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Jeremiah 23:21-22

“I have not sent these prophets, yet they run around claiming to speak for me. I have given them no message, yet they go on prophesying. If they had stood before me and listened to me, they would have spoken my words, and they would have turned my people from their evil ways and deeds.
Jeremiah 23:21-22

Dear God, am I a false prophet? Sometimes I get my scripture for the day from Bible Gateway’s verse of the day. Today’s verse was actually verse 24, but when I went back to get the context for it the words in verses 21 and 22 really hit me. Do the things that I do turn people from their evil ways?

It seems like Paul wrestler with how this works with the New Covenant too (Galatians 4 and 5, for example). He would talk about freedom from the law, but then how that didn’t mean we just had a free pass to sin. When it comes to finding that line, I think I heard Andy Stanley put it well recently (I think it was him). He said something to the effect that you aren’t sitting up there giving us these rules to satisfy you, per se. They are for us. They are for our good. The evil we do hurts you because it hurts us and it hurts others. It hurts your creation and that evil/damage is something you can’t abide. Yes, the New Covenant includes an aspect of grace, but there is still damage being done.

Father, I’m a believer in the idea that the more I encourage someone into relationship with you and the more they dive into you the more the Holy Spirit will teach and convict them. I suppose my role is to be willing to call out the damage someone is doing to themselves through sin that I see in their life, but do it through love and concern. “Hey, I see you hurting yourself through this,” and that sort of thing. So give me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on June 25, 2019 in Jeremiah

 

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“The Valley Song (Sing of Your Mercy)” by Jars of Clay

“The Valley Song (Sing of Your Mercy)” by Jars of Clay

You have led me to the sadness
I have carried this pain
On a back bruised, nearly broken
I’m crying out to You

I will sing of Your mercy
That leads me through valleys of sorrow
To rivers of joy

When death, like a gypsy
Comes to steal what I love
I will still look to the heavens
I will still seek your face

But I fear You aren’t listening
Because there are no words
Just the stillness
And the hunger
For a faith that assures

I will sing of Your mercy
That leads me through valleys of sorrow
To rivers of joy

alleluia, alleluia
Alleluia, alleluia

While we wait for rescue
With our eyes tightly shut
Face to the ground using our hands
To cover the fatal cut

Though the pain is an ocean
Tossing us around, around, around
You have calmed greater waters
Higher mountains have come down

I will sing of Your mercy
That leads me through valleys of sorrow
To rivers of joy
I will sing of Your mercy
That leads me through valleys of sorrow
To rivers of joy

Alleluia, alleluia
Alleluia, alleluia

Songwriters: Aaron Sands / Charlie Lowell / Dan Haseltine / Matt Odmark / Stephen Daniel Mason

Dear God, this Father’s Day is less painful for me than past Father’s Days have been, but I still found myself being very aware this morning that Father’s Day and Mother’s Day can be very painful for some. I know several people who are experiencing their first Father’s Day without a child that they lost–some within just the last couple of weeks. I know some who have children leading lives that grieve their parents. Frankly, there are countless reasons Father’s Day can be painful for people, including having lost their own father.

With all of that in mind, I came across this song this morning. I’ve had it on my playlist for a long time, but I really stopped to listen to it while I was driving on a road trip earlier this week. I think it works because it doesn’t gloss over pain or tell me that my job is to push through to the other side. It simply says that sing of your mercy through my pain.

You have led me to the sadness
I have carried this pain
On a back bruised, nearly broken
I’m crying out to You

I will sing of Your mercy
That leads me through valleys of sorrow
To rivers of joy

As I pray all of this to you, I am thinking about three friends, in particular, who are experiencing the grief of having lost a child in the last year. One of the things I learned when watching my wife go through the loss of her mother is to encourage people to allow themselves to be sad. Don’t try to be the person who is handing it “well.” Just let it be sad. For these friends, I sing these words this morning.

When death, like a gypsy
Comes to steal what I love
I will still look to the heavens
I will still seek your face

But I fear You aren’t listening
Because there are no words
Just the stillness
And the hunger
For a faith that assures

I will sing of Your mercy
That leads me through valleys of sorrow
To rivers of joy

alleluia, alleluia
Alleluia, alleluia

“But I fear you aren’t listening because there are no words. Just the stillness and the hunger for a faith that assures.” Sometimes, all we have is a faith that is beyond what we can see (Hebrews 11:1). And I believe that this is when we really have the Holy Spirit groaning for us with utterances beyond words. Our advocate and our helper is with us, walking with us, and praying for/with us (Romans 8:26).

While we wait for rescue
With our eyes tightly shut
Face to the ground using our hands
To cover the fatal cut

Though the pain is an ocean
Tossing us around, around, around
You have calmed greater waters
Higher mountains have come down

I will sing of Your mercy
That leads me through valleys of sorrow
To rivers of joy
I will sing of Your mercy
That leads me through valleys of sorrow
To rivers of joy

Alleluia, alleluia
Alleluia, alleluia

I love that the spirit of this song is to simply sink into the pain and wait on your healing. And yet, in the midst of the pain, we keep singing. We sing of your mercy that leads us through valleys of sorrow to the rivers of joy. One day, there will be not just one river, but many rivers of joy for us. There is a hope. Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 

 
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Posted by on June 16, 2019 in Hebrews, Hymns and Songs, Romans

 

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Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23

That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake. Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore. Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4 As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5 Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6 But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. 8 Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. 9 Whoever has ears, let them hear.”

18 “Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: 19 When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path. 20 The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. 21 But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. 22 The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. 23 But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”
Matthew 13:1-9,18-23

Dear God, sometimes the only way to take rocky soil and turn it into good soil is to take a jackhammer to it. Sometimes the only way to get rid of the thorns is to take a tool and completely rip the soil up so that I can get the weeds out by the root. Well, when it comes to my heart, I need you to be my jackhammer and my plow. If I want to have fertile soil in my heart into which you can plant your seeds then I need to be ready to have you deal with the parts that are not fertile.

For the first eight years of my Christian life, I had no fertile soil. I was young and my I didn’t know what suffering really was yet. I just knew that I was a sinner and I needed you to forgive me and make me clean. But the part of having the Holy Spirit come and take up residence in a fertile heart that would allow deep roots took something special.

Well, over 30 years later, I am still finding the rocky places that need attention. They need your hammer and your plow. And then I have friends and family members who need the same thing. As I am understanding this concept more and learning to connect the Holy Spirit’s power and authority in my life and the type of soil that my heart provides for the Holy Spirit to live in and grow, I can see how that plays out in others’ lives as well. It is giving me some clarity for them and ways to pray for them that I haven’t before. For the new Christian. For the scorned wife. For the person who has experienced tragedy. I am finding myself praying for them in different ways now.

Father, you know the individuals on my heart this morning, including myself. Make all of our paths straight so that they will lead straight into your presence. And when that soil is ready, we will then be able to have the Holy Spirit growing fruit in our lives (love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, faithfulness, kindness, self control) that bring you glory and help your kingdom to come and your will to be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on June 13, 2019 in Matthew

 

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Pentecost — Acts 2:1-12


The image above is from Revealed: A Storybook Bible for Grown-Ups by Ned Bustard. The image itself is called “Communion/Pentecost” and was created by Chris Stoffel Overvoorde.

Acts 2:1-12
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. Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?”

Dear God, I have spent so much time with the passages about the Holy Spirit this week that it’s nice to have a fresh take on it, and the fact that I have this piece of art from Chris Stoffel Overvoorde is great. So let me take a look and se what I can see that Overvoorde might be telling me about his interpretation of the story.

  • The easiest people to make out are the man and woman silhouetted at the front of the image. I’m assuming these are the people who came to the apostles after the spirit moved through.
  • One of the people represented is a woman. Of course there was a woman there. We don’t normally picture that, but there must have been many women among the 3,000 who would become believers that day.
  • There is light flooding from above. I assume this is the Holy Spirit descending from Heaven and into humanity through the original apostles.
  • I can count nine faces that seem to be transformed by the Holy Spirit. The other three (we’ll throw Matthias in there since he was just made an apostle at the end of chapter 1) are likely there too, but not pictured.
  • I think that is a hand reaching out by the silhouetted man’s face. We’ll assume that represents Peter speaking to everyone a little later.
  • Artistically, there is a vague shape of a cross depicted where the Spirit is. The others are in darkness, but coming to the light.

Of this picture, Bustard writes:

The disciples of Christ are gathered together in an upper room just before Pentecost. There is expectation and fear in the various expressions around the table. The Spirit was promised by Jesus when he ascended, but for now they must simply wait and hope. They are in communion with each other and sharing in the Eucharist. The interplay of light and dark created by their bodies close together forms the shape of the Cross, symbolizing that together they are the body of Christ.

Father, Jesus, Holy Spirit–Trinity–please be with me this morning as I preach. I pray that you will be in that room. I am almost afraid to pray this for what it could really mean, but please show up today. Show up in our church and your church all over the world. Surprise us. Use me. Help me to not look for any glory for myself this morning. Help me to decrease as you increase. Shine through me, sweet Jesus. Holy Spirit, please be with me and pray for me.

I pray all of this in submission to the name of Jesus my savior and with the help of the Holy Spirit, my God with me,

Amen

 
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Posted by on June 9, 2019 in Acts

 

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The Holy Spirit in our Daily Lives

Dear God, as I read the story of Pentecost, I couldn’t help but take the “It’s a Wonderful Life” take on the story and wonder what our lives would be like if you didn’t send your Holy Spirit to us. What if Pentecost never happened? To reset the stage, Jesus has just ascended and all they are left with is the Old Testament and their memories of Jesus. They weren’t sure what to do next. In fact, they were so directionless, they decided that one of their priorities was to replace Judas (Acts 1:15-26). Without the Holy Spirit filling the 12 of them (we’ll assume Matthias, the newly appointed apostle was among those at Pentecost), would they have just stayed in their room? Would thousands have been reached that day through Peter’s preaching?

So we have the Holy Spirit, and I think that the modern church completely underestimates his role in our lives. Even in the apostles’ creed, he gets only a brief mention:

I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord.
He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit
and born of the virgin Mary.
He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried.
He descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again.
He ascended into heaven,
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of the saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.

The Nicene Creed is somewhat better:

I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.
And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made.
Who, for us men for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary, and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; He suffered and was buried; and the third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures; and ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of the Father; and He shall come again, with glory, to judge the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end.
And I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of Life; who proceeds from the Father [and the Son]; who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified; who spoke by the prophets.
And I believe one holy catholic and apostolic Church. I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins; and I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.

So let me try to try to figure out through scripture what the Holy Spirit has done, currently does and will continue to do for your people and your world.

First, it’s important to note that this is not just a post-Jesus thing to have the Holy Spirit involved with humanity.

  • Psalm 51:11 (the one David wrote after he was confronted by Nathan about Bathsheba). Davis asks that your Holy Spirit not be taken from him.
  • Isaiah 63:10 & 11. Both verses mention you taking and imparting your Holy Spirit from and to your people.

Part of what makes your existence mind-blowing is that you want to be among us and involved in our lives. You want us to know you and you want to know us. You cared that the life of Jesus moved beyond those 12 apostles and you sent your presence to not only indwell them, but as I saw a couple of days ago, you intend to send it to everyone who calls on you. A part of your essence is always with your creation. It’s amazing.

So let’s look at what the Bible says about what the Holy Spirit’s role is in our lives:

  • John 14:26 – Teach us and help us remember. “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.” 
  • John 15:26-27 – Testify about Jesus and help us testify. “When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify about Me, 27and you will testify also, because you have been with Me from the beginning.”
  • John 16:7-11 – Convict us. “But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you. And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment; concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me; and concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father and you no longer see Me; and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged.
  • John 16:13-15; Mark 13:11; Luke 12:12 – Guide us with God’s direction and for God’s glory. But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. 14 He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you. 15 All things that the Father has are Mine; therefore I said that He takes of Mine and will disclose it to you.” / “When they arrest you and hand you over, do not worry beforehand about what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour; for it is not you who speak, but it is the Holy Spirit.” / “…for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.” 
  • Acts 4:31 – Boldness. And when they had prayed, the place where they had gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled wi thte Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God with boldness.
  • Acts 7:55-56 – Peace in the storm. But being full of the Holy Spirit, he gazed intently into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God; 56 and he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened up and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”
  • Acts 9:31 – Comfort. So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria enjoyed peace, being built up; and going on in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it continued to increase.
  • Acts 19:6; 1 Corinthians 12:7-11 – Gifts such as tongues, prophesying and healing. And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking with tongues and prophesying. / Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.
  • Romans 15:13 – Hope. Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will about in the hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
  • Romans 8:26-27 – Intercession. 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.

So in summary, the Holy Spirit’s role in my life and in our world is to teach me (us); testify about Jesus to me (us) and through me (us); convict me (us); guide me (us); intercede in prayer for me (us); and give me (us) boldness, peace, comfort, gifts, and hope.

Father, Jesus, Holy Spirit, please help me to make room in my heart to receive all of these things from you. Help me to live in this victory so that my life is fully yours and I will never miss you.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 

 

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John 14:15-26

15 “If you love me, keep my commands. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. 18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. 21 Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.” Then Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said, “But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?” Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. 24 Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me. 25 “All this I have spoken while still with you. 26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.
John 14:15-26

Dear God, I think that one of the biggest mistakes I make in my life is that I underestimate the role and power of the Holy Spirit. I know a recently baptized Christian who told me the age studied the religions of the world and one thing she decided is that Christianity is the only one to offer mercy and meet you where you are. I agreed with him, but as I read this and sit with it, I wonder if perhaps the real difference for the discipling Christian isn’t that you impart you own Spirit to dwell in us.

So how does the Holy Spirit manifest itself in my life. He is supposed to be my counselor, my comforter, and my advocate. What does that soil like in practical terms? What difference does that make? Well, as long as I’m making room for him and not squelching him, it means that he is helping me to learn, whispering to me in a still small voice, and praying for me when I don’t know how to pray. How amazing is it that you did this?!? You gave us your Spirit to be in us and among us!

Father, help me to live my life in a way that makes room for the Holy Spirit. Help me to lean into him more. Help me to also pray better and with more wisdom. Help me to see reality as you see reality. Help me to see the spiritual warfare around me. Help me to see above it all and to give my utmost for your highest.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on June 6, 2019 in John

 

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Holy Spirit Baptism

Dear God, I wrote yesterday morning about being baptized in the Holy Spirit. With Pentecost coming this Sunday, and me substitute preaching at the Presbyterian church, I want to spend some time on this issue with you. What is being baptized in the Holy Spirit all about?

First, I want to look at the passages that reference it.

  • John the Baptist – All four Gospels reference John the Baptist saying the Jesus would baptize with the Holy Spirit. Here is what Matthew says: “I baptize with water those who repent of their sins and turn to God. But someone is coming soon who is greater than I am—so much greater that I’m not worthy even to be his slave and carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” [Matthew 3:11]
  • Jesus before the Ascension – Just before he ascended to Heaven, Jesus said this to the apostles: “John baptized with water, but in just a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” [Acts 1:5]
  • Pentecost – This doesn’t specifically say, “Baptized by the Holy Spirit,” but it’s the follow up to Acts 1:5 and I’ve always taken it to mean that this is what happened to the early church: On the day of Pentecost[a] all the believers were meeting together in one place. Suddenly, there was a sound from heaven like the roaring of a mighty windstorm, and it filled the house where they were sitting. Then, what looked like flames or tongues of fire appeared and settled on each of them. And everyone present was filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in other languages, as the Holy Spirit gave them this ability. [Acts 2:1-4]
  • Peter promises the Spirit – Now that Peter has just received it in that moment, he understands that it is an important part of the experience and he includes it along with repentance and water baptism: Peter replied, “Each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” [Acts 2:38]
  • Samaritan believers were missing the Holy Spirit – I would say that this story certainly supports the idea of a two-stage baptism: When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that the people of Samaria had accepted God’s message, they sent Peter and John there.  As soon as they arrived, they prayed for these new believers to receive the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit had not yet come upon any of them, for they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.  Then Peter and John laid their hands upon these believers, and they received the Holy Spirit. [Acts 8:14-17]
  • Simon the Sorcerer tries to buy the Holy Spirit baptism – Simon is jealous of those who have this baptism, but finds out that being baptized in the Holy Spirit isn’t something you can buy or earn: But Peter replied, “May your money be destroyed with you for thinking God’s gift can be bought! You can have no part in this, for your heart is not right with God. Repent of your wickedness and pray to the Lord. Perhaps he will forgive your evil thoughts, for I can see that you are full of bitter jealousy and are held captive by sin.”‘”Pray to the Lord for me, Simon exclaimed, ‘that these terrible things you’ve said won’t happen to me!” [Acts 8:20-24]
  • Gentiles receive the Holy Spirit before water baptism – The apostles were still figuring out what the New Covenant looked like and then had this experience with Gentiles: Even as Peter was saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who were listening to the message. The Jewish believers who came with Peter were amazed that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles, too. For they heard them speaking in other tongues and praising God.Then Peter asked, “Can anyone object to their being baptized, now that they have received the Holy Spirit just as we did?” So he gave orders for them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. [Acts 10:44-48a]
  • Peter has to convince the other apostles that Gentiles are welcome – Again, everyone is trying to figure this out. Isn’t it interesting that humans seem to have a tendency to think of themselves as part of a select class of humans? But you were teaching them: Soon the news reached the apostles and other believers in Judea that the Gentiles had received the word of God. But when Peter arrived back in Jerusalem, the Jewish believers criticized him. “You entered the home of Gentiles and even ate with them!” they said. Then Peter told them exactly what had happened. “I was in the town of Joppa,” he said, “and while I was praying, I went into a trance and saw a vision. Something like a large sheet was let down by its four corners from the sky. And it came right down to me. When I looked inside the sheet, I saw all sorts of tame and wild animals, reptiles, and birds. And I heard a voice say, ‘Get up, Peter; kill and eat them.’  “‘No, Lord,’ I replied. ‘I have never eaten anything that our Jewish laws have declared impure or unclean.’ “But the voice from heaven spoke again: ‘Do not call something unclean if God has made it clean.’ This happened three times before the sheet and all it contained was pulled back up to heaven. “Just then three men who had been sent from Caesarea arrived at the house where we were staying. The Holy Spirit told me to go with them and not to worry that they were Gentiles. These six brothers here accompanied me, and we soon entered the home of the man who had sent for us. He told us how an angel had appeared to him in his home and had told him, ‘Send messengers to Joppa, and summon a man named Simon Peter. He will tell you how you and everyone in your household can be saved!’ “As I began to speak,” Peter continued, “the Holy Spirit fell on them, just as he fell on us at the beginning. Then I thought of the Lord’s words when he said, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ And since God gave these Gentiles the same gift he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to stand in God’s way?” When the others heard this, they stopped objecting and began praising God. They said, “We can see that God has also given the Gentiles the privilege of repenting of their sins and receiving eternal life.” [Acts 11:1-18]
  • All are baptized into one body – The ultimate lesson the apostles and early church learned is that all humans are your children through this New Covenant. Jesus bridged the gap and your Holy Spirit is available to us all: The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ.  Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit. [1 Corinthians 12:12-13]

So when I lift all of these references to Holy Spirit baptism out and look at them together, it makes me think back on Jesus’s prayer for us in John during the Last Supper story. When he prayed for future believers he said, “I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me. [John 17:21].” I think the Holy Spirit is our great counselor, teacher, and uniter. 

Father, I cannot imagine what a post-Jesus world would look like without Pentecost and the Holy Spirit arriving on the scene to baptize us all. I cannot imagine what my life would look like without the Holy Spirit. And I know that part of my job is to ensure that I continue to provide a heart with fertile soil that will not squelch the Spirit in my life, but provide the seeds he plants to thrive and grow into making my life what you need it to be. Thank you for your glory. Thank you for Jesus. And thank you for the Holy Spirit.

I pray all of this in worship of you through Jesus’s name,

Amen

 
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Posted by on June 5, 2019 in 1 Corinthians, Acts, Matthew

 

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Acts 2:1-21

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. Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?” Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.” Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: “‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy. I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and billows of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord. And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’
Acts 2:1-21

Dear God, I’m a believer in there being two baptisms–one in the “water” and one in the “Spirit.” I think water can be a relative term, and the important thing there is that there is a submission of heart and will. There is a repentance and a turning.

But then I think there is a time for every Christian that cements the first baptism. It is almost like the mortar that holds the stones of the “water” baptism together. And while the first baptism doesn’t require much work or time, the second one seems to only come when some effort has been put in. When the seeds have started to dig into the good soil a little. This is the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

Yes, the soil of the heart. That is the key. The baptism of water can find the seeds of faith landing on shallow soil–growing quickly and then dying. But the baptism of the Spirit is the result of the roots from the seeds finding that good soil. The Spirit might munch through some of that rock to find the soil, so it’s not like the seed MUST land on the good soil to survive. But it is about growth. If we didn’t have the Holy Spirit with us–if I didn’t have the Holy Spirit with me–then there would be no depth to any of our faith. This first rushing of the Spirit in this story from Acts is truly a watershed moment, without which the rest of the New Testament would probably not exist.

Father, help me to contiue to live a life that provdes good soil for your seeds to grow. Help my wife and children to have good soil in their hearts and to grow in Spirit and in faith. Be a light to me through others, and through me to the world. Be glorified through me.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on June 4, 2019 in Acts

 

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The Baptism of Christ — Matthew 3:1-2, 11-17

IMG_1695
The image above is from Revealed: A Storybook Bible for Grown-ups by Ned Bustard. While not all of the images in the book were created by Bustard, this one happens to be. It is called “Baptism (after Otto Dix).”

Matthew 3:1-2, 11-17
1 In those days John the Baptist came to the Judean wilderness and began preaching. His message was, 2 “Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.”

11 “I baptize with[a] water those who repent of their sins and turn to God. But someone is coming soon who is greater than I am—so much greater that I’m not worthy even to be his slave and carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. 12 He is ready to separate the chaff from the wheat with his winnowing fork. Then he will clean up the threshing area, gathering the wheat into his barn but burning the chaff with never-ending fire.”
13 Then Jesus went from Galilee to the Jordan River to be baptized by John. 14 But John tried to talk him out of it. “I am the one who needs to be baptized by you,” he said, “so why are you coming to me?”
15 But Jesus said, “It should be done, for we must carry out all that God requires.” So John agreed to baptize him.
16 After his baptism, as Jesus came up out of the water, the heavens were opened[d] and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and settling on him. 17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.”

Dear God, when I think about this story it always makes me wonder where baptism came from and why it all of a sudden appeared with John. And why did Jesus need to be baptized? It’s really interesting.

But today isn’t about wrestling with that question. The point of this series is to take an artist’s interpretation of this story and see if there is something she or he saw that I missed. In this case, Ned Bustard (and Matthäus Evangelium) did some interesting things that I’m noticing here:

  • The first thing I noticed was that the Holy Spirit, as represented by a dove, seems to be funneling through the water in John’s hand. The image makes me think about your Holy Spirit entering the world through us through our baptism.
  • John is wearing his trademark animal skins for clothes. No shoes, of course, but that leads me to the next point.
  • He is not in the water with Jesus. It would have been easy for the artist to put John in the water with Jesus, but John is intentionally drawn as standing on dry land. I’m not sure how to interpret this except to say that this baptism is all about Jesus.
  • Visually, the artist depicted John as being completely dry. The lines that make up his body run in every direction. Up, down, crisscross, diagonally, etc. On the other hand, Jesus is drawn under the water  as represented by the water flowing over him. Except for his specific facial features, nipples, abdomen, and belly button, everything else is drawn vertically and seems to represent the water flowing over him.
  • John is just using his hand and seems to be getting a lot of water to pour from that method. This again leads me back to the idea that there is more than just water flowing over Jesus, but it is your Holy Spirit flowing through the water that is pouring from John’s hand.
  • Jesus’ face looks sad, and John looks very serious. I don’t know why the artist chose these facial expressions. Perhaps the artist was thinking about what was about to come in Jesus’ live over the next 40 days?
  • Jesus is clean-shaven with a nice haircut, and John has long hair and a beard. This certainly shows a difference in the style of the two men.

I intentionally didn’t read Bustard’s description of this piece until after I had gone through this exercise. Here is what he had to say about it:

Baptism (after Otto Dix)

Dix (1891-1969) was a German artist, painter, and print maker know for his harshly realistic depictions of the brutality of war; but his post-World War II work was largely religious in nature. This linocut is based on Baptism of Jesus, a lithograph from Matthäus Evangelium. Art historian James Romaine observed that the Holy Spirit is funneled through the hand of John like a sieve, baptizing Jesus in both water and in the Spirit. About the Bible, Dix is quoted to have said, “You have to read every single word. For the Bible is a wonderful history book. There is great truth in all of it. Most people don’t read the Bible, but reading the Bile, reading it as it is, in all of its realism, including the Old Testament: It’s quite a book. Quite a book, you even say it is the book of books…simply magnificent!”

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Reading Bustards description reminded me of something I noticed, but forgot to mention. I am a believer in both the baptism by water and the baptism in the Holy Spirit. I think there is good evidence for it in not only the book of Acts, but in my life as well. This image shows that both water and the Holy Spirit were involved in Jesus’ baptism, with Bustard’s interpretation making that point a little more obvious than the original.

Father, help me to remember today that I am covered in your water, in your Holy Spirit, and in Jesus’ redeeming blood. Help me to remember that I am not only covered by these things, but filled with them as well. I am no longer my own. I am a new creation. The old has gone and the new has come. Help me to remember that.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 

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Emails to God – Pure Spiritual Milk (1 Peter 2:1-3)

Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. 2 Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, 3 now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.

Dear God, what drives me away from pure spiritual milk and towards malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander? Yes, I know there is spiritual warfare, and I know Satan drives me to these things, but, I guess what frustrates me is that he is so effective at it. What is he able to do to me that makes him so effective?

I wonder if a lot of it is simply him messing around with our feelings of being loved at any given time. For example, if I am truly feeling completely, 100% loved then can I really slander or envy someone in that moment? If I am basking in your presence and tuned into how you feel about me then can I hold on to malice or be deceitful?

The only way to really feel you like this, I think, is to discipline myself to drink your pure spiritual milk until my soul adjusts to it and I crave it. As I take it in and crave it then I will be able to feel you and you will increase in me as I decrease. The trick is to drink your pure spiritual milk. What does that look like? I suppose it looks like me spending regular time in the Word, bringing my different daily challenges to you, praying continuously, and eliminating things from my life that Satan wants to use to draw me away from you.

Father, help me to have a complete day of drinking your pure milk. Help me to not let it be limited to this time I spend journaling to you. Holy Spirit, remind me throughout the day of my need for pure nourishment and help me to gladly and hungrily take it in.

 
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Posted by on November 2, 2012 in Miscellaneous

 

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