Bibla Devotions

Holy Spirit in Gospels and Acts



2007-07-25 – “New Creation by Incarnation”


This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. (Matthew1:18)

Our series on the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament started with a picture of the Holy Spirit participating in creation. It is therefore very apt for our first New Testament picture of the Holy Spirit to be one of incarnation.



Creation was in separated state – far from God – and it was His plan to enter into the world. The Holy Spirit is the power by which Jesus entered into our humanity by being incarnated in the womb of Mary.



The incarnation by virtue of the virgin birth is important for us because it celebrates God’s stepping across the line from His place of purity to our place of brokenness. The incarnation reminds us that God reaches out to us – He bridges the gap to us.



The Holy Spirit is the power by which Jesus came to us and significantly it is by the power of the same Spirit that we go into the world to bridge the gaps between the world and the gospel. The book of Acts tells us that it is by the power of the Spirit that the disciples will go from Jerusalem to Judea to Samaria and to the ends of the earth.



The Holy Spirit is the connector and bridge-builder. He is the one who helps us to connect to God, others and ourselves.





2007-07-30 – “Jesus and the Spirit#1″


As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. 17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” (Matthew3:16-17)

In heaven Jesus experienced the Spirit as He really is: everywhere, all-knowing, and all-powerful.



During His time on earth, Jesus was still like God in His nature, but He was limited in His glory to our human experience. And so, just as we need the Holy Spirit’s guidance and leading, so Jesus chose to obey and be filled by the Spirit.



Why did it happen at the baptism?

- John’s Baptism was a baptism of repentence. (Acts 19:4)

- Jesus didn’t need to repent – He was without sin.

- By being baptised Jesus identified Himself with our sinful state.

(A bit like bathing in someone’s dirty bathwater – we get their dirt)

- Through baptism Jesus was indicating His willingness to go to the cross, because He took on the guilty sinful state of humankind at baptism.



The Spirit descending at this point indicates:

- God’s pleasure at Jesus submission to the salvation plan

- The power God would make available to Jesus to fulfil His work

- God setting Jesus apart for ministry.



When we come to the place of repentance, we too are filled with the Spirit and we know that the angels in heaven celebrate God’s joy at our conversion. God works in the heart of every person who comes to the place of real repentance and the by power of the Spirit they can cry out: “I am now God’s son/daughter and may He be pleased with me.”



It’s a prayer God loves to answer!

2007-07-31 – “Jesus and the Spirit#2″


12 At once the Spirit sent him out into the desert, 13 and he was in the desert forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him.

(Mark1:12-13)


Jesus was baptised by John the Baptist. By doing this He identified with our sinful state even though He was sinless. His commitment to be the “sinless scapegoat” would be tested to the maximum.



Immediately after the baptism (“at once”) Jesus is led by the Holy Spirit to a place of solitude. This place of isolation would become a place of testing. We are assured quickly and directly that there is no way that Jesus’ identification with our brokenness meant that He gave in to temptation.



Traditionally this period of 40 is a time of preparation. The Spirit brought Jesus to the wilderness as preparation for the ministry He had embraced. Now it would be tested…



Remember that God doesn’t tempt – Satan did the tempting and sometimes God will allow that to happen. He knew that Jesus would resist temptation and with the power of the Spirit working in us, so should we.



When we commit ourselves to serious ministry, we will often be prompted by the Spirit to draw aside for preparation. During that time of preparation, we may be tempted to take shortcuts, grasp for power or try to be “impressive.”



It is not the Spirit tempting us – it is our own sinful nature that provides the window of opportunity that the devil tries to wriggle through. The Spirit may take us to a lonely place of preparation and there we _may_ well be tempted. It is through the Spirit’s power that we must overcome.

2007-08-01 – “Gob-smacked? Never!!”


17 “Be on your guard against men; they will hand you over to the local councils and flog you in their synagogues. 18 On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles. 19 But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, 20 for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.

(Matthew10:17)


To be gob-smacked is to clap your hand over your mouth and have nothing to say. Jesus promised His disciples that they would always be given the right words when they were needed.



Our passage is part of a very sober warning that Jesus gives His disciples as He sends them out to preach, teach and heal. It will not always be easy or popular to speak God’s message to the world. There will be many who will resist, persecute and punish the disciples as they do His work.



Jesus equips the disciples with a very special promise – they will be prompted and inspired – not only with content, but style! They will be given the words _and_ the demeanour to speak God’s words in their circumstances.



This promise is well-fulfilled in the book of Acts as we see Peter, John, Paul and other disciples having to answer for their faith in various situations and God being glorified each time. We know that even when Paul received 39 lashes on no less than five occasions, he was given the right thing to say in the right way so that his integrity remained intact.



What about us? Sometimes we try too hard to be clever. When times are tough and circumstances are threatening we should not rely on our own cleverness or “sleight of word.” Our Father will speak by His Spirit if we would just be silent and listen and let Him shape our attitude as well as our words…



It is a real comfort to me that if I am in big trouble, the Spirit of _MY_ Father will speak through me.

2007-08-02 – “Servants and Reeds #1″


“Here is my servant whom I have chosen,

the one I love, in whom I delight;

I will put my Spirit on him,

and he will proclaim justice to the nations.

19 He will not quarrel or cry out;

no one will hear his voice in the streets.

20 A bruised reed he will not break,

and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out,

till he leads justice to victory.

21 In his name the nations will put their hope.” (Matthew12:18-21)


If you’ve had your cup of coffee this morning and had a good rest last night, you might have realised that this passage sounds familiar and that it reveals that I’ve slipped up!



Let me explain: Matthew is talking about the Preaching, Teaching and Healing Ministry of Jesus and he is quoting from the “Servant Songs” in Isaiah. (Here he is quoting Isaiah 42) Although this section of Isaiah talks about the Holy Spirit a lot, I decided not to deal with the Songs in my series on the “Holy Spirit in the OT” because the Servant Songs are fulfilled in Christ. So, I didn’t slip up – I used the repetition to my advantage! (That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!)



The servant songs in Isaiah depict a servant who brings hope and healing to the world in spite of severe personal suffering. There are layers of meaning in the identity of the servant:



* Initially the nation of Israel was seen as the Servant charged with leading the world to God and being a “Light to the Nations” but they didn’t do it – in fact, in Jesus time, the court of the Gentiles had become a marketplace! (And we remember how that angered Jesus!)



* Then the songs apply to Jesus who is the ultimate Portrayer of these songs as He taught, healed, loved and suffered horribly for our healing.



* Then the songs apply to us who are called to “go out into all the world.”



Here’s your thought for today: We too are called to be “The Servant of the Lord” but we too will receive the Spirit – Jesus told the disciples “As the Father sent me, so I an sending you! And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” (John20:21-22)

2007-08-03 – “Servants and Reeds #2″


18 “Here is my servant whom I have chosen,

the one I love, in whom I delight;

I will put my Spirit on him,

and he will proclaim justice to the nations.

19 He will not quarrel or cry out;

no one will hear his voice in the streets.



20 A bruised reed he will not break,

and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out,

till he leads justice to victory.

21 In his name the nations will put their hope.” (Matthew12:18-21)


The mark of the Servant is that He is endowed with the Spirit who empowers him to do justice work.



Justice is an integral part of His work and calling. The section describing his ministry is framed by the opening and closing references to Justice.



We can describe justice as follows:

- If you have the Spirit, justice will be an issue for you

- This kind of justice isn’t loud, or argumentative.

- It isn’t power-politics but gentle, caring and hope-bringing.

- It protects the needy and the defenceless.

- Justice willl persevere until it succeeds.



Love without justice is favouritism. It happens when our criteria for love are sloppy, soppy and sentimental. But when we have a sharp focus on what is good and fair, we will be open to God’s leading.

2007-08-14 – “Unforgivable Sin”


29 “But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; he is guilty of an eternal sin.”

30 He said this because they were saying, “He has an evil spirit.”

(Mark3:29-30)


Many people are worried that they have committed the unforgivable sin.



To understand what this is all about, we need to remember that one of the main activities of the Holy Spirit is to bring us to the place where we can recognise Christ as Lord. The Spirit is always drawing us closer to Jesus. He wants us to recognise Jesus as Saviour and Lord.



Jesus talks about “blasphemy against the Spirit” in Matthew, Mark and Luke. In each case He is confronting the hard-hearted Pharisees and Saducees who persistently refuse to recognise who Jesus is:

- In Matthew they argue that Jesus does His miracles by demonic power

- In Mark they say that Jesus has an evil spirit

- In Luke the context is God’s provision on the one hand and disowning Christ on the other and Luke puts it into the context of the final judgment.



So “blasphemy against the Spirit” is to reject His “core business” which is to help us recognise Jesus for who He is.



Theologians agree that this is a _process_ and not an event. We don’t commit blasphemy against the Spirit by accident or as a once-off. This is something that is a stubborn hard-heartedness and we don’t care about it. To “blaspheme against the Spirit” is to stubbornly resist the “seed-planting” work of the Holy Spirit to the end of our lives or to the point that our hearts are so hard that we will never change.



The point: If we are resisting the working of the Spirit, then we won’t care whether this is forgivable or not. And so I say to folk: “If you’re _worried_ that you have committed unforgivable blasphemy against the Spirit, then you haven’t!”

2007-08-15 – “The power behind JohnB”


15 for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth. 16 Many of the people of Israel will he bring back to the Lord their God. 17 And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous–to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.

(Luke1:15-17)


This passage is an excerpt from the conversation between Zechariah and the angel concerning the birth of John the Baptist (who I call JohnB.)



JohnB was the forerunner of the Messiah. His job was to prepare the way and prepare people’s hearts for the coming of the Messiah. His message and life-purpose was to whet people’s appetites in preparation for Jesus’ coming.



The angel reveals that JohnB will not do this by his own charisma, talent or public speaking ability, but by the power of the Holy Spirit.



When we are filled with the Spirit (ie controlled by the Spirit) we will be able to do this work of preparing the way for Jesus to come into people’s hearts:



- We’ll bring people back to the Lord: They’ll experience the love, joy, peace and other fruits of the Spirit in us and they’ll long for that.



- We’ll go before the Lord: Our words and actions will prepare the “soil” of people’s hearts so that when the right moment comes, they will be ready to receive Christ.



- At times we will even have to be bold enough to be outspoken about false gods like Elijah was and we will see God show His power over the poor god-substitutes that people fill their lives with.



- We can, through wise (Spirit-led) counsel and confrontation bring the hearts of the fathers back to their children. (And how we need this in our land right now!)



- We can lift up wisdom in an attractive and palatable way to bring about a change in people’s thought patterns and value systems.

————————–

“Dear Lord, help me to be a Spirit-controlled-and-filled way-preparer for you!”

2007-08-16 – “Tendency to Praise”


His father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied:

68 “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel,

because he has come and has redeemed his people.

(Luke1:67-68)


In Luke chapter 1 there is wide variety of activities associated with the Holy Spirit:

1. We have already seen that JohnB was empowered by the Spirit

2. The angel tells Mary that she is pregnant by the Spirit’s power and Mary bursts into song.

3. Elizabeth, JohnB’s mom, hears Mary’s voice, is filled with the Spirit and praises God.

4. Zechariah, at the birth of JohnB also bursts into song when the Spirit comes upon him.



When the Holy Spirit moves in us – we can expect to be more aware of God’s greatness and more inclined to sing or even shout “Hallelujah!”



When it comes to being filled with the Spirit, there is a fundamental reality to bear in mind: We leak!



When life gets hectic and I become self-absorbed and self-centered and then I am less and less filled with the Spirit. I have learned over the years that when I am running on my own power and not the power of the Spirit, I can see it in two clear tendencies:

1. I am more negative, cynical and critical.

2. Praising God (especially in song) becomes a chore.



When I sort myself out and rededicate myself to God’s plan and purposes – when I drink deeply of the Holy Spirit – I find that I suddenly appreciate beauty and goodness all around me and I spontaneously praise – often singing songs and choruses quietly under my breath as I go along.



When the Spirit is at work in us, there is a tendency to burst into spontaneous praise. (you figure out the implications!…)

2007-08-17 – “Do I have the Spirit?”


5 Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. 7 You should not be surprised at my saying, `You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

(John3:5-8)


“Do I have the Holy Spirit?” This is an agonised question that is found on the lips of many sincere believers. This is especially true when they have been led to believe that having the Holy Spirit is proven by speaking in tongues or having a dramatic experience that involves falling over or uncontrollable laughter. Many Christians feel like second class citizens because they don’t have “evidence” of the Spirit’s working.



We will look at a number of important passages that will answer this question, but our starting point in this regard is John 3:

Jesus is talking to Nicodemus who is a sincere seeker, but trapped by the thought that coming to God somehow involved just “trying harder.”



Jesus overturns his religious applecart very dramatically:

- “Flesh can only give birth to flesh”

- “If you want everlasting Spiritual life, you will need to be born of the Spirit.”

- “Just like the wind comes from the outside in its own time and way, so the Spirit works in us.”



The bottom line? Just like Adam and Eve hid when they heard God in the garden, you and I hide from God. For us to stop hiding and actually come to Him in repentant faith requires a little help. This is what the Spirit does: He draws us, woos us, convinces us, changes us, saves us.



If we have given our hearts and lives to Christ, then we can be sure that the Spirit has been and still is at work in us.



2007-08-20 – “Living Water”


On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” 39 By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.

(John7:37-39)


The background to this passage is the feast of tabernacles. On the last day of the feast, the chief priests would draw water from the pool of Siloam, process to the temple and pour it out over the altar.



This would bring to mind Moses striking the rock and bringing forth water and the passage from Ezekiel 47 which described a river flowing from the altar in the temple in Jerusalem. (There are some scholars who argue that the temple in Jesus’ time may even have had a gutter or conduit from the altar to the outer wall of the temple – thus visualising the Ezekiel prophecy.)



John portrays Jesus as attending this beautiful ceremony and being unable to remain silent. His “interruption” of the ritual must have been very striking. There would have been a shocked silence after He gave His invitation.



He gives an amazing promise: The river Ezekiel spoke about doesn’t flow from a building, but from a human heart. If we are thirsty, we can ask and He will give us the Spirit – and then we can paddle, wade and swim in the trickle, stream and river of the Spirit’s flow in, through and from us. (Go and look at Ezekiel 47)



So, if we unpack the symbolism:

Jesus is Moses who strikes the rock of our sinful separation from God so that water – living, life-giving water – can trickle, pour and gush from our lives.



We’ll look at the implications of this tomorrow!

2007-08-22 – “Thirsty?”


Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”



(John4:10)


Having read the previous devotion, we have some idea of what Jesus had in mind when He described Living Water. Now we can go back an amazing encounter He has with a Samaritan woman at the well.



Her life was flat and two dimensional: She had a checkered past and a man who didn’t give her the dignity of marriage. She was at the well at the 6th hour (midday) because no-one else would venture out in that heat.



Jesus offers her living water – a new life. She mockingly doubts Him because He has no water jars, but by the end of the discussion, which ranges from abstract theology to truth and forgiveness, she has left her jars at the well and gone to the townspeople (who she avoided up to now) and is so transformed and revitalised that the people listen to her and come to Jesus because they are so amazed at the changed life in her.



The implications of living water are:

- Truth found = Jesus is the Messiah

- Hope rekindled = I can dare to believe that this is for me too.

- Forgiveness received = Even after multiple rejections

- Purpose discovered = I can tell others

- Mission adopted = She leaves the jars of an empty life behind and becomes a worker for Christ.



When the Spirit is allowed to work in us, we can fully expect some of these things to happen. This is life in full colour, 3D ! It’s the life God intended.

2007-08-23 – “Unseen”


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. (John14:16-17)

John 14 is one of the most important chapters on the Holy Spirit in the NT. The background is that Jesus is preparing the disciples for His death, resurrection and departure by ascension. They are devastated and Jesus comforts them with the promise of the Holy Spirit. There are key concepts that we’ll unpack in the next few days.



There are 3 main thoughts in these two verses:

1. The Spirit is our Counsellor.

The Greek Word “Paracletos” implies a variety of roles: Companion, Partner, Adviser, Counsellor and Advocate. The Spirit will be the one who guides us, gives us courage, speaks on our behalf and acts as our defender.



2. The world can’t see Him or accept Him.

When it comes to the Holy Spirit we are not in the realms of human rationalism or “science” where “reality” is based on things we can see and touch (and where we exercise control). The realm of the Spirit is the realm of a faith relationship with God. To experience the work and life of the Spirit, we must adopt this other reality: a reality of trust in Christ where we are not ultimately “in control.”



3. We can know Him because He lives in us.

This is hard – are we “possessed” by the Spirit? Does He do a “hostile takeover”? Do we lose our freedom when He is there? Absolutely not! But He does move into the “God-shaped vacuum” that we are created with. We can find peace, presence and calmness of life when He lives in us and in our lives.



We always quote John3:16 “God so loved the world that He gave His only Son…” but God didn’t stop giving at Jesus – Jesus lived in our midst and saw we needed help. He went to the Father and asked Him to do more… And God gave us the Spirit.





2007-08-27 – “Counsellor”


“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.



(John 14:25-26)


There is more about the Spirit in John 14. In these verses, the aspects of the Spirit’s work can be summed up in the roles of Counsellor and Comforter. We’ll look at the Counselling part today.



Our very human minds get cluttered with faulty thinking and self-centered thought-processes. The disciples had spent three years in Jesus close company and even so they were quite capable of bickering about silly things like who was the greatest on the night before the crucifixion!!



The truth is that our thoughts are ofen selfish and God-resistant. We can read the paper or a novel for hours, but it is too much effort to read even a few pages from the Bible. This is because our minds are “worldly” or “carnal” – far away from God.



When those thoughts do focus on God and we are able to hear and process scripture, a sermon or Bibilical message, it is because the Holy Spirit is at work in us. When you suddenly remember a Bible verse you learnt in Sunday School at “just the right time,” it is the work of the Counselling Spirit.



When our minds which are usually dull and unresponsive to the things of God suddenly sharpen up and Bible passages that were once dull and stale are now brimming with meaning, then we can say the Holy Spirit has been acting as our Counsellor.



The eyes of our hearts often need to be opened.

It is the Spirit who does that!

2007-08-29 – “Comforter”


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.



(John14:26-27)


The Holy Spirit does not only guide and lead. He is a Comforter. He is our Peace-Giver. There are a few thoughts we need to highlight about this:



1. Jesus probably had the Hebrew word “Shalom” (“wholeness”) in mind when He spoke about this. The Greek word does not have the same richness, but the Hebrew people knew that real peace meant a soundness of body, mind and spirit.



God’s peace is a wholeness or completeness that is evidenced by a life that is integrated, consistent and well-orientated. The Holy Spirit, if we allow Him to, will help us find balance, direction and purposefulness in our lives. This will give us peace.



2. God’s peace is not the absence of trouble. Peace, which is the work of the Holy Spirit, is deep and internal and not dependent on circumstances. Peace from the Spirit is the quiet assurance that we are not alone and that God is able to transform our circumstances.



3. We have a contribution to make. We can sabotage this peace from the Spirit when we let our hearts be troubled and afraid. We have to understand that troubles and hardship do not cancel out the reality of God’s love and plan for us. We have to choose not to allow our hearts to get us to “panic stations.”



I have seen and felt God’s peace in some amazing ways:

- Quiet sunsets and moonlit nights

- At my desk during Bible Study

- In my car during hectic times of rushing around

- Next to hospital beds

- After crimes and accidents

- At funerals



It is a peace that is the strong reassurance that we are loved and held and valued by our heavenly Father. It is a profound gift whispered in us by the Holy Spirit.

2007-08-31 – “Gardening and Growing”


5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

(John15:5-8)


I’m going to pick up an unusual thread in the vineyard metaphor that we know so well. I have heard and read a lot about the Vine and the Branches. I have heard about pruning, obedience, fruit-bearing and various other aspects.



But I think that we can also recognise the Holy Spirit in this imagery because the vine-image is placed smack-bang in the middle of John14,15 and 16 which are chapters brimming with references and images of the Holy Spirit.



Furthermore, elsewhere in the New Testament, fruit-bearing is the result of the Spirit’s activity and Jesus assures the disciples that He will be “in” them through the Holy Spirit.



In this imagery of the vine and branches the Holy Spirit can be seen as the life-giving, nutrient-bearing, wound-healing sap that flows from the vine to the branches.



If we put together the various things He does in the OT passages and NT passages we get a picture of the Spirit who strengthens, nourishes and inspires the Christian life.



Floyd McClung once asked the very insightful question: “Have you seen a branch struggling to grow?” If the vine is healthy and branch is connected, it should be able to grow. It would take disease or the branch being partially torn-off to make it struggle.



The Holy Spirit is the one who connects us to the Father and Son and makes all of God’s love, guidance and benefits real to us. If we try to be branches on our own then we will lose out!

2007-09-01 – “Testifier”


26 “When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me. 27 And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning.

(John15:26-27)


There are two “seas” in the Jordan river in Israel – the Sea of Galilee is alive and teeming with fish. The other is dull, barren and its over-salty waters are only good for people to float on due to its super-saturation of nutrients.



Too much of a good thing stock-piled becomes a danger.



God sends us the Holy Spirit as our Counsellor or Advocate. He comes from the Father (this is repeated twice to emphasise His holiness and and Divinity) and He testifies truthfully about Jesus.



We need to understand that some of the Spirit’s core-business is to confirm in our heart of hearts that Jesus Christ is Lord. The Holy Spirit wants to help us

know Jesus,

love Jesus,

follow Jesus

and serve Jesus.



But He doesn’t leave it there… All this truth would turn us into the Dead Sea if there is not output. But the Holy Spirit aids us in:

* Recalling what we have learned about Christ

* Talking about our faith in Jesus



I do a lot of computer programming as a hobby. One of the commonest problems is an “I/O Error.” This is computer-speak for an input-output malfunction. As Christians we are heading for trouble when we receive the Holy Spirit’s “Input” but we ignore His prompting to channel our knowledge in forms of “Output”

2007-09-03 – “Convicts”


7 But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. 8 When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me; 10 in regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; 11 and in regard to judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.

(John16:7-11)


Jesus was adamant. We’re better off than the disciples! I always used to be jealous of the disciples who got to walk with Jesus and talk with Him. But Jesus was certain that the coming of the Spirit is even better than His presence.



The reasons He gives are unusual – The work of the Spirit will be:

- conviction of sin

- righteousness because Jesus has returned to the Father

- Judgement because Satan is condemned.



What do these mean?

Conviction of Sin is one of the functions of the Spirit that we are not crazy about. The Spirit confronts us with the things that are wrong in our lives. He makes us aware that there is a problem between us and God. Why is this important? We need to be aware of our need to be rescued. Our nature is hide from God and when we do it long enough, we medicate (through distraction, drugs or self-deceit) our need for God. The Spirit makes us hungry and thirsty for God and He shows us that we need Him.



The Spirit comes because Jesus sends Him. Jesus’ ascension to heaven and His sitting at God’s right hand are the absolute proof that the price that He paid for Sin was acceptable. The fact that He has authority to send the Spirit is the evidence we need to know that we can be made righteous through Jesus’ death, resurrection and ascension.



The coming of the Spirit overcomes the separation of sin that the serpent achieved in the Garden of Eden. The fall into sin of Adam and Eve resulted in their being banned from the Garden. The coming of the Spirit means that we are able to draw near to God again. It means that Satan’s time is limited.



This is awesome good news.



2007-09-05 – “Perichoresis”


13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. 14 He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. 15 All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you.



(John16:13-15)


I have battled with expressing this devotional thought, which is why you didn’t get an eDev yesterday.



Jesus is expressing a beautiful aspect of the Trinity. The Father, Son and Spirit share an incredible unity in a “dance of co-inhering.” Theologians use the Greek word “Perichoresis” (which implies to “dance around a center”)



The incredible wonder is that Jesus, by His ascension in human form, included humanity in this perichoresis. Now the dance of Father, Son and Spirit is one in which we can participate!!!



The Spirit receives from Jesus what He has received from the Father. Then the Spirit includes us in this dance. What an incredible thought! The Spirit is the member of the Trinity who goes out to urge people like you and me to come and join the dance…



Two songs (one traditional and one by Steven Curtis Chapman) come to mind:

1. I danced in the morning when the world was begun

I danced in the moon, the stars and the sun

I danced down from Heaven and I danced on Earth

At Bethlehem I had my birth.



Refrain:

Dance, then, wherever you may be

I am the Lord of the Dance, said He

And I’ll lead you all, wherever you may be

And I’ll lead you all in the dance, said He.



2. I danced for the scribe and the Pharisee

They would not dance; they would not follow me

So I danced for the fisherman, for James and John

They came with me and the dance went on



———————-

On the bank of the Tennessee River

In a small Kentucky town

I drew my first breath one cold November morning

And before my feet even touched the ground

With the doctors and the nurses gathered ’round

I started to dance, I started to dance



A little boy full of wide-eyed wonder

Footloose and fancy free

But it would happen, as it does for every dancer

That I’d stumble on a truth I couldn’t see

And find a longing deep inside of me, it said..



CHORUS:

I am the heart, I need the heartbeat

I am the eyes, I need the sight

I realize that I am just a body

I need the life

I move my feet, I go through the motions

But who’ll give purpose to chance

I am the dancer

I need the Lord of the dance



The world beneath us spins in circles

And this life makes us twist and turn and away

But we were made for more than rhythm with no reason

By the one who moves with passion and with grace

As He dances over all that He has made



CHORUS



Lord of the dance

Lord of the dance

And while the music of His love and mercy plays

I will fall down on my knees and I will pray



CHORUS

2007-09-06 – “Going out and beyond”


6 So when they met together, they asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”

7 He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8 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.”

(Acts1:6-8)


Many people quote Acts 1:8 without looking at the broader context. The broader context is the exasperated question of the disciples: “Lord, are You going to restore the Kingdom now?”



The disciples were hoping and longing for God to come powerfully into the world. They wanted an end to Roman occupation. They wanted a Messiah to lead them out of slavery and oppression. They wanted peace and the end of suffering.



Their request was self-centered in two aspects:

- They wanted the “insider-info” that would keep and sustain them and give them the advantage.

- They were thinking of _their_ situation and _their_ circumstances and not about many like them who also wrestled with the brokenness of our world.



The disciples wanted a quick escape. And, if we’re truthful, so do we. Jesus doesn’t answer their question with a date. He gives a “how” answer to their “when” question.



The “How” is that the Spirit will emPOWER us. We don’t know _when_ the end of this broken world will come, but we will have powerful assistance _until_ that day comes. We don’t know how long it will be, but we can know God’s presence and undergirding strength in the meantime.



And, in the meantime, there is a world full of people asking the “when” question who we must reach. The Spirit will nudge, move, prompt, motivate and enable us to do cross geographic, cultural and racial boundaries as we go from our Jerusalem to our neighbours and regions and to the ends of the earth. And when we have come to them, we’ll be able to share God’s love and presence and “how” with them.



2007-09-26 – “Mighty Wind#1 – Waiting”


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)


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…

2007-10-01 – “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.

2007-10-02 – “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.

(Acts2:1-4)


If you remember our series on the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament, you will remember 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!

2007-10-03 – “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.

(Acts2:1-4)


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.



Today I want to answer the question briefly, without long explanations and proofs. These will come in time. I would simply ask that you take the answer at face value and accept that the rest of the passages on the Holy Spirit will unpack this truth.



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!

2007-10-04 – “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)


(We’ll examine speaking in tongues in more detail in later devotions…)



What is significant about this passage and the speaking that takes place in it is that Acts 2 is 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 anymore – they could be independant and self-contained.



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 langauge or develop a meta-language (like the “funagalo” 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.

2007-10-05 – “Inebriated?”


Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine. ”

(Acts2:13)


People commented that they thought the Spirit-filled disciples were drunk. I’ve often wondered why that was…



People have used this chapter to justify the “slain in the Spirit” behaviour of some folk who I believe are simply emotionally overloaded.



Did people think that the believers were drunk because they were stumbling all over the place, staggering around, eyes unfocussed, words slurring, not making sense? Absolutely not!! Verse 11 records that these so-called drunkards were “declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” Stumbling and Mumbling does not glorify God!



So, if they weren’t stumbling and mumbling, why did people consider them drunk? I think the reason lies in the primary reason most people have a drink at a social function – alcohol is called a “social lubricant” it helps people get rid of their inhibitions. People speak more freely and boldly when they’ve had a drink or two…



I think the spectators saw a group of disciples (who had at one stage hidden behind closed doors for “fear of the Jews”) who were now boldly, fearlessly, uninhibitedly speaking about their faith in God.



This lack of inhibitions was astounding to the crowd. The disciples were unreservedly sharing their faith in and love for God to the masses. It was awesome and amazing to behold – it could, they thought, only come from being “under the influence.”



But they were filled with a different kind of Spirit…

2007-10-08 – “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.







2007-10-09 – “Repeatedly”


After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.

(Acts4:31)


Some folk believe that we become Christians and then we have a powerful “second blessing” experience – i.e. We opened our hearts to Jesus and that’s Conversion. Then we open our lives to the Holy Spirit and they argue that this is the “Infilling.” This is a once-off experience that you must have and you are among the “have nots” if this hasn’t happened to you.



In the book of Acts this is not a once-off experience. The people who are praying are the early church who are praying after Peter and John were arrested for their part in the healing of the lame man at the gate called Beautiful. They were instructed and warned NOT to speak in the name of Jesus. This was a command that they would not obey. They prayed for strength and conviction.



In answer to their prayers the early church experienced the earth-shaking and life-changing work of the Holy Spirit in their midst. This was not the first time this had happened, nor would it be the last…



The Holy Spirit is always ready to fill us anew. The truth is that we leak. Whether it is because of our steady stream of sins and disobediences that take us off the path or because our service in His Name has depleted our batteries, the truth is that we are not always full of God’s will, purpose or power.



When we need His powerful Spirit working in us – He will refill our empty hearts if we come to Him in prayerful surrender to His will for our lives.

2007-10-16 – “Not only “spiritual” things”


Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the Word. (Acts6:3-4)

It was not long before the early church experienced a threat to its unity and peace. There were Jews, Samaritans and Greeks in the early church and it appears that there were some discrepancies in the distribution of food and other resources. The Greek widows in particular seem to have been neglected.



The Apostles acted quickly and decisively – they appointed folk to manage that process. Interestingly, the apostles laid down certain criteria and then let the people elect the managers. As it turns out, a number of the seven have Grecian names, revealing that the church chose a committee that was representative. This shows wisdom and sensitivity on the part of the church as it was the Grecian widows who were being neglected in the resource distribution.



But the nature of the criteria that the apostles lay down is what fascinates me. It was not people who were “good with numbers” or “good with people” or “good at soothing ruffled feathers” or “good at managing tensions.” The criteria were that they be filled with the Spirit and Wisdom.



We look down our noses at the more “mundane” facets of ministry: Managing finances, pouring tea, serving food, and stewarding resources are seen as “less spiritual.” Many folk have an “ag shame / poor me” attitude when they serve in these more practical facets. “I’m not holy enough to be an elder or a teacher or a lay-preacher.”



The truth is that any activity that builds the church and helps it care for people and take care of its God-given resources is a spiritual activity. We should never look down on ourselves or others. Without the Spirit-guided activity of Stephen and his friends, the early church would have subsided into a quarreling quibbling mess.

2007-10-17 – “Crossing Boundaries #1″


AC 8:14 When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them. 15 When they arrived, they prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, 16 because the Holy Spirit had not yet come upon any of them; they had simply been baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. 17 Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit (Acts8:14-17)

This is one of the passages that people use to argue that receiving the Spirit must be a separate experience from conversion. They argue that the Samaritans had already given their lives to Christ and now they needed to have hands laid on them to receive the Holy Spirit.



There are a few important things to note about this passage:

1. It seems that they had not seen the whole picture. They were baptised in the name of Jesus, not the name of the Father, Son and Spirit.



2. This is the first time the gospel is received by non-Jews. The Samaritans were a mixed race – the remnants of the Northern Kingdom of Israel who intermarried with heathen nations.



3. Jesus said that the disciples would preach the gospel in Jerusalem, Judea, SAMARIA and the ends of the earth (Acts1:8)



The manifestation of the Spirit’s working among the Samaritans is not so much about individuals but about community and about the gospel crossing a racial boundary. The Jews and the Samaritans did not get on with each other. It would take a powerful demonstration of the Spirit’s presence to convince the early church that the Samaritans were of equal worth and value in God’s eyes.



We will see this pattern continue in the other accounts of the Spirit’s outpouring on communities in the book of Acts.

2007-10-18 – “When we depersonalise the Spirit”


When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money 19 and said, “Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.”

(Acts8:18-19)


Simon the Sorceror had an impressive CV in his city. He was known as a man who had “the great power” and he enjoyed an exalted status in the town. He saw magic as something he could manipulate and control.



When Philip came into town preaching the gospel and people started repenting, Simon lost some of his fan base and so he went to listen to Philip. He believed and became a Christian. When the disciples came and the Spirit was poured out, Simon saw a chance to have his cake and eat it. He wanted “the spirit power” (lowercase “s” intentional) and he asked the disciples to “give” it to him. Whatever the cost.



Listen to Peter’s response: “May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money! 21 You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God. 22 Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord. Perhaps he will forgive you for having such a thought in your heart. 23 For I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin.”



Whoa! That’s pretty stern! But Simon’s soul _is_ in mortal danger. The Holy Spirit isn’t a power that we “channel.” He is part of the incredible God-family of Father, Son and Spirit. Jesus said it best “the Wind blows where it pleases.” CS Lewis in the Narnia Chronicles puts it this way “Aslan (the God character) is not a tame lion – but He’s good.”



When we try to manipulate God, especially in the public arena we are in danger of being guilty of Simon’s wicked bitterness and captivity. Fortunately Simon repented.



Maybe you think that this is not a big deal in your life… Here are some revealing questions.

* How often do you ask God to bless YOUR plans (that you haven’t consulted Him about)?

* How often do you write off the work a fellow believer is doing in God’s name because they aren’t coming from your denomination, mindset, or style?

* How often do you write off a challenging message because “that’s not the way God works”?

* How often do we desire to “impress” people with the way God is “working” in our lives?



Having the Spirit (uppercase “S” intentional) working in our lives means that we control our sails, but not the wind.

2007-10-19 – “Nudges”


The Spirit told Philip, “Go to that chariot and stay near it.”

(Acts8:29)


Throughout the book of Acts we have examples of the Holy Spirit nudging people.

-Peter isn’t sure about the Gentiles, then he has a dream

-A prophet named Agabus predicted the famine in Jerusalem by the Spirit

-The itinerary of Paul’s missionary trip was dictated by the Spirit.

-Paul wants to go from Turkey to the East – The Spirit won’t let him.

-And so on…



But one of the loveliest examples is Philip (one of the Seven elected with Stephen to help distribute food and look at him now) – he’s already preached in Samaria which led to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and now he’s walking on the Jerusalem road.



Along comes the Ethiopian eunuch, “an important official in charge of all the treasury of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians. This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship, and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the book of Isaiah the prophet.”



He would have been reading aloud and as Philip was walking he would hear the chariot, the horses’ hooves and the words of Isaiah coming down the road. The Spirit whispers into Philip’s heart “Start Jogging!” Now we don’t know whether he was young or old or in-shape or out-of-shape, but he must run! Imagine the scene “Excuse me, (pant pant) do you (pant pant) understand (pant) what you are (pant pant) reading? (pant pant pant.)” (Theo Groeneveld translation of verse 30.)



The man invites Philip onto the chariot and he just so happens to be reading one of the passages in Isaiah that predict the suffering of Christ. Philip is able to explain it and lead the man to Christ.



But it started with the outlandish prompt “keep up with the chariot”

Sometimes God will prompt us to start a conversation, make a phone call, cross a room, step out of a comfort-zone, build a bridge or take a risk.

Philip could’ve made excuses: “Lord you know I have a bad heart.” “Lord, running’s just not dignified.” “Lord, he won’t take me seriously – He’s an important official.”



Philip did none of the above – he just picked up his pace.



2007-10-20 – “Working in peace”


Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace. It was strengthened; and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it grew in numbers, living in the fear of the Lord.



(Acts9:31)


Times of peace are the most dangerous for my spiritual growth – when things are peaceful and going well, my spiritual “entropy” (the tendency to slow down and wind down) kicks in. If we are truthful, this is a reality for many of us – we slack off when things are going easy and well.



That is why this verse is such a blessing and an encouragement to me – it speaks of the working of the Holy Spirit even in our times of peace. When we are tempted to click into neutral, the Holy Spirit is busy – encouraging the whole of the church and using the “lazy times” to be times of consolidation.



I was always fearful of too much relaxation in my Christian walk and especially in the life of the church. This verse awakens me to the possibility that a season of rest in my life or the life of the church could be an opportunity for encouragement, growth and getting closer to God – _if_ I stay in tune with the Holy Spirit.



Make no mistake – good and easy times _can_ and often do bring about decline in our churches and personal spiritual lives, but this doesn’t have to be the case.



I think there are three things to do that will ensure growth and not erosion in our spiritual lives during “times of peace”:

1. Being very aware that the Spirit uses long lazy summers for growth. We must be attentive to His promptings.

2. Keeping our routines of spiritual disciplines alive.

3. Have a thankful heart – give thanks to God for the gifts He showers on us in times of peace.



Hope a time of blessing never results in your relationship with God shrinking.







2007-10-22 – “Crossing Boundaries #2″


44 While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. 45 The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles. 46 For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God.

Then Peter said, 47 “Can anyone keep these people from being baptized with water? They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.” (Acts10:44-47)


This is another one of those texts that people use to argue that the outpouring of the Spirit is a single and separate experience. But a careful reading of this passage reveals some incredible truths.



Some background: Peter is in the home of a Roman Centurion named Cornelius. Cornelius was a God-fearer – a Gentile who had embraced the Jewish faith. Cornelius was a good man and God sent an angel to him telling him to go and find Peter and have him address the group that met in his home. Peter went and met them. As he addressed them, he presented the gospel message to them.



It’s important to understand the sequence of events here:

1. They were God-fearers – following the rituals of Judaism.

2. They heard Peter speak and came to faith.

3. The Holy Spirit was poured out on them.

4. They were baptised and became known as Christians.



The process that is recounted here is probably the most accurate picture of how it really happens:

* We cannot come to faith without the assistance of the Spirit.

* It is the Holy Spirit who enlivens our hearts of stone and makes us “susceptible” to the message of the Gospel.

* The Holy Spirit is the agent of our conversion – He is the “midwife” of our being born again. He is the one who enables us to “confess the Jesus is Lord.” (1Cor12:3)



The Gospel is crossing a boundary again. It has already gone to the Samaritans and now it comes to the home of a Centurion of the Roman Army – a representative of Israel’s oppressors.



The mighty working of the Spirit is evidence of the change in Cornelius’ group and a sign that the Good News is for all people!

2007-10-23 – “Barnabus”


News of this reached the ears of the church at Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. 23 When he arrived and saw the evidence of the grace of God, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts. 24 He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord.



(Acts11:22-24)


Antioch turned out to be a significant church:

- it was where Paul exercised a long teaching ministry,

- it was the “base-station” for Paul’s three missionary journey’s

- the disciples were first called “Christians” (little Christs) here



But before any of this happened, there was a small church planted here and when the apostles heard of it, they sent one of their best: Barnabas.



There’s not a lot we know about Barnabus. We know that his name means “Encourager”, that he was generous (Acts4:36), that he introduced Saul (now Paul) to the Disciples (Acts9:27) and that he accompanied Paul on his missionary trips. The rest is in our passage for today:

- He was “sendable” – willing to obey and serve.

- Seeing God at work in people’s lives made him glad.

- He was good at encouraging (he would later bring Paul to do the teaching.)

- He was a “good man”

- He was full of the Holy Spirit

- He was full of faith.



“And a great number of people were brought to the Lord.”



We can attribute quite a bit of his success to his attractive and Godly character – but the key ingredient to his success is the working of the Spirit in His life. Furthermore, as we will see when we get to Galatians and some of the other passages, these characteristics of encouragement, “sendability”, goodness are part of the fruit and gifts of the Spirit.



Barnabas was a “nice guy.” By allowing the Holy Spirit to work in him, he did great things!

2007-10-25 – “Sendable”


2 While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” 3 So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off. 4 The two of them, sent on their way by the Holy Spirit, went down to Seleucia and sailed from there to Cyprus. (Acts13:2-4)

God’s desire is to reach people with His love. To this end He SENT the judges, the Kings, the Prophets, the Priests and His Law. In the fullness of time He SENT Jesus into this world that He loves so much. But He did not stop there, He SENT the Holy Spirit into our world.



Still, He continues to SEND. The Holy Spirit, working in our lives, SENDS us out. There is no denying the agenda of God in our lives. The closer we get to Him the less content we should be with STAYING and the more our hearts should become aligned to be SENT.



He may SEND us across an ocean to a distant land, or He may SEND us across the road to a neighbour or a colleague. He may SEND us to work for the rights of the poor, He may SEND us to love the lonely elderly, He may SEND us to spend time with young people, or He may SEND us to use our gifts and resources to empower others who have already been SENT.



The point is this. God is a SENDING God. The closer we grow to Him and the more we align ourselves with the Holy Spirit’s guidance, the more SENDABLE we will become.



There are many folk who claim all sorts of wonderful spiritual experiences, but this idea of being SENT is not part of their vocabulary. The truth is the closer we walk to the Spirit, the more likely it is that this word “SEND” will crop up in our priority list!





2007-10-26 – “Communal Guidance”


28 It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us… (Acts15:28)

The context of this verse is the first church council in Jerusalem where representatives of the church met to make decisions about the large number of Gentiles who were coming to faith and whether they should be required to adopt Jewish customs like circumcision.



It was a good meeting and they resolved some important issues and made some good recommendations. We read that this “council” was an encouragement to the work and life of the church.



Our text verse reveals the reason why these were successful: The decisions were made with the help and guidance of the Holy Spirit.



There are two important aspects to this guidance:

1. We have to be humbly dependent on the Holy Spirit’s guidance and open to His leading. We must resist the temptation to think that we are so clever that we came up with these good ideas “all by ourselves.” We need to PRAY for His guidance, we have to be OPEN to His guidance and we have to ACKNOWLEDGE His guidance.



2. We need to recognise the importance of the word “us”. The best discernment happens when a group strives to hear God’s voice while they are bound together in courageous unity. It is never as powerful to say “it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and ME” as it is the say “It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and US…” This is “Corporate Discernment – not in the typical business setting that the word “corporate” usually brings to mind, but in the sense that we co-operate and work together!



Psalm 133 talks about the blessedness of unity… The psalmist uses the analogy of things that are far apart (in distance, culture, or nature) but united in love and then describes the blessedness of that. The image he uses is of the anointing oil flowing down Aaron’s beard. Anointing oil is the symbol of the Holy Spirit.



The more we are united in Christ, the more effective and Spirit-guided our corporate decisions will be.

2007-10-30 – “Crossing Boundaries #3″


… Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples 2 and asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?”

They answered, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.”

3 So Paul asked, “Then what baptism did you receive?”

“John’s baptism,” they replied.

4 Paul said, “John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.” 5 On hearing this, they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. 6 When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied.

(Acts19:1-6)


(A number of new EmmDev folk have joined – welcome!)

Quick recap: There are many folk who argue that receiving the Holy Spirit _must_ be a separate experience from conversion and that this is a once-off “Second blessing” experience. This passage is one of the passages used to argue this point.



But there are a few important things we need to understand here:

1. They had been Baptised with John’s baptism. This is John the Baptist. John preached about repentance – but he was preparing people’s hearts to come to the place of realising that they could not do it on their own – but that they needed a Saviour. John’s message on its own was bad news – it diagnosed the problem of sin, but it do not provide a cure.



2. They had not adequately understood that Jesus had died for them. When they were baptised it was symbolic of their new realization that they could not be saved by their works but only by Jesus’ grace. With their baptism came this powerful filling of the Holy Spirit.



3. Although Paul lays his hands on them here, we know from other encounters that this is not a “recipe” – in other passages the Holy Spirit moves in the hearts of people even before they are baptised in water.



What can we learn from this passage?

1. These folk were not really Christians before this encounter. They were like the many who think that being a Christian is about obeying the Ten Commandments and hoping that “St Peter will let us in the gate.”



2. They came to recognise that it is only and all because of Jesus that we are saved. Their baptism symbolised their wholehearted trust in Him. Everytime we choose to put our wholehearted trust in Christ rather than to live for ourselves, we can expect the Holy Spirit to work in our lives.



2007-10-31 – “Spiritual Leadership”


28 Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. (Acts20:23)

First some background: Paul is talking to the elders of the church in Ephesus. He is on his way to Jerusalem where he is certain he will be arrested and carried off to Rome. So these are his last words to these elders.



This short verse provides some very important insights into leadership in the church context:



* Leadership in the church is not something we should aspire to. It is something that we are _called_ to. The Holy Spirit will draw us to leadership. We should do all we can to “avoid” leadership in the church and if we still feel compelled toward it then we know that it is the Spirit motivating us.



* The Greek word used for overseer is the word from which we get the title “Bishop.” Unfortunately this word now has overtones of status and position, but in its original context has the idea of being a guardian and protector.



* The other word that is used here is “shepherd.” Psalm 23 talks about God as our Shepherd. Jesus spoke of Himself as the Good Shepherd at length in the gospels. The Good Shepherd leads to still waters, the Good Shepherd provides sustenance, the Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. If our leadership in the church is Spirit-led, then we will begin to look like the Good Shepherd.



* It’s all about the flock! Many church leaders get involved in the politics of the hierarchy of the wider church and forget about the flock. But Spiritual Leadership is all about the flock. Paul emphasizes the flock by mentioning them before the role of overseeing and he values the flock by reminding the leaders that Jesus paid an enormous price for the flock.



This is what Spiritual leadership is about. Do you know a church leader who has lost track of this? Don’t criticise or gossip – PRAY! Do you know a leader who is on the right track? Make sure you support and encourage them!

2007-11-01 – “Scripture Inspirer”


25 They disagreed among themselves and began to leave after Paul had made this final statement: “The Holy Spirit spoke the truth to your forefathers when he said through Isaiah the prophet…” (Acts28:25)

Paul is in Rome and even there he is trying to get through to the Jewish teachers of the Law living there. His comments here are the closing words of his presentation and what is significant about them is that Paul acknowledges the inspiration of the Holy Spirit as force behind the Old Testament record that they had to draw on. He is particularly interested in the fact that even their stubborn resistance to the gospel message was anticipated in Scripture.



The Epistles will say a lot more about the Holy Spirit and His work in Scripture. I would like to summarise it like this:

1. The Holy Spirit inspired the authors who wrote the Bible.

2. The Holy Spirit guided the process of bringing the Bible to us. Through the copying of manuscripts, the selection of material and the preservation thereof.

3. The Holy Spirit makes us hungry for the Word of God.

4. The Holy Spirit opens the Scriptures to us. He helps us understand what we have read.

5. The Holy Spirit helps us to become doers of the Word.



While this passage only refers to the first point, the rest of the NT will reveal the rest.



Are you having a hard time with the Bible at the moment? Do you struggle to motivate yourself to read it? Do you find it hard to read? Do you battle to put it into practice?



If you’ve answered “Yes” to any of these, then there is a good chance that you’re trying to do it alone. You need to:

1. Ask the Spirit to help you

2. Very often we know that the Spirit is asking us to let go of anger or disappointment or bitterness but we’re holding on to these things. Then it will be hard to receive God’s Word and the experience the working of the Spirit. It’s time to let go and surrender!

3. Start reading! Keep it short, simple and honest and watch what God does!

2007-11-07 – “Conclusion: Gospels and Acts”


8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; (Acts1:8)

We’ve now looked at all the relevant verses about the Holy Spirit in the Gospels and the book of Acts. I’d like to conclude this section by returning to the promise found at the start of the book of Acts.



Within all religions and belief systems, power is a big issue. People want to be powerful. They want to rule and dominate. They want to control people and systems.



The Gospels and Acts reveal a different perspective on power. The power of the Holy Spirit is not so much about dominance as it is about transformation. The Holy Spirit isn’t a potion that we drink so that we can power-up over others. Instead the Spirit is a Mentor, Guide, Coach and Helper whose power is at work in us to make us more like Jesus.



He will help us understand Jesus words, He will help us know and remember truth, He’ll convict us of our sin, He’ll inspire our words so that we can serve the world by being heralds of the Gospel message. He will draw us to community and sharing. He will push us out of our comfort zones and blow like the wind in our lives.



We cannot control Him and we must be ready to go where He sends us. He is not an “it” but the Third Person of the Godhead who is working to create new people out of our brokenness.



The Greek word for power is “dunamis” from there we get “dynamite” and “dynamo.” (think of those little dynamo-lamps we used to put on our bicycles) While the world seeks explosive and destructive power, the power of the Spirit in us helps us to bring light to the world.



Thank you Lord for sending your Spirit! He is the power of God at work in us – giving us the power to change and to reach the world in His name.



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