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Giving Honors God!

“Honor the LORD with your wealth and with the best part of everything your land produces.” (Proverbs 3:9 NLT) To honor God is to show our regard, esteem, value, respect, and prizing of him. When we give to the Lord, we demonstrate to him, to others, and to ourselves that he is supreme in our lives.  When we give, we attest that he is our most valued treasure. Giving shows that our hearts are set on him and not on our money or belongings. Giving honors God as supreme. Giving to him is an act of worship.

But there is both a non-giving and a giving that dishonors God. Not giving simply fails to honor God. Not giving demonstrates that our wealth and possessions and not God are truly what we treasure most. Not giving to God withholds honor from him and hoards that honor for us. By not giving, we elevate our wealth and possessions above him.  So, not giving dishonors God. [Read more →]

January 14, 2009   1 Comment

Solitude

The term solitude is a bit misleading, for in solitude we do not seek to be totally alone, but alone with God. Solitude is one of the most intimate relational graces. We long for solitude because of the personal time we get to spend with the Lord in the absence of others and anything that distracts. Our desire for solitude with God flows from our love for and enjoyment of him.

From the preceding description of solitude we understand that to “be by oneself” does not constitute solitude. Instead, solitude is a deliberate retreat from others and distractions in order to spend time with God. Linda and I spend a lot of time with other people both socially and in ministry. But we both long for times of solitude with each other—when I’m there totally for her, and she for me. Our times of solitude with God are similar in that we want to be preoccupied with him and his presence with us without distraction. [Read more →]

January 8, 2009   Comments Off on Solitude

Forgiveness

Forgiveness is the flip-side relational grace of repentance. Clearly seen, forgiveness provides us with the opportunity to extend to others what God freely gives us. Since God is holy and without sin, there is never a time when we could offer him forgiveness! So why would we consider forgiveness a relational grace needed in our relationship with him?

Forgiveness is a relational grace necessary in our relationship with God because he clearly says it is. In Matthew 6:14-15 NLT, Jesus explained, “If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.” On the surface this may sound harsh or even transactional in nature, but it’s not. It is highly relational as we’ll see. [Read more →]

January 4, 2009   Comments Off on Forgiveness

Relational Graces

The relational graces play a tremendous role in our personal discipleship process. Jesus Christ is extremely personal in discipling you and me. My wife and I were blessed with three children—boy, girl, boy. All three are distinctly different in their personality and wiring. As their parents, there was no way we could impose a cookie-cutter approach to child-rearing on all three and expect them to respond alike. We had to craft an approach for each that played to their personality and situation. This approach is not merely pragmatic, but also the loving thing to do.

Jesus works with each of us in unique ways to bring us closer to himself and transform us into followers who exhibit his character. So when it comes to the relational graces, you will no doubt employ them in slightly different ways than I would. You may also find that you employ one or more of the relational graces to a greater extent than some of the others and that emphasis may change over time. Remember, the goal is not mastery of relational graces, but deeper relationship with Christ. [Read more →]

December 31, 2008   1 Comment

The Holy Spirit Explains the Scriptures to Us

The Holy Spirit explains the Scriptures to us. “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” (John 14:26) The Holy Spirit authored the Scriptures to be read and understood. He delights in making himself known to us through his Word.

There are a variety of ways in which the Holy Spirit explains the Bible to us. Sometimes he gives us the ability to suddenly grasp the meaning of a passage, which had confused us before. Such an experience seems primarily cognitive in nature, but may have far reaching relational impact as well. I say that because we’re not merely seeking an intellectual thrill in understanding a new thing from the Bible. The Bible is very intellectually stimulating, but that’s a by-product not the goal. Paul prayed for the church in Ephesus, “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.” (Ephesians 1:17) [Read more →]

December 23, 2008   3 Comments

The Holy Spirit Transforms Us

The Holy Spirit transforms us.  On the face of it we may not think of the Holy Spirit’s transforming work in us as relational and requiring communication. But if we reflect on what it is that Christ wants to change in us, we realize that the changes are predominantly character issues. God’s plan for us is to make us more like Christ in character. “Just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy.’” (1 Peter 1:15-16)

The point is that these character issues (Christlikeness) have primarily to do with relationships—those with God and with others. Even a speedy review of key passages like Romans 12:3-15:7; Galatians 5:22-23 (the fruit of the Spirit); Ephesians 4:17-5:33; and Colossians 3:12-4:6 reveal that the nature of the transformation God wants to bring about in us is profoundly relational. As his children we are to imitate him (Ephesians 5:1). [Read more →]

December 20, 2008   Comments Off on The Holy Spirit Transforms Us

The Holy Spirit Enables Us to Think Like Christ

The Holy Spirit enables us to think like Christ. In 1 Corinthians 2:10-16, Paul lays out an incredible truth for us. To paraphrase this passage, Paul says, “No other person knows my thoughts. In the same way, only God knows his thoughts. But since the Holy Spirit is God, he knows the thoughts of God. And God has given us his Spirit, so that we too can know God’s thoughts!” And then Paul summarizes with the bold statement, “We have the mind of Christ.” This truth is highly relational and highly communicative. This fact stands at the core of Paul’s assertion.

I think I speak for all followers of Christ when I say that we don’t always feel like we have the mind of Christ. We tend to judge the veracity of something based on our experience. When we don’t experience having the mind of Christ (or what we assume that is) we either argue that Paul must not have really meant that we have the mind of Christ. Or we conclude that we must have some deficiency that prevents us from knowing the mind of Christ. Either way, we assume we don’t really experience having the mind of Christ. [Read more →]

December 18, 2008   2 Comments

The Holy Spirit Comforts, Encourages and Confirms Us

The Holy Spirit comforts, encourages and confirms us. Observe from the following texts all the ways that the Holy Spirit relates with us and communicates with us. Romans 5:5 encourages, “And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” And Romans 8:26 explains, “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.”

Paul speaks the following blessing in Romans 15:13, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Hope is not merely a warm feeling that comes over us from some stimulant. The Holy Spirit speaks hope into our lives by confirming God’s love and promises for us. [Read more →]

December 18, 2008   Comments Off on The Holy Spirit Comforts, Encourages and Confirms Us

The Holy Spirit Guides Us

The Holy Spirit guides us. We find an unusual example of this with Paul and his companions in Acts 16:6-7, they had been “kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia. When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to.”

When my wife and I moved to Anchorage, Alaska in 2002 it was an especially difficult move for her. We were moving very far away from our children and grandchildren. We have always been a close-knit family, so being separated by such distance was particularly hard. Also, Alaska comes with its own unique set of challenges including long, dark winters and short, cool summers. So when I accepted the job in Anchorage, Linda graciously committed to staying up to five years. I agreed to these terms. [Read more →]

December 16, 2008   Comments Off on The Holy Spirit Guides Us

The Holy Spirit Sometimes Provides Us with Specific Instructions

In Acts 8:29 we read, “The Spirit told Philip, ‘Go to that chariot and stay near it.’” And Philip led this Ethiopian official to the Lord. The Holy Spirit gave special instructions to Ananias in Acts 9:10-16 when he told him to go pray for Saul. We find another example in Acts 10:19-20, “While Peter was still thinking about the vision, the Spirit said to him, ‘Simon, three men are looking for you. So get up and go downstairs. Do not hesitate to go with them, for I have sent them.’”

Some years ago, my wife and I were leading a small group in our home. The group had been meeting for about a year. Randy and Debbie were part of our small group. They had been married about seven years at the time and were unable to have children. From time to time throughout that year we had prayed for them that they might have a child, but as of yet they had not. [Read more →]

December 14, 2008   2 Comments