Thursday, November 30, 2017

The Spirit of Prophecy in the Christmas Story

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Luke 1:46-49 "And Mary said: “My soul exalts the Lord, 47 And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. 48 “For He has had regard for the humble state of His bondslave; For behold, from this time on all generations will count me blessed. 49 “For the Mighty One has done great things for me; And holy is His name."


In today's post we want to consider how the Holy Spirit operated as the Spirit of prophecy in the Christmas narrative of Luke's Gospel. Revelation 19:10 explicitly refers to the Holy Spirit by this title: Then I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, “Do not do that; I am a fellow servant of yours and your brethren who hold the testimony of Jesus; worship God. For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” 

It seems appropriate to capitalize "spirit", since in the Greek text the word for "spirit" has the definite article "the". The 1599 Geneva Bible follows this pattern: "And I fell before his feet, to worship him, but he said unto me, See thou do it not: I am thy fellow servant, and one of thy brethren, which have the testimony of Jesus, Worship God: for the testimony of Jesus is the Spirit of prophecy."

The Person and work of the Holy Spirit in the Advent or first coming of Jesus Christ is a remarkable study. Luke mentions the Holy Spirit more often than any other Biblical writer in both his Gospel and Acts of the Apostles (some 50 times or so). Understanding the Holy Spirit's prophetic ministry aids to grasp the preparation for the incarnation of the Son of God. An immediate life-practical application is our need to be ready for Christ's second coming. Certainly, reception of what the Bible reveals about Jesus is made possible by the Holy Spirit. 

Before we move on, a question must be answered: what is prophecy? Prophecy exhorts God's people to be alert and ready. Prophecy reminds the Christ-follower of their true identity in Him. It urges us to action - no reaction. Prophecy speaks to the present - pointing us to what lies ahead. Prophecy reminds us from whence we came and to not repeat the mistakes of past generations of God's people. H.A Ironside once noted that prophecy is "pre-history", meaning that it describes events and persons before such comes to pass. The Holy Spirit is the chief agent behind all prophetic declarations in the Bible. 

The main thought of today's post

Truly then, the Holy Spirit is the "Spirit of Christmas". This post will aim to briefly explore how the Holy Spirit prepared Old Testament believers and history for Christ’s first coming. The Spirit of prophecy points to Christ. There is much application for our lives in considering these precious truths.

1. Promises to God’s people. 
Luke 1:67-80

There are a total of five prophetic songs in Luke 1-2. The second of these is that by John the Baptist's father - Zacharias. Luke 1:67 explicitly describes his response to John the Baptist's birth: "And his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Spirit, and prophesied, saying." Now we don't have the time to lay out the full meaning of this incredible prophetic utterance. However, a brief outline and some general remarks can serve to show how Zacharias saw John' the Baptist's birth is relating to God's promises to His people.

a. God's promise of a king. 1:67-71
b. God's promise of a blessing. 1:72-75
c. God's promise of a people. 1:76-79

John the Baptist was chosen by God to be the forerunner of the Messiah. Even from birth, the call of God was uttered by his father in this prophetic utterance. The Spirit of prophecy was rehearsing through Zacharias God's covenants to David (2 Samuel 7:13-16), Abraham (Genesis 12:1-7) and all the people of God (Exodus 19:1-6; 1 Peter 2:1-12). This prophecy was given to connect John the Baptist to what would be the One He would announce about to other people. 

God's promises comprise the first component of what we could term: "the drive-train of prophecy. Just as a car as a drive-train (a motor, a transmission to convert power from the motor to the wheels), so too does the Spirit of prophecy take God's purposes of eternity and bring them to bear in the lives of His people in time. Promises preserve God's people (2 Peter 1:3-4). God's promises point to His character as the God that cannot lie (Hebrews 6:18-20; Titus 1:2). 

So clearly, in Zacharias' prophetic song, we see the Spirit of prophecy calling to mind the promises of God. The Latin title for Luke 1:68-79 is "benedictus", meaning "blessing". Truly to know that God had kept all those promises made to His people from one generation to the next ought to speak volumes to us today. 

2. Person of Christ. Luke 1-2

We had mentioned earlier a "drive-train" of prophecy with which the Holy Spirit uses to convey the prophecies of Christmas - or any prophecy for that matter. The basis is God's promises. The focal point is the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ. The most famous song of the five songs recorded in Luke's Gospel is what is termed: "The Magnificat" in Luke 1:46-55. This title is due to the first word of the song, "magnificat" or "exalts". The purpose of Mary's song is to call attention to the One who now resides in her womb. Like Zacharias' song, we will only give an outline of the contents of what Mary exclaims as she visits her cousin Elizabeth. In other words, what is there about Mary's song that points to the Person of Jesus?

a. Mighty Savior. Luke 1:46-49
b. Merciful Lord. Luke 1:50-56

This little outline doesn't come close to doing justice to the richness of what the Holy Spirit is saying through Mary. Mary sees the events of both John's pending birth and the miraculous conception of the Christ-child in her womb as a fulfillment of God's promises to His people concerning a Deliverer. In Luke 1:50 we find Mary quoting from Psalm 103:17, a psalm that rehearses God's work on behalf of His people Israel. The Old Testament saint looked forward to the time when Messiah would come. Mary was as close to that as anyone could be: she was carrying in her womb the God-man! 

Several places in the New Testament remind us of the fact that the Holy Spirit, by way of prophecy, points to the Person of Christ (Luke 24:44; 1 Corinthians 10:1-4; 1 Peter 1:10-12; 2 Peter 1:20-21). The Holy Spirit's task is to point anyone and everyone to Jesus Christ - the great Savior and great Lord (see John 16:8-12). 

3. Purposes of salvation.  Luke 2:25-35

We have noted how the Spirit of prophecy utilizes the promises of God to point to the Person of Christ. As we look at one more prophecy in Luke today, we consider briefly the words of a man by the name of Simeon. By this point in the narrative, Jesus has been born. Simeon is described as having waited for the time when He would behold Israel's deliverer with His own eyes. Older generations of the past assigned a Latin title to Simeon's prophetic declaration in Luke 2:29-32, namely: "nunc dimittis". This Latin phrase corresponds to the first two words we can translate as: "now release". 

Think of how God's salvation purposes release those who receive such by faith. Release from guilt (Romans 5:1). Release from the penalty of sin (Ephesians 1:7). Release from alienation from God (1 Peter 1:18). Release from future judgment (1 Thessalonians 1:10). Release from Satan's tyranny (Hebrews 2:14; 1 John 3:8). Release from the sting of death (1 Corinthians 15:55-57). Simeon is expressing how beholding the Savior has set Him free. The purposes of salvation are concentrated in a Person - a Divine Person conjoined to a truly human nature. 

Simeon's words, though glorious, also contain a tone of warning to Mary and Joseph. In Luke 2:35 we read - "and a sword will pierce even your own soul—to the end that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.” The word translated "pierce" speaks of an object passing through something from one end to the other (such as Young's Literal Translation: "and also thine own soul shall a sword pass through." 

What possible event could Simeon be talking about? The only place where all of God's purposes are fulfilled - the cross. Jesus was there. Mary was there. John 19:25-27 records the pain of Mary's soul:

"Therefore the soldiers did these things.
But standing by the cross of Jesus were His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus then saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing nearby, He *said to His mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” 27 Then He said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” From that hour the disciple took her into his own household."

The shadow of Calvary stretched all the way back to Bethlehem's cradle. The Christ-child held in Simeon's arms would be the man with nail-pierced hands stretching out his arms. The one who carried Him in her womb for nine months would look to Him that would secure her faith for eternity. God's purposes of salvation found their place at the cross, their Person - Jesus Christ and their foundation - the promises of God. 

The Spirit of prophecy spoke through these events and people. Luke's record captures the wondrous reality of the Holy Spirit's work in making clear the advent of the Son of God in frail humanity. Would we, this advent season, heed His voice.  

Monday, November 27, 2017

The Holy Spirit's Identity And Ministries In Luke And Acts

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Luke 1:15 For he will be great in the sight of the Lord; and he will drink no wine or liquor, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit while yet in his mother’s womb.


Today's post is aimed at introducing the reader to Luke's Gospel and his second volume, the Book of Acts, regarding what He has to write about the Person and work of the Holy Spirit. The Person and work of the Holy Spirit is among my favorite subjects to study in God's Word. The inevitable outcome of studying the Person and work of the Holy Spirit is that of focusing upon the Person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. To enter into this rich truth requires the aid of Biblical authors that expound upon the Spirit's ministry and identity - especially His work within the arena of the New Testament. No other writer in either Old or New Testament writes as much about the Holy Spirit's working as the Holy Ghost as does Luke (over 50 references in all!) 

To keep today's post at a readable length, I will give the reader headings with accompanying scripture from Luke and Acts that refer to the Holy Spirit. May the reader find these to be encouraging, informative and insightful to the glory of Jesus Christ!

1. Filling of the Holy Spirit.
In events or persons associated with the life of Christ: Luke 1:15,17,35,41; 2:25; 3:32; 4:1

In the life of the church: Acts 6:3,5,11:24; 13:52

2. Conception
In the humanity of Christ: Luke 1:35

The believer's New birth: Acts 2:33,38; 8:15,17,19; 10:45-47; 19:2

3. Leading/prompting
In Jesus' life: Luke 2:27,27

In the church's life: Acts 1:2; 8:29; 11:12; 13:2,4; 15:28; 16:6; 19:21; 20:22,23; 21:4

4. Baptism
Jesus' baptism: Luke 3:16

Spirit's baptism (to inaugurate New Covenant church) promised on the day of Pentecost by Jesus: Acts 1:5

5. Anointing of the Spirit
Jesus' anointing: Luke 4:18; 10:21; 12:12

Anointing of the Holy Spirit in the church: Acts 1:8; 4:8,31; 5:32; 6:10; 11:28; 13:9; 20:28; 21:11; 28:28

6. Warnings of blaspheming the Holy Spirit
Jesus' warnings: Luke 12:10

Possible blaspheming by individuals: Acts 8:9-24

7. The Person of the Holy Spirit is God
Jesus says the Spirit to be fully Divine: Luke 12:10

The Holy Spirit is explicitly equated to be fully Divine: Acts 5:3,4,9

Friday, November 24, 2017

Getting Ready For Advent 2018

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Luke 2:25-32 "And there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; and this man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel; and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26 And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. 27 And he came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to carry out for Him the custom of the Law, 28 then he took Him into his arms, and blessed God, and said, 29 “Now Lord, You are releasing Your bond-servant to depart in peace, According to Your word; 30 For my eyes have seen Your
salvation, 31 Which You have prepared in the presence of all peoples, 32 A Light of revelation to the Gentiles, And the glory of Your people Israel.”


This coming Sunday will be the first Sunday of what Christians call the season of "Advent". The term "advent" derives from a Latin word adventus meaning "coming" or "arrival". Advent season developed in the history of the church to focus believers upon remembering Jesus' first coming and anticipating His second coming. In many churches, advent season is inaugurated by the lighting of what is called an "advent wreath", pictured below:
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Different variations on the wreath's design and meanings of the candles will differ from one Christian tradition to the next. In general though, there are four candles: three purple and one pink. The first two candles respectively stand for "hope" and "faith". The third candle is a pink one, symbolizing "joy". The fourth candle signifies "peace" or with some varying it by the designation "faith". The final "white candle" pictures Christ Himself as the culmination of advent. In some versions of the wreath, this fifth candle, often deemed the "Christ candle", is usually lit on a Christmas Eve service. 

In nearly all versions of the advent season that this author has read, there is near uniform agreement that the first candle, representing the first Sunday in advent, carries the theme of "hope". Some vary these meanings, assigning the first candle as the "grace" candle and the second candle as that of "hope". Nevertheless, we know that God in His grace saw fit to send the Son to be incarnated and decisively revealed in the babe in Bethlehem. 

In the opening passage of today's post, we find the Christ child brought to the temple for the sake of dedicating Him to the Lord. We mustn't forget that the little babe held in Mary and Josephs' arms was the Person of the Son, being truly God. As a truly Divine Person, the Son came to have His Personality united to true humanity - resulting in Him, as One Person, possessing two natures (truly Divine and truly human). To speak of a "nature" is to express how a Person expresses their existence. Christ, as a Divine Person, had and never ceased being truly God along with two other Divine Persons: the Father and the Spirit. All three Persons have always and will forever be the One God revealed specifically in scripture and generally in creation. The way in which the Son was united to this truly human nature and birthed forth as the Christ-child was by having his humanity conceived by the Spirit in the virgin's womb. Now the Son, from the moment of the virgin-birth conception, would come to express Himself in two-ways: truly God and truly man.

John's opening prologue in John 1:9 indicates that the Person of the Son was the "light" that lights every man, meaning that through the general revelation of God's Deity, the Son's glory was made known to all people, in all places and in all times. According to Bible scholar Mark Bailey of Dallas Theological Seminary, there is a manner in which every person has had awareness of the Son of God in a general sense. Mankind in general had rejected the light of God's glory in general revelation. John goes on to indicate that when Jesus Christ came "to his own" (i.e the Jewish people) via the virginal conception of His incarnated humanity, His own people rejected Him. 

Thankfully, grace was at work in those days, with John reporting these words in John 1:12-13 "But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God." 

All humanity was plunged into darkness after the fall of Adam and Eve in Genesis 3. God had the torchlight of the Gospel dotting history through the communication of the Gospel by way of His prophets. All of those torches pointed the way to "hope", "The Hope", the hope of salvation brought by no less than God Himself. As the Old Testament would progress, God began to give hints in passages such as Isaiah 7:14; 9:6-7 and Micah 5:2 that this coming one would not only be God, but God in human flesh. The light of uncreated deity would burn brightly on the frail wick of perfect humanity. 

Hence when Simeon was holding the infant Christ in His arms, He was holding "The Hope", advent's promise, Messiah, Son of God - Jesus Christ. Today as we think of Advent season 2018, let's reflect on how much hope Jesus Christ brings into the lives of those who trust in Him by faith. The wintertime months feature less light, and more darkness. As we journey further into history, times grow darker and shorter. Thankfully, whenever we think of Jesus Christ, the light of hope, His advent some 2,000 years ago provide "hope" in the midst of despair and light amidst the darkness. May His light of hope shine in your life today on this first Sunday of advent. 

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Observing How Jesus Gave Thanks

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1 Corinthians 11:24
and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.”

1 Thessalonians 5:18 in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.


Tomorrow is a day set aside to celebrate "Thanksgiving". Too often we rush by this important holiday to get ready for "Black Friday" or only focus on the food. Thanksgiving finds its purest expression in the Person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. I can think of no more appropriate person to look to give thanks nor learn from in giving thanks than Jesus Christ. 

In today's post I wanted to consider how Jesus gave thanks throughout his ministry.  How He gave thanks sets the pattern for the Christian in cultivating a thankful heart. Since giving thanks was common for Jesus throughout His earthly ministry, then it stands to reason that giving thanks leads to Christ-like-ness. Below I will list all the references we find in the Gospel accounts concerning the times in which Jesus gave thanks.  My prayer is that they edify and encourage you and me in our faith walk. 

Matthew 15:36
"and He took the seven loaves and the fish; and giving thanks, He broke them and started giving them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people."

Matthew 26:27
"And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you."

Mark 8:6
"And He directed the people to sit down on the ground; and taking the seven loaves, He gave thanks and broke them, and started giving them to His disciples to serve to them, and they served them to the people."

Mark 14:23
"And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, and they all drank from it."

Luke 22:17
"And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He said, “Take this and share it among yourselves."

Luke 22:19
"And when He had taken some bread and given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.”

John 6:11
"Jesus then took the loaves, and having given thanks, He distributed to those who were seated; likewise also of the fish as much as they wanted."

John 6:23
"There came other small boats from Tiberias near to the place where they ate the bread after the Lord had given thanks."

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Defining A Discipleship-Making Process In A Local Church

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Luke 14:26-27  “If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. 27 Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple."


In their landmark book: "Simple Church", Eric Geiger and Thom Rainer note the following observation about churches that have defined how they make disciples:

"Churches with a simple process for reaching and maturing people are expanding the kingdom. Church leaders who have designed a simple process to make disciples are effectively advancing the movement of the gospel. Simple churches are making a big impact."

The church where I serve is a remarkable church. God is doing exciting things. One thing I pray for and am compelled to lead God's church where I serve to understand is Christ's designated process for making disciples. Put another way: how can our church become more effective than ever in leading people to pursue a closer relationship with Jesus Christ in their spiritual growth? Now in a moment I will define what I mean by the word "disciple", but first, let's look at what Jesus says on this topic.

The above opening text in Luke 14 is one of two main chapters in Luke (the other being chapter 9) that lay out Jesus' master plan for discipleship. As we look closely at what Jesus taught, we discover that his disciples would take His teachings and expand them into the early church. The church in the Book of Acts grew because it understood its main task: make disciples of all the nations (Matthew 28:18-20).

So what is discipleship or a disciple? 

Discipleship is a God-centered lifestyle that pursues learning to live like Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit. Hence, a disciple is a person that pursues such a lifestyle. This act of embracing comes about in the reception of the Gospel by trusting in Jesus Christ as Savior, Lord and Treasure. As we follow Jesus' core teaching on this subject in Luke 14:26-33, we can note the following three traits of a disciple or follower of Jesus Christ:

1. Dying to self. Luke 14:26-27

2. Counting the cost. Luke 14:28-32

3. Radical follow-thru. Luke 14:33

Daniel Lim has written a wonderful book on church leadership entitled: "No Silver Bullets". In the book he lists out eight defining traits of a disciple that I find particularly helpful:

1. Bible engagement. 
2. Obeying God and denying self
3. Serving God and serving others
4. Sharing Christ
5. Exercising faith
6. Seeking God
7. Building relationships
8. Unashamed (Transparency)

Imagine a church that has this as the centerpiece of all they do. I myself as a Christian desire to develop in my walk with the Lord. I cannot do it without that God-called community of the local church. I thank God for the wonderful church family he has placed us with to serve. All of them together and individually spur me on to want to know Jesus better. 

At the church where I serve, we ought to be about the primary task of helping people grow wider and deeper in this process. Just as a lumber yard has a well-defined process for making boards and just as a pizza-place has a well-defined process for making pizzas - churches in turn must know how to execute Jesus most fundamental command "to make disciples" (Matthew 28:18-20).   

Discipleship making is the engine that must drive the automobile of vision

At our church, we spent a year working on a vision statement. A vision is God's preferred future that motivates His people to get from where they are to where He wants them to be. Every Sunday I recite the following statement as a way to welcome new people and to remind our people why we are together and where we are going: "Our vision at New Hope Baptist Church is living life together to bring new hope in Jesus to all people."

As I think of Jesus' Great Commission to his church "to go make disciples of all nations", the execution of the command must involve a well-defined process.  The engine that must drive this vision is our process to equip people in their journey towards knowing Jesus. This process is called “the discipleship-making process”.

Below are some thoughts that I plan on communicating to the church about our discipleship making process. One of the underlying assumptions is that our church has all it needs to achieve what Christ has called it to do. We have a complete Bible, the Holy Spirit and a godly group of converted persons ready to do God's bidding. The thoughts below are but a sample of how the process for making disciples at our church may unfold. Other churches will envision it slightly differently in the details. The underlying "big-ideas" can be cross-pollinated to other contexts.  

What ought to be the discipleship process at New Hope Baptist Church?

Hunger for God ignited by key gathering times. Lk 14:15-24

Whenever we read this opening parable told by Jesus, we find people making excuses as to why they cannot follow Jesus. Discipleship is a call. 

When I envision this first tenet of "hungering for God", I primarily think about our worship services, Sunday School and small groups as key moments that should motivate people to hunger more for God. When New Hope Baptist Church worships together – the desired outcome is to ignite a hunger for God. Our Sunday morning and Sunday night services represent the main places where this first element of “hunger for God” begins. We could also include Bible studies and prayer gatherings. Some good biblical texts that speak on this first point are Psalm 63:1-3 and Ephesians 1:18-20.

Ongoing Discipleship/Evangelism generated by Sunday School, small groups and mission opportunities. Lk 14:25-33

We've already defined discipleship at the beginning of this post. Discipleship and evangelism go hand-in-hand. Evangelism has been defined as: 

"Communicating the Gospel of Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit and leaving the results up to God."

So whenever we have gathered together as a church body to hear God’s Word and sing God’s praises  – hunger for Him ought to result. But how does one feed that hunger? Sunday school or any small-group is where relationships are developed. This component of the discipleship-making process generate life application in our church and 
community. A good sample of texts that illustrate this thought are: Acts 2:38-42; Hebrews 10:24-25

Prayer/Proclamation reinforced by corporate prayer-times, conferences and resources. Lk 14:34-15:3

In this third aspect of what I would classify as our church's discipleship-making process, we emphasize the need for prayer and the dispersion of God's Word through various methods. As we hunger after God and participate in ongoing discipleship and evangelism, what comes next? Prayer
and proclamation. Are we inviting others and going to others for the Gospel’s sake? Prayer is the greatest tool in the disciple’s arsenal. 

Proclamation takes the discipleship process outside the church walls. To reinforce prayer and  proclamation, we will emphasize prayer, conferences, print, video and audio resources. Colossians 4:2-4; 1 Thessalonians 5:17

Exaltation of Jesus expressed through unity events, music and the Word. Lk 15:4-32

As we round out the discipleship process that I pray will become even clearer at the church I serve, we consider exaltation of Jesus. This last leg of the process brings us full-circle. As we hunger after God and participate in ongoing discipleship and evangelism, as well as prayer and proclamation, where does the process end and begin again? Exaltation of Jesus. This is expressed through unity events. Hearing God’s Word, music, celebrating the Lord’s Table, working together in outreach/evangelistic events or baptizing new converts are examples of unity events. This goal feeds back into our hungering for more of God. I find it interesting that in the three main parables told by Jesus in Luke 15:4ff, all of them contain thoughts of "celebration" and "rejoicing". Whenever God is exalted, the joy of God's people spills over into wanting to hunger more for Him. As this cycle repeats itself over time, the church's influence and spiritual growth can only expect to deepen and broaden. Appropriate scriptures for these thoughts might be: Matthew 22:37-39; 28:18-20; Hebrews 12:1-2

Closing thoughts:

If the reader might take a second look at the above four points, each starting letter of each point spells out the word h.o.p.e, hence: hungering for God, ongoing discipleship and evangelism, prayer and proclamation and exaltation of Jesus. Jesus' most important command in Matthew 28 was to make disciples. Would it be that every church and all its members work together with their respective church leadership to do the bidding of the Master by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

What It Means To Hunger For God

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Psalm 34:10 "The young lions do lack and suffer hunger; But they who seek the Lord shall not be in want of any good thing."


In today's post we want to look at the oft-used metaphor of "hunger" in the Bible. This word-picture describes what ought to be the spiritual impulse of God's people. When it is said to "hunger for God", what exactly is meant? The opening text of today's post portrays a pride of lions on a hunt. David would had been familiar with such imagery. David was a shepherd before he was King of Israel. Shepherds often kept their flocks in and around the Judean wilderness where predators would stalk their prey. We can picture these young lions coming up empty. Their inexperience and lack of skills may had been the culprit. Whatever the case may be, these lions have growling stomachs that drive them on to pursue their quarry. For the believer in Jesus Christ, nothing less than the presence of God will do. So what can we say about hungering for God?

1. Hungering for God means desperation for God. 

Whenever one is physically hunger - they crave and crave, desiring to fill their bellies with the object of their cravings. In the physical realm, hunger drives a person to accomplish their labor. Proverbs 16:26 states - "A worker’s appetite works for him, For his hunger urges him on." The principle laid out in Proverbs is transferable to the spiritual realm. Christians ought to be a people that are "driven" by an intense desperation for God. David writes in Psalm 27:4 "One thing I have asked from the Lord, that I shall seek: That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord and to meditate in His temple." It is this hunger for God that fuel's genuine worship. David again writes in Psalm 63:1-3 "O God, You are my God; I shall seek You earnestly;
My soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You, In a dry and weary land where there is no water. 2 Thus I have seen You in the sanctuary, To see Your power and Your glory. 3 Because Your lovingkindness is better than life,
My lips will praise You.

Author Rhonda Hughey writes in her book: "Desperate For His Presence":

"People who are desperate for God's presence move beyond convenience and comfort. They have gotten hold of something in their spirit, and they cannot let go. For them, Jesus is not a religious concept-He is reality. The very fact that Jesus came to live among us is a clear example of His desire to be with us in a way that we can both understand and pursue."

Such a desperation for God characterizes the beginning of saving faith worked out in the human heart in salvation by the Holy Spirit. Jesus expresses this point in Matthew 5:6 "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied." So when we talk of hungering for God, we speak of a desperation for Him. Notice another description of this concept....

2. Hungering for God means desiring the things of God

Have you ever gotten in a conversation where the people are trying to decide where they'd like to eat? Someone might say a burger place, another "pizza" and a third "Chinese food". As the group attempts to zero down their options, some will appeal to whatever items accompany such choices. For example, a particular burger place has amazing sauce that can't be beat. The pizza people will evoke the heavenly crust or fresh toppings. For those craving Chinese food, there may be a desire for the tang of the freshly made "sweet-and-sour" sauce or the tenderness of the chicken-fried-rice. In other words, people will choose a food place by the things that accompany it.

I'm sure you have went to a particular restaurant known for its steak, or seafood or soups. In a seafood place, isn't it odd whenever someone decides to order a hamburger? Though they claim they wanted to go try out the seafood place, the "things" associated with such eateries are of no-interest. 

Whenever God's people gather together in a Sunday morning worship service or do a service project, there are certain "things" that ought to be craved. The so-called "things of God" are described as the objects of the spiritual appetite desiring to satiate spiritual hunger. Let me just mention three "things-of-God" that we ought to crave that demonstrates our genuine hunger for God.

A. Personal holiness. 

Jesus mentions how those who are converted in saving faith are blessed as a result of "hungering and thirsting for righteousness" (Matthew 5:16). Those who walk with God develop a hunger for holiness, since they are in fellowship with God who is holy (see Leviticus 11:44; 1 Peter 1:16). Personal holiness is exercised by wanting to obey God and expressed in how much we love others with the love of God. James 1:26-27 reminds us: "If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion is worthless. 27 Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world."

B. Person of Christ.

Those who claim to hunger for God ought to have a desire to know Jesus as clearly, nearly and dearly as possible. John 6:35 records the following statement by Jesus - "Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst."

C. Proclamation of the scriptures.

Whenever we hunger for God, one of the things that ought to be included in our cravings are the scriptures. Jeremiah writes for example in Jeremiah 15:16 "Your words were found and I ate them, And Your words became for me a joy and the delight of my heart; For I have been called by Your name, O Lord God of hosts." Or again, 1 Peter 2:2 "like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation." Whenever God's people gather together in a worship service or in small group Bible study, what ought to characterize such gatherings is a desire to dig. Going deeper into the scriptures is not so much concerned only with factual knowledge, but faith building. We can only live out our faith by its length in-so-far as we have given ourselves to the scriptures in their depth. 

So we've identified hungering for God has having to do with a desperation for Him and a desire for the things He emphasizes as connected with His character. Let's consider one final point.

3. Hungering for God means depending on God. 

This final thought covers how we cultivate an ongoing status of hungering for God. A simple illustration of this is in driving an automobile. We drive our cars to get from one place to the next. People depend on cars to travel long distances. What happens whenever we are depending more on our vehicles? they get low on gas. Along the way there are gas stations. Although not every car stops in at any particular gas station - yet, at some point, such a stop will have to be made. The car is designed to run on gas. The car's dependence on fuel makes having fuel a matter of necessity for its operation. Our dependence upon a vehicle depending on fuel translates into us needing to go to a gas station. 

Whenever we think of the Christian life, one thing God is trying to cure us of is "self". Self has been identified as "me-in-me". Whenever Christ comes into my life at saving faith, therein begins this battle between the self or flesh or "me-in-me" versus the new found nature of "Christ-in-me". Rather than remaining "independent", I must become "dependent on God". Such a state-of-affairs ensures that I will hunger for God. By depending on God, I discover that I have the drive to want to live for God (see Proverbs 3:5-6; Isaiah 40:31; Philippians 3:12-13). 

Closing thoughts

Today we noted some Biblical texts and other thoughts that lend aid in answering the question: "what does it mean to hunger for God". We discovered three answers. First, being desperate for God. Second, desiring the things of God (God's presence, the person of Christ and the preaching of the word). Thirdly, dependence on God. 

Saturday, November 11, 2017

More on the Holy Spirit's Ministry As Comforter

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John 14:16-17 "I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; 17 that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you."


In our last post we began considering the role of the Holy Spirit as "Comforter" or "Helper". We looked at the Old Testament background for this title - noting that reference to the Holy Spirit as "Comforter" or "Helper" asserts His divine nature as truly God (a divine nature He shares with the Father and with the Son). We then noted Jesus' teaching on this subject. Today's post aims to conclude this short study on this vital truth about the identity of the Holy Spirit. 

1. So why the word "comforter"?
When the King James Translators (as well as other Older English Translations, such as the Geneva Bible, 1560 and 1599 translations) were producing Bibles, many of the scholars were learned men who being theologians knew Latin. The Latin term that they knew of that was used in the Bible translation called the Latin Vulgate was the term "comfortis". This term is made up of two Latin words: "com" meaning "with" and "forte" meaning "to strengthen". Thus, you have likely heard of a "fort" or "fortress" - i.e a place of strength, protection. In music we will run across the term "forte", which means to make the music "louder" or "stronger". Thus, when the English translators were producing those early English Bibles, they simply took the best Latin word they knew and put English letters to it - hence the title "Comforter". 

In our day and age we often think of a "comforter" as someone who soothes and makes us fell better. Without a doubt the Holy Spirit can do those things and does by way of His peace for example (Galatians 5:22). However, when considering what the word "comforter" was intended to mean, as well as Jesus' terminology and the Old Testament revelation, we discover that the Person of the Holy Spirit is literally God Himself coming alongside and strengthening us inside. It is His comforting strength that urges us on to complete the work He has called us to do and to live the Christian life He convicted and converted us to at saving faith.

2. The Holy Spirit's comforting or strengthening ministry in the early church

In light of the last post and this one, it is hoped the reader will understand the significance of this title of the Holy Spirit. Luke's statement about the early church in Acts 9:31 is connected to  outcomes that are attributed to the Holy Spirit's comforting ministry:

a. Peace. Acts 9:31a "So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria enjoyed peace....".

b. Edification or "being built up". Acts 9:31a "being built up...."

c. Feared the Lord. Acts 9:31a "and going on in the fear of the Lord." This "fear of God" speaks of a deep reverence and desperate dependence upon God, fearing what life and ministry would be like if He were to remove His hand or if we were to do anything to provoke His Fatherly discipline.

These first few statements describe for us the effects that were taking place in the life of the church in the wake of Saul of Tarsus' conversion and the temporary reprieve from persecution that the church would enjoy as a result (compare Acts 9:1-22 and 9:23-30). But now what is the ultimate Cause or Agent behind the peace, the building up and the increased dependence or fear of the Lord in the early church? The next part of Acts 9:31 gives us the answer: "and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it continued to increase."

The first part of 9:31 views the mighty effects and activities that were taking place, whereas the second part takes us in the walls and behind the scenes and inside the people to see Who the source is - the Holy Spirit, the Mighty Comforter Himself. He is the One who "comes alongside" and Strengthens the church to do the bidding of the Lord. Peter's healing of Aeneus in Acts 9:32-35 and the raising of the little servant girl Tabitha in 9:36-43 following on the heels of the statement of the Holy Spirit's comforting ministry in 9:31 shows us Who is responsible for any ministry done in and among God's people.

Closing thoughts:

Were it not for the Holy Spirit, the Great Comforter or "Helper", there would had been no ability for Peter to say to Aeneus to "take up his bed and walk" nor for Aeneus to have such an ability. Also too, the same can be said of how the Spirit's worked through Peter to raise the little girl Tabitha from the dead. The Spirit of God is the author of life - both physically and spiritually. Because the Holy Spirit performs all these operations in the life of His people, it can be seen why He is the Mighty "Comforter" or "Helper" of the Christian.

Friday, November 10, 2017

The Holy Spirit's Ministry As Comforter

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John 14:16-17 I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; 17 that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you."


I'll never forget my fourth grade teacher. This remarkable lady had only been with our fourth grade class for a half year. Due to unforeseen circumstances, my teacher had to leave mid-year with another taking her place. Despite that short period of time, my teacher had helped me to discover a love for reading. With a span of three months, the teacher had raised my reading level. Her encouragement spurred me onto a life-time adventure of reading. I often think of the various people God has placed across my path. In my last count, I identified over 125 specific people (teachers, maintenance people, cooks, various leaders and so forth) that I can say helped me along my journey. 

Human persons can be used greatly of God in helping and providing strength. However, I can think of no other Person that grants more help, comfort or strength than the Holy Spirit. In today's post we aim to look at the ministry of the Holy Spirit as "the Comforter" or "Helper".  It is hoped that you will discover what God's Word has to say, and in the process learn what the Bible truly means by the Spirit's comforting ministry.

1. What the Old Testament has to say about the Lord as the "Comforter" or "Helper"

The Holy Spirit's work of comfort or help implies Him being no less than God Himself.  Jesus of course spoke to His disciples of how He was going to send to them the Holy Spirit as the "comforter", or as this term is rendered in other translations "Helper" (John 14:16; 15:26-27; 16:7). This promise from Jesus has in mind all of the references to Yahweh as the "Helper" or "Comforter" of Israel. In one of the first mentions of this title we read in Deuteronomy 33:26 “There is none like the God of Jeshurun,Who rides the heavens to your help, And through the skies in His majesty." Isaiah 49:8 is another example where the LORD identifies Himself as the "Helper" of His people: "Thus says the Lord, 'In a favorable time I have answered You,
And in a day of salvation I have helped You; and I will keep You and give You for a covenant of the people, To restore the land, to make them inherit the desolate heritages.'" 

Other Old Testament passages repeatedly use this title translated "Helper" to describe the LORD's redeeming work on behalf of and in the lives of His people. (Deuteronomy 33:29; Psalm 115:9; Isaiah 41:14, 44, 49:8; Hosea 13:9).

It is very clear as one studies the revelation of the Old Testament that the primary attribute of God that is disclosed by this word translated "Helper" is that of God's strength. The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament explains this word (Hebrew "ezer") translated helper:

"God exercises this strength on behalf of His people people against their foes. This is particularly well illustrated in Exodus 13:15. This word is used figuratively to describe the security enjoyed by the righteous....Thus in hymns of praise God's strength shows itself as His overwhelming majesty, and in the laments it appears as His helping protection."1 

So in all reality, the LORD as the believer's "Helper" is truly the One who strengthens.2

2. What Jesus teaches about the Holy Spirit as the "Helper" or "paraclete" or "comforter"

Clearly the Lord revealed Himself as the "Helper" or "Strengthener" of His people in the Old Testament. Such a title was clearly assigned to the God of scripture in the Old Testament, and continues on in Jesus' statements about Himself and the Holy Spirit. When Jesus says in John 14:16 that He will send to the disciples "another comforter" or as rendered in some English translations "another Helper", He is speaking of another who is of like-kind to Himself. The word Jesus uses to describe the Holy Spirit and Himself has the same meaning as the word we saw earlier in our study of the LORD's self designation in the Old Testament. 

Quite clearly the Divine idea of the God of the Bible being the strengthener and source of strength in His peoples' lives is ascribed to all Three Persons of the Godhead.3 R.C. Sproul in his studies on the Holy Spirit suggests that the word translated "comforter" (paraclete) referred to a family lawyer who was always on retainer and could be called upon to come to the aid and support of the family in times of need.

Without a doubt the Person of the Son, being truly Divine while being truly man, promised His disciples that upon his exit from this world in His ascension that He would send them another "Comforter". This "Comforter" or "Helper" would exercise the same level of strengthening ministry as Jesus. Case in point, consider John 15:26-27 “When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify about Me, 27 and you will testify also, because you have been with Me from the beginning." 

Similar words are mentioned in John 16:8, with the promise being that the apostles and ultimately every Christian will not be devoid of the power and presence of God as expressed by the Person of the Holy Spirit. We will look more into this incredible truth about the Person and work of the Holy Spirit in the next post. 


1. R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer, Jr., Bruce K. Waltke. Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament. Moody. 1980. Page 1597.

2. As an interesting side note, when God tells Adam that Eve is going to be His "helpmeet" in Genesis 2:20, the idea is that without her, Adam would be incomplete. The same Hebrew word "ezer" is used in Genesis 2:20 as we find throughout the self-revealed title that the Lord uses for Himself in describing the need of His people for His strength and help. The bringing of the woman to the man not only would complete him but actually supply strength - i.e help.

3. The word translated "comforter" or "helper" in John 14:16 is the word "parakletos" from the verb "parakaleo" from whence comes the sometimes used title for the Holy Spirit "The Paraklete". The word refers to someone who "comes up alongside and offers strength and support". Jesus Himself is described as being our Heavenly "advocate" or "Paraclete" in 1 John 2:1 who ever represents our interests before His Father in Heaven as the believer's Prophet, priest and King. Hence the Holy Spirit then is the believer's "paraclete" or "advocate" here on earth Who works in concert with Jesus, the believer's "Advocate" or "Strengthener" in Heaven.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

How God Grants Strength For The Journey - Daniel 10

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Daniel 10:1-3 "In the third year of Cyrus king of Persia a message was revealed to Daniel, who was named Belteshazzar; and the message was true and one of great conflict, but he understood the message and had an understanding of the vision. 2 In those days, I, Daniel, had been mourning for three entire weeks. 3 I did not eat any tasty food, nor did meat or wine enter my mouth, nor did I use any ointment at all until the entire three weeks were completed."


The book of Daniel is equally strong in its emphasis upon prophetic events, giving examples of godly piety and prayer. Daniel, the chief protagonist and prophetic author, was a man vested with prophetic gifting. Throughout the 70 years Daniel would spend in Babylon, we find him not only interpreting dreams and seeing visions - but also growing in prayer. In today's post we want to consider a very important lesson learnt upon one's knees in prayer - strength. 

Dr. Charles Stanley has noted that when we fight whatever battle on our knees, only then can we march forward on our feet. Strength is the lesson we find Daniel learning in his time of prayer to God in Daniel 10. What is the nature of the strength available to anyone in prayer? What ways can strength be delivered when God’s people seek Him in prayer? Let’s explore the answers together in today's post.

1. Presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. Daniel 10:1-9

In the opening verses of Daniel 10, we find Daniel brought in contact with a mysterious figure. The description of this figure in terms of his raiment and other characteristics matches very closely with the description of Jesus in Revelation 1:13-16. Scholars such as the late John Walvoord and H.A Ironside have suggested this is none other than a pre-incarnate appearance of the Son of God. The presence of Christ headlines Daniel 10. The prophet is in need of strengthening. 

When we turn to the New Testament, we find Christ promising to strengthen His church and its preachers. Matthew 28:20 records the promise Jesus made to his apostles and ultimately to the church: "and I will be with you always, even to the end of the age." In 2 Timothy 4:1-2a, Paul delivers the urgent command to young pastor Timothy: "I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: 2 preach the word." Christ's presence among and in His people and with His preachers provides strength. As Daniel would experience ministry from the presence of the pre-incarnate Son, he would have just enough strength to interact with a second visitor - an angelic emissary sent from God.  

2. Provisions of grace from God. Daniel 10:10-17 

When we consider this second interaction of Daniel in Daniel 10, we find this mysterious figure to be an angel. Angels are among the provisions of grace given by God to strengthen His people. Passages such as Psalm 91:11 and Hebrews 1:14 promise reinforcements from Heaven at key low points in our lives. The angelic messenger to Daniel details the battle waged during Daniel's three-week fasting and prayer session. How often do you and I ponder the spiritual battle waging while we pray? Daniel experienced a delay. What would had resulted if he had stopped at week two, one or on the first day? Prayer is an exercise of the soul desperate for God.

Angels of course are not the only provisions of grace. If for anything, angelic aid is a secondary provision, with several others leading the Divine gallery of provisions. Let the reader be reminded of what such provisions are:

a). Holy Spirit. John 14:16-17

b). Mercies. Lamentations 3:21-25 "This I recall to my mind, Therefore I have hope. 22 The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, For His compassions never fail. 23 They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness. 24 “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “Therefore I have hope in Him.” 25 The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, To the person who seeks Him."

c). Ordinances, such as the Lord's Table, 1 Corinthians 11:23ff. 

God mediates His strengthening grace through such energies that He disposes for the care of His people. By the symbols of the Lord's supper, the Person of the Spirit and those precious mercies - God's people are renewed. We as the sheep of His pasture are frail, weak and unable to perform His will apart from His will. We need His strength. We need the Person of Christ and the wonderful provisions of grace.

3. Power of God’s words. Daniel 10:18-21

The angel says the following to Daniel in Daniel 10:19 "He said, “O man of high esteem, do not be afraid. Peace be with you; take courage and be courageous!” Now as soon as he spoke to me, I received strength and said, “May my lord speak, for you have strengthened me.” This angel was delivering a message from God to Daniel. We find too the angels at Christ's empty tomb telling the women that "He is not here, for He has risen". 

God's words, whether delivered by angelic or human agents, deliver strength. The quality of scripture to provide spiritual strength to those open to it is attested throughout its pages (2 Timothy 3:16-17; Hebrews 4:12; James 1:17-18). Romans 15:4 notes - "For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope."

We all need strength for the journey. Thanks be to God for the strength we find in prayer to God. God strengthens His people in turn by the presence of Jesus, His provisions of grace and the power of His words. 

Saturday, November 4, 2017

The Spirit of God And The Excellency of God's Being Are Causes For Praise In Romans 11:33-36

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Romans 11:33-36 Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! 34 For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became His counselor? 35 Or who has first given to Him that it might be paid back to him again? 36 For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.


The last couple of posts have endeavored to answer the question: "why is God worthy of praise?" We have considered four reasons from Romans 11:33-35

Power of God
Revelation of Jesus Christ
Attributes of God
Inspired Scriptures

In Romans 11:36 we are taken to the peak of Paul's mountain of praise: "For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen." Only when God's grace is brought to the eyes and senses of the sinner can the conclusion be drawn: "God is worthy of praise". Moreover, the converted heart finds the power of God, revelation of Jesus, attributes of God and inspired scriptures as desirable. 

The above truths and the ones to follow are all brought to us through the Gospel. It is appropriate for Paul to close out his exposition on the Gospel by praising the destination and author if it - God Himself. Today we will consider two final reasons why God is worthy of praise to complete our acrostic p.r.a.i.s.e.

Spirit of God

In Romans 11:33-36 we find that the Holy Spirit is the Person within the Godhead who brings to us the greatness of God. This idea of the Holy Spirit being the Ambassador of God's Greatness has been written about in past posts, as referenced in the link here: 

Without the Person and work of the Holy Spirit brought "down" to us, the greatness of the Father and His Son Jesus Christ would never be personally accessible. Apart from the Holy Spirit, no person could truly say "God is great". The Spirit of God is the fifth reason for why we can say God is worthy of praise. Now let's consider one final reason...

Excellency of His Being

Romans 11:36 is truly like a little Bible in one verse. "From Him" speaks of God as Creator; "Through Him" points to His work in redemption and "To Him" brings us to His culminating history and eternity unto Himself through the second person of the Trinity, the Lord Jesus Christ. What if God had not created the world, or provided redemption or had plans to bring history to a close: would He still be worthy of praise? Yes. Why? 

God is great whether the world exists or not. This fact about God is what makes Him God: He in and of Himself is great and worthy of praise. Such a feature of God is what theologians refer to as His "necessary being". A necessary being accounts for the explanation of His existence by referring to Himself. All other beings must refer to something or someone outside of themselves to account for why they exist (a property called "contingency"). God's existence as a being that doesn't owe His existence to anything else is what theologians refer to as Divine Aseity. Aseity refers to God's self-existence, a trait the resides at the heart of God's necessary being. 

Another feature of God's necessary being is that He cannot be any different than what He is. No matter what description of the world we're talking about, God is God in every possible world. The excellency of His being, within Himself, apart from all other things, makes God worthy of praise. His actions only amplify this reality of God's greatness.

A third and final comment on God's necessary being is that it is impossible for God not to exist. Anything that is contingent or dependent upon and outside set of conditions to account for its existence doesn't have to exist. I who am writing this post am not necessary for the universe's existence. Would the universe had been still in existence whether or not I came on the scene? Yes. However, would the universe have to exist in order for God to be God? No. God is necessarily existent. Biblical passages such as 1 Samuel 15:25 and Malachi 3:6 assert God's immutability or constancy in nature. God's eternality of nature is praised in such texts as Psalm 90 and 1 Timothy 6:16. God, as a necessary being, must exist. It is impossible for God not to exist. These reflections on God's necessary being point us to the greatness of our God and why He is worthy of praise.

Closing thoughts

We have considered over the last few posts why God is worthy of praise from Romans 11:33-36. We looked at the following six reasons as to why God is worthy of p.r.a.i.s.e

Power of God
Revelation of Jesus Christ
Attributes of God
Inspired scriptures
Spirit of God
Excellency of His being