Wednesday, April 30

The Holy Spirit is not deficient {thoughts preceding Pentecost}

As we wrapped up our celebration of the feast of Passover and first fruits commemorating the death and resurrection of Jesus my thoughts have been drawn towards the feast of Pentecost and the sending of the Holy Spirit. Today I re-read portions of Luke 24 and Acts 2 and a few things struck me. These are simple thoughts and yet it is their simplicity that caught me off guard and hit me like a ton of bricks.

1. The disciples believed. It is that simple. Jesus says "I am sending upon you what my Father promised, so stay here in the city (jeru.) until you have been clothed with power from on high" (lk 24:49). So what do the disciples do? They wait and they pray. I do not think they were sitting in that room all together just twiddling their thumbs occasionally asking... did it happen yet? Anybody feel stronger? They were praying and waiting and trusting that if God promised it, it would take place.

2. There was no doubt. In Acts 2 we do not read of any of the disciples asking what these strange events/experiences were; they knew that it was the sending and filling/clothing of the Holy Spirit. How did they know this? It was a completely new experience for humanity but something about it was self-confirming or rather Spirit-confirming. The Spirit came and filled them with power and there was no doubt or confusion.

3. They walked in the power of the Spirit immediately. We also do not read of anybody doubting that what just happened actually happened. No one says, wow that was weird, I know I felt something but there is no way to know for sure... (or all the things we tend to say following a move of God in our life). It seems there was no doubt about it, and even as we read further in Acts we do not find anyone backtracking on their experience or wavering or questioning if they had the Spirit or if they lost the Spirit. They waited, they prayed, the Spirit came, they started walking in the power of the Spirit immediately, and miracles followed and many received Christ. There was no doubt.

It is at this point I notice a strong difference between the disciples experience of receiving the Spirit and what I see today where I live. Today, there seems to be so much doubt among Christians concerning if they have received the Spirit or been filled with the Spirit,  if they still have the Spirit or how the Spirit manifests or if the Spirit manifests. We have even gone to various extremes claiming that the Spirit is only our inner voice from God so that we don't sin to other extremes that unless we exhibit one particular manifestation then we definitely don't have it. We have lost the simplicity of the Gospel! The disciples received the Spirit and let the Spirit guide them, and as we read further we see that they also relied on the community of Faith filled with the Spirit to set boundaries.

The other part that stuck out to me concerned the power that the disciples walked in. As we read the rest of Acts and the Epistles, we do not see that power diminishing at all but only expanding in the way it manifests and leads the people of God. When I look at me life, however, and the life of other believers, it is as if there is a disconnect between what we believe mentally and the belief that is demonstrated in our practical life. In my mind I know that Spirit is God and the Spirit has not changed, and so on... but in my practical/spiritual life I live as if there is less of the Spirit now than there was when the Spirit was given at Pentecost. It is as if the "power from on high" were a substance in a bucket and the some was poured out of the disciples as they prayed that day so long ago, and as believers through out history asked God for His spirit more was poured out from that bucket and now we are dealing with rations... as if the power diminished. I know that is not how things work in the kingdom. The Spirit is not like a pie with 8 slices (or in my house 6 big ones) and when one slice is given out that makes less pie available... a whole pie is give to all who ask and their is a never-ending supply of pie (my husbands dream by the way:). When God gives, He is not made deficient, He remains whole!

We get tripped up in our minds and in our emotions. The Holy Spirit was not given by feeling but by Faith. Receiving the Spirit is a matter of asking for and trusting in the promise of God. It is not a matter of feeling tingling all over your body or heat or any other feeling or emotion (though they may be present). When we go by our natural emotions we are simply creating another litmus test and step out of the realm of faith. These are the ways that doubt sneak in and the enemy seeks to take advantage of us. If we trust in our receiving of the Spirit and being filled with the Power of God based on our logic or emotions the enemy of our faith has an access point. On the other hand, if our starting point is faith, the door for doubt is closed. That does not mean the enemy will not try but if I can say in the midst of 'feeling' nothing that I know the Spirit of the living God resides in me, if i can by faith stand on His promise what can the enemy say to that? Whether I feel the Spirit or can logically prove in my mind or talk myself into believing or disbelieving... all of those mean nothing when the doubt and trials come... but if i can humbly come before the Father and remind myself that He who promised is Faithful and stand or rather kneel in that place my hope will remain secure.

In seeking to understand the kingdom of God we can not start with our natural reasoning, logic, or emotions. We have to remember that Gods ways really are different from ours (as cliche as we have made that statement often to justify our own dis-belief or lack of understanding).

We make things so complicated. The disciples, in this case, kept it simple. God promised it, Jesus said it was time, the disciples believed and waited, God remained faithful, the disciples were filled with the Spirit and began walking in the power of the Spirit. The results were mind blowing! Their faith was strengthened and thousands upon thousands received Christ and joined the body of Christ. Imagine the results today if as Christians we held firmly to this simplicity. Imagine the effect on our own personal relationships with God. Imagine the effects on a desperate world in need rescue.

If you find yourself in any of the places I described, either in doubt over whether you actually received the Spirit or believing that the Power of the Spirit is less now than when the Spirit was first given you can simply repent and join with me in prayer asking the Father to help our unbelief. If you have never asked God to be filled with His power through the Spirit I encourage you during this season to ask. If you need to go through the scriptures first, then go through them asking God to open up your understanding to the scriptures as He did for His disciples after His resurrection. Once you repent, once you ask, trust in the reality that He who promised is Faithful. 

Wednesday, October 16

handling emotions

By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things Gal. 5:22, 23

I have felt discouraged all day. I tend to be one of those people who do not normally fluctuate between the highs and lows of emotions. While I am grateful that I do not sink into despair, I wonder what it would be like to feel the ‘highs’ more often. Today, as life circumstances combine with the silence of God, I find myself wondering how am I to respond to these emotions. Part of my faith background tells me emotions are synonymous with the fruit of the Spirit; if I feel sad, that is not of the Spirit so I should repent and fight until I feel/experience “joy”. This false equation, between emotion and fruit, has led to much unconscious guilt in my life. More than that, it has led to a negative perception of emotions in general.

I do realize there is a correlation here, meaning if I feel angry all the time or live in a state of sadness that the manifestation of the fruit of the Spirit is hindered in some way in my life. That aside, what I am learning is that emotions are natural, they are going to feel good and they are going to feel bad, The real measuring stick of the “fruit” is how I respond to those emotions.

My family has endured some hard circumstances. I do not understand why things are playing out the way they are, if I stepped out of line or not, or what I am to learn from these things. So I wait, I pray, I ask, but God is silent. Still, in all of this I know two things 1. God is and 2. He rewards those who diligently seek Him (Heb. 11:6). Remembering these two things shifts my perspective to a new question: What does this emotion tell me? Where is it coming from? How do I handle it? How do I take this discouragement, lay it at the feat of Jesus, and ask Him to sift my heart showing me what I cannot see? I must allow myself to feel, while not allowing the feeling to overtake me but rather become the mirror. Yet, if I look into the mirror with my own eyes I will most likely become deceived, so I pray that I would see as God sees, from His perspective.

I do not think this is the right response in all situations. Sometimes we really do need to simply recognize the emotion, recognize the truth, repent, and move on. However, there are other times where we need to allow God to deal with what is really going on. In most cases, or maybe all, the circumstances do not cause the emotion but serve to reveal things that were present all along but we could not see.

Overall, I am thankful that even when God is silent, He is present. He is still unfolding His plan and drawing me closer to His heart along the way.  

Wednesday, October 9

Thoughts on Fearing God

 "the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction "

In fearing God we are acknowledging that He is God and that we/I am not. It is repenting and recognizing that I do not know everything and that my way is not perfect but His way is. He is the creator of all that is,  He is almighty God and when I recognize these truths I can submit myself fully to Him, allowing him to teach me, correct me,  bring understanding and enlighten my eyes. It is easy to get offended with God as His ways are not our ways and His plan goes so far beyond any temporary pain we may experience; though He has compassion on our temporal experience...He sees so far beyond that. When we remember this and in awe we fear Him (falling into the hands of the almighty living God)  then we are OPEN to His knowledge and wisdom. Until we reach this point we will exalt our own understanding and as Paul says raise up/exalt strongholds against the knowledge of God and keep his wisdom from reaching us. (2 Cor. 10:3-5)

"blessed is he who is not offended because of me" Matthew 11:6

     One way in which this is demonstrated in the Christian life is through the repentance of sins. In repenting of our sins we are in essence recognizing that God is both love and justice, that in Him there is no lie. We are recognizing Him as creator God, who set forth principals for living life as He intended, which considering He is good, is the best possible way to live. We are acknowledging that we have stepped out of bounds with how God created things to function. We acknowledge that we chose to live according to our natural desires of selfishness and admit that there are consequences for wrong doing. We acknowledge we want both the love and justice of God and we accept His forgiveness and any consequences as a result of our stepping out from under the umbrella of His grace. In doing so, in fearing God and repenting, we also open ourself up to receive His grace, His instruction, His wisdom so that we can walk, not according to our flesh but in accordance with His Spirit. We are empowered!  

Wednesday, October 2

Standing up for Truth

*This is not a political post. Read it as an object lesson,
and if you can not… well then stop reading *

The Government has shutdown because people could not agree, compromise, talk civilly (you fill in the adjective). For a moment though, let us forget about the issues leading to the shutdown. What concerns me is the response I heard from all sides. One group stands up for their convictions (remember this is not political… object lesson), the other side tells them to sit down- expected. However, those on the same side tell them to sit down as well, not because they are wrong but because they cannot win. I heard various politicians state that while they agreed, they could not win so they should stop fighting, because the issue was not important, their image was important and losing was not good for the image. 
            Listening to these responses I was reminded of a video I watched concerning what the Church would look like in 100 years… may it was 10,000 years I do not remember. The speaker said the Church could not win on certain issues, so they should give up those issues and move on to protect the image of the Church. One of the issues was abortion, even more he said, it is not about whether we think it is right or wrong or even biblical but that we can’t win the argument… so we should stop now.
            Some believe there is nothing worth fighting for, no inherent value, no ultimate morality, you only take a fight you can win, like a layer only taking cases that are a slam dunk (then boasting about their record). The reality is some things are worth standing up for, even if you are going to loose, even if you are going to be humiliated, even if it will cost you your very life.
Consider the result of a Church that never separates it message from culture’s message. Picture a Church that fails to uphold Biblical truths and principals because they are unpopular to the world. Then, consider a Church that remembers her role is not to convince the world of what is true, not to be held in high esteem as the ‘evolved church’, to be accepted or tolerated by the world. What if the Church remembered she is the Bride of Christ, seeking to glorify the Bridegroom, so that when He arrives He finds a pure and spotless Bride. A Church that is growing because they are holding fast to the pure Gospel message, loving each other with the love of Christ and loving the world enough to holdfast to what is true.
The monologues and dialogues I heard, the vanity, all of it revealed a deeper issue in our society. We no longer care about what is right. Rather we care about how it looks. If it looks good, we talk loudly about it. However, if we cannot win, if it is not appealing, we will remain silent and pray to God that nobody asks us what we think or what God says. Consider this, would you being willing to stand up for what is right even if you knew you could not win, no one would agree with you and you would be humiliated?

"In a time of universal deceit- telling the truth is a revolutionary act"
George Orwell