Understanding the Holy Spirit

“Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” ( 1 Corinthians 3:16)

Just the title of this Praiseletter triggers thoughts, emotions and a broad spectrum of doctrinal beliefs within this readership.

Some may jump for joy as they anticipate a discussion of spiritual giftings, miraculous manifestations and what a “spirit-filled” life should look like; at least according to their doctrinal position, experience and understanding.

Others may begin to get a little nervous, fearing that we may embark on a discussion of some of the aforementioned topics. This could be somewhat uncomfortable to those who feel a little calmer just not talking too much about the Holy Spirit because perhaps they have not been taught properly who He is and what He desires.

Thus, I write this letter, most simple and yet profound in its implications as we consider just a couple key issues concerning the Holy Spirit and us.

The Holy Spirit According to Scripture

First of all and most importantly, let’s look to God’s Word.

“But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.” (Romans 8:11)

What a clear and important statement for us to grasp from God’s Word! His Spirit gives us life and so apart from His Spirit we cannot have life.

This verse speaks not only of physical life, but spiritual and eternal life as well.

So here is a most important point to understand and embrace. Every true believer is indwelt by the Holy Spirit. That may seem an obvious truth to many but I can tell you there are many who believe (in various ways) that one can be saved and then receive His Spirit at some later occasion.

We say things like, “I received Christ” or, “I asked Jesus into my heart.”

These statements are fine and attest to a very real truth but sometimes lead us to an improper conclusion.

Jesus and the Holy Spirit

Jesus said, “But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper (Holy Spirit) shall not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you.” (John 16:7)

When we say we receive Christ, it is His Spirit in fact that we receive. We know from Scripture that right now and since His ascension, Christ is at the right hand of the Father.

“This Jesus God raised up again, to which we are all witnesses. Therefore having been exalted to the right hand of God (Acts 2:32-33)

Before Stephen was stoned he proclaimed, “Behold, I see the Heavens opened up and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God…” (Acts 7:56)

The writer to the Hebrews says: “Now the main point in what has been said is this: we have such a high priest, (Jesus) who has taken His seat at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the Heavens.” (Hebrew 8:1)

Through our terminology and perhaps a view of the famous painting of Jesus knocking at our heart’s door, we invision an image of this bearded, robed savior walking into our being somehow.

It is true He has, but it is by His Spirit.

God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit

This easily opens the door to a lengthy discussion of the Triune Godhead. Time and paper do not permit that just now.

This we know from Scripture: God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. Each a separate person with a distinct function, if you will, within the Godhead, yet each fully God.

Toward the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry, He gives every true disciple a clear and powerful commission: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and Son and the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 28:19)

If you do not believe in a Triune Godhead, this would probably be a good time to fold up this letter, place it in the file of your choice and maybe see if there is something good on TV.

Yes, it’s rather sarcastic humor but I’ve heard and read all the best arguments of the “non-Trinitarians” and find them to be lacking biblical support and scholarship.

How Much of the Holy Spirit Do You Have

Some say, “Christians have the Holy Spirit, but sometimes, they don’t have all of the Holy Spirit.”

This then begs the question, “How much of the Holy Spirit do they have?” Sixty-two percent, ninety-three percent or maybe just twenty-seven percent?

The Scripture always refers to the Holy Spirit as a person and understands Him to be just that. Indwelt by a partial person of the Godhead does not make “biblical sense.”

Perhaps a more legitimate question is not how much of the Holy Spirit we have, but rather how much of us the Holy Spirit has.

We can approach and discuss this point in so many ways but here’s what Scripture desires that we know and affirm: one of the absolute greatest moments in biblical and human history is when God decided to literally dwell within us by His own Holy Spirit.

Fully God in mortal man
This was His eternal plan
Temples made of flesh and blood
Never more of stone or wood
Holy lives His glories show
Heaven reaches here below
Holy Spirit, You have come
Make us more like God’s own Son

The Holy Spirit Dwells in You

As a true believer, it is absolutely essential that you realize the Spirit of the Living God dwells in His fullness within you!

Scripture says, “However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him..” (Romans 8:9)

This verse makes it clear. If you do not have His Spirit, you don’t belong to Christ. But if you do belong to Christ, you therefore have His Spirit.

Is there more to be discussed about the Holy Spirit; His ministry to and through us? His giftings? His ministry as Helper, Teacher, Comforter? Yes, to be sure, but none of those things will help us to grow as we should in Christ and be conformed to His image as He desires, unless we understand He dwells within us fully by The Holy Spirit!

Christmas Memories

I don’t know why exactly but it seems this holiday season, more than any other, I have been flooded with memories of past holiday celebrations.

As I write this letter, I am rejoicing being able to walk down the stairs from our bedroom, sit in a chair in my studio and write to you.

Reflecting on Seasons Past

Shortly before Thanksgiving, I had a low back disc issue which laid me out flat for almost two weeks. Pain night and day like I’ve never experienced before. I don’t share this to solicit your sympathy (though your continual prayers will be greatly appreciated) but rather to let you know that through this painful experience I had lots of time to think.

I tended not to think too much about big and complex issues because the sheer bulk of these more weighty matters seemed to only add to the pain.

With the holiday season literally at our doorstep, I found myself reflecting on seasons past with oft accompanying laughter that released endorphins to perhaps, in a small way, mask some pain.

“A merry heart does good, like a medicine.” (Proverbs 12:25)

One of my first holiday recollections was of a Thanksgiving my family, along with grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins, had celebrated together many years ago when my brother and I were just young boys.

I shared this story through Facebook over the Thanksgiving holiday and perhaps you’re already familiar with it. You know, the one where the baby chicks my brother and I were given at Easter became part of the Thanksgiving meal some months later.

This, of course, being announced to me by a cousin as I was about to bite into my second piece of fried chicken! Oh well, they were cute when they were little and tasty when they were older. I guess that’s a good thing.

But that was Thanksgiving and now we’re staring Christmas right in the face. How did it come around so quickly?

All I Ever Wanted For Christmas

I remember when I was a boy it seemed as though Christmas would never come, especially those last couple of weeks.

At Christmas time, I would wear that Montgomery Ward catalogue out. I could find the toy section in an instant and then within the toy section, I would flip immediately to the electric train page.

Oh man, all I ever wanted was an electric train. Usually, there would be a picture of a Lionel train, an American Flyer train and then a Marx Toys train of some kind.

I wanted a Lionel that had real smoke, a whistle and a light. Maybe if my folks saw me enough times glued to that page of trains they’d get the hint.

I remember once I picked up the catalogue to “assume the position” on the train page because I thought my dad was about to walk by. To my shock, the train page and several other of the toy pages were missing; ripped out it appeared! “It must be my brother!,” I thought.

Later, I was to learn (and I can’t say how) that they had been ripped out in response to a higher calling than a boy’s silly dreams. They found their way to our outhouse which was 50 feet or so behind our little dwelling.

The train page was gone and my life, it seemed, had gone off the rails!

I never got that Lionel train and that’s ok. A little later in life, I realized my parents could not have afforded such a toy. They did eventually get me a Marx Toys train, which I cherished greatly and still do.

Yes, I still have it and it still runs. Maybe I’ll set it up again this Christmas.

Christmas Memories

When I was a boy, we celebrated Christmas with lights, trees, and even Santa.

Now I know there are some who have great disdain for this kind of pagan ritualized celebration and I respect their right to that opinion.

But somewhere through all the trees, tinsel and turmoil, my brother and I clearly understood it was all about Jesus.

We understood it most clearly when we went to my Aunt Lorena’s house to celebrate their Christmas.

When you walked in the front door of their beautiful home, your eyes immediately went to the large Christmas tree with a literal sea of presents cascading out from beneath.

For my brother and I it was kind of a good news/bad news scenario. The good news is that there was going to be a grand display of Christmas present opening. The bad news was that it was their Christmas celebration for their kids and grandkids. We would be onlookers, pretending to be overjoyed at the wonderful gifts our cousins were receiving but really kinda wishing we were home opening our own.

We might get a book or something, but I only saw that as a possible tunnel for my hoped for Lionel train to go through.

But I digress…

The Most Important Present of All

The first and most important thing that happened before all the gift opening was that we all had to sit down quietly around the tree. Do you know how hard that is for a bunch of kids that have already eyed their gifts and can’t wait to tear into them?

Aunt Lorena would say “Now everyone, before we open presents for ourselves, we’re going to open the most important present for Jesus.”

Then Aunt Lorena would have one of her grandchildren, usually the youngest capable of reading, find the envelope with Jesus’ name on it. The child would bring the envelope to my Aunt Lorena, and she would beam with a joy that would not be equaled the rest of the evening.

She would then remind us that this was Jesus’ birthday we were celebrating and that every good gift comes from Him.

We would sing “Happy Birthday” to Jesus, then Aunt Lorena would open the envelope and explain to us where the generous check inside was to be designated.

Many a missionary and ministry around the world received a wonderful gift on Jesus’ birthday.

When I was little, I guess I kinda thought Jesus got the short end of the stick. All the kids got boxes of presents, toys, and gifts too wonderful for words, it seemed. Jesus… just an envelope!

But as I grew and came to know Christ, I realized that Aunt Lorena had it all figured out just right.

It really is so much more blessed to give than to receive. (Acts 20:35)

Christmas Memories…

It’s been a joy to share some Christmas memories with you. I hope they brought a smile to your face. Perhaps, you were also in need of the release of some endorphins!

Most of all, I pray you have a blessed Christmas. And as you celebrate this holiday in the right spirit, always remembering that it’s Jesus’ Birthday, I pray that you too will make rich, joyful and lasting Christmas memories.

Dallas Holm Website Top 10 Products for 2017

As the new year is coming to a close, it’s a great time to reflect on the year that God has blessed us with. 2017 really has been an amazing year and I’m eternally thankful for the ministry God has given me. To reflect on 2017, my team went through and put together a list of the 10 most popular items from our website during 2017.

Atop the list is the Words of Hope & Comfort Book & CD Set, followed by Good News Blue CD. If you are still doing some Christmas shopping, these would be some great gifts.

It is my hope that our music and words will provide you with encouragement and joy as God closes another year and welcomes us into 2018.

Without further ado, here are the top 10 products for 2017.

The Thanksgiving Chickens

This morning, as I was thinking about the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, I remembered a particular Thanksgiving from many years ago. But to set up the memories of that Thanksgiving past, I must begin with Easter.

A Thanksgiving Story that Began on Easter

When my brother and I were just kids, our folks bought us little baby chicks one Easter. They were really cute, soft and fun to play with. We put them in a cardboard box with a lamp overhead for warmth. With sawdust on the floor of the box, some water and feed to nourish them, I guess we thought they had it pretty nice.

Of course it didn’t take long for them to grow, become a little less cute and quite frankly, more of a burden than a blessing. We finally put up a little chicken wire fence in the back yard and our visits to the chickens were more a duty than a pleasure.

Finally one day my dad said, “Boys, let’s take these chickens down to Ray and Jane’s where they can be cared for better.” My Uncle Ray and Aunt Jane lived on some acreage down near the Mississippi River. They had lots of geese and chickens, so it was a perfect situation.

Now, fast-forward to the Thanksgiving past to which I referred earlier.

Some of my best memories are of family gatherings, especially down at Uncle Ray and Aunt Jane’s. Uncle Ray was my mom’s oldest brother. My mom also had a sister and another brother. All her siblings were married with children so we really were one big happy family. All our cousins along with my brother and I would enjoy running around their woods, chasing the geese or canoeing up the river.

But this one particular Thanksgiving, with all our family gathered together around Ray and Jane’s table, offers up only one clear and lasting memory.

Yes, we had turkey and dressing, cranberries and sweet potatoes (which I hated as a kid). But Aunt Jane made the best fried chicken in the world and would always have some available.

Somewhere into about my second piece of chicken, my one cousin (Ray and Jane’s youngest boy) asked, “Hey, how do ya like that chicken?” I said it was great. I hoped that was the right answer ‘cause I feared he might beat me up or something if it wasn’t! ‘

He said, “It ought to be great, you guys raised it!”

Suddenly it began to settle into brother’s and my mind that we were eating the Easter baby chicks!

My Uncle Ray yelled out in his deep, loud Marine Corps voice, “Judas Priest!! Don’t tell that to your cousins!”

But it was too late, we had been told and suddenly Aunt Jane’s chicken didn’t seem quite as good as other times.

All of That to Say This

So, what’s the application of this story at this time and this Thanksgiving?

I’m not sure. It’s just a vivid memory. I can clearly see my grandparent’s faces, all my uncles, aunts and cousins. I still don’t know who or what Judas Priest is and I still love good fried chicken.

I think it’s all about the memories. My grandparents, my uncles and my aunts who gathered around the table that memorable Thanksgiving have all passed. Only my mom remains, at the age of 96.

In just a short time our family will gather together around the Thanksgiving table. Linda and I will be the grandparents. Our children and their spouses will be the uncles and aunts. And our grandchildren will be the cousins who will be running around, playing and making memories.

I have nothing but good memories attached to every Thanksgiving holiday in my life. Only once was the chicken a little sub-par, but even that only enhanced the memory of a great family time.

This Thanksgiving, slow down just a little. It’s really not all about the food, the football and all the fuss. It’s about family, fun and finding new memories.

Take it all in, every face and every moment. Become like a great HD video camera, recording everything for future reference.

Of all the effort that’s put forth to create a great day of Thanksgiving, let’s make sure the greatest effort is to create wonderful and lasting memories!

Be My Shelter

As I reflect upon the lyrics to Be My Shelter, written some twenty-seven years ago, I can’t help but think how many, even now and in recent days, have in a very real sense lived out those verses.

BE MY SHELTER
I have watched the storm clouds gather on the horizon
I have listened to the distant thunder roll
I have felt a stronger current in the ocean
I have felt a stronger current in my soul
I have felt the earth tremble beneath my feet
I have heard the breakers crash upon the shore
I have seen a stronger wind begin to gather
I have heard the raindrops pounding on my door
(Be My Shelter Through The Flame 1990)

Finding God in the Storms of Life

Many find it difficult to see God’s hand in such overwhelming circumstances. Whether in nature’s fury or in “the storms of life” as we say, can God be found in the midst of the storms?

There’s a relatively obscure verse in an often overlooked little book in the Old Testament that I believe may help us answer the question. The book of Nahum says: “In whirlwind and storm is His way, and the clouds are the dust beneath His feet.” (Nahum 1:3)

The context of this verse is God’s judgment against Ninevah. Ninevah had responded to His prophet Jonah approximately one hundred years earlier, repenting and thus avoiding destruction. However, they did not continue in a repentant attitude and now the prophet Nahum is once again warning of their certain demise.

In prophesying of God’s power, Nahum reminds the Ninevites that, “The Lord will by no means leave the guilty unpunished.” (Nahum 1:3)

Should we then deduce from this that God’s storms are only to punish the wicked? A brief recollection of several accounts from scripture should influence us otherwise.

Noah and his family were used to showing us that humanity could be saved and blessed in the same storm that punished the wicked.

Jesus walking on storm-tossed seas gave the disciples and gives us an insight into the true Master of the Universe.

A severe storm was necessary to give us the comfort we receive from Jesus’ “Peace be still” moment. The Psalmist writes, “He causes the vapors to ascend from the ends of the earth; Who makes lightning for the rain; Who brings forth the wind from His storehouses.” (Psalm 135:7)

God is in the Storms and in the Calm

In all of this, I hope we see that God’s sovereignty is realized every bit as much in the storms as in the calm. His pre-determined eternal purposes come in thunder and silence, In clouds and blue skies, In rain and in drought.

I love the end of that verse in Nahum; “The clouds are the dust beneath His feet.” In other words, what we might refer to as clouds in life’s storms are actually the evidence of His presence. They’re the dust beneath His feet.

I know there have always been storms, earthquakes, wars and rumors of wars. However, I must say that as I look at North Korea, Iran and elsewhere; as I see nature literally groan (as scripture said it would) with birth pangs toward a new heaven and new earth; as I observe the signs of the times in light of God’s Word, I must conclude, The Day of the Lord approaches swiftly!

All the earth is groaning
Waiting for the Day
Find me to be faithful
Lead me in The Way

As Christians, I believe we should see and discern in all of these things our ultimate destiny; In His presence forever!

I can almost hear the host of Heaven singing
I can almost feel the power around the throne
While I wait to make that final distant journey
And until I finally make that place my home

Be my shelter, be my sanctuary
Spread Your mighty loving wings and cover me
Be my Savior from the adversary
Be my ever present help in time of need

In Christ,

Dallas Holm

P.S. Let’s remember to pray for those who have been devastated by the hurricanes and be willing to always do what we can to be His helper in time of need.

It’s God’s Will

If in all of life’s journey, the smooth stretches as well as the rough, we could assess and conclude it’s God’s will; what peace, joy and comfort we would possess!

Unfortunately, we have too often been taught or influenced to believe that God is in the “good” and the “easy” but not so much in the “difficult” and “trying.”

However, one thorough reading of the story of Job will assure us that all his circumstances, both tragic and triumphant, were under the absolute control and dominion of God Almighty.

I know through the years I have often quoted Oswald Chambers. Perhaps some of you think My Utmost for His Highest is the only book, aside from the Bible, that I’ve read. I assure you, though I’ve read that classic book many times, I have read many others by various authors.

But once again, I find one of his quotes so timely and pertinent to the occasion of this letter.

“There is a distinct period in our experience when we cease to say – ‘Lord, show me thy will,’ and realization begins to dawn that we are God’s will, and He can do with us what He likes. We wake up to the knowledge that we have the privilege of giving ourselves over to God’s will. It is a question of being yielded to God.” (O.Chambers)

A thorough grasp of the essence of this quote could and should bring such peace and simplicity to our lives.

When scripture says, “Fret not thyself for tomorrow…” (Matthew 6:34) it actually means just that! When Paul writes to the church at Philippi, “Be anxious for nothing…” (Philippians 4:6) he is encouraging believers to trust that their prayers offered in thanksgiving, minus anxiousness, will produce “The peace of God which surpasses all comprehension…” (Philippians 4:7).

Put simply, all we really have any control over is our relationship to Jesus. And if we are rightly related to Him, then wherever we are is where He has us. If we only feel we’re in God’s will when things are going “smoothly” then perhaps we might determine that we’re not in God’s will much of the time.

I don’t know about you, but it seems to me much of life is challenging, as scripture assures us it will be. Again, let’s look at Matthew 6:34. Some translations say: “Therefore do not be anxious for tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (NAS)

Wow, what encouraging words! Every day will have trouble! Try to get an audience for that message on the average Christian TV station. If that’s true, (and God’s Word says it is) then believing that trouble or difficulty can’t be part of God’s will, could only lead one to believe that every day we will be out of God’s will, at least to some extent.

How troublesome a concept!

Or we can believe that no matter what befalls us, as long as we are rightly related to Him we are not only realizing God’s will but as Chambers puts it, “We ARE God’s will.”

In Paul’s concluding remarks to the church at Philippi, he writes: “I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; and in every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need.” (Philippians 4:12)

Then from the confinement of a Roman prison, guarded and restricted, he writes: “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13)

To those who may have questioned the journey and circumstances of Paul’s life and ministry, and to those who may question the journey and circumstances of our lives and ministries, may it be clearly stated: It’s God’s Will!

“This is from Me,” the Saviour said,
As bending low He kissed my brow,
“For One who loves you thus has led.
Just rest in Me, be patient now,
Your Father knows you have need of this,
Tho’, why perchance you cannot see-
Grieve not for things you’ve seemed to miss.
The thing I send is best for thee.”

Then, looking through my tears, I plead.
“Dear Lord, forgive, I did not know,
“Twill not be hard since Thou dost tread,
Each path before me here below.
And for my good this thing must be,
His grace sufficient for each test.
So still I’ll sing, “Whatever be
God’s way for me is always best.’”

Author Unknown

In Christ,

Dallas

P.S. Linda continues to improve though it’s a slow, steady process. Please continue to remember us as well as our ministry in your prayers. We love you and appreciate you so much. May God bless you richly!

Finding Peace in the Midst of a Storm

“And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”
(Philippians 4:7)

This verse of scripture was sent to us by a couple different friends as Linda and I prepared to fight another round against the cancer that has challenged us for almost thirty years now.

Perhaps you’ve already heard and if not, I will share with you that on February 23rd, following an MRI, we discovered Linda had a tumor on her brain. That same day we met with her oncologist and scheduled an appointment the next day, February 24th, with a brain surgeon.

The surgeon showed us the scan, highlighting the upper right and rear part of her brain where the cloudy mass was located.

Without going into the full discussion on the specifics of the surgery, what they might find and what risks might be considered, let me just say, it was a lot to take in. And then the decision to operate on Monday morning, at 10:00am, in just two days!

It seemed so much was happening so fast and yet we were both struck with a sense of peace in the midst of this sudden storm.

This Was More Than About Us

I think it was Saturday morning as we were preparing to leave the house to go to the hospital for some preliminary lab work, that we both, independent of one another, had this clear sense that this wasn’t just about us.

Yes, we would learn great depths of God’s grace and faithfulness as we always had during these times of testing. But, there was a different and unique sense that this was for and about others as well.

Linda has always said, “When you go through these difficult stretches of the journey, you take everyone you love right along with you.” How true!

We Are Made Strong in Our Weakness

The first verse I ever learned, the night I became a Christian was:

“I beseech you therefore brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.” (Romans 12:1)

Linda and I have often prayed through the years, “Lord, help Yourself to our lives; use us whether in strength or weakness for Your glory.”

I’ll not take the time, space or energy here to address those who proclaim that the Christian should never be sick, never suffer and never be tested. Scripture clearly teaches us that we dwell in corruptible bodies, we will suffer at times and the testing that these seasons of physical, emotional and even spiritual challenges present is the very thing that “fits” us for kingdom service.

These “seasons” teach us how to comfort those we will meet in their affliction, with the same comfort with which we have been comforted.

Scripture says, “Fear not,” fret not thyself, and “be anxious for nothing.”

These admonitions must work in these crucial times of testing or they will work nowhere!

Oswald Chambers says, “All of our fret and worry comes from calculating without God.” I love that, and it’s so true.

Joy in the Time of Sorrow

In all this, Linda and I just want you to know, there really is a peace that passes our understanding and it does guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, even when all evidence to the contrary would seek to influence us otherwise.

I wrote the lines to the chorus of I Have Hope some years ago that say:

I have joy in the time of sorrow
I have peace in the raging storm
I have faith that Jesus holds tomorrow
I have hope, I’m resting in His arms

I will tell you, those lines have a much deeper meaning for us now than when I wrote them. Those words are true for us and by God’s grace they will be true for you!

God Continues to Perform Miracles

Linda did have a tumor removed from her brain at around 10:00am, Monday, February 27th. It was the same breast cancer she’s dealt with for years.

The surgeon got all he could see and said he would recommend some follow up pinpoint radiation.

Linda’s spirit, attitude and cognitive abilities never suffered one bit from the surgery. She spent a couple weeks in rehab getting her left arm and leg to cooperate a little better. They improved daily and I’m confident that by the time you read this letter, she will be home and doing wonderfully.

She’s an amazing woman! And don’t misunderstand, we believe in a miracle working God who could instantaneously remove every cancer cell from her body. We will continue to pray as we have for almost thirty years now that He will.

But He has performed a miracle. Linda is a miracle! She was diagnosed stage 4 nearly twenty-five years ago, and she just keeps on going for the glory of God.

Remember what the Apostle Paul wrote:

“My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness. Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may dwell in me.” (II Corinthians 12:9)

Early on in this present ordeal, our daughter Jennifer texted us another verse Paul wrote that encourages us to be:

“…joyful in hope, patient in affliction and faithful in prayer.” (Romans 12:12)

We have been joyful in hope, patient through the process and prayer without ceasing has been our mainstay.

And in these things we have found Peace.

LOVE: A few thoughts for Valentine’s Day

“Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.”
(John 15:13)

In this one verse we gain a biblical perspective of the very essence of love. True love is sacrificial, even unto death. We know God’s greatest demonstration of love is Christ’s sacrificial death at Calvary.

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
(John 3:16)

I repeat, real love has at it’s core the sense of sacrifice; sacrifice even unto death. Now let’s look for a moment at how we’ve trivialized the word. I love those shoes…I love that show…I love my car…and on and on it goes. Really? You love any of the aforementioned and much much more to the extent you’d be willing to die to affirm the assurance of your love for such items?

Now I know, some of you are perhaps thinking, “Man, it’s Valentines Day; ease up on the love thing!” Believe me, I understand the “Day” incites feelings, words and memories of love. I remember all the way back to first grade, hoping Pam or Mary would put a Valentines card in my little decorated shoe box receptacle, that had some fuzzy stuff on the heart or animal adorning the front of the card. Everyone knew (even at the age of six) that the “special” cards meant a special affection.

I just want on this Valentines Day, as we express our love to a husband, a wife, a child or anyone else deserving of our love, that we understand and remember the greater implications of our expressed love. When I tell Linda, “I love you,” I want her to know it’s a love at any cost, even unto death. When I tell my children and grandchildren of my love, I want to be sure that my life demonstrates the love that scripture presents. The Apostle Paul, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, articulates the priority of love.

“But now abide faith, hope and love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”
(I Cor. 13:13)

Happy Valentines Day!

Life in the Vineyard

I know I’ve referenced this poem at least once before in a Praiseletter. I learned and memorized it for a year-end program at our church when I was a nine or ten-year old boy.

LIFE IN THE VINEYARD

A year is a long long time you say
Compared to just a second

But I studied and thought about it one time
And this is how I reckoned

There are sixty minutes in an hour
Twenty-four hours a day

Seven days in every week
Four weeks in a month we’ll say

Only twelve short months and the year is gone
And what was there really in it

Multiplied, squandered and wasted
The insignificant minute

I want to be counted worthy
For the time that’s given to me

For what I do on earth with that time
Will count for eternity

– Author unknown

Every year I’m reminded of the challenge of the poem and usually find myself reciting it once again at some year-end occasion.

As we begin the adventure of a new year in 2017, let’s consider how we might apply the message of this poem to our lives.

The Moments You Make Matter

Simply put, every moment matters! And every moment holds the potential to please the heart of God, honor the name of Jesus and strengthen the Body of Christ.

It all comes down to whether or not we are bearing fruit in and through our lives. Are we more like Jesus now than we were a year ago? Have we brought others closer to Jesus? Do the things that matter most to God matter most to us?

If the answer to any of those questions is “no” or “I’m not sure,” then perhaps we should look to one of Jesus’ parables to gain insight and a challenge.

The Parable of the Fig Tree

In Luke’s gospel account, Jesus presents a parable as follows: “A certain man had a fig tree which had been planted in his vineyard and he came looking for fruit on it, but did not find any. And he said to the vineyard keeper, ‘Behold, for three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree without finding any. Cut it down! Why does it even use up the ground?’ And he answered and said to him, ‘Let it alone, sir, for this year too, until I dig around it and put in fertilizer; and if it bears fruit next year, fine; but if not, cut it down.’” (Luke 13:6-9)

Matthew Henry provides insightful commentary on this passage and it reads as follows:

This parable of the barren fig tree is intended to enforce the warning given just before; the barren tree, except it brings forth fruit, will be cut down. This parable in the first place refers to the nation and people of the Jews. Yet it is, without doubt, for awakening all that enjoy the means of grace, and the privileges of the visible church. When God has borne long, we may hope that He will bear with us yet a little longer, but we cannot expect that He will bear always.

Cut It Down!

Let’s imagine for a moment that we are those vineyard keepers who have been placed within His vineyard. We are aware that He has been examining our fruitfulness (or lack thereof) for a season and upon His most recent examination of the tree, for which we are responsible, He has found no fruit. He therefore concludes, “Cut it down!”

We then, appealing to His mercy, cry: “Please give us one more year to till the soil, apply the fertilizer and then if no fruit develops, go ahead and cut it down.”

Now let’s suppose that 2017 is that year to prove our devotion, display our fidelity and produce the expected harvest. What would be different? How would we change? What fruit might be borne to His glory?

I realize analogies, as I have just proposed, can have flaws and be misapplied in ways that open the doors to legalism and performance based relationships to our Lord and Savior.

Legalism always leads to bondage and performance based attempts for relationships always offend grace. I am not in any way suggesting that this year is the year we’d better get it right or else!

And yet shouldn’t our desire be to get it right, or walk in His righteousness, every moment of this year, throughout all the “insignificant minutes?”

Are You Producing Fruit?

We have been placed in His vineyard and because of our privileged standing as sons and daughters of the living God, fruitfulness is a natural expectation.

I often say, “Ministry is a privilege.” We must regard where He has placed us and what He has called us to do, as a great privilege. The tilling of the soil, the dressing of the vines and the pouring of the fertilizer are all to be done with joy and from a heart of gratitude to Him who has saved us and called us.

We do all this to the glory of God, bearing fruit for His honor and storing up treasures in Heaven.

This is Life in the Vineyard.

 

A Prayer Request

The holiday season has once again swiftly come upon us. By the time you read this post, we will have already observed the traditional Thanksgiving celebration and Christmas is just around the corner.

Last year at this time we vowed we would be better prepared and not let the season sneak up on us as it has so often. But alas, most of us once again find ourselves with more to do than time to do it.

Living in Anxious Times

This leads me to have us consider the scripture that begins by saying, “Be anxious for nothing…” (Philippians 4:6)

We live in “anxious” times! I’m writing this post the day after the 2016 presidential election. Extreme anxiety has been the daily portion for many in the months leading up to the election and it seems as though such anxiousness will continue for many, regardless of the election’s outcome.

But what of the Christians? What about we true believers? Someone said recently, “It’s natural for us to worry about our present circumstances when so much is at stake.” I disagree! Our “natural” response should be unwavering trust in a sovereign God who rules and reigns over every aspect of the universe and the most minute details of our lives.

Ultimately, it comes down, as it always does, to whether or not we believe God’s Word.

Our True Authority

“Let every person be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.” (Romans 13:1)

Remember, this was written to Christians who lived under the rule of the Roman Empire; the same Roman Empire which would soon declare “open season” on Christians and eventually remove Paul’s head!

Paul went on to write, “Therefore he who resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves.” (Romans 13:2)

Any questions? Seems pretty clear and straightforward, doesn’t it?

Do Not Fret Because of Evildoers

Many are worried because of a President elect and leadership that seem to have a resume of unrighteousness.

May I remind all of us, at this point, that we each have a similar resume and apart from the grace of God we would all stand condemned and doomed!

Paul didn’t’ write, “Let every person be in subjection to the governing authorities…” if they’re good, righteous, likeable or any number of other qualifiers. In fact, the same Holy Spirit who inspired the Apostle Paul to write the verses we have just considered, also inspired the Psalmist David to write centuries before, “Do not fret because of evildoers…” (Psalm 37:1)

It’s interesting and noteworthy that only a few verses later he writes, “Do not fret, it leads only to evildoing.” (Psalm 37:8)

Think of it! Fretting about evil doers will lead you to become the very thing you were fretting about, “evil doing.”

I don’t know President-elect Trump and I’ll bet you don’t either. I do know God the Father, His Son Jesus and the precious Holy Spirit.

Scripture highlights throughout the centuries how the Triune Godhead can take men or women and save them, redeem them and call them for His purposes.

The Apostle Paul is one of the greatest examples of this. A persecutor of the early church, a killer of Christians and a zealot for the organized religious system of his day becomes a humble servant of the Most High God!

A Prayer Request

So…here’s a Prayer Request. There are many important and pressing issues facing our new President and administration, but I would like to offer a list of three things to pray for. I believe that if God will move and have His will and way in these three areas, all other concerns will be addressed wisely and properly.

  1. Pray that President elect Trump will be drawn to and humbled before a Holy God now and each day going foreword.“Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up.” (James 4:10)
  2. Pray that President elect Trump will assemble a wise council of leaders. “Where there is no counsel, the people fall, but in abundance of counselors there is safety.” (Proverbs 11:14)
  3. Pray that President elect Trump will appoint Supreme Court justices who will properly interpret and uphold the constitution of the United States. “When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice.” (Proverbs 29:2)

At the beginning of this post we looked at the first part of a verse in Philippians. Now let’s read the rest.

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.” (Philippians 4:6)

Remember: “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord.” (Psalm 33:12)

At Praise Ministries we meet every Monday morning at 9:00am to start the week with prayer. We pray for the suffering
church around the world, for missionaries everywhere, for the prayer requests you send in and for our own personal needs.

May I invite you to join us wherever you are at 9:00am CST in prayer for our President, our leaders and our nation?

Let’s focus in and pray especially for the three requests I have listed, and believe God to guide, direct and bless our nation so that we might bless and honor Him.

Only God knows what can be accomplished when in fervor and persistence, His people respond to A Prayer Request.