The SAME Power?

The resurrection of Jesus was The event that changed history!

Many don’t yet understand or believe that, but they will.

For those of us who do, however, I posed a question yesterday that, I hope, God has been rattling us with:

IF you believe that Jesus has risen, AND you have committed yourself to a life of faith, and IF you believe Paul’s words here, then ‘Why is your faith not Transforming your life, powerfully?’

After all, Paul wrote to the Ephesians…

“I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 1:19-20, emphasis mine).

The Very Same Power of God that rose Jesus from the dead is also at work in those of us who are Believers in Jesus Christ today!

So…does our life show it?

Or, is it time for you to Move Forward in your faith?

Now, if you’re like most Believers (including myself), you can say something like, ‘Well, there are a lot of things I do differently now…’

I no longer smoke, I no longer do drugs, I no longer get drunk, I don’t gamble, I try not to gossip, I try not to lie, I don’t swear (at least, very infrequently)…VERY infrequently!

You get the idea.

God, through Jesus, has ‘cleaned up our act’.

I get it…and that’s good.

But is that all there is? Is that what “The Same Power that raised Christ from the dead” wants to do?

That’s it?

Personally, I think there’s more.

A.

Whole.

Lot.

More.

…and I, for one, want that ‘resurrecting power’ to flow through my veins also.

So what does that mean, exactly?

I’m not quite sure.

I’m pretty confident that it means that God wants me (and you) to actually move in a positive direction, and add–not just ‘subtract’ from our lives as we follow Jesus.

In other words, our faith is not only about ‘avoiding sins’, but our faith is about “being conformed more and more into the image of Christ” (2 Corinthians 3:18).

In other words, He wants us to become more like Him in the positives also…to Increase our love for God…to increase our willingness to obey Him as a result…to increase our love for others, our heart to point them to Jesus, to show mercy, grace, compassion, forgiveness…to increase our resolve to stand with Him and on His Word, no matter what the cost.

In other words, to show Jesus, not just show religion!

Yet, as every sincere Believer in Jesus knows, no one can just ‘make this happen’ by trying harder to do so.
In fact, these character traits are produced by the Holy Spirit in our lives…and that gets us back to the promise of “This Same Power” that rose Jesus from the dead.

The Holy Spirit produces ‘fruit’ in our lives, as we walk with Him and are filled with Him.

“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control…” (Galatians 5:22-23). 

So, one question–from yesterday’s blog–that we have to ‘wrestle’ with IF we want to go further with our faith is, ‘Does my life reflect ‘the same power that raised Christ from the dead’? 

A second question is, ‘Am I cooperating with the Holy Spirit so that my life is being conformed more and more to reflect Jesus–in the positives (additions-to) as well as the negatives (take-aways)?

To be sure, there is a 3rd question…and I’ll get to that soon.

In the meantime, wrestle before God with this one!

What’s Next?

Christians and Christian churches around the world just celebrated the most important weekend of the year as we remembered Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday.

These are two of the three most important days in Christianity (the other, of course, being the day of Jesus’ birth).

Here at Kalamazoo Community Church, as in millions of churches, we ‘did it up’, trying to celebrate the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus as the HUGE historical event that it is. Here, as in other places, we incorporated full-on worship with full-on teaching, along with beautiful staging and lighting, powerful video…you get the idea.

Question: Why do we do that?

Answer: Because this is ‘THE Weekend‘ and these are ‘THE Events‘ which literally changed everything!

If Jesus really did go to the cross and sacrifice Himself in the place of all who will believe in Him, and if Jesus really did rise from the grave, then NOTHING stays the same!

We at KCC believe with all our hearts, souls, and minds, that these events are historically true, and that they are worth remembering.

…and we’re not alone.

Listen to what the Apostle Paul writes to the Corinthians:

“And if Christ has not been raised, then all our preaching is useless, and your faith is useless.  And we apostles would all be lying about God—for we have said that God raised Christ from the grave. But that can’t be true if there is no resurrection of the dead. And if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised.  And if Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless and you are still guilty of your sins. In that case, all who have died believing in Christ are lost! And if our hope in Christ is only for this life, we are more to be pitied than anyone in the world.” (1 Corinthians 15:14-19)

In other words, the Apostle Paul–who had been radically changed by his own encounter with Jesus, risen from the dead–knew that

This.

Changes.

Everything!’

Conversely, if it’s not true…if it’s all been a ruse, a conspiracy, wishful thinking, etc., then he, us–and all who believe–are simpletons and should be pitied.

They’re also still ‘stuck’ in their sins!

Yet, that is not the case.

“But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead. He is the first of a great harvest of all who have died.” (1 Corinthians 15:20, emphasis mine).

Question: What’s Next?

What difference, in the day-to-day life of a believer, do these events make?

Is it all about ‘eternal life‘ and heaven after I die?

Answer: NO! It’s so much more!

 

See what Paul writes to the Ephesians:

“I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 1:19-20, emphasis mine).

His point? The very same power of God which raised Jesus from the dead is now alive–in you! (IF you are a Believer in Jesus Christ, having acknowledged Him as Savior and Lord, by faith.) Paul prays that the Ephesians (and us) would understand how great God’s power is “for us who believe Him”! 

Another Question: Do you, Believer, live that way?

Answer: ?

 

 

How would you answer that?

I’ll write about this a bit more…but right now, I’d like to encourage you to WRESTLE with that!

 

IF you believe that Jesus has risen, AND you have committed yourself to a life of faith, and IF you believe Paul’s words here, then ‘Why is your faith not Transforming your life, powerfully?’

 

I think the Lord wants us to wrestle with that.

…and He may just have an answer!

Stay tuned!

 

Go With The Flow!

There’s just something special about the sights and sounds of a flowing stream…peaceful, tranquil, refreshing…personally, I could lose myself just watching the flow.

…and Jesus wants us to!

So far in this series, I’ve written about our Thirst, the ‘Broken Cisterns’ we try to dig for ourselves to meet our own needs, and the Living Water (Jesus) that can finally quench that thirst, once and for all.

So, IF Jesus promised His followers, “Life, to the full” (John 10:10), and IF Jesus says, whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:14), then it only makes sense that we ask the question: WHY do so many people who say they believe in Jesus Christ not live like this? Why do we still live as though we are ‘thirsty’ and are responsible for ‘digging our own broken cisterns’ and satisfying ourselves in our own wisdom and power?

I think there are probably several contributing factors, but the number one reason is that we don’t ‘go with the flow’.

The ‘Flow’ I’m referring to is the Holy Spirit.

On the last day, the climax of the festival, Jesus stood and shouted to the crowds, “Anyone who is thirsty may come to me!  Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! For the Scriptures declare, ‘Rivers of living water will flow from his heart.’”(When he said “living water,” he was speaking of the Spirit, who would be given to everyone believing in him. But the Spirit had not yet been given, because Jesus had not yet entered into his glory.)” (John 7:37-39)

Most of us, even sincere, well-intentioned believers in Jesus, live as though we, ourselves, are ultimately responsible for making our ‘Christian life’ more ‘Christ-like’. We tell ourselves that we must ‘pick ourselves up’ and live out our faith in our own strength and wisdom.

Then, as these things fail, we get discouraged, we try harder, eventually we give up trying and assume that the ‘powerful Christian life’ we see in the Scriptures must be for ‘other’ people, or another time–not us.

I disagree.

I think that what Jesus described is precisely His will for you–and myself!

He wants us to be ‘in the flow’ of the Holy Spirit. He wants us to experience the ‘refreshing’ that only He can bring, the power to live it out that only being ‘in the flow’ can do. We were never meant to do it in our own strength.

The Apostle Paul would later write, “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23). Paul’s point is that this ‘fruit’ is produced by the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives…not by self effort!

Religious self-effort is simply one more ‘broken cistern’ that many of us have dug.

We need, instead, to walk in the Holy Spirit…to be filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18). (Actually the wording here means to ‘always keep being filled’ with the Holy Spirit)…the indication is that this is by design. This is how God designed it to work–that I am able to ‘live the Christian life’ in fullness and victory as I walk in step with The Holy Spirit. I am always in need, and will never get over it…but IF I’m willing to yield myself to His influence over me, THEN I can live it out.

That is what ‘going in the flow’ from a Biblical perspective, is.

…and it has always been crucial to the life of a Christ-follower.

Make no mistake: God wants YOU to experience peace, fullness, power and victory!

He will give it to you, as you humble yourself, come to Him constantly, and drink deeply from His ‘Stream’.

 

 

Quench Your Thirst!

We all know what it’s like to be thirsty–really thirsty.

Maybe you’ve worked in the sun all day, maybe you’ve had a hard run or workout, or you’ve simply been busy all day and away from a source.

In either case, very few things are better than a long drink of fresh, cool water.

Having a deep thirst deeply quenched is a great experience.

 

Truth is, all of us are thirsty. We are actually created to hunger and thirst…not only for water, but even more importantly, for God!

The problem is that we often try to ‘quench our thirst’ with other things.

Jesus had an interaction with a woman about this…

“So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph.Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon.

When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)

The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.[a])

10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”

11 “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?”

13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again,14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.” (John 14: 5-15)

Jesus knew that this woman was ‘thirsty’, for more than simply literal ‘water’. She had a longing deep within for Living Water–water that would satisfy her spiritual thirst. He also knew that HE was The Source of that Living Water.

For her part, the woman was not ‘getting’ Jesus’ point.

He needed to help her identify her need…her thirst.

He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”

17 “I have no husband,” she replied.

Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband.18 The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”

19 “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. 20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”

21 “Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”

25 The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”

26 Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.” (John 14:16-26)

Jesus knew her need…but she either had never identified it, or had mis-identified it as a need for ‘the right man’. She had been through 5 husbands already, and was now living with another. Clearly, she was looking in the wrong place to have her need met!

Jesus wanted to meet that need–but not in a temporary way.

He wanted to help her see that her thirst was not for a man…her thirst was for Living Water–the kind that would soothe her soul’s desires. The kind that would never fail, never leave, never quit, and never run dry.

She needed Jesus…but first she had to identify her own thirst!

 

In our culture, we do the same thing.

We mis-identify our thirst for ‘stuff’ of this world…relationships, experiences, things…

These simply cannot satisfy our real thirst.

Like this woman, WE need to identify this fact: We are Thirsty!

We desire something that can really satisfy us and quench our thirst.

That ‘thirst’ was put there by God…it is to bring us to Himself!

Only Jesus–the source of Living Water–can quench it.

HE is our only hope of real satisfaction. HE is our only source of real Living Water–He is the key to all of it!

 

For some of us, we’re still going to other people, things, and experiences and have never gone–for real–to Jesus.

Others have gone to Jesus in the past, but have stopped ‘drinking’ Him in, letting Him fill us and quench our thirst.

We need a drink of Living Water!

Unlike a literal drink, Jesus–our Source of this water–really does satisfy us…for good!

 

Are you thirsty?

Leaking Mugs

I like my coffee.

I have a cup EARLY in the morning when I get up, then later in the morning, as I’m headed out the door, I grab a travel mug with more coffee in it (don’t judge me!).

Not long ago, as I was driving to work with my trusty Detroit Lions travel mug, I took a long sip…and then noticed that I had a leak! The cup was leaking from the lid, and from the bottom…and was not on me!

Leaking cups are no good, so I had to throw my ‘lucky’ Lions mug away.

In life, there are times we trust ‘reservoirs’ that leak.

We choose to depend on things to sustain us, give us joy, define our purpose and provide direction…and those things are faulty. They don’t work.

There is only One who does!

The people of Israel did this too…and as we look for the STREAM of God, we need to learn from them!

Jeremiah 2:11, 13: 

“Has a nation ever changed its gods?
    (Yet they are not gods at all.)
But my people have exchanged their glorious God
    for worthless idols…
“My people have committed two sins:
They have forsaken me,
    the spring of living water,
and have dug their own cisterns,
    broken cisterns that cannot hold water.”

God brings charges against His people. They have chosen ‘gods’ which are not really ‘Gods’ at all! They are worthless idols.

They have done 2 separate things that are unwise, foolish, and sinful: 1) They have forsaken/rejected/been unfaithful to Him, and 2) they have “dug their own cisterns” that cannot even hold water!

The people of Israel had been fools!

They rejected God–the Spring of Living Water, and chosen instead to dig cisterns on their own to hold water–on their own terms.

Think about it: A stream of fresh flowing, refreshing, clean and satisfying water, or a cistern–a hole in the ground which holds stagnant, stale, lifeless water.

Don’t get me wrong: Cisterns, when properly constructed, have their place. In arid lands, where water is not plentiful, the ability to collect what water does come from intermittent rain is crucial. Stale water is better than no water.

However, they weren’t in that situation! They didn’t need to settle for ‘stale water’.

It’s almost as if they had chosen a life in which the best they could hope for was funky water!

And oh, by the way…when they went to the cistern to drink from it, they would be sorely disappointed: The cisterns had leaked! There was nothing there for them! No refreshment, no sustenance, no life-giving water.

We do the same thing today: We reject God–our true Source of Living Water–and dig out our own ‘cisterns’ that we foolishly think can satisfy. Money. Sex. Drugs and Alcohol. Food. Popularity. Politics. Fame.

None of these things truly ‘satisfy’.

Just look at the tabloid in the supermarket…clearly those who are ‘digging cisterns’ like these become more desperate with each day.

But we don’t need to look to the ‘famous’ people…we know it ourselves. We know that the ‘stuff’ we buy…the experiences we seek…the images we watch…the the things we put in our bodies…the things we do with our bodies…the opinions of others…none of these things satisfy for long. They can’t! They’re broken cisterns. Leaky mugs.

Where is our One True Source of Living Water?

A relationship with God, through faith in Jesus, by the power of the Holy Spirit…THAT is the One and Only Source.

THE. One. And. Only.

So, whatever ‘cisterns’ you’ve been digging, fill them in. Reject them. Walk away. Depend on them no longer.

Instead, go to the Lord. Go sit by the Stream of God…and let Him give you life, refreshment, and joy…

HE will satisfy. 

Immerse yourself in Him, and receive the sustenance…the blessing…the refreshing that He gives you all day, every day.

He invites you…

The Stream

Yesterday I had an unusual experience (although, I hope it becomes more common).

I was reading through the book of Psalms, and I came to Psalm 36. As I read, a verse seemed to ‘pop out’ to me, and it reminded me of other verses of a similar concept, so I went and looked them up–and they reminded me of others, etc. The Holy Spirit was bringing to mind a whole series of concepts that I think we need to pay attention to in these days!

So…over the next few days, my plan is to ‘roll out’ one per day. I encourage and invite you to take them in, pray about them, and ask God to show you their practical impact for you.

Let me give you the points:

Psalm 36:5-11: River of Delights

Jeremiah 2: 11-13: Broken Cisterns

John 4:1-15: Living Water

John 7:37-39: FLOW!

Here’s the ‘big picture’: God wants us to know Him! He wants us to know His love, His mercy, His wisdom, His power…He wants us to walk with Him daily, and to be led by the Holy Spirit. He wants us to be close to Him, so that we can endure anything that comes our way, and to be victorious in the end.

Many of us, however, are walking in our own strength, depending on our own wisdom, guiding ourselves by our own principles, values and beliefs.

Many of us are acting as though we don’t need God at all!

Surely, we may never say that…but that’s how we live.

Come to think of it, in fact, many people today actually would say that…they reject God completely.

‘Any God who would…’ (they fill in the blank) ‘is not a god I’m interested in’.

As if they know better…as if they are ‘THE’ standard.

It reminds me of a time in ancient Israel’s history, recorded in the book of Judges, in which ‘In those days there was no king in Israel; every man did what was right in his own eyes.” (Judges 17:6; 21:25).

We are, increasingly, in that mindset today…everyone does what is right ‘in his/her own eyes’, rather than humbling ourselves before the Lord, worshiping and obeying Him.

So how about it?

If you’re ready, take a journey with me…into the STREAM of God!