Holy Spirit


John 19-21 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He commissions and empowers us to be His witnesses

Who would have thought split pea soup would be the catalyst to lead someone to the Lord!  Back in grade school, when I was 7 years old, my best friend and her brother were over for lunch one day.  My mom had made split pea soup for us, not exactly kid food, and as she left the kitchen she cautioned, “Don’t add crackers to your soup or it will be too thick to eat.”

As we looked at our bowls of green goo in awe, we decided that crackers could only help the situation and started to crush many crackers into our soup and soon learned that mom was right.  We could have built a monument with the mortar that sat in front of us.  I started to cry just as she came back into the kitchen. Money was tight and this was wasteful.

Mom decided to use this situation to talk about obedience and pleasing the Lord.  At the time I really didn’t understand what came over me, but I started to sing an old hymn of the church, “There is a fountain filled with blood, drawn from Emanuel’s veins, and sinners plunged beneath the flood lose all their guilty stains.”  Well, at 7 years old I certainly did not understand all the theology behind that song and neither did my friends, but they started to weep and in a matter of moments they were repeating the sinner’s prayer.  Carol and Michael were the first souls I helped lead to the Lord, but it was the Holy Spirit that convicted them of sin. 

@ John 20
“Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.’ Then he breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven. If you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.’” (21-23)  When we read this scripture, it’s easy to get hung up on the question as to whether or not Jesus was saying that the disciples could forgive sin.  Unless they were the pure spotless Lamb of God and had sacrificed their lives on the cross for sin, absolutely not.  However, this was Part 1 of a Spirit-given commissioning for these new believers to present the Gospel, God’s terms for salvation, to the world.  Part 2 followed in Acts 2 when they received the power of the Holy Spirit, the dunamis, the dynamite explosion to be His witnesses.

Jesus wanted His disciples to know that they were not alone in presenting their message because the convicter, the convincer of sin, the Holy Spirit would be with them. “[The Holy Spirit] will convict the world of its sin, and of God’s righteousness, and of the coming judgment.” (16:8)  The Holy Spirit is the great evangelist, and we are His voice.  Understanding this truth should remove anxiety and apprehension from sharing the Gospel with others.

The Holy Spirit convicted my friends of their sinful nature because that is His job.  Having already received the Lord as my Savior, I had been commissioned by the Lord through the Holy Spirit to bring others to Christ, and it was so very easy because He did all the work.  I mean, if at 7 years old I could be used in this way, what is my excuse today?  We are His voice, and when we do our job in obedience, He is right there with us doing His job! 

Moving Forward: I pray that I will never let doubt and apprehension diminish the role of the Holy Spirit in bringing people to Christ.  When I share the goodness of God and the salvation He has given through His Son, I am partnering with the Great Evangelist!

Tomorrow @ Hebrews 1- 4

Joel (NLT link)

Discover His heart: He gives His Spirit to the repentant heart

I decided a long time ago that Italian men are farmers at heart.  My grandfather had an exceptional garden and grew much of what the family ate.  He was the only person I know that could grow a peach tree in the cold Minnesota climate. My dad had a great garden with wonderful tomatoes, beans and peppers.  And my husband, Tom, can grow just about anything.  Hence, Italian men are farmers at heart.

Tom loves to take plants that look like they are ready to be discarded and nurse them back to health, and he’s amazing at it.  We one time had a beautiful rosebush, the Dolly Parton, and it was the most fragrant rose I’ve ever smelled.  We came home from a trip and found that it had been attacked by some blight and was on its last…stem.  Tom saw that one little stem seemed to have a little life left in it.  Well, he took the frail, devoured plant, cut it down to almost nothing and nourished it from the inside out.  In no time at all, the fragrant rosebush was in full bloom, ready for me to enjoy!  What a guy!  Sometimes it takes some heavy duty pruning and nourishment to bring restoration, and the prophet Joel knew all about that.

Joel prophesied about a blight of locusts that was coming to devour, the judgment of God that was coming to Israel if they did not repent of their sins. Some believe this prophecy told of a literal plague of locust as well as the invading Assyrian and Babylonian armies.  Regardless, a dreadful day was coming for Israel and was aptly described in Joel 1 and 2, “Despair, all you farmers!  Wail, all you vine growers!  Weep, because the wheat and barley—all the crops of the field—are ruined…Come, spend the night in burlap, you ministers of my God.  For there is no grain or wine to offer at the Temple of your God.  Announce a time of fasting; call the people together for a solemn meeting.” (1:11,13-14)  Pruning was coming to Israel.

Whether our hearts are distraught over our country, a family crisis, church turmoil or problems in our own lives, we are challenged by the prophet Joel to start with repentance while there is still a little life left in the stem.  “That is why the Lord says, ‘Turn to me now, while there is time.  Give me your hearts.  Come with fasting, weeping, and mourning. Don’t tear your clothing in your grief, but tear your hearts instead.’”  (2:12-13)  Go to him with a broken spirit and a repentant heart, repenting of any failure or sin. (Psalm 51:17)

Israel could have avoided a lot of pain and devastation had they listened to Joel and to the many other prophets that God sent a long their way.  But just as my patient gardener brought life back to a beautiful rosebush, our loving God will take the remnant of any situation, prune it and bring life back to it when it is finally yielded to Him.  Oh, how much better, though, to avoid this painful process through repentance.

“Then, after doing all those things, I will pour out my Spirit upon all people.  Your sons and daughters will prophesy.  Your old men will dream dreams, and your young men will see visions.  In those days I will pour out my Spirit even on servants—men and women alike.”  (2:28-29)  As with my fragrant rosebush, Israel’s sweet fragrance of communion with the Spirit of God one day would be restored.  Israel experienced it on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2, when His Spirit became available to all people.  And we today are all people, too.  Approach Him with a contrite heart and enjoy the wonderful fragrance of His Spirit—prophetic dreams and visions included!

Moving Forward:  I will turn to Him today in any crisis, repent when needed and enjoy the beautiful bouquet of His Spirit. 

Tomorrow @ John 13-15

John 3-4 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He is looking for those who will worship Him in spirit and in truth

It’s difficult to communicate with people when we’re not on the same page as them, so to speak.  Our focus may be different, perhaps our understanding of the thing we’re discussing is not the same or maybe attitude is an issue.  Regardless of the cause, we’re well aware when we lack agreement and harmony in a dialogue.  In John 4, Jesus gave some powerful advice to the Samaritan woman about successful communication with our Father

@ John 4
The Samaritan woman at the well approached her conversation with Jesus with many issues regarding her race, her lifestyle and her worship. Jesus introduced her to the Living Water and answered her question about the proper place to worship with a powerful key to communicating with God. “The time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship Him that way. For God is Spirit, so those who worship Him must worship in spirit and in truth.” (23-24)

Jesus put to rest the dialogue about where to worship and focused on how to worship.  It was a new time, gone were the old traditions and typical ways of Old Testament worship, and now was the time for true worship – His coming changed everything!

Through the acceptance of Jesus and His salvation, we are no longer confined to a certain place or tradition of worship, but we have access to Him anywhere, any time because He is a Spirit who is everywhere all the time.  But how do we worship Him in spirit and in truth?

True worship is not done out of obligation or tradition, but it is offered out of sincerity and a genuine desire to express love and adoration for God – this is truth.  Jesus spoke about this in Matthew 15:8 when He quoted Isaiah regarding the Pharisees, “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.”  Worship in truth comes from a heart so full of Him that there’s little room for anything else, when our lips express what is truly in our hearts.  At these moments of true worship we are not thinking in the back of our minds about the errands we need to run or the roast in the oven or the next appointment because our thoughts of Him have filled our hearts and minds.  It’s not as though we can fool Him.

“The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.” (Psalm 51:17)  My most genuine spirit worship comes when I worship Him for who He is in relationship to who I am not.  It’s difficult to worship Him for the immensity of His greatness and goodness when there’s even an ounce of pride in any great or good in me.  “Your righteousness, O God, reaches to the highest heavens.  You have done such wonderful things.  Who can compare with you, O God?” (Psalm 71:19)

When the magnitude of His greatness shakes me to my knees in humility and brokenness, my spirit, my inner man, can truly worship in spirit the God who is Spirit.  Same focus, same understanding, same attitude – on the same page, so to speak.

True worship is sincere, attentive, heart-felt and spirit-humbled communication with the Father that can take place anywhere and anytime because He is a Spirit who is everywhere all the time.  Because He has to look for it, apparently true worship isn’t something that flows easily from His children, “The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way,” (23)  Oh, that He will find in each one of us what He is looking for today! 

Moving Forward: I join with David, a true worshiper, and pray, “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” (Psalm 19:14) 

Tomorrow @ I Timothy 1-3

Galatians 4-6 (NLT) 

Discover His heart:  He desires to fill us with the joy of the Holy Spirit

Paul questioned the Galatians, “What has happened to all your joy?”(4:15 NIV)  Now that’s a question I don’t want to be asked because it signals to me that in the eyes of others, my joy is gone. If asked this question, I would feel obliged to examine what really did happen to my joy so that I could give an answer.  Where exactly did my joy go?

I’ve noticed when I am especially embroiled in a tedious task like income tax filing, checkbook balancing or bill paying, the joy really isn’t flowing.  Although I love to cook and try new recipes, following a very detailed Martha Stewart recipe can change the environment in my kitchen very quickly. Suddenly, it’s just not fun anymore.  This is how Paul found the Galatians – encumbered by the Law of Moses at the bidding of the false teachers who had invaded the church.  Their relationship with the Lord had been usurped by legalism, and they had lost their joy. 

@ Galatians 5
“So Christ has truly set us free.  Now make sure that you stay free, and don’t get tied up again in slavery to the law.” (1)  The incessant observance of all the laws had turned the Galatians’ focus from the work of the Holy Spirit through Christ in their lives to their work in their lives, saving themselves through circumcision and the adherence to all the laws.

Anyone or anything that turns our focus from Jesus and what He did on the cross to rules and methods that we must follow to earn our salvation is wrong.   “When God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit.” (Titus 3:5)

New life through the Holy Spirit!  “So, I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives…the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives:  love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control.” (16,22-23)  Joy is the end result when the Holy Spirit controls our lives.  Joy doesn’t come from our substitutions for Him or our manipulations of Him, but rather His pure guidance and freedom in our lives.  When the Holy Spirit guides us, we are filled with a deep, abiding peace regardless of our circumstances and a joy that comes from deep within us.

“Now with patience in our suffering, perseverance in our prayers, with good reason this hope is in our hearts.  Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Christ our joy and strength.  Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Christ our joy and strength.” (Sara Groves)  With His joy, no one will ask “What has happened to all your joy?” because He puts a song of joy in our hearts and we sing Hallelujah, Hallelujah!

Moving Forward:  As I move through this day led by the Holy Spirit, I experience His joy because He is guiding me and producing what is good in my life.  Hallelujah! 

Tomorrow @ Exodus 37-40

2 Samuel 1-4 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He rewards our patience and integrity; He desires that our zeal is surrendered to Him

“I was just trying to help.”  How many times have we offered this explanation when our attempt to help someone has not been helpful.  Often unsolicited, our help is well-intended but sometimes it doesn’t achieve our goal.  So often we don’t understand the big picture in a situation or the long-term ramifications yet charge ahead with opinions that we feel would be helpful.  Through the years I learned to offer my help to others with enthusiasm; but if it’s not accepted, I know there must be a reason for it.  In our reading today, the less than helpful Amalekite and valiant Asahel had not learned this lesson.

The Amalekites, Esau’s descendants, had been the bane of Israel’s existence for quite some time, and now one lone Amalekite came to David bearing the crown and armband of David’s arch rival, King Saul, announcing his death as well as the death of his son, Jonathan.  Some believe his story of killing Saul to put him out of his misery was fabricated; but regardless of the truth, David did not congratulate him.  “Why were you not afraid to kill the Lord’s anointed one?” (2 Samuel 1:14) Obviously the Amalekite did not anticipate the integrity of David, and David ordered him killed for his terrible deed. I guess he was just trying to help. Shortly after this, David was anointed king of the southern kingdom of Judah. 

@ 2 Samuel 2
Ishbosheth (say that fast three times), Saul’s son, was crowned king of the northern kingdom of Israel, and almost immediately fighting ensued between the divided kingdoms.  David had the three sons of Zeruiah who were dominant figures in his army – Joel, Abishai and Asahel.  Chapter 2 gives the fateful account of the young Asahel who put upon himself the task of taking out Abner, Ishbosheth’s mighty leader.  We learn through this story that the life of even the fastest runner in the land is worth very little when he is running in the wrong direction.  Abner tried hard not to kill this young warrior; but it was kill or be killed, and Asahel died at the hand of the mighty Abner.  Although Asahel’s desire to diminish the strength of the enemy by killing Abner seemed valiant, dead self-directed heroes can do little else for the kingdom.

Not only did Asahel die that day, but his murder sparked a great civil war between the two kingdoms that finally culminated seven years later at the murder of Ishbosheth.  David was crowned king of Israel and the two kingdoms were finally united.  God rewarded David for his integrity and patience.  When the Israelites entered the Promised Land many years before, their assignment was to rid the land of its inhabitants and to build a holy nation, God’s special treasure.  It took many more years to accomplish this than was necessary because of disunity and infighting. Asahel’s self-directed zeal came at a cost. Obedience is better than sacrifice (I Samuel 15:22).

Several times throughout my life I have tried to help God out in areas where He hasn’t asked for my assistance.  My intentions were honorable, but my actions were not.  Anytime I try to be the Holy Spirit, rather than be led by Him, I can expect poor results.  Fortunately, the Lord has not let it kill me, but I have found myself on my knees, asking forgiveness, pleading His mercy. And, true to His nature, He is merciful. The Holy Spirit is big enough for any task and His guidance never misdirects. 

Moving Forward:  Like all the examples from His Word, I receive its life-giving counsel to make me better, more like Him. 

Tomorrow @ Psalm 48-50