Our Example

The Holy Spirit has been at work from the very beginning of time. He was at work in Creation. See Genesis 1:1–2; Genesis 2:7; Job 33:4.
 
The Spirit was at work throughout the Old Testament period through leaders, prophets, judges, priests and kings. However, His work in their lives was temporary. The Spirit would come upon people to carry out God’s will, to give a word from the Lord, to show God’s power among His people, to give wisdom and supernatural ability. The Spirit’s activity in the Old Testament is powerful but less than complete. It’s no surprise, then, that the Old Testament looks forward to a coming age of the Spirit. See Ezekiel 36:26–27; Joel 2:28–29.
 
The coming of Christ would usher in the new and lasting age of the Spirit. Notice the Holy Spirit’s direct involvement in the coming of Christ (Luke 1).
 
See Luke 3:15-16. The key to understanding the life of Christ is to recognize the work of the Holy Spirit in His life. Once you see the relationship between Jesus and the Holy Spirit, you’ll understand how the Spirit will also work in your life.
 

For the Spirit who gifted Jesus to serve His heavenly Father is the same Spirit who will also gift you for service.

 
Jesus is the example, the model, of how we can live in relation to God. Although He was God, He chose to set aside what was rightfully His and take on the limited abilities of humanity (Phil. 2). Being limited within His humanity, Jesus relied upon the Holy Spirit as His source of wisdom and power.
 
We see the presence of the Holy Spirit in Jesus’ life in a clear and visible way beginning at the time of His baptism. See Luke 3:21-23; Luke 4:1-2; Luke 4:14-15; Luke 4:18-19.
 
So we see the pattern: the assignment was given by the Father, accepted by the Son, and fulfilled through the working power of the Spirit.
 
That pattern is exactly what will happen in our lives as children of God. Jesus fulfilled His assignment as a man filled with the Holy Spirit. He was a man in every sense of the word, but He lived beyond His human ability because He yielded His life to the work of the Holy Spirit.
 

Jesus’ life is an example of the way in which we can live a Spirit-filled life.

 
From beginning to end, the Holy Spirit was at work in the life of Jesus. While on earth, we human beings are always in need of the Holy Spirit in our lives. That was true of Jesus, and it’s true of us.
 
The Holy Spirit who came upon Jesus is exactly the same Holy Spirit given to you. See John 14:12.

See Acts 10:36-38. Jesus’ kingdom powers were at work in him because he was wide open to the Holy Spirit. The more we become like Jesus, the more dependent on and empowered by the Spirit we will be.
 
If Jesus could do his ministry only by the power of the Spirit, then you and I especially need to be more and more open to the Spirit. To be a follower of Jesus is to be open to the same Spirit to whom Jesus was wide open. The good news is that the Spirit at work in Jesus is available to us. The same gift He received from the Father is now the gift He gives to all who put their trust in Him. See Romans 8:9-11.
 
So come to Jesus, that He might show you the way to abundant life, Spirit-filled life.
 

Let’s follow Jesus, our example, and embrace the Spirit-filled life that He lived.

 

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Open Your Heart

 
Pneuma is the Greek word most commonly used in the NT for the Spirit. The word pneuma means wind, breath, spirit.
 
The apex of Christ’s work was to send the Holy Spirit to dwell in the heart of everyone who believes. For the Spirit takes Christ’s work on the cross and through the Resurrection and brings that work to bear upon our lives. Thus He completes His work of salvation in our lives. See Titus 3:4-7.
 

Christianity is meant to be a life fully surrendered and dependent upon the Holy Spirit.

 
See Acts 1:3-5, 8. The testimony of early Christians was that God’s people proclaimed the gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit and confirmed it with holy lives.
 
So dramatic was the coming of the Spirit upon the apostles that their enemies couldn’t deny the power and wisdom they displayed. See Acts 4:13. The Holy Spirit at work in the lives of the early Christians caused the watching world to be astonished.
 
Everything we read about the church in the New Testament centered on the power of the Holy Spirit working in the hearts of Christian believers. Sadly, for many of us, this has not been our experience. Take a moment and ask yourself this question: When was the last time I undeniably saw the Spirit at work in or around me?
 

The degree to which believers have ignored the Holy Spirit is directly connected to the dissatisfaction they feel with their Christian life.

 
Are you experiencing the spiritual doldrums? Does it feel like there is no wind in your sails? You can prepare everything in your life to go forward with God, but without the wind of the Spirit, there’s no movement. Without the Spirit’s power, we can’t follow God and experience life to its fullest. Do you need some wind in your sails? Invite the Spirit to breathe new life into your soul. See Acts 2:1-2.
 

Open your heart and allow the wind of Spirit to breathe upon your stalled-out soul to set your spiritual life in motion.

 
Read John 7:37-39; Zechariah 14:8. Every day during this feast, except for the last day, a priest stood in front of the temple with a golden pitcher of water and poured the water on a rock. This commemorated the water flowing out of the rock that gave the Israelites water to drink. In this illustration, Jesus is comparing Himself to the rock from which the water came to quench the thirst of the wandering Israelite nation (Exodus 17). See 1 Corinthians 10:3-4.

Jesus is declaring to the nation of Israel that He can satisfy their spiritual thirst. That He will pour out the Holy Spirit upon their thirsty souls. Jesus was foretelling the outpouring of the Holy Spirit which would come on the day of Pentecost following his death and resurrection.
 
See Acts 2:17. Gift of the Spirit had been poured out…like water. Are you in a spiritual drought today? Do you need the living water to be poured out into your life?
 

For those living in a spiritual drought, open your hearts to the life-giving water of the Spirit.

 

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Change Required

 
Change is required now to avoid an outcome you will regret later. Stopping to consider whether our choices will take us in the right direction is important.
 
Biblical Example: Moses & Jethro (Exodus 18:13–24)
 
The choice to stop doing something not only changed his circumstances but also changed the story Moses would one day tell.
 

Many times you must let go of what you’re holding onto in order to receive what God is wanting to give to you.

 
Just like Moses changed one thing and dramatically altered his story for the better, you can change one thing that will start you on the journey toward a better, God-honoring story. What does God want you to want? Based on on what God wants you to want, what does God want you to change?
 

You cannot stay the same and expect a different outcome. Change is required.

 
It’s always a good idea to keep your heart prepared for change. Because it happens to us all: a new step of faith, a new venture, a new opportunity. You’ll face something new or different, maybe something you didn’t see coming. You can’t avoid change. God may have planted a restless desire in you to serve him in some surprising way. Sometimes the best decision you can make is to go, even when it would be easier just to stay where you are.
 
Biblical Example: Abraham (Genesis 12:1-4)
 
It may seem obvious, but to go somewhere else, you have to leave where you are. To go somewhere else, you have to leave what’s known, what’s comfortable, what’s predictable, and what’s easy.
 

To step toward your destiny, you might have to step away from your security.

 
God’s promises are His assurances that He will be with you and He will finish what He started in your life.
If you don’t have the faith to go, if you let your fear keep you where you are, you won’t know the blessings you’re missing. And you sure don’t want to miss out on what He’s doing. You have to step out to find out.
 
Why are those steps of faith so hard, especially at first? Fear. Insecurity. Not sure how it’s going to work out. But those are just excuses. The bottom line is you don’t have faith. See Hebrews 11:6. You don’t have to have the faith to finish; you only have to have enough faith to start. You need only enough faith for one step: that very first one. But change is required.
 

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The Start of Something New

 
The first day of 2020 lies before you. Do you see a repeat of 2019? Or do you see a fresh batch of 365 days in which you can try something new, take a risk, make a difference, live with purpose and intention?
 
Here’s something I know. God is already in 2020. He’s already at work in the possibilities, potentials, purposes and, yes, problems that await you in 2020.
 
In essence, God is inviting you to join Him in 2020. Will you accept His invitation? Or will you try to pilot yourself through the New Year? See Isaiah 48:17; Jeremiah 10:23.
 
Accepting God’s invitation into the plans He has for you in 2020 will require intention and action.
 

Living without God-led intention in 2020 can lead to unintended destinations.

 
See Proverbs 5:6.
 
Every day, all day, all week, all month, all year we make one small choice after another. And those choices just keep accumulating, each one written into the rest, forming the manuscript that is our life story.
 
If today’s story is not the story you want at the close of 2020, you will need to review what got you here today. Then prayerfully consider what needs to change, move your intention into action, and write a different chapter.
 

It’s the small choices no one sees that result in the big differences everyone wants to see.

 
Biblical Example: David Defeating the Philistines (1 Chronicles 14:8–17)
 
If you want to take aim at the life story God wants you to tell, you have to submit to His Spirit and make small, life-changing choices and then act on them daily. The best decision you can make is always the next one.
 
Each decision should move you closer to becoming all that God made you to be, to turn your life in the direction of a story you’ll be happy to share AND that honors God.
 
Your story is not over. It’s not too late to change the story that you’ll tell one day. Even though you may not like the plot so far, with God’s help, you can transform your story into one you’re not ashamed to share.
 
While past events cannot be unwritten, they can be redeemed. You can’t change your past, but God can help you rewrite your story and change your future.
 
See Zechariah 4:10.Behind every great story there’s always another smaller story. Rarely does success come without time, discipline, and hard work. If you’ll open your heart, I believe God will gently lead you, step by step, decision by decision, perhaps not to the life you’ve always wanted but to the life that he’s always wanted for you.
 
The best way to find a meaningful framework for your story is to pursue an eternal perspective.
 
What story do you think God wants you to tell about your life? When you look into 2020, where do you think God wants you to be?
 
See Psalm 25:12, 14.
 
A small decision today could change your near future. What discipline do you need to start practicing to head toward where God wants you to get? Just one thing. What is one new thing that you need to start this year?
 
See 1 Kings 20:13–14. If we want to see what God will accomplish, we have to move toward him. God will finish it, but you have to start it.
 
So what’s your one thing? What one discipline do you need to start so that you can write the story God wants you to write? See Proverbs 16:3.
 

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Love

 
 
At its essence, Christmas is a love story. It is the greatest expression of God’s love for us.
 

God’s wonderful love is both given and proven to us through Christmas.

 
See John 3:16. Giving is what love does. Giving is how love expresses itself. Giving is the heart of love; and therefore, giving is the heart of God.
 
What was God’s motive for sending us Christ? Love = Agapē describes an active, self-giving love which, in goal and action, consistently seeks the highest good of another.
 
This is a love that is willfully given with no conditions and no expectations in return. Real love is selfless and sacrificial. It knows that it is more blessed to give than receive. See 1 Corinthians 13:4-8.
 
Read 1 John 4:7-17.
 
(Vs. 7-8) God is love. He is the source of all love; therefore, love comes from God. It has accurately been said that “love does not define God, but God defines love.” Love is God’s very essence. It is not one of God’s many activities; instead, all of his activities are filled with love.
 
Only those who have experienced the new birth are able to have the love described here. It comes from God as a gift.
 

Our love for God is best proven in how we love others.

 
(Vs. 9) God’s love is best understood through action.
 

God put His love on display that first Christmas so that no one could miss it.

 
His love was shown among us! His love came right to where we live. The great proof of God’s love, as well as the motive for our love in return, is that he sent his only Son, who is life, so that we could live through him.
Believers must not only say that they love, love must be shown by their actions. This also follows God’s example, for he showed his love by a very clear and definite action.
 
(Vs. 10) Of all the different kinds of love, God’s love—agape—is the truest and most enduring. It speaks of compassion, kindness, unselfishness, and sacrifice. This kind of love motivated God to send his Son to the world to die for undeserving sinners. The love relationship was initiated by God; people had nothing to do with it. How could we? All people were totally dead to God—dead in sin. He loved us even though we were totally unworthy of his love. See Romans 5:8.


God loves all people, but his love does not soften His view of sin.

 
God’s love does not overlook our sin. Instead, His love came right in the midst of our sin to provide a final solution for our sin. It was God’s love for us, and his hatred of sin, that motivated him to send His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.
 
(Vs. 11-12) Because believers are born of God, they should resemble their Father, who is love. The way God loves people—sacrificially, unselfishly, completely—provides the example for how believers should love each other. When we can love in this way, God’s love is made complete in us. But we cannot do this without the abiding help of the Holy Spirit.
 
(Vs. 13-17) Jesus Christ, sent from God the Father, embodied love and demonstrated that love in his life on earth. Such love does not come naturally for humans. We are not born with it, neither can we learn it. Believers receive God’s love only through the Holy Spirit.
 

The Holy Spirit at work within us should lead us to live and love like Jesus.

 
God’s love always involves a choice and an action, and our love should be like his. How well do you display your love for God in the choices you make and the actions you take?
 

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Joy

 
Read Luke 2:8-20.
 
What is joy? The emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires (Merriam-Webster). The definition of joy as used in the Bible is closely related to gladness and happiness, although joy is more a state of being than an emotion.
 
The world tells us that joy comes from something within you, something you do. In other words, you alone are responsible for your joy. However, the true joy that God wants us to experience is not found within yourself.
 
The true joy that God wants us to experience in life is actually a gift. No, not the kind you find wrapped in fancy paper and placed under the Christmas tree. This gift was wrapped in swaddling clothes and placed in a manger.
 
The joy of God came to focus in human history and became individually available to us in Jesus Christ. The theme of joy runs through the entire biblical account of the coming of Christ. The most familiar passage is the angel’s announcement (Luke 2:10-11).
 

Joy is both a gift of God as well as a response to the gift of God.

 
True joy is not something I can produce with my own resources. It is a gift of God. That gift that offers great joy is the gift of His Son, Jesus.
 
Luke 2:11 states “as Savior has been born to you.” The English word “to” is implies action, a movement toward a place, person, or thing. It also is used to indicate contact or close proximity. This sounds a lot like the process of giving a gift to someone. You move the gift in their direction (an action) and it needs to be within their reach (close proximity). That is exactly what God did for us when He gave the gift of His Son.
 
Joy isn’t something you earn, deserve, or conjure up. Joy is a gift of God given to everyone who will receive it in all its simplicity.
 
Joy is also the response to the gift of God. When we believe in Christ, accept Him as the Savior of our sins, and choose to follow Him as Lord we will have joy.
 
Joy is defined as possessing what one desires (Webster). Placed within each of our hearts is a desire for relation with our Creator. That relationship is now only made possible through Christ Jesus — our Savior and Lord. When we choose to accept Christ as Savior of our sins and Lord of our life, we will find true and lasting joy — we possess that which we truly desire.

The Apostle Peter explains the joy of our salvation in Christ in his first letter. See 1 Peter 1:8-9.
 
Joy does not come from what you do — it comes from what Christ has done for you. Joy does not come from the right set of circumstances — it comes from trusting in Christ regardless of our circumstances.
 
Joy is both a gift of God as well as a response to the gift of God — Jesus Christ.
 
Jesus speaks of the joy He gives in one of his last moments with His disciples before He was arrested, beaten, and crucified. See John 15:9-11.
 
Is your joy complete today? It can be. But it won’t be completed by trying harder, acting happier, or thinking happier. It won’t be completed with the next purchase, experience, or event.
 

Joy is found in receiving God’s greatest gift of all, Jesus our Savior.

 

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Peace

About 700 years before the birth of Christ, the Prophet Isaiah spoke of the peace that Jesus came to bring into our world. See Isaiah 9:6-7. Luke, in his Gospel of the Life of Christ, writes about the night that Jesus was born which included a special message from angelic messengers. See Luke 2:4-14.
 
“Peace” means harmonious relations and freedom from disputes; a state of well-being, completeness, and wholeness.
 

Peace with God.

 
The first step toward peace with God is to recognize that there is enmity between man and God. Acknowledge there is a broken relationship between you and God. The second step toward peace with God is to acknowledge that God has provided a solution to our broken relationship through His Son, Jesus. See Romans 5:1-2. Jesus came as the messenger of peace with God and the means to peace with God. See Ephesians 2:17-18.
 
The third step to peace with God is to accept Christ as our only Savior and Lord. See Colossians 1:19-20. The proclamation of Christmas is “God and sinners, reconciled.” Jesus is the perfect mediator between God and man and has come to restore peace with God.
 

Peace with God does not come from what you do. Peace with God comes from what Jesus has done for you.

 

Peace with each other.

 
There is no peace on earth because there is no peace with God. The further we are from God, the greater our relational strife. But once you have made peace with God, you can and will make peace with others. See Ephesians 2:14-16; Romans 14:19.
 

If you are not able to make peace with others, it will affect your peace with God.

 

Peace within our broken world.

 
Jesus came to bring peace unlike anything this world can offer. See John 14:27.
Jesus came to bring peace that is personal. See Ephesians 2:14; John 16:33.
Jesus came to bring peace that guards your heart and mind. See Philippians 4:6-7.
Jesus came to bring peace within amidst the chaos without. See Isaiah 26:3.
 

Peace on earth is not found within what this world has to offer. It is only found within a relationship with Christ, the Prince of Peace.

 
See Romans 15:13.
 

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Hope

The hope of a coming Savior was a golden thread woven throughout the 4,000 years between the birth of our sin and the birth of our Savior. These glimpses of hope were like vistas or viewpoints throughout the long journey of the Advent of Christ. Likewise, on your journey of life, pause to take in the viewpoints of hope along the way.
 
Viewpoint #1: Adam & Eve. Adam and Eve had just sinned against God. In the midst of dispensing the consequence of sin, God surprises us with hope. See Genesis 3:15. He speaks of a Savior — One who will crush the head of Satan and yet in the process suffer for our sin. Even in this darkest moment of man’s sin, God speaks hope.
 

In the darkest moments of your sin hope shines on a Savior who forgives.

 
See Colossians 1:13-14.
 
Viewpoint #2: Abraham and Sarah. See Genesis 12:2-3. Abraham and Sarah would not see this hope fulfilled for over 25 years. But even through the long waiting, God kept His promise and Abraham and Sarah. The Apostle Paul wrote about the hope we have that God will keep his promises. See Romans 4:18-21. The promise given to Abraham would find its ultimate fulfillment in Jesus (2,o00 years later).
 

In your longest periods of waiting, hope endures in the faithfulness of God.

 
See also Galatians 4:4-5.
 
Viewpoint #3: Kingdoms of Israel & Judah. The love and commitment of the people of God had grown cold. They would continue to compromise their beliefs and yield to the influence of surrounding cultures. God speaks a promise through the Prophet Isaiah even in the midst of chaos and compromise. See Isaiah 7:14; 9:2; 9:6-7.
 

In times of cultural upheaval and compromise, hope focuses on God’s power and authority.

 
Viewpoint #4: When God Seems Silent. The Lord confronts the post-exilic Jews through the prophet Malachi. But embedded in his prophetic warnings, there is a message of hope. See Malachi 3:1. After Malachi’s prophecies, the Lord goes silent (400 years). But God is still at work even in the silence.
 

In times when God seems silent and distant, hope assures us of His presence.

 
This period of silence ends with the most remarkable assurance of His presence — the birth of Christ, God in the flesh. See Luke 1:26-33.
 

The Advent of Christ teaches us that we can live with expectations of divine hope even in the darkest of times.

 
See Romans 15:13; Hebrews 10:23.
 

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Suffering

Suffering is the product of the universal sin of mankind. See Genesis 3:14-19.
 
Suffering may be the result of your life choices. See Galatians 6:7-8.
 
Suffering is not necessarily judgement for personal sin. Job 1:1; 2 Kings 13:14.
 
Suffering is not a permanent problem, it will end. See Revelation 21:3-4.
 
Suffering may be allowed to test your faith. See Job 1:8-12; 2:3; 1 Peter 1:6-7.
 
Suffering may be allowed to bring glory to God. See John 9:1-3. Your response to suffering to those that are watching may also serve as a testimony of God’s grace and help in your life which would cause others to trust in God.
 
Suffering can lead us to spiritual growth. See James 1:2-4; 2 Corinthians 1:8-9; Genesis 41:52. The only way we can grow and bear fruit through suffering is in properly responding to our suffering — not reacting to it. Responding requires intention. This means that you approach suffering from God’s perspective on it. Rather than reacting to our suffering through anger or losing heart, we fix our eyes on Jesus. See 2 Corinthians 4:16-18.
 
Suffering reminds us that we serve a God who suffered with us and for us. See Isaiah 53:3-5.
 
Suffering prepares and equips us to comfort others who are suffering. See 2 Corinthians 1:3-4.
 
Suffering does not mean God is withholding His love from us. See Romans 8:35-39.
 
Why does Jesus still bear the scars on his resurrected body? To remind us that God is not only aware of our suffering, He was willing to submit to it to allow us to overcome it.
 

God never wastes your suffering. He redeems it for a greater purpose.

 

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Faith

See Hebrews 11:6. So what is faith? Perhaps a great way to narrow down the true Biblical definition of faith is to begin by stating what faith is not. Faith is not a force, a formula, a form of religion, a feeling or a fortune.
 
The Bible actually gives us a very specific definition of faith and then some examples of what it looks like in real life. See Hebrews 10:38–39; Hebrews 11:1.
 

Faith: Confidence God is and will do what He promised to do.

 
We don’t believe in God or His promises because of faith. We believe God is and that he keeps his promises because of evidence. The writer of Hebrews gives us the evidence…from creation, from the ancients, from those who are being persecuted because of their faith.
 
See Hebrews 11:2. I want to zoom in on one of the ancients, one of the heroes of the faith — Abraham. See Hebrews 11:8–12.
Why did Abraham do these things? Because God made him a promise. See Genesis 12:1-3; Galatians 3:16; Galatians 3:26-29.
 
God keeps His promises. They are evidence that He is faithful. The promise all the ancients looked toward was Jesus. The greatest promise that we now look back to and, at the same time, forward to is Jesus. The writer of Hebrews tells us the crucial role that Jesus plays in the faith of His followers. See Hebrews 12:1-2; 2 Corinthians 1:19-20.
 

Faith is confidence God is and will do what He promised to do through Jesus Christ.

 
Jesus is all the evidence we need. In the early church, the Apostles always connected faith to the evidence of the cross and the resurrection of Jesus. Read: 1 Corinthians 15:1-20
 
The death, resurrection, ascension of Christ is the foundation of my faith in God and His promises for me. Your faith is not anchored in some mythical, “once upon a time in a land far, far away” kind of story. Your faith is anchored in the person, Jesus Christ. Example of faith in Jesus (Matthew 8:1-3).
 
Faith is not based on you, it is based on Christ. True faith leaves the Lord in control. Faith isn’t a force that we use to manipulate God. Faith is a firm confidence in the goodness, the wisdom, and the purposes of God.
 

The validity of your faith is not based on the results from God, it’s based on your resolve in God.

 
Some have “lost faith” in God because they had faith, they prayed, and God didn’t answer the way they thought he should. Is that actually faith? See Hebrews 11:39. How could the be commended for their faith if they did receive what had been promised? Because their faith was not in getting from God, their faith was trusting in God — His plans and purposes; His grace and His goodness.
 
Faith is confidence God is and will do what He promised to do through Jesus Christ. What is the greatest promise you can and will receive through faith? Your salvation. See Romans 5:1-2.
 
Faith in God is best demonstrated through obedience to God.
 

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