Archive: March, 2010

Am I Keeping in Step with the Spirit? By Kelli Zaniel

Question for the week: Am I Keeping in Step with the Spirit?
Verses of the week: “Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. Don’t act thoughtlessly but understand what the Lord wants you to do. Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead be filled with the Holy Spirit, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, and making music to the Lord in your hearts. Give thanks to God for everything” (Ephesians 5:16-20).

Application for your week
: These verses in Ephesians overflow with suggestions on how to live a spirit filled life. Make the most of every opportunity (v. 15). I like to call this “multi-tasking.” Sometimes, I admit, I am on the phone, emailing and cooking supper all at the same time. Am I truly giving any of those things my absolute best and undivided attention? No. Multi-tasking sometimes goes against the grain of being spirit filled. There are so many “things” pulling us in different directions that we don’t have time to address someone with psalms. Verse 19 does say we are to “sing psalms and hymns among ourselves and make music in our heart.” Next time you are on a coffee date with your girlfriends, break out in song and see what happens! When was the last time you heard of someone getting kicked out of Starbucks for being too joyful?
Have you ever spent time with someone who was drunk? It only takes about 30 seconds and you know when someone is under the influence. You just can’t hide it. Verse 18 says, “don’t be drunk with wine, instead be filled with the Spirit.” When people spend time with you, can they tell you are under the influence of the Holy Spirit? Are you spending enough time in God’s Holy Word so that the Spirit has the opportunity to influence you? I don’t want my life to be explainable without the Holy Spirit. When people look at me, I don’t want them to see me at all. I want them to see a woman so full of the Spirit that they take notice. I don’t want them to say, “look what she is doing,” but “look what God is doing in her life!”
Remember Zechariah and Elizabeth— parents of John? One day while Zachariah was performing his duties in the Temple an angel appeared to him. The angel told him that he and his wife Elizabeth, who were very old at the time, would give birth to John. The angel warned Zachariah that John should stay away from “wine or alcoholic drinks because he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before his birth.” I am not saying you shouldn’t drink. What I am saying is that this challenges me. The Scripture says here that for John to stay full of the Holy Spirit, he should “never touch,” wine and alcohol. God had an enormous assignment for John—“He will prepare the people for the coming of the Lord” and there was no room for distraction (see Luke 1:15-17). There was no room for people to opine and say, “Well, ole John was a little tipsy and that was why he said those unbelievable things!” No, God wanted the people to know that John was full of the Holy Spirit and nothing else.
When we are full of the Holy Spirit, we have different melodies in our hearts than non-believers. A spirit filled heart is one that abounds in joy and thankfulness. We become so thankful to our Creator that we find ourselves praising and thanking Him even in the midst of overwhelming circumstances. Verse 19 says that if we are full of the Spirit, then we will be “making music to the Lord in our hearts.” Are you so dominated by the Holy Spirit’s presence in your life that your heart continually sings praises to the Lord? When we carry around songs of worship and praise, we find ourselves taking the focus off of us and putting it on Jesus. Then our day revolves around Him and His activity instead of us and our “to do” lists!

Challenge for your week: Make the choice this week to be so inhabited by the Spirit that people take notice. Allow yourself to be overwhelmed by a relentless God. Make the choice to have a heart of thankfulness and praise for all He has done and is doing in your life. Thank Him for the teeth you are brushing, the dishes you are washing, the kids you are watching and the clothes you are folding. Be intentional this week to listen to the Spirit while doing mundane activities. He loves revealing himself in the little things. When we find ourselves in the practice of praising God during the good times, it will be much easier to praise Him in the bad ones.

Looking ahead in your week
: Take time to read Mary’s song of praise to God in Luke 1:46-56. This is the kind of thankfulness and praise I want to carry in my heart day long!

What Are You Hoping for Today? By Heidi Avery

But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ. Philippians 3:20

My husband deals with a great burden in this world. Being the sole provider of a family of 5 is a huge responsibility. He’s a business owner, so not only does he bear the burden of providing financially for us, but he also carries that responsibility for each of the families that work with and for him. He hopes for success. He hopes for financial security. I’ve found myself hoping for the same thing just so his burden would be lifted. My hope is for him to be released from those stresses because it’s what wears him down the most.

I also hold great hope in the wellbeing of my children. I hope I’m a good mom. I hope I’m doing all I can to raise them up to be happy, healthy, smart and God fearing children. While it’s a blessing to be their mom, just like my husbands job it is also sometimes burdensome bearing this responsibility of raising them. There are endless hopes that I have for them, not to mention all the dreams they don’t even have yet, I hope for those too.

These are the things I am hoping for today.

They are the things that are on my mind on a daily basis. However, it never fails, just as these all important hopes settle there in the forefront of my mind I also sense the calming presence of the Spirit and the all familiar feel of conviction gently impressed upon my heart. With that my mind effortlessly shifts to the one true hope that I can be sure of. The hope I have in my Jesus. The hope I have in the promise of His return. The hope I have in my eternal security in Heaven. I can’t be sure about the success of my husbands business. I can’t be sure of the wellbeing of my children. But, Jesus? This is hope I can count on. This is the hope that I need to be dwelling on. All other hopes are at risk, but this hope is mine already.

Is it wrong for me to have hopes in this world? No. Often God has great plans through our hopes and dreams; he often blesses us with those very hopes and dreams. However, they were never meant to replace the hope we have in Jesus.

The ever-present hopes of our flesh and the eternal hope of our soul are in battle daily. It takes great discipline to keep our eyes fixed on the hope we have in Jesus. This week let’s accept the challenge to focus on the hope of Jesus and the eternity we have with him in heaven above all worldly hopes.

Psalm 39:7 But now, Lord, what do I look for? My hope is in you.

Something to Think About…

I think the natural question for most of us is what about those relationships with people in our lives that don’t know God? Aren’t we supposed to love them? The answer is yes. But according to Jesus one of the best ways we can love those outside the church is by loving those who are a part of the church. Here is Jesus praying to the father toward the end of his earthly ministry, “I ask also for those who will believe in me (Jesus) through their (disciples) word, that they may one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” (John 17:20-22). So our love for each other in the church has everything to do with those who do not know God. When we love each other as a family Jesus says it will show those who don’t know God who God is. One of the primary ways we introduce people to God is through our love for our real family as Jesus defines it, “those who do the will of God.” (Matthew 12:50). It’s also very clear that God wants us in relationships with those outside the church because it’s in the context of relationships where they are able to see God through our lives (I Cor. 5:9-10). So as we seek to love our neighbors we build relationships and love those outside the church and balance that with a commitment of loving those inside the church as family. And as we sacrificially love those who Jesus says are our family those outside the church will come to know God.

by Pastor Matt Swaney

"Jesus, My Life-Giving Friend" By Kelli Zaniel

“There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13)

Do you think of Jesus as your friend? The good news is that Jesus wants to be your best friend. He wants you to receive Him and have a deep love relationship with Him as your closest friend. A friendship that will not just last for a season but for all eternity. Jesus said, “I no longer call you slaves, because a master does not confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father has told me” (John 15:15). This verse describes the new relationship we are privileged to have with Jesus. We are no longer a slave but a friend; no longer a stranger but a confidant; no longer unknown but known. What a friend we have in Jesus!

John chapter 17 reveals what a great friend Jesus was to his disciples. Jesus loved His friends; He prayed for His friends; He spent time with His friends; and he died for His friends (and enemies for that matter). As Jesus prepared the disciples for his departure from earth, He prayed that God would develop certain characteristics in his friends (the disciples) and “in those who will ever believe,” (that’s us)! Jesus prayed the following prayer for His past, present and future friends:

That they would come to know God;
That God would protect them from temptation and the evil one;
That they would be sanctified by God’s truth (the follower of Christ becomes sanctified or cleansed by believing and obeying the word of God);
For God to reveal himself to His friends through His Word for it is truth; and
That they will be one just like [God and Jesus] are one.

The last part of Jesus’ prayer for His friends is my favorite. Jesus said, “I love my friends and I want them to be with me.” Do you believe that Jesus feels that way about you too? He does! Do you believe that Jesus prayed that prayer for you personally? He did! He loves you and wants to be with you no matter how many times you said, “no,” to Him. No matter how many times you walked away from Him. No matter how many times you tried to find peace outside of His will. He loves you even in the midst of your “mess-ups!”

I like to picture Jesus walking along side me as I journey through life. He listens intently to my heartbreaks; He reassures me when I feel insecure; He forgives when no one else will; He speaks to my heart and offers great advice; He intercedes on my behalf; He wipes away my tears when my feelings are hurt; He provides hope when all hope is gone; and He rejoices when I walk in faith and trust in Him. My Jesus is never too busy for me; He never forgets my name; He never abandons me; He never talks badly behind my back. He is the truest and dearest friend I know.

Have you ever noticed that it is difficult to find true friends? We live in a world that is lonely and isolated. Magazine articles in your grocery store and billboards along the highway all advocate independence and the “do it yourself,” attitude. Even my two year old, who has a very limited vocabulary, fusses and shouts, “I can do it myself!” This attitude seems to unplug us from the rest of the world. We, as a society, have lost our daily connection with one another. We drive to work alone in our car, work all day in our office or three-sided cubicle, get cash and stamps at the ATM, enjoy internet chatting, and spend the night watching TV. No wonder we all feel desperately alone sometimes.

Ninety-two percent of Christians attending a recent Bible conference admitted in a survey that feelings of loneliness were a major problem in their lives (“The Search for Significance,” Robert McGee). We need relationships. Most importantly, we need the kind of relationship only Christ can provide.

The disciples witnessed the most incredible sacrifice a friend can make: to give his own life for a friend (John 15:13). I cannot imagine dying for a friend much less an enemy. But that is exactly what Jesus did. Jesus died for you and me, because He considered us to be His friends.

God calls us to himself to develop in us a Christ like character. Once we get to know Him and spend time with Him, we will become more like Him. Then we will begin to look like Jesus to our friends. Then we will be able to pray for our friends the way Jesus prayed for His. When I meet Jesus face to face I want to hear Him say, I know Kelli Zaniel. I have a relationship with her. She is a good friend of mine!

Application for your week

Truths to claim if we are friends and servants of Jesus:
We will find him (Prov. 8:17);
We have the Spirit in us (Is. 42:1);
We have our needs met (Phil. 4:19);
We will hear Him and find Him (John 12:26);
We will see Him (Prov. 8:34);
We will be complete (Col. 1:28);
We will be strong (2 Cor. 12:9);
He will call us by name (Is. 43:1); and
We will stand firm in the will of God (Col. 4:12).

"STOP" by Heidi Avery

“Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation – but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit are sons of God.” Romans 8: 12

This scripture suggests that we have the ability to walk away from our sinful nature. Romans is filled with many scriptures that tell us as believers we are free from sins grasp. I remember reading these scriptures for the first time and feeling discouraged. I thought if this is true then WHY am I still sinning? If this is true than why do I feel God at work in my life yet I do not feel freed from my sins?

Well, we know that we’re all sinners and we’re always going to sin, that’s why Jesus had to come and be our Savior. But, what is this message of freedom from sin that is interwoven all throughout Romans and how do we get our hands on it?

The answer: The Holy Spirit.

I knew I wasn’t experiencing the Spirit at work in my life like I had seen in other people’s lives. I wondered how to get it working in me in that way and I thought it was just that I didn’t have enough faith or I just didn’t trust God enough. I think those things are true I did need more trust in God and that would increase my faith, but beyond that I hadn’t even asked for it!

The bible reminds us to present our requests to God (Phil. 4:6) and that the Spirit helps us in our weakness (Rom. 8:26), but is our request to God that the Spirit do a work in us that will really change our sin behavior or do we try to do it all on our own?

I know that I have tried many times to change certain habits in my life and they are so a part of my natural flesh that I have felt helpless to be freed from them. These habits lead to sin in my life. My eating habits lead to gluttony. My habit of worrying about what others think of me leads to the focus being on me. My habit of procrastinating leads to laziness. It’s all sin and it’s kept me from really experiencing God in the way that He intended.

In Ephesians 1 Paul prays for the church… “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.”

He longs for us to know him better. He longs for the eyes of our hearts to be enlightened. He longs for us to know the hope to which He has called us and He longs for us to experience the great power of the living Spirit to help us in our weaknesses. We can’t do it alone and we try looking inside ourselves to muster up the strength to do it alone, but we fail over and over and become so discouraged that we give up trying. We wear ourselves out using our own methods so much that sometimes I don’t think we ever really ask for His help. We may say a fleeting prayer here and there, but do we earnestly seek His guidance? Do we take His answers and act in obedience even to the extent that we may suffer? Sometimes it’s a painful process; if it wasn’t painful we’d be able to do it on our own. Tozer explains the removing of sin like a tearing of the flesh. Isn’t that just what Jesus experienced on the cross? Our suffering is nothing compared to His, yet it is a way that we can relate to His suffering.

If we really love God and we really want to be freed from our sin then we’d spend the time on our knees asking for the Spirit to help us and to guide us. We’d want so deeply to be rid of that which keeps us from this promised knowledge, enlightenment, hope and power. That very power is what we desperately need to tap into to finally be freed from sin. God promised us that we would no longer be slaves to sin, but to righteousness. That’s His promise to the heirs of Jesus and we are those very heirs. We need to get our hands on it. We need to pray for it and we need to STOP sinning in the flesh.

So, I’m proposing that we do just that. We just STOP! We throw out our own go-to methods accepting the fact that it’s totally against the grain to quit sinning in our own strength and completely give up trying. Satan rejoices in our failures and sits waiting to whisper defeat and discouragement into the hearts of our believing flesh. It’s no surprise we aren’t equipped to face sin on our own, but, if we take a look at it from a super-natural angle… like looking “UP” instead of in we will begin to experience the freedom to STOP the sin in our lives…

I hope you caught that! Reading it normally from top to bottom doesn’t make any sense (going with the grain), but if you read it going UP (against the grain) it says “Power of the Spirit.” We can experience the Spirit’s power to help us overcome sin if Christ is truly in us. Also, by looking UP we become focused on what God wants for us and not what we want for ourselves.

Are we going to quit sinning for good? No… we’ll always have sin to deal with. We may overcome some sins, but there will always be something to reckon with. But, as Paul reminds us… we should no longer be a slave to sin (Rom. 6:6). We have been set free (Rom. 6:18), sin is not our master, Jesus Christ is the One we serve and He’s given us the power to STOP sin.

Father, thank you for giving us Jesus who covers our every sin. Thank you for the gift of the Spirit and for His great Power that gives us a way of escape from the entrapment of sin. You love us and long for us to know and experience you. What greater love is there than that? May we live a life that is honoring and completely glorifying to you.