Largely, after that initial experience of coming to a saving faith in Jesus how you understand or engage with the Holy Spirit is largely down to the cultural expression of the church you were involved in. Whether it was a charismatic or conservative, free worship or structured, each have formed a way in which you feel helps you to express yourself in worshipping God or engaging with the Holy Spirit.
So, if we ask ourselves the question, If the way in which I worship or engage with the Holy Spirit is cultural or largely what I have grown up in, is there room for different expressions? If so, then is there room for you to experience or engage with the Holy Spirit outside of what you have potentially experienced?
I would say there is. No matter your experience, or denominational history.
John Wesley’s founder of Methodist movement talks about an encounter in his journal with the Holy Spirit. Attending a meeting he was not overly fussed about (haven’t we all been there), the reading was the letter to the Romans. The speaker spoke about the change God works in heart through faith in Christ in the believer. At a quarter to nine that evening John felt his heart ‘strangely warmed’ and that he did believe in what Jesus had done for him, his sins were forgiven and that he had been saved.
The Holy Spirit, the one who strangely warms our hearts is in the business of bring those into a saving knowledge of Jesus and glorifying Him. Right from the start of the creation the third person of the Trinity is portrayed as like a mother hen brooding over the new planet as it was formed.
In Hebrew, the name for the Holy Spirit is ‘Ruakh’ meaning breath, or wind. This breath of God, the warm breath of God that warms our hearts is also the one who broods over our lives. The one who gives us what we need to live the life of Jesus in our everyday context. The same Holy Spirit who looks to re-create in our hearts the image of Jesus with the power of the almighty creator.
It is a special thing to have the breath of God inhabit our physical bodies. We probably do not give this too much thought, but the creative power and resurrection power of the creator God lives inside each of us giving us the power to undertake and achieve all that God has set for us to do. He guides us, sustains us, encourages us, invigorates us, counsels us, comforts us all in the seasons of life and when we need it. How wise of God to not leave Jesus on earth and send His Spirit so that we may all be indwelt and not miss out on time with the heavenly Father.
Join us as we embark on a journey through looking at the Holy Spirit in our lives and where God is calling us too individually.
When it is our birthday, it’s a time to celebrate that time in which we came into the world. We sometime receive presents and gifts, and if you have children, it is a time to remind them how special their birthday is.
Pentecost is the birthday of the church. It is when we received the gift of the Holy Spirit, and He is special.
Pentecost comes from the Greek word πεντεχοστος meaning 50. Fifty days after the Passover, or in this case, fifty days after the death and resurrection of Jesus.
God pours out His Holy Spirit in a profound way on a room of believers waiting in prayer on the Lord in expectation of what Jesus said God would send.
Jesus had commanded his believers to be witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria and even to the remotest part of the world. In giving this order to His followers, Jesus repeated the warning, ‘stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high’ (Luke 22:49.
Jesus is in essence saying ‘Don’t leave unprepared. Do not forget that the mission I have given you, you cannot complete in your own steam. God knows it, so wait for His power to come upon you’.
So, in the upper room that day the Holy Spirit came like the sound of a rushing wind. The disciples found themselves talking in languages they had never spoken. The Holy Spirit enabled them to communicate with the multicultural, multilingual, multitude in Jerusalem the message that Jesus had risen from the dead and enabled all mankind to come back into a relationship with the Father.
Good news however is not always received as good. Two of Jesus’ followers Peter and John found this out when they went to the Temple to tell of the good news of Jesus and helped a crippled man of forty years when they healed him in Jesus’ name. That did not go down well with the leading Pharisees who had only just a month ago had Jesus executed, and rumours of his rise from the dead echoed in Jerusalem’s stone walled streets.
Here two of his followers boldly, even brazenly confront those religious leaders who plotted Jesus’ death. Boldness not of their own, but empowerment by the Holy Spirit.
Captured in the letter of Acts of the Apostles is a line that says where Peter and John’s faith really lay.
29 And now Lord, take note of their threats, and grant that Your bond servants may speak Your word with all confidence’. Acts 4:29
Once again, the Holy Spirit filles the room and then them and they speak boldly.
Peter and the other disciples do not ask God for the situation to change. They do not ask for the Pharisees favour; they step up and ask for boldness to do that which they are most at risk of being ill-treated for.
What passion, what zeal, but what love for Jesus, that these men received from God the boldness to continue.
The Holy Spirit power is to enable us as believers to do what Jesus has called us to do. That same power is available to us today, but how often we shy away from starting a conversation, from saying truth into difficult circumstances.
If you have struggled with this, you are in good company. We all have. We do not have to stay there though. As believers in Jesus the Holy Spirit enables us to complete the plan for our lives and transform us into the likeness of Jesus.
Here is a simple prayer that you can pray today, or every morning to help focus you on where your help comes from.
God, I confess that I sometimes hold back from sharing Jesus with others. I am sorry. I make the prayer of the early believers my own.
Enable me to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.’
The Roman’s had brought about a ‘Might makes Right!’ kingdom. When you have the biggest stick then you rule everyone else.
Jesus turned it all on its head. God’s kingdom was not going to look like that. In God’s kingdom those who were poor of spirit would be blessed, those who mourn would be blessed, those who are gentle in their dealings with others would be blessed. Those that went hungry and thirsted for righteousness would be satisfied. Those who were rich in mercy would find themselves receiving mercy from God, those pure in heart and peacemakers would be called children of God.
Then the bombshell. Blessed are those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness. Persecution was happening all around the listeners of Jesus that day. It would continue with impunity for centuries to come.
Really Jesus? Blessed are those people?
Not all persecution is righteous persecution. You can be persecuted whenever you highlight another person’s questionable behaviour that they have justified.
Persecution for righteousness’s sake is when our lives lived out, are Jesus’ life. When we walk in righteousness and our lamp is not hidden under a basket, but on display to illuminate the world around us we will shine the light of Jesus that will inevitably bring about opposition from those who have justified their wrong actions.
Jesus did this wherever he went. So much so that the people he most offended plotted and succeeded in having him killed. Jesus words here in hindsight are those of someone who was not flippantly trying to garner a reaction from the crowd, but those of one who has his mind and eyes set on the cross coming a few short years ahead.
Stephen was one such disciple who as he died under a hail of stones from those Jews who found his testimony of the risen Jesus too much. He glimpsed heaven and who is face radiated the glory of Jesus rising to meet him. Saul of Tarsus stood by holding the coats of those throwing the stones. Must Stephens face as he glimpsed heaven before he died etched into Saul’s memory?
Not long after Jesus met with this Saul on a road and confronted him. Saul became the Apostle Paul. Somewhere in Paul’s story Stephen’s persecution and sacrifice was worth it.
I bet Paul and Stephen hang out in Heaven. What a conversation that would be.
God can use anything, good or bad. We are assured that God can turn all things for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purposes (Rom 8:28).
While most of us would not line up for persecution, God’s word is clear that if we are to become increasingly more like Jesus then we can expect that this world will not like our presence or message.
Jesus words here continue to give us hope. When we are persecuted for righteousness’s sake we will be blessed. Jesus isn’t specific if the blessing is here on earth or in the life to come with Him in the resurrection, but what a promise. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.
These things and many more can lead us into a place that robs us of our joy and fulfilment.
Social media has inadvertently heightened this human vulnerability by creating a highlights reel for people’s lives where we see our friends and families’ lives posted as a ‘best portrayal of themselves’. When posting we tend to want to show the best bits of our lives not the stuff we might be embarrassed to share publicly.
There is a tendency in all of us to compare ourselves. There is something in each of us that asks the question, ‘How am I doing? Where do I fit in here?’
My lovely wife Laura on Sunday told us the simple truth:
‘There is no win in comparison’.
There is no win. You cannot win this game. There is no end. All it serves is to rob you of joy, peace and contentment with the things God has given you.
So how do we uncouple ourselves from this wagon? How do we avoid the trap that comes when we find ourselves tempted to compare how we are doing with how someone else is doing?
We all want to know we are on the right track; we do not want to come across as behind or as backward, or not doing as well. So how can we avoid the spiral that can lead us into financial debt, pushing ourselves or family and brings unhappiness and discontentment with what we have?
King Solomon, a man lauded and world renown in his time for his incredible wisdom wrote a book called Ecclesiastes, a reflection on what he noticed about life wrote and especially about the comparison trap he said this.
4 And I saw that all toil and all achievement spring from one person’s envy of another. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.
Ecclesiastes 4:4 NIV
I love how King Solomon, a man so widely revered for his wisdom that he had kings and queens visit him just to learn from him, said that there is no win here. It is like chasing after the wind, you will never win the comparison game.
So, here is how we can protect ourselves from stepping on this landmine to our faith.
Renewal of the mind. Replacing the lies with the truth of God. Looking at what God has blessed us with rather than what others have. There’s truth in the saying that we are happiest when we want what we have.
Celebrate the things that God has given you. Jesus said that God gives good gifts to His children. Sometimes we need to just stop and focus on God’s best for us. Not someone else’s best, but what your heavenly Father, who knows everything about you has said is best for you.
Pray for those people that you find yourself comparing with. You do not know the struggles they have faced or are facing. Yes, they may have what you want, but the reality is if we pursue that line of thinking we can build resentment that damages the relationship and once again, no one wins. Instead, try and celebrate with your friends. Turn that opportunity to compare into one of celebrating with your friends. That will build unity between you and it cuts off the caustic results you do not need of comparison.
So today, and the days ahead, are you going to let comparison rob you of your joy, peace, and happiness? Or are you going to step up and not let those lies undermine all that God has blessed you with. When we focus more on what others have than what God has given, we can say goodbye to our joy. When we relish and cherish those things that God has given, believing that at this moment it is His best for us, we will find our joy and happiness will be there in abundance.
What if we took Jesus seriously? Some of the beatitudes we have been looking at recently are more than just suggestions and more than just a list of virtues to live up to or try and obtain. They are at the heart of the message Jesus spoke to His audiences.
Matthew 25 records once such conversation Jesus had in which He describes the actions in which we show we really are His followers.
This passage is confronting and challenging and yet if we dare to look more closely at it, we run the risk of being challenged around if our heart really does point true North towards Jesus or if our love fails to extend to those around us.
Christianity has always been a bit different. Jesus showed us that the way we love God is by how we treat those around us that are made in His own image. Regardless of if they believe in Him or not, there is the divine image of God in each person (Gen 1:26). The parable of the Sheep and Goats in Matthew 25 balances this point to the razors edge.
Our Sunday meetings and life groups are great places in which to socialize and encourage ourselves. They are however the pre-match warm up to the rest of the week. Our real calling from God is to extend out His love to those around us. The trap is that the easiness of our Sunday huddle becomes the box ticking exercise that we could equate with doing ‘spiritual stuff’. That is the best place to start if you want spiritual drift to start to happen in your life.
If we asked the question, ‘Was Jesus serious?’ when he pointed to the ways in which we are called to be followers of Him by seeking him out in the lowly and downcast of Matthew 25.
Mother Teresa took this call very seriously and found herself picking up the sick and dying in the streets of Calcutta. Finding these people and treating them with care and dignity was the least she could do. What if our faith was challenged like Mother Teresa’s was? What if we took Jesus words seriously?
Would it invoke a sense of justice for those down and out within our community? Would it motivate our love to be shown not just for those easiest for us but into the costly getting our hands dirty people? Even to those broken souls who are paying with the currency of their life (time) in jails due to poor or selfish decisions?
Mother Teresa came from a very affluent family, and I am sure at some stage she counted the cost. We all must do (Luke 25:14-23)
In her own words Mother Teresa was compelled to love those weak, smelly, filthy, and dying in the streets of Calcutta because her saviour Jesus loved her. She determined to care for them as though they were Jesus himself.
Does the love of Jesus compel you? Enough to do the uncomfortable? Enough to seek Him out in the lonely, lost, and desperate?
Jesus cares about you. More than your loved ones do. More than anyone else in your family or your best friend, or your children.
When we let that sink in and warm our hearts, love then motivates our feet and hands to love Jesus back, not just in words and songs on a Sunday morning which is easy and does not really cost us but in the way we love His world and His children, lost or otherwise around us.
We approach Easter every year, on Good Friday we remember Jesus dying on the cross for us.
Easter Sunday, we look back to celebrate the rising of Jesus from the grave and His victory over death and what that means for us.
Then we have Monday off and continue Tuesday as normal.
What if though we continued to dwell on the resurrection of Jesus?
Mary Magdalene in her grief heading to the tomb on the third day to prepare the body of her teacher and friend. Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus the Pharisee had quickly prepared Jesus body after death by most likely paying a substantial amount to the Roman authorities. Mary was expecting to take a careful amount of time to properly prepare the body wrap it gently and give Jesus the proper burial.
Her plans however were interrupted. The stone was not there and the guards she expected to encounter and plead with had fled. The tomb Jesus was laid in was empty. Far from being rapturous with excitement and like everyone else who had witnessed Jesus’ death, she was not expecting to see Jesus alive again. No one was. Nobody came back from the dead then either.
Shock and terror filled her, what had been done with the body of Jesus? Who took it? Grief now filled her heart as the last loving goodbye to her Savior’s body had been stolen from her.
Mary makes space for her tears. She takes the time to acknowledge the grief and loss. She allows space for her emotions.
In doing so, rather than hastily trying to compose herself, she encounters Jesus in her darkest moment of grief.
‘Woman, why are you weeping’?
Jesus’ encounters with people after the resurrection seem to start with a question.
Mary is not expecting it to be Jesus, it’s not until he says her name that she realizes that it’s Jesus.
I don’t know about you, but I find it easier to just get busy or distract myself than feel difficult emotions. I do not always allow myself space to grieve when I hear saddening news. Mary though gives us a great example. Her pausing to allow the loss to be felt, the disappointment to come out shows us that in that, Jesus can meet with us in that place.
In the darkest most painful moments Jesus comes to us to heal and restore and give us the thing we need most desperately: Hope.
Jesus comes to Mary who is expecting to tend to the dead body of Jesus, instead finds a resurrected living in the flesh Jesus, He gives her the task to tell the disciples that He has risen.
Is there times in which you could allow the emotions of what’s been going on to wash over you? Rather than staying stoic until it all gets too much. Sitting silently with the Lord talking with Him about what has brought sadness to your heart, frustration, or disappointment is an opportunity to meet with Jesus if you are willing to make space for the emotions God has blessed you with.
Let's live with Easter in our hearts this year as we move forward.
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego we’ve all heard the story, but let me paint a fresh picture for you. Three handsome young Jewish men, heads shaved, dressed in the finest robes the Babylonian world power afforded the government officials, stood, while a desert plain of people bowed before a twenty seven meter high gold covered idol.
At stake wasn’t just a reprimand or a ‘written’ warning from the boss, but a law demanding that everyone who didn’t bow before this idol was to be thrown into the furnace. Top marks to the Babylonians on the creative use of a furnace, but the message from the king was clear, ‘I am the law’.
What was even clearer was the message these three young Jewish men communicated to the king Nebuchadnezzar,