The Gift Of The Spirit

Steve Arterburn

If you’re a Christian, it means the Holy Spirit is living in you. Sounds great ‘ but what does it mean? What does the Spirit do within you? Listen to what the Holy Spirit promises to be up to at this moment in your life:

Ezekiel 36:26 promises that He’s changing your hearts.

John 14:26 promises that He’s reminding you of what the Father has asked you to do.

John 16:13 promises that He’s guiding you and teaching you the truth.

Romans 8:13 promises the Spirit will turn you away from evil.

Romans 8:26 promises that the Holy Spirit will help you in times of distress and intercede with God for you when you’re confused and wearied.

First Corinthians 12:11 promises that the Spirit has given you gifts to use for the glory of God and the good of others.

Galatians 5:16 promises that the Spirit will lead you to victory over the sinful cravings of your heart.

These are precious promises. Claim them by faith’even if you’re not sensing all them in your life. Rejoice in these promises, and ask God to create in you a heart ready to cooperate with the transformation going on in you even as we speak.

Lessons from the Desert

Ed Grant

Recently I escaped with a number of other pastors to the Cafa Franciscan Spiritual Retreat Center in Scottsdale, Arizona. We were there to learn how to be quiet with God. You might think this an easy task for those committed and trained to care for God’s people. Truth be told, those who speak for God need to better learn how to listen to Him. I came away from the experience with a greater determination to make time to hear from God through more relaxed times of prayer and by taking smaller bites of His Word, allowing time to meditate instead of rushing through it.

One of our assignments was to take a walk in solitude around the arid property, wonderfully landscaped with many varieties of cactus. These thrive in arid environments that receive minimal amounts of rainfall and survive by storing it in their thick branches. I took some time to contemplate the cacti, some looking like green pancakes connected at the edge, some looking as though they were victims of a stick-up as they held their hands up, and others resembling elongated bulbs protruding from the ground. I noticed that each was naturally protected with prickly needles or spikes protruding from the branches. These intimidating spikes threatened harm to any creature that dared to take a bite.

Mixed in with the desert flora were lovely palms and other varieties of trees.

There was also a “Healing Garden” on the border of the property where winding paths were shaded by leafy citrus trees: grapefruit, orange, lemon, tangelo, and tangerine. Obviously these trees didn’t belong here. They flourished only because an intricate irrigation system had been built throughout the garden. It was here that the Holy Spirit began to open my eyes to some important truths.

The unbelieving world is like the prickly cactus plants that have adapted to arid conditions, living on the minimal amounts of water. Their limited resources have to be protected from those who would steal them. They have no spiritual resources to share with others. As people perennially thirst they try to find something that will truly satisfy their longing. St. Augustine said it well: ‘O God, You have created us for Yourself and our souls are restless and searching until they find their rest in You.’

Those who have received the Savior into their lives are like the citrus trees and palms planted in the healing garden. They are not native to the desert climate and cannot long survive without regular care and watering. St. Peter refers to us as “aliens and sojourners.” As the author of Hebrews describes the difficult experiences of members of his “Hall of Faith” he calls them ‘aliens and strangers.’ He writes, ‘People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own’ (Hebrews 11:14). We also long for the place Jesus prepared for us when He went to the cross! But for now, the life we have must be sustained through regular times spent with Jesus, the One Who comes to us as Living Water. Faithful, unhurried prayer and a patient meditation on God’s Word are the means through which our love relationship with Him is sustained.

Unlike the desert flora that diligently guard their meager resources and have nothing but their beauty to share with others, God’s Spirit intends something more than beauty and survival for us. He delights to produce a variety of fruit through us for others to enjoy. The fruit miraculously grown in the arid world gives ample evidence to a source the thirsty world longs to experience.

As the high priest led the procession into the temple carrying a golden pitcher of water, he halted, looked to heaven and was about to pour its contents onto the ground. His action would be accompanied by a prayer for the rains to water the earth anew the following year. Suddenly Jesus’ voice pierced the reverent silence of the gathered congregation like a trumpet blast. He shouted in a loud voice, ‘If a man is thirsty, let Him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him’ (John 7:37b-38). Those streams, a clear reference to the Holy Spirit, are the source of the life giving fruit Paul has in mind in his letter the congregation in Galatia, called ‘the fruit of the Spirit’ (Galatians 5:22ff.).

May we be like the psalmist who recognized his thirst and went to the One he knew could satisfy it: ‘O God, You are my God, earnestly I seek You; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for You in a dry and weary land where there is no water.’ (Psalm 63:1)

Need a taste of God’s living water, a mini-retreat?  Please join us for a New Life Weekend.

When Hope Was Born

Jonathan Daugherty

Christmas has always been my favorite time of year. Ever since I was a little boy I have felt the excited anticipation of Christmas day approaching. There were the traditions of church services, singing carols, drinking eggnog (non-alcoholic, of course), and lots and lots of wonderful food. The sights, the smells, the sounds ‘ they all filled my heart with a sense of wonder and joy. And then there was the Baby.

Ah, the Baby Jesus. Could any other image bring such innocence and purity to the season? This perfect child, conceived by God’s Holy Spirit, and born to the young virgin, Mary.

Can you picture this holy, yet unusual, scene? A city bustling beyond its capacity, a young couple tired from a long journey, an innkeeper with enough mercy to provide a stable, and a night sky filled with twinkling stars awaiting the moment ‘ the moment God becomes a man. Words like peace, joy, and awe come to mind. And in my Christmas nostalgia I smile and take another sip of eggnog.

For many, this is where the season ends. A pleasant nativity, festive music, and all the sweet food you can eat. Christmas has become all about a feeling. But is there more to it? Did something else happen that cool, dark night in Bethlehem? Is there more to the story than the marking of an annual holiday?

Yes! Hope was born that starry night. Jesus, though a baby, was also the eternal king, our hope of glory. He came, not to mark off a holiday on the calendar, but rather to set captives free from the shackles of sin, shame, and despair. He was born to offer hope to you and me, broken sinners in need of a savior.

What I have come to appreciate most about the Christmas season is remembering that Jesus’ birth was only the beginning of the hope to come. In His birth was the anticipation of the hope that would eventually be realized only through His death on the cross. And by His death (and subsequent resurrection to new life) we were offered hope of freedom from our sin.

Did you know that hope really isn’t hope if what you hope for is never realized? Let me explain. The definition of hope is to desire with expectation of fulfillment. If you hope for something with a sort of fingers-crossed-one-eye-closed-toss-
fairy-dust-over-my-shoulder-while-chanting mentality, you aren’t really hoping; you are wishing. Hope has a certainty to it. This is why we can confidently place our hope in God, because what He says He will do, He does! We can expect Him to fulfill His promises.

God said to Abraham, ‘You will have a son.’ At 100 years of age, Abraham had a son.

God said to Noah, ‘A flood will destroy the earth and only those on the ark will be saved.’ It rained forty days and nights, and everything was destroyed that was not on the ark.

God said to Moses, ‘You will deliver my people from Egypt.’ Moses delivered God’s people from Egypt.

Time and time again throughout Scripture God tells His people what He will do. And time after time He keeps His promises. God does what He says He will do. This assurance that He keeps His word helps us to place our hope, our expectation of fulfillment, in Him.

He also makes some particularly powerful promises to you and me.

John 10:28I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. (NIV)

We have hope that nothing (no cause, no opponent, no addiction, nothing!) can remove God’s salvation from us through Christ. Do you believe God will keep His word?

Romans 8:1-2Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. (NIV)

We have hope of a life free from shame and self-hatred because we have a God who erases the penalty of death we owed by covering us with the life of Christ. God is not ashamed of you. Do you believe God keeps His word?

2 Peter 1:3-4His [Christ’s] divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. (NIV)

We have hope of walking in purity and wholeness because God has given us everything we need to experience His power to live free from this world’s wickedness. Purity is possible for every man. Do you believe God keeps His word?

What is blocking you from having hope?

What lies are pulling you away from the truth that you can expect God to do what He says He will do? Hope in God is not wishing. God promises to finish the good that He started in you. (Phil. 1:6) Will you believe Him to do it and stop resisting His leading?

Christmas is a special time of year for me. And not just for all the peripheral festivities that adorn the season. It is special because I am once again reminded that it was at Christmas when Hope was born.

May the Hope of the world change your life’

For more help on this subject, please see Every Man’s Battle.