Tag Archives: Holy Spirit

Today’s Scripture – May 24, 2018

Luke 22:28-30 (NIV) “You are those who have stood by me in my trials. And I confer on you a kingdom, just as my Father conferred one on me, so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”

The disciples, even at this late hour, were still consumed by self-interest and self-promotion, trying to get ahead by dint of their own efforts. But, again, that is not the way of the kingdom of God.

Instead, God’s kingdom is a kingdom of grace and favor. No one will ever be allowed to seize or usurp power by force or might, because in God’s kingdom God alone is king. But He also delegates power, authority, and recognition to those who humbly submit themselves to His authority.

It is on the basis of that reality that Jesus could declare to His followers that they didn’t have to struggle and grapple with each other over the edges of the kingdom. Instead, as those who had stuck with Him through thick and thin, the power and authority of God’s kingdom was going to be graciously bestowed on them, not on the basis of merit or might, but on the basis of God’s grace.

This authority and power was symbolized by Jesus in His picture of the disciples eating at His table. That shows that the kingdom that they were to be given would not be their own, but would be a derivative kingdom. In a sense, they would serve as satraps, with authority to judge (not simply in the sense of a trial, but in the sense of ruling and leading, like the judges of ancient Israel), but ultimately subservient to the King of all kings and the Lord of all lords, Jesus Himself. Jesus, as the supreme ruler of God’s kingdom, retained authority to empower anyone He chose, and He was letting them know that they could relax about their future, because He was choosing them.

It wasn’t until after Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension, after the descent of the Holy Spirit on them, that they were finally able to understand what Jesus was telling them here. And it was only as they were filled and empowered by the Holy Spirit that they were able to successfully fulfill the roles that Jesus had called them to.

Father, this picture of authority and power was not just for those initial followers, but, through their ministry, it is for all of those who surrender to You, all who are filled by Your Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38-39). But we always must remember that our authority, and any power that we have, is not ours, but is derived through our relationship with Jesus, and therefore must be used to bear witness to Him, and to glorify His name. Help us to live out these realities today and every day. Amen.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Scripture Meditations

Today’s Scripture – January 11, 2018

Luke 13:18-19 (NIV) Then Jesus asked, “What is the kingdom of God like? What shall I compare it to? It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his garden. It grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air perched in its branches.”

Jesus’ likening of the kingdom of God to a mustard seed is very appropriate. In Jesus’ day, the kingdom of God was extremely small. In fact, it could reasonably be argued that God’s kingdom at that point in Jesus’ ministry consisted of Jesus alone, a single seed, with hundreds of wannabes hanging around, waiting to get in.

Once Jesus died, rose again, ascended to heaven, and sent the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, the kingdom grew in an instant to 120, then the same day to over 3,000! And it just kept growing from there until it filled the earth.

Some people believe that Jesus saying that the kingdom was like a mustard seed means that it will always be a small and insignificant portion of the world’s population. But that philosophy ignores the second half of Jesus’ parable. The small size of the mustard seed before it is planted fails to convey the explosive growth potential contained inside. The seed is designed to not stay small, but to grow into a plant almost infinitely greater than its original size, producing billions of additional seeds, and drawing birds from all over to nest in its branches.

Of course, to do the work of growing and multiplying that it was designed to do, the seed cannot simply sit there, taking pride in its smallness. Instead, like a grain of wheat, it must fall to the ground and die (John 12:24). Those who embody the kingdom must lay down their own lives as living sacrifices (Romans 12:1-2), take up the cause of the kingdom as their life’s focus, as Jesus did, and let God use them as He wishes to grow the kingdom in their area into a massive and very fruitful tree.

Father, we forget the old saying, “Good things come in small packages.” Looking at a mustard seed, we would never be able to envision the massive tree that can spring from it. And looking at the Church in North America today, it is difficult to see how it could ever become significant, and a powerful force in our nation again. But You have packed tremendous potential into Your people that, if we allow You to work in and through us, can result in not only explosive growth, but in a powerful impact in our communities and in our nation as well. Oh, Lord, make it so! Amen.

Leave a comment

Filed under Scripture Meditations

Today’s Scripture – January 5, 2018

Luke 12:49-53 (NIV) “I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! But I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is completed! Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”

Jesus identifies two different things that His coming would bring to the earth. One was intentional, the other a side effect.

The intentional thing that Jesus came to bring was fire. That was actually a key part of His mission, as foreseen by John the Baptist: “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” (Luke 3:16) Fire is purifying, and purifying the people of God was a key part of Jesus’ mission. Of course, He realized that the purifying would not begin until after the cross, after the resurrection, after His ascension into heaven, when He sent the Holy Spirit to indwell God’s people, purifying their hearts by faith (Acts 15:8-9). This imagery is also the source for the vision of flames of fire on the day of Pentecost that the disciples saw coming to rest on each of those gathered together on that day. It showed that the purifying fire had finally been kindled!

But Jesus also realized that His coming was going to have a regrettable consequence as well, not part of His mission, but unavoidable. His coming would necessarily divide the people of the world into two groups – not Jewish and gentile, which was based primarily on birth, but those who became God’s people through receiving Jesus as Lord and Savior, and those who refused. And Jesus knew that those who refused to receive Him would not live at peace with those who did, as prefigured by the enmity of the Jewish leaders against Jesus.

Jesus knew that this division would even strike into the midst of families and households, dividing even close relatives. And, sadly, His prophecy was right on the money. All through the Christian era right down to the present day, parents have disowned their children for receiving Jesus and for living as His disciples, even going so far as to kill them for being infidels. And Christians all around the world have found themselves ostracized from their families because they refused to renounce their faith in Jesus. Again, this was not an intentional part of Jesus’ mission, but it is an inevitable consequence of Jesus’ coming into the world. Some will receive Him, and some will reject Him, resulting in division.

Father, the reality of these divisions among the families of the world no doubt saddens You, just as it saddened Jesus as He saw it ahead. Help those around the world who are having to face this kind of division to stand firm in You, so that those who would reject You see the firmness of their commitment, and open their minds and hearts to You as a result. Amen.

Leave a comment

Filed under Scripture Meditations

Today’s Scripture – January 2, 2018

Luke 12:35-40 (NIV) “Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning, like men waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him. It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes. I tell you the truth, he will dress himself to serve, will have them recline at the table and will come and wait on them. It will be good for those servants whose master finds them ready, even if he comes in the second or third watch of the night. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.”

Many take this section of Jesus’ message as being about His second coming and the need to always be ready, no matter when He returns. And this passage certainly has application for that.

But there is a broader application as well. There is more to Jesus’ presence than His bodily return. Keep in mind the previous section, the context of this passage. God’s people, the people of the kingdom, are the body of Christ, the hands and feet of Jesus, seeking God’s kingdom every day, all of our lives, and expected to immediately obey what God commands every moment. Just as Peter in prison immediately obeyed the command to get up and follow the angel (Acts 12:7-10), just as the Antioch Church immediately obeyed the leading of the Holy Spirit to send out Barnabas and Paul onto the mission field (Acts 13:2-3), and just as Paul immediately obeyed God’s command to cross the sea to Macedonia (Acts 16:9-10), so God’s presence can be made manifest and His will be communicated at a moment’s notice. And when that happens, God doesn’t expect His people to lay out a fleece or two to try to discern if that is really Him and what He really wants them to do.

Instead, God’s people are to live in a continual state of readiness and eager anticipation, so that when God does come to them, whether it is in a church service, or at their work, or even in the middle of the night, they are prepared to immediately open the doors, hear what God commands, and obey without delay.

So many Christians, if they expect God to communicate with them at all, believe that it will only be at Church, or during times of prayer and solitude. But God is always at work, zealously pushing His plan forward and drawing people into His kingdom. God’s people must therefore be active in pursuing these things, as well as listening intently and always (“pray continuously” 1 Thessalonians 5:17), so that when God or one of His messengers come with orders “from on high,” there is no delay, but instant understanding and instant obedience. Those who make and keep themselves available like that will see wonders and miracles that they never dreamed were possible as He works through them to accomplish His plan.

Father, this makes complete sense. I know that You have a plan that You are zealously pursuing, a plan to bring salvation to the ends of the earth. But I also know that You have chosen to work through us, Your people. I commit myself to be a servant who is always ready, even at the second or third watch of the night, to listen, to hear, and to immediately obey Your every command. Amen.

Leave a comment

Filed under Scripture Meditations

Today’s Scripture – December 22, 2017

Luke 12:13-15 (NIV) Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”
Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?” Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”

Jesus spoke so powerfully, and with such authority, that this man was hoping to enlist His help in his own conflict with his brother. There was a disagreement about the allotted shares of an inheritance, a very serious matter.

But Jesus, as much as He was passionate about what some today term social justice, would not allow Himself to be drawn into this conflict, even insofar as giving a single opinion as to the merits of the man’s case.

Part of the reason for His reticence was that He was focused on His mission, and any pull toward other things would only end up being a distraction (compare with Acts 6:2-4). Even good things can get in the way of the best thing, stealing time, energy, and resources away from what someone is actually called to do.

But the other reason for Jesus’ unwillingness to play arbiter in this situation was that the man’s plea did not originate from a desire to follow God more closely, but was motivated by greed, which militates against everything that God’s kingdom stands for.

People can persuade themselves that their motives are selfless, but often, despite our rationalizations, the motive for pursuing financial gain is not altruistic at all, but is greed. And, for the people of God’s kingdom, greed must never be allowed to take root in our hearts. God can make a person a great, powerful, and effective witness without giving them more materially than simple “daily bread,” just what is essential. But, often, the pursuit of “just a little more” in the way of resources or funding can become a distraction from the real work of the kingdom at best, and an outright idol at worst, taking the person clear out of action, leaving them worthless to God.

Father, we really can delude ourselves in our pursuit of the money or “stuff” that we swear will help us to be more effective in ministry, and in reaching out to those who don’t know You. But we have thousands of times the resources and technology that those in the first century had, or those during the reformation, or even those during Wesley’s day or the days of the great revivals. We should thus be thousands of times more effective at growing Your kingdom than they were. But the truth is, we are a small fraction as effective, showing that the “stuff,” the resources, isn’t the answer. The only way to be effective witnesses for You is to leave all of that behind, to stop pursuing resources, and simply pursue You, rely on You, on Your provision, and on the power of the Holy Spirit. And all of that You give without cost, and throw in “all these things” that we legitimately do need (Matthew 6:33) for free. Amen.

Leave a comment

Filed under Scripture Meditations

Today’s Scripture – December 10, 2017

Luke 11:33-36 (NIV) “No one lights a lamp and puts it in a place where it will be hidden, or under a bowl. Instead he puts it on its stand, so that those who come in may see the light. Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eyes are good, your whole body also is full of light. But when they are bad, your body also is full of darkness. See to it, then, that the light within you is not darkness. Therefore, if your whole body is full of light, and no part of it dark, it will be completely lighted, as when the light of a lamp shines on you.”

The people who belong to the kingdom are full of light. But it is not our own light. The brightest light of this world is darkness compared to the light of the kingdom. Jesus’ own light is the light of the kingdom, and the true light of the world, as well.

That truth lies behind Jesus’ statement in John 9:5: “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” But it also lies behind Jesus statement to His followers in Matthew 5:14: “You are the light of the world.” Again, this light does not originate in our own spiritual vitality or holiness, but is derivative of Jesus’ spiritual vitality and holiness as He indwells His followers through the presence of the Holy Spirit.

Just as Jesus did not hide His light under a basket, but let it shine conspicuously everywhere He went, so He calls on His followers to put their light on a lampstand to shine conspicuously. Jesus came to do away with the darkness by shining the light of God into the areas where it lives – and that is a huge function of His disciples as well.

For that reason, the followers of Jesus have two aspects of their lives that they must keep tabs on. The first is to ensure that the light within them does not get darkened by sin. Otherwise, there will be nothing within them that can shine, nothing in them that can fight the dark.

The others aspect is to ensure that there is nothing blocking the escape of the light. A “good eye” in Hebrew is a figure of speech that symbolizes a generous heart. A “bad eye” is a figure of speech symbolizing a stingy heart. Jesus’ point then is that a stingy heart will negate any light that exists in a person, but an open, generous heart will act like the clear glass of a lighthouse, allowing the light of God’s presence in our hearts to shine brightly.

Father, it is easy to remember that Jesus said that HE was the light of the world, but we forget that He identified US as the light of the world as well, as His light shines through our lives. Help me to make sure that no sin is allowed to dim Your light in me, and that no stinginess or lack of love is allowed to shutter the light inside, so that You can use me to light up all of the dark places around me. Amen.

Leave a comment

Filed under Scripture Meditations

Today’s Scripture – December 5, 2017

Luke 11:24-26 (NIV) “When an evil spirit comes out of a man, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that man is worse than the first.”

The tragedy that Jesus is talking about here was experienced by many people in His day, and is still tragically experienced by many people today. Jesus cast out many demons during His earthly ministry, sometimes several from the same person. He did this not only to deliver those held captive, but to show forth the reality of the kingdom.

The tragedy came because some of these people simply returned to their old lives, their old ways of doing things that had opened them up to demonic influences in the first place. So they were easy targets to become “repossessed.” The same old demons that had been cast out returned to find the heart of their victim empty, and so simply moved back in, often with additional demons as well, making that person more wretched and miserable than they were before.

The same thing happens today in a subtly different manner. When someone decides to turn away from habits and activities that have them bound, to start going to church, maybe even to “accept Jesus,” but then go back to their old lives, their old ways of doing things that had opened them up to captivity in the first place, they become easy targets to be taken captive again. May quickly revert to their old habits, and often end up worse off than they were before.

The solution today is the same one that was necessary in Jesus’ day. That is, to realize that it is not enough to simply cast out the old evil spirits. The empty space then needs to be filled with the Holy Spirit, so that when the old spirits return, they do not find an empty space simply waiting to be refilled. They will find a holy occupant filling every space in that person’s life, leaving no room at all for them. And they will go away, and not return as long as the Holy Spirit is in residence.

Father, this is an all-too-familiar story. We see it happen all the time that a person “gets saved,” but then turns away soon after, often falling deeper into captivity to sin than they were before. We write them off as “shallow soil,” but the reality may simply be that we stopped too soon, and did not ensure their stability and the presence of the Holy Spirit in their hearts before we left them on their own. How many of those “relapses” could have been prevented with better, more intentional discipleship and mentoring? Help me, Lord, to walk more closely with those who are new to the faith, to ensure that they are well-discipled, well-rooted, well-established, before I move on. Amen.

Leave a comment

Filed under Scripture Meditations