Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Work of the Holy Spirit in the Life of a Christian

Alright, it is time to get ready for the next game! One of truly challenging aspects of coaching football is, that immediately after a game, you begin preparing for the next game. After a loss, it is a blessing because you are ready to move on. After a win, it is much harder because you really want to take time to enjoy the victory. Unfortunately, there is no time to do that because the next opponent is looming. Getting a team ready to play is always a battle against time. After many years of walking with the Lord, I began to realize how similar the experience of winning and losing football games was to the challenges in my life as a Christian. When I had any type of victory in Christ, I wanted to take some time to enjoy it and rest in that victory. However, the next test would be right around the corner. Got to get prepared, right? Well, how do we get prepared for the spiritual challenges we face. What can we do to get ready for "the next game"?

I'm glad you asked that question. Oh wait, that was me who asked. As a reminder, last time we talked about surrendering our will to Christ completely. I hope you have taken that step. You need to realize that this is something we must do on a continual basis. We all have a tendency to want to take back control of our lives. Romans 12 tells us to offer ourselves as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God. This needs to be a daily prayer. We must be willing to give God the opportunity to use us. Then we must be empowered for use by God's grace. This is where the differences lie between worldly preparation and spiritual preparation. In coaching, the empowerment to be successful comes from talent, matched with hard work and good strategy. God uses these things in our spiritual lives too. Just read the book of Acts and you will see that Paul used his gifts (talent), strategy and worked really hard at the ministry entrusted to Him. But, there is one more ingredient for victory in the spiritual realm. That is the power of the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit.

Now, some of you may know a lot about the Holy Spirit and some may not. Some may even have seen or heard of the"gifts of the Spirit" being used and it seems strange to you. You may be somewhat skeptical. Even worse, you may have seen people who claim to be "in the Spirit" when they are certainly not. As troublesome as that is, it is not a valid reason to dismiss the proper role of the Holy Spirit in our lives. It is vital for a Christian to understand the person and work of the Holy Spirit, in order to have spiritual victory. In fact, anything that we do that has eternal value will be that which is done by the Holy Spirit working through us. This is a subject that cannot be covered in a short blog. Many books have been written just about the work of the Holy Spirit. I do, however want to point out some things that will help you in your understanding of His role in our lives. Remember, we are still building on the fundamentals.

We must understand that the Holy Spirit is God. Not a god, but God. The Holy Spirit is the third person of the one God. I will not try to explain this as; it has been tried down through the ages. No explanation will suffice. I can only say with great assurance that this is what the Bible teaches. The Bible describes the Holy Spirit in several different terms. Counselor, comforter, helper are some examples The Spirit testifies of Jesus (John 14:26). When Jesus was about to leave his disciples, he promised them that the Holy Spirit would come. In fact, He told them to wait for the Holy Spirit to come and endue them with power before they went out to evangelize the world. This happened on the day of Pentecost, written about in Acts, chapter 2. This is when the lives of the disciples really changed. They went from being defeated men, who had even denied knowing Jesus, to men who turned the world upside down for Christ. It seems logical to me that we would need the same power to accomplish anything of spiritual value. It is clearly taught in the rest of the New Testament that this is the case. This is how God's grace is appropriated in our lives to do His will. When we are doing His will, we cannot be defeated!

GAME PLAN: There are 42 references to the Holy Spirit in the book of Acts alone. There are another 12 using the term "the Spirit" (S capitalized). Make it your goal this week to read each one of them. After that, start looking up references in the other books of the New Testament. Learn as much as you can about the wonderful third person in the Trinity. Make it a part of your daily prayers to ask Him to work in your life. It is a promise from God that He will!

In the next few posts, we will begin to examine how this works out very practically in our daily lives. It's time to start putting the fundamentals into action!

See you soon and may God bless you as you walk in His grace,


Sunday, November 22, 2009

Walking in Grace

Hi again and welcome back. Last time I gave you some work to do. Did you look up your verses? If not, you owe me twenty pushups right now! Sorry, old habits are hard to break. I do hope you read several of the verses on grace. The purpose of that exercise was for you to see in how many different types of context, the word grace is used. We have discussed it's significance in salvation. It is by God's grace you have been saved, through faith in His only begotten son, Jesus. Why am I saying it again? Well, if I learned one thing in thirty some years of coaching, it is that you can never repeat the basics too much. Learning is based on repetition.

Some people seem to think that since our salvation is all about God's grace then we aren't required to do anything. Well that is not really accurate. Jesus said in Lk 5:32 that He came to call the sinners to repentance. In Acts 20:21 Paul said that he had declared to Jews and Greeks (representing all non Jews), that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus. The word repentance in Greek comes from the word metanoia. It really means a reversal of thinking or decision. In order to receive grace leading to salvation we must turn from our worldly way of thinking and acting, to God's way. This is the decision you make when you receive Christ as your savior. There is no true salvation without repentance. This is not contrary at all to the idea of grace. Repentance means surrendering your will to God. Faith is believing in God's ability to forgive and save you, accepting His grace.

There is another misconception about God's grace that we must clear up before we go on. This one is particularly distressing because I believe that it keeps so many people from experiencing real victory in their Christian life. Even worse, it may even give them a false sense of peace and security of their salvation, which may never have taken place. It is sometimes referred to as "cheap grace". Let me explain. Have you ever heard people say " I don't have to worry about committing sin, it's all covered by grace". Some people seem to think that grace means that they are allowed to do or say anything they please, live any way they want to and God is obligated to forgive them because they said "the sinners prayer". My friends, this is a very dangerous position to take. Paul addressed this in Romans 6. He says in verses 1and 2 "Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means!" He says if we are truly saved we have died to sin. Now don't get me wrong. This does not mean we won't sin at all after we are saved, but there is a big difference between missing the mark (the definition of sin) and an attitude of using God's grace as license to sin. A person who has surrendered their will to God will have a desire to live in a Godly way. Remember, repentance means that you have chosen to turn from your will and your way to His will and His way! If that is you then you are ready to walk in His grace. If not, why not turn now and surrender your will completely to Him. I promise you, your life will change and you will never regret it.

Now let's begin to explore what it means to walk in His grace. As I mentioned, the Bible uses this term in many different contexts. In Ephesians 4:7, Paul says, "But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it." This shows us that Christ gives us different amounts or measures of grace and in this context it not only means unmerited favor but also power and equipment for ministry. You might be thinking, well, no wonder I can't do the kinds of things I see others Christians do. God has given them more grace. Nice try but that is not what Paul means. What it means is that when we make ourselves available to the Lord, He provides the grace we need for the particular time or situation we are in. Paul relied on that as He traveled about teaching and preaching about His Lord Jesus Christ. That same grace is available to us. Remember when God called Moses to lead the Hebrew nation out of Egypt. He tried to get out of it by claiming that he did not speak well enough to do the mob, but God told Moses that He would speak through him. This is God grace in action. It is just as available to you and I when we follow His leading. Appropriating that grace is what leads us to accomplishing God's will in our lives. That, dear friends, is what victory in Christ is all about. That is what brings peace to our souls.

I hope this encourages you to make yourselves available to be used by the Lord and experience the joy of His grace in your life. We will continue the subject of walking in grace in the next post.

Game plan: Spend time with the Lord in prayer this week, asking Him to reveal any area of your life that you have not surrendered to Him. Then, ask Him for the grace to release it to Him and watch what He does. Then ask Him to use you in a special way. Remember, you don't see victory unless you are willing to risk defeat. May God bless you in this endeavor.


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Grace that Leads to Peace Pt 2

OK team, it’s time for a pre-practice review. We have been talking about having true peace in our lives which demonstrates that we are having victory in Christ. I believe that it is impossible to gain that peace until we can truly understand God’s amazing grace. Grace and peace are divinely linked together. The apostle Paul understood that, which is why he so often started his letters with the greeting” Grace and Peace to You”. The order is not by accident. Grace leads to peace. Without grace you cannot have true peace. So, let’s get started in our study of this great doctrine and then see how this plays out in our daily lives.

When you hear the word grace, what is your first thought? I imagine for most believers, the immediate connection would be to our salvation. Though there are many more applications of grace in our lives, it is absolutely imperative to grasp the fullness of God’s grace in our salvation. “For it is by grace you have been saved through faith-and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God”(Eph 2:8) The word used for grace here is charis in Greek. It has several uses in the new testament (as we will examine later). It is described in this verse as a” gift”. Webster’s dictionary defines the English word as “divine unmerited favor leading to regeneration” Wow, what a perfect description! So right now you might be saying, “I already know this. It is basic Christianity”. Well, right you are. But do we live our lives in a way that demonstrates that we really believe and understand the magnitude of this grace? If not, why not?

Growing up, I loved playing sports and had a slightly competitive nature. OK, a pretty competitive nature. Alright already, I was extremely competitive! I hated to lose. I know, hard to believe, huh? (You are welcome to psychoanalyze me at this point if you want. Let me know if you figure it out) The drive to be the best I could be at each sport, made me want to work hard at them. Then as I got older and competed at higher levels, the coaches pushed that drive even further. I learned that the only way to succeed at what I wanted to do was to earn that success with hard work. This philosophy carried over into the other areas of my life. I am sure most of you can relate to this. In our democratic, capitalistic country, the principle of working hard to be successful is very important. We rightly encourage people to work hard to earn a diploma, earn a living, earn a good reputation. It is ingrained in us to earn what we get. All of a sudden we are told that salvation, our redemption from sin and our standing with the God of the Universe is a free gift? How can this be? If something is worth having, shouldn't I have to earn it like everything else. Why would God offer this as a gift instead of making us earn it? This can be difficult to accept. We tend to feel better about earning what we get. We want there to be something in us that says,” there must be something I can do that would make God want to save me”. Hit a nerve yet?

For me, this was a very difficult concept to accept as a young Christian. Even after I accepted Christ, I was continually trying to do something that would make me more acceptable to Him. This desire to earn brownie points with God makes it very hard to have peace. Do something wrong, maybe God is mad at me. Do something good, it is probably not good enough. Ever feel like that? I know many people have lived their whole lives this way and are still trying to earn their way to God. They may even go to a church that teaches a doctrine of earning salvation through good works. The problem is that it goes against the entire point of the Gospel . The Gospel (meaning Good News) is clear. There is nothing we can possibly do to earn salvation. We do not have the ability to save ourselves. Our sinful nature prevents us from reconciling ourselves to God. This is the realization that we all must come to in order to have God’s peace. Once we finally acknowledge our complete inability to make God love us any more than He already does, we can begin to experience the” peace that passes all understanding”. We have only one part to play in this relationship. We must accept God’s free gift of grace. Romans 3:24 says we are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Jesus Christ. Amen! If you sense that you have never really received this gift of grace and have been trying to earn God's favor, just take a few moments to pray and ask God's help in bringing you to that place of full surrender to Him. Thank Him for His love and grace. Ask Him show you how to live in the fullness of His never failing love. Then watch what He does in your life!

Game Plan: There are 123 references to grace in the New Testament. Before the next post, look up at least 20 of them. I promise this will help you as we begin to discuss the practical ways we appropriate God’s grace in our daily life.

Until next time, may you be filled with the joy of the Lord

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Grace that leads to Peace

Peace. What does it mean, where does it come from, what does it look like in our lives? It’s a big concept, isn’t it? As the Christmas season approaches you will see and hear this word a lot. “Peace on Earth, Good Will toward men” is a favorite phrase from the Bible. Non believers especially like this one because it gives them some sense of hope. Unfortunately it is a false sense of hope because the Bible teaches that there will not be a true peace on this earth until our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ returns. So then, what kind of peace are we talking about? I want us to explore this issue in a deeper way than maybe you ever have before.

Why, you may ask is this so important? Well, if you recall from last time, we were examining victory in Christ and what that really means. I believe that one of the best ways to determine whether or not you are experiencing victory is whether or not you have a true peace in your life. Did you know that the word peace is found in the bible about 250 times? Wow, it must be important. Over and over I have heard Christians say that they experienced a peace in their heart when they accepted the Lord but don’t seem to have that on a regular basis. Again, this contributes to their having a sense of failure or defeat in their life. Sometimes this even leads to one’s doubting of their salvation and walking away from the Lord completely. After all,” what good is this Christianity stuff if I still have turmoil in my life”. Sound familiar? You may even have felt this way yourself at one time or another. Let’s look, then, at what the bible has to say about this subject and then I hope to give you some real practical ideas about how this works. Remember that this is a blog, not a book, so we will take a little at a time. Just like my football teams, we can’t run the play well until we have the individual techniques and assignments down!

John 14:27 says, “ Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid”. He said this to his disciples shortly before he was to be crucified. Paul started most of his letters with the phrase” Grace and Peace” to the people he was addressing. (How many? I’m not going to tell you, you have to look it up) What does this word actually mean?
Here are a couple of definitions from Webster’s dictionary:
1 : freedom from disquieting or oppressive thoughts or emotions
2 : harmony in personal relations
Interestingly, the greek word used often in the new testament (eirene) speaks of harmonious relationships between men and between men and God. It also refers to quietness in the churches. The corresponding word in Hebrew would be shalom. It can also mean a sense of rest and contentment.
The definitions sound very similar with one big exception, a harmonious relationship between man and God. This, I believe is what Jesus meant in his statement to his disciples. It spoke of a peace that cannot be found without His sacrifice on the cross. No one else can bring this type of peace. He gave His life so that we could have a harmonious relationship with God. This relationship is God’s gift to us. That brings us finally to the doctrine that I believe one must understand in order to experience this kind of peace. The doctrine of grace. In our next time together we will begin to take a real close look at what grace is all about and what it is not about. As promised we will also look at practical ways that the “grace that leads to peace” works in our lives.
Until then may you be filled with the joy of the Lord. God bless and keep you.


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Victory In Christ, Is It Really Possible?

Well, what else would a coach write about in his first blog? After coaching for over thirty years, I have learned a little about winning. I have learned much more about defeat. I definitely like winning better! One thing that always breaks my heart when I am counseling and praying with people, is how often they feel defeated in their life, even though they are Christians. I hope that I might be able to share some things in the next few posts that will be of value to you in this area.

The first principle we need to understand is this: Sound Fundamentals lead to Success. John Wooden was arguably the best college basketball coach of all time. The first day of practice, he would teach his players how to put their socks on and tie their shoes properly. Now that's starting with the basics! This may seem silly but he knew that if done incorrectly, it could lead to blisters, which in turn might lead to missed practice, which in turn leads to lack of preparation, which in turn could lead to defeat. Do you get the picture?

How does this translate to our relationship with the Lord? In order to experience victory in our Christian life, we need a solid foundation, good fundamentals. This means sound doctrine, which includes such things as having a proper concept of God, truly understanding the meaning of grace, which leads to peace, the Trinity and the role of each person of the Godhead. Without understanding these fundamental doctrines, you will not be equipped to meet the challenges we face in this life. Victory will elude you and worst of all lead you to doubt your relationship with Jesus.

This may seem overwhelming to you but remember, you are not in a 100 meter dash here. It is a marathon. You must be willing to start at the beginning and learn a little each day. I have been walking with the Lord for over 40 years and I can say along with the apostle Paul, "not that I have attained it or already been made perfect,but I press on to take hold of that which Christ Jesus took hold of me".

In the next few times we share together I want to help you in going through these fundamental doctrines of the faith so that you can have the fundamentals you need to
live in the victory we have in Christ. I will warn you ahead of time, that victory in Christ does not at all look like what the world sees as victory. I can guarantee you that. I also promise you that it is far superior to the victory that this world has to offer.

Next Post: The Grace that leads to true peace. I hope and pray you will join me.

God bless and keep you, your brother in Christ, Kris

Monday, November 9, 2009

Are You Kidding?

No, it's true. The old coach is actually going to blog. This may seem unbelievable to those who know how much I hate to type, but who knows maybe someday I will just be able to dictate. To your great relief, I'm sure, this will not really be a personal blog. I will leave that to you facebookers. Instead, I hope to use this as place to share my thoughts about life in today's world in light of God's Word and filtered through my personal experience.

I know, I know. Why would anybody care what I think. Well, probably no one does, but just in case, I will give it a try. Seriously, what I hope, is that I can share some things that will encourage you to seek a closer walk with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ. Maybe it is celebrating my very close to but not quite 60th birthday (I figure that being old should be good for something), that finally led me to do this. My hope is that it will be a place people can come to when they need a little lift, a dose of reality and desire to learn what the Bible has to say on certain issues. (Not that I claim to be a scholar, you will just have to check out anything I say to see if it is correct. Pretty sneaky way to encourage you to read your Bible, huh?)

1st Peter 5:2 says to the elders"Be shepherds of God's flock that is under your care..." I believe that all of us who have walked with the Lord for many years have an obligation to share some of the lessons we have learned in order to help younger believers grow. This is the desire of my heart and the real reason for this blog. We will see where God takes us. I hope to update at least twice a week. I hope you will join me on this journey. With the love of our Lord Jesus Christ,

The Coach