In the Spirit, By the Spirit

I woke recently with the concept of “Being in the Spirit” on my mind. It was as if the Lord was impressing on my heart a warning. Warning me not to operate in my flesh today, a warning NOT to go about all my business as usual – a call to walk with Him, eyes on Him, IN the Spirit today.

Assuredly, if you asked me on a daily basis if THAT is how I WANT to operate, I would answer with a resounding, “Yes!” But, the real challenge is to look at life – moment by moment – and answer the hard question…if yes you want to operate in the Spirit, then do you?

We’re going to discover momentarily that it’s not about us conjuring up the “want to” or being disciplined enough in ourselves to operate in the Spirit. It’s actually Him who does it – The King of Glory lives inside us – we lack no good thing – we just need More surrender in our lives. More yield. More waiting on Him. More going low before Him. More receiving instruction so that we can be More effective when we do go into our day. More life “un-usual.”

I felt led this same morning to review Acts 11, because the night before I had heard a compelling sermon from Dr. Kyle Martin (you can listen here). When I reached the end of Acts 11, these verses leapt off the page given the subject on my mind.

Acts 11:27-30

During this time some prophets traveled from Jerusalem to Antioch. One of them named Agabus stood up in one of the meetings and predicted by the Spirit that a great famine was coming upon the entire Roman world. (This was fulfilled during the reign of Claudius). So the believers in Antioch decided to send relief to the brothers and sisters in Judea, everyone giving as much as they could. This they did, entrusting their gifts to Barnabas and Saul to take to the elders in the church in Jerusalem.

Agabus was a prophet from Jerusalem. He travelled with some others to Antioch. I wonder why? Maybe they, too, had heard what was going on there. Verse 21 tells us in Antioch “The power of the Lord was with them, and a large number of these Gentiles believed and turned to the Lord.” Then, when they heard about it, the church in Jerusalem sent Barnabas to Antioch. Barnabas saw the evidence of God’s blessing there, he was filled with joy, and he encouraged the believers to stay true to the Lord. Then he went to Tarsus to get Paul. Paul & Barnabas spent a year at the church in Antioch teaching large crowds of people.   It was “during this time”, as v. 27 says, that the prophets from Jerusalem travelled to Antioch as well.

What struck me was this: I highly doubt that Agabus and the other prophets just woke up one morning and said, “What do y’all feel like doing today, boys? Think maybe we ought to set out and travel to Antioch? “ I really don’t think it was out of boredom, on a whim or their own great idea! (Although – God can use those motives as well to get us where we need to be!) But, I truly believe they were operating in the Spirit.

What I mean by that is, they were tuned-in to what God was saying and where He was leading them. Their heads were not down into their own stuff, they were looking and asking and ready to obey when He sent. It is very likely that they each had things to be done in Jerusalem, undoubtedly “life as usual” was an option that day, but they were willing to follow the Lord’s leading. They were ready to hear, willing to listen, and prepared to obey…life un-usual.

Are we?

God sent them carrying a word for the believers in Antioch. It tells us right there in scripture that they were New Testament prophets. And when they got there, they found one of the meetings and Agabus stood up.   He traveled a long way, and he meant to deliver what he was carrying. God had actions for the believers to take, there was an event in the future that needed provision, and through His prophet God delivered the message and everyone benefited!

Something along the same lines happened in Revelation 1. Check out what happened to John when he was in the Spirit on the island of Patmos:

Revelation 1:10-11

I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet saying, “Write what you see in a book and send it to the seven churches, to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Pergamum and to Thyatira and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to Laodicea.”

I believe there is a whole world of tireless excitement and wonder when we will surrender!  When we will yield to the Spirit, waiting on Him. When we will go low before our King, receive from Him exactly what we need, walking in obedience – THEN we will be effective in living out this life for Jesus and for the sake of the Cross.

John was in the Spirit, then heard the voice of King Jesus telling him what to do. It was not John’s idea to write the book of Revelation! He wasn’t at a retreat on the Isle of Patmos to gain clarity for his next book! It wasn’t because John was good enough or strong enough or that people really liked him. It was Jesus’ voice he heard and then he obeyed. The word of the Lord came to John while he was IN THE SPIRIT.

Agabus was able to give the Word of the Lord that saved lives and invited the believers to give generously to care for others because it was BY THE SPIRIT. And then they each obeyed! John did what God said. Agabus did what God said. The believers in Antioch did what God said.

Are you seeing the common thread here? In the Spirit and by the Spirit. It’s all about Him. It’s all about us being surrendered, yielded, waiting, willing to go low, and receiving our marching orders, our instructions…then obeying. Not leaning on our own understanding but trusting in Him, acknowledging Him in all our ways, THEN He will show us which path to take.

Lastly, this verse has been echoing in my heart for several weeks. I believe it’s telling us the same message if we will have ears to hear:

Matthew 9:37-38 NLT

He said to His disciples, “The harvest is great, but the workers are few. So pray to the Lord Who is in charge of the harvest; ask Him to send more workers into His fields.”

The ESV says it this way:  Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.”

So many of us really want the Gospel going forth, just as it spread and prospered in Acts 11 in Antioch. We long to hear stories of lives changed and needs met and then exceeded far beyond comprehension, those stories of the Holy Spirit moving in such a way that no man’s name is lifted up but only the Name of Jesus Christ.

This is what I believe the Lord was telling me that morning when I woke up with being “in the Spirit” on my mind, then He confirmed it through His Word:

  • We are all part of the body of Christ. We all have different callings and giftings we get invited to use for His glory and to make His Name famous. Barnabas and Paul were teachers and preachers, Agabus was a prophet, the believers in Antioch were generous givers, John was called to write the vision God gave him in Revelation.
  • The entire point of giving us giftings and equipping us for our callings is because there are fields to be harvested. Spiritually speaking, there is a great harvest that is plentiful and fields that are ripe. If you and I will keep our heads up and our eyes fixed on Jesus, we will undoubtedly experience the most exhilarating partnership in the Spirit as we obey Him. And that is the exact kind of un-usual life to which He is inviting us! He is looking for workers He can send out into the fields. And we are commanded by Jesus Himself to pray that the Lord of the Harvest would thrust workers into the fields!
  • He, the King of Kings, Creator of the Universe invites us to partner with Him, invites us to know Him and His heart, invites us to be His hands and feet to the people around us. He is pleased to equip and send us out into the harvest.

In the Spirit.

By the Spirit.

Surrendered. Yielded. Waiting on Him.

Going low in humility because it is Him who does it.

Having everything we need.

Eyes on Jesus.

Harvesting for the Kingdom.

Great God Almighty – here am I, Lord, send me!

Today.

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Pondering the Palms

I suppose I cannot remember the last time that a poem rolled off my heart through my fingers onto a keyboard for the page.  But it happened last night, as I considered what Palm Sunday means.  The preparation, the knowing His time had come.  Realizing how many times in the Gospels that Jesus had said His time had not yet come.  But, when He told His boys to find that donkey colt that day, He knew it was upon Him.

And He went.

He rode into the city of Jerusalem.

He wept over the unbelief.

He did the thing all the way.

He held nothing back.

Jesus, what a Savior.  Jesus, what a Servant.  Jesus, what a King.                                                                                                   So deserving of our worship.

He is so worth every bit of our lives. He is so worthy of every second of time, every drop of sweat, every difficult day, every joy, and every victory.  Worthy is the Lamb Who was slain for you and for me.  Willingly is how He went. That is what inspired these words of request, repentance, and affirmation from my spirit last night. I thought I’d share them with y’all.  Happy Holy Week ->

Lord, I need the dreams and the visions, The passionate fervor for Your Name.

There is so much convolution in “The making Your Name famous
Oh while we’re at it, Lord, could we make mine famous, too?”

Oh Jesus,
To understand the meaning of servanthood,
Oh to grasp the washing of the feet,
The humbling of the self,
The living of the love,
And the dying of the pride.

Oh to fully realize the genius of the You inside of me,
And to trust that she is living out the purpose
And the mission of The THEE, instead of the me.

Oh the joy and
The passion and
The gravity of it all,
When fully all surrendered to The Sweet Redeemer of us all.

All to Jesus, I surrender!
All to Him I freely give!
May these words describe my reality, as day by day I live.

Come & stir me up Lord Jesus!
Shake me every way but loose.
Come ignite my heart afire in a life lived all for You.

Amen.

My Go-To Prayer, No Matter What (a Study of Colossians 1:9-14)

I want to share with you my absolute go-to prayer when someone is hurting, weary, grieving, disappointed, confused, if they are tired, weak, depressed, dry or defeated. This is also my go-to prayer for people on the top of the mountain, in victory, a heart full of praise, for people who are rejoicing and seeing God’s hand at work, or in a season of ease and tangible blessing.  I believe, that no matter what situation or circumstance, this prayer is one God is pleased to answer – it is His will because you can pray it according to His Word!

Isn’t it just like God to make His Word applicable to us at any stage in life. Not every scripture speaks to every season, but this particular prayer Paul prayed for the Colossians, I believe, is one that does!   Colossians 1:9-14

So we have not stopped praying for you since we first heard about you. We ask God to give you complete knowledge of His will and to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding. 10 Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit. All the while, you will grow as you learn to know God better and better.

11 We also pray that you will be strengthened with all His glorious power so you will have all the endurance and patience you need. May you be filled with joy, 12 always thanking the Father. He has enabled you to share in the inheritance that belongs to His people, who live in the light. 13 For He has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of His dear Son, 14 who purchased our freedom and forgave our sins.

There are 10 points I want us to consider as we look at this life-giving, go-to prayer for any season or situation of life:

  • Do Not Stop Praying (v. 9)

Keep on asking! That’s what Jesus tells us to do in Matthew 7:7-8.  Even when you feel like giving up on something or on someone, persevere in prayer!

  • Complete knowledge of His Will (v. 9)

What a great, great request this is! Romans 12:2 tells us that by the renewing of our minds we can learn His will, which is good, pleasing, and perfect. God is pleased to answer this prayer, because in effect you are praying for a mind to be renewed so that this person can know the will of God. Something I have said for so many years is that I do not believe our God is in the business of keeping us in confusion – He is pleased when we want to know His best plan…but will we persist in prayer and His Word long enough to have our minds transformed so that we can learn what His will is?  We can pray boldly to have complete knowledge of His will!

  • Spiritual Wisdom & Understanding (v. 9)

Here is another amazing thing to pray! To have spiritual wisdom is so awesome, listen to this!  The Greek word for wisdom is “Sophia” and it means this (according to Strong’s Lexicon):

  1. the varied knowledge of things human and divine, acquired by acuteness (sharpness of mind) and experience

  2. science and learning

  3. interpreting dreams and always giving the sagest advice

  4. intelligence evidenced in discovering the meaning of mysterious numbers or visions

  5. skill in the management of affairs

  6. devout and proper prudence in dealing with those who are not Christ followers, skill and discretion in imparting Christian truth

  7. the knowledge and practice of the requisites for Godly and upright living

That almost overwhelms me, does it you? Can you check off a couple things on that list of 7 that you or someone you’re praying for needs? I love God’s Word, it is so encompassing we have no idea until we get in and study it what kind of access we have in prayer – things unimaginable! Did you know by asking for this kind of spiritual wisdom you are praying that someone will have the ability to share the Good News more effectively? Or that they will have skill in the managing of affairs? In science and learning?   That they will acquire knowledge as if they have had the experience? Amazing. Start praying for some “Sophia” wisdom for your loved ones and friends – we need it, Lord! And we haven’t even touched “understanding” yet…so here goes:

Understanding, Greek “Synesis” – it suggests quickness of apprehension, the penetrating consideration which precedes action, understanding, reflective thought.

I don’t know about you, but I know that I think we all need some quickness of apprehension and certainly could use penetrating consideration which precedes our actions. If we are to represent Jesus well on this Earth, then we certainly need this kind of understanding!

  • Lives that always honor & please the Lord, producing every kind of good fruit. (v. 10)

My mind immediately goes to John 15:8 right here. “When you produce much fruit, you are My true disciples. This brings great glory to My Father.”

The word “honor” here is interpreted in other translations, “a life worthy.”  The NIV says, “so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please Him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work…”  We can be assured that if we live lives that honor and please and are worthy of the Lord, the evidence will be good fruit, and that proves that we are His true disciples.

  • Growth, as you learn to know God better & better (v. 10)

Several other translations render this statement, “increasing or growing in the knowledge of God.” You have probably heard many times that in the Christian life there is no stand-still, you are either growing or shrinking back in your faith, either moving forward or backwards. I know what I want to do, and I know what I want for the people I am praying for as well! If we want to know God better and better and grow in the knowledge of Him, His Word is the best place to start. That is why He gave it to us!

We have ridiculous access to the Word of God in America, so much so that I believe it has caused us to lose our hunger for God as the Body of Christ.  Much like the Isrealites begged Moses for meat, and when the quail came after a while they were way tired of it.  It no longer meant what it used to mean to them.  Lord, forgive us from the sinful belief that we know You as well as we need to, forgive us for not reverencing and hungering for Your Word as we should as our daily bread – and Father give us an insatiable hunger to know You better and better by knowing Your Word!

  • Be strengthened with ALL His glorious power (v. 11)

When I was first teaching “Jesus Loves Me” to my little boy, I kept having an issue with teaching him to say “they are weak”, then the Lord showed me that worldly thinking had slipped into my mind. I was thinking that I did not want my boy speaking weakness over himself. But as the next line so beautifully goes with it, “but HE is strong!”  If we can understand that our strength comes from His glorious power, and denounce the world’s lie that we have to muster up our own strength, we will get it right! I have wasted so much time in my life by trying to rely on my own strength, which always fails. Jesus does not fail! His power is unending and has no limitation. I want my baby boy growing up to be free to own his weakness that he might cling to the glorious power of God which will make him strong!   We all need that, Amen?!

Just quick note on the Greek here, which I find totally fascinating…the Greek for strengthened is “dynamoo.”  If you look at “dynamo’s” root-word you find the word “dynamis.”  Dynamis is the word Paul used for power in this same verse!  Let me explain further –  God is telling us through Paul that our strength comes from His power…and with the Greek words Paul used, he gave the readers a literal word picture.  Just as the word, dynamoo comes from the word dynamis…our strength comes from God’s Power.  Sign me up!

  • ALL the endurance & patience you need (v. 11)

Of all the things I think we need under trial, these two things are paramount. Let’s let the Word of the Lord speak to our hearts, here are some definitions so that we can better understand endurance and patience:

Endurance (Greek – Hypomone): in the New Testament the characteristic of a man who is not swerved from his deliberate purpose and his loyalty to faith and reverence for God (piety) by even the greatest trials and sufferings; steadfast waiting for; a patient enduring, sustaining, perseverance (Vines Expositor’s Dictionary)

Patience (Greek – Makrothymia): patience, endurance, constancy, steadfastness, perseverance, forbearance, longsuffering, slowness in avenging wrongs (Strong’s Lexicon)

We are faced daily with trials and sufferings of many kinds. Our trials seem almost trivial if we compare our lives to those people who live in third-world countries or hostile nations like Syria or Iran. But, you know what I know about our God? He sees what breaks our hearts just like He sees what breaks our brothers’ and sisters’ hearts in much harsher environments by comparison.  Comparison kills us whether we are elevating ourselves above someone else or burying ourselves below them.  God is sovereign, and we are all in equal need of His love and power in our lives, no matter who we are or where we live.  Maybe you have a harsh environment where you live, or you know someone who really has tremendous hardship or sufferings right now.  We are not to discount those things – our God sees us and He knows what we need.  And the Holy Spirit is our Comforter no matter where or who we are, as long as we are in Christ.

You and I also need a special measure of endurance and patience, because we live in the U.S. where we are inundated by the “instant-ness” of life. We can DVR our TV so that we do not even have to patiently endure 3 minutes of commercials anymore!  You can buy a book and instantly read it on your phone or tablet within seconds.  We really need the Lord to teach us endurance and patience, I do not know anyone who does not struggle with these two things.

When we face roadblocks or something seems to be taking too long, according to our own understanding, our first inclination is to bust out of whatever it is, to get out from under the pressure we may feel – we want relief!  We desperately need endurance and patience if we are going to represent Jesus well in the world, after all – what better example do we have than He Himself patiently enduring waiting 30 years to even begin His ministry, then three years of teaching amongst hostile religious leaders, and then on top of all that – patiently enduring the Cross.

The Greek root-word for endurance is “Hypomeno” which is to remain, to tarry behind; i.e. abide, not recede or flee. To persevere: under misfortunes and trials to hold fast to one’s faith in Christ; to endure, bear ill treatments bravely and calmly.

What a beautiful thing to pray for someone!  Instead of praying that God will change their (our) circumstances and release them (us) from pain or trial or difficulty – what if we began praying that they (we) would be so strengthened by all His glorious power, and be so full of the endurance and patience we need – that they (we) would not recede or flee but persevere in misfortune and trials and hold fast to their (our) faith in Jesus; that they (we) would bear ill treatments bravely and calmly and refuse the temptation to avenge wrongs against them (us).  Oh that’s so good, Lord!

Hebrews 12:1-2 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting Him, He endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now He is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.

Because of the joy awaiting Him, He endured.  That is the true mark of a champion, I love the NLT uses that word to describe our Savior!

  • Be Filled with Joy (v. 11)

The coolest thing about joy is that it is not dependent upon circumstances. It means, according the Strong’s Lexicon: rejoice exceedingly, to be well, thrive.

I want those I pray for to rejoice exceedingly and to be well and to thrive!  That’s a prayer I can get down with, how about you?  It reminds me of James 1:2-4

Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.

Did you notice these same words and concepts here?  Troubles can lead to Joy -> Faith gets Tested -> Endurance has a chance to Grow -> when our endurance is fully developed = we are complete, lacking nothing.  Amen.

  • Always thanking the Father (v. 12a)

I could write an entire post, and probably will at some point, on this word. Thanks/thanking/thanksgiving – it is the Greek “Eucharisteo” and it changed my life several years ago after I listened to the audio version of Ann Voskamp’s book “One Thousand Gifts.”  I have listened to it 3 more times since then, and each time I have a greater understanding of what it means to give God thanks in everything.

I want to be the kind of daughter that is always thanking my Father.

Jesus was the kind of Son that was always thanking The Father. Check this out!

Eucharisteo:

to be grateful,

to feel thankful,

to give thanks

Could there be a more encompassing definition than this?   Be.  Feel.  Give.

Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, asks the Lord that we’d ALWAYS be thanking the Father.  What the definition gets at, is that we can (even when we do not “feel” thankful), give thanks. And when we give thanks, we begin to feel thanks, and that creates a state of “being” thankful in our hearts. If we can push through the lack of feeling into obedience of what God asks of us, inevitably our feelings will come around.  God is a God powerful enough to change our “want to” our “feelings” and our “state of being.” All we need to do is humble ourselves, and be obedient to what He is saying to us right now.  This day our daily bread.

One step at a time, patiently enduring and relying on His glorious power as our strength, all the while we are growing in our knowledge of Him and discovering through the transformative power of His Word what His will is, and our lives begin to bear fruit and thereby honor the greatness of His Name.  And finally, to the crux of it all in verse 14…the truth of the Good News!

  • The truth is that He enables us to share in the inheritance that belongs to His people who live in the light, He rescued us out of the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of His dear Son – Who purchased our freedom & forgave our sins.     (v. 12b-14)

The next verses in Colossians 1:15-20 go on to describe the incomparable greatness and power and superiority of Jesus Christ our Lord. No matter who we are praying for, saved, not saved, struggling or succeeding – we all need Jesus. We all need Him equally as bad as the next person. The Good News is that He Himself came down and rescued us out of the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of His dear Son, by means of Christ’s blood on the cross – He purchased our freedom and forgave our sins. THIS is what enables us to live the life He died and rose again to give us!

A life of prayer & unhindered communication with God – complete knowledge of His will – experiencing wisdom and understanding we could not have apart from Him – lives that honor and please the Lord – lives that bear every kind of good fruit – growing through knowing God better and better – being strengthened with all His glorious power – more endurance – more patience – being filled with joy – always thanking the Father – knowing, receiving, and walking in the truth of the Good News of Jesus Christ. That is life and life to the full, if you ask me!

I want to leave you with just the coolest, most refreshing take on these words from The Message translation ->

Colossians 1:9-14 The Message (MSG)

9-12 Be assured that from the first day we heard of you, we haven’t stopped praying for you, asking God to give you wise minds and spirits attuned to His will, and so acquire a thorough understanding of the ways in which God works. We pray that you’ll live well for the Master, making Him proud of you as you work hard in His orchard. As you learn more and more how God works, you will learn how to do your work. We pray that you’ll have the strength to stick it out over the long haul—not the grim strength of gritting your teeth but the glory-strength God gives. It is strength that endures the unendurable and spills over into joy, thanking the Father who makes us strong enough to take part in everything bright and beautiful that He has for us.

13-14 God rescued us from dead-end alleys and dark dungeons. He’s set us up in the kingdom of the Son He loves so much, the Son who got us out of the pit we were in, got rid of the sins we were doomed to keep repeating.

Goodness Gracious, can I get an AMEN!?!?!  That’s my prayer for you today, and I pray that you, too, can pray with more boldness when you understand these words God inspired in the letter Paul wrote to the Believers in Colosse.

The Lord Jesus Christ is worthy of this kind of life, and He is so so so worth it!