Repent, Receive, Reflect    

Today we celebrate Pentacost. The day that the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus’ followers filling them with God’s power and authority.
A day when the early believers reflected God.

What does Pentacost mean right now? In this bloodied, deadly, burning present?

On this Pentacost Sunday we must repent of our sin, our blindness, our pride in order for the power of the Holy Spirit to be manifest in our lives.

It’s been a week of soul searching: asking God to reveal to me my own short-comings and prejudices.
A week of mourning and seeking God’s face.

I am horrified by the violence, the destruction, the selfish pride.
I stunned by the senseless, appalling death of George Floyd.
I’m deeply saddened that we who identify as followers of Jesus haven’t figured out how to root out prejudice and deep-seated animosity towards those who we perceive as “different”.
I grieve that we haven’t shown the world what it means to love other humans created in God’s image.
I’m dismayed that my sweet, Jesus-loving, ten year old nephew has to always be mindful of how he acts, of what he says when he’s out and about in his city, even playing at the park. That boy knows how to love and let Jesus shine through him but he’s judged by bigoted people who automatically hate him for the color of his skin.

How can we, as followers of Jesus, be the peacemakers that Jesus calls us to be?

Jesus’ message was one of repentance – turning from sin and believing in Him. Luke 13:3 and 5 Jesus proclaimed, “unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” Before He ascended back to to His throne, Jesus said in Luke 24:47 “that repentance for forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name to all the nations….”

Repentance is at the core of Christianity. It is only after repentance, that renewal and restoration comes. Then we will be able to reflect the Love of God to the world.
I can repent only when I’m confronted with my wretched state as a sinner.
Acknowledge that I am a sinful, stubborn person who wants to put selfish pride first, above all else.

With repentance comes salvation! The gift of salvation given by Jesus bleeding and dying for my sins, saving me from this wretched sinful condition.
Repentance leads to relationship and restoration with God!

We need to repent and open ourselves to receive the Holy Spirit who longs to guide us and fill us with God’s power and love.

Allow the Holy Spirit to reveal to you areas that you need to release in repentance to Jesus. Allow Him to have His way in your heart and soul.

Allow the Holy Spirit to restore you to relationship with God and to plant His fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control!

We must spread the message of repentance, love and hope in Jesus. Not by might, not by human power but by the love, salvation and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ!

God’s disciples are made new creations, new people with the love of the Holy Spirit coursing through us, informing us of what to say, where to go and how to live.

Do our lives reflect the love, mercy, justice and power of the Holy Spirit?

Lately I’ve been thinking of Ravi Zacharias, of how when he looked at a person he saw a person made in the image of God. No matter how hotly a skeptic may have challenged him, Ravi responded with the compassion and love for the person created in God’s image.

How does Jesus call us to live?
In repentance
Receptive of the Holy Spirit’s guidance
Love God, love each other.

God’s Word also admonishes us to:
Do justice
Love mercy
Walk humbly with God

Set aside prejudices and generalizations.
Let the Holy Spirit fill us with God’s love.
Understand that every single person is created in God’s image.

Reflect the Holy Spirit, Let Him restore you, let His power be manifest in your life so that you reflect into the world:
Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
Galatians 5:22

Align with the Holy Spirit

Do you wonder how long it will be before the Shelter at Home is lifted? When all the businesses can open and function as needed? When you can get that desperately needed haircut?

More and more people are chomping at the bit to get back to life as we want to live it; the way we think we need it to be.

But there are regulations mandated to keep us from life as normal. What’s the consequences of blatantly disregarding physical distancing? Will you be thrown in jail? Fined? Do the regulations cause you to fear punishment over taking matters in your own hands?

Many people will carefully obey the regulations. Others will take their chances weighing personal freedoms against what they perceive as overstepping government.

How do we live as children of God? What is my personal responsibility?

We certainly need to be listening to the Holy Spirit and following His leading!

As Paul says in Romans 7:19: “My human nature is filled with sin. My human nature prevents me doing the good that I want to do. Instead I do the evil I don’t want to do! What a miserable creature I am!””
He wants to do the right thing but human nature is bent on sinning and destruction. Clearly laws and regulations aren’t enough to make us do the good we need to do, to live in freedom from slavery to sin. But what’s the solution?

Romans 8:1  “There is no longer any condemnation awaiting those who are in union with the Lord Jesus Christ…”

Jesus’ death paid the price and has set me free from the law that couldn’t accomplish freedom from sin and death. The law lacks the power to make the old nature cooperate!

Only Jesus’ blood and death has set us free from the law. When we set our minds on doing things “my way” we are ruled by sin. 8:6 Having our minds controlled by the HS is life and peace!

If you know the Lord Jesus Christ as your savior, the one who died to pay the price and set us free from sin the Holy Spirit lives in you and the Holy Spirit is giving life because God considers you righteous! The Spirit of the One who raised Jesus from the dead is living in your, then the One who raised Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies!

We don’t owe a thing to our human nature!!!

14 All who are led by God’s Spirit are God’s children! 15 We’re no longer slaves to fear.  Holy Spirit living in us lets us cry out “Dear Father”

We don’t know the road ahead, what lays around the corner from May. What we can do is pray for sensitivity to the guidance and leading of the Holy Spirit! We need to be praying for release from false hopes and expectations, to make plans and live day to day always realigning our focus to listen to the Holy Spirit, to align with God and follow the openings and paths that God’s provides.

God still rules!

This morning I hiked with my daughter and granddaughter to an undisclosed waterfall to celebrate Mothers’ Day together. The reading of Psalm 8 and singing “This is My Father’s World” happened in this place of beauty where all around us were reminders of the world our Father has created. He has not abandoned us!
Psalm 8 is a great reminder that God IS Lord, and the astonishing degree which He regards us.

1 Our Lord and Ruler, your name is wonderful everywhere on earth!
You let your glory be seen in the heavens above.
2 With praises from children and from tiny infants, you have built a fortress.
It makes your enemies silent, and all who turn against you are left speechless.
3 I often think of the heavens your hands have made,
and of the moon and stars you put in place.
4 Then I ask, “Why do you care about us humans?
Why are you concerned for us weaklings?”
5 You made us a little lower than you yourself,
and you have crowned us with glory and honor.
6 You let us rule everything your hands have made.
And you put all of it under our power—
7 the sheep and the cattle, and every wild animal,
8 the birds in the sky, the fish in the sea,
and all ocean creatures.

Our Lord and Ruler, your name is wonderful everywhere on earth!

Yes, Our Lord is still Ruler of all. Praise Him!
Build the fortress with praise and silence the enemy!
Remember to pray for each other! We don’t know what the future holds but God does.

Waiting…

Waiting: In His Time                                                                                                                     May 3, 2020
Psalm 27:14 Wait for the Lord; Be strong and let your heart take courage; yes, wait for the Lord.

Song: In His Time

We all love to wait, especially when we aren’t in the know. Right?

After Jesus’ death and resurrection His followers entered a time of waiting. Jesus would suddenly, randomly appear to them but everything was different. There must have been a keen sense of anticipation that Jesus would be establishing His place as the risen Messiah.

But none of that was happening.

Were they fearful of the unknown? The Pharisees, seeing the empty burial plot and hearing rumors of people seeing a living, walking, breathing Jesus must have been baffled yet furious. Perhaps they were going to have Pilate’s soldiers target them for messing with a body and spreading rumors of a risen king.

The disciples must have felt in limbo. For over three years they were people of action. People conditioned by traipsing throughout Israel at Jesus’ leading. Now He’d ascended into the heavens. And He told them to wait. Yet, He told them to take the Good News to the whole world.

How long would they have to wait? And then, exactly, what? Without Jesus’ physical presence, guidance & instruction.
What was Jesus up to?

Do you know anyone who enjoys waiting?

Yes. There are some who actually do… occasionally, when they know the waiting will be over within a short time.
People who welcome that brief respite from the demands of work or duties.

As long as the wait isn’t too long. And the outcome is known.

We’re in a time of waiting. This is the 7th Sunday of mandated social distancing. For many this period of uncertain waiting has gone on too long. It’s like being a child again in the back seat of the car on a long road trip. “How much longer, daddy?” is the repeated, plaintive cry.

We’re not good at waiting. With each passing decade we humans become less able to wait patiently. We like to be in the know. We want things done NOW, my agenda, my schedule.

Why wait to save up money to buy a car when I can put it on credit? Why wait until older to go on that mission trip to an exotic place? How thrilling to be doing God’s work!

Instead God was whispering, “Not quite yet, you need to become more mature in Me. Wait.”

Waiting for what?
God knew Jesus followers were very close to being ready. But not quite yet, they needed to learn the lesson of waiting. Wait, for what? For instructions, for the Holy Spirit, and to learn to yield to God’s timing.

Perhaps Jesus’ followers encouraged each other with Psalm 27:14
Wait for the Lord; Be Strong and let your heart take courage; yes, wait for the Lord.”

And Isaiah 40:28 – 31
Haven’t you known, haven’t you heard?
The everlasting Lord, the creator of the ends of the earth does not grow tired or weary?
His understanding cannot be fathomed. He invigorates the exhausted,
He gives strength to the powerless.
Young men may grow tired and weary, even the fittest may stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the Lord God will renew their strength,
they will soar aloft as with eagles’ wings;
when they are running they won’t grow weary,
when they are walking they won’t get tired.

While we’re in this time of uncertain waiting it’s helpful to look at the example of Jesus’ followers as they waited for God’s timing, for the Holy Spirit to come to them. What did they do during that time of limbo?

Luke 24:52-53 and Acts 1:13 – 14 They worshipped Jesus and returned to Jerusalem with great joy and were continually in the temple praising and blessing God. They stayed together in prayer and supplication.

Their waiting was focused. While they waited they prayed and with great joy were praising God.

The time of waiting wasn’t spent in aimless idleness, It was a time of uncertainty as to when and what would happen but their confidence and expectation was on the risen Lord Jesus Christ.

They waited with certain joyful expectation on God’s timing!

 

Doubt to Belief

Doubt to Belief!                                                                                             April 26, 2020
John 20:19-31
19 It was late that Sunday evening, and the disciples were gathered together behind locked doors, because they were afraid of the Jewish authorities. Then Jesus came and stood among them. “Peace be with you,” he said. 20 After saying this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples were filled with joy at seeing the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father sent me, so I send you.” 22 Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive people’s sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”
24 One of the twelve disciples, Thomas (called the Twin), was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” Thomas said to them, “Unless I see the scars of the nails in his hands and put my finger on those scars and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”
26 A week later the disciples were together again indoors, and Thomas was with them. The doors were locked, but Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and look at my hands; then reach out your hand and put it in my side. Stop your doubting, and believe!”
28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Do you believe because you see me? How happy are those who believe without seeing me!”

When Jesus first appeared to the gathered disciples He immediately spoke Peace to them and showed them His hands and side. showed them His hands and side. Why? Because He knew they were completely startled by His sudden presence. Think about it, they’d heard Mary’s story of her encounter with Him but hearing a story and actually grasping, believing the fact is two different things. He knew they needed to hear His voice and have tangible, physical proof of the almost incomprehensible fact that He was no longer dead.

Mary had told them that Jesus had appeared to her but were they able to fully grasp the reality? Not likely.

Thomas wasn’t there when Jesus came to the disciples that 1st night and when they told him about Jesus appearing suddenly in the room, even though the door was locked, he didn’t believe them. His reply, “I won’t believe until I put my fingers in the nail holes and my hand in His side!” has people ever since labelling him as Doubting Thomas. Is this really fair? Remember the two people on the road to Emmaus who had also heard Mary say she’d seen the risen Jesus? They even listened to Him talk about Scripture as they walked several miles together. It wasn’t until He blessed and broke the bread that they recognized Him.

When Jesus announced to the disciples that He should go to Bethany to Lazarus, Thomas was the disciple who bravely spoke “Yes! We should to go with Jesus so we can die with Him!”

Why don’t we call him Thomas the Brave? From records Thomas is the disciple who struck out alone to take the Good News of Jesus to people in the East. Some say as far as India.

Just as Thomas’ moment of bravery didn’t define him, neither should this incident of doubt! We all have times of doubt.

Thomas teaches us a good lesson: being in Jesus’ presence brings out the best in us; being away from Him can cause doubt to take hold.

Thomas is the disciple who earnestly asked Jesus: “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” (John 14:5) He wants to know answers. He has a seeking mind that is willing to ask questions and risk ridicule. Jesus doesn’t berate Thomas, instead He says a most profound statement of truth: “I Am the Way, the Truth, and the Life, no one comes to the Father except through me.

When Jesus returns to the disciples, again in a closed & locked room, He doesn’t berate Thomas, instead He firmly acknowledges Thomas’ doubt while allowing him to experience His physical reality in a way that allows Thomas to believe without embarrassment but complete yielding.

What is Thomas’ immediate response? “My Lord and my God!”

Thomas is the first to declare Jesus not only as Lord but as God. Thomas boldly claims Jesus as his Lord and God. He states the greatest revelation of all!  Jesus Christ is the same God that spoke the world into existence. Jesus is God in the flesh. Complete belief!

Create, Renew

Psalm 51:10-13 Create in me a clean heart, O God.                                              April 19, 2020

 Song:
Create in me a clean heart o God, and renew a right spirit within me
Create in me a clean heart o God, and renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from your presence o God, and take not Thy Holy Spirit from me,
Restore unto me the joy of They salvation and renew a right spirit within me.

Psalm 51:10-13
10 God, create a clean heart for me and renew a steadfast[a] spirit within me.
11 Do not banish me from Your presence or take Your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore the joy of Your salvation to me, and give me a willing spirit.[b]
13 Then I will teach the rebellious Your ways, and sinners will return to You.

“Create” – “bārā” the word used in Gen 1:1, to create from nothing. David longs for a brand new heart, a complete newness of heart – a longing that Jesus Christ fulfills.

Steadfast spirit. “Ruach” – the God breathed power of life! We are animated by our spirit and our spirit is the foundation of our emotions.

Jesus told Nicodemus he must be born again – birth as a new creation that is only through God, this is what David is longing for!

Steadfast: faithful. Undaunted. There are many times when I falter and want to quit. For some people faithfulness comes easy but it’s certainly not for everyone. Our desires, our weaknesses, get in the way of the deeper desire and longing to be faithful. Faithfulness is one of the fruits of the Spirit.

Restore to me the joy of your salvation! The joy of knowing that there’s a better life to come. The joy of knowing that death is simply the door to REAL life. The joy of knowing that God is in the details, He is still in control and His kingdom is real.

This is a very familiar passage, one we sing and know well. But, just as important, is verse 13, a too often overlooked verse which is the outcome, the result of God creating in me a new heart and a steadfast spirit.  13 Then I will teach the rebellious Your ways, and sinners will return to You.

What is the purpose of asking God to create a new heart and a steadfast spirit in me? To teach people God’s ways so they will know Him!

Create in me a clean heart; renew a steadfast spirit, Restore joy! Sustain a willing spirit, let me be bold to express Jesus, to share His life and reality. Teach sinfulness leading to relationship with Jesus!