Langston Hughes wrote a poem about a poor, black mother who had no choice but to keep climbing a “tacked,” “splintered,” “torn up” staircase, “sometimes walking in the dark where there ain’t been no light” (“Mother to Son”). She might have lived in deteriorating conditions of darkness, but she never quit climbing. Despite her deficient condition, she had enough compassion to look outside of it to consider the condition of another--a son of the then Harlems of the world--to offer a word of encouragement. “Don’t Quit.” She, a mother of Harlem, offers a word of encouragement to one of its sons.
Even though the plight of the Black man might have been different than hers, they did have something in common, and her experience of walking in faith empowered her to offer something he desperately needed. We are told in Hebrews 11:1 that “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” If one has never had to rely on God for food, or shelter, or safety, that person does not have the personal experience to talk about what God can do in that situation.
Although the mother never invokes the name of God, I am nevertheless reminded of her when I think of this topic. Only someone who walks in the dark where there ain’t been no light” is empowered to encourage someone else to do the same. Their power is their faith experience. They can say, “I’ve been there, I know. This is what God did for me.” They are equipped to give a powerful testimony about the power of God. Anyone else is giving theory alone. They can only tell you what they have heard. There is a power of faith, however, in knowing for yourself. This is the power of faith that serves others.
There is also a power of faith within the individual. "If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, 'Be uprooted and planted in the sea,' and it will obey you” (Luke 17:6). Imagine the faith-power potential that Christians have been given. In Matthew 17:20, we are told that if we have mustard seed faith, we can move mountains. I cannot say that I have ever moved a mountain in my life. I must say then that I am walking around with a lot of untapped spiritual potential.
We heard it said that “Knowledge is power.” Knowledge may elevate one person over another. It may qualify individuals with positions of influence; but there is another power that cannot be purchased, extorted, or inherited. It is freely given to those who would only believe. It is a gift that God alone gives.
A missionary in my church was very sick with pneumonia, and the doctor told her daughter that he didn’t think she would survive. When the daughter told her mother what the doctor said, the mother couldn’t wait to have a talk with him. When she did, she asked him, “Who told you that I’m not gonna live? Do you know the God I serve?” She confronted the doctor’s fatalist attitude with faith and power, and was eventually discharged from the hospital. Three weeks later, she looked forward to walking into his office for a follow-up visit, full of life. The power of her faith allowed her to confront and deflect someone else’s doubts.
In all, faith should protect against anyone or anything that seeks to instill disbelief in the power of God.
If a person learns how certain Christians mistreated African American people, that person might be convinced that God does not exist, or Christianity is a lie. Examine what Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote: "It is appalling that the most segregated hour of Christian America is eleven o'clock on Sunday morning."
The skeptic might ask, “If Christianity is true, how can a people united by faith allow skin pigmentation to become a major line of division?” That is a fair question; but then again, when any individual looks at himself in the mirror—Christians, in particular--the dilemma of finding true Christianity is staring right back at him.
In school, teachers encourage students to look at primary documents to acquire first-hand knowledge about an era or event. If we really want to understand Selena in Browngirl Brownstones by Paule Marshall, would we rely fully on the interpretation of others who claim to have read the book? Or college professors who promote their expertise? At some point, wouldn’t we sit down and read the book ourselves? I think so. And the same holds true for determining exactly what true Christianity entails. One must go to the primary document--the Bible. Inside these pages alone is quintessential Christianity. Only the man, Jesus Christ, represents what Christianity is all about.
When studying the Book of Christianity, the Bible, the following information is key when searching for elements of true Christianity.
The individual acknowledges that God set a standard for living in this world; yet, no one has met it. “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23 NIV). It may be very humbling to admit that as good, smart, beautiful, wealthy, or powerful a person may be, all of one’s best efforts fall far short of God’s standard. But the true Christian wouldn’t stop there. She would also acknowledge that because of and through Jesus Christ and His work, God overlooks our substandard status.
The first acknowledgement inspires the true Christian to gain a better understanding about how Jesus Christ is his leader. He will want to answer these and other questions: How does Jesus think? What has Jesus taught? How can I best incorporate His teachings into my life? Now that I understand my position, how am I supposed to live?
The first century Christians can be a model for pursuing true Christianity. We are told that “. . . They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer” (Acts 2:42 NIV). From this verse, we can conclude that for a lifetime, a true Christian finds time to study and meditate on the Bible; to associate with other Christians; to remember the sacrificial moment of the faith; and to remain in constant communication with God. But there is more that a true Christian would do.
A true Christian projects love. “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another" (John 13:35). Jesus spoke to His disciples when He made this statement. He told them that when people look at how the twelve behaved, other people should see love. Outsiders should see kindness among you. They should see humility. All the virtues listed in 1 Corinthians 13 should be evident in your interactions with each other.
True Christianity involves a silent, spiritual way of life that spills over into our families, churches, communities, and nations. True Christians may not demonstrate the trappings of religion because true Christianity is not a religion; it is a relationship with God that impacts our relationships with those around us.
All of us who call ourselves Christians can take the responsibility of making sure that we are doing our best to practice true Christianity, and its essence will radiate from our lives.
At the root of loving others is the ability to forgive them for the perceived wrong they have executed against you. Perceived wrong? More often than not, we believe someone has wronged us when sometimes it’s a simple misunderstanding. Failure to communicate with others leads to a road of bitterness and a failure to forgive them.
Originally, I questioned this title. “Who doesn’t deserve to be loved?” I asked. Initially, we think of those who are easy to love: babies, children, spouses, parents, grandparents, friends, neighbors, Church Family. At times, however, they can be difficult to get along with, and sometimes we would rather not deal with them. They may test the boundaries of the relationship, which can create emotional and physical distance. The distance created can deepen based on a failure to communicate our differing perspectives.
A broken heart, disappointment, manipulation, and deception can be devastating. We find ourselves at odds with those who have brought these issues into our lives. Forgiving and moving forward may be difficult. We’re unable to see beyond our pain. Sometimes it may be comfortable to hold onto that pain because its familiar, a comfort zone, so to speak. With time, proper communication, faith in God, sacrificial love, and patience, these relationships can be healed.
However, the more I began to ponder this question, the more I thought about individuals that do not fall into these parameters: murderers, rapists, abusers, human traffickers. These, and other members of the criminal element we sometimes consider as “riff-raff,” are not easy to love.
We’re faced with the action they have committed against us, a family member, a loved one, or society in general. In our minds, we morally sentence them to death, because the crime they’ve committed is unpardonable to us. Sometimes it can be difficult to look beyond the wrong and focus on their heart. It’s easy to believe their heart isn’t deserving of love, because we know actions stem from the heart.
Then, I began to think about Mary Magdalene, Joab, Ahab, Jezebel, and Zaccheus. I have named a prostitute, a traitor, murderers, a seductress, and the scorned tax collector. (Tax collector? These Jewish citizens were seen as traitors, despised because they worked for the oppressive Roman government, and became wealthy off their fellow Jews.)
If Jesus was able to love them, and commanded us to love others as He loved us (John 13:34), how can we not obey this command? How can we withhold love from anyone? Society places definitions on what’s good and bad in terms of our wrongdoing, and what’s acceptable and not. Comparing murderers to liars is simply unacceptable in this society. In God’s eyes, the unrighteous (anyone) will not inherit His kingdom (1 Corinthians 6:9-10). He judges our thoughts as well as our actions, because our actions are derived from our hearts (Matthew 12:34).
When we look at people with our natural eyes (flesh), we are unable to excuse their grievous behaviors. If we were ever required to forgive wrongdoers through the flesh, I believe no one would be forgiven. Can you imagine if God were like us? There would be no hope, no grace, no mercy, no salvation! That thought grieves my soul, but God is so wonderful! He would not allow us to perish like that without giving us a way out.
Instead, we must look at, love, and forgive one another with our spiritual awareness. That’s why we were filled with His Spirit. God already knew that there were many things we could not do of our own accord. Therefore, He gave us supernatural power from on high to accomplish the many things we are simply too weak to do on our own (Romans 8:1-8).
The greatest command we were given is to love one another as He loved us. His love is patient and forgiving of those who are His enemies (Luke 23:33-34), serving others despite His position (John 13:12-14), and sacrificial for all (Romans 5:8). If He gave of Himself in such a selfless manner out of love, shouldn’t we humbly obey His greatest command?
Some may scoff at my insinuation to love some of these individuals. “How can you say that,” you ask? My family and I have been victims of some of those same ones I’ve pointed out. We hurt. We’re devastated. And still, we love. Because He gives us strength to love.
If you’ve been wronged by anyone, recall your greatest sins. He’s already forgiven you, and still loves you in spite of them. Don’t lean on your own understanding. Loving those who you feel are “undeserving of love” simply requires you to lean on and trust Him.
He’ll supply you with all the love you need in order to love others, even those that do not deserve it.
Last week, I spent the better part of two days as a visitor to the famed MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, where a friend who is closer than a brother to me underwent major surgery to remove his prostate.
Although I have known about this place for a long time, heard about its worldwide reputation as a leader in cancer treatment and research, I thankfully never had occasion to actually go there until my lifelong friend from the neighborhood was diagnosed.
One thing that struck me while I was there was a humbling sense of gratitude as I watched some very sick people trudging through the hallways, towing wheeled I.V. stands filled with bags of fluid and tubes running into their weakened bodies.
I also felt a deep sense of … it is hard for me sometimes to identify my feelings and emotions, but I guess what I felt was love. Growing up in a family where shows of affection were non-existent, communication was difficult, and the words “I love you” were rarely, if ever, heard, a seemingly simple thing like giving and receiving love has always been a little confusing for me.
There were eight of us who waited from the beginning to the end of the seven-hour surgery – my friend’s wife, his oldest son, longtime business partner, and five close friends, including me. When it was over, most of us decided to go on home – or in my case, a hotel – and wait until the next day to see him again, since the surgery was difficult and we figured he would not be in the best of shape for a lot of visitors right away.
The next day is when the magic happened.
My other childhood friend, Joe, and I met for breakfast at a place on Westheimer Road and then headed over to the hospital. We were the only ones there for a while, talking to Bobby and his wife for about an hour as various nurses and attendants popped in and out, doing this and checking that; then most all of his family walked into the room: his son; his daughter and her husband; his two young stepsons; his stepdaughter and her boyfriend. I knew half of the group, but had never spent much time with any of them.
Joe and I were going to take off, to give everybody a little more space – it was standing-room-only in there – and a chance to visit; but when I told Bobby we were going to go, he said, “Why? Don’t go yet. Shut the door. Stay five more minutes.”
Well, that five minutes turned into two hours. Bobby was in pain, wincing from time to time, shutting his eyes for a few seconds once in a while as a wave of discomfort rose deep in his abdomen, but also in his usual great spirits, relieved to have the surgery behind him. There was lots of story-telling, reminiscing, laughter, hugs all around – the usual close, loving family stuff.
And the really neat thing was, not only was I a witness to all this love and affection, I was included. I actually felt like part of the family.
Joe and I finally did leave after about a three-hour visit, and I told him about this as we walked to the elevator. He looked at me and said, “People love you, John.”
“Someday, I’ll figure that out,” I said.
First Corinthians 12:4-8 says: “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things; endures all things.”
Proverbs 17:17: “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.”
I am not a person who has a lot of close friends, mostly I think because it is hard for me to accept love; to acknowledge the fact that I am loveable, or deserve to be loved. I am blessed, however, to have a few really good friends who love me in spite of my many shortcomings, and from whom I am learning to be a better, more loving man.
It is nearly nine hours since I left MD Anderson and headed home, as I sit here writing these words, and I am still a little overwhelmed by the past two days. I think it is going to take a while to process everything I am feeling.
One of these days, hopefully in the not-too-distant future, I am going to figure out once and for all that it is OK to let people love me.
If you can identify, then I will tell you this – it’s OK to let people love you, too.
My husband and I have been blessed with a daughter, and she is one of the most beautiful and precious gifts we have. Upon learning we were having her, my husband instantly went into protection mode.
I was excited and went into shopping mode, purchasing her beautiful outfits, blankets, and other material items. Almost sixteen years later, I have drastically grown from that foolish young lady. I’ve learned much about myself as a parent and a woman in raising my daughter.
In the early years, my failure to exhibit a positive attitude or deal with adversity in a constructive manner encouraged her inherent aggressiveness. Through the ordeals she faced, with my husband and myself standing guard, I learned her aggressive nature was okay. We simply needed to teach her to embrace who she was and be confident in herself. I would come to learn my husband was right about how to accomplish this. Because children are impressionable, I needed to be cautious in my attitudes and decisions. As my husband states, “We’re role models, whether we like it or not.”
Valuable lessons along the way not only taught me the importance of being a strong woman, but also how to prepare her to become a strong woman. Instilling confidence in her at an early age has taught her how to define her voice and express herself with clarity.
Women are emotional creatures. Without knowing and being true to you, your emotions can have you all over the place, causing you to become self-destructive and destructive to those around you. Discussing how we feel about situations and handling them maturely enable our daughters to identify their emotions. They learn to handle them in an optimistic manner, realizing their emotions are no one else’s responsibility except their own.
Teach them that when they become overwhelmed, to take it to God in prayer. Honoring Him as their head, giving thanks for the blessings He gives, and making her heart known to Him allow Him to pour peace into her (Philippians 4:6-7). This peace brings stability to her emotions, producing deep-seated emotional health.
Empowering your daughter to fight her own battles is not always easy. Our natural instinct causes us to protect them as much as possible from life’s hurts and pains. We want to retaliate at the third-grade bully who called her out her name, or her best friend who turned on her, or the young man that broke her heart. Yet, sometimes we have to take a step back and curb that mother-bear instinct. This is the only way she learns to deal with her feelings. To strengthen her, we must encourage her to find solutions to her own problems. This, too, builds her confidence in her ability and talents.
Her everyday reality will prepare her to deal with life's pressure. One of my husband’s favorite sayings is “Perfection is a metaphor.” It’s allowed us to understand that we will always make mistakes, but we don’t have to rake ourselves over the coals. Instead, we work to improve. When our young ladies become enamored with the trappings of this world, they become lost, seeking to be perfect. This search for perfection leads to depression, anxiety, missed opportunities, or even addiction. We must equip them against such susceptibility.
Teaching them to seek God’s Kingdom and His righteousness first, they shall be supplied with their needs (Matthew 6:33). Building a relationship with the Lord is essential to their survival and growth into strong women. She will learn first to trust Him and understand His will for her life. She will measure her life’s expectations according to His will and His Word, rather than that of the world. Finally, as she loves Him, she will begin to delight herself in Him, and all those things her heart desires she shall receive (Proverbs 37:4). No longer will it be necessary to strive for “perfection.”
Building on her faith and relationship with God enables her to discover her true beauty, which is not only her faith and trust in the Lord, but her good works (1 Timothy 2:9-10). Humility and service to God will equip her to be a strong woman, one whose worth is far more precious than jewels (Proverbs 31:10). As she matures in the Lord, her strength will become evident, and she will soon learn that charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised (Proverbs 31:30).
Her strength lies within Him.
I have had many more blessings in my life than I probably deserve, and the greatest of them all are two beautiful girls, Stacy and Kathryn.
“No one in the world can love a girl more than her father.” – Michael Ratnadeepak
Amen to that.
I have never been much of a crier. I don’t cry easily, as I have learned over the years to push uncomfortable emotions down deep inside and out of reach. After lots of practice, I became good enough at this that it happens naturally, and is something I would like to undo.
But I digress …
Thinking deeply about my daughters and how much I love them is one thing that can bring tears to my eyes. I haven’t always been a great father – I’ve made my mistakes with both of them; disappointed and let them both down at times – but I have always loved them more than words can adequately describe.
A brilliant thinker named Joseph Addison may have said it best: “Certain is it that there is no kind of affection so purely angelic as of a father to a daughter. In love to our wives, there is desire; to our sons, ambition; but to our daughters, there is something which there are no words to express.”
In the Bible, Deuteronomy 6:6-9 tells us: “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”
In Ephesians 6:4, it says, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”
This is something that definitely was not done, me raising my girls according to a lot of Christian teachings, because for a long time I wanted nothing to do with God or religion, and they both are products of broken homes. I know they have suffered in various ways because of that, and it is something I will always regret. But they are healthy and reasonably happy young women now, and they know I love them, but we are not as close as I’d like to be.
Being mostly a part-time father, serious discipline from me was rare. It was not needed. There was a time, though, when my youngest was a senior in high school and living with me, that a firm hand was needed. And I came down pretty hard on her, letting her know in no uncertain terms my displeasure, and puttting a number of restrictions in place.
This was the first time I’d had to put on my fatherly disciplinarian hat, and it did not go over very well. She complied with my conditions, but our relationship soured quite a bit after that, and unfortunately is still not quite the same. There has been healing and forgiveness, but still there is something missing, and she does not confide in me things that she might otherwise, if I had handled the situation a little differently.
But I learned from it. I continue to love her, and someday that old bond and trust will return.
According to Victoria Secunda: “A daughter needs a loving, available, predictable father or father figure who can be counted on, whether divorced or at home. She needs his best paternal intentions, even if his efforts occasionally fall short. She needs his maturity and limit setting and sexual oppositeness, so that she can function with confidence in the wider world of adult love and work.”
Certainly nothing there with which to argue. And I think I’ve done a fairly decent job with all that. I always did things with good intentions, with some level of maturity and wisdom, and occasionally fell short with both my girls.
If I had it to do all over again, of course I’d do some things differently – simply because I never in a million years want to hurt them, disappoint them; let them down.
The only problem is, I’m human and did not have a great example of parenting myself; but like my mom and dad, I did the best I could with what I had. And, overall, even though my parents made plenty of mistakes and let me down at times, they also gave me some good things.
Proverbs 22:6 says: “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old, they will not turn from it.”
Today, I’m a decent enough fellow, always working to improve myself. One reason for that is because – more than anything else in the world – I want my daughters at the end of my life to be able to honestly say, “He was a good dad.”
If they know in their hearts that I loved them, and believe that I was a good dad, my life will have been an overwhelming success.
As strange as it may sound, Christians exist in two realms: physical and spiritual. I have heard a minister liken that concept to the image of the cross: the vertical bar representing the relationship with God, and the horizontal one symbolizing the relationships with other human beings. He had gone on to say that the vertical relationship impacts all the horizontal ones. In order to pursue that primary relationship--our relationship with God--a few steps are necessary.
David aptly describes this pursuit of God with these words: “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for You, O God” (Psalms 42:1 NIV). The question then becomes: How does a person pursue a relationship with God?
So far, I have learned that the following steps are critical:
When we nurture our relationship with God and with others in the faith, we can live healthy Christian lives--not flawless nor problem-free--but lives pointing toward right-being, right-thinking, right-speaking, right-loving, and right-living.
I found out last week through social media that an old high school classmate was seriously down on his luck, unable to work, without transportation, and out of money; a friend had started one of those online fundraisers to help him.
While I am a man of fairly modest means, my first reaction – even though I have neither seen nor talked to this guy in decades – was to throw a big chunk of change into the pot, start a fundraiser of my own, find out where this guy is living, and take him a carload of groceries. Do something.
Then, I started noticing the reaction of other former classmates, who, instead of donating a little cash to the cause, sent best wishes, prayers, hopes to get well soon, and “Call me when you feel better” messages. Two people pledged $25 each, but that was it. I was surprised, and wondered why.
Why weren’t more people pitching in? A lot of my old high school mates have a lot of money. Was there more to the story than I knew?
I told my wife about everything, and said I wasn’t sure what to do.
“Go with your gut,” she said, all full of logic and good sense, as usual.
A friend and roommate told me the same thing a long time ago. When it comes to making important decisions, listen to your gut, that little voice inside that helps decide right and wrong. “Your gut will never lie,” he said.
In the Bible, 2 Corinthians 9:7, it says: "You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.”
My gut was telling me to contribute, and so I did. Not a lot – I have plenty of my own financial obligations – but a little something. Several days later, the number of donations had gone up to six, for a total of $300, a far cry from the original goal of $2,500. There has to be some reason people aren’t willing to part with a few bucks to help this guy out. I don’t have the answer, but I feel good about doing my small part.
There was a time when this would never have happened, me giving money to anybody. I was raised in a family where our father was so tight with money, he could squeeze a nickel until the buffalo hollered for help; and I guess that’s where I learned to be overly protective with my own funds.
Until recent years, I was a notoriously bad tipper at restaurants, for example. Service had to be impeccable for me to even consider leaving a decent tip. Bad service? Forget about it. Used to drive my wife crazy. She comes from a large family that got by on a limited income, too; but she adheres to the belief that what goes around, comes around, as it applies to finances.
Her philosophy on giving and receiving is pretty well summed up in 2 Corinthians 9:6: “The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.”
I asked her about this recently, and she said: “Giving is not about the other person; it’s about you. When you give a gift, it’s not about what you’re going to get in return. It’s about allowing God to work through you.”
Apparently, I am still pretty selfish, although I am working on it. When I give, I don’t think about God and whether it’s the right thing to do, yadda, yadda, yadda. I kind of like the good feeling it gives me inside.
Try it sometime. Go to a restaurant and leave a $20 tip on a $20 ticket. Next time you stay at a hotel, find one of the cleaning ladies on your way out and hand her a twenty. I did that last summer when I drove Route 66; it was a lot of fun.
The cleaning lady was taken aback and I think a little shocked, but as I was putting my suitcase in the trunk of the car, I heard her call out, “Have a safe trip!”
Hebrews 13:16 says: “But to do good, and to communicate, forget not: for with sacrifices God is well pleased.”
Maybe that good feeling I get inside is God’s way of letting me know I made the right move.
Wouldn’t it be great to have Jesus standing right next to you and walking by your side every step of each day? I know that Jesus is alive, and He promised to never leave or forsake us; but I am talking about physically, in the flesh, having Jesus right here with us! Wow! That would be amazing. Imagine how much easier it would be to not participate in things we know are wrong. Imagine how encouraged our churches would be if Jesus showed up as a special guest speaker. Remember the “WWJD” slogan? If Jesus was still in human form and walking with us, we could just ask Him what He would do! What could be better than having Jesus right here with us?
Jesus’ disciples must have been thinking the same thing in John 16 when Jesus started talking about going away. As they are trying to register all of this, Jesus says, “But in fact, it is best for you that I go away, because if I don't, the Advocate won't come. If I do go away, then I will send him to you” (NLT).
Who is this Advocate? In other translations, He is called the Helper or Comforter. If we look earlier in the book of John, we find out who Jesus is talking about: “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth” (John 14:16-17a).
This Advocate is the Holy Spirit of God. Jesus is telling His disciples that He needs to leave so that God can send the Holy Spirit to the disciples. And He tells them that it will actually be better for them to have the Spirit of God than to have Jesus walking with them. Jesus says later, “…when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative—that is, the Holy Spirit—he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you” (John 14:26).
One of the last things that Jesus instructs His followers to do is to wait for the Holy Spirit to come. “And now I will send the Holy Spirit, just as my Father promised. But stay here in the city until the Holy Spirit comes and fills you with power from heaven” (Luke 24:49).
And so, on the day of Pentecost, a group of Jesus’ followers gathered together, and the Holy Spirit comes in with the sound of a mighty rushing wind. The Holy Spirit enables them to speak in other languages. There were people from all around the nation who spoke different languages; but through the Holy Spirit's power, they were able to understand what Jesus’ followers were saying!
Peter, one of Jesus’ followers, stood up and spoke to everyone about Jesus; and through the Spirit’s power, testified about Jesus, just like they were promised. Peter told about how Jesus was crucified, buried, raised to life, and is now sitting at the right hand of God. He showed how Jesus was the real Messiah Whom they had been looking for. He told the people to leave their own agenda of selfishness, and be baptized so they too could receive the Holy Spirit as a gift (Acts 2:14-41).
This day was the start of a gathering of people who would represent Jesus on this Earth. They would be called His Body. They would act as His hands and feet. They would be His witness to a world who was still looking for the Messiah. And all of this came through the power of the Holy Spirit.
In 1 Corinthians 12, we read about gifts that the Holy Spirit gives to people. In verse seven, we are told that He gives us gifts “so we can help each other.” This chapter tells us that these gifts vary greatly. Some people have some gifts while others have other gifts. It tells us that the gifts are as diverse as the people who make up the Body of Christ. Just like our body has many parts (they do not all serve the same function), the Body of Christ is made up of people who have varying gifts from the Holy Spirit. But the purpose of the Holy Spirit still remains the same—to build up the Body and to be a witness for Jesus.
Are you in the Body of Christ today? Do you desire the gifts promised by Jesus and delivered by the Holy Spirit? If so, why? Do you desire them to be a witness for Jesus? Do you desire them to build up the Body of Christ? Just as 1 Corinthians 12 opens when introducing the gifts of Holy Spirit, “I don’t want you to misunderstand this.”
Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would come. He promised that the Holy Spirit would be better for us than having Jesus walking right beside us. These things are all true and we should desire these gifts. Not only should we desire these gifts, but also the power of the Spirit that was promised to us. Romans 8:11 tells us, “The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you.”
It is God’s desire that we live as a testimony to Jesus. It is God’s desire that we build up the Church—the body and earthly representation of His Son Jesus. The Holy Spirit can help us, comfort us and empower us so that we can help, comfort, and empower others. All this is for the Glory of God!
“Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Glory to Him in the Church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen.” -- Ephesians 3:20, 21
One of the deepest questions people must ask themselves is, “Who am I?” Based on how they answer that question, they choose careers, friends, spouses, and make a multitude of other decisions.While we all have our own personalities, tastes, and preferences, Christians are called to add another dimension to the mix. Our ultimate goal is to be like Jesus. 1 John 3:2 reads, “But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” In the meantime, we must grow in Christ; and like all growth, it is a process.
Many years ago, a friend gave me a short but powerful book entitled Sit, Walk, Stand by Watchman Nee. This clearly written book, based on several verses in Ephesians, clearly explained the process. If we allow Him, God will bring us through three stages of growth.
He seats us.
Ephesians 2:6--“And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.”
This is the period of learning for us. We learn the essence of what God pulled us out of and what He has elevated us to. We essentially learn what that elevation actually means. We learn more about who Jesus Christ is and the sacrifice that He has made on our behalf. We begin to understand the resurrection and the power that believers inherit as a result of their relationship with God. This sitting is a time for learning, prayer, and study. We learn about this amazing life that we have been called into living.
God commands us to walk worthy.
Ephesians 4:1--“. . . walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called.”
Once we sat and understood exactly what we were called into, then it’s time to walk. Once we have been called to faith, how then do we live? Frances Schaeffer asked that question in his book. Living the Christian life is a series of choices. Saying yes and saying no. How do we behave ourselves? How will we walk and talk? How will our conduct reflect our conversion? This is the work part of the faith.
Prepare to stand against opposition.
Ephesians 6:11--“Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.”
Christians have been drafted into a war against an unseen enemy. We sat and we have walked in the faith; and because of that, we have acquired an enemy that wants to destroy us. Our only protection is the armor God has provided. It will take our entire artillery of truth, righteousness, peace, faith, salvation and the word of God to fight the enemy. My take is that the Christian life is a constant cycle of sitting, walking, and standing.
We learn something new about ourselves and God each time go through the stages, and we become more like Christ Himself in the process.
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