Sunday, November 30, 2014

The First Sunday of Advent

The first Sunday of the Advent season symbolizes hope.  On this Sunday evening we will light the first purple candle, the prophecy candle, some of you will do in church services today.  The readings for today are Isaiah 64:1-9 and 40:1-2.

In The Message version, Isaiah pleads with God; verse one begins like this:

"Oh that you would rip open the heavens and descend..."

Isaiah is begging God to come down to earth and make things right, because His people are so hopelessly mired in their sin.

And, He did come down.

As we begin the Advent season we look forward to the celebration of His birth, on Christmas Eve. "Silent night, holy night."  On that night when He made His entrance into the world, God did rip open the heavens.  He then filled them with His angels who testified to the quaking shepherds, those simple men who cowered in terror at His majesty and glory revealed.

I've tried to put myself in the place of the Jews of Jesus' day and the centuries before, looking and longing for a Deliverer.  The book of Isaiah is full of prophecies about the Messiah, and the people earnestly prayed for Him to come.  A common phrase in that day for "in the sweet bye and bye" or "someday when all is right" was "when Messiah comes...."
The Jews are still waiting.

We’ve sinned and kept at it so long!
    Is there any hope for us? Can we be saved?
We’re all sin-infected, sin-contaminated.
    Our best efforts are grease-stained rags.
We dry up like autumn leaves—
    sin-dried, we’re blown off by the wind.
No one prays to you
    or makes the effort to reach out to you
Because you’ve turned away from us,
    left us to stew in our sins.

(vs, 5-7 The Message)

On my Christmas tree is a long, iron spike, attached to the tree by a simple red ribbon.  A nine-inch nail, if you will.  Why is it there?  Its presence, front and center, reminds me of why God ripped Heaven open to descend to us.

Yes, He did come down.  He came down to save us, to heal us of our sin, to give us hope.  He was born as a baby whose birth we celebrate with joy.  But, He came to die, to become the sacrifice for our sin.  No, God the Father did not leave us to stew in our sins.  He sent His Son, and they called His name Jesus.

It is for this reason we can repeat these words from Isaiah 40:1-2 to the people of God:

"Be comforted, be comforted my people.
Your sin is taken care of...forgiven!"

Father God, thank you for ripping Heaven open to save me from my sin.  I worship You and praise You for Your immense compassion, mercy and love.  You knew that my own efforts to earn my own salvation were going to fall short of Your standard of Holiness, and you knew the only way to redeem me was to descend to earth in the form of a baby, a God-child, Jesus.  What man could have devised such a plan?  Only You, Lord God Almighty, only You!  In Jesus' name, amen.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

O Come Let Us Adore Him

Good morning!

I love being a member of the Baptist denomination of Christians.  The other day I posted about the Body being so fractured and contentious that it is rendered ineffective.  Generally speaking, though, unless we bite and tear at one another, there are worse things than a bit of denominationalism.

There is one thing that I miss from my days serving in the Presbyterian church, however, and that is the celebration of Advent.  Celebrating Advent (and Lent) adds richness to the celebrations of Christ's birth and death, respectively, a layer of meaning we desperately need in this day.

I made the statement to my mother recently that "I hate Christmas."  (Such a paragon of spiritual virtue am I!)  What I meant is that I hate what we have made of the Christmas season.  It has become all about decorating and purchasing, seems like; and, I've found myself thinking on more than one occasion, "Where is Jesus, in all of this mad scramble?"  Some Christmas Eves past I have found myself thinking, "Thank God. It's over."  My children are older now, which seems both easier, yet much less special in some ways.  I miss, for example, how they would sneak around to try to find their gifts or would shake the packages under the tree.  "Oh yeah...for sure it's clothes."

This year, I want to add back into my celebration of Jesus' birth the aspect of Advent, that time of preparation of my heart for His arrival.  My three loved ones will be invited to participate.  If you want to do that too, we need to get started tomorrow, the first Sunday of Advent, which is also Day 1 of Advent.  Focus on the Family provides some free resources for families to use to celebrate Advent. They are my go-to source for this venture.  Here is the link:

It may be that your own denomination provides resources for Advent, and if so, I invite you to take advantage of those.

You may have recognized the title of today's post as coming from the Christmas hymn, "O Come All Ye Faithful".  It's the first line of the chorus.  I've heard the phrase "For He Alone is Worthy" substituted for the former phrase in some renditions.  Put together, they summarize what should be our attitude leading up to and through the Christmas season:

"O Come Let Us Adore Him, 
For He Alone is Worthy.
Christ the Lord!"

His coming!  Such marvelous grace! Such humility!  Philippians 2:6-11 --- (The Message version)

He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion.
9-11 Because of that obedience, God lifted him high and honored him far beyond anyone or anything, ever, so that all created beings in heaven and on earth—even those long ago dead and buried—will bow in worship before this Jesus Christ, and call out in praise that he is the Master of all, to the glorious honor of God the Father.

Dear Father, 
If I'm devastatingly honest I must admit that I've prepared my house more for Christmas in years past than I've prepared my heart.  I want this year to be different.  In Jesus' name, amen.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Not the World's Kind of King

Good afternoon!

John 18:19-40 is today's text.  I got started on this morning's blog, and then got pulled away.

According to John, when Jesus was taken into custody, in the Garden of Gethsemane, He was first take to the house of Annas.  Now, strangely, Annas was the father-in-law of the current high priest (Caiaphas).  Annas questioned him briefly, then sent him to Caiaphas, who either lived in the same house or certainly nearby.  (There is no record in John's account of Caiaphas questioning Jesus.)  It was early morning by the time He left Caiaphas's house and was sent to the residence of the Roman governor, Pilate.  Luke 23:6-12 records that there were actually 2 audiences with Pilate.  Between the two, Pilate sent Jesus to Herod, the tetrarch over the region of Galilee.  Herod, a Jewish puppet of the Roman Empire, along with the Jewish accusers, questioned Jesus extensively in his palace.  But, Jesus replied not a word.  Herod sent Jesus back to Pilate.

In the conversation with Pilate, Jesus speaks of The Truth, saying that if Pilate knew the truth he would recognize Jesus for who He was.  Pilate, like many even today who follow false gods replied, "What is truth?"

Jesus was on trial for two things, both having to do with kingship.
The Jews wanted Him dead because He claimed (rightly) to be a spiritual king, God.  In their eyes, His claims were blasphemous.
The Jews claimed they wanted Him dead because He was inciting a political rebellion against Rome, which was not true, but which legitimized their charges against Him, in the eyes of the Roman government.
The Jews did not want the reproach of the Jewish people to fall upon them for putting such a popular figure to death.  Therefore, they engaged the Roman government to condemn Him to death on their behalf.  This is why they apprehended Jesus at night and did most of the mock "trial" of Him in the wee hours of the morning, while most of those who would have advocated for Him - - - those he cured and fed and taught - - - were in bed.

His claims of kingship are still on trial today.  People are still searching for the truth, but many reject the kingship of Jesus, His truth, in their lives.  Jesus told Pilate in verse 36:

36 “My kingdom,” said Jesus, “doesn’t consist of what you see around you. If it did, my followers would fight so that I wouldn’t be handed over to the Jews. But I’m not that kind of king, not the world’s kind of king.”

Of course any kind of kingship other than an earthly kingship made no sense whatsoever to Pilate, who told the Jews he found no fault in Jesus.  Indeed.

One of the more ridiculous aspects of this whole circus was that the Jewish religious leaders accusing Jesus would not enter into Pilate's house (vs. 28).  The Jews were still in the midst of their multi-day Passover celebration, and they did not want to "defile" themselves by entering the home of a Gentile. To touch a Gentile would have disqualified them from eating the Passover meal.  They were so concerned with ritual cleanliness, while all the while condemning the ultimate Passover Lamb of God to death. How incongruous!  How blind!  How hypocritical!

Jesus is not, nor has He ever been, the world's kind of king.  There will come a time, the Scriptures promise, when He will return to rule and reign over the whole earth.  For now, He is King of King and Lord of Lords over my heart and the hearts of many others.  But, not the majority.

Here in America, once a hotbed of Christianity, it is becoming exponentially evident that Jesus is not King.  Most Americans have made gods of lesser things:  self-centeredness, materialism, greed, pride, and the behaviors we see nationwide bear this out.  This is not just true in America, but in most of the rest of the world as well.

Surrounded by error and deception, it is easy for us Christians to get distracted by the lures of this world, so that we are pulled away from our main mission, serving our King.  We must not.  When those around us ask, "What is truth?", we must not be so preoccupied that we fail to hear the question.
We must be ready with the Lord's answer.  Those who serve "the Way, the Truth and the Life" are this broken world's only hope.

Help us, Lord, to keep our eyes on You, to disregard those lesser things that threaten to throw us off-track, to mire us down in sin and despair.  Our time is such a precious gift!  Impress upon us, by your Holy Spirit, how You would have us share the Truth with others.  In Jesus' name, amen.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

In Everything...

Good morning, and Happy Thanksgiving!

There is a movement afoot in our country to diminish the importance of Thanksgiving Day. Abraham Lincoln was wise enough to declare this day a national holiday during his tenure as our country's 16th president.

Why is it important to have a recognized day of thanksgiving?  I believe it is important to remind ourselves as a nation and as a body of believers of the apostle Paul's words in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-22 (The Message version).

"Be cheerful no matter what;
Pray all the time;
Thank God no matter what happens.
This is the way God wants those of you who belong to Christ Jesus to live.
Don't suppress the Holy Spirit and don't stifle those who have a word from the Master.
On the other hand, don't be gullible.
Check out everything and keep only what's good.
Throw out anything tainted with evil."

I'm writing this blog entry the day before Thanksgiving, because later today I'm traveling to my mother's house; and, I know time to blog tomorrow morning will be scant.  I was only going to blog about verses 16-18.  However, while sitting and blogging, I got an early morning phone call.  It was from a friend of mine; our sons are friends, and she gave me some disturbing news.  Her phone call was a "word from the Master".  Sometimes, He speaks to us through the advice and wisdom of other believers.  We are cautioned to be careful, though, and to weigh these things, as Paul says, and to "keep only what is good".

In light of this phone call, I am having trouble with "being cheerful no matter what".  Other versions say "rejoice always" - - - allow that joy that comes from Christ to rise up in you continually.  In fact, I have trouble living out this verse on a daily basis.  I hope that you don't think that, just because I blog as part of my daily devotional time, I'm some super-spiritual, got-it-all-together Believer Woman. Not at all.  I have my own spiritual struggles, as does every Christ follower trying to walk resplendent.

Talking with my friend this morning, we reaffirmed the truth of verse 16 above, praying over soul-killing situations over which we have limited control.

Rejoicing during heartbreak?  Being cheerful in the face of tremendous sorrow?  How cray-cray is that?!  The world believes that to be .... insane, really.  But, look...this is how God wants Christ's followers to respond to negative circumstances.  As is so much of the truth revealed in Scripture, it goes against our fleshly inclinations, is counterintuitive.

Last Sunday our church held it's annual Thanksgiving Feast.  About 700 of us brought a dish and sat down to eat together.  Before we ate, our worship leader led us in singing the doxology:
"Praise God from Whom all blessings flow.
Praise Him sinners here below.
Praise Him above, heavenly hosts.
Praise, Father, Son and Holy Ghost.  Amen."
As I sang those familiar words/tune, I watched a man singing who lost his son last month.  And, my heart broke.

So, my friends, I don't know what you are struggling with today.  Holidays are often the most difficult times.  No matter what your struggle may be, I hope you understand that it does not mean God has forsaken you, that He loves you any less, or that your situation is hopeless.  God can redeem every situation.  He may not make the outcome what you would wish, but He can bring beauty out of the ashes of previous defeats.

Here's what I am going to pray about my personal struggles today, and I invite you, as is implied at the end of all my posts, to pray along with me.

Seekers, this prayer below is a prayer for believers.  If you don't know Christ as Savior, then your first prayer must be to invite Him into your heart as Lord, so that you can be forever possessed by His Holy Spirit.  I explore this topic in great detail in the earliest posts to this blog.  I beg you to turn your life over to Him today.  It is a decision you'll never regret.

Dear Loving Father, through Your Holy Spirit who lives within me, work out 1 Thessalonians 5:16-22 in my life today.  I affirm in this moment that You are Sovereign over all of my present circumstances. You are God, and I am not.  I take all my heartbreak, fear and pain and lay them at Your feet this morning.   And, I choose, I CHOOSE, Lord, to rejoice this day.  I choose to praise You.  I choose thankfulness, focusing on all the many blessings abundant in my life, the greatest of which is YOU, the Incomparable One, my Savior.  In Jesus' name, amen.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Deeply Flawed Characters

Good morning!

I ask - - - if you were going to write a manual to birth a religion, wouldn't you want to present the followers in the best possible light?  Wouldn't it be tempting to massage the facts so as to attract others to your faith?  The Bible doesn't do that.  From the Garden of Eden through the New Testament letters, people whose hearts belong to God are presented just as they are - - - sometimes heroic, often times deeply flawed.  These realities are testimony to the fact that the Bible writers wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.  Despite claims down through the centuries that the Bible is "full of errors", nothing could be further from the truth.  No men would have chosen to write this Book this way.

This morning's texts are John 18:1-27 and Matthew 26:36-46.  In them, we see some deeply flawed characters.  The John account leaves out Jesus' prayer in Gethsemane.  I mention Matthew 26 because, in his account, that is included. Taking both passages together, we learn that, after the last supper and Jesus' prayers in John 15-17, He and the disciples went to the Garden of Gethsemane. Judas was not with the group, having left during the meal to go betray Jesus to the Jewish authorities.

1.  The 11 Apostles
When they arrived in the garden, according to the Matthew account, Jesus asked the 11 to sit and wait while He went a little farther into the garden to pray.  Then, he took with him Peter, James and John (the 2 brothers, sons of Zebedee) and went a little further into the garden.  After about an hour of praying, He returned to find His disciples sleeping.  He woke them up, went off and prayed again. When He returned the second time, they were again sleeping.  This was repeated a third time.

2.  Judas Iscariot
There is not much more to say here.  Judas was a pretender, a false follower.  Through his betrayal of Jesus, his true colors were revealed.  I am still stunned that God the Father chose as His Son's betrayer one of the "inner circle", one of the Twelve.  The lesson here to me is one I learned in my early 30s:  it is hard to really know the heart of another person, regarding his or her salvation.  The decision is between that one person and God.  While you can look at the fruit of the person's life, only he/she and God truly know.  In the case of Judas, many believed him to be a devoted follower of Jesus Christ.  Obviously, that was not the case.  Jesus calls him "the son of perdition", a title which is used only twice in the Bible - - - once in John 17:12, in Jesus' high priestly prayer, and again in 2 Thessalonians 2:3.  The title is associated with demonic possession, something that can never happen to a believer because the Holy Spirit is in residence in the believer's soul.  The second time it is used is in reference to the man who will be possessed by Satan and will become the antichrist in the last days.

3.  Simon Peter
We see in John 18:10 that Peter, in a misguided effort to save the day, draws out his sword and attempts to behead the high priest's servant, Malchus.  He misses, and ends up cutting off his outer ear instead.  Luke is the only one of the four gospels that records Jesus healing Malchus' ear (Luke 22:51).  Jesus, in his reprimand of Peter, affirms that He is willingly submitting to "capture" and the "cup" He has been given by His Father to drink.  As the evening proceeds, we see recorded in John 18 Peter's denial of His association with Jesus, three times, as Jesus predicted would happen (Mark 14:27-31 and John 13:38)

"Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.
The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak."
Matthew 26:41

I'm glad that the Bible presents people exactly as they are.  As flawed as the apostles were, they went on to be used of the Holy Spirit to spread the gospel all over the world.  And, the follower of Jesus who wrote most of the New Testament also wrote these words:

"Oh what a miserable person I am!  Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death?"  
Romans 7:24

Yes, the spirit is willing to follow hard after God, but the flesh is like a prison that holds the believer back.  Paul's next words give the believer hope, however and lead us into the Thanksgiving season tomorrow:

"Thanks be to God, through Jesus Christ our Lord!"
Romans 7:25

Dear Father, in and of ourselves we are flawed characters, hopeless and helpless to rescue ourselves from the mire and muck of our sin.  But, I am so thankful that, because of Jesus, my Savior, my sins are forgiven, past, present and future.  Holy Father, Your restoration is abundant and always available.  Your Spirit lives in me, daily convicting me of sin, leading me to confession, praying before the Your throne on my behalf. 
I am so thankful that when You, God the Father, look at me, You view me through the shed blood of Your only begotten Son, and because of His blood, which has washed away all of my sins, You see me, not deeply flawed, but the way I will be when I am fully in Your presence, complete and spiritually whole.  Hallelujah!  In Jesus' name, amen.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Walking the Fine Line

Good morning!

In John 17:22-23, Jesus prays that His spiritual children, future believers, will be "one".  What does that mean?  And, why is this important?

I have given them the glory You have given Me.
May they be one as We are one.
I am in them and You are in Me.
May they be made completely one,
so the world may know You have sent Me
and have loved them as You have loved Me.

This theme appears more than once in Jesus' prayer.  Obviously, this unity of believers was very important to Him.

Just prior to the prayer for unity of believers, Jesus prayed that we would be sanctified (purified) by the Word of God.  This indicates that God's revealed truth is found in the Bible and that it should serve to both purify us and unify us.

At its core, true Christian unity must be anchored in God's truth, revealed in Scripture.  Herein lies the conundrum.  Over the years, believers have rallied around parts of Scripture and used those elements of truth to establish denominations of believers - - - Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, to name some.  Some have held so tightly to their denominational identification that they could not find any grounds for unity with other Christian sects.  I still remember the family horror, several generations ago, when a Baptist family member chose to marry a (gasp!) Methodist!!

Unity must have at its foundation the true doctrines of the Christian faith, things such as these:
1.  Jesus is God and is the only way to know God the Father.
2.  Jesus was born of a virgin, His mother, Mary.
3.  He lived, died, was buried and was resurrected on the 3rd day, and ever lives to make intercession for us.
4.  The Holy Spirit was sent after Jesus' ascension and lives in the heart of every believer.
5.  God is all-powerful, ever-present and unchangeable.
6.  God is holy and also merciful.
7.  The Bible is the Word of God, and is without error.
8.  Salvation is by the grace of God, through faith in Jesus, and is not brought about by our human efforts.
9.  Christian believers should walk in holiness, diligently seeking to root out sin in their lives on a daily basis.
All of these are major doctrines of the faith, on which most Christians can agree.  These (and probably some others that I can't bring to mind early in the morning), are the basis for Christian unity.

If another Christian denomination wants to have fellowship with yours, the measuring stick should be if they adhere to the major doctrines of the faith. It must be a holy union.  If that can be established, then we should partner with them to spread the gospel to an unbelieving world.

I was reading on Facebook the other day a post from an acquaintance who attended an "ecumenical" Thanksgiving service.  She mentioned that people of all faiths were in attendance, including some faiths which claim to be Christian, but aren't, because they do not profess that Jesus is God. (Scripture is very clear on this.  Any belief system that does not confess that Jesus is God is heresy.)  My acquaintance was rhapsodizing about how wonderful it was to "worship" with this diverse crowd of "faith people".

Well, let me tell you - - - not everyone was worshipping the same One, True God.  That is false unity. Should you continue to sit under preaching that is characterized by doctrinal error or use your spiritual gifts in a congregation where false doctrine abounds?  No.  

I was, many years ago,  a paid soloist in a church.  One Sunday morning, the senior pastor preached a sermon claiming that, while the Bible contains the Word of God, there are parts of it which are not the Word of God.  I won't go into the specifics here or go off on that line of teaching, but it's a dangerous thing when you start discarding parts of the Bible that you don't like.  I asked later in the week to meet with him and talk about this.  We met, and he made it clear that I had not misunderstood.  I resigned my position.  By continuing there, I was supporting heresy.

So, it is a fine line.  We can choose to segregate, isolate and alienate ourselves into less effective pockets of believers, holding as tight to our religious convictions as we do to major doctrines:   "I won't have fellowship with them because they take communion every Sunday!!", for example.  Or, we can band together with folks who do not believe/proclaim the truth or claim Jesus as Lord.  Both extremes are wrong.  It takes prayerful discernment to avoid each of these traps that Satan sets.  If he can get believers off-track in either of these mud pits, he has then effectively tainted or stopped the spread of the gospel.

Now, to the "why" of it all.  Why did Jesus pray that His followers would be unified?
1.  Because true, pure unity, based on God's Word, shows an unbelieving world a picture of the Triune God.  Father, Son and Holy Spirit are One.  They are unified; they are of "one mind". 
2.  Because the Jews were soon going to realize that salvation through Jesus Christ was not just for the Jews, but that it was for all people groups, and Jesus knew that the Jews, who had been for millennia very unified, would struggle with welcoming into the faith Gentiles, people they had been trained to openly reject.
3.  So that the world may believe... 
A fractured, arguing Church, distracted by petty disagreements, with church members coming and going from congregation to congregation because a brother or sister did something petty to "offend them" will not be effective in spreading the gospel.  Why is it that, in church, some of us expect perfection from our ministers, our elders, our deacons, our Sunday School teachers, our leaders - - - from everyone except ourselves?  It is an unrealistic expectation!  Rather than submitting to the Holy Spirit on such occasions and searching our own hearts, then behaving toward our spiritual brothers and sisters in a way that would please our Savior, we storm off in a huff, tell everyone who will listen how awful the congregation is "over there" and then go looking for a place where the "grass is greener".  And, then we have the absolute GALL to feel spiritually vindicated in the situation.  Do we really think that this pleases God?
If you will recall, the original disciples argued often about things like "who would be first in the kingdom of God" - - - petty, carnal arguments - - - yet, they did not leave to follow after another Savior.  Some of the other listeners did, but the apostles did not.  They illustrated that you can function in a local congregation without agreeing on every little, minute thing; the key is keeping Jesus Christ at the center of our worship, not ourselves.
Do you really think that all of this backbiting and devouring one another paints a picture of godliness to an unbelieving world?  When the fallen world that opposes our faith is more unified than we are, then we need to truly examine our hearts and adopt the humility and meekness, forgiveness and restoration which are our birthrights as children of Jesus Christ.
One of the reasons all this nonsense goes on in the American church is because instead of fighting FOR our faith, we fight each other, within our faith communities.  You can bet that the Christians in Iraq are not fighting over what the choir sang last Sunday.  They are praying to find the supernatural grace to fight for their faith, to the point of death, in many cases.

Oh, my brothers and sisters!  Let's not allow Satan to pick us apart, to carve us up as many of us will carve up that Thanksgiving turkey in a couple of days.  Let's cling to the foundational truths our Lord gave us, minimize the debatable (that which is open to individual convictions), and focus on loving one another.  Only then can we share Jesus Christ's love with an unbelieving world!

Dear Father, please deliver us from evil, from the evil deceptions and traps of the enemy, who seeks to break us up into little warring factions of prideful carnality. Please don't let the spiritual gifts you have given to each of Your children be squelched in such a manner.  Please give us the heart and mind of You, Father, the same heart and mind shared by Your Son and the Holy Spirit.  May we submit to You, bring our individual desires into conformity with Your will, and in purity, meekness,  humility and unity, walk resplendent!  In Jesus' name, amen.

Monday, November 24, 2014

What is Eternal Life?

Good morning!

I love John 17.  It is sometimes called the High Priestly Prayer of Jesus.  All through the New Testament we can read about how Jesus interacted with other people.  Here, in John 17, we get to read a prayer that Jesus prayed for Himself, His disciples and us.  Yes, us (vs. 20).  I'm amazed at how He loves me!

In the first verse, Jesus agrees with Father that "it's time" - - - time for Father to glorify Jesus so that Jesus can glorify Him.  The Message version says it like this:

"Display the bright splendor of Your Son
so that the Son may in turn show Your bright splendor!"

In verse 5, Jesus points out that this splendor, this glory is the same that He experienced with Father, before the world existed.  The Father loved the Son before the world's foundation (vs. 24).

 "From everlasting to everlasting, You are God!"
 (Ps. 90:2)

From everlasting to everlasting....we had a point of creation, a point of conception in the womb of our mother.  But, the human soul was created to exist forever, and each one will exist forever .... somewhere.  Each of our souls will live forever with God or exist forever in everlasting torment, in Hell.
Have you ever wondered what eternal life will be like?

Popular images are of angels floating on clouds, playing harps.  Those images are, for the most part deceptive.  Jesus tells us in verse 3 what eternal life is:  knowing God.

When everything else is stripped away, at the very foundation eternal life IS and will be an ongoing process of getting to know the limitless God, through His Son, Jesus Christ, forever and ever.

Salvation is not a prayer or walking down a church aisle or getting baptized.  Salvation of the soul is a beginning; it begins when a person says, "yes" to beginning a relationship with God through the One Way, His Son, Jesus Christ.  Then, for the rest of that person's earthly days, the relationship grows and deepens as the Holy Spirit works in each believer's heart to shape him or her more and more into the image of Jesus Christ.  In his classic, allegorical book, The Last Battle, C.S. Lewis describes it like this:  "further up, further in."

In eternity, that relationship just continues to grow and expand, forever, as we grow deeper into the glory of our Savior.  THIS is eternal life. Everything else in Heaven will be sprinkles on the cupcake.

Jesus emphasizes over and over in this prayer His "Oneness" with Father.  They are separate Persons, but they One.  The Holy Spirit, of course, makes up the 3rd Person of the Holy Trinity.  I just don't want you to miss that Jesus is GOD, Y'all!  He is repeatedly claiming equality with Father, because He IS God-With-Skin-On.

The Father put Jesus in charge of humankind, and out of that vast sea of humanity, God gave Jesus His followers - - those who said "yes" to Jesus in His day, as well as we who said "yes" to Him in our day.  Jesus prays the following for us:
1.  He asks Father to guard/protect us by His name, that we may be one in heart and mind (vs. 11)
(I'll talk more about this in tomorrow's post.)
2.  He asks Father that our joy may be completed in Him (vs. 13)
3.  He asks that Father protect us from the evil one (vs. 15)
4.  He asks that Father sanctify us (ongoing process of cleansing and purifying) by the truth.  Jesus proclaims that the Word of God IS truth.  (vs. 17)
5.  He asks that Father reunite us with Jesus, our Savior, after our earthly lives are over so that we may see the full impact of His glory and be with Him forever. (vs. 24)

Thank you, Lord Jesus, for not only praying to Father on my behalf, but also for inspiring the apostle John to write down Your prayer so that I can read it these 2000 years later, and be encouraged.  Oh Lord God!  Please work in me the answers to those things my Savior prayed on my behalf...deliverance from evil, unity, joy, sanctification!  Eternal life is in me, because You are in me. As this week of Thanksgiving begins, I am most thankful for this:  The resplendence of Your eternal life!  In Jesus' name, amen.

Sunday, November 23, 2014


Good morning!

John 16 is today's text.

Yesterday, while decorating the house for Christmas I saw an ad for a spruce-like wreath in the shape of letters of the alphabet.  In the picture three letters spelled out the word, "JOY".  I loved the idea and sat down to order the three letters, e-coupon at the ready.  There was free shipping - - - all was well!  Then, after ordering the J and the O, I went to order the Y.  Sad times....the Y was out of stock.
My JOY was incomplete, wasn't it?

With Jesus, our joy is never incomplete.  Does that mean that Christians should never be sad?  Of course not!  Yesterday I was sad.  Some days, I get weighed down by the burdens I carry for lost loved ones, and I am incredibly sad.  Yesterday was also the 17th anniversary of my dad's death - - - sad with missing him too.

In this chapter, though, Jesus talks about how we can have joy.  What IS that - - joy?  The Greek word is "chara", and it appears many times in the New Testament, often in conjunction with the words "love" and "peace".  The writer John mentions fulness of joy in 2 John 1:12, 1 John 1:4 and John 15:11, but Peter, Paul and Luke also speak of joy, in their New Testament books.  You are going to laugh at me, but a better translation of the word "chara" would be "rejoicefulness" (if that were a word), or "gladness".  Jesus indicates that joy is a state of heart/mind that people experience in the presence of His Holy Spirit.  We might think of it as "spiritual happiness".

In the human condition, "happiness" is dependent upon our circumstances.  Joy is not.  Joy has its anchor in the Holy Spirit, who is our constant companion.  Joy is always present in the heart of the believer, like a pilot light on a gas stove.  However, we must choose to draw upon it in times of sadness.  "Rejoice!" is a command to the faithful.  Paul says,

"Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say, rejoice!"
Philippians 4:4

So, being filled with joy is a choice we make to surrender to Christ and His Holy Spirit.  Here is a key to being joyful, given to us by our Lord Himself in John 16:23-24 - - -

“This is what I want you to do: Ask the Father for whatever is in keeping with the things I’ve revealed to you. Ask in my name, according to my will, and he’ll most certainly give it to you. Your joy will be a river overflowing its banks!
(The Message version)

The Lord knew (vs. 1) that there would come times of extreme persecution, sadness, trials, and that we would want to give up.  Yesterday, a friend shared with me that a dear one has been diagnosed with dementia.  That is a trial.  Another friend shared that she has been diagnosed with lupus.  Trial!

How can we have joy - - - that assurance of well-being that transcends life's sometimes ugly circumstances?

Jesus tells us to draw near to Him, to pray.  He tells us to align our will with the will of our Father in Heaven, to pray according to what He has revealed to us.  This is how we choose joy!

Some of us (me too!) don't know how to pray over some trying circumstances.  That's okay.  We are not meant to know or understand everything.  If we could or if we did, we could not walk by faith. Instead, we would be walking only by what we can see (as the unbelieving world does), or we would be walking according to our own puny, pitiful "power".

When we pray in faith, the Holy Spirit helps us!   Yes, He intercedes for us in our prayers, so that if we pray something ridiculous, He helps us straighten it out on the way to the Father's throne.  Isn't that a precious promise?  I didn't just make that up, Y'all.  Look at Romans 8:26-28 - - - oh glory!

Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.
The Message

So, no MATTER what comes - - - persecutions, martyrdom!, sickness, loss,  - - no matter. Joy is the command, and joy is the answer.  Oh beloved...He told His disciples this so that they would not stumble (vs. 1 - - Greek "skandalisthete") and fall over life's sometimes horrible circumstances. His message is the same for us today.

Oh, joy to the world!  The Lord has come!  Let earth receive her King.
Let every heart prepare Him room...and Heaven and nature sing! 

Dear Lord Jesus, thank you for reminding us how to respond to the hatred of the world, to the devastating effects of sin (sickness, accidents, death, to name a few).  Remind us to fly to you immediately and to pray according to Your will, as best we understand it.  You have promised that if we do this, our joy will overflow like a river that overflows its banks.  What a precious promise!  Fill us with Your Holy Spirit today, precious Lord.  We love you.  In Jesus' name, amen.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Hatred as Forced Normalization

Good morning!

Today's text is John 15:18-25.

18 “If the world hates you, be aware that it hated me first. 19 If you belonged to the world, the world would love you as its own. However, because you do not belong to the world, but I chose you out of the world, for this reason the world hates you. 20 Remember what I told you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they obeyed my word, they will obey yours too. 21 But they will do all these things to you on account of my name, because they do not know the one who sent me. 22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin. But they no longer have any excuse for their sin. 23 The one who hates me hates my Father too. 24 If I had not performed among them the miraculous deeds that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. But now they have seen the deeds and have hated both me and my Father. 25 Now this happened to fulfill the word that is written in their law, ‘They hated me without reason.’

I don't know of any mentally healthy person who actively desires to be hated.

"Hate" is a pretty strong word.  Like "love", it implies action but, in the case of hatred, action which harms.

As part of His last conversation with His disciples before the crucifixion, death, burial and resurrection, Jesus plainly told them that they would be hated for bearing His name (vs. 21).  He mentions both the world at large, and the Jews of that day in particular.  His words are applicable to His followers today.

When I was a young child, these verses did not make a lot of sense to me.  I was raised in a small community, where my family was known and my parents respected.  There was little crime.  Most people either were Christians or claimed to be.  I certainly was not hated for my faith.  At that point, I thought that this passage only applied to areas of the world openly hostile to Christianity - - - you know, those far-flung places where missionaries go.

But, now that I am older, the United States has changed.  The world has gotten "smaller", due to advances in communication and travel.  Human knowledge has expanded at an exponential rate. Communities and countries are becoming increasingly diverse.   As a result, the tenets of people's faiths have a larger, broader outlet for expression.  This brings conflict.

The world's answer to such conflict is to advocate something called, "tolerance" OR to advocate outright hatred toward opposing views.  Tolerance does not merely mean to respect another person's right to believe something different than you; it demands you go further than that and actually express your approval of it.  Otherwise, you are a "hater" of those with whom you disagree.  This is a distortion, a bludgeon that is used by some people to attack those with different beliefs.

To a point, respect is "do-able", as long as the other side's beliefs or practices do not harm you.  But, when the level of disagreement comes to governmental and legal levels, there is often no common ground.

If you are puzzled at the incredible dysfunction evident in our levels of federal government today, let me submit to you that at the root of the disagreement is disagreement on biblical issues.  Here are a couple that I see to be the most foundational:
1.  Liberty vs. Enslavement
I speak here of the right to achieve success on one's own or to be "taken care of" by the government. The latter produces people who are eventually so dependent upon the government for their survival that they are enslaved by that very dependence.  The latter situation also gives the governmental officials more power over the people they supposedly "represent".  The way the US was designed was according to the Biblical principle of individual freedom and self-government.  The basic idea was that people would govern themselves and live their lives free from governmental interference. This was a revolutionary idea at the time.
2.  Sexual Freedom vs. Sexual Purity
Some of the most vocal members of our society argue for "rights" that involve the "freedom" to kill babies in the womb or to demand the normalization of other perverse sexual behaviors.  I saw an article on a blog I follow last night about bestiality.  It was so vile that I could not finish reading it. That's next, folks - - - the forced "normalization" of bestiality or polygamy or the sexualization of young children.  On these issues, as is the case with others, there IS no common ground to be found. Tolerance only extends so far.

This is the current manifestation of hatred against Christians today - - - forcing us to accept positions/laws/practices which are contrary to the Bible.  And, this hatred against Christians will intensify.  More persecution of Christians is occurring world-wide now than at any other time since the time of Jesus Christ.

People who do not follow Christ hate God, Christ and Christians because of one reason:  their love of their sin.  Show me someone who hates God, and I will ask them, "What favorite sin are you holding on to?"  It may be the sin of prideful rebellion:  "No one (not even God) is going to tell me what to do!"  Or, it may be something more specific.  But, there is always a sin.

So, fellow believers, do not be surprised when you encounter hatred from the world.  Jesus predicted it.  But, I want to caution you - - - this does not give you the right to behave hatefully to others.  He walked in humility as He shared the truth with those who were lost.

We are to boldly, yet humbly, proclaim the truth - - - to resist attempts at forced normalization - - -  but, we are also to extend respect and the righteous love of God to those who hold a different set of beliefs.  When we react in a hateful, sinful manner, we hurt the cause of our Savior.

We do not belong to the world; we belong to Him.  Let's act like it.

Good morning, Lord.  It is not fun to be hated because of my faith in Jesus.  In the face of that, Lord, please give me the courage and the self-control that comes from the indwelling of Your Spirit, to react in a manner that pleases You, that brings honor to Your name.  I am sorry for the times that I have acted otherwise, and I appreciate Your forgiveness.  Sometimes, it is hard to know exactly how to respond.  Please give me and my brothers and sisters in the faith Your wisdom, Your insight, to know how best to demonstrate the love of Christ.  In Jesus' name, amen.

Friday, November 21, 2014

He is Divine and I am De Branch, part 2 - - - Chicken or Egg?

Good morning!

On Facebook recently one of my friends posted the following:
"I just ordered a chicken and an egg from Amazon.  I'll let you know."
For those who have not yet had enough coffee this morning, this post was a droll reference to that old adage/question:  "Which came first: the chicken or the egg?"

This reminds me of the conundrum, the second paradox, revealed in John 15:16-17.  Take a look at verses 11-17:

“I have spoken these things to you so that My joy may be in you and your joy may be complete. 12 This is My command: Love one another as I have loved you. 13 No one has greater love than this, that someone would lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are My friends if you do what I command you. 15 I do not call you slaves anymore, because a slave doesn’t know what his master[b] is doing. I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything I have heard from My Father. 16 You did not choose Me, but I chose you. I appointed you that you should go out and produce fruit and that your fruit should remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in My name, He will give you. 17 This is what I command you: Love one another.

"You are my friends, if you do what I command you", Jesus said.  Jesus' commands to His followers are not mere suggestions.  He is the second Person of the Holy Trinity, not some weak "good teacher".  When He commands us to do something, it is not negotiable.  We are His disciples, but He also calls us His friends.

Now we come to verse 16.  "You did not choose me, but I chose and appointed you to go fulfill a specific purpose in my kingdom."  Now, some adherents of the doctrine of "predestination" or "election" would have us believe that this statement (and other similar statements in Scripture) indicates we have no choice in our decision to accept Jesus - - - that there are those who are going to become Christians, no matter what, and that there are those who are doomed to Hell, no matter what.

Friends, this just flies in the face of both common sense and also the doctrine of grace that pervades God's Word in the New Testament!

The doctrinal "common ground" for me between these two seemingly contradictory positions is the teaching about God's sovereignty - - - His "All-Knowingness".    One of my favorite passages of Scripture that speaks to His knowing all things is Isaiah 46:9-10.

 I am God, and there is no other;
    I am God, and there is none like me.
I make known the end from the beginning,
    from ancient times, what is still to come.

He knows all things.  Therefore, while we are all given a choice whether or not to choose Jesus as Savior or to choose to follow Him daily, He knows beforehand what our individual choices will be.
That makes perfect sense to me, and I'm very comfortable with that belief.  It is consistent with the grace of God which compelled Him to die for us and His unchangeable characteristic of knowing all things, past, present and future.

So, which came first, the chicken or the egg?  Amazon has nothing to do with the answer.

What we need to focus on, as opposed to focusing on pointless arguments, is that our Savior has appointed us to:
1.  abide in Him
2.  bear spiritual fruit
3.  love one another

That should keep us busy enough and too busy to argue over chickens, eggs or anything else, for that matter.

Dear Lord, thank you for giving me the honor of becoming Your child, for "choosing" me by knowing from the very beginning of creation what my decision would ultimately be.  My desire today is to abide in You and bear much fruit for You, by loving others in Your name.  In Jesus' name, amen.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

"He is Divine and I am De Branch", part 1

Good morning!

Our text for today and for the next few is John 15:1-17, a passage in which Jesus uses a metaphor of agriculture to describe His relationship with His children.

1“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunesa so that it will be even more fruitful. 3You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.4Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
5“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.6If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
9“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14You are my friends if you do what I command. 15I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. 17This is my command: Love each other.

In the past I have used the word "abiding" as part of passwords for various technologies, because I love the way Jesus uses that word in this passage.  The NET Bible translation I've been reading, of late, translates it as "remain".  Others translate the word as "stay".

As I've mentioned before here in this blog, the Bible is full of paradoxes.  Two of those paradoxical themes surface here in this chapter, which is part of Jesus' last admonitions and encouragements to His disciples.  The other key theme in this passage is the theme of sacrificial love.  These words were spoken at or after the Last Supper and not long before the group left to go to the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus allowed Himself to be captured.

Let's deal with these one at a time.  Today, we will focus on the first paradox and then the key theme.

What does it mean to abide (remain, stay) in Christ, and will the Heavenly Father "cut me off" from Himself?

Theologians debate this issue, which is commonly called "losing one's salvation".  Remember that we must take all Scripture into account when interpreting its meaning on a given issue such as this.  The Bible is not going to contradict itself, when an issue is investigated as a whole, although it may seem to if a verse or two is examined alone.
One thing here is sure:  true believers in Jesus Christ, those who have had their hearts sealed by His Holy Spirit when they entered into that "possession" by Him, WILL "bear fruit" (evidence their faith in Christ by their good works).
It is as inevitable as when a branch on an apple tree makes apples.  Apple trees do not make pears or kumquats.  They make apples.  This does not mean that Christian believers will do all things perfectly all the time.  That is an impossible standard for a fallen/redeemed creature.  But, most of the time, their actions will testify to their relationship with Jesus because they long to please Him.
And, when they're actions don't,....those branches get pruned.  OUCH!  Yes, the Father "prunes" such disobedient branches, so that they will become more fruitful.
You may have seen in the wintertime trees or bushes that have been extensively pruned, not just thinned or trimmed, but cut back to the point where it looks like they will never recover!  If the pruning is done correctly though, and in the right time of year, the tree or bush eventually bounces back to be more beautiful and fruitful than ever before.
So what about verse 2?  That sounds pretty permanent!
The English phrase "cut off" is translated in the Old Testament from the Hebrew word "karet" (anglicized).
{My computer won't type the Hebrew characters.}  In all cases where it is found, the phrase indications a severe punishment, and in most cases that punishment is either banishment from the people group or physical death.
Here in John 15:2,  the Greek word which is translated "takes away", "removes" or "cuts off" is "airei."
(The New Testament was written in Greek, the scholarly language of Jesus' day, even among the Jews.)
Accordingly, it's use in this verse can mean one of two things:
a.  It can mean that the true believer who is living in sin can offend the Father to the point that He says, "Enough!" and {cuts off} ends that person's physical life.  He "takes them away", takes them Home.
b.  It can mean that the person was never a true believer at all.
The example that comes to mind here is Judas Iscariot.  He was a pretender.  Jesus issued to him the call "Follow me", and Judas appeared to sincerely answer "yes".  He traveled around with Jesus and the disciples and even held the important position of treasurer of the group.  But, and this is the crucial point - - - his motives were not pure and his heart was never transformed.  He followed Jesus for personal gain, because he thought that Jesus would overthrow the Roman government and that he would gain a place of prominence in Jesus' earthly kingdom.  He never understood or desired the lordship of Jesus Christ over his heart and life.  There was no "heart change".
I wonder if Jesus was thinking of Judas Iscariot when he spoke those words in verse 2.

I cannot accept the interpretation that this verse means the Father takes away the believer's authentic relationship with His Son.  That runs contrary to the teachings of Scripture elsewhere.

Ok, so, if we accept that the preceding is true, what does it mean to abide {remain, stay} in Christ?
If we want to be as fruitful as possible, we must make the conscious choice to draw near to Him and to submit our will to His.  In Luke 9:23, Jesus called this "taking up the cross daily" to follow Him. Recall, dear reader, that Jesus Himself did this!  Look at His relationship to Father! He regularly prayed - - - not just those quick prayers before He worked a miracle - - - but deep, sustained prayer where he withdrew from other people to a isolated spot and talked to Daddy for hours!  He drew near to Father and submitted His will to His.  This is how we "keep His commandments".  As we study the Bible, pray and align our will with His, He shows us how to love Him more - - how to keep His commandments.
This is what is meant in verse 16 - - - if we align our will with Father's, then He will give us anything we ask, because we are asking in harmony with His plans.

And, what is the commandment Jesus mentions here?  To love one another.  (Remember John 13:34-35?)

“I give you a new commandment—to love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 Everyone will know by this that you are my disciples—if you have love for one another.”

If we "abide" in Christ Jesus, we love our fellow man.  Again, Jesus is our example. (vs. 13)

"No one has greater love than this, that someone would lay down his life for his friends."

Of course, that is exactly what Jesus did for us.  He laid it down.
Jesus knows that in the days to come the disciples would be severely persecuted for His sake.  For this reason, He is urgently exhorting them to ... walk resplendent! 

Father, I know that I am "kept" in Christ Jesus by Your mercy and grace, not through my own efforts. Just as it was impossible for me to reconcile my sinful self to you apart from my Savior, Jesus, it is equally impossible for me to sustain that spiritual union.  And, I am glad this is true, because my pride would threaten to rise up and claim praise for my puny efforts.  No, Lord, "it is all about You". However, this day I choose to draw near to You and to love You, to abide in You, and show my devotion by loving on those others You give me the opportunity to love today.  Align my will with Yours, Blessed Father, so that I may walk....resplendent!  In Jesus' name, amen.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Are You Possessed?

Good morning!

What is an advocate?  The online dictionary gives the following synonyms:  backer, upholder, supporter, champion.

25 “I have spoken these things while staying with you. 26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and will cause you to remember everything I said to you.

In John 14:26, in the context of His remarks about leaving, Jesus tells the disciples that the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, will be sent to Jesus' followers by God the Father.  Jesus goes on to say that the Holy Spirit "will teach you everything and cause you to remember everything I said to you." In the same vein, Jesus says in verse 23 that He and the Father will "take up residence in" the hearts of those who evidence their love and devotion to Christ by obeying His words.  By saying these things, Jesus both predicted the Holy Spirit's coming at Pentecost, about 2 months later, as well as equating the Holy Spirit with Himself and the Father.  He established that the Holy Spirit is the Third Person of the Holy Trinity.

I don't think that most Christians, and I include myself in that group, fully understand what a tremendous shift took place in the way God related to mankind after Jesus' earthly ministry was completed.

Prior to the coming of the Holy Spirit to believers at Pentecost, the presence of God's Spirit was given to certain men and women episodically, for the accomplishing of His purposes.  We read about the Old Testament patriarchs, such as Abraham, Moses, and others, and learn that the Spirit of God came upon them to enable them to exalt His name among the people.  In those days, the people group assigned by God as the chosen ones, the keepers of the true story of the One True God, was the Jews. Although people (Jews and non-Jews) still came to be called "righteous" by their obedient faith in Jehovah God, there was no constant presence of God's Spirit in the hearts of the righteous.

One picture of this is found in the Garden of Eden, when the Lord God (Genesis 3:8) came to the Garden to commune with Adam and Eve, at certain times of the day.  Another picture is from the life of Moses, when God appeared to Him in the burning bush and later in the thunder of His trumpet voice and even later in His "still, small voice".

Jesus' coming to earth as Messiah and His finished work changed all that.  At the moment He arose from the dead, there was a mighty earthquake which raised not only Him, but also some of the long-dead in Jerusalem.  This earthquake also tore into two pieces, from the top to the bottom, the huge curtain that in the Temple separated the most holy place from the rest of the temple.  (Matthew 27:51-53)  Prior to this time, access to this most holy place (The Holy of Holies) where God's presence was said to dwell, was limited to one priest each year.  This rending of the curtain, sometimes called the veil, was a powerful demonstration that the separation between God and man had been forever removed, through Jesus.  "It is finished!", He loudly cried from the cross.

The Holy Spirit, called the Advocate here and the Counselor or Comforter in other translations, is God's gift to those who claim His Son as their Savior.  When an individual calls on Jesus to be his/her Lord and Savior, an irreversible spiritual transaction takes place.  At that moment, the Holy Spirit comes to dwell inside the soul of that person.  One way to look at it is - - - the believer becomes possessed by the Holy Spirit!

David, a faith giant, understood the relationship of the believer and God's Spirit.  Look at what he said in Psalm 139:7-10 - - -

"Where can I go to escape your spirit?
Where can I flee to escape your presence?
If I were to ascend to heaven, you would be there.
If I were to sprawl out in Sheol, there you would be.
If I were to fly away on the wings of the dawn,
and settle down on the other side of the sea,
even there your hand would guide me,
your right hand would grab hold of me."

In John 14:26, the Greek New Testament translates the word Comforter or Counselor as "parakletos", which we call "paraclete".  It means "one who walks alongside".

My friend and I love to go walking in the park for exercise, although the weather and our respective colds have prevented that for the past couple of weeks.  I really miss it.  The exercise is great, but the fellowship is better.  The Holy Spirit, who lives in each of us, gives us sweet fellowship.  We laugh, commiserate and pray with one another.  This is a picture of the Holy Spirit who lives in every true believer.

There's no way that, in this limited forum, I can share with you a complete treatment of the theology of the Holy Spirit.  Let me as I draw this blog post to a close share two of my favorite Scriptures with you, both penned by the apostle Paul.

2 Corinthians 1:21-22
21 "But it is God who establishes us together with you in Christ and who anointed us, 22 who also sealed us and gave us the Spirit in our hearts as a down payment."

Romans 8:14-17
14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.

The Holy Spirit is the "down payment" God makes on our eternal salvation.  It is His seal that indicates we are His, forever.  The Holy Spirit testifies to God the Father that we are His children. We have been adopted by God as His sons and daughters, and the Spirit enables us to call Him "Abba", which is a term of endearment similar to "Daddy".  As sons and daughters, we are joint-heirs with Jesus Christ.  Can you wrap your mind around that?

There is an old song that was a favorite of one of my great-grandmothers, (Granny Sue's, for those readers in my family).  Listen, in closing, to the words from "In the Garden"
(C. Austin Miles, 1912):
"And, He walks with me, and He talks with me,
And, He tells me I am His own.
And the joy we share as we tarry there, 
None other has ever known."

Dear Heavenly Daddy, thank you for possessing me all those many years ago and for the incredible joy of walking with you every day.  So, so, SO many times I have grieved Your Holy Spirit through my sin and willful disobedience.  Thank you so much for never leaving or forsaking me and for your precious forgiveness, which is like a healing ointment on a bad wound.  Your Holy Spirit is life's most precious gift, now and for eternity, and I praise You today for Your extreme mercy and grace. In Jesus' name, amen.