Sunday, August 14, 2005

Where is the Holy Spirit?

“And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever;
Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.
I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.
Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also.
At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you.
He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.”
Judas saith unto him, not Iscariot, “Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world?”
Jesus answered and said unto him, “If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.
He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings: and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father's which sent me.
These things have I spoken unto you, being yet present with you.
But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.”
~ John 14:16-26

And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.
And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.
And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them.
And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.
~ Acts 2:1-4

If Jesus Christ gave us a promise of the Holy Spirit… If the church can be in filled with the Holy Spirit Jesus promised… If we have a commanded to receive the Holy Spirit… then why does the church seem to be useless today?

Some say it’s because we are in the last days, that the Holy Spirit is lifting from the earth getting ready for the end. But according to Acts 2:17-21 the Holy Spirit is for us in these last days:

“And it shall come to pass in the last days,” saith God, “I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams:
And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy:
And I will shew wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke:
The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before that great and notable day of the Lord come:
And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”


Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 3:19 is that the church be filled with all the fullness of God. So in light of this scripture we see that the reason that the Holy Spirit isn’t working more freely is that His people, as a whole, have not received the Holy Spirit in His fullness.

For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.
For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.
Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.
I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me.
For I delight in the law of God after the inward man:
But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.
O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?
I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.
~ Romans 7:22-25

Let me read this scripture from The Message:

I know that all God’s commands are spiritual, but I’m not. Isn’t this also your experience? Yes, I’m full of myself–after all, I’ve spent a long time in sin’s prison. What I don’t understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise.

So if I can’t be trusted to figure out what is best for myself and then do it, it becomes obvious that God’s command is necessary.

But I need something more! For if I know the law but still can’t keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but can’t do it. I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it. I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time.

It happens so regularly that it’s predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God’s commands, but it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge.

I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question?

The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different.”

Religion tries everything- including man-made rules, legalistic standards, and the doctrines of men- to improve the flesh. Religions try to convince us we are holy by what we do…

  • Holy because we go to church.
  • Holy because we read the bible.
  • Holy because we pray.
  • Holy because we don’t do certain things.

We try and try to improve ourselves within ourselves! Without total commitment, our self life is both an instrument of Satan and the greatest hindrance to the glory of God being manifested in and through us.

Let me read from John a story that shows us the problem:

After this there was a feast of the Jews; and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now there is at Jerusalem by the sheep market a pool, which is called in the Hebrew tongue Bethesda, having five porches.
In these lay a great multitude of impotent folk, of blind, halt, withered, waiting for the moving of the water. For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool, and troubled the water: whosoever then first after the troubling of the water stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had.
And a certain man was there, which had an infirmity thirty and eight years.
When Jesus saw him lie, and knew that he had been now a long time in that case, he saith unto him, “Wilt thou be made whole?”
The impotent man answered him, “Sir, I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool: but while I am coming, another steppeth down before me.” Jesus saith unto him, “Rise, take up thy bed, and walk.” And immediately the man was made whole, and took up his bed, and walked: and on the same day was the sabbath.
~ John 5:1-9

What is the answer? The indwelling of the Holy Spirit within the believer! We need to acknowledge what we are not! We are weak,,, powerless… to help ourselves. When we acknowledge that we are powerless to help ourselves than we need to acknowledge who He is. He is all powerful!

“When what we’re not and what God is comes together, we experience spiritual freedom through the gift of the Holy Spirit that Jesus promised!”

Mike Evans said:

“A somebody who thinks he’s a somebody is a nobody, but a nobody who experiences a Somebody becomes a somebody. As long as a somebody thinks he’s a somebody, he will always be a nobody.

He said unto them, “Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed?” And they said unto him, “We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost." ~ Acts 19:2

A lady who had a small house on the seashore of Ireland at the turn of the century was quite wealthy but also quite frugal. The people were surprised, then, when she decided to be among the first to have electricity in her home.
Several weeks after the installation, a meter reader appeared at her door. He asked if her electricity was working well, and she assured him it was. “I’m wondering if you can explain something to me,” he said. “Your meter shows scarcely any usage. Are you using your power?”
“Certainly,” she answered. “Each evening when the sun sets, I turn on my lights just long enough to light my candles; then I turn them off.”
She tapped into the power but did not use it. Her house is connected but not altered. Don’t we make the same mistake? We, too-with our souls saved but our hearts unchanged - are connected but not altered. Trusting Christ for salvation but resisting transformation. We occasionally flip the switch, but most of the time we settle for shadows.

Tuesday, February 1, 2005

Love Like Salt

This week I read a story I thought was very interesting. It goes like this.

A famous king, depressed by circumstances in his realm and feeling rejected by many of his subjects, called for his three daughters to comfort and reassure him. After they had talked awhile, he asked how much they loved him. Two of them answered that they cared for him more than all the gold and silver in the world; but Mary, the youngest, said she loved him like salt. The king wasn’t pleased with her answer, for he considered salt to be of very little value. The cook, who overheard the conversation, knew that the child’s reply had more significance than the father imagined. She dared not speak to the monarch about the matter, but devised a subtle way to emphasize the true meaning of the young girl’s words. The next morning at breakfast she withheld the salt from everything she served, and the meal was so insipid that the king didn’t enjoy it at all. Then he realized the full force of his daughter’s remark. She loved him so much that nothing was good without him! With a smile he said, “1 understand now, Mary. Your love is the greatest of all!”
Matthew 5:13. Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.
Salt Through the Ages
The first written reference to salt is found in the Book of Job, recorded about 2250 BC. There are 31 other references to salt in the Bible, the most familiar probably being the story of Lot’s wife who was turned into a pillar of salt when she disobeyed the angels and looked back at the wicked city of Sodom.From ancient times to the present, the importance of salt to humans and animals has been recognized. Thousands of years ago, animals created paths to salt licks, and men followed seeking game and salt. Their trails became roads, and beside the roads, settlements grew. These settlements became cities and nations.

Roman soldiers were paid “salt money”, salarium argentum, from which we take our English word, “salary”.

The early Greeks worshiped salt no less than the sun, and had a saying that “no one should trust a man without first eating a peck of salt with him”.

Salt is not man-made but rather comes from God! Think of all the things that salt does and then apply it to the fact of love. The king's daughter was right. We should love like salt.
I Corinthians 13
(Eugene Peterson, The Message)

If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing. If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.

Love never gives up. Love cares more for others than for self. Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have. Love doesn’t strut, doesn’t have a swelled head, doesn’t force itself on others, isn’t always “me first,” doesn’t fly off the handle, doesn’t keep score of the sins of others, doesn’t revel when others grovel, takes pleasure in the flowering of truth, puts up with anything, trusts God always, always looks for the best, never looks back but keeps going to the end.

Love never dies. Inspired speech will be over some day: praying in tongues will end; understanding will reach its limit. We know only a portion of the truth, and what we say about God is always incomplete. But when the Complete arrives, our incomplete will be canceled.

When I was an infant at my mother’s breast, I gurgled and cooed like any infant. When I grew up, I left those infant ways for good.

We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!
But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.
There is a story told of an old monastery that had fallen upon hard times. It was once a great order, but as a result of waves of anti-monastic persecution in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and the rise of secularism in the nineteenth, all its branch houses were lost and it had become decimated to the extent that there were only five monks left in the decaying mother house: the abbot and four others, all over seventy in age. Clearly it was a dying order. Things looked grim.

In the deep woods surrounding the monastery there was a little hut that a rabbi from a nearby town occasionally used for a hermitage. As he agonized over the imminent death of his order, it occurred to the abbot on one of those occasions to visit the hermitage and ask the rabbi if by some possible chance he could offer any advice that might save the monastery.

The rabbi welcomed the abbot at his hut. But when the abbot explained the purpose of his visit, the rabbi could only commiserate him. “I know how it is,” he exclaimed. “The spirit has gone out of the people. It is the same in my town. Almost no-one comes to the synagogue anymore.”
So the old abbot and the old rabbi wept together. They talked for a short while and then the time came when the abbot had to leave. They embraced each other. “It has been a wonderful thing that we should meet after all these years,” the abbot said, “but I have still failed in my purpose for coming here. Is there nothing you can tell me, no piece of advice you can give me that would help me save my dying order?”

“No, I am sorry,” the rabbi responded. “I have no advice to give. The only thing I can tell you is that the Messiah is one of you.”

When the abbot returned to the monastery his fellow monks gathered around him to ask, “Well, what did the rabbi say?”

“He couldn’t help,” the abbot answered. “We just wept and read the Torah together. The only thing he did say, just as I was leaving – It was something cryptic – was that the Messiah is one of us. I don’t know what he meant.”

In the days and weeks and months that followed, the old monks pondered this and wondered whether there was any possible significance to the rabbi’s words. The Messiah is one of us? Could he possibly have meant one of us monks here at the monastery? If that’s the case, which one? Do you suppose he meant the Father Abbot? He has been our leader for more that a generation. On the other hand, he might have meant Brother Thomas. Certainly Brother Thomas is a holy man. Everyone knows that Thomas is a man of light. Certainly he could not have meant Brother Eldred! Eldred gets so grumpy at times. But, come to think of it, even though he is a thorn in people’s sides, when you look back on it Eldred is virtually always right. Maybe the rabbi did mean Brother Eldred. But surely not Brother Phillip. Phillip is so passive, a real nobody. But then, almost mysteriously, he has a gift for somehow always being there when you need him. Maybe Phillip is the Messiah. Of course the rabbi didn’t mean me. He couldn’t possibly have meant me. I’m just so ordinary. Yet supposing he did? Suppose I am the Messiah? O God, not me. I couldn’t be that much for You, could I?

As they each contemplated in this manner, the old monks began to treat one another with extraordinary love and respect on the off chance that one among them might be Messiah.
Because the forest in which it was situated was beautiful, it so happened that people still occasionally came to visit the monastery to picnic on its tiny lawn, to wander among some of its paths, even now and then goes to go into the dilapidated buildings to meditate. As they did so, without even being conscious of it, they sensed this aura of extraordinary love and respect that now began to surround the five monks and seemed to radiate out from them and permeate the atmosphere of the place. There was something strangely attractive, even compelling, about it.
Hardly knowing why, they began to come back to the monastery to picnic, to play, to pray. Its beauty drew them in. They began to bring their friends to show them this special place. And their friends brought their friends.

Then it happened that some of the younger men who came to visit the monastery started to talk more and more with the old monks. After a while one asked if he could join them. Then another. And another. So within a few years the monastery had once again become a thriving order and, thanks to the rabbi’s gift, a vibrant center of light and spirituality in the realm.

When we are treating one another as if each person were Christ himself. When we are following the command Jesus left – “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength and love your neighbor as yourself”-- we will be like salt.