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Archive for Holy Spirit

Jun
20

Wait for the Promise:: 2

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“I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:49, NIV).

Sometimes I get the feeling that our heads spin a little bit whenever the Holy Spirit is introduced into a conversation. The New International Version proposes a clothing metaphor to aid our understanding of how the Holy Spirit relates to and interacts with believers. While we may struggle a bit with the Holy Spirit, we can at least wrap our minds around clothing and what clothing is all about.

Clothing is what covers you. It provides a sense of protection from the rays of direct sunlight and warmth in the chill of winter’s snow. Clothes cover our bodies and help us from being exposed to rough surfaces that may be uncomfortable to the skin, as well as protect us during dangerous activities such as football or cycling. There is an element of comfort that is also associated with what we wear, like that old hoodie or that faded pair of jeans.

What we wear is also what others see. We are able to make impressions upon others, depending on what we choose to wear. We dress for certain occasions and perhaps even have our own style that matches our personalities. In a sense, our clothes are identification markers, helping us locate one another in a crowd. Some will even go so far as to assert that “clothes make the man or woman,” suggesting that our behaviors and attitudes are closely associated with what we choose to wear.

Thinking of the clothing metaphor leads me to the conclusion that one of God’s goals for our lives is for others to see us in our redeemed version, kind of a YOU 2.0, if you will. With certainty, the Spirit continues to work on us everyday. But the outcome of that ongoing transformation is to work in us so the Spirit can work through us to make God impressions on those around us.

So maybe the question is not so much what will you wear as it is who will you wear. Each day we make the choice to put on ourselves or to be clothed with the Holy Spirit.

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Jun
19

Is White a Color?

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That was the question coming from 8 year olds at Vacation Bible School last week. I was never good at science in school, and am not good with color now. My eye can’t detect the hint of blue in a paint that makes it more green than khaki. Navy and black are synonymous in my closet. It’s not until I’m in direct sunlight that I can tell that I’ve put on the wrong color of slacks or socks.

Is white a color? Or is white merely the absence of color?

The logic I applied to arrive at my answer was simple. Yes, white is a color, because it is discernible as such. The absence of color is not white, I reasoned. The absence of color would be clear or invisible. That was my unscientific and probably faulted logic, anyway.

After sharing this story in worship on Sunday I was approached by two of our many artists. Both of them enthusiastically shared with me some helpful information about color theory and how color works. One artist explained that all color is black in the paint tube. It’s not a color until it is exposed to the light. Another gifted professional in central Iowa later added more insight about light refraction and how color interacts with light. I think both were glad that I didn’t call them to the platform to provide a spur of the moment art lesson!

The reason I drilled into this was to attempt to illustrate the Holy Spirit. In the Old Testament original language of Hebrew and the New Testament language of Greek, the word for Spirit can also be translated as “breath” or “wind.” You can’t see breath or wind, but you can discern it by its movement. The Spirit is not tangible in the sense that the incarnate Christ was tangible, but the Spirit is real, just as breath and wind is real. And like color, the movement of the Spirit is always in concert with the Light of the world.

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Jun
18

Wait for the Promise:: 1

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Over the past several weeks I’ve been posting reflections from a sermon series I did titled, “The Seven NEXT Words of Christ.” Each sermon dealt with the first post resurrection statements made by the risen Lord. This week I’ll cover the final post resurrection saying, found in Luke 24:49.

“I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:49, NIV).

Jesus seventh statement concerns the important role the Holy Spirit would play in the ongoing mission of the Christian movement. My Baptist tradition in general has been a little nervous around talk concerning the Holy Spirit. That kind of theology was central to the church down the street! But the Holy Spirit is central to the ongoing story of God’s redemptive plan. The Holy Spirit wasn’t invented at Pentecost. If you read the creation account of Genesis you’ll see the active work of the Spirit in the formation of the world. The Spirit is lurking in the shadows of the Old Testament narrative, appearing here and there supporting and undergirding the story of Israel.

A more prominent role is undertaken at the incarnation of Christ and continues as such in the Gospels. But its the book of Acts and the formation of the new community of the redeemed where the Holy Spirit takes a more visible posture. The giving of the Spirit at Pentecost comes simultaneously with the sending of the church into the world. The Acts of the Apostles are really the Acts of the Holy Spirit through the Apostles. As a result a movement was born and the world was transformed through the message of the Kingdom of God.

This week I want to express a few thoughts about the Holy Spirit and the Spirit’s work then and now. I hope you’ll check in this week each day.

Jun
30

The Meaning of Pentecost (Part 2)

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The word Pentecost simply means “fiftieth day.” It was that day that the Holy Spirit was bestowed on the people of God. I think it’s important to understand that the Holy Spirit did not come into existence on the Day of Pentecost. Like the Father and the Son, the Holy Spirit has eternally pre-existed. Genesis 1:2 tells us that during the creation the Holy Spirit was hovering over the face of the deep. So the Spirit wasn’t invented at Pentecost. So what’s the difference? A simple way to think about it is that in the Old Testament the Holy Spirit worked with the people of God, energizing them to do God’s will. People like David and Samson experienced the Spirit this way. But from the Day of Pentecost on the Spirit began to dwell in the people of God. From “with” to “in.” See the difference?

So Pentecost means that the Spirit of God baptized believers into the body of Christ, and to dwell in every believer. John 14.16-17, “And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever — the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.” Do you see the difference? Before Pentecost, He dwelt with His people; after Pentecost He dwells in His people.

What is the meaning of Pentecost? Pentecost simply means that now every born again believer, at the moment of salvation, is baptized by the Spirit into the body of Christ and is indwelled by the Spirit. The Spirit energizes and empowers the people of God to fulfill God’s mission for the world (Acts 1:8).

Jun
28

The Day of Pentecost (Part 1)

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Last weekend my family make our annual pilgrimage to Northeast Missouri for our family reunion. For the last several years, my mother has done her best to assemble all of the relatives to share a meal and catch up with each other. Notice I mention the meal first. My mother is 84 years old, but hasn’t lost her touch in the kitchen. Having grown up during the great depression, she learned at an early age that if you have an iron skillet, some lard and flour you can make anything delicious. The serving table looked something like that old Rolling Stones album cover Beggars Banquet. Most people get up from the table and say “excuse me.” I got up from the table on Saturday and said, “forgive me.”

There’s something about food that brings the people of God together. Baptists are notorious for using (and maybe abusing) food at gatherings. Do you have something to celebrate? Let’s eat! A new baby? A wedding? A promotion? A good dental check up? By all means, let’s eat! But we also eat during times of sadness. When word circulates that an illness or hospitalization has been incurred, Baptists come to the rescue armed with casserole dishes. Should someone from the church family pass away, one of the first questions asked is, “Who will serve the meal?” I think Baptists believe they have cornered the market on food. But I am aware of kindred denominations that perform the same regiment with equal discipline.

Interestingly enough, we didn’t invent this phenomenon in the last few decades. God is big on food and has been for thousands of years. In fact, God was the first to suggest that his people use food during times of teaching, celebration, sadness, and memory. The Old Testament explains seven feasts that the people of God were to conduct during the year. Each one of them was with purpose. Each one of them was God’s idea.

Three of the seven feasts were pilgrimage feasts. That means that the people of God were required to return to Jerusalem to observe them. The first one was the feast of shelters (or booths). This feast was given to remind the people of God of God’s great protection during the wilderness wanderings. As they lay in their booths at night they were to look up to the stars and remember that God is their protector. The second major pilgrimage feast was Passover. Passover is probably the most familiar of the Old Testament feasts, and was instituted on the night the death angel passed over the land of Egypt and the Israelites were freed from slavery and bondage. Jesus was crucified during Passover, a celebration at which scholars estimate 120,000 lambs were sacrificed in Jerusalem.

Fifty days following the Passover was the Feast of First Fruits. This harvest celebration commemorated the first portion of the harvest and dedicated it to God in anticipation of the remainder of the harvest that would soon be gathered. On God’s calendar, Jesus was crucified on Passover and the Spirit was given fifty days later on the Day of Pentecost…during the Feast of First Fruits. Interesting, isn’t it? Someone has said that the average Christian and the average church are somewhere bogged down between Calvary and Pentecost. They have been to Calvary for pardon, but they have not been to Pentecost for power. I think all of us agree that we need to recapture that power that was manifest in that upper room on the day of Pentecost so that we can be the church Jesus desires us to be and do the work Jesus desires us to do. Tomorrow I’ll get into the thicket of last weekend’s message from Acts 2:1-21. In the meantime, have something to eat.

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