September 25, 2016

The Spirit Who Empowers and Teaches

For the past couple weeks, we have been looking at Jesus promise to send the Holy Spirit-the Advocate and Counselor: I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.” (John 14:16-17)
That promised Spirit is an Advocate, a Counselor. In Greek the word is parakletos meaning an intercessor, consoler, advocate, comforter. It is someone who is called on to help and assist; someone who, like a defense attorney, pleads the case. We are told that this Spirit, this Paraclete (to use the old terminology), will ‘abide’ or stay with us forever. Because of that we can be ‘strong and courageous’, as God advises Joshua (Joshua 1:9), in the face of any and every thing. That doesn’t mean that everything will be sweet and lovely and easy. Living the work of God is not an easy path.
It can be easy to become fearful when you listen to all the news and look at the world. One anagram of the word Fear that made the circles on Facebook a while back said that Fear is ‘False Evidence Appearing Real’. We can be fooled by what seems to be reality, when the true reality is that God is in Control!
You would think that the Israelites would have had faith and living into God’s plan all figured out. However, even a quick glance at the stories in the Bible reassures us that they were just as apt to fail as we are. Through all their ups and downs, God was with them in and through the Spirit.
In Micah 3:8, we hear Micah say, “I am filled with power, with the spirit of the Lord, and with justice and might, to declare to Jacob his transgression and to Israel his sin.” This doesn’t, at first glance seem like the work of an advocate or comforter. Yet, stop for a minute and remember that sometimes we have to have our faults pointed out before we can change. We don’t LIKE to have someone, or God, point out that we have slipped up. Unless we know we made a mistake, we cannot change.
As God’s Advocate with us, the Holy Spirit may just tap us on our shoulder and say, ‘Oops, looked like you took a wrong turn. Let’s change direction.’ Because God does love and care for us, he corrects us. The author of the Letter to the Hebrews (12:5-7) quotes Proverbs 3:11-12 when he says, “And you have forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as children—‘My child, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, or lose heart when you are punished by him; for the Lord disciplines those whom he loves, and chastises every child whom he accepts.’ Endure trials for the sake of discipline. God is treating you as children; for what child is there whom a parent does not discipline?” It is the discipline (the disciple-in’) of our hearts and souls by God’s Spirit that empowers us to do God’s work. We are each being trained and taught like a beloved child. Even if the lesson feels uncomfortable, we don’t have to be afraid because we know God is in it all.
The Holy Spirit’s empowering action is found in this promise from Isaiah “you whom I took from the ends of the earth, and called from its farthest corners, saying to you, ‘You are my servant, I have chosen you and not cast you off, do not fear, for I am with you, do not be afraid, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.” (Isaiah 41:9-10) God promises to strengthen, uphold, and protect us. Therefore, we can be unafraid, no matter what happens.
The graphic tells us to “Replace FEAR about What If, with FAITH in I AM”. How can you work on replacing Fear with Faith in your day to day living?
Is it comforting to think that what seems like punishment is really God at work empowering us to be better disciples?

September 18, 2016

The Spirit Who Still Acts

Last week we started a series about the Holy Spirit, exploring how the Spirit of God works in and through us to Bless, Love, Refresh and Empower us to do the work of God. The Holy Spirit, though illusive to define, is nonetheless an active part of the Trinity, as we saw last week. As we saw, Jesus promised his disciples, I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.” (John 14:16-17)
On the very first Day of Pentecost, when the apostles and other followers were hiding in the Upper Room still fearful of Jewish or Roman reprisal, the Spirit came to them “suddenly from heaven”. This was no calm feeling of the presence of God. Instead, “there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.” This explosion of the Spirit spilled out into the street, where “there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. Amazed and astonished, they asked, ‘Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language...we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.’ All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, ‘What does this mean?’” (Acts 2:2-8, 11-12)
Peter then begins to explain to the crowd that this is what was promised. “In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy. And I will show portents in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and smoky mist. The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day. Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”…Therefore let the entire house of Israel know with certainty that God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified.’” Pretty brave words from a Galilean fisherman who only a short time before had been shaking in his sandals. The highly unusual events cause those present to rethink their ideas of life and faith and God. “Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and to the other apostles, ‘Brothers, what should we do?’” Peter responds that they should “‘Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him.’ (Acts 2:17-21. 36-39) Peter tells the gathered multitude that they too can receive the power of the Holy Spirit which they see visibly manifested in front of them. No wonder “about 3000” joined the movement that day!
Sometimes we can think that such things only happen in the Bible. We might shrug and say the Spirit doesn’t act that way any longer. That is not true. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8) Probably we don’t see the mighty works because we aren’t looking for them. When a hardened sinner repents, that is the Holy Spirit. When healing happens, the Holy Spirit is at work. When there is a glorious sunrise or sunset, the Holy Spirit is manifesting God’s glory. When good comes from something that is evil, it is the Holy Spirit at work. When a heart is touched by a song, a story, a kind word, the Holy Spirit is there.
In the First Letter of John, we are reminded, “As for you, the anointing that you received from [the Spirit of God] abides in you, and so you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, abide in him.” 1 John 2: 27 Jeremy Camp (Same Power) reminds us “The Same Power that rose Jesus from the Grave…lives in us.” 

We can look to the Holy Spirit to help us discern how God is acting and working in our lives and in the world around us. Then we can ask, “How can I abide in the Spirit and be part of the work of God?”

The Jeremy Camp songs says “greater is He that is living in me…” What difference does that make to your life? 

September 11, 2016

The Spirit: Regenerates & Indwells

Those of you who have been reading along with this blog will recall that since Easter Sunday we’ve been exploring ways God Refreshes us, and Blesses us so that we can offer Love to those we meet and interact with. After a brief hiatus, we are back to look at the work of the Holy Spirit in Refreshing, Blessing, and Loving.
Many of us are unsure about the Holy Spirit. We may glibly recite the Nicene Creed that says “I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life; who proceeds from the Father and the Son; who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified; who spoke by the prophets…” Yet, the Holy Spirit is often rather ignored when considering the 3 persons of the Trinity. The Father and the Son, yes, they are kind of relatable, but the Spirit… The Spirit is not as easy to relate to or explain--and I’m not going to try and explain anything. Instead, we will look at ways the Spirit of the Living God works in and through us.
Jesus told his disciples, I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.” (John 14:16-17) This is a wonderful promise because we are assured that the Spirit of God lives in us. We don’t have to explain or understand it, just accept that the Spirit of Truth, our Advocate, is with us always.
One of the things the Spirit does is Regenerate and Indwell. Most often we think of ‘regenerate’ in repairing or re-growing cells. It can also mean to bring new or renewed life to an issue or organization. The Spirit of God regenerates our souls. Our souls are reborn and made new. You may recall the story of Nicodemus who came to see Jesus at night. He left with as many questions as he came with because Jesus told him. “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.’ Nicodemus said to him, ‘How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?’ Jesus answered, ‘Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit.” (John 3: 3-5)
The idea of being born again is confusing. However, as the Spirit works in our lives and souls, we discover that we are indeed regenerated and made new—born again. In the Letter to the Romans, we hear the same truth, “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you.” (Romans 8:11) We may not be able to explain HOW it happens. Like Nicodemus we may not even be able to understand that it CAN happen. However, because the Holy Spirit lives in us, we are given new life. We are regenerated, we are reborn in a new, spiritual way. Live into the truth that the Holy Spirit is living and working in you each and every day.

What might be different about the way you face the trials and temptations of day-to-day life if you remembered that God’s Spirit is in you?

Sometimes if we hear familiar words in a new way, it gives new insight. For a new rendition of the Creed consider the song This I Believe by Hillsong. Does the rephrasing of the familiar words make you think about the Spirit and Trinity in a different way?