and dreams, dead or alive—I truly believe that you, like Jacob, will be able to say, “I have seen the face of God.”

I may not see it fully yet, but I am getting a glimpse.

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Lent Devotional: An Excerpt from “Revealing Christ”

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Today’s post is an excerpt from Revealing Christ: A 40-Day Prayer Journey for Lent by Charisma House. Based on insights and teaching from classic men and women of God, such as William J. Seymour, John G. Lake, Smith Wigglesworth, and others, Revealing Christ is focused on helping you find new revelations of Christ’s suffering and sacrifice, and his life, death, and resurrection. Through February 25 you can download this devotional for just $4.99.

 

THE BAPTISM OF A CLEAN HEART

 

Jesus, being filled with the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness.

[Luke 4:1, MEV]

Jesus is our example. Upon His clean heart, the baptism fell. We find in reading the Bible that the baptism with the Holy Ghost and fire falls on a clean, sanctified life. For we see, according to the Scriptures, that Jesus was filled with wisdom and favor with God and man before God anointed Him with the Holy Ghost and power. For in Luke 2:40, we read, “[Jesus] waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him.” Then in Luke 2:52, “And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.”

After Jesus was empowered with the Holy Ghost at Jordan, He returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee, and there went out a fame of Him through all the region round about. He was not any more holy or any more meek but had greater authority: “And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified of all” (Luke 4:15).

Beloved, if Jesus, who was God Himself, needed the Holy Ghost to empower Him for His ministry and His miracles, how much more do we children need the Holy Ghost baptism today. Oh, that men and women would tarry for the baptism with the Holy Ghost and fire upon their souls!

—William J. Seymour

POINTS TO PONDER

Jesus was empowered by the Holy Spirit for ministry. Below is a list of the ways Luke’s Gospel says He was empowered by the Spirit.

Jesus was . . .

• Conceived by the Spirit (Luke 1:35)

• Descended upon by the Spirit (Luke 3:22)

• Filled with the Spirit (Luke 4:1)

• Led by the Spirit (Luke 4:1)

• Empowered by the Spirit (Luke 4:14)

• Anointed by the Spirit (Luke 4:18)

• Filled with the Spirit’s joy (Luke 10:21)

What Spirit empowerments have you experienced in your own Christian walk? How have you seen the Spirit at work in your life previously?

Are you doing anything in your life to hinder the Spirit right now?

How do you desire the Spirit to touch your life right now?

PRAY . . .

God, cleanse my heart with Your fire, that I may receive the baptism of Your Spirit. Amen.

 

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3 Resources to Help You Read the Bible During Lent

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Getting into the Bible on a regular basis can be a difficult habit to start. If you don’t have a daily Bible reading habit, starting and committing yourself to reading your Bible on a daily basis will be a valuable building block for your spiritual health this year.

If you’re intent on starting a new discipline of reading or studying the Bible during Lent, here are three resources to help get you started:

  • Visit everydaybible.com (or download the app) for a daily devotional and Bible reading plan that covers the entire Bible in one year. Accompanying the study are inspirational pieces of Bible artwork depicting a daily verse. You can share the artwork with your friends, save it as a background on your phone, or as an image on your desktop.
  •  Download the Logos Bible app or the Faithlife Study Bible and subscribe to a daily reading plan or devotional. You can even set up notifications to get a daily reminder if you need the extra reminder to read the Bible when life starts getting busy.
  •  Start a Lent devotional from a list of incredible authors like Charles R. Swindoll, Sue Mink, and Donna E. Schaper. Going through a set devotional this season of Lent is a great way to stay committed to daily study and reflecting on the life, death, and resurrection of Christ.

Personally, I love having a smartphone being able to access my Bible anywhere I go. Even with the demands of work, church, and family, I can take a few minutes in the morning, during lunch, or in between meetings to have an ongoing time of devotion.

How are you planning on being intentional with your Bible study this Lenten season?

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An Ash Wednesday Devotional

40-days-to-the-cross-reflections-from-great-thinkers

Today is Ash Wednesday, marking the first day of Lent. To help you prepare for this season, we’ve pulled an excerpt from Lexham Press’ ebook 40 Days to the Cross a devotional edited by Jessi Strong and Rebecca Van Noord. If you’re still looking for a devotional to read during Lent you can get 40 Days to the Cross on sale for just $4.95 through February 28.

Ash Wednesday

Confession: Psalm 51:1–4

Be gracious to me, O God, according to your loyal love.

According to your abundant mercies,

blot out my transgressions.

Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,

and from my sin cleanse me.

For I myself know my transgressions,

and my sin is ever before me.

Against you, only you, I have sinned

and have done this evil in your eyes,

so that you are correct when you speak,

you are blameless when you judge.

Reading: Mark 8:27–33

And Jesus and his disciples went out to the villages of Caesarea Philippi, and on the way he asked his disciples, saying to them, “Who do people say that I am?” And they told him, saying, “John the Baptist, and others Elijah, and others that you are one of the prophets.” And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered and said to him, “You are the Christ!” And he warned them that they should tell no one about him.

And he began to teach them that it was necessary for the Son of Man to suffer many things and to be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and to be killed, and after three days to rise. And he was speaking openly about the subject, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning around and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan, because you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but the things of people!”

Reflection

If Peter. . .was called a stumbling-block by Jesus—as not minding the things of God in what he said but the things of men—what is to be said about all those who profess to be made disciples of Jesus, but do not mind the things of God? [What is to be said about those who] do not look to things unseen and eternal, (but mind the things of man) and look to things seen and temporal? Would they be seen by Jesus as a stumbling block to Him, and because they are stumbling blocks to Him, as stumbling blocks to His followers also? In regard to them He says, “I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,” so also He might say, “When I was running you caused me to stumble.” Let us not therefore suppose that it is a trivial sin to mind the things of men—since we ought in everything to mind the things of God.

—Origen

Origen’s Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew

Response

How are you mindful of the “things of people”? Are you harboring mindsets, possessions, goals, and desires that are incompatible with God and His kingdom? Make a list of these things and pray about them.

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