What is Your Source of Strength?
By Rob Nieminen
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”—Acts 1:8 (ESV)
Have you ever felt like a failure as a Christian? Perhaps you’ve been struggling with a particular sin for years, you aren’t able to summon the courage to share your faith with a coworker, or you just can’t seem to trust God with your finances. Whatever it is, believe me, I can relate to the feeling of blowing it again and again.
One day; however, a lightbulb went off as I was reading a book titled, The God I Never Knew. In it, author and pastor Robert Morris explained the role of the Holy Spirit in our lives, and he posed a simple, yet profound question. He said (and I’m paraphrasing), “If you’ve failed at living the Christian life, in whose strength have you been trying to do it?”
At that moment, I realized my power source was insufficient for the task of holy living. I was trying to live the Christian life in my own strength, even though I knew that in John 15:5 Jesus said that apart from Him we can do nothing. And in today’s passage of Scripture, Jesus instructs His disciples to go to Jerusalem and to wait for the Holy Spirit’s power to be given to them before going out into the world to share the gospel. In other words, we can’t be effective witnesses for Christ without the presence and power of the Holy Spirit.
After coming to this realization, I felt two things: relief and hunger. You see, when we stop depending on ourselves to do what God has asked us to do, there’s tremendous freedom in it. But it does require that we become hungry enough to seek His presence and to wait on Him to fill us. So, as I set aside time to fast and pray regularly, I asked God to fill me with His Holy Spirit—and that’s exactly what He did.
I have a long way to go in my journey toward sanctification, but when I stumble now, I know three things to be true: 1. I’ve probably defaulted back to my own strength in whatever area I’m wrestling with; 2. God’s grace is sufficient for me; and 3. His power is made perfect in my weakness.
Christian, if you are down on yourself for some repeated failure or sin today, take heart! Not only does Jesus love you and forgive you, He wants to fill you with His Holy Spirit so you can experience lasting freedom and joy. Just ask Him!
DIG: Why did Jesus tell His disciples to go to Jerusalem to wait for the Holy Spirit to give them power? What do you think would have happened if they had attempted to preach the gospel without it?
DISCOVER: Are there areas of the Christian life you repeatedly struggle with? If so, ask yourself honestly in whose strength you have been working.
DO: Spend time in prayer and fasting (if you are able) and ask God to fill you with the Holy Spirit. Don’t be discouraged if it doesn’t happen immediately; keep asking, seeking, and knocking and the door will be opened to you (Matthew 7:8; Luke 11:10).
By Pastor Dan Hickling
“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”—Mark 10:45 (NKJV)
You’ve probably heard the expression, “The more things change the more they stay the same!” This principle certainly holds true when we look at the first disciples of Jesus. They were simple human beings like the rest of us, and they revealed this as they vied for power and authority over each another. “Promote me in Your kingdom!” was the request that came to Christ as His earthly ministry drew to a close.
But Jesus had a wonderful way of taking that attitude and redirecting it in a way that they desperately needed (as do we). He eclipsed their desire for personal glory with His own example. Jesus pointed to Himself, the pinnacle of authority, and proclaimed His mission to serve others and give His life for them. This is the message of the gospel, and it produces two effects.
First, it’s a powerful reminder. Jesus sets the ceiling on personal ambition here. He, of all who have ever walked the earth, deserved to be served; yet the opposite occurred by Him serving humanity. Our fallen and defiled race didn’t deserve to so much as look at the Holy One, much less be served by Him! And this becomes even more mind boggling when we consider that His service culminated in Him suffering and dying for us!
Being reminded of this puts things in perspective, doesn’t it? The gospel reframes our selfish agendas as we consider what Jesus selflessly did for us. We suddenly see ourselves in a different light and don’t feel entitled to the applause and praise of other people. Humility displaces ambition, and the only vision of glory we see is the Lord’s.
Second, it’s a powerful motivator. Jesus had long-term plans for His disciples. It was His purpose to use these very men to carry the gospel message to the rest of the world. But He knew this extraordinary task had to be fueled by something extraordinary; and there is nothing as extraordinary as His own example. What He did would serve as sufficient motivation to carry them across the known world with His gospel.
Jesus has the same plan for our lives, and His example holds the same motivating power for us as well. Nothing can move us more to share His message than His having served us as He has. The Lord held nothing back for us, how can we hold back the good news of His forgiveness and salvation?
DIG: What prompted Jesus to point to His own example?
DISCOVER: What two effects does His example provide?
DO: Pray for a “refresher” of Christ’s example, then share what you’ve been shown.
What is it like to be around a person who likes to start arguments and pick fights?
When Paul writes that we should not be quarrelsome, he means that we should not be running around picking unnecessary fights. Instead, we should be kind to others. The Lord’s servants—that’s us!—are supposed to be peaceful. We are supposed to work to promote peace, not conflict.
Kindness is a choice. We need to choose to be kind. Our natural tendency might often be to argue instead of being kind, but this doesn’t make it okay. In every encounter we have throughout the day, we have a choice: We can be kind or we can be unkind. We can choose to get along or we can pick a fight. God wants us to choose kindness.
What about when people are unkind to us? What about those times when people are quarrelsome? Even in those instances, we are to choose kindness. We can walk away from conflict. Kindness is always an option.
Dear God, please help us to honor you by choosing kindness. Amen.
Matthew 3:11–12 “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I…. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire” (v. 11)
John Calvin looked to John the Baptist’s condemnation of the Pharisees and Sadducees as an example of how the church should deal with those especially hard in heart. He comments on Matthew 3:7–10 that “those whose habits of uttering falsehood to God, and of deceiving themselves, lead them to hold out hypocrisy and pretension, instead of the reality, ought to be urged, with greater sharpness than other men, to true repentance.” At times only strong confrontation will rescue the soul of a professing believer who has grown complacent and presumed upon the Lord’s grace (18:15–20; James 5:19–20).
Matthew 3:7–10 is clear that the Sadducees and Pharisees needed such upbraiding. These Jewish leaders during the Lord’s earthly ministry were often at odds because of their conflicting theological opinions. The party of the Sadducees was a kind of priestly aristocracy not against conforming to Roman customs and law. They also denied the bodily resurrection of God’s people, but the idea that they accepted only the five books of Moses as Scripture is probably mistaken. Like the Pharisees, they submitted to the entire Old Testament. On the other hand, the Pharisees added the oral law — traditions that people followed as a guide to the Torah, that is, the Scriptures. The Pharisees were not priests but scholars who affirmed the resurrection and were popular with the people. Despite their disagreements, both groups united against John and later, Jesus. After all, “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” Both groups had seats on the Sanhedrin, the ruling council of the Jews, and many of them apparently felt that Abrahamic descent guaranteed them a place in the kingdom (v. 9).
It is one thing to reject John the Baptist, but quite another to deny the One whom he precedes. John promises in today’s passage that the Messiah will baptize not just with water but with the Spirit and fire (v. 11), an image with double meaning. The long awaited flame of the Holy Spirit will purify the soul and eventually remove all corruption from those who submit to the Son of David (Isa. 1:24–26). But those who continue in their rejection of this king will find only a fiery destruction (Isa. 66:15–16; Matt. 3:12).
Coram deo: Living before the face of God
The purifying work of the Holy Spirit commences in the believer when he first turns to Christ. Sometimes the Spirit works on us in the fire of adversity, through which the Lord promises to take us for His good purposes (Isa. 43:1–7). When we face trials in our lives we have an opportunity to prove our faith and reliance on God. If you face trouble this day, consider how the Lord may be using it to purify your soul.
Planning your first international trip can be as daunting as it is exciting, no matter what age you are. A new culture to wrap your head around, different food, and a foreign language all present challenges. So, what should you consider? Here are 10 things to know before your first international trip.
A Group Tour Is a Great Idea
One way to cut your teeth on international travel is to book a group tour. Having the support of a reputable company or a group of likeminded, and sometimes more experienced, travelers is a great way to boost your confidence. Knowing that you have the back up of a guide or representative should things go wrong gives you peace of mind so you won’t spend your vacation worrying. Truly independent travel is incredibly rewarding, but you might feel more comfortable if you get a little international travel experience behind you before embarking on a solo trip.
You Must Do Your Homework
In a way, international travel is no different to any other kind of skill – you build up a knowledge base along the way but it doesn’t hurt to do some research before you set off. Buy a reputable guide book and use it to inform your planning. They have practical help about getting around and where to stay and unlike the internet, the author has already sifted through mountains of information and cut out what’s irrelevant. If you can, ask a friend or family member who’s already been, or engage with a blogger and ask for their tips.
You Might Need a Visa
Unfortunately, getting into some countries isn’t as easy as showing your passport and smiling nicely at the immigration officer. Visa applications might seem complicated, but in fact most are straightforward. You’ll need to fill out a form, supply a photograph or two and pay a fee. Occasionally you’ll need a letter of introduction, usually supplied by your hotel or tour operator. Sometimes you can apply online for an e-visa, or collect a visa on arrival. For other countries you might have to visit the embassy or send your passport through the post (if you do, make sure you can track its location). And of course, there are plenty of countries where you won’t need a visa at all.
You Should Prioritize Your Health and Safety
No matter how much you want to visit a place, your own health and safety has to be a priority. Double check governmental sites so that you can be sure the place you wish to visit is safe and make sure you’re informed of any issues that might affect your trip. Take out a comprehensive travel insurance policy which has extensive medical cover and sufficient cover for the possessions you intend to take. Don’t be paranoid, but be smart. Your first international trip should be one you remember for the right reasons. Consider opting for a destination which has a well-established tourist infrastructure. Independent travel can be much less intimidating if you can hop on a tourist shuttle rather than get your head round the local bus system, for instance.
You May Experience Culture Shock
On top of a language barrier, it’s worth considering customs and traditions. Culture shock can be exhilarating, but it can also leave you feeling like you’ve bitten off more than you can chew. Solo females might wish to get some travel experience under their belt before tackling parts of the world where gender equality is less developed. Similarly, LGBTQ travelers may prefer to consider local attitudes before deciding how comfortable they’re likely to feel. There’s no reason why anyone shouldn’t travel anywhere, but if it’s your first international trip there’s something to be said for easing yourself in gently and choosing a place where you can just be yourself.
Be Realistic When Planning
One of the biggest mistakes novice travelers make is cramming too much into the time they’ve got. That’s perfectly understandable, of course. Once you start your preparation you uncover a world of must-sees and it can be hard to be patient. But dashing around from one place to the next ticking off sights is no recipe for a successful international trip. Plan to spend at least a few nights in each place so that you can enjoy what you’ve come to see without rushing. Remember that what’s doable also varies from place to place. For instance, European countries might seem small by North American standards, but the density of building is significantly higher – and with that comes more to see per square mile and a whole lot more traffic.
Factor in Flight Time
Long haul flights take their toll. Step off an overnight flight, and if you’ve been traveling in economy and haven’t slept, you’re probably not going to be very receptive to sightseeing. Think about how much time you’re able to take off work and try to get the journey time in proportion. A place that’s a few hours away is a good choice for a weekend break, but if you’re going to be in the air for a while, the time you spend at your destination needs to be worth the increased cost and effort. Jet lag will also play its part. Traveling eastbound is generally thought to be harder for the body to adapt to, so if you’re jumping several time zones in that direction, don’t be too ambitious with your planning for the first day or two.
Learning a Few Words Helps
If you’re planning a trip somewhere that uses a different language, learning even a few words can help. Knowing how to say please, thank you, hello and goodbye will get you off on the right footing with those you come into contact with. It’s worth carrying a pocket-sized phrase book, or loading a translation app onto your phone or tablet. Another option is to buy or make a laminate card bearing pictures of the essentials, a bottle of water, a bus or a toilet for example, so that you can point to them if you need to. If you’re planning a multi-city trip, perhaps start where the language is the same or similar. For example, US travelers heading to Europe could begin in London before branching out to Paris, Berlin or Barcelona.
You Should Be Open to New Foods
Embracing a new culture might also be a shock to your stomach. There’s nothing wrong with embarking on a life of international travel in a place where you can eat something familiar once in a while. It’s exciting to try local food, and for many of us, it’s one of the great pleasures of international travel. But every once in a while, it’s good to throw on your culinary comfort blanket and grab a coffee from your favorite chain or a burger in a fast food joint. Just don’t do it every day!
Be Prepared for Long Flights
Finally, before you set out prepare yourself mentally and physically for a longer flight than you may be used to. That 10-hour trans-Atlantic flight is no joke, and you’re going to want to be prepared. That might mean downloading plenty of books and movies to keep yourself entertained, packing melatonin or an eye mask to help you sleep, or paying extra to upgrade your seat. Make sure you hydrate while in the air and get up and move every couple of hours to get the blood flowing. The last thing you want is for your long flight to wreck your body before you’ve arrived in your destination.
Enthusiastic advocate for independent travel and passionate geographer, Julia considers herself privileged to earn a living doing something she loves. When not roaming the globe, you’ll find her windswept but smiling, chatting away to her two dogs as they wander the Essex marshes.
God makes it abundantly clear in the Bible how he feels about debt: “Don’t withhold repayment of your debts” (Proverbs 3:27 TLB). Romans 13:8 says, “Let no debt remain outstanding” (NIV).God declares the same wisdom that most of us have intuitively: Debt is not a good thing.
When we look at where we are right now, most of us would be willing to pay as we go if we could just finish paying for where we’ve been. But God wants you to repay what you owe so he can bless you in your finances. In order to do that, you’ve got to commit to do it, and then you’ve got to have a plan to do it.
First, you have to commit to do it. You’ve probably noticed that it’s easy to coast into debt. You don’t even have to think about it. But you cannot coast out of debt. You’ve got to make a U-turn and start a long climb back up the hill. That requires a tough decision and a commitment to the time and discipline it will take to get out of debt.
It’s easy to feel alone in this uphill climb. But God knows right where you are! He understood this was going to happen a long time ago. He wants to help you with your problems, to strengthen you through your problems, and to grow you in the midst of your problems. He is with you in this challenge. You are not alone.
First you make a commitment, and then you make a plan.
Having a plan is essential. Getting out of debt is a step-by-step, day-by-day task. And it involves a word that most people hate: discipline. It means not doing this, not buying that, resolving to do this, deciding not to do that. The Bible says in Proverbs 21:5, “Good planning and hard work lead to prosperity, but hasty shortcuts lead to poverty” (NLT).
If you’re in debt, don’t ignore this warning from the Bible: Watch out for hasty shortcuts. If you’re in debt, you’re in pain and you want to get out of pain as quickly as possible. So you’re extremely prone to this temptation.
Don’t go after hurried shortcuts. Look for God’s plan. Make a commitment to the plan, and decide that you’ll do whatever it takes to accomplish your goals.
Imagine where you could be in a year if you took diligent steps to be free of debt. Then, resolve to take those steps every day, relying on God’s wisdom and grace to do the hard thing.