Tag Archives: Holy Spirit

Fill ‘er Up

 

It was two incidents close together that drove me back into Scripture. The first came at suppertime. I was in charge of grilling the burgers. As usual, I fired up the grill, closed the cover and went back inside while it got up to a good temperature. I soon returned to the grill and opened up the cover to place the patties in the prime places – except when I opened up the cover I felt no heat. It didn’t take long to realize the tank was out of gas. Apparently there was just enough gas in the line to provide an initial flame but no more.

The second incident occurred just a few days later. Knowing two of our grandchildren would be at our house over the 4th of July, we had purchased some sparklers. So we broke the m out with great       anticipation and excitement. We then realized we had only a few matches – and our butane lighter was all but empty. But no problem, we’d only use 1 match and light the sparklers from the sparklers. So we lit the first sparkler – it feebly spit out sparks for a circumference of about inch. And it lasted about 5 seconds – no time to light another one. Thinking it was just a dud, we used another match to light the next one. Turns out they were all duds! There just wasn’t enough flammable stuff on the wires to produce any sparks of significance.

As I thought about these two related incidents later, I realized that “If you want to fire up, fill ‘er up.” No gas, no fire. No flammable material, no fire. Consider Acts 19:1-12.

“While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples and asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” They answered, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” So Paul asked, “Then what baptism did you receive?” “John’s baptism,” they replied. Paul said, “John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.” On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied. There were about twelve men in all. Paul entered the synagogue and spoke boldly there for three months, arguing persuasively about the kingdom of God. But some of them became obstinate; they refused to believe and publicly maligned the Way. So Paul left them. He took the disciples with him and had discussions daily in the lecture hall of Tyrannus. This went on for two years, so that all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord. God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them.”

 The fire didn’t flame up until the disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit. “If you want to fire up, fill ‘er up.”

I began to think of all the times I have tried to do things in my own power, to produce something I wanted, to bring about a result I could cherish – only to have it burn out. I forgot to make sure the vision or idea was Spirit driven. “If you want to fire up, fill ‘er up.” And I thought about all the times I’ve flamed out, burned out, quit flaming – because I had been running on empty and not taken the time to be refilled by the Holy Spirit. “If you want to fire up, fill ‘er up.”

It’s a good reminder for me. If I don’t want to flame out, if I want to burn brightly, I need to be sure the Holy Spirit’s on board. Otherwise I’ll be just flash that never grows up into a fire. “If you want to fire up, fill ‘er up.” In fact, I wonder what would happen if I began each day with a prayer: “Holy Spirit, set me on fire.” Perhaps, just perhaps, I’ll only do those things and say those things that will keep the fire burning. And perhaps, just perhaps, my fire will set others on fire – until the world is on fire for Jesus. Will you burn with me? Perhaps, just perhaps “God (will do) extraordinary miracles through (us), so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that … touch (us will be) taken to the sick, and their illnesses (be) cured and the evil spirits (leave) them.” “If you want to fire up, fill ‘er up.”

 

Activating Your Access

Have you ever been in the presence of royalty? Or someone famous, someone in power? Have you ever been in a place where only select, favored people are allowed? Have you ever wished you could be? The good news is, you can be!

The past two weeks I’ve written about the inheritance we’ve received through the birth of Jesus Christ: we can claim our inheritance as children of God and can share His influence with others. Now we focus on the third aspect of our inheritance: “God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ‘Abba, Father.’” (Galatians 4:6)

We have a right to come into the very presence of God like a child coming to his parent. We have this right not because we know how to pray correctly, or know the right formula or combinations of words, or because we’ve been so good, or done enough good deeds that God has agreed to see us – but because we are His children! We have intimate access through prayer. As Hebrews 4:16 puts it: “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Jesus talked often about getting apart to be in the presence of His Father so he could be one with His Father. The reality is we have the same access to the Father as Jesus did. God will not turn us away. He’s never too busy for us. It’s said that Gordon Balfour wrote that his father worked part-time as a driver and guard for Brinks Armored Car Service. Once, as his school was only a city block from home, his dad stopped the truck at the school to give him a ride home.

Gordon came out of school and spotted the shiny grey armored car, complete with gun-ports, bullet-proof glass and rivet-heads everywhere. Gathered in a respectful circle around it were all the third-grade boys, gawking at this mysterious vehicle. Gordon pushed his way through the circle, went up to the truck and climbed up inside the cab. As he did so, the other students stared and held their breath at his bold move. Gordon knew what they did not know – that he was in reality approaching his father who loved him and would freely and gladly receive him. In the same way we have unlimited, free access – any time, for whatever reason – to God the Father. Jesus walks us in and says, “Dad, my brother – or sister – here wants to talk with you.” And God will give us His undivided attention!

But what would you say if you had God – your Father’s – undivided attention? I have to admit, I think I would be so overwhelmed that I might be at a loss for words. Yet no need to worry! Paul says the Holy Spirit cries in us and for us. What a tremendous inheritance and gift! When we are too overcome with emotion, too burdened with cares, too filled with doubts, too overwhelmed with sorrow that we do not know what to say – or cannot speak – the Spirit knows and speaks for us. Knowing our hearts, He understands how we feel and then takes those feelings and puts them into words and speaks for us – even cries out for us – with the Father. In Romans 8:26-27 Paul similarly writes: “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.”

An elderly gentleman was ambling through his garden one day when he came upon his young granddaughter repeating the alphabet in an oddly reverent sort of way. “What on earth are you up to?” he asked. The little girl explained, “I’m praying, Grandpa. I can’t think of exactly the right words, so I’m just saying all the letters, and God will put them together for me, ‘cause he knows what I am thinking.” What a description of the Holy Spirit’s ministry for us!

So the truth is you have a right to bring to God anything and everything in your heart. You can bring it all boldly – your triumphs and tears, your strengths and struggles, your decisions and doubts, your boldness and brokenness, your wisdom and wordlessness. And all because you have intimacy with your Father through prayer. There’s a story from the days when the generals led their troops into battle rather than directing them from a ‘situation room’ half a world away. Alexander the Great’s position was about to be over-run by the enemy. Turning to a valiant young soldier at his side, the great military genius implored the boy to fight harder. “And if we survive this attack,” he said, “I’ll see that you are rewarded handsomely.” Survive they did! When the youth appeared later to claim a reward, Alexander gave him an impression of the royal seal saying, “Take this to the treasurer for your payment.” “How much shall it be?” asked the soldier. “That will be for you to decide. Ask for whatever amount you think appropriate. It will be paid.”

So the peasant youth presented the seal to the royal treasurer and named an enormous sum. Shocked by the amount, the treasurer balked. Insisting that they return to camp together, the treasurer told Alexander of the soldier’s ‘outlandish’ request. Pausing to recall the battle scene, the general finally replied, “Pay him. He honors me with the size of his request.”

Are you ready to exercise your rights, activate your access and claim your inheritance? Go ahead! Honor God with the size of your request!

Photo of Boy running to father is from www.storyblocks.com
Photo of money by Pepi Stojanovski on Unsplash

A Person of Influence

Who are the people who have influenced your life – who have had an effect or impact upon your character, development, thoughts or behavior? How has your life been different because of them? What about them gave them influence?

Have you ever thought of yourself an influencer? The apostle Paul has some good news resulting from the birth of Jesus. “But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son … that we might receive adoption to sonship. Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts…” (Galatians 4:4-6)

Consider the phrase “God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts.”

Notice – the Spirit is given to us – we don’t need to ask for Him or do anything to receive Him He is given to us! He comes as a gift – He’s part of the inheritance package we looked at last week, part of the salvation life! We have been  influenced.

Be sure to catch the heart of this: God not only sent Himself to us, God sent Himself into us! We not only have access to the riches of God but we have God Himself! Recall God’s promise to Abraham: “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.” (Genesis 15:1) and the words of the Psalmist: “The Lord is my portion, O my soul…” (Psalm 16:5).

Yet I believe we have a problem. God works so constantly, so quietly, that sometimes we forget He’s in us. Someone has appropriately pointed out that our experience of the Holy Spirit is like wearing eyeglasses. The only time we really look at them is when we’re looking for them. Glasses are not made to be seen so much as to be seen through. They function best when we don’t notice them. We examine them to remove specks of dirt and dust and smears; but when they function properly they sit on our nose and we are all but unaware of them. We don’t see our glasses when we wear them, but when we wear them, we see! So it is with the Holy Spirit – when He’s doing His greatest work we will be totally unaware – but He is still at work.

And what is He doing? He’s remaking us, shaping us, growing us. Whereas our inheritance gave us position the Holy Spirit gives us regeneration. Paul points out that the Spirit has been sent into our hearts – not into our brains, nor into our intellect, but into the very seat of our affections, emotions, and desires. He resides in the center of our being. In Psalm 37:4 David wrote, “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.” For years I limited the meaning of this verse to the idea that if we delight in the Lord He would give us whatever we desire. But that’s only a half-truth; I now recognize that it has a double meaning. The whole truth is that when we delight ourselves in the Lord, He plants the good and proper desires in our hearts. So naturally He’ll give them to us! So yes – God gives us the desires of our hearts. And those desires pertain to godliness, to Christ-likeness.

Just as the heart pumps blood into all parts of our body, so the Spirit within us – God Himself – sends His influence and likeness into every fiber of our being – into every power, every faculty, every thought. That’s why Paul wrote so often about our constant progression – our sanctification – into Christ likeness. The older I get the more I recognize how much like my father I am becoming – in looks, posture, attitude, and behavior. It reminds me that I am also growing into the likeness of Christ, and that He who began a good work in me will bring it to completion. What an influence there is in me through the presence of Christ.

I invite you to dwell on these 2 facts.                                                                Fact #1 – God is in you wherever we go. When you wake up in the morning remember this. It will influence your plans. It will influence you when you’re alone or in a crowd. It will influence you in your business and your home. Realize the power and potential it gives you. It will change the places you go, the thoughts you think, and the things you do.
Fact #2: God sent the Spirit of His Son into your heart. God is within you! He influences you to influence others. You have the right and the mandate to act and live as a child of God – for so you are. And when you do, you will be a person of influence. Only God knows how many will be influenced by you – and ultimately by Jesus!

Live

Glasses – Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

“With All Your Heart” Photo by Brittney Burnett on Unsplash

Dove and Heart Photo from www.storyblocks .com

At a Loss for Words

Sometimes I know I need help. It’s often when I am aware that I cannot communicate in an effective way.

  • For many years our congregation was blessed to have someone sign our entire worship service. I did not know how to communicate with the hearing impaired.
  • I have travelled in countries where I did not know the native language. I needed an interpreter.
  • On a few occasions my wife has accompanied me to a medical appointment. As a Registered Nurse she could express and understand things from a medical perspective I did not have.
  • There have been times I’ve been asked to speak, preach or pray at a specific event with which I was unfamiliar or which had certain expectations. I consulted speeches, sermons and prayers by others who knew the expectations and language.

I’ve always been grateful for those who could speak the necessary language.

And it is also true on an even deeper level.There have been difficult and even tragic situations into which I, as a pastor, was called to render support, assistance and comfort.

  • A family with young children had just lost their husband and father to cancer – another their wife and mother – another their young daughter, wife and mother because of a tumor
  • A family of a high school aged son and grandson killed in an auto accident
  • A young husband and wife whose baby was still born
  • A wife and mother whose husband just committed suicide
  • A man who came home to find his son had murdered his wife and daughter

I was, at least initially, at a loss for words, not sure what or how to communicate. I had no language, no words to say. How could I speak into life situations that are so horrific and difficult?

Yet I am grateful that in all these situations, and so many others, God through His Holy Spirit prompted me with what to say and do, or what not to say and do, or even to just be present – always something far more appropriate than I could ever have come up with on my own.

Similarly, I’m sometimes not sure what to say to God, how to pray to Him. Life and situations are simply overwhelming, complicated and confusing. That’s when I am grateful I know Someone who can help.

The Apostle Paul wrote about Him in Romans 8:26-27 — “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.”

I am moved by how A. B. Simpson responded to these verses. “This is the deep mystery of prayer. This is the delicate divine mechanism which words cannot interpret, and which theology cannot explain, but which the humblest believer knows even when he does not understand…so we can just pour out the fullness of our heart, the burden of our spirit, the sorrow that crushes us, and know that He hears, He loves, He understands, He receives; and He separates from our prayer all that is imperfect, ignorant and wrong, and presents the rest, with the incense of the great High Priest, before the throne on high; and our prayer is heard, accepted and answered in His name.” (1)

So today I have been reminded of just how grateful I am that Jesus left the earth so He could spend His Holy Spirit (John 14). Because of His great love I am never at a loss for words or instructions when I need them most. Thank you Jesus!

(1) As quoted in Streams in the Desert, Oct. 31

Those Never-ending Weeds

Every year it’s the same routine. In the spring my wife and I get busy digging up the weeds – roots and all. We even make sure there’s adequate mulch to help choke out future weeds. After many hours and the accompanying aches and pains, we rejoice in looking at mostly weed-free gardens, trees and shrubs. It’s a scene of beauty and a sense of accomplishment.

But the positive emotions are guarded and restrained – because we know what’s coming. We’ll wake up some future morning and see more weeds – seemingly popping up out of nowhere overnight. Then, after grumbling for days – and sometimes weeks – about how quickly weeds appear and grow and how slowly trees, plants and shrubs grow, and about how no matter what we do we can never completely eliminate the weeds, we get back to digging up the weeds.

It’s amazing – no garden or lawn is exempt. Over the years we’ve learned that wherever there is dirt, there will be weeds. And as I was digging up weeds again this past week it hit me – the reoccurring weeds are a parable of my life. Unwanted weeds keep popping up not only in the dirt, but also in my life. The weeds are the unwanted habits, thoughts and tendencies – the sins – that I try so hard to root out of my life only to have them reoccur on their own schedule. This, too, leads me to grumble about why I can’t keep these weeds down and eliminate them completely.

That’s why I’m so grateful for the apostle Paul. Addressing the Roman Church centuries ago, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, he wrote about these weeds: “I want to do what is right, but I can’t. I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. But if I do what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it. I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong.” (Romans 7:18-21 NLT) Every time I read those words I wonder if Paul has read my diary! And none of us is exempt.

It would be easy to give up and be miserable. As Paul laments “Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death?” (Romans 7:24) But he continues: “Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 7:26)

I am still frustrated that these sinful weeds keep reoccurring but my guilt is relieved. Jesus has taken care of the power of the weeds. They will always be short-lived. And He supplies me with the only weed killer I need: “But you are not controlled by your sinful nature. You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you…And Christ lives within you …the Spirit gives you life because you have been made right with God. The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you.” (Romans 8:8-11)

I’ll never look at weeds the same again. Oh, I’ll still grumble and complain about them. But I will also thank God who through Jesus has given me all I need to fight the weeds in my life.

Life in the Cloud

It’s interesting to reflect on how the meaning and images of words and phrases change over time. For example, when I was growing up “His head is in the clouds” meant that person was out of touch with reality, nothing but a dreamer. Today if our head – and indeed all our vital information – is not in the Cloud we’re considered unwise and unsafe. So which is it?

So it’s no wonder I was struck when I read Ps. 105:39 – “God put a cloud over his people…” Just what did the Psalmist mean? That led to a search on the use of the cloud image in the Bible. I’ve discovered, so far, at least four distinct but beautiful meanings – each of which I will briefly unwrap over the next four weeks.

One meaning can be drawn from the image in Exodus 13:21 – “By day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way…” On their journey through the desert from Egypt to the Promised Land God used a cloud to lead them – the cloud was a visible tour guide they could follow. After all, they had never been this way before and needed someone who knew the way to take the lead. At times, God would speak from the cloud and give them even further guidance.

The primary meaning is that God guides His people during their life journeys. That’s a good thing. After all, we’ve never been this way before. But where is our cloud? How does God speak to us? Certainly we have His written Word, the Bible. It is filled with direction and guidance. But we have even more. We have Jesus.

John wrote “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning…The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:1-2, 14) Jesus is God’s spoken Word who leads and guides us. John later records “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:1-6)

Yet that’s not all. As Jesus was preparing His disciples for life beyond His resurrection, He taught them about the Holy Spirit He would send to them.

“I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, who will stay with you forever. He is the Spirit, who reveals the truth about

God. The world cannot receive him, because it cannot see him or know him. But you know him, because he remains with you and is in you…The Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and make you remember all that I have told you…“I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.” (John 14:16-17, 26 & 16:12-15)
God’s Cloud – His Word, His Son, His Spirit – guides us through our life journey.

I appreciate how Robert Smith described it: “When I meditated on the word Guidance, I kept seeing “dance”
at the end of the word.  I remember reading that doing God’s will is a lot like dancing.
When two people try to lead, nothing feels right.  The movement doesn’t flow with the music, and everything is quite uncomfortable and jerky.  When one person realizes that, and lets the other lead, both bodies begin to flow with the music.  One gives gentle cues, perhaps with a nudge to the back or by pressing lightly in one direction or another.  It’s as if two become one body, moving beautifully.  The dance takes surrender, willingness, and attentiveness from one person, and gentle guidance and skill from the other. My eyes drew back to the word Guidance. When I saw “G: I thought of God, followed by “u” and “i”.  “God, “u” and “i” dance.”  God, you, and I dance.
As I lowered my head, I became willing to trust that I would get guidance about my life.
Once again, I became willing to let God lead.”

Thank God for the Cloud!