Freedom Friday: Straining Toward Freedom

Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

The above verse caught my eye in church on Sunday (Philippians 3:13-14). “Straining toward what is ahead,” it says. Not strolling into it or waiting around for it to happen – but straining. I looked it up in the Greek, and it means exactly what it says:

to reach out towards, to stretch out further, to strain for

Sprinter Crossing the Finish Line

No one ever wins a race by taking it easy. It takes training, it takes effort, and it takes straining.

Yet this does not make us happy. We, like the Israelites, look back longingly at Egypt when things seemed easier. We don’t want to stretch ourselves to reach towards what God has for us. We’d rather it be handed to us.

Why do we expect freedom to come easily? According to our nature inherited from Adam, sin is what comes naturally to us. Even with the Holy Spirit living in us, guiding us into all truth, we need to learn to walk in the fullness of the freedom Jesus died to give us (written about in Freedom Step 5 of my book).

Though believers are no longer slaves to sin, we can continue to allow sin to enslave us. Whatever inclination we choose to obey will become our master (Romans 6:16).

This is why we, like the Israelites, must forget what is behind in order to walk in the fullness of the Promised Land God has for us.

This verse has been used by some to “prove” we are not meant to process and heal from our past. That’s not what Paul is saying here. One of the ways we shake off those things that hinder us is by allowing God into those places of wounding so He can set us free.

What Paul communicates here is that we are to press forward (“endeavor earnestly to acquire,” the Greek says) in order “to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me” (v.12).

“Life is not simply a pensive look back to the known, but a daring leap forward to the unknown.” Mary DeMuth

There are times for rest, and times for war. There are times for waiting, and times for straining.

What is God calling you to strain toward in this season?

Monday Morning Meditation: God is Able

Just wanted to send you off into this week with a quick thought:

“Now to Him who is able…..” Ephesians 3:20

I purchased the new Paul Baloche album, Live, last week. I’ve become a fan of Paul Baloche over the years. If you are a worship leader or team member, you may notice that quite a few of the songs we sing today were written or co-written by him. The last church we attended in Boston (which was mostly folks from the Philippines) sang quite a few of his songs, though sometimes when I hear Paul sing them, I still expect a strong Filipino accent 🙂

As I listened to the album one day, I noticed Paul was repeating these lines from an old hymn:

A mighty fortress is our God
A bulwark never failing.
A mighty fortress is our God
A bulwark never failing.

I thought to myself, How my heart would be changed if I spent my days repeating that truth rather than staring at the seemingly insurmountable mountains in my life.

A similar truth that is contained in Ephesians 3:20 has challenged me to my core lately. It begins, “Now to Him who is able.” That alone is enough to give me pause. I have found myself repeating this to myself and to friends in the simple statement, “God is able.” But Paul, the writer of this letter to the church in Ephesus continues:

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine,”

We all like the “immeasurably more” part, and that has seemed to be the phrase my heart has latched on to in the past. But lately, I find the next phrase greatly encouraging: more than all we ask or imagine.

When I don’t know what to pray, when I’m afraid to dream another big dream, when my hopes seems outlandish, the God of the cross is able to do abundantly more than I could even think up. How is that even possible? “According to His power that is at work within us.”

Not my fancy prayer. Not my willpower. Not my effort, even, but according His power that is at work because of His Holy Spirit in me.

And because He loves me. Read Ephesians 3:14-19 for reference.

No matter how your week plays out,
No matter what challenges you face,
No matter what mountains come your way,

Remember.

God is able.

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” Ephesians 3:20-21 (NIV)

Freedom Friday: He’s Coming for a Pure Bride

On October 14th (yes, the day after the marathon), I spoke at a church north of Boston as part of their series on the book of Revelation (the text for the day was Revelation 2:18-29). It was a slightly different version of my testimony, focusing on the importance of purity and embracing weakness, and I thought I’d share it here.

I was born prematurely in May of 1975. I spent my early months, isolated in an incubator, as premature babies were not touched or held. Those first months seemed to set the tone for the rest of my life. I have distinct memories of songs and stories that scared me as a child. I’d zero in on themes of abandonment with great fear, sure that at any moment, I would be alone.

I began experimenting sexually with girls at a young age. As a high school freshman, I began a physical relationship with my female best friend. I looked up “homosexuality” in a health book. The book said that if you had attractions for someone of the same gender, then you were gay. I remember thinking, “There it is, in black and white. I am a homosexual.”

For the next decade, I had several long-term and short-term relationships with women. I was not happy. At age 22, I found myself at music school in Boston. It was there I started learning more about Jesus. Christians seemed to start coming out of nowhere to share about His love. They never took it upon themselves to say that I should not be a lesbian. Like everyone else, I was a sinner in need of Jesus in my life. My sexual behavior was only one of many indications of this need.

My life spiraled out of control in many areas, not only my sexual identity, as I also had an eating disorder and a struggle with self-injury. A friend gave me a CD by a passionate Christian artist. His voice sang of a friend who was always there, a friend who would give everything for him. That friend is Jesus. In the midst of that song, I cried out to God saying, “I want what he has!” God, in His great mercy, met me on that day in January of 1999.

I had one more lesbian relationship after Jesus became Lord of my life. I felt stuck. Was it really even possible to break free of the chains that still held my life in so many ways, and give myself fully to my relationship with Jesus Christ? I eventually said yes to God after my girlfriend broke up with me.

Some days were a moment-by-moment practice of surrender. I went to a Christian counselor who helped me transform my life and my thoughts. God made it clear that I was to share my story. His power, perfected in my weakness, is also perfected when I boast in those weaknesses. I eventually married. And yet, purity is still a daily embrace, a moment-by-moment decision.

That is not to say I still struggle with same-sex attraction at the level of intensity I did 12.5 years ago when I finally surrendered my sexuality to God. I don’t. But every day, I’m faced with the same choice as all of you, no matter what you struggle with. It’s a choice as to whether or not I will trust God in the face of uncertainty. And those times where I don’t choose to trust, I find myself longing to trust in other things, whether it be food or envy and greed.

The lyrics of a song have gripped my heart recently:
He’s coming for a pure bride.What are you doing when no one is watching? Children get your hearts right. God’s coming for a pure bride!

Just the magnitude of His holiness inspires me to choose Him, to make the right choice when no one’s watching, even if no one besides God would ever know. Today, I do not obey God out of a place of fear, or a worry that His feelings for me are somehow as fickle as mine often are. I obey God out of a deep, deep place of love, respect and complete abandon to the God who spared no expense to rescue me.

He’s coming for a pure bride.

Some Non-Partisan Post-Election Day Perspective: Isaiah 40

My scheduled Bible Reading today is Isaiah 40 (NLT). It seemed very appropriate after Election Day.

Whether you are saddened by the results or encouraged, may these excerpts from Isaiah 40 be a timely reminder of God’s view of this world.

“The grass withers and the flowers fade,
but the word of our God stands forever.” 

Who else has held the oceans in his hand?
Who has measured off the heavens with his fingers?
Who else knows the weight of the earth
or has weighed the mountains and hills on a scale? 

The earth as seen from Apollo 17

Who is able to advise the Spirit of the LORD? 

Who knows enough to give him advice or teach him?
Has the LORD ever needed anyone’s advice?
Does he need instruction about what is good?
Did someone teach him what is right
or show him the path of justice? 

No, for all the nations of the world
are but a drop in the bucket.
They are nothing more than dust on the scales.
He picks up the whole earth
as though it were a grain of sand.

To whom can you compare God?
What image can you find to resemble him?
Can he be compared to an idol formed in a mold,
overlaid with gold, and decorated with silver chains?
Or if people are too poor for that,
they might at least choose wood that won’t decay
and a skilled craftsman
to carve an image that won’t fall down! 

God sits above the circle of the earth.
The people below seem like grasshoppers to him!

“To whom will you compare me?
Who is my equal?” asks the Holy One.
Look up into the heavens.
Who created all the stars?
He brings them out like an army, one after another,
calling each by its name.
Because of his great power and incomparable strength,
not a single one is missing.
 

O Jacob, how can you say the LORD does not see your troubles?
O Israel, how can you say God ignores your rights?
 

Have you never heard?
Have you never understood?
The LORD is the everlasting God,
the Creator of all the earth.
He never grows weak or weary.
No one can measure the depths of his understanding.
He gives power to the weak
and strength to the powerless.
Even youths will become weak and tired,
and young men will fall in exhaustion.
But those who trust in the LORD will find new strength.
They will soar high on wings like eagles.
They will run and not grow weary.
They will walk and not faint.

Monday Morning Meditation: Called to Praise (Psalm 71 series)

We are continuing the series on Psalm 71. I encourage you to read the whole psalm here.

It’s certainly worth looking back over the themes of this psalm thus far before considering today’s verses.

Prayer Requests Intertwined with Truth
God’s Protection from the EnemyGod is Our Hope
What Am I Living For?
Never Alone

David, the writer of this psalm, combines the hope he has in God and the truth he knows about God with the reality he is facing. He is getting older, and it feels as if his enemies are surrounding him. Will God continue to come through?

Verses 14-16:

But I will keep on hoping for you to help me;
I will praise you more and more.
I will tell everyone about your righteousness.
All day long I will proclaim your saving power,
for I am overwhelmed by how much you have done for me.
I will praise your mighty deeds, O Sovereign LORD.
I will tell everyone that you alone are just and good.

“I will praise you more and more.”

I don’t know if that’s my natural inclination when trials come. I’m fairly certain my natural inclination is to complain and run around telling everyone how bad off I am. In a post back in February, I shared that when God calls for silence, we can pray, fast, wait, listen, obey and rejoice.

We are called to praise.

Despite the obstacles he was facing, David found multiple reasons to praise God and to declare to others all that God is.

David declared he is overwhelmed by all God has done for him. Usually, when I face challenges, the only thing I’m overwhelmed by is the obstacles I’m staring at.

“Look beyond the tombstone – see the Living God.”

As I was writing this today, this lyric came through my headphones from the song Glorious by Paul Baloche. Even though I know he’s singing of Jesus’s tomb, my mind immediately went to Lazarus, given the opportunity to believe that God has placed before me and my family in this season. We were just reading the story yesterday.

“Take away the stone,” he said.

“But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.”

Jesus calls us, as He did Martha, to look beyond the tombstone. He calls us to praise, more and more. Even before the answer comes, even before we see that victory is on its way, we can be overwhelmed by the reality of all that God is and all that He’s done. We can proclaim His saving power and call others to praise with us.

Monday Morning Meditation: God’s Protection from the Enemy (Psalm 71 series)

We are continuing the series on Psalm 71. I encourage you to read the whole psalm here.

Last week, I talked about how David, the author of the psalm, intertwines prayer requests with truth about God, as if to remind himself that despite his trials, despite the hopelessness he may feel at times, God’s character has not changed. He is still good, He is still faithful, and He is still able to rescue and set free.

Let’s look at today’s verses (v.3-4)

Be to me a protecting rock of safety, where I am always welcome.
Give the order to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress.
My God, rescue me from the power of the wicked, from the clutches of cruel oppressors.

This psalm is full of beautiful and challenging pictures of God’s character and steadfastness.

I especially love the imagery of God as a welcoming rock of safety. It’s a picture of God’s solidity, coupled with His always open arms. The NASB translation further illuminates this truth: “Be to me a rock of habitation to which I may continually come.” We can come to God, as we are, with all our fears and doubts and sorrows, and He is always willing to welcome us in.

David repeats a lot of the same prayers and promises of the first 2 verses. Like the persistent widow, he asks again, Save me, protect me, rescue me.

He also recognizes that the wicked do have some level of power. Jesus recognized this truth as well when He said that Satan came to steal, kill and destroy, but He came so that we might have an abundant life (John 10:10). When Saul met Jesus on the road to Damascus, Jesus told him that He was sending him to “to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.” (Acts 26:18)

So while we have a real enemy (in Satan) and other enemies (in people), Jesus makes it clear, as does David in this psalm, that’s not the end of the story.

God is our fortress. He is sufficient protection against any enemy. A rock of safety, where we are always welcome. Not only did Jesus defeat Satan’s power on the cross (Hebrews 2:14-15), we have a God who able to protect us.

In what area of your life do you need God’s protection today?

Freedom Friday: A Place for Obedience, Part 4

This is a continuation of a post from the last three weeks, part 1, part 2 and part 3.

Last week’s post ended with this:
Jesus also said, “If you love me, you will obey what I command.” (John 14:15) Depending on your background, when you read that passage, you may hear, If I loved God, I would obey Him perfectly, but because I’m not, I must not love Him. This is what I hear, through the filter of knowing God as patient and kind: If I fully love God with all that I have and all that I am, out of that heart of love and trust will flow obedience because I know of His goodness and faithfulness.

Jesus goes on to immediately talk about the Holy Spirit, “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever – the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.” v. 16-17

It is not a coincidence that Jesus talks about the Holy Spirit immediately after obedience. God gave us the Holy Spirit to help us love Him fully and to empower us to obey His commands. He sent us His spirit so we can act like the free person He already made us to be.

How do we act like a free person? We all have those moments where we are tempted to act like our old self and not like a free person, those moments where we are:
Tempted to sin
Tempted to see ourselves in any other way than how God sees us
Tempted to believe the lies we have bought into and fall back into old patterns
Tempted to take our unhealthy/unhelpful thoughts and run with them

A free person grows to realize the temptation she is experiencing is common to man. She chooses to act as if she were free rather than act as if she is still enslaved to that temptation and has no choice but to give in.

A free person would say to that lie about his identity, “That’s not what Jesus says about me!” A free person would say to that boundary violation, “I will leave the room if you continue to speak to me that way.” A free person would reason, “In the past, my emotions have felt overwhelming, so rather than choose to feel them, I chose to medicate my emotions through food, sex, power, escape. I can make different choices today, knowing that I can experience these emotions and they won’t suffocate me because I can handle anything with the Freedom Giver and other freedom seekers at my side.”

This isn’t just about saying no to sin, though that is an important piece. It’s about saying no to bondage in all its forms and saying yes to throwing off the chains.

We are training to run a new race.
When we were slaves to sin, our body and mind were trained, when faced with temptation, to respond a certain way. We gave in to the negative thoughts, we let our boundaries be trampled on, we believed the lies we’d been told. An athlete needs to discipline himself to train, when it might feel more natural to sit on the couch and watch TV. Similarly, we too need to train and discipline ourselves so that when we are faced with temptation, we, like Joseph in Genesis 39, flee the scene rather than give in to old habits and say yes.

“From now on, think of it this way: Sin speaks a dead language that means nothing to you; God speaks your mother tongue, and you hang on every word. You are dead to sin and alive to God. That’s what Jesus did. That means you must not give sin a vote in the way you conduct your lives. Don’t give it the time of day. Don’t even run little errands that are connected with that old way of life. Throw yourselves wholeheartedly and full-time―remember, you’ve been raised from the dead!―into God’s way of doing things. Sin can’t tell you how to live. After all, you’re not living under that old tyranny any longer. You’re living in the freedom of God.” Romans 6:11-14 (MSG, emphasis mine)

There are a million different reasons why we choose to give in to old behaviors/patterns/choices rather than choosing to act free. It’s not just because it feels good or natural. For many of us, these old ways of responding are all we have ever known. We may have begun self-medicating with various behaviors at a young age because we lacked coping mechanisms to deal with the painful trials in our lives. We wanted to escape uncomfortable feelings. We felt lonely, rejected, or unlovable – so we went out and tried to hook up with someone. We overate. We overspent. We fantasized. The feelings were still there, but we got to avoid them for awhile. We may have felt entitled to the temporary pleasure and relief of sin, telling ourselves, I deserve this. It has simply become a habit. It’s just the way we are, and what we’ve always done.

Except it’s not the way we are anymore! If we are in Christ, we are now slaves to righteousness (Romans 6:18). We have the capacity and ability, through the power of the Holy Spirit, to make different choices.

When we start actively saying no to our old nature and way of doing things, we need to make sure we have our support system in place to help us follow through (back to Freedom Step Two) and to hold us accountable. I heard someone who struggled with same-sex attraction share in his testimony that he would go to his counseling appointments, feel all these overwhelming feelings, and on the way home, he’d hook up with someone. Finally, he contacted a friend and said something to the effect of, “Look, I just need someone to hang out with me for a couple hours after my appointment.” Learning appropriate self-care is part of acting like a free person. Learning to voice your wants and needs is part of choosing to act like a free person. And learning to sit with those uncomfortable feelings, turning them continually over to God, is also part of learning to walk in freedom.

That is Freedom Step Five: Act like a free person.

Next week, I will write about owning your choices.

Freedom Friday: A Place for Obedience, Part 3

This is a continuation of a post from the last two weeks, A Place for Obedience, part 1 and part 2.

I state in freedom step three (Embrace Grace) that Jesus didn’t just die to modify our behavior. That doesn’t mean that the Bible doesn’t have guidelines for our behavior. Of course it does. Just as a good parent gives their children boundaries to live by, so does God. It would help us to reframe, in our thinking, both why God gives us these guidelines and what should be our motivation for following them.

I’ve shared here that I’m a mother. At the writing of this, I have 2 sons under the age of 5. I tell my children not to touch the hot stove because I don’t want them to experience the pain of being burned. I ask them to hold my hand when they cross the street because I am more aware of the dangers involved than they are, and am able to be more alert and observant of potential harm. I ask them to be kind to their parents, each other and others because they’d like to be treated kindly themselves.

When they do not listen or obey, I do not withdraw my acceptance of them. I do not withhold my love because they make choices contrary to my teachings. Instead, my heart breaks that due to their disobedience, they have now experienced a type of pain I hoped they could avoid. Even though they were disobedient, I still rush in to comfort them in their pain. Later, we talk, outside of the moment, about the cause and effect that was put into action when they disobeyed. We also discuss how they could make different choices next time.

Through all of that, they are still my children, and I would proudly say so, even in their disobedience. God says the same. Do you know that, before Jesus ever accomplished anything noteworthy enough to include in the Bible, God proudly declared, “This is my son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17) I say this same of my children. He is my child, whom I love dearly. He is human. He will make mistakes. He will be imperfect, just as I am imperfect. I can model how to forgive, ask for forgiveness, and make different choices in the future.

God does not want to see us harmed. He urges us “to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.” (Romans 12:1, NASB) He reassures us that “whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 10:39)

Has obedience become a dirty word in today’s church culture? I can understand the tendency to avoid it. Out of the holiness movement of the 20th century rose much legalism. Lots of rules were enacted to measure “good Christian behavior.” This is similar to what I did in my life. I was trying to “white knuckle” my way to holiness.

The backlash from this has been to more fully embrace grace. Now, it seems behavior is talked about much less. Pastors are afraid to stand in the pulpit and say, “This behavior is not God’s best for your life,” for fear of offending someone.

Where’s the balance? If it’s true that God’s grace empowers us, if it’s true that we are clothed in God’s righteousness, how are we to live?

When I left behind homosexuality in March of 2000, I made a choice. I chose to walk in obedience to what I believed God said in His Word about my sexuality.

Did choosing to obey make me more free? This is a question I have really wrestled with. If Jesus came to set us free through Spirit-empowered living, what part did my choices play in that?

We can ask the question from the opposite angle. If I had chosen instead to continue to walk in disobedience to God, would that have helped me learn to walk in freedom? Certainly not. Romans 6:16 (NLT) says, “Don’t you realize that whatever you choose to obey becomes your master?”

We can choose to obey God not because we are concerned His love for us is conditional. We can choose to obey Him out of a trust that He has our best interest in mind. We can obey because we believe He has good things for us.

When I began to walk in obedience, I obeyed God because I was afraid of His rejection. I thought His feelings were as fickle as mine: that if I made good choices, He loved me and was pleased with me, but if I made bad choices, He was immediately furious and turned His back on me.

That’s not the character of God. God said about Himself to Moses: “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.” (Exodus 34:6-7)

That’s the forgiving, loving, patient God I now know and try to love with all that I am. “We love because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:19) I can now obey Him out of a place of love and a deep recognition of all He did to give me life. Jesus showed His love by hanging from a cross. One way to show my love is through obedience.

Jesus also said, “If you love me, you will obey what I command.” (John 14:15) Depending on your background, when you read that passage, you may hear, If I loved God, I would obey Him perfectly, but because I’m not, I must not love Him. This is what I hear, through the filter of knowing God as patient and kind, If I fully love God with all that I have and all that I am, out of that heart of love and trust will flow obedience because I know of His goodness and faithfulness.

Jesus goes on to immediately talk about the Holy Spirit.

Continued next week….

Freedom Friday: A Place for Obedience, Part 2

This is a continuation of a post from last week, A Place for Obedience, part 1.

Let me share another analogy. Imagine that a person who has walked with a limp his whole life finds out there is a procedure available to correct that limp. Because he has walked with a limp for so long, his muscles have actually conformed and adjusted to accommodate his limp. He has the procedure but still needs to undergo physical therapy to strengthen his weakened muscles.

He needs to relearn how to walk.

We as believers should not be surprised that we walk with a limp. All of humanity walks with the same limp. Yet, as believers, we have the opportunity to learn to walk in freedom through Christ’s work on the cross and the power of the Holy Spirit.

We can proactively make choices to act like the free person that we already are.

Here is the issue. This is what many of us might think it looks like to act like a free person.

We believe that God wants us to behave better than we are. We know God wants us to do certain things and doesn’t want us to do others. Thus, we gather knowledge, and with that knowledge, we try really hard to behave how we think God wants us to behave.

How does this pattern play itself out in our lives? Say you have a struggle with pornography. You know you shouldn’t view it. In fact, you get even further convicted when, after having an all-night Saturday porn marathon, you go to church on Sunday and the pastor preaches on the dangers of pornography. You go to the altar, you repent as best you know how, you might even ask someone to pray for you with some vague sharing like, “I just feel God speaking to me and need prayer.”

Then you go home and try harder. Maybe you even read some books on why pornography is bad, how the industry treats the workers, how the struggle enslaves a person, and maybe even some tips on overcoming. And you keep trying harder.

Then you likely fall again.

This is basically what I did, as described in Freedom Step Three. I would feel genuinely convicted about something. I would be truly grieved by my sin and exhausted by the insanity the cycle of sin produced in my life. I would gather materials to help me understand the struggles, and I would try and use that knowledge to inspire myself to better behavior.

I had sincere intentions, but I was going about it the wrong way.

How then would a free person act?

A free person actively overcomes life-controlling issues by becoming plugged in to the power source and remaining plugged in.

In doing a search in the New Testament for the word power, I noticed that Luke, in the gospel he wrote, talks about power more than the other three gospels combined. He talks about Jesus doing what He did under the power of the Holy Spirit.

Luke also wrote the book of Acts, often referred to as the Acts of the Apostles, or sometimes even the Acts of the Holy Spirit. In the beginning of the book of Acts, it is recorded that Jesus told the apostles to wait in Jerusalem because “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you.” (Acts 1:8) Luke had seen this power, the power of the Holy Spirit, up close and had experienced it intimately. He saw its importance. He observed the difference it made in the lives of the disciples, including Peter, who, on the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came upon them in Jerusalem, shared the hope of Jesus Christ with the crowds, and 3,000 people believed and were baptized.

God is meant to be our source of power.

Through His Holy Spirit given to us as believers, we can be empowered to make better choices. Rather, what we often do is take our knowledge and will power and try to make these things our source of power for overcoming our struggles.

Bob Hamp gives this analogy. It’s like taking the ethernet cable (which connects your computer to the internet) and plugging it into the spot for the power cord. We try to take data, the knowledge we have gathered, and use that to fuel us into obedience in hopes that we will derive power from that data.

I quoted 2 Peter 1:3 earlier, that “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness.” Imagine that we, as believers in Jesus, are like a lamp. That lamp has everything in it that it needs in order to function as it was created to: electrical wires, functioning light bulbs, and a switch to turn it on, but if I do not plug in the lamp to the electrical outlet, it won’t work.

In the Garden of Eden, not only did we become disconnected from our source of life, we became disconnected from our source of power. That power enters back into us when we become believers, as every believer receives the Holy Spirit, but we need to continually reconnect.

That doesn’t mean the Holy Spirit comes and goes completely as it often did in the Old Testament stories, where we read about the Holy Spirit coming upon people so they can prophesy or be empowered for leadership or an event. The Holy Spirit always dwells in believers. Yet Paul commands the Ephesus church to be “filled with the Holy Spirit.” (Ephesians 5:18) Why would Paul be telling believers to be filled with the Spirit? They already had the Holy Spirit in them. We can gather from the passage, then, that we are implored to “keep being filled.” The passage shows us that the filling of the Spirit is something we need to continually seek and ask for.

We need to continually be reconnected with our power source.

continued next week

Monday Morning Meditation: Overflowing Hope

Could you use a dose of hope today?
I could.
Romans 15:13 is a challenging and inspiring verse on hope:

“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.”

The progression of this verse has been really encouraging to me lately, so I thought I’d share it with you this morning. Let’s read it bit by bit.
“May the God of hope…”
Notice first this is phrased almost as a prayer. “May the God of hope..” This is one of many almost-prayers in the book of Romans, and even in this chapter. Paul seems to be praying this verse for the readers of the letter.
Second, notice that God is called the “God of hope.” This Greek word, translated “hope”, appears 8 times in the book of Romans, and 48 times total in the New Testament. In Romans 5, Paul says that “hope does not disappoint,” and this particular hope is brought about by the character building that comes through suffering and trials.
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him….”
I consider this bolded portion to be the heart of the verse: as you trust in Him.
The joy & peace come as we choose to trust…. and choose to trust again…. and choose to trust again.
I just talked about this in Freedom Friday a few weeks ago. Choosing to trust God has been such a big part of my journey, as I did not truly trust God for much of my Christian walk. My trust of God depended on my circumstances, my perceptions of what He was doing, and my speculations concerning His character.
A turning point came when God asked me to trust Him, and I realized that while I believed I was trusting Him, my actions and thoughts showed otherwise. At that moment, I realized trust is a choice. It cannot be dependent on what I see or how I experience life. It needs to depend solely on His character.
“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.”
By the power of the Holy Spirit (the same power that was exerted to raise Christ from the dead, according to Ephesians 1:19-20), overflowing hope is possible as we choose to trust.
I challenge you to choose hope this week. Choose to trust in the God who made you. Believe that overflowing hope is possible. Because He cares for you.

The Bible verses above are quoted from the NIV1984 translation.