Receiving Help from the Helper

Receiving Help from the Helper

            Are you tired out, burned out or worn out?  At this moment do you feel all alone to the extent you just want to give up on life?  These are all symptoms of one who is crying out in the middle of a frustrated life.  Such a cry is actually a cry for help.  It is a cry for the helper, the Holy Spirit to come and hover over the hopeless mess like He did in Genesis 1:23.  There we read, “Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.  And God said, “Let there be light and there was light.”

There have been so many times when I have felt totally overwhelmed.  As everything appeared so dark and messed up I would cry out, “Dear God please send the Holy Spirit to come and hover over this confusion in the same way He did when the earth was formless and empty.”  Then as I surrendered the situation to Jesus I would see the miraculous unfold as the Helper, the Holy Spirit, did His work.

I believe that at this hour God is desiring to bring light into the darkest most hopeless areas of our lives.  No longer do we need to feel that we are carrying a burden that seems overwhelming. Hasn’t God spoken in Isaiah 43:19, “Behold I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth; do you not perceive it and know it, and will you not give heed to it?  I will even make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert” (Amplified Version).

In Genesis 28 we find a man by the name of Jacob.  Jacob is on a journey to a new way of life.  Things did not look very hopeful for Jacob because he was on the run from his brother Esau, whom he had cheated out of his birthright.  In verses 10 and 11 of Genesis 28 we read, “Jacob left Beersheba and set out for Haran.  When he reached a certain place, he stopped for the night because the sun had set.  Taking one of the stones there, he put it under his head and lay down to sleep.”

Jacob was on the run.  Jacob was homeless.  You could say life appeared, at the moment, like a disaster.  If we look up the word “disaster” we see that word is made up of “dis” which means separation and “aster” which means star.  When we are facing a disaster, it is easy for us to feel totally alone, separated from the stars, others and even God Himself.  That night Jacob must have gone to sleep feeling all alone.  But as he fell asleep he must have prayed, because he was able to receive what God was saying to him.  In Genesis 28:12-15, God assured Jacob that he was not alone, nor was he separated from the stars.  In fact, He gave Jacob “a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it” (Verse 13).  God goes on and assures Jacob that He is with him in verses 14, 15.

Is your heart and mind open like Jacob’s was to the extent that God can send the Holy Spirit to you and place a dream within you?  Do you recognize the new thing the Holy Spirit desires to do within you?

At this time let us release our Faith and accept the fact that our Helper, the Holy Spirit, is right here desiring to do a new thing in our lives.  In the midst of all the trials and uncertainties we are facing He is saying, “I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”

Now we must receive the promise Jesus gives us in John 14:16, 17 where He says, “I will pray to the Father and He will give you another Helper that He may abide with you forever – the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him for He dwells with you and will be with you.”

The Helper (the Holy Spirit) is right there to assist us.  The tragedy is that we try to do the work of God without the help and direction of the Spirit.  Remember that without the Holy Spirit there would be no world, human race or creation as we know it (II Peter 1:21).  If it were not for the Helper, there would be no lasting work done for our Lord.  There would be no New Testament (John 14:26; 15:26-27; 1 Cor. 2:10-14) no faith and no power to proclaim the gospel (Acts 1:8).

Those who have a stone for a heart will not hear or recognize the Holy Spirit.  They are too caught up in themselves and aren’t willing to humbly before the Lord God declare, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it” (Gen. 28:16).

Jacob went forth from that place and allowed the dream to burn in his heart.  He hung on to the words of the Lord when He declared, “I am with you and watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land.  I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you” (Gen. 28:15).

For twenty years Jacob hung on and kept working for his uncle Laban.  He trusted the promise of God and let the dream the Holy Spirit had given him burn in his heart.  From the very first passage in the Scriptures (Genesis 1:1) to the last chapter in the Bible, Rev. 22, we see the Helper, the Holy Spirit at work.  Now He wants to work in our lives like He did in Jacob’s.

The Bible tells us the Holy Spirit is not just an influence or a force.  The Spirit, our Helper, is shown in the Scripture as the third person of the Trinity with an individuality of His own (II Cor. 3:17-18; Heb. 9:14; I Peter 1:2).  Our Helper thinks, wills (1 Cor. 12:11) and has the capacity to love (Romans 15:30).  He is sent by the Father to bring us into fellowship with Jesus the Son of God (John 14:16-18:26).

In 1 Cor. 2:9 we see that it is the Holy Spirit our Helper, who enlightens us to the deeper things of God.  There we read, “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor has entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.  But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit.  For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God.”

There is no limit to what the Holy Spirit can and will do in our lives, if we will but love Him and let Him do it.  In order to experience this power both now and for all eternity, we must first let our Helper, the Holy Spirit, be our agent of salvation.  He will then show us our guilt (John 16:7,8) and our need for a Savior.  The Holy Spirit reveals to us the truth about Jesus.

When we receive Jesus as our Lord and Savior we then receive the Spirit (John 3:3-6; 20:22) and are participants in the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4).

It is the Holy Spirit, our Helper, who quickens and awaken us to the reality and power of the new birth in Jesus Christ.  We see in Titus 3:5 that “He saved us through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit.”

The day came when Jacob took his family and left his uncle.  As he continues on his journey, Jacob knows that he will ultimately have to face the brother whom he had cheated over twenty years earlier.  In order to prepare for this encounter Jacob surrenders his family and possessions to God as demonstrated by the fact that he sends his family and all his possessions across the stream (Gen. 32:22).

Jacob is now alone and, in his loneliness, he finds himself wrestling with God.  When God saw that He could not break the self-serving independence that still existed in Jacob, “He touched the socket of Jacob’s hip and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint” (Gen. 32:25).

Now broken and totally surrendered, Jacob wants the blessing of the Lord more than ever.  In verse 26 Jacob declares, “I will not let You go unless You bless me.”  This isn’t a cry for more materialistic goods.  It is a desire for the Holy Spirit to change the very essence of his being.

Jacob’s prayer is answered and he is given the new name of Israel.  “So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, ‘It is because I saw God face to face and yet my life was spared!’” (Gen. 32:30)  The next day Jacob and his brother Esau are reunited.

I have found it is critical that each day I surrender the hardstones of trials, tribulations and disappointments to God daily.  I can’t let these hardstones of difficulty harden my heart.  I must let the Holy Spirit use them to create an altar in my heart before the Lord.

If I truly desire to be productive and filled with the Spirit I must die to myself and be resurrected in Christ Jesus. As this happens, God’s glorious riches of love and the power and life of the Spirit are free to flow. This is why Paul declared in Romans 8:13: “For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.”

Through the work of the Spirit and the redeeming work of Jesus Christ, the sinful deeds of the body are put to death and we are free to truly live if we will but obey God. 1 Sam. 15:22 says, “To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.” Allowing the “deeds of the flesh” to be put to death is the result of obeying God, which is essential for receiving Help from the Helper.”

Many of you are wrestling with God at this time.  Yet you are not yielding to the work of the Holy Spirit.  You don’t desire the blessing and assurance of His presence that accompanies a total surrender to Him.  You don’t want to be reunited with that brother.  You are afraid of the brokenness as illustrated by Jacob’s wrenched hip.  You desire the blessings of the Lord, but not the brokenness.  You want to hear his voice, but have no desire to obey it when it demands self-sacrifice and surrender.

As the Helper puts to death the misdeeds of the body we are able to receive the Helper’s gifts described in 1 Cor. 12 – 14. There we see “there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries but the same Lord” (1 Cor. 12:5).

Each and every gift is important but as 1 Cor. 13 points out the greatest gift is love. This is the gift of divine love that only God can give.

Along with this gift of love comes the gift of holy boldness, which is so essential if we are going to take a courageous stand for justice.  In II Tim.1:6,7 we read, “for this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God did not give us a Spirit of timidity, but a Spirit of power, of love and self-discipline.”

As we let the power of the Holy Spirit, our Helper, work in us we will see the fruit of the Spirit springing forth. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Gal. 5:22-23).

With the Helper, and the fruits of Spirit flowing through us, we are awakened to the fact that we are no longer losers, just struggling to make it through each day. We are more than conquerors because of the Helper’s resources available to us through Jesus. “How much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:17).

It would be great if we could say that after that day everything went great for Jacob.  It didn’t.  His sons frequently brought him grief. His oldest son made love with his concubine.  For many years Jacob thought that his son Joseph was dead. Jacob’s daughter Dinah was raped.  His wife Rachael dies.  Jacob loses everything in a famine.  He could have given up anywhere along this often-difficult journey of life, but he didn’t.  He had used a stone for a pillow that night instead of allowing bitterness to make his heart, mind, and spirit as hard as stone.  Jacob had then taken that stone and made it a pillar of worship.

Only when you take that stone, representing all the circumstances that could make made you bitter and resentful, and place it before the Lord and let forgiveness flow will you see the staircase to heaven.  Now let Jesus, who is “the way, the truth and the life,” (John 14:6) break and remake you.  Then you discover not only new direction in life but also the power of the Holy Spirit.

As we pray believing for the Helper to come upon us in a new and powerful way, we discover His help in our prayer life and in many other areas. “Likewise the Spirit also helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought; but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groaning’s which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God” (Romans 8:26, 27).

We discover in Is. 61: 1-11 that when the Helper, the Spirit of the Lord comes upon someone, they receive the power to bring good news to the oppressed, bind up those who are broken-hearted, proclaim liberty to those held captive, comfort those who mourn, and awaken a song of praise in the faint-hearted. Those empowered by the Spirit (referred to in Is.61:1 as the Spirit of the Lord is upon me) find they are not just performing some sort of good deed but the establishment of righteousness and justice.

The Helper for radical equality for all people that we see in Joel 2:28-32 is the Holy Spirit. For God has promised, “I will pour out My Spirit on all people.” This includes the hurting, the homeless, and the hopeless who can also be recipients of new life through the love of God, and the power of the Helper, the Holy Spirit.

Those who are crushed to the extent that they are no longer able to dream or see visions or prophecy hope are promised, “ I will pour out My Spirit on all people, your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men see visions. Even on My servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days. I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earths, blood and fire and billows of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Joel 2:28-32).

Jacob thought all was lost.  The famine had struck.  But that famine resulted in Jacob being reunited with his son Joseph.  At the age of 147 Israel worshipped as he leaned on the top of his staff, (Gen.47:31) and stood next to Joseph.

Through the power of the Holy Spirit, you can also walk with God.  He will help you to hear the voice of Jesus and abide in His presence.  You can remain steadfast, immovable, abounding in the work of the Lord.

Refuse to let bitterness make your heart as hard as stone.  Let the dream of the staircase of heaven burn in your heart!  Stand on the promises of God.

You may presently have a stone for a pillow, but stop complaining.  Use it as a pillar for worship and watch and wait, for in the end you will see Him do exceedingly beyond what you can ask or think!  It is a guarantee signed, sealed and delivered through the blood of Jesus Christ, which cleanses you of all sin.

Let us now receive this power from our Helper, the Holy Spirit. His coming will bless, strengthen and invigorate us for servicing both God and those in need.

Through Christ, may the promise that God gives in Ezekiel 36:25, 26 become ours this very day. “I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean. I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.”

As the promise of Ezekiel 36 unfolds in your life you will find the  heart of stone, that reflected indifference to the needs of others, begin to melt and a new caring heart of compassion come forth. We see this miracle unfolding in Ezekiel 37 as the Spirit comes upon a valley of dry, dead bones. When this happens life comes into these bones and an army of compassionate people comes forth.

At this time may our prayer be, “Heavenly Father, please send the Holy Spirit. Come, my promised Helper, and infuse within me the power from on high. Guide me, direct me and empower me so that I may be an instrument of healing and hope in the lives of the hurting and homeless. Precious Jesus, please replace the fear in my life with faith that I may be filled with the holy boldness that came upon Peter in Acts 4:8 and the other believers in Acts 4:31.

Yours in Christ,

Larry Rice

Are These Promises For Me?

Are These Promises For Me?

Dear Friends,

My heart is heavy because of the restlessness, the sad struggle that plays out before me every day. So many people are the victims of rootless poverty that seems endless. As I was preparing this sermon I met a man who said he had just been wandering around for days. He hasn’t slept because he just wants to get back home to Kansas City. He says he just needs enough money for a one way bus ticket. But as I listen it becomes clear that he came to this area homeless looking for work on craigslist and when it didn’t work out, he’s headed back to the same situation. He wants to go back to his fiancé who is giving birth right about now. And he’s just wandering around trying to scrape together whatever money he can get to be back in time for his baby’s birth. That’s his story.

There are so many more stories like this one. No real plan beyond, “Maybe I can find a job” or “I’ll make it somehow.” When I ask, “Who knows you?” I’m told, “Well, my fiancé has a cellphone without any minutes.” The travelers aid society we partner with needs verification. They don’t want to just move people around who don’t have contacts in the destination city. I recommend some other ideas to this man. Ways he can settle for a few weeks in order to rest, eat, find work, and then travel in time. He turns it down and walks out.

I walk over to our front desk and ask a group of men who are crowding the phone operator to have a seat and assure them that their requests will be answered in time. A young man yells out, “I just want a hygiene kit.” I answer him by name and say, “You’ll get it when we call your name.” With that he calls out a curse on the building and on my father by name and walks out. Just because he doesn’t want to wait five minutes. So much impatience and hostility. So much controversy and weariness. But it doesn’t have to be this way. As we set a course for our lives based on God’s word, we can learn to fear Him and walk in His ways.

Let’s go to the Lord now in prayer…

Download the rest of this sermon here.

Don’t Give Up

Don’t Give Up

My Dear Friends,

So many are giving up and giving in to despondency, discouragement, disappointment and depression. You may have lost everything, but you can start all over if you do not lose hope. We are told in Is. 43:18, 19, “Forget what happened! Don’t think about the past. I am creating something new. There it is! Do you see it? I have put roads in deserts, streams in thirsty lands.”

So many are now depressed because the pain of the past and the unmet expectations of the present have removed all real hope for the future. As a result, all they can think about is how are they going to escape the present situation they are in which appears hopeless with no real future. David felt that way when he said in Ps. 55:6-7 “Oh that I had wings like a dove… Then would I wander far off, and remain in the wilderness.” Paul in a moment of distress told the Galatians, “Lest I have bestowed upon you labor in vain” (Gal. 4:11). All of us have had those periods in our lives when we have felt like quitting…

Download the rest of this sermon here.

My Significance in Christ

My Significance in Christ

Dear Friends,

We know there is so much hurt and pain in this world and it is not only just out there somewhere, it can easily be found in our minds and hearts. Jesus promised that “in this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I’ve conquered the world” (John 16:33, The Message) It’s typical, when we encounter hurt, to want to blame, shame, or problem-solve. But as followers of Jesus Christ, we have to continually remember 1) the change He made in our lives, 2) who we belong to, 3) what kind of persons to be, and 4) what sort of work to do. Without keeping first things first, we’ll get spun around and lost.

Heavenly Father, we thank you for the victory in Christ that overcomes the devil, the world, and our flesh. We thank you for your words of life that bring healing and light. We ask you today to show us your will in the midst of all that concerns us. We cast all of our cares upon you, knowing that you care for us. Have your way in us completely, for Christ’s sake. Amen.

It’s so easy to forget about where we truly belong. When I was my middle daughter’s age I visited my grandfather at his home in southern Texas. During that trip it seemed like every time I turned around I was breaking something or had my nose into something I shouldn’t. I broke his garage door by playing with the door open switch. For days after that I just couldn’t catch a break from his teasing. He just seemed so irritated or had some comment about everything I did. And I felt at the time like I just couldn’t understand him.

Now, as I’m turning forty in a few weeks, I think I’m finally coming to understand him a little bit better. There’s this thing called….

Download the rest of this sermon here.