course to set us back to the better way.
Why would God send us a helper? Jesus promised us this helper before He was to suffer on Calvary, and after His resurrection promised to send this helper. The interesting thing is it came with a warning. ‘Don’t leave Jerusalem until you have received the helper (Acts 1:4). We wouldn’t be able to live the better way if God hadn’t sent His helper. We cannot live the way God intended in our own effort; it was never designed to be done like that. Living life in our own strength produces in us, frustration, discouragement, disillusionment or even apathy, that’s not what following Jesus was ever meant to be.
Sending a helper, enables us to rest in Jesus. If we stay connected to Jesus as branches stay connected to the Vine (John 15) the power of the one who walks beside us enables us to live the better way, finding the path Jesus has for us and to produce the fragrant, tasty qualities God looks for in the life of His believers (Galatians 5:22-23).
When we walk closely with the Helper, looking for His directions, change of pace, we find ourselves in a place where God help us produce the things in our life that we can’t in our own capacity. Despite our circumstances we can continue to produce the character traits of our Heavenly Father, those good traits like peace, patience, goodness, kindness that stand out to people as different or surprising within the cultures we live in. Our Father delights when He sees himself reflecting in His children and them reflecting those traits into the world to show who He is really like.
On your own, would you know what path to take? Would you know if it was right or wrong to decide on a good thing, not knowing if it was best?
God doesn’t intend for us to stumble around in the dark not knowing His will for us. Trusting His helper of the Holy Spirit, remaining connected with Jesus in daily spending time with Him can draw us into a deeper, sweeter more satisfying relationship with the Father. Intimacy as it was always meant to be right from the garden.
So, staying connected? What does that mean?
To actively remain in Jesus, we must walk as Jesus walked, not in our own strength and wisdom but in dependence on the Holy Spirit- the helper, and in submission and obedience to the Father and His word. In this way we will walk closely with the helper, hearing from the father what is best for us.
Paul was encouraging a rather difficult and easily distracted church. They were young in faith and slow to grow to maturity. Putting on his Pastors hat, Paul encourages his friends in this fellowship to pursue their sharing of the gospel and growing in their faith. But how do you inspire them to strive for better, than just settling? For better than what they see around them in their culture?
Pauls comes up with an idea. He relates their situation to the Isthmian athletic games that were hosted in the city:
24 Don’t you know that when people run on the race-track everybody runs, but only one person gets the prize? Run in such a way that you’ll win it. 25 Everyone who goes in for athletics exercises self-discipline in everything. They do it to gain a crown that perishes; we do it for an imperishable one. 26 Well then: I don’t run in an aimless fashion! I don’t box like someone punching the air! 27 No: I give my body rough treatment, and make it my slave, in case, after announcing the message to others, I myself should end up being disqualified.
1 Corinthians 9:24-27
When we train for fitness or a race or to climb or achieve a goal, there is always a cost. Our bodies may not wish to do what we ask, but we need to discipline it so that it builds strength to achieve our goals. It often doesn’t like it though our bodies complain for a few days afterwards, letting us know that. The result though, if we persevere, is we achieve those goals and obtain the rewards.
We can apply this idea to finances, mountain climbing or whatever goal we have in mind.
I wonder though do we look at this the way Paul intended? Do we require of our bodies sacrifice to search deeper into God? Do we get up before everyone in the family for that quiet time? Do we fast and pray to see that family member saved or return to following the Lord?
Paul encourages us that like a top athlete we should never stop training, we must never stop pursuing and obeying God.
How much will we accomplish if we do not embrace the Lords purpose for our lives and live out this purpose with consistency and dedication?
Part of being a disciple is discipline. Pauls inspiring us with the reason for why we are being disciples, why we are ‘Jesus following athletes’, to obtain the blessing God has for us not for earthly recognition but to receive those blessings the Lord has for us as faithful seekers of God.
As we watch those Olympians receive their medals for the extra, they achieved, think about what we don’t see. The cost of toil and hours of early starts and discipline, that may get them a gold by the smallest of margins and remember Pauls encouragement: Pursue God with that same intensity because the prize is imperishable.
need to achieve and undertake what God has called us to do.
There is something else though that’s even better. The Holy Spirit gives us spiritual gifts that are more than just what we can do or what we are good at, they are special gifts that are to benefit the others in church.
7 The point of the spirit being revealed in each one is so that all may benefit. (1 Corinthians 12:7).
We are all made to be interdependent upon one another, and the spiritual giftings is another way in which God enables us to have unity and glorify Him. Within a church we would expect to have as a broad of a range of gifts as we have people. When one works in teaching all benefit. When another uses their gift of exhortation all in the church benefit. When one prays for healing, that person benefits but all see God do the work and give glory to Him. Not one person has all the giftings, and rightly so, for if we did possess all the gifts who would need each other?
God in His wisdom knows what gifts He will give to each of us so that we may minister to one another. It makes sense that our creator who knows us most intimately also knows what gifts would complement our personality and other natural traits He has endowed us with. We are gifted with what we most need to accomplish what He has planned for us to do.
When we come to a saving faith in Jesus it’s because the Holy Spirit has revealed the truth of Jesus to us in our hearts. This is when the Holy Spirit comes into hearts and sets up shop. He moves into a room of our hearts and begins a programme of renovation and expansion. With Him He brings a uniquely chosen collection of spiritual gifts, things that only God can give that is tailor made for you.
Maybe, like a present we open them and use them, or a present we’ve opened and remain unsure of. Perhaps fear or a misunderstanding of what this means from God can leave us confused so we think the best option maybe just to ignore or overlook this gift. This is a mistake we don’t want to make. God is the giver of good gifts and wants us to be a blessing to others. Some gifts can also be for a season in life, a particular need we may have had to meet. Whatever it is they are there not to make us prideful, but to be a blessing to others, to encourage and support the church, His bride.
Is it time to investigate all that God has given you?
Sanctification is the process in which the Holy Spirit takes responsibility for transforming us into the likeness of the Holy Spirit. To simplify allow me to use another type of example that may help us understand how this is done.
Sympathetic resonance is when a one object such as a crystal glass vibrates to a certain tonal pitch. We have all seen the cartoons where the large opera lady hits the crescendo note at the end shattering all the spectacles and windows in the opera house. Try this next time you are near a piano, without striking, hold down the high g key on the piano, then strike the lower G key. Both will sound out. The vibration will make the held down note sound because it is built with that frequency.
Likewise, we are all built in God’s image (Gen 1:26) so we carry all similar characteristics of God. Everybody in this world you come eyeball to eyeball with is built in His image.
A few years back I was fortunate enough to travel to Scotland and outside of Glasgow I met some very distant relatives. Anne, a woman closer in age to my grandmother met us at her place. Anne was close to five foot and talked like a machine gun with a thick Glaswegian accent. As I was leaving, she commented on how much in my height, looks, humour and the way I held myself reminded her of her brothers. Generations and continents separated us but somehow, I have carried the Maharey family likeness forward. It made me think how much of our makeup is attributed to what we carry from our Heaven Father, how much more do we have in common with Him?
The Holy Spirit uses that Father shaped likeness when we accept the truth about Jesus. The Spirit plays the perfect pitch of God’s tune, and if we chose to emulate that, and allow ourselves to be moved and shaped by that, we can be transformed so that we harmonically resemble and project what the Father is to those around us.
That is the desire of the Father, that we continue to become more like His son Jesus. Now it’s important to note here that God isn’t wanting us to be mini-Jesus’ clones, He has after all made us all very unique in our traits and abilities. No, what God desires is that when we become more like who He created us to be, more like who He intended for us to be by saying yes and being obedient to the Holy Spirit and putting to death our fleshly ‘selfish’ part of us, the more like Jesus we will become, polished and ready to reflect the Glory of God to the broken world around us.
Whose tune are you resonating? The perfect pitch of the Lords or the off key the world drones out around?
Before we come to into a relationship with Jesus, we are spiritually dead, this new life begins to form in us and renovate us to become more like Jesus. This is to enable Jesus to live His life out through us.
As Christians it can be very easy to fall into a wrong view of Holiness. Even though we have the Holy Spirit living within us, we should not shy away from taking Him into our everyday situations. Sometimes we can hide away our belief in Jesus in our work situations like we are guarding a candle against the wind. We cover it we hide it from the breeze that may snuff out or violate something we are trying to foster.
The problem with this thinking is the example lived out by Jesus. He did not believe His holiness was something to be kept separate from the ‘dirty’ world like the Pharisees did. Jesus was not about to undertake ceremonial washings or purification rights that were more made for man than by God. Jesus took His holiness (The Holy Spirit) right into situations.
Jesus ate with the hated tax collectors like Matthew, prostitutes, sinners, the spiritually dirty, those who’s sin had broken them and cost them more than they had. He spent time with the people that the Pharisees considered unclean. The great unwashed, those who found it too hard or too difficult to live up to the religious laws because of the social status, their lack of education these were the people Jesus chose to sit down with and break bread.
It must have been such an honour for some of these to have Jesus who was revered as a teacher, a Rabbi, and his followers (Though how many of these enjoyed these dinners we will never know) coming to spend time with those who would more than likely never get a look in.
Jesus, the sinless son of God spent time with those who would never get a look in the temple. God stepped aside from those who practiced righteousness (albeit their own) to step towards those who were lost, stepped in sin and far from God.
Because…. Jesus believed that His holiness was contagious. He believed that by being close to these people shone a light into them that they craved. Jesus sought to bring healing to the lives of those who would love God when the light was shined into the darkness of the spiritually dead.
He calls us to do the same. To take His Holy Spirit in us into our everyday lives. Not as a candle in windy conditions, but as a light to shine into the darkness of a spiritually dead world. The Holiness of His Spirit will draw people to Himself through us. What an amazing privilege.
Let us this week ask God how we can bring the contagious Holiness of Jesus into our everyday situations and ask for wisdom for who that light is for (James 1:5).
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.
Right after Jesus entered Jerusalem on a donkey, he turns left and goes to the temple. Everyone expected the messiah to turn right and head to the Antonia Fortress and give the 500 plus Romans their marching orders.
He did not. He turned left and went to the temple, right to the court of the gentiles. Instead of being a place where the Gentiles could meet and pray to God, it had become a place of commerce where foreign currency could be exchanged for temple ‘pure coins’, where animals were being sold off at inflated prices so people could receive through prescribed ceremony the forgiveness of sins.
In Mark 11 the testimony here of Jesus actions tell us he didn’t permit people from crossing the temple with goods, he turned over money lenders tables and the stalls of people trading, and John tells us in chapter 2 that he even made a whip of chords with which to drive people and animals out. Jesus didn't just clear the temple, he effectively stopped the temple for a short time and in the eyes of the controlling Sadducees, Jesus stopped forgiveness.. well for a short time.
That doesn't sound a lot like peace making.
Well, perhaps not unless we understand properly what being peacemaker really entails.
Peace itself isn’t just the absence of conflict, it’s actually about having right relationships, justice and truth with reconciliation. Bringing this about is messy business.
Peace making is not passive. Peace making actively addresses the lack of peace in our world.
We can actively follow Jesus’ example not by overturning the local church notice board and calling everyone a heretic, (as tempting as that sounds) but by actively stepping into situations where there may be fractured relationships. Being the person who calls out wrong behavior to a friend, being someone who does not tolerate racial slurs in the office. Inviting those people to dinner who you do not know or feel drawn away from inviting, or by getting involved with some of the restorative justice programs offered by some churches.
Being a peace maker between folks means you step into the firing line. There is a fair chance if muds being slung, you will wear a fair share of it. But by bringing truth and justice into a situation, just like Jesus did, you stand to be called one of the ‘sons or daughters of God’.
In a culture where we are easily offended, opportunity abounds to be a peacemaker. To bring the prince of peace into every situation of life we may find our feet take us.
Today ask Jesus, where does He require you to be a peacemaker today? What around you requires the touch of Jesus. In a world that knows no real peace, but is so familiar with strife, anxiety, and worry, we could do with more peacemakers.