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    The Gift of the Spirit

    Many of us, perhaps unconsciously, try to win the love of God. We endeavor to be better people, to do more to spread His love and grace, to work harder. But God doesn’t love us because of the things we accomplish for Him; He loves us “because of his mercy” (Titus 3:5), as Paul wrote to Titus while he ministered on the island of Crete.

    “When He Has Come”

    When He has come, He will convict the world of sin . . . —John 16:8

    Very few of us know anything about conviction of sin. We know the experience of being disturbed because we have done wrong things. But conviction …

    The Unrivaled Power of Prayer

    We do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. —Romans 8:26

    We realize that we are energized by the Holy Spirit for prayer; and we know what it is to pray in accordance with the Spirit; but we don’t often realize that the Holy Spirit Himself prays prayers in us which we cannot utter ourselves. When we are born again of…

    Nothing of the Old Life!

    If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. —2 Corinthians 5:17

    Our Lord never tolerates our prejudices— He is directly opposed to them and puts them to death. We tend to think that God has some special interest in our particular prejudices, and are very sure that He will never deal with us as He has to deal with others. We…

    The “Go” of Preparation

    If you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift—Matthew 5:23-24 

    It is easy for us to imagine that we will suddenly come to a point in our lives where we are fully prepared, but preparation …

    We Would See Jesus

    As I looked down at the pulpit where I was sharing prayers at a funeral, I glimpsed a brass plaque bearing words from John 12:21: “Sir, we would see Jesus” (kjv). Yes, I thought, how fitting to consider how we saw Jesus in the woman we were celebrating with tears and smiles. Although she faced challenges and disappointments in her life, she never gave up her faith in Christ. And because God’s Spirit lived in her, we could see Jesus.

    John’s gospel recounts how after Jesus rode into Jerusalem (see John 12:12–16), some Greeks approached Philip, one of the disciples, asking,…

    "I Indeed . . . But He"

    Have I ever come to the point in my life where I can say, “I indeed . . . but He . . .”? Until that moment comes, I will never know what the baptism of the Holy Spirit means. I indeed am at the end, and I cannot do anything more— but He begins right there— He does the things that no one else can ever do. Am I prepared for His coming? Jesus cannot come and do His work in me as long as there is anything blocking the way, whether it is something good or bad.

    The Discipline of the Lord

    It is very easy to grieve the Spirit of God; we do it by despising the discipline of the Lord, or by becoming discouraged when He rebukes us. If our experience of being set apart from sin and being made holy through the process of sanctification is still very shallow, we tend to mistake the reality of God for something else. And when the Spirit of God gives us a sense of warning or restraint, we are apt to say mistakenly, “Oh, that must be from the devil.”

    Am I Blessed Like This?

    When we first read the statements of Jesus, they seem wonderfully simple and unstartling, and they sink unnoticed into our subconscious minds. For instance, the Beatitudes initially seem to be merely soothing and beautiful precepts for overly spiritual and seemingly useless people, but of very little practical use in the rigid, fast-paced workdays of the world in which we live. We soon find, however, that the Beatitudes contain the “dynamite” of the Holy Spirit.

    I Just Can’t Do It

    “I just can’t do it!” lamented the dejected student. On the page he could see only small print, difficult ideas, and an unforgiving deadline. He needed the help of his teacher.

     We might experience similar despair when we read Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount. “Love your enemies” (Matthew 5:44). Anger is as bad as murder (v. 22). Lust equals adultery (v. 28). And if we dare think we can live up to these standards, we bump into this: “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (v. 48).

    “The Sermon on the Mount produces despair,” says Oswald Chambers. But he saw…

    Open My Eyes

    The first time I went to the gorgeous Chora Church in Istanbul, I was able to figure out some Bible stories from the Byzantine frescos and mosaics on the ceiling. But there was much I missed. The second time, however, I had a guide. He pointed to all the details I had previously missed, and suddenly everything made perfect sense! The first aisle, for instance, depicted the life of Jesus as recorded in the Gospel of Luke.

    Sometimes when we read the Bible we understand the basic stories, but what about the connections—those details that weave Scripture into the one perfect…

    The Staggering Question

    Can a sinner be turned into a saint? Can a twisted life be made right? There is only one appropriate answer— “O Lord God, You know” (Ezekiel 37:3). Never forge ahead with your religious common sense and say, “Oh, yes, with just a little more Bible reading, devotional time, and prayer, I see how it can be done.”

    A New Language

    Many years ago, a hurricane forced my wife Miska and me to evacuate a resort in Cancun, Mexico, where we were celebrating our tenth anniversary. On our way to the airport, I got lost and stopped for directions. Unfortunately, I couldn’t understand the people who tried to help since they were speaking in Spanish. Finally, I called a bilingual friend and had them talk to the clerk at a service station. Fortunately, we made it in time for the last flight out that day.

    When Words Fail

    Not long ago I sent my wife Cari a text message using only voice prompts. I was on my way out the door to give her a ride home from work and intended to send the words, “Where would you like me to pick you up, old gal?”

    Cari doesn’t mind my calling her “old gal”—it’s one of the affectionate nicknames we use around the house. But my cell phone didn’t “understand” the phrase, and sent the words “old cow” instead.

    Fortunately for me, Cari immediately understood what had happened and found it funny. She later posted my text message on social…

    Participating with Christ

    John Calvin (1509–64), in his commentary on 2 Peter 1:4, suggests, “The purpose of the Gospel is to make us sooner or later like God . . . a kind of deification.” Many scholars have speculated about what the reformer meant here. Did he really mean that in some mysterious way we can share God’s nature? Most agree that Calvin’s words are based on the idea of being “engrafted” into God through Jesus. Because of Christ living within us through His Spirit (see John 14:20), believers can pursue spiritual growth and transformation.

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