Tag Archives: Holy Spirit

Today’s Scripture – September 7, 2017

Luke 7:28-30 (NIV) I tell you, among those born of women there is no one greater than John; yet the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.”
(All the people, even the tax collectors, when they heard Jesus’ words, acknowledged that God’s way was right, because they had been baptized by John. But the Pharisees and experts in the law rejected God’s purpose for themselves, because they had not been baptized by John.)

John the Baptist was, even by Jesus’ estimation, a profoundly great man, even greater than Elijah in whose spirit and power he came (Luke 1:17, Malachi 4:5-6). But John’s greatness was not Jesus’ point here. His point was that, regardless of how great John was, the least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.

Jesus embodied the kingdom and demonstrated its reality everywhere He went. But the kingdom did not become a reality for the rest of the world until the Holy Spirit descended on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2). John was filled with the Holy Spirit from even before birth (Luke 1:15) so that he could powerfully preach the words of God to the people and turn their hearts back to God before the kingdom did arrive.

But the power and riches of the kingdom of God, the fullness of the Holy Spirit and the ability to do even greater things than Jesus did (John 14:12-14) were not available to John, because Jesus had not yet died, risen, and ascended to the right hand of the Father. These had to wait until the appropriate time, and John would be executed by Herod before that time came.

Therefore, as Jesus pointed out, even the least in the kingdom of God has access to far more power, authority, wisdom, and grace than anyone before the kingdom became a reality, even John. The deep tragedy is that so few people who actually live in God’s kingdom today really grasp or believe this, and even fewer exercise it to move the kingdom forward and transform their homes, their communities, and their nations.

The response of the people to this announcement was predictable, even though few at the time understood its full implications. Those who had been baptized by John and who had thus bought into his message, predominantly common people including “sinners” and tax collectors, received it as truth. But those who rejected John’s message, refused his baptism, and hardened their hearts against Jesus, predominantly the religious leaders and the Pharisees, rejected this message as well, and thus turned away from the reality of the kingdom.

Father, this promise of the blessings of Your kingdom is staggering in its implications. It so powerfully reassures us of the reality of Your kingdom, and of Your power and grace that is freely available to those of us who live in it, just as Jesus promised. Help me to walk in that power, in that grace, in Your kingdom today. Amen.


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Today’s Scripture – August 7, 2017

Luke 6:17-19 (NIV) He went down with them and stood on a level place. A large crowd of his disciples was there and a great number of people from all over Judea, from Jerusalem, and from the coast of Tyre and Sidon, who had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases. Those troubled by evil spirits were cured, and the people all tried to touch him, because power was coming from him and healing them all.

When most people think of Jesus’ disciples, they picture the Twelve. But there were actually multitudes who followed Him as disciples. Jesus had selected the Twelve out of all of those who followed Him to be His inner circle and, with the exception of Judas Iscariot, to lead the work of continuing to grow the kingdom after His departure.

But in the meantime, ALL of His disciples needed to learn more about the kingdom, how it operated, and what the people of the kingdom were to be like. But before He taught them, He saw to the needs of those who had come from all around the area to be healed of their diseases or to be set free from evil spirits.

Notice that the healing of the people and setting them free from evil influences was not a separate thing from Jesus teaching them about the kingdom. The two went hand in glove. Jesus, the very embodiment of the kingdom, healed the people and set them free as a sign that God’s kingdom was becoming a reality right in front to them. Then He taught them what the kingdom was all about, and how to live in it.

Later, after Jesus’ ascension into heaven, and after the Holy Spirit filled His followers on the day of Pentecost, the disciples often used the same process: they healed someone, or several people, and when a crowd had gathered, they used the miracle that had been done as a springboard to tell the people about Jesus and about the kingdom of God, and how to live in it. And, because of the power that was being demonstrated through the lives of these men, the people listened and believed, and great numbers flocked into the kingdom.

Father, thank You for this example from Jesus. Lord, we need that same power flowing through our lives today to help us to be powerful and effective witnesses of Your kingdom. Sadly, the lives of many people who go by the name of Christian are very little different than the lives of those we are trying to reach with the gospel; very little different in power, in purity, or in Your evident presence. So we are often seen as offering nothing to these people that they don’t already have. Those first disciples’ lives were of a completely different kind, a different quality than the lives of those around them due to the presence of Your Holy Spirit. And that difference was immediately apparent to everyone around them. Lord, unleash Your Holy Spirit in my life today, so that the whole world can see the difference, and hunger for You, the One who makes that difference. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – July 11, 2017

Luke 4:14-15 (NIV) Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside. He taught in their synagogues, and everyone praised him.

Jesus had received the Holy Spirit at His baptism (Luke 3:22), but now that He had passed His time of testing and started on His public ministry, the power of the Spirit was fully turned loose in His life. He headed back north to the region of Galilee and began to teach in the synagogues, and to heal and cast out demons (Mark 1:21-34 in light of Luke 4:23).

Notice, though, that the power of the Holy Spirit was just as evident in His teachings as it was in His miracles. May people look to the Holy Spirit today for “signs and wonders,” and He definitely does enable those. But the Holy Spirit also bestowed on Jesus wisdom and spiritual depth of understanding, as well as a divine ability to communicate God’s truth to people in ways that powerfully impacted their souls. And the people were fascinated by the things that He was showing them.

Jesus would eventually head back to Nazareth, His hometown, and to the people among whom He had grown up. But the clock had already started ticking down the days to the cross, and there were so many people who needed the good news that He preached in synagogues all over, wherever He was, demonstrating the reality of God’s kingdom in towns and villages all over Galilee and beyond. And the people were eating it up!

Those who hung out with Jesus and followed Him soon realized that He was more focused and more driven than anyone they had ever met. He was focused on one thing: the kingdom of God. If you sat with Him, You would hear about God’s kingdom. If you walked with Him on the way, the topic of discussion would always be God’s kingdom. And even as he did mighty miracles, He continually pointed to those miracles as signs that God’s kingdom was even then bursting in on the world.

Father, I get so easily distracted. I am afraid that I am  not much like Jesus in His focus on the one vital thing: Your kingdom and what Jesus has done to not only make it a reality in the world today, to make a way into Your kingdom for every man, woman, and child in the world. How much different my life would be if I would simply stay focused on that one thing with every fiber of my being. How much different the whole world would be! Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – July 5, 2017

Luke 4:1-2 (NIV) Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the desert, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry.

There are three things about Jesus’ wilderness testing that need to be pointed out. First, Jesus went into the experience full of the Holy Spirit. That means that He had all that He needed to come out victorious if He would simply live in the power and presence of the Holy Spirit during the test, and not try to win in His own strength and wisdom.

Second, the test was the Holy Spirit’s idea (and, by extension, the plan of the Father), not a random event that “just happened.” This time of testing (another common translation of the Greek word translated “tempting”) was important. Jesus was the last Adam (1 Corinthians 15:45), the vanguard of a new humanity. Because the first Adam failed his first test and brought death and suffering into the world, it was vital that the last Adam be fully tested, and fully pass the test so that he could bring life and shalom into the world, and do away with death and mankind’s separation from God.

And finally, even though Matthew and Luke focus on the temptations that came at the end of Jesus’ forty-day fast, the fact is that He was being tested the whole time He was out there. It was a completely grueling experience, a marathon, not a sprint, and required not only grit and endurance on Jesus’ part, but complete reliance on God and His strength to get through it victoriously.

These three lessons are not peculiar to Jesus, but are vital to anyone who wants to live in victory:

  • Live completely in the Holy Spirit at all times.
  • Expect testing, and receive it as from the hand of God, realizing that He will use it to strengthen us, and will never allow us to be tested beyond what we can endure, but will always provide a path to victory (1 Corinthians 10:13).
  • Rely on God’s strength and wisdom during the test, realizing that it may last a long time and use up all of our own resources before the finish line is reached.

Father, I receive this instruction and these warnings. I also see clearly some precious promises embedded in them: that you will provide Your Holy Spirit to empower us and guide us not just into times of testing, but through them as well; and that Your Holy Spirit is sufficient to enable our deliverance, no matter what snares are laid before us by the enemy. Thank You for all of these, Lord. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – June 22, 2017

Luke 2:25-35 (NIV) Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.”
The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

Even in the darkest times in Israel’s history, God always preserved for Himself a remnant, a faithful few who kept the light of whole-hearted devotion burning. And He kept those faithful, righteous and devout people in the loop as to what He was doing.

Many in the days when Jesus was born were waiting for the Messiah, and believed that the day was drawing near. But a few, like Mary and Joseph, Zechariah and Anna, and Simeon and Anna were waiting with a different kind of expectancy, because God was able to speak directly to their hearts and show them what He was doing. Simeon did not know the exact day that he would lay eyes on the Messiah, but he knew that it would be soon, before he died.

That morning, God spoke to his heart through the Holy Spirit and told him that the day was finally here. He rushed into the temple courts, his eyes sweeping continually from side to side, looking for some sign as to which of the hundreds of people gathered there was the One.

Finally he saw a man with a woman who was holding a child close in her arms, and the Holy Spirit said, “That’s Him; that’s the Messiah!” Simeon approached the family with tears rolling down his wrinkled cheeks. He had waited so long, and now here was the proof that God was still working His plan for His people. He held out his arms expectantly and, after only a brief hesitation, Mary handed the child to this stranger. He held the child securely, and caressed his tiny, smooth cheek. Then a sing-song chant of praise burst through his lips: “Sovereign Lord, You promised that I wouldn’t die until I had seen Your Messiah, Your Savior. Today I have seen Him, so now I can die in peace! This tiny child is the One! He will not only save Your people, Israel, and draw them into Your glory; He will even draw Gentiles to know You!”

The man seemed lost in a trance of ecstasy. But suddenly his eyes cleared and lowered to meet those of Jesus’ astounded parents. His voice was low but intense as he predicted that, in the course of His life, this child would not just be a beneficent religious figure, but would shake up the entire Jewish society and religion, and would end up on the hit list of some pretty powerful people, who would show what they really were by their intense opposition to Him.

But it was his final sentence, “And a sword will pierce you own soul, too.” that turned Mary’s blood cold and dimmed the joy of the day. Any mother has the potential to be crushed by tragedy that strikes her child. But few live with the certainty that that day will come.

Father, I am amazed at how many people You brought into the loop so that they knew who Jesus was, even as an infant. Some in the vicinity were likely skeptical of what they were hearing, and some were likely oblivious, so caught up in their own agendas that they didn’t even notice all of the buzz. But those with eyes to see and ears to hear got to experience the joy of hope realized, the exhilaration of knowing that You were on the move. And You are still moving today! Help me to stay tuned in to Your voice so that I can share the good news of all that You are up to with everyone around. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – June 5, 2017

Luke 1:8-17 (NIV) Once when Zechariah’s division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense. And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside. Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John. He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, 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. Many of the people of Israel will he bring back to the Lord their God. 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.”

Zechariah had been praying for a son for many long years, but he didn’t understand that God was planning something special for Him and Elizabeth. Now that the time had come, God was going to tell him that his prayers had always been heard, and were now going to be answered. So He arranged for Zechariah’s name to be drawn by lot to burn incense in the temple. For that task, he would be alone in the holy place and focused on God, so He could send His angel and find the man in a very receptive state.

Offering incense in the temple was a rare opportunity. Some priests never got their name chosen their whole life. So Zechariah was thrilled to actually get the chance to enter the temple and do this task for God. Immediately after he put the incense on the hot coals, producing a fragrant cloud of thick smoke, Gabriel, God’s chosen messenger appeared to him. Needless to say, Zechariah was startled at the sight, and instinctively jumped back. But before he could turn and run out of the temple, Gabriel delivered his divine pronouncement.

First of all, he reassured Zechariah that his prayers had not only been heard, but were finally being answered. Elizabeth would give birth to a son, even at her advanced age, and Zechariah was to give him the name John. John was to be a man devoted to God for a special purpose, even from birth. As such, he was never to drink anything fermented. Instead, God would fill him with the Holy Spirit his whole life, even before he was born, something that He had never done for anyone before.

Then Gabriel dropped the real bombshell: John would be the one who would go out in the spirit and power of Elijah to prepare the people for the coming of the Messiah Himself, fulfilling Malachi 4:5-6. Zechariah, like many of the people of that day, was waiting expectantly for the Messiah to appear, and now here was a mighty angel of God telling him not only that the Messiah was on His way, but that his own soon-to-be-conceived son would be the Messiah’s forerunner! It was almost more than he could comprehend.

Father, it is interesting to think that Zechariah had prayed so long for this one heart’s desire that he had fallen into habit, and was shocked when he heard that you actually were answering him. And what an answer! So much more than he ever could have imagined. Help me to be both steadfast and faithful in my prayers, so that I always bring them in a state of expectant anticipation until I see Your answer. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – February 9, 2017

Matthew 17:14-18 (NIV) When they came to the crowd, a man approached Jesus and knelt before him.  “Lord, have mercy on my son,” he said.  “He has seizures and is suffering greatly. He often falls into the fire or into the water.  I brought him to your disciples, but they could not heal him.”
“O unbelieving and perverse generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you?  How long shall I put up with you?  Bring the boy here to me.”  Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of the boy, and he was healed from that moment.

Perhaps the last thing that Jesus wanted to hear this late in the game was that His closest followers could not even cast out a demon.  This was the source of His frustrated outcry.

This father had brought his demon-possessed son to where he had heard that Jesus was staying.  When he got there, he found that Jesus had gone up on the mountain, and his followers had no idea how long he would be.  In response, the man had asked Jesus’ disciples if they could do something for his son.  This was not an unreasonable request.  The man assumed that Jesus, like any good rabbi, would be teaching his followers how to follow in his footsteps, including how to do what He was doing.

But the description the father gave of the power and stubbornness of the unclean spirit intimidated the disciples.  They had cast out demons before, but it had been a while, and they had cast out those demons with the authority that Jesus had given them back then.  They hadn’t had to cast out any demons since they had been back traveling with Jesus, and weren’t sure that they still possessed that authority.

So they approached the boy timidly, unsure of themselves.  And when the demon exerted his power, and started snarling, and howling, and foaming at the mouth, they drew back in fear and declared that this spirit was too strong for them.  The man would have to wait for Jesus to return.

When Jesus appeared, fresh from some extended time spent with His Father, and learned what had happened, He was dismayed at His followers’ failure.  (And, yes, His outcry of “perverse and unbelieving generation” was aimed right at the disciples, and they knew it, and watched Jesus work in silence, their cheeks hot with shame.)

Jesus merely rebuked the demon and commanded it to come out.  The boy shrieked and fell thrashing to the ground, and then suddenly became motionless, barely breathing.  Everyone thought for a moment that the spirit had killed him.  But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him to his feet, whole and himself again. (Cf. Mark 9:26-27.)  What had seemed so impossible to the disciples was handled by Jesus with a word.

Father, we, as Your people and as disciples of Jesus, still allow ourselves to get intimidated by the tasks You have called us to do.  They seem mightier than we are, so we excuse ourselves, hoping that You will someone else stronger than us to do what we just can’t.  But that is clearly not acceptable to You, any more than it was to Jesus.  If we belong to Him, we have the Holy Spirit living in us (Romans 8:9).  That means that we have all the power that we need to do everything You direct us to do, including even greater things than Jesus did (John 14:12-14).  So we must never doubt, never give up, and never retreat before the enemy.  Help me to receive and assimilate these truths into the deepest part of me, so that I can be confident and powerful every time I act in Your name.  Amen.

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