Bible Devotions

Pentecost Week

2011-06-06 – “Intro to Pentecost”

Welcome to our special EmmDev Series on Pentecost!

I don’t usually send out an EmmDev on Mondays (as this is my “sabbath”) but for this series, I’ll be sending out devotions for the whole week. Hope they are a helpful in preparing our hearts for celebrating Pentecost!

Today’s dev is a little longer than usual as it gives background…


4 On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. 5 For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” (Acts1:4-5)

Historically speaking Pentecost was originally an Old Testament festival that took place fifty days after Passover. It was called the “Feast of Weeks” (Shavuot) because it was seven weeks and one day after Passover. It was originally an agricultural festival celebrating and giving thanks for the “first fruits” of the early spring harvest (Lev 23, Exod 23, 34) but it was also used to celebrate God giving the Ten Commandments at Mount Sinai.

“Pentecost” comes from the Greek Word for “Fifty” and is how we commemorate the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on God’s Disciples which really commemorates the birth of the Christian Church, and the powerful transformation of a group of frightened disciples into a group of people who changed history.

It is important to note that when we celebrate Pentecost, Easter or Christmas, we are not trying to re-create these events, but rather to re-enact them. In other words, we dive into the details of these events and re-appreciate their significance for the simple reason that we forget. (This is why the Lord Jesus asked us to celebrate the Lord’s Supper… because we forget.)

From the Old Testament background we can glean some wonderful truths:

* Harvest and first fruits: with the coming of the Spirit, the church was born and on its first day of existence, 3000 people were added to the church. Jesus spoke about the fields being ready for harvest and the Holy Spirit helps us to reach out to people and bring them to Christ.

* Seven Weeks (7 X sabbaths) + 1 day makes one think of the Old Testament promise of the “Year of Jubilee” (7X7+1 years) which was supposed to be a year in which debts were cancelled, the economy would be reset and land would go back to original rightful owners. As far as we can see, Israel never had the courage to make this happen. But when the Spirit came, people sold their goods and shared with one another and still today God’s people, moved by the Spirit, are able to forgive and care for one another in incredible ways.

* The Old Testament festival celebrated the giving of the Law on tablets of stone, but the coming of the Spirit celebrates the promise of Jeremiah where the law is “written on our hearts.” (Jer31:33)

Jesus asked his disciples to wait in Jerusalem for the coming of the Spirit. We know that they spent this time in prayer and fellowship and it’s my prayer that we will be thoughtful and prayerful, eagerly longing for God to work in us, in the church and in the world.

2011-06-07 – “New heart and Spirit”

36:24 ” `For I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land. 25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. 26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. 28 You will live in the land I gave your forefathers; you will be my people, and I will be your God. (Ezekiel36:24-28)

This awesome promise is part of a greater promise of forgiveness, renewal and restoration. God is addressing the hope-depleted, faith-diminished and devotion-decreased Israelites in Exile in Babylon.

They had given up hope.

They had lost everything.

They thought that they were forgotten.

God promises

- forgiveness (sprinkled with clean water)

- renewal (heart transplant & Spirit filling)

- restoration (to the land and to being God’s people)

The picture of renewal is awesome.

Their hearts were stone – because of their sin and because of their suffering. In Hebrew thinking the heart is not the seat of emotions but rather the control room of a person’s life. Their control-centers were bitter, cynical and empty of grace. God promises that this can change!

But that’s not all! The promise is that Holy Spirit will take up residence in them to move them in commitment and devotion that they might live according to God’s ways.

Are you hope-depleted or faith-diminished? Has your heart turned to stone through the pain and disappointment you’ve experienced? God wants to forgive, renew and restore!

#Prayer: Lord, I’m so tired out by trying to become a better person from the outside-in. Please soften my heart so that I can be transformed from the inside-out. Amen.


(This is a “reprint” of a dev I sent out in July 2007)

2011-06-08 – “How to shine”

So he said to me, “This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: `Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the LORD Almighty. (Zechariah 4:6)

When the exiles returned to from Exile to Israel, they were a rag-tag bunch that came home to a burnt-out shell of Jerusalem and a very dilapidated and depressed community of has-beens and non-starters. Rebuilding the temple was low on the priority and possibility lists.

Zerubbabel was the king in charge, but he was not expected to amount to much – the odds were stacked against him. But Zechariah had a vision about Zerubbabel:

The vision was of a lampstand with seven wicks, each of the wicks with its own channel to the bowl of olive oil and either side of the bowl were two olive trees.

The implication: The olive trees would supply the bowl endlessly, and perfect (seven implies perfection) light would come from this lamp.

The application: Zerubbabel may not look like much, but he will be endlessly supplied by the Holy Spirit. Our own strength peters out and our best efforts end in the sputtering flame of our limited endurance, but we can have the strength to press on and endure when God’s Spirit keeps us going.

We tend to try to serve God in our own strength. We come up with gimmicks and tricks to keep going using emotional equivalents of “Red Bull Energy Drinks” to pull us from one “high” to the next. The vision Zechariah has has no rush in it, the trees grow slowly, the oil seeps into the channels and the lamps keep burning. When we stay in communion with God, His Spirit will fuel our work for Him.

It’s not by OUR might, not by OUR strength, but by HIS Spirit!

2011-06-09 – “Counsellor, Comforter – PARACLETOS”

16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to 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…

25 “All this I have spoken while still with you. 26 But the Counselor, 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. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. (John14:16-27)

If I could quote only one passage about the Holy Spirit, it would be this one.

The disciples are frightened because they have learned that Jesus intends to return to the Father. They are unsure of the way ahead, they have become used to the presence of the Lord and are afraid they will not know what to do.

Jesus comforts them with the promise of the coming of the Spirit. He uses a Greek word “Paracletos” which literally means the “one who walks beside.” We translate this as counsellor, comforter, guide and advocate.

Jesus promises us that:

* The Spirit will lead us into truth

* Although we cannot see Him, the Spirit will ensure that we are not orphans (Paul says that the Spirit helps us call God “Abba” (Daddy) He will live _in_ us. Giving us even more closeness to God than the disciples had with Jesus.

* He will teach us and remind us of Jesus’ teachings.

* He will give us lasting and meaningful peace, not simply the absence of trouble, but peace that outlasts trouble.

The Holy Spirit is the third person of the God family and He connects us to the Father and the Son so that we can experience God’s closeness and love deeply and intimately.

Traditionally the church has shied away from the Holy Spirit because of confusion about the miraculous and sensational (tongues, healing, etc) but when we look at the core business of the Holy Spirit, why should we be afraid?

2011-06-10 – “Mighty Wind#1 – Waiting”

The next five e-devs (taking us to Pentecost and beyond) are from a series I did in 2007 and cover Acts 2 which is the actual story of Pentecost)


1 When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.


Very few people like waiting. Waiting makes us feel powerless. When we wait for someone to come out of the operating theatre, while we wait for exam results to be published, through the gap between the job interview and that all important phone-call there is one certainty that prevails: We are powerless!

God doesn’t see waiting the way we do. Scripture abounds with pictures of God’s people learning to and having to wait. Waiting is a valuable tool in the Divine Toolchest. Here’s why:

* Waiting reminds us that we are not all powerful. Waiting is one of the best antidotes to control-freak tendencies. Waiting reminds me that I am _not_ in control.

* Waiting teaches us to trust. Sometimes we have to trust the doctors, at other times we must trust the system but ultimately we trust God.

* Waiting lets us prepare for action. Think about the runner waiting for the starting gun. It is the collecting of thoughts and the flexing of muscles that allows for the explosive action that will follow when the shot fires.

* Waiting provides time to pray – although we often prefer pacing to praying. Acts 1:14 tells us that the disciples used this space and place of waiting for prayer. Especially corporate prayer.

* Waiting brings us to the _right_ time. God sees the picture more clearly than we do… We think the time is _now_, but God knows when the best moment will be.

The wait between Ascension and Pentecost could have been soul-destroying and frustrating, but the disciples went through their waiting reasonably well: (They did fail in one respect – control-freakishness – when they elected Mathias as a replacement for Judas and we see later that God actually had a certain Saul of Tarsus in mind…) But for the rest, they:

- realised that they could only do this with Divine help

- spent the time in prayer

- came to feast of Pentecost which had Jerusalem full of people and was an ideal time to empower the church.

One of the significant qualities of a Spirit-filled and Spirit-controlled life is this quality of waiting. Isaiah 40:31 says: They that wait upon the Lord will renew their strength…

2011-06-11 – “Mighty Wind#2 – Together”

1 When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. (Acts2:1-4)

As much as we’d like to make Christianity an individualistic faith, the truth is that God draws us to community. The Holy Spirit _could_ have been poured out on each of the disciples individually while they were in prayer or meditation, but God prefers to work in community.

Western Christianity has a very self-centered perspective on spiritual growth and development. We emphasise personal prayer and the private devotional time. This is not wrong, but there is a serious lack: the lack is the recognition of serious growth and development that is possible when God moves within our faith community.

The folk who became the New Testament’s first church were _together_ on the day of Pentecost and God used them as a community.

Many people seek to get closer to God. What they don’t understand is that coming closer to God is also coming closer to community. God is a Triune Being – enjoying eternal community of Father, Son and Spirit. We who are created in His image are therefore designed for community.

It is perfectly feasible that the Spirit would choose to work in community. Coming together in community means that we have chosen to move aside our own imperfections (letting go of our insecurities) and the imperfections of others (shelving our critical spirits). It means that we take risks and make room for others.

This is not always comfortable for us. But when we take these kind of faith risks, we are in a place where the Spirit can work powerfully.

Here’s a closing thought: Moving TOWARD community brought about Spiritual Growth. Moving AWAY from community brings about Spiritual Shrinkage. If we want the Spirit to work in our lives, we must recognise that He will always move us toward community.

2011-06-12 – “Mighty Wind#3 – Wind and Fire”

1 When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.


In the Old Testament, we see that Wind and Fire are two images that powerfully describe the working of the Spirit.

The wind imagery reminds us of God’s life-giving breath that brings creation into being and makes humankind image-bearers of God. Here the wind is breathed into a body of people and the result is the birth of the church. The church is the corporate body capable of being led, indwelt and resuscitated by the Holy Spirit. Acts 2 describes the first “breath” of the Church.

The fire imagery takes us back to the burning bush of Exodus 3. It burns, but it is not consumed. It glows with divine light and heat but it is not destroyed. So too the church. The saints are not consumed by the fire and they each experience a unique manifestation of the fire, they are not all caught up in one flame – they remain individuals who encountered the unique powerful working of God in their lives.

They hear the wind, they see the fire. The outworking of the Spirit is a tangible thing. While we may not hear actual wind or see actual fire, we can experience the sounds and sights of the Holy Spirit in our faith communities.

We _hear_ Him at work in the sounds of passionate worship. empowered preaching and bold testimony.

We _see_ Him at work in the transformed lives of those around us – people like you and me who have overcome difficulties and challenges and look more like Christ every day.

Can you see the fire and hear the wind?

If you can, give thanks to God – it’s the work of His Spirit!

2011-06-13 – “Mighty Wind#4 – Filling”

1 When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.


Just what does it mean to be filled with the Spirit?

Does God open the tops of our heads and pour in a luminous liquid until we are “full to the brim?”

Does He “invade” or “possess” us?

This is a question that is crucial to our understanding of the Trinity and particularly the Holy Spirit. It is a question that the New Testament patiently answers again and again.

To put it as simply as possible, here is a basic definition:

To be filled with the Spirit is to be _open_ to the influence of the Spirit.

If we stick with the imagery of the Spirit as the breath or wind of God, then we also need an image for ourselves as those on whom this wind blows.

The first image is that of a windmill. But it is NOT a good image.

When the wind blows the windmill turns. The windmill has no choice.

The second image is that of a sailing ship. When the wind blows, the captain of the sailing ship has the sails hoisted and the ship, even if it is absolutely massive, can be moved by the power of the wind filling the unfurled sails. The captain can lower the sails if he does not want to be moved – it is his choice.

On the day of Pentecost a group of believers were together and raised their sails to the wind of the Spirit and the maiden voyage of the great ship we call the church began.

Hope you will unfurl your sails today!

2011-06-14 – “Mighty Wind#5 – Speaking”

1 When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. (Acts2:1-4)

Acts 2 is basically a reversal of Gen 11… Gen 11 is the story of the Tower of Babel where humankind thought they could be like God. Building and scheming they were convinced that they didn’t need Him any more – they could be independent and self-contained. They had “outgrown” their need for God.”

God graciously intervened in this colossal foolishness by confusing their languages. My initial response to this was – “So? Big deal! So He slowed them down – they’ll just settle on one language or develop a meta-language (like the “funnagallo” that developed on the mines).” But they didn’t – the truth is interesting – people clung to their languages – unwilling to pursue a joint goal if they had to sacrifice “their” language. The Tower of Babel was never completed.

Language and culture are powerful dividing agents. At Pentecost the disciples were divinely enabled to speak other languages. If you read down a few verses, you’ll see that they were able to impact the cosmopolitan group that had assembled in Jerusalem for the Feast of Pentecost.

Not only has Christ’s death “broken down the dividing wall of hostility” (Ephesians 2) between races and cultures but the Holy Spirit helps us bridge the divide between me and my fellow human being.

Martin Luther King Jnr once said that Sunday mornings were the most “segregated hour” in American life. Fortunately this is changing. The key is surrendering to the wonderful gracious working of the Holy Spirit who will bridge the gap between ourselves and others. But if we go back to arrogant independence we are back at the tower of Babel.

2011-06-15 – “When does it happen?”

Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (Acts2:38)

So when does it happen? When do we receive the Holy Spirit?

There are many who see the “infilling of the Holy Spirit” as a separate experience. There _are_ many people who only become aware of the Holy Spirit’s work after they have become Christians. With this awareness comes an increased openness and a profound deepening of their experience of the Spirit.

This deepening isn’t the _first_ time the Spirit is at work in them. Peter makes it clear: When we make the decision to give our lives to Christ, we receive the Holy Spirit.

There are two NT passages that talk about the Holy Spirit’s work at our conversion.

1Corinthians12:3 explains that it is the Holy Spirit who brings us to a point where we are ready to put our trust in Jesus… It says: “Therefore I tell you that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.”

Ephesians 1:13 tells us that the presence of the Spirit in us is the guarantee of our being God’s children. It says this:

“And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance…”

What conclusions must we draw?

1. I could only receive Jesus as Lord if the Spirit helped me do it.

2. If I doubt the Spirit’s presence in my life, then I must doubt that He saved me and I must doubt that I am God’s child.

3. So, God’s Spirit brings me to faith and lives in me as I choose to follow Him. But the relationship isn’t stagnant, it can deepen and deepen as I follow Him and “lift my sails.”


This brings us to the end of the “Pentecost Interlude…”

I’ll go back to “Moses Meditations” on Friday – enjoy the public holiday tomorrow…

Tagged with →  
Share →

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Looking for something?

Use the form below to search the site:

Still not finding what you're looking for? Drop us a note so we can take care of it!

Visit our friends!

A few highly recommended friends...