How to Thrive Through the Struggle: Come to the Well.

I know that there are many of you reading this from all over the world, and that our lifestyles and customs can be very different. I speak for myself and, I’m sure, for my sweet friend Jeanette and our entire Speak Comfort team when I say that as we think about you, when we pray for you, and while Jeanette and I write to you – even though we haven’t met yet face to face - we hold you in our hearts as one family in Christ, from every tribe, and nation and tongue (Revelation 5:9; 14:9).
Although the circumstances and places that we occupy are different, we are one Body, having partaken of the same Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:13), and our Father in heaven sees us as the Body of Christ, composed of many members, each with a divine calling and purpose.
As Jeanette mentioned in her wonderful post, “Shalom In The Midst Of Chaos”, often times she and I will write articles for you that miraculously wind up being on the same topic, not because we discuss it ahead of time but because we are writing “in the same Spirit.”
I’ll give you a little peek behind the screen and confess that sometimes I beat myself up a little bit because I don’t post as often as I imagine you would like me to, or even as often as I want to, but neither Jeanette nor I are in charge of how often we post, not because we are so busy (even though we totally are!) but because we’re not in charge of this process, Jesus is!
And so when I sit down to write as I’m doing now, it’s after the Holy Spirit has put me through his paces for a week or so, to get me ready to post what he wants to say to you. For example, I put together the image for this post on July 19, and I’m writing the content for the article today, July 29.
In between I’ve been focusing on you, praying for you, talking with the Holy Spirit, and anticipating the moment when my schedule would open up, the light would shine through, the angels would sing and the Holy Spirit would say – “You’re ready! You’re set! Now GO!” – and I would sit down and start typing! Hallelujah!
And before I do, I always begin by asking the Holy Spirit, “Lord, what do you want to say to your readers? What do you want them to know?” because this blog is for each one of you, to bring you the love of Christ, personally. It’s not about me, it’s about him and you.
 Two thousand years ago, Jesus sent out his disciples to walk out his mission for them using the most advanced technology of their time, which was the Roman roads and the shipping lanes. Today, we let our fingers do the walking via the most advanced technology of our day – the www. of the WorldWideWeb – because God never lets any opportunity to reach his beloved ones go to waste, and he will use every tool available in every age to get his love to you.
Ten days ago, when I put together the image for this post, I got it that the “flash” of the firework is pretty cool, and it’s July in the US, when we celebrate our Independence Day – but I wondered, why does the Holy Spirit want me to use the words that connect us with social media? Is it about news? Yes. But it’s about more than that.
In this world today we are becoming more and more “pseudo-connected” to each other through information that flashes around the world in less than a second. But it seems that the faster information travels between us the less connected we become, and the more time technology seems to give us, the less time we actually have to just stop and hear ourselves think.
So after saying all that, here’s what the Lord wants you to know…As the Body of Christ, we are all connected through his Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the original “internet”, where God’s Spirit plugs in to our individual spirits, and brings us together as one family and one body.
Listen to how the Message translation describes this connection to God and each other through the Holy Spirit:
 “You were all called to travel on the same road and in the same direction, so stay together, both outwardly and inwardly. You have one Master, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who rules over all, works through all, and is present in all. Everything you are and think and do is permeated with Oneness” (Ephesians 4:4-6).
How about that! God says that everything that he calls us to do is permeated with oneness. Oneness with him, and with each other, through his Holy Spirit.
And now, here’s the Newsflash! Where the pseudo-connectedness of social media can make us feel more isolated the more connected we seem to become, the gift of our spiritual connectedness that we receive through the Holy Spirit is designed by our Creator to connect us with the limitless source of his guidance, peace, power and protection – and to connect us with each other, as we walk by faith, not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7).
If you’re anything like me, you never go anywhere without your phone. And I mean, in the bathroom, on the bedside table, in the car, the office, the kitchen, the yard – it’s like an appendage!
But even so that connection never satisfies. In fact, it tends to create cravings that constantly need to be filled, and re-filled, and filled again and again. (I’m looking at you, Instagram, Amazon, Candy Crush!) And seriously, if we are dealing with an artificial craving that constantly needs to be re-filled, then isn’t that something draining us of precious energy?
This is where the good news comes in. Beloveds, God is good. All the time. And he wants to fill us, and re-fill us, with his goodness. God wants to pour his goodness into us, constantly. He wants us to taste and see that he is good (Psalm 34:8), and he wants us to develop a craving for the bounty that is waiting for us at his table. God does not drain us dry – he fills us full (Psalm 23).
Like the woman wanting to fill her empty vessel in John chapter 4, Jesus is waiting to meet us at the well, to fill us with Living Water, so that we never become thirsty for connectedness again. That lady had been looking for love in all the wrong places, until she met Love, Himself. And guess what, she didn’t have to earn it, deserve it and she wasn’t even expecting it, but when the time was right, Love came to find her.
And right now, wherever you are, the time is right, and Love, Himself, is waiting for you.
Set aside your empty vessel and receive what the Holy Spirit wants to pour into you. Jesus is closer than your phone, and he is ringing the bell of your heart. God is good. We can trust him. And as Jesus said to our sister at the well:
“…’Everyone who drinks this water will get thirsty again and again. Anyone who drinks the water I give will never thirst—not ever. The water I give will be an artesian spring within, gushing fountains of endless life’” (John 4:13-14 MSG).

Man on the Moon: 1969 – 2019

Did you know that before Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first men to walk on the moon fifty years ago, the Apollo 11 astronauts celebrated holy communion in space?
For more details on how this wonderful event took place, as well as how the world gathered together in one accord to pray for the safety of the crew of Apollo 13 and how the presence of God continued to touch the lives of the astronauts who journeyed into the vastness beyond earth's atmosphere, we hope you enjoy Paul Strand’s article “'Let There Be Light': How God Kept Appearing Over and Over During America's Missions to the Moon” at:
God bless you and all the courageous men and women who inspire us by going where no one has gone before.

How to Thrive Through the Struggle: Hope in God.

Does anybody else out there feel like life’s struggles have exploded off the charts recently? Little things, big things, medium things, relationship things, money things, health things, work things, all kinds of things - shaking, breaking, turning upside down and inside out - all-of-a-sudden and when you least expect it? Lord have mercy! Help us, Jesus!
What in the world is going on? Well, Beloved Friends, God only knows for sure, but here’s an end-times prophecy = It’s probably going to get worse before it gets better (See the book of Revelation, chapters 5 – 20), because God’s ultimate plan is to make all things new and set all things right. But before he can do that, he’s going to have to stir some things up to get all the cobwebs out of the corners and out from under all the sofas and flush out what needs to be cleaned up and cleared away. There’s a mighty restoration project going on behind the scenes, and it’s kicking up a lot of dust.
Paul saw this coming when he wrote in Hebrews 12:26-27, “When God spoke from Mount Sinai his voice shook the earth, but now he makes another promise: ‘Once again I will shake not only the earth but the heavens also.’ This means that all of creation will be shaken and removed, so that only unshakable things will remain” (NLT).
Now hang on, nobody panic. It’s all going to be ok for everyone who is in Christ Jesus. And for everyone who’s not here yet, come on in and come as you are, because there is plenty of room in the kingdom of God for everyone who accepts Jesus as their Lord and Savior. The point of needing a savior is that nobody but God is perfect. He will make a way for you. Jesus said, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28 ESV). God is good. We can trust him.
We who are in Christ have hope and help in unstable times. “The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. Those who know your name trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you” (Psalm 9:9-10 NIV).
And I love how the Message translation puts it: “God’s a safe-house for the battered, a sanctuary during bad times. The moment you arrive, you relax; you’re never sorry you knocked.”
And you’re never sorry that you opened the door of your heart when Jesus knocks: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me” (Revelation 3:20 ESV).
The world is coming apart at the seams because it is like an old garment, and God is making a way to finally make all things new (Mark 2:21; Revelation 21:3-5). But this restoration project takes time, and for a little while we are still in the midst of the shaking and sometimes we feel battered by everything that’s happening in the world today. Because let’s be real, it seems out of control, it’s depressing, it’s annoying, it can be dangerous and scary, and it just feels too darn hard to deal with. (Can I get a witness?)
But listen Beloveds, God knew it would be this way, and that it would feel like this. This is why he sent his Son, and why Jesus sent his Holy Spirit to abide with us forever. We are not alone. And God never intended for us to face the struggles of life alone, because in Christ, God has given us hope.
Our Comforter, the Holy Spirit, instructed the prophet Jeremiah to write this for us: “I know the plans that I have for you, declares the Lord. They are plans for peace and not disaster, plans to give you a future filled with hope” (Jeremiah 29:11 GW).
God didn’t bring us this far to only bring us this far. God has already made a plan to give us a future filled with hope. And that future doesn’t stop at the borders of this life but extends through the veil into an eternity filled with peace and joy in his presence. God is upholding us with his powerful right hand, and he intends to see to it that he receives all the glory due his name by demonstrating his love for his children, the beauty of his grace and the purity of his righteousness. Even when we stumble, he will not let us fall, and even when we are afraid, he never lets go of our hands to lead us out of the darkness and into his glorious light. And Beloved Ones, you can believe it, and you can rest in it, because God promised it and he cannot lie.
As Paul wrote to the Hebrews that God confirmed by an oath that cannot be broken, to we who are the heirs of the promise, “…so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf…” (Hebrews 6:18-20 ESV), as our Savior, High Priest and Advocate.
So Beloveds, even when the world is falling apart, even when it’s difficult and everything seems crazy, and especially when it’s so hard that we feel like giving up – let not your hearts be troubled, because God has got this. And not only has God got this, but God has got you. And me. And each one of us, who have been redeemed by the precious Blood of Jesus Christ, who is the most powerful being in the universe. God is Almighty, the creator of heaven and earth. We can trust God and confidently place our hope in him in these troubled times. He will lead us through every struggle and into his promise of a future filled with the joyful realization of good things to come.

Who is the Holy Spirit? – Part Eight: The Baptism of the Holy Spirit, Your Prayer Language

“Paul in Ephesus
And it happened that while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the inland country and came to Ephesus. There he found some disciples. And he said to them, ‘Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?’ And they said, ‘No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.’  And he said, ‘Into what then were you baptized?’ They said, ‘Into John's baptism.’  And Paul said, ‘John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus.’  On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking in tongues and prophesying. There were about twelve men in all” (Acts 19:1-7 ESV).
This story recounts that the twelve believers accepted salvation, were baptized in water and received the baptism of the Holy Spirit all at the same time. These three events: salvation, water baptism and the baptism of the Holy Spirit, don’t always happen together, and in fact, sometimes quite a long time can pass between them. As with salvation, how and when a person is ready to declare their faith in Christ through water baptism or receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit and their prayer language, is as unique to each individual as their heartbeat or their fingerprints. God’s timing is always perfect for each of us. He never hurries and he never hesitates.
In Romans chapter 10, Paul writes that righteousness that is based on faith declares that “…The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe with your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (v. 6-9 ESV).
Paul is saying that speaking, proclaiming and confessing are all specific elements of faith and salvation. When we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we confess it by praying the prayer of salvation. When we participate in water baptism, the pastor or minister who is assisting us will ask whether we have accepted salvation through the blood of Christ, and if we agree to be baptized in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit – to which we must answer an affirmative “Yes!” in order for the baptism to take place – otherwise it wouldn’t be a baptism, it would just be going for a swim. To proclaim our faith, we have to actually say something!
Paul declared that “Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, ‘I believed and so I spoke,’ we also believe and so we also speak, knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence” (2 Corinthians 4:13-14). Paul spoke what he believed, and he was a man who walked his talk!
We confess Christ with our mouths to be saved, we agree out loud to be baptized in his name, and when we receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit, we speak then, too, but it’s a little different because we won’t be speaking in our native language, but in our prayer language – the language of the Spirit. This language is described in scripture as “speaking in tongues.”
When we first receive salvation, we accept Jesus as our Lord as well as our Savior. We invite him to come into our hearts, and we give him dominion over our lives. We surrender ourselves into his keeping, for eternity. We do this because we realize that we can trust him, because he came and died in our place to accept the punishment for our sins. That, in a nutshell, is the gospel.
When we are baptized in water, we surrender again, but this time, we surrender to whomever is about to dunk us into the river, the creek, or the font.  We surrender to our minister, who represents our church family. Baptism washes away pride as it washes away the past. And just to put it into perspective, please remember that Jesus had to surrender to John the Baptist in order to be baptized in the Jordan River. And even for John, it was a moment of surrender. (See Matthew chapter 3.) We let go and let the river flow.
When we are baptized into the Holy Spirit, we surrender a third time, but this time it is to demonstrate that we so trust in the Spirit of God that we allow him to speak through us, in a language that we do not understand.
Did you know that the author of the book of James was also Jesus’ half-brother? That would be a wonderful topic to explore, but for now, let’s look at what he famously wrote about taming the tongue. He said that all of us stumble in many ways, and only a perfect man or woman is able to control every aspect of themselves.
James wrote that although we can bridle the strength of horses, and steer huge ships with just a small rudder, none of us has the wherewithal to control the power of the tongue, which he says is like a wildfire set loose in a dry forest, and full of deadly poison. (See James chapter 3.) We all know what he means because we’ve all felt the sting of unkind words which can be very painful, leaving lasting scars for the giver and receiver. Solomon wrote that life and death are in the power of our tongues (Proverbs 18:21). With our words we can either build up or tear down.
Therefore we can see that the one, single part of the human body that it is impossible for we humans to control – our tongues, as James said – would be the one part of our selves that God would ask us to surrender for his use and for his glory through the work of his Holy Spirit.
This is why the evidence of the baptism of the Holy Spirit is speaking in tongues. It is allowing God to control what it is impossible for us to control. Complete surrender.
I assure you, as Paul assured the church at Corinth, that God intends for everything, including speaking in our prayer language, to be done decently and in order, and in 1 Corinthians 14, Paul makes a distinction between speaking in tongues in our personal prayer time and speaking in the corporate setting of the church.
Remember that water baptism after salvation? That was where we also surrendered to our pastor. In salvation, we acknowledge Jesus’ headship over us, in baptism we acknowledge our pastor’s stewardship over us, and at the baptism of the Holy Spirit, we acknowledge the Spirit’s guidance and protection over us. All things God gives us for our benefit are used decently and in order, for his glory, through our surrender to his higher authority.
Paul stated that he prays in tongues with his spirit, he sings in the spirit and gives God praise in the spirit (14:15). He said to the congregation, “I thank God that I speak in tongues more than any of you” (14:18), which meant that he spent much more time praying in tongues in private than he did in public. When you read chapter 14, you can make that distinction too. Paul wasn’t speaking against the gift of tongues, he was speaking against using the gifts of the Spirit to show off in the church.
Every person’s relationship with the Holy Spirit is unique, and the gift of a spiritual prayer language that he gives each one of us is unique also. I have a lovely and precious friend who is an opera singer, who sings harmonies straight from heaven in the Spirit. Our wonderful pastor speaks over us in the Spirit when we come to the altar for prayer.  I’ve known mighty evangelists whose voices boomed out prophecies in the Spirit that were then translated for the congregation, and I’ve heard the Holy Spirit speak in almost silent whispers to comfort someone’s soul that were so private that only God could understand.
It is God, our God, who said:
“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven
    and do not return there but water the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
    giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
 so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
    it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
    and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”
(Isaiah 55:10-11 ESV)
The baptism of the Holy Spirit is a gift that God longs to give each of us. Our part is to simply pray and ask God to immerse us in his Spirit and help us to surrender to receive our prayer language. Sometimes we are sufficiently ready to receive this gift instantly, and sometimes God takes some time to prepare us to receive more of himself through his Spirit. Either way is perfect, and when we ask God for the gift of his Spirit, he will most definitely answer when the time is right, so just keep praying and praising in faith and you will be baptized.
After all, Jesus promised, “So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him” (Luke 11:13 NLT).