Sunday, May 27, 2007

Pentecost -- Presence, Power and Purity

There are many days that are celebrated because of their spiritual significance. Christmas - Good Friday - Easter and, in the evangelical holiness movement, Pentecost is of significance.

Consider the following:

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
Acts 2:1-4 NIV

There are a lot of things that speak to me out of this passage. I have hinted at some of them in the title of this post.

The presence of the Holy Spirit was undeniable. The Holy Spirit came in the form of a wind from Heaven and settled on those gathered in the form of little flames of fire.

The Holy Spirit was manifested in the power and ability of those Apostles to communicate to the many gathered in Jerusalem in their own native language. And to do so without the prior training or learning of that language. But there is an even more impressive display of the Holy Spirit's power. That power enabled Peter to rise above the denials and disappointing way that he had acted just a few short weeks ago on the night that Jesus was betrayed. Peter was empowered and emboldened to great things through the infilling of the Holy Spirit.

So what does this mean to me?

The presence and power of the Holy Spirit make it possible for our hearts to be purified. The Bible offers several passages that apply here.

Again, consider Peter the Apostle when he defended his visit to Cornelius's house in Acts 15 7-9 in the NIV.
After much discussion, Peter got up and addressed them: “Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe. God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. He made no distinction between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith.

Titus 2:11-15 offers us great hope and assurance that the Holy Spirit will purify our hearts in preparation for Jesus Christ's return.
For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self‑controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope–the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good. These, then, are the things you should teach. Encourage and rebuke with all authority. Do not let anyone despise you.

James 4:8 is a little more direct and commands us to purify our hearts.
Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double‑minded.

God would not command us to do something that His Holy Spirit will not empower us to be successful at. And that is good news! In fact, God himself wants offer the Holy Spirit to us. Jesus, in Matthew 7 and Luke 11 used parables in His teaching and He tries to describe the love of our Heavenly Father.
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.“Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!
“So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for[fn6] a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

Holiness is what I want. And holiness is what my heavenly father wants for me. Hey, that would make great lyrics!

Holiness, holiness is what I long for
Holiness is what I need
Holiness, holiness is what You
want from me

Holiness, holiness is what I long for
Holiness is what I need
Holiness, holiness is what You
want from me

So, take my heart and form it
Take my mind and transform it
Take my will and conform it
To Yours, to Yours, oh, Lord

Faithfulness, faithfulness is what I long for
Faithfulness is what I need
Faithfulness, faithfulness is what
You want from me

Brokenness, brokenness is what I long for
Brokenness is what I need
Brokenness, brokenness is what
You want from me

Thank you Scott Underwood for writing that worship chorus that expresses my desire and God's desire for me.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

"Putting off the old man"

I remember growing up in the 60's and 70's. It was very popular to refer to your dad as "the old man." That is to say, popular in every house but ours. We were told very early in our teen years about that phrase and that it was analogous to man's sinful nature. And that was definitely far from the representation or description of our father.

But what does "putting off the old man" mean to me?

Let's first look at a passage of scripture that brings up that phrase.

Now this I affirm and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds; they are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart; they have become callous and have given themselves up to licentiousness, greedy to practice every kind of uncleanness. You did not so learn Christ! -- assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus. Put off your old nature which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new nature, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. Therefore, putting away falsehood, let every one speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his hands, so that he may be able to give to those in need. Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for edifying, as fits the occasion, that it may impart grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, in whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Ephesians 4:17-32 RSV

Putting off the old man sounds almost benign in this passage, doesn't it? You get a somewhat different picture in Romans 6:6. That passage says this:
knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. Romans 6:6 NKJV

Crucified -- that's not quite so benign is it? That sounds downright painful in fact. And it is painful. Or rather, it was. It was painful when Christ died for our sins. It was painful when He willingly gave His life that we might live. And that brings me back to my original thought when I started writing this.

How should we then live?

I think the best way to live is to focus not so much on what we are putting off. But rather we should focus on what we are putting on. Put on a new Spirit for your mind as noted in verse 23. And put on holiness and righteousness as noted in verse 24.

Is it easy? -- Yes and No

It is easy in that we don't have to do anything in our own strength. We have the Holy Spirit to lead us, guide us and empower us to live a Holy life.

It is not easy in that we are often tempted to try to handle it on our own. We listen to the voice of the world that tells us that we need to be self-sufficient and rely on our own abilities. Self-reliance is an open invitation to letting the devil get a foothold in our lives as we are warned in verse 27.

Here are some practical words right out of our passage.
  • Speak truthfully to your neighbor
  • Be angry, but without letting that anger drive us to sin
  • Work hard and do something useful for the Kingdom
  • Share with those who are in need
  • Watch your mouth for unwholesome talk
  • Use our words to build each other up
  • Don't grieve the Holy Spirit
  • Get rid of socially unacceptable and disruptive behaviors
  • Be kind and compassionate to one another
  • Forgive each other as Christ forgave us
I am not sure why I wrote this today. But it came to me during the worship service this morning. Perhaps I wrote it because I needed to read it.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Mount Vernon In Spring

This past week was spent in central Ohio. Wow! It was beautiful. There were gently rolling hills, farms, small towns, and dear friends. We were in Ohio picking up our daughter from college. We also met some new friends. It doesn't get any better than this!

We will be back at the end of the summer!

Monday, May 07, 2007

Encouragement for Those Making Decisions

I was sitting in church yesterday morning (a good thing to do, I might add!) And the pastor read a passage of Scripture that went along with what he was going to preach about later in the service. But, the Holy Spirit meant it for me for a different reason.

Someone I know and love very much is facing some decisions about their future. The words in the text encouraged me. Perhaps it will encourage you, too.

So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and in his good time he will honor you. Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about what happens to you. Be careful! Watch out for attacks from the Devil, your great enemy. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for some victim to devour. Take a firm stand against him, and be strong in your faith. Remember that your Christian brothers and sisters all over the world are going through the same kind of suffering you are. In his kindness God called you to his eternal glory by means of Jesus Christ. After you have suffered a little while, he will restore, support, and strengthen you, and he will place you on a firm foundation. All power is his forever and ever. Amen. 1 Peter 5:6-11 NLT
There are a couple of things that jump out at me from this passage.
  1. God cares about me and about what happens to me.
  2. Satan is prowling around looking for someone to devour.
So what does that say to me?
  1. The very God of the universe knows me and He cares about me. He knows what I need and He wants to meet my needs.
  2. Satan (the roaring lion) is opportunistic. The lion often lies in wait in the tall grass until the unsuspecting or weak prey wanders by too close.
So what does that mean to me?
  1. I should cast all of my cares, questions, concerns and burdens about the future upon Him. He is Sovereign. He is Love. And that is a powerful combination.
  2. I should stay strong and focused on the God who has brought me along thus far. Even though times may be good, do not forsake Him. Do not be proud and self-sufficient.
I don't know if this will help anyone this week. I know it helped me yesterday!

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

And now I lay me down to sleep

And now I lay me down to sleep.
I pray the Lord, my soul to keep.
If I should die before I wake,
I pray the Lord my soul to take.

The little prayer that you and I may have prayed before we went to bed each night may be very similar to the one written above. It seems to me that it was somewhat self-serving, wasn't it? We prayed for ourselves. In our limited view of ourselves and of God's grace and mercy, we prayed that we would somehow make it to heaven if we died in our sleep.

But our parents went to bed later that night also. I was very fortunate to have Godly parents who prayed for me every day. And as apparent myself now, I wonder what my parents were praying? What were the things going through the minds of our mom and dad as they lay their heads on their pillows each night?

How are my kids doing in school?
How are they doing working at their jobs?
Is their job rewarding?
Are they making friends?
Are they making the right friends?
How are they getting along with their friends?
Are these friends helping them become more Christ-like?
Are they involved in a love relationship?
Is it a healthy relationship?
Does that person bring out the best in my son or daughter?
What is God's will for their future?
Are they open to the moving of the Holy Spirit in their lives?
Are they becoming young men and women of God?

That list above is a very different set of thoughts than what went through my head as a child. The thoughts and prayers are no longer quite so self-serving. In fact, it is all about someone other than ourselves. It is completely focused on those lives that God has entrusted to us to raise, to train and to live before as examples of what it is to be a mature person and, more importantly, what it is to be a mature Christian.

So what does this mean to me?

I think it means that my job as the primary prayer warrior for my children is no where near over! From the perspective of a 46 year old, I can more clearly see the impact of the things that are on the list of questions above.

But, let me say very quickly. I am very blessed. Both of my kids are growing and maturing and making great decisions. Both are actively seeking and following God's will as it is being revealed to them.

Be encouraged you parents of young children. Keep praying. God is still on the throne!