Tag Archives: Holy Spirit

fire fighters

 

accident-action-adult-280076

This Sunday is a significant Sunday for the life of the Church…actually it is the celebration of the life of the Church, because it’s the Church’s birthday! Pentecost Sunday is the day we commemorate the reception of the Holy Spirit and the birth of the movement that came to be known as the Church. The story goes a little something like this, “When Pentecost Day arrived, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound from heaven like the howling of a fierce wind filled the entire house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be individual flames of fire alighting on each one of them. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit” – Acts 2:1-4 And from that moment on the world would never be the same. I love the description for the presence of the Holy Spirit; wind and fire. (Add earth and you’ve got a soul-filled experience, I couldn’t help myself). But these two movements in nature are both powerful and mysterious, yet how often do we think of the action of the Church in terms of wind or fire today?

Often the Church is more of a comfortable movement in the world today. We hear passages from scripture and rather than being spurred on or challenged, we simply seek to be affirmed or comforted in the station or position in life in which we currently exist. Take for instance this passage from Paul to the church in Thessalonica, “Make sure no one repays a wrong with a wrong, but always pursue the good for each other and everyone else. Rejoice always. Pray continually. Give thanks in every situation because this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Don’t suppress the Spirit.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:15-19 That sounds good. Don’t repay wrongs, rejoice and be prayerful, give thanks and don’t suppress the Spirit…wait, what!?! The Greek word is actually sbennymi, which meant to extinguish. Don’t extinguish the Spirit? But think about it for a minute. This is the presence of God that on the day of Pentecost was described as a fierce wind and fire. What is it about the movement of the Church today that resembles a fierce wind or fire?

In his book, The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, C.S. Lewis is describing the four children’s preparation for their first meeting with Aslan. The children become a bit scared when they realize that Aslan is a lion. Here’s how the conversation concludes, “’Then he isn’t safe?’ said Lucy. ‘Safe?’ said Mr Beaver; ‘don’t you hear what Mrs Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you’.” I think that’s where safety has taken over the flow of the Spirit in the Church today. We want the action of the Spirit to be safe, comfortable, fit our schedule, pat us on the back and tell us we’re doing okay. But what we don’t realize is that in doing so we are fighting the very fire of God that continually seeks to set the church ablaze. When we seek to control the Spirit or dictate how the Holy Spirit must work in our churches or in another’s life we are actually extinguishing that which is unpredictable. And yet God does not force us to remain in the flames of His love. In fact it’s quite easy to suppress the presence and power of God when our agendas of safety, comfort and control take over. So what will it be this Pentecost? Will we find ourselves consumed by the mystery of a God who is nowhere near safe, but good? Or will we continue to suppress the very Spirit that gave birth to Kingdom of God on earth?

Maybe it’s high time we put down the fire extinguishers.

 

 

Advertisements

anticipation

architecture-auditorium-chairs-109669

PSA: This may be the nerdiest blog post I’ve ever written.

I’ve been waiting for today for what seems like forever. For those of you who have read my blog at all or listened to a sermon, you know I am a fan of comic books. And not just any comic books, but Marvel comics; you know, Spider-man, The Hulk, Thor, Captain America, etc. Well one of my favorite cultural gifts of living in the twenty-first century is that we are living in the golden era of comic book movies. It’s almost as if Hollywood said, “You know who we need to cater to? All those weird 30 and 40 something year old nerds.” And today marks the completion of a ten-year saga for Marvel movies as they release Avengers: Infinity War. Since the villain of the movie (Thanos, the ultimate Marvel bad guy) was teased in 2012, fans have been awaiting this day. If they are like me, they have even reread all the comics they owned that cycle around this movie’s story-line just to be extra prepared. And so I woke up knowing today was the day…I don’t think I’ve been this excited in a long time. And I know that regardless of what I experience tonight, I will still be excited. I don’t think the movie could even let down my anticipation. And this is all over a two hour and twenty-nine minute movie…

Anticipation is a powerful thing. My kids get excited about upcoming birthdays. My wife will start packing for trips sometimes weeks ahead, but maybe that’s because a healthy dose of anticipation is necessary for traveling with a family of six. But anticipation, I believe, can often make the thing anticipated even greater. If you come to an event or happening with all this built up excitement and energy, and then you invest all that big excitement and energy into said event, then there really isn’t any way that you should be disappointed…of course maybe that’s just the eternal optimist in me speaking. However, sometimes I think our anticipation looks more like anxiety. I remember growing up and hearing about Christ’ second coming and always being nervous. Sometimes I would even go over to my grandmother’s house (she lived across the driveway) and if I didn’t find her quickly I would be scared that I missed the rapture. I’m not sure, though, that the coming of Christ is something that is ever meant to be seen through the lenses of fear. In fact, I think it’s something the church is called to rehearse over and over again.

The New Testament scriptures end with the writer of Revelation saying, “The one who bears witness to these things says, “Yes, I’m coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!” – Revelation 22:20 And some translations even add the phrase “come quickly”. Now if you’re like me, you often look at the world around you and wish Jesus would come quickly and fix all the brokenness and hurt. You anticipate His return because it will be the cure-all for all the messed up things in the world. But what if we, as the church are called to rehearse, live out His coming again in anticipation in the now? I mean, after all the church is called the body of Christ. And we gather together through the power of the Holy Spirit. What if our presence here is Christ in flesh, Christ having come into the world? Here me out. Christ will come again; I’m not denying this. But what if in the now we are called to live in such rich anticipation that each time we gather we become agents of transformation in a world that could really only be fixed by the coming of Christ? What if each time we met the world would know that His Kingdom is coming and His will is being done through us because this is why we gather? What if each time we prepared to assemble as a church we anticipated the movement so richly that we couldn’t help but be excited and amazed at what God did through us? I think perhaps this is the type of anticipation we are all called to live with. After all, if one of us could get this excited for a nerd movie, think about what we could do if all of us were truly excited about what God can do through us.


try a little

Yesterday afternoon I found out about the passing of Glen Campbell. I don’t think I would have ever been characterized as a Glen Campbell fan per se, but I always enjoyed listening to his music and there were times I would even find myself binge listening. In fact, just this last Saturday on our way to a wedding I had my wife indulge me in one of those moments as we listened to Gentle on My Mind while rolling down Business 20. So yesterday after hearing of his passing I launched into a Glen Campbell kind of afternoon and I heard a song I hadn’t heard in quite some time. The chorus goes like this, “You got to try a little kindness, Yes show a little kindness, Just shine your light for everyone to see. And if you try a little kindness, Then you’ll overlook the blindness, Of narrow-minded people on the narrow-minded streets.” Huh. It’s weird to think that we should need the lyrics of a Glen Campbell song to remind us of what might be important in today’s world.

Kindness does seem to be a dying commodity in the world lately. We are consumed with winning arguments, proving our point, getting our opinion across, tweeting our stances and jumping on our soapboxes before we even begin to think about the consequences and whether or not we are thought of as being kind. Which for us in the church is very strange. After all, in Galatians we read, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.‭‭” – Galatians‬ ‭5:22-23‬ Did you see it there? (I underlined it and bolded it just in case). Kindness is a fruit of living life by the power of the Holy Spirit. One might even say that kindness is evidence of God living in you. And yet, sometimes it is a quality we value least in today’s world because we think it might make us appear weak or a pushover or tolerant or whatever adjective or excuse you want to pin onto the need to not be kind.

Personally I’ve been accused at times of perhaps being a bit too nice…but I have to be honest with you, it’s not me. There are so many times that I would love to give someone a piece of my mind. I can’t tell you how many times in the last year I have wanted to tell someone off or just let loose on someone who has rubbed me the wrong way. But then there is this gentle nudge from the Holy Spirit that reminds me of how God feels about the person across from me. And so I pause, try to put myself in their shoes and try to think about how God would treat them if He were right there instead of me. Do I always succeed at being kind? Probably not. But in the words of Glen Campbell it is always worth trying at. And maybe you might effect the life of the narrow minded across from you and find your own narrow mindedness being healed in the process as well.


present

Sometimes I hate my smart phone. I guess it really is more of a love/hate relationship, but I hate what I allow it inadvertently to do to my other relationships. And don’t act like you haven’t been there either. It can pull you away from meaningful conversation. It occupies time that would otherwise be well invested in the lives of those closest to you. It becomes a distraction from what could or should be termed as real life. It keeps you from being present. In fact at times I feel like I just have to take a sabbatical from it in order to be a better version of myself. Presence is something we as humans really seem to struggle with.

Fortunately for us this is not an issue for God. Although, the way we talk you might think it were. Sometimes we behave in ways as to insinuate that God isn’t present in a place. Or other times we allude to the fact that God is present somewhere when He hasn’t been before. But the apostle Paul has this to say about the presence of God, “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” – Ephesians 4:3-6 Did you catch that last part? ‘One God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all’. Whether or not we recognize it, God is always present.

And I think the problem with us and sensing God’s presence is not a God problem. It’s a you and me problem. Much like our inability to be present with our friends and family with distractions like smart phones, we often allow other things to get in the way of us perceiving the presence of God. Paul says to make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through peace. So when we allow ourselves to be distracted by other influences and expectations and divisions, we won’t sense the presence of God. Even when we expect God to only be present in ways we have experienced His presence in the past, we are limiting our experience of who God is. The very giving of God’s name in Exodus 3 should keep us from doing this when God tells us, “I am what I am” or even better, “I will be what I will be”. (Exodus 3:14)

There is a worship song that was written a few years ago that I think helps us to see our responsibility in the presence and action of God that I think we would all be wise to give ear to today. The bridge simply says this, “Let us become more aware of Your Presence, Let us experience the glory of Your goodness” (Holy Spirit by Bryan and Katie Torwalt) Today, may we realize that God’s presence is all around us and that we are called to experience that presence with Him and to share it with those around us.


safe

In his now classic allegory The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, C.S. Lewis begins the process of introducing the Christ-figure character of Aslan to the children in the following fashion. “Is he-quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion”…”Safe?” said Mr Beaver …”Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”  Lewis chose to portray his Christ figure as a lion and so it should go without saying that he isn’t ‘safe’, but what holds up his Kingship in the eyes of all Narnians is that he is good. Lewis allegory that ran throughout the seven books of The Chronicles of Narnia always had a robust way of seeing God. Through the image of Aslan we never however see him as safe, but as wild and free and good. I makes me think that sometimes we may have reduced our image of God in the way in which we live our lives today.

Before Christ ascended into heaven he made a promise to his disciples in the book of Acts. The writer Luke puts it this way, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” –  Acts 1:8 This verse of course refers to the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, but there are two terms I think we need to pay closer attention to. The first is the Greek word dynamis which means “the power to carry out a task”. As you can see it is where we get the word dynamite. The second is the word martys which refers to a witness in legal matters or one who tells their story. Strangely enough, this is where we get the modern word martyr. Stop me if I am off a bit, but putting those two terms together doesn’t seem very safe.

To me the wonder of Pentecost and the birth of the church was the movement from safety (at least relative perceived safety) to the disciples being willing to lay down their lives for that which they had experienced. They had been in hiding from the authorities until receiving this power and then all of a sudden they were willing to risk everything to tell their story. And now 2,000 years later we have at times reduced the gospel of Jesus to something that promises safety and comfort and very little risk to your current way of living. I’m not sure this is what was intended when we were promised power to share our experience with the world around us. In fact, I think we need to be reminded that we are not called to safety and comfort but to share that which we have been given in a real and true way. Ours is the story that has called apostles to confess before the coliseum of death, martyrs to share Jesus to the bitter end, missionaries to travel at risk to family and friends and saints to pursue bringing others to Jesus above any worldly comfort.

This same power is available to you and I today…we just have to be willing to give up feeling safe. May you embrace the risk and adventure of walking in The Spirit today.

 


50 days

In our household we have a tradition that at some point began with our firstborn. I guess you could call it the Birthday countdown. Somewhere in the calendar between birthdays it becomes necessary for my wife and I to do the math prior to the next child’s birthday and then the countdown is on. It has started with as many as 200 days, but usually doesn’t get serious until around the 30 day mark. In the meantime plans are made, presents are wished for, the day is marked out with incredible expectation and then all that there is left to do is wait somewhat patiently as the countdown marches on. Although patience is usually not the key expression of this countdown. But on the upside my wife and I have gotten really good at knowing how many days are in every month.

During this season in the church calendar I can’t help but think about the Birthday countdown. We are currently in the 50 days between Passover and Pentecost or more appropriately between Easter and Pentecost. In fact, the name Pentecost literally means fiftieth. This is the time in the church we commemorate the coming of the Holy Spirit and we remember the waiting of the disciples. This to me is the most incredible part. The disciples, although living in fear of what might happen to them were hanging onto Jesus’ last promise before his Ascension. “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” – Acts 1:8 And then when the day of Pentecost came, the world was turned upside down. This power that became present in the lives of the believers transformed everything.

Sometimes I think we as the church still find ourselves in the waiting period; the countdown. We are waiting on God to do something in our midst. We use words like revival, renewal, refreshing, etc., but the problem is, we aren’t called to wait anymore. You see, the original waiting/countdown was Jesus’ promise to those disciples who gathered in that upper room. And when the day of Pentecost came, the waiting game ended. We believe that since the day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit is present, living and active in the lives of believers everywhere and yet sometimes we find ourselves waiting. But for what? This is the same Spirit that transformed terrified fishermen into bold and defiant preachers. This is the same Spirit that transformed a Pharisaical terrorist into the church’s first missionary. This is the same Spirit that led believers out of hiding and into a willingness to die in a Roman arena. And we think something special has to happen for The Spirit to be at work. Wake up church! The Spirit is at work and moving and bringing new life and we need to stop waiting and start moving in step with God.

This Sunday we will commemorate and celebrate Pentecost. But it’s time we live out of the power of The Spirit and stop waiting/counting days for whatever we think might ignite the Spirit’s presence within us. The Spirit is already ablaze, let’s not be the one’s to quench it with our waiting.


%d bloggers like this: