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Do You Need a Fill-Up?

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Are you hungering for something? Do you feel an emptiness? Have you tried to satiate your hunger and fill that emptiness with things offered by this world? And how is that working for you?

In jail ministry, I meet women every week who were hungering for something and longing to fill an emptiness they felt. They tried to satisfy those needs with all kinds of things offered by this world, like alcohol, prescription drugs, illegal drugs, gambling, theft, sex -- the list goes on. The methods were different, but the results were the same. None of those filled that void. Instead of leading to wholeness and satisfaction, they led to destruction and despair. And in their cases, to the Hamilton County Jail.

But I don't have to go to the jail to find people who have, in a mis-guided attempt to fill that same emptiness, tried in vain to fill it with things offered by this world. Others try to fill that emptiness with work, education, relationships with others, shopping, volunteering, or any number of things -- some even with church. While not necessarily illegal and though they may not lead to prison, those methods are just as ineffective and likewise lead to despair.

In my own life, for years I tried to fill that emptiness with food. When I was sad, I ate. When I was lonely, I ate. When I had something to celebrate, I ate. When I was anxious, I ate. My hunger was physical, as the more I ate, the bigger my appetite and capacity grew. And my hunger was spiritual because after the cake, pie, cookies, pizza, or whatever was consumed, I was still empty in my soul. My attempt to fill that emptiness with food led to despair and destruction -- destruction of my health, my self-image, and relationships as I withdrew from others, ashamed of my own lack of self-control.

While I had professed my faith in Christ at the age of 14, I didn't fully understand or appreciate the opportunity afforded me until well into my 30's. At 30 years old, I had to admit that while I had asked Christ into my heart, I had not yet asked to be filled with the Holy Spirit. I had not yet fully died to my flesh or the desires that come with it. My eternity might have been secured, but my earthly existence hadn't yet been changed by my relationship with Christ.

In Acts 2:37-39, we are assured that upon our conversion, we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. I had it in me because God tells no lies. But there is a difference between the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and being filled with the Holy Spirit.

The difference is found in how much room we surrender to Him to work in our lives. I allowed the Holy Spirit into my life, but I confined Him to just  small space. I didn't get rid of much in attempt to make more room. I held on to my fleshly desires (mainly for food and comfort) and my human tendencies to worry, gossip, hold grudges, and lose my temper.

In Ephesians 5:18, we are commanded to be filled with the Holy Spirit. FILLED. I looked up the word "filled," in the dictionary and found these, pertinent to the context of this Scripture.

FILL (verb)

  1. to make full; put as much as can be held into:
    to fill a jar with water. 
  2. to occupy to the full capacity:
    Water filled the basin. The crowd filled the hall.
  3. to supply to an extreme degree or plentifully:
    to fill a house with furniture; to fill the heart with joy.
  4. to satisfy fully the hunger of; satiate:
    The roast beef filled the diners.
  5. to be plentiful throughout:
    Fish filled the rivers.
  6. to extend throughout; pervade completely:
    The aroma filled the room.

By these definitions, if I am filled with the Holy Spirit, then there isn't room for anything else! My emptiness will be filled and my hunger will be satiated!

What's in Your Tank?

It was only when I asked God to help me make room for the Holy Spirit in my life that I was able to appreciate the power available to me. Like a hoarder cleaning house, I asked God to help me let go of the things I held with clenched fists -- the anger, the anxiety, the lust, the bitterness, and every other remnant of my fleshly wickedness.

Eventually, I asked him to rid me of my idolatry. I finally realized (with God's help), that I didn't have a weight problem. I didn't have an eating disorder. I had an idol problem. I worshipped food and turned to food instead of God to fill the emptiness in my life. I turned to food to satisfy not only my physical hunger, but my spiritual hunger. And food came up short every single time.

As I asked God to fill the space recently vacated by all that junk with His Holy Spirit, it was then, and only then, that I experienced completeness in Christ. And it was -- and is -- a wonderful feeling.

When I am filled with Spirit, I enjoy the wonderful fruit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. When filled with the Spirit, I no longer respond to situations from a human perspective -- with anxiety, anger, or hate -- but as Jesus would, with peace, patience, and love. When times are hard, I can have joy. When I am physically tired, I can be spiritually faithful. When the word is harsh, I can be gentle.

And when I feel that temptation to try to revert to my old ways and medicate myself with food, I can exercise self-control by the power of the Holy Spirit

It's a Process

I know that there are still corners of my life where my human clutter remains. God will only fill as much room as I allow Him to, but I keep trying. I keep consciously taking out the trash, de-cluttering my life, and making more room for Him. 

But it isn't always easy and I sometimes move backward. Much like the gas tank of my car, one fill-up will only last so long. I use up fuel with every mile I drive, with every minute I idle, and even some through evaporation. I "use up" the Holy Spirit in my life every day as I struggle to live like Christ, as I serve in ministry, as I sit idle, or even some through evaporation -- time when I'm just not actively seeking to be filled up. 

Another way I lose some of the volume of the Spirit in my life is when I displace Him with something else. When I bring clutter and junk back into my life, the Holy Spirit is displaced proportionately. Ultimately, I am going to be led by that which I allow the most space in my life.

Romans 8:5-6 warns us that those who live according to the flesh will have minds set on fleshly desires, but those are led by the Spirit will have minds set on what The Spirit desires. Fleshly desires lead to death and despair, but the Spirit leads us to life and to peace.

And Romans 8:8 further cautions: Those who are in the realm of flesh cannot please God.

 I want to please God. I want to be led to life and to peace. I do not want to dwell in death and despair. Therefore, I want to be filled with the Holy Spirit. And I want to be filled with it every second of every minute of every day. I must be consciously focused on that, actively asking God for that measure, and I must be on the lookout for anything that might seek to take room in my life away from God.

In conclusion, I want to share a prayer than I have adopted as a routine in my life. This prayer is my way of asking God to help me get rid of the clutter and to fill me with the Holy Spirit.

Dear God,

  • Empty me of me and fill me with your Holy Spirit.
  • Empty me of my fleshly desires and fill me with your desires.
  • Empty me of my anger and fill me with your love.
  • Empty me of my reflex to judge and fill me with your compassion.
  • Empty me of anger and fill me with love.
  • Empty me of worry and anxiety and fill me with your peace.
  • Empty me of selfishness and fill me with your Spirit of kindness.
  • Empty me of bitterness and fill me with your joy.
  • Empty me of me. Fill me with YOU.


What clutter do you need to take out? How much room have you made for the Holy Spirit in your life?

Posted by Stacy Corwin with

Resurrection Truth

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Two men I greatly respect passed away in the last week or so.  One I knew from a distance as a brother in Christ, Billy Graham, and the other, I knew close up and personally, my father. In honor of Billy Graham and Warren Garner lives I offer a few reflections:

Billy Graham’s faith came under siege in the summer of 1949, just before the Los Angeles Crusade that propelled him onto the national scene.

As president of Northwestern Schools, Mr. Graham was invited to speak at the College Briefing Conference, which was held at Forest Home, a retreat center east of Los Angeles. Also speaking was his good friend and fellow evangelist Chuck Templeton, whose views on the authority of Scripture were quickly changing. Not for the first time, Templeton challenged Mr. Graham:

“Billy, you’re 50 years out of date. People no longer accept the Bible as being inspired the way you do. Your faith is too simple.”

Alone in his room that night, Mr. Graham studied the Scriptures profusely.

“I had no doubt concerning the deity of Jesus Christ or the validity of the Gospel,” he later wrote in his biography Just As I Am, “but was the Bible completely true? With the Los Angeles Campaign galloping toward me, I had to have an answer. If I could not trust the Bible, I could not go on. I would have to quit the school presidency. I would have to leave pulpit evangelism.”

His heart heavy, he went for a walk.

The moon was out and the shadows were long in the San Bernardino Mountains surrounding the retreat center. Dropping to his knees there in the woods, he opened the Bible at random on a tree stump in front of him.

“O God!” he prayed “There are many things in this Book I do not understand … There are some areas in it that do not seem to correlate with modern science.”

He paused, then continued: “Father, I am going to accept this as Thy Word—by faith! I’m going to allow faith to go beyond my intellectual questions and doubts, and I will believe this to be Your inspired Word.”

When he stood up from his knees that August night, his eyes stung with tears. “I sensed the presence and power of God as I had not sensed it in months. Not all my questions were answered, but … I knew a spiritual battle in my soul had been fought and won.”

I don’t know how many times Billy Graham spoke in his storied and powerful preaching ministry, but the heart of his preaching always involved the heart of the Bible. Pastor Brock focused on these verses this past weekend, Romans 3:21-26.  T Brock stated as others have declared, these verses are the hinge upon which the gospel swings.  In spite of the darkness of sin and wrath it permits God to use on all of creation, God chose another way. He gave his son, Jesus, to meet the demands of the law allowing us to be made right with God and God’s holiness to remain intact.  We, then, can again enjoy a relationship with him, first offered in Gen. 1 and 2. While we all fall short, sin, God freed us from eternal consequences of our sin through the life, death and resurrection of his beloved son. He allows us to ride his son’s coattails.  As Pastor Brock noted (and I add my two cents):

Through my faith/trust in Jesus, Jesus:

  1. Atoned for my sin. He gives me/us a way back to relational oneness with God.
  2. Justified me in spite of my guilt – this a legal term/courtroom term. In God’s courtroom when asked, “How do you plead?” our only honest plea is “Guilty, your honor.”
  3. Redeemed me in spite of the costliness of my sin. I/We don’t have enough assets – materially or spiritually to buy my freedom from the debt incurred by my/our sin. So, redemption involves a payment that covers a debt. That payment was Jesus’s life.

So, relationally, legally and financially, we have no way to cover the debt of our sin.

“But God” (Romans 3:21) provided a way.

As some point like Billy Graham we have to come to our knees and say, “Whether this makes sense based on science or even logic or not, I put all my chips on biblical truth.” (Sorry, for the gambling reference.)  Either Jesus is who he says he is, did what the Bible states he did as he taught, lived and died offering a way to eternal life free from damnation, or he did not. This is the choice of, by and through faith.

Billy Graham has been quoted as saying, “Without the resurrection, the cross is meaningless.” For me, this truth has always resonated.  I wrote a paper in college for a religion class where I argued for the truth of the resurrection.  I received an “A” on the paper, but my professor noted, “Since you stated in this paper that the resurrection is a core foundation to your faith, I won’t debate you on that point.”  That’s a smart and back-handed way of saying, “Though I believe I am a Christian and teach religion is a denominationally affiliated college, I don’t believe the resurrection has to be true or is.” Yet, if I cut out this idea from the Bible, where do I stop.  If I cut this idea, then faith becomes a list of opinions or wishful thinking.

Thus, the resurrection means that God the Father accepted Jesus back into heaven after he bore the penalty of and cost of our sin. Without the resurrection, Jesus just died in agony. Without the resurrection, Jesus was just a charismatic martyr of the fledging sect known as ‘the people of the Way” or “Christians”.

At some point like Rev. Graham, I said, I’ll take my chances with the Bible.  What about you?

Rev. Graham said on another occasion: “The resurrection of Christ changed the midnightof bereavement into a sunrise of reunion; it changed the midnight of disappointment into a sunrise of joy; it changed the midnight of fear to a sunrise of peace.”  After 91 years, my dad’s physical body failed him last week (Feb. 24), but thanks be to God my grief is mitigated by reunion with his friends and family, and my mom!  As the Graham quote notes: What would have been totally heart-breaking, heart-wrenching and bitter separation, has a mixture of sweetness to it. I can grieve with hope and a feeling of peace. My family, his church family and friends could celebrate my dad’s incredible life because death for the believer is merely a graduation exercise, a change from this material world to the eternal beauty of heaven.

A few snippets about my dad.  He lived by the verse “I have learned to be content in whatever state I am” (Phil. 4:11). When my mom was failing, he said, “I married her for better, for worse.  This just happens to be the ‘or worse’ part.” This contentedness stemmed from a rock solid faith in Jesus Christ.

I have told people that I have never had to disentangle by view of God the Father from my earthly father because I never had any reason to question his love for me or whether I could trust him.

One final word on the power and the beauty of faith. During Lent, our staff is having a Thursday 11:30-noon prayer time. On the day after the funeral, as we neared the end of our prayer time, with my eyes closed a picture of my Dad lying in the casket came into my mind.  His head moved from prone position (in the casket) to a vertical one (with nothing distinguishable behind him or really around him).  With a smile, I heard him in that non-audible, audible way say, “I’m okay!”

What a gift when the line between the physical and spiritual realities becomes permeable!  What a gift that resurrection applies to fellow human beings, my dad! This allows me to proclaim the truth of the Bible as noted in two hymns of the faith we sung at my Dad’s funeral.  “Great is thy Faithfulness, O, God my Father…” “Blessed assurance Jesus is mine, O, what a foretaste of glory divine…”

Not only does the Bible as believed and accepted by Rev. Graham and Dad guide our day-to-day living, it declares the eternal truth of resurrection. These truths allowed me to say to my Dad, not good-bye, but see you later! And, go give your parents and mom great big hugs and kisses from me. He smiled, and passed away three days later.  That's the resurrection truth which informs my hope, my life, now and forever.  What informs your life?


Posted by Tim Garner with

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