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Posts tagged ‘Holy Spirit’

Converting to Wind Power – The Holy Spirit

Central Church's Holy Spirit Stained Glass Window

Central Church’s Holy Spirit Stained Glass Window

Jesus described the Spirit he was promising with an unusual word (Greek parakletos, “called alongside”).

This term, used for a legal representative who spoke in a person’s defense, is translated “Advocate” in the New Living Translation.

The current therapeutic connotations of “Counselor,” another translation, have rendered it misleading. And “Comforter” is accurate only in its older English meaning of someone who strengthens or encourages.

Interact with God’s Word:  John 14:15-26

  1. What is Jesus’ basic assignment to his disciples (vv. 15, 21, 23) in these paragraphs?
  2. What unspoken fear of the disciples (v. 18) is his disclosure about the Holy Spirit addressing?
  3. How is the sending of the Spirit equivalent to Jesus again being with them?
  4. Why are many (vv. 17, 19, 22) unaware of the Spirit’s activities? How have I experienced the Spirit recently?
  5. When (vv. 17, 20) did the Spirit’s presence shift from external to internal for Jesus’ disciples?
  6. On what is the Spirit’s teaching and reminding (v. 26) based?
  7. Are you confident (v. 21) that Jesus is revealing himself to you? Does this affirm that you know the Spirit?

Spend Time in Prayer:  Ask God for strength to obey his commands through the instruction, encouragement, power, and sustaining presence of the Spirit in your life.

John 14:15-26

15 “If you love me, obey my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. 17 He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you. 18 No, I will not abandon you as orphans—I will come to you. 19 Soon the world will no longer see me, but you will see me. Since I live, you also will live. 20 When I am raised to life again, you will know that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. 21 Those who accept my commandments and obey them are the ones who love me. And because they love me, my Father will love them. And I will love them and reveal myself to each of them.”

22 Judas (not Judas Iscariot, but the other disciple with that name) said to him, “Lord, why are you going to reveal yourself only to us and not to the world at large?”

23 Jesus replied, “All who love me will do what I say. My Father will love them, and we will come and make our home with each of them. 24 Anyone who doesn’t love me will not obey me. And remember, my words are not my own. What I am telling you is from the Father who sent me. 25 I am telling you these things now while I am still with you. 26 But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative—that is, the Holy Spirit—he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you.

Prayer for the Week: I’m not strong enough, Lord, to live up to your standards on my own. Teach me how to rely on the internal power your Spirit provides.

 

Converting to Wind Power – A Life of Its Own

Central Church's Holy Spirit Stained Glass Window

Central Church’s Holy Spirit Stained Glass Window

Key Bible Verse: But you are not controlled by your sinful nature. You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you. Romans 8:9

Bonus Reading: Romans 8:12-14

My hand moved like it had a life of its own, as if detached from my arm. It was flat, horizontal to the ground, and floating like a leaf on the water. If there was a ripple of air, it flowed with the ripple.

For an eight-year-old boy, that’s what it was like when I’d put my hand out the window of our car while traveling at 55 miles an hour. Somehow my hand didn’t belong to me. I just stuck it in the wind and the wind gave it life and power.

The wind had control of my hand, making it go up or down, forward or backward. That’s why it didn’t seem like it was mine, because I’d surrendered control to the wind.

How then do you convert your life to wind power, to God’s power? Like my hand, you let the wind of God’s Spirit blow over your life. You detach your life from your own control. You let go.

You place your life so that it floats on the wind of God’s power, and let him empower you. You place your life in the wind of God’s power, and let him control you. You place your life with the wind of God’s power, and let him lead you.

—Joe Williams in Ohio

My Response: Am I increasingly becoming an instrument in God’s hand (Rom. 6:13)?

Thought to Apply: The Spirit’s control will replace sin’s control. His power is greater than the power of all your sin. —Erwin Lutzer (Illinois pastor)

Prayer for the Week: I’m not strong enough, Lord, to live up to your standards on my own. Teach me how to rely on the internal power your Spirit provides.

 

 

Converting to Wind Power – Sputter or Hum?

Central Church's Holy Spirit Stained Glass Window

Central Church’s Holy Spirit Stained Glass Window

Key Bible Verse: I … pray to the Father … that … he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him.  – Ephesians 3:14-17

Bonus Reading: Ezekiel 37:1-14

A couple of summers ago, my two boys and I bought a lawn mower. They earned spending money mowing lawns with it. The mower operates on a mixture of gasoline and oil. If it runs on gasoline alone, it’s just a matter of time before it burns up.

Living without the presence of God in our lives is like running the mower that way. We function as best we can but never achieve our potential and eventually break down. The coming of the Spirit of God into your life is like putting oil in the machine. If his Spirit is in us, we live life to the full, even beyond the grave.

Here’s how what Paul prayed for his friends [in today’s Key Bible Verse] happens. Jesus said a change must take place in your life every bit as dramatic and important as your own physical birth. Maybe this is what Tennyson had in mind when, frustrated with himself, he cried out [today’s Thought to Apply]. In a sense that’s what happens. Who we are doesn’t cease to be. But the presence of Christ comes into our lives and helps us become who we want to be.

—John Yates in Preaching Today

My Response: I’ll thank God that the Spirit in my life guarantees that “these dying bodies will be swallowed up by life” (2 Cor. 5:4).

Thought to Apply: Oh, that a man might arise in me, that the man I am might cease to be!—Alfred Lord Tennyson

Adapted from Preaching Today (#87).

Prayer for the Week: I’m not strong enough, Lord, to live up to your standards on my own. Teach me how to rely on the internal power your Spirit provides.

 

Converting to Wind Power – The Force Be with You?

Central Church's Holy Spirit Stained Glass Window

Central Church’s Holy Spirit Stained Glass Window

Key Bible Verse: “The world … doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you.”  – John 14:17

Bonus Reading: 1 Corinthians 2:9-12; 12:11; Ephesians 4:30

Several years ago, I attended a bizarre weekend at a retreat center in the Colorado mountains. Two groups—leaders from the evangelical Christian community and leaders from the new age movement—had been invited to see if any bridges of understanding could be erected.

Both groups referred to “the spirit” to articulate their positions. But it soon became obvious that to the new age group the “spirit” was some kind of impersonal cosmic energy force. You could possess more or less of this force, and of course, it was always with you. Their explanations gave me the sensation of entering a theological “Twilight Zone” or of becoming an extra on the set of Star Wars.

But the Holy Spirit is not a force. He’s a person. As Jesus told his disciples [in today’s Key Bible Verse] he’s a he, not an it. Consistently throughout the New Testament, the Holy Spirit is referred to with masculine personal pronouns. The significance of the pronoun isn’t so much in its gender as in its being personal. It’s possible to become a modern gnostic, even as a Christian, when we think of the Spirit in terms of a force or entity rather than person.

—Bob Beltz in Becoming a Man of the Spirit

My Response: How do the Bonus Readings demonstrate the intellect, volition, and emotion of a person?

Thought to Apply: No human power can replace the power of the Spirit. —Lewi Pethrus (Swedish pastor)

Adapted from Becoming a Man of the Spirit (NavPress/navpress.com, 1999)

Prayer for the Week: I’m not strong enough, Lord, to live up to your standards on my own. Teach me how to rely on the internal power your Spirit provides.

 

Converting to Wind Power – Reality Check

Central Church's Holy Spirit Stained Glass Window

Central Church’s Holy Spirit Stained Glass Window

Key Bible Verse: Just as you cannot understand the path of the wind … so you cannot understand the activity of God. Ecclesiastes 11:5

Bonus Reading: John 3:3-9

When trees are waving wildly in the wind, journalist G.K. Chesterton once observed, people have historically thought that it is the wind that moves the trees—that the invisible gives energy to the visible. More recently others have concluded that the motion of the trees creates the wind—that what they see and hear and touch is basic reality and generates whatever can’t be verified with the senses.

The word translated “spirit” in our English Bibles carries in Hebrew the primary meaning of “wind” and “breath.” Imagine how our perceptions would change if we substituted these words for “spirit” in our language. For our ancestors, spirit was not “spiritual”; it was sensory. Although invisible, it was not immaterial. It had visible effects. Air, after all, provides the molecules for the quiet breathing that is part of all life, the puffs of air used to make words, the gentle breezes that caress the skin, the brisk winds that fill the sails of ships, the wild hurricanes that tear roofs off barns and uproot trees.

It would clarify things enormously if we could withdraw “spirit” and “spiritual” from our language stock for a while.

—Eugene Peterson in Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places

My Response: Can I honestly repeat Paul’s claim that “we live by believing and not by seeing” (2 Cor. 5:7)?

Thought to Apply: Those who have the gale of the Holy Spirit go forward even in sleep.—Brother Lawrence

Adapted from Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places (Eerdmans, 2005).

Prayer for the Week: I’m not strong enough, Lord, to live up to your standards on my own. Teach me how to rely on the internal power your Spirit provides.

 

 

Converting to Wind Power – The Impossible Challenge

Central Church's Holy Spirit Stained Glass Window

Central Church’s Holy Spirit Stained Glass Window

Key Bible Verse: “I will not abandon you as orphans—I will come to you.”  –  John 14:18

Bonus Reading: John 14:15-17

Life is difficult.” That’s the opening sentence of M. Scott Peck’s best-selling book, The Road Less Travelled. The opening words of Peck’s sequel,Further Along the Road Less Traveled are “Life is complex.” Let me take these observations one step further: “Life is impossible.” This statement is always true when we view life from the perspective of a man who desires to be the kind of man God wants him to be.

“You are to be perfect,” Jesus instructed.

“I can’t,” the honest man replies.

One night, Jesus met with 12 ordinary men in an upper room in Jerusalem to share the Passover meal. Jesus startled them by assuming the household slave role of washing their feet, and then telling them that they were to serve one another in the same way. He then told them that the guiding rule of their lives was to have a love for one another that equaled his love for them. These ordinary men should have been thinking, “This is impossible!”

This is the dilemma of the spiritual man living in a fallen world. You and I don’t have the ability to live the way God intended us to live. That is, not under our own power. We need help. We need a helper.

—Bob Beltz in Becoming a Man of the Spirit

My Response: How could Jesus say “It is best for you that I go away” (John 16:7)?

Adapted from Becoming a Man of the Spirit (NavPress/navpress.com, 1999)

Prayer for the Week: I’m not strong enough, Lord, to live up to your standards on my own. Teach me how to rely on the internal power your Spirit provides.

 

 

Converting to Wind Power – Sweat, Drift, or…

Central Church's Holy Spirit Stained Glass Window

Central Church’s Holy Spirit Stained Glass Window

Who Said It … John Ortberg

John Ortberg is the senior pastor at Menlo Park Presbyterian Church in Menlo Park, California. He is passionate about “spiritual formation,” which is how people become more like Jesus. His teaching brings Scripture alive and invariably includes practical applications and warm humor.

The latest of several books John has written is Faith and Doubt. He and his wife, Nancy, have three teen and young adult children.

What He Said … Sweat, Drift, or …

Significant spiritual transformation is a long-term endeavor that involves both God and us. I liken it to crossing an ocean.

Some people try, day after day, to be good, to become spiritually mature. That’s like taking a rowboat across the ocean. It’s exhausting and usually unsuccessful. Others have given up trying and throw themselves entirely on “relying on God’s grace.” They’re like drifters on a raft. They do nothing but hang on and hope God gets them there. Neither trying nor drifting are very effective in bringing about spiritual transformation.

A better image is the sailboat, in which if it moves at all, it’s a gift of the wind. We can’t control the wind, but a good sailor discerns where the wind is blowing and adjusts the sails accordingly. Working with the Holy Spirit, which Jesus likened to the wind in John 3, means we have a part in discerning the winds, in knowing the direction we need to go, and in training our sails to catch the breezes that God provides. That’s true transformation.

Adapted from our sister publication Leadership Journal (Summer, 2002)

Prayer for the Week: I’m not strong enough, Lord, to live up to your standards on my own. Teach me how to rely on the internal power your Spirit provides.

 

 

Pentecost – Come, Holy Ghost: A Wesleyan perspective on the Holy Spirit

Central Church's Holy Spirit Stained Glass Window

Central Church’s Holy Spirit Stained Glass Window

While most United Methodists can articulate what they believe about Jesus and are reasonably comfortable talking about God, our confidence might waver when talking about the Holy Spirit.

Maybe that is because we can relate to Jesus as a human being and understand God through personified imagery like “Heavenly Father.”

The symbols we use to talk about the Holy Spirit, on the other hand, are far less human. At Pentecost we read about the Spirit as fire and wind. In Baptism, we recognize the work of the Spirit through water and a dove. Not to mention the confusion caused by referring to the Spirit as the Holy Ghost.

Additionally, cultural understandings talk of specific work attributed to the Spirit like ecstatic utterances and other highly emotive responses. While we do not discount those experiences, many of us have not had them and wonder about the Holy Spirit’s role in our lives.

John Wesley, founder of the Methodist movement, may be able to help. The unimaginatively titled sermon “On the Holy Spirit,” from the 1872 edition of The Sermons of John Wesley, seeks to address not the “particularly extraordinary gifts” of the Spirit, but “what the Holy Spirit is to every believer.”

Hymn writer Charles Wesley, brother of John, wrote a song known to many United Methodist congregations even today. “Come, Holy Ghost, Our Hearts Inspire” (The United Methodist Hymnal 603) shares many of the same themes that help us better understand the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Harbinger of Day of Resurrection

Pentecost, depicted in this icon, is the day the Church celebrates the gift of the Holy Spirit. Photo by МЕЛЕТИЙ ВЕЛЧЕВ, courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Pentecost, depicted in this icon, is the day the Church celebrates the gift of the Holy Spirit. Photo by МЕЛЕТИЙ ВЕЛЧЕВ, courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Wesley understood the Holy Spirit as the fullness of God at work in our broken world.

The “sin of Adam,” as the events of Genesis 3 are described in the sermon, distanced human beings from the image of God we were created to be. Addressing Adam’s desire to cover up after sinning, the sermon states, “Well might Adam now find himself naked; nothing less than God was departed from him.”

In Jesus, God has bridged this separation by overcoming sin. “[W]hat we lost in Adam,” the sermon reads, “we might receive in Christ Jesus.”

While that process of reconciliation begins when we put our trust in Jesus, it will not be complete until the Day of Resurrection to come. The Holy Spirit is a harbinger of our future with us in the present.

Spiritual Gifts

Every child of God is filled with the power of the Holy Spirit, specially gifted to play a unique and valued role in the body of Christ.

Fountain of love

From the earliest days of the Methodist movement, John Wesley sought to help Christians live faith in the midst of ordinary lives of family, friends, work, bills, and more. He encouraged the Methodists to participate in what he called the “means of grace,” which included acts of piety like worship and prayer, along with acts of service like feeding the hungry and giving to the poor.

These acts are gifts strengthening us to live into the two-fold nature of discipleship: loving God and our neighbors.

In his hymn, Charles invites the Holy Ghost to strengthen us to live our faith daily.

Come, Holy Ghost, our hearts inspire, let us thine influence prove;
source of the old prophetic fire, fountain of life and love.

Revealer of truth

John Wesley often called himself a “man of one book.” That book, of course, was the Bible.

Wesley was an ardent student of the Scriptures. He knew that the same Spirit that inspired the authors would also move in the hearts of readers centuries later, revealing God’s truth to us. The sermon states that the Holy Spirit is “a light to discern the fallacies of flesh and blood, [and] to reject the irreligious maxims of the world.”

In the second verse of “Come, Holy Ghost, Our Hearts Inspire,” Charles prayerfully asks the Holy Ghost to come to reveal God’s word to us.

Come, Holy Ghost (for moved by thee the prophets wrote and spoke),
unlock the truth, thyself the key, unseal the sacred book.

Holy SpiritBearer of New Creation

Having the Holy Spirit among us, a sign of that future day of restoration, also gives us the ability to live as people of that future now. Through the Spirit we see the world not only as it is, but as it will be, and are invited to participate in the work of reconciliation.

In the sermon we read that the Holy Spirit “is some portion of, as well as preparation for, a life in God, which we are to enjoy hereafter. The gift of the Holy Spirit looks full to the resurrection; for then is the life of God completed in us.”

When we sing verse 3 of Charles’ hymn, we pray for that day to come. Using an allusion to the presence of God’s Spirit moving over the face of the deep before the first day of Creation (see Genesis 1:2), we long for the new creation.

Expand thy wings, celestial Dove, brood o’er our nature’s night;
on our disordered spirits move, and let there now be light.

Assurance of salvationHoly Spirit 2

If you have ever wondered if you are really saved, you are not alone. Many Christians, including John Wesley, have gone through seasons of similar struggles. This sermon points to evidence in the gifts we see in our lives.

In “On the Holy Spirit” we read, “[W]here that divine Guest enters, the laws of another world must be observed.” A shift the Spirit brings to our priorities is then described. Where we once were primarily concerned about ourselves, the Spirit enables us to focus on our love of God and others.

In verse four of “Come, Holy Ghost, Our Hearts Inspire,” Charles Wesley writes how love flowing through us is evidence of the Spirit living in us.

God, through the Spirit we shall know if thou within us shine,
and sound, with all thy saints below, the depths of love divine.

It may be difficult for some of us to articulate a relationship with one described as fire, water, wind, or a dove. What we need to know is that the Spirit is the presence of the Holy in and around us each day, enabling us to live into the people God created us to be and will be restored to one day.

The Spirit is the presence of the Holy … enabling us to live as the people God created us to be.

Learn more about the spiritual gifts described in the New Testament, and take an online assessment to help you discover and cultivate your gifts.

What the Holy Spirit Does – Proof Positive

Central Church's Holy Spirit Stained Glass Window

Central Church’s Holy Spirit Stained Glass Window

Key Bible Verse: For his Holy Spirit speaks to us deep in our hearts and tells us that we are God’s children.  – Romans 8:16

Bonus Reading: Galatians 5:16-25

Matsuyama slumped cross-legged on the wooden floor of his one-room apartment on the second floor of a former army barracks. His was just one of dozens of poor families housed in the ramshackle old building.

“What’s wrong, Matsuyama San?”

“I’m not a Christian any longer.”

“What happened?”

“Oh, I got drunk, some guy bad-mouthed me, and I chased him with a baseball bat. What’s worse, when I got home and told my wife, she handed me the butcher knife. She said, ‘the Bible says if your right hand does wrong, cut it off.’ I’m no Christian.”

It was out of drunkenness that Matsuyama had been saved. An excellent electrician, he descended down the river of alcohol to poverty, taking his wife and three children with him. “Did you ever get drunk and fight before you became a Christian?” I asked.

“All the time.”

“Did you feel bad about it?”

“Only if I got beat.”

“Don’t you see, Matsuyama San? Since the Holy Spirit lives in you, when you fail you’re miserable. Your misery is proof you really are a Christian!”

—Robertson McQuilkin in 00

My Response: I recently experienced the Spirit’s convicting role when …

Adapted from Life in the Spirit (Broadman & Holman, 2000)

Prayer for the Week:  Father, I ask for Your Spirit to motivate and enable change in my life that makes me more like Jesus.

 

What the Holy Spirit Does – The Spirit of Creation

Central Church's Holy Spirit Stained Glass Window

Central Church’s Holy Spirit Stained Glass Window00

Who Said It…Ted Haggard

Ted Haggard is the senior pastor of New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado. In 1985, Ted and his wife, Gayle, moved there with two of their now five children and started New Life Church in the basement of their home. Now its membership numbers 11,000. Ted says that his goal is to make it hard to go to hell from Colorado Springs.

He also serves as president of the National Association of Evangelicals.

What He Said…The Spirit of Creation

Many churches do a good job of teaching about the power of the Holy Spirit. If we genuinely encourage people to be filled with the Holy Spirit, though, we had better be prepared for the work that He will do in them.

You see, the Holy Spirit is in the business of change. He is Mr. Change; it is what He does, and He does it well. He comes into people’s lives and starts changing them, and as this process develops, He starts giving them ideas for change.

The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Creation. In a fallen world, He always creates change because He is the agent God uses to make the world a better place. Thus, He always improves things. He always rearranges our furniture.

He always adjusts the status quo. So when He fills His people, we all prosper if our structures facilitate change. But if our structures constrain change, it’s a matter of time before something breaks. Let’s replace resistance to change with a culture of freedom.

Adapted from Dog Training, Fly Fishing, and Sharing Christ in the 21st Century (Nelson, 2002)

Prayer for the Week: Father, I ask for Your Spirit to motivate and enable change in my life that makes me more like Jesus.

 

Converting to Wind Power – The Holy Spirit

Central Church's Holy Spirit Stained Glass Window

Central Church’s Holy Spirit Stained Glass Window

Jesus described the Spirit he was promising with an unusual word (Greek parakletos, “called alongside”).

This term, used for a legal representative who spoke in a person’s defense, is translated “Advocate” in the New Living Translation.

The current therapeutic connotations of “Counselor,” another translation, have rendered it misleading. And “Comforter” is accurate only in its older English meaning of someone who strengthens or encourages.

Interact with God’s Word:  John 14:15-26

  1. What is Jesus’ basic assignment to his disciples (vv. 15, 21, 23) in these paragraphs?
  2. What unspoken fear of the disciples (v. 18) is his disclosure about the Holy Spirit addressing?
  3. How is the sending of the Spirit equivalent to Jesus again being with them?
  4. Why are many (vv. 17, 19, 22) unaware of the Spirit’s activities? How have I experienced the Spirit recently?
  5. When (vv. 17, 20) did the Spirit’s presence shift from external to internal for Jesus’ disciples?
  6. On what is the Spirit’s teaching and reminding (v. 26) based?
  7. Are you confident (v. 21) that Jesus is revealing himself to you? Does this affirm that you know the Spirit?

Spend Time in Prayer:  Ask God for strength to obey his commands through the instruction, encouragement, power, and sustaining presence of the Spirit in your life.

John 14:15-26

15 “If you love me, obey my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. 17 He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you. 18 No, I will not abandon you as orphans—I will come to you. 19 Soon the world will no longer see me, but you will see me. Since I live, you also will live. 20 When I am raised to life again, you will know that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. 21 Those who accept my commandments and obey them are the ones who love me. And because they love me, my Father will love them. And I will love them and reveal myself to each of them.”

22 Judas (not Judas Iscariot, but the other disciple with that name) said to him, “Lord, why are you going to reveal yourself only to us and not to the world at large?”

23 Jesus replied, “All who love me will do what I say. My Father will love them, and we will come and make our home with each of them. 24 Anyone who doesn’t love me will not obey me. And remember, my words are not my own. What I am telling you is from the Father who sent me. 25 I am telling you these things now while I am still with you. 26 But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative—that is, the Holy Spirit—he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you.

Prayer for the Week: I’m not strong enough, Lord, to live up to your standards on my own. Teach me how to rely on the internal power your Spirit provides.

 

Converting to Wind Power – A Life of Its Own

Central Church's Holy Spirit Stained Glass Window

Central Church’s Holy Spirit Stained Glass Window

Key Bible Verse: But you are not controlled by your sinful nature. You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you. Romans 8:9

Bonus Reading: Romans 8:12-14

My hand moved like it had a life of its own, as if detached from my arm. It was flat, horizontal to the ground, and floating like a leaf on the water. If there was a ripple of air, it flowed with the ripple.

For an eight-year-old boy, that’s what it was like when I’d put my hand out the window of our car while traveling at 55 miles an hour. Somehow my hand didn’t belong to me. I just stuck it in the wind and the wind gave it life and power.

The wind had control of my hand, making it go up or down, forward or backward. That’s why it didn’t seem like it was mine, because I’d surrendered control to the wind.

How then do you convert your life to wind power, to God’s power? Like my hand, you let the wind of God’s Spirit blow over your life. You detach your life from your own control. You let go.

You place your life so that it floats on the wind of God’s power, and let him empower you. You place your life in the wind of God’s power, and let him control you. You place your life with the wind of God’s power, and let him lead you.

—Joe Williams in Ohio

My Response: Am I increasingly becoming an instrument in God’s hand (Rom. 6:13)?

Thought to Apply: The Spirit’s control will replace sin’s control. His power is greater than the power of all your sin. —Erwin Lutzer (Illinois pastor)

Prayer for the Week: I’m not strong enough, Lord, to live up to your standards on my own. Teach me how to rely on the internal power your Spirit provides.

 

 

Converting to Wind Power – Sputter or Hum?

Central Church's Holy Spirit Stained Glass Window

Central Church’s Holy Spirit Stained Glass Window

Key Bible Verse: I … pray to the Father … that … he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him.  – Ephesians 3:14-17

Bonus Reading: Ezekiel 37:1-14

A couple of summers ago, my two boys and I bought a lawn mower. They earned spending money mowing lawns with it. The mower operates on a mixture of gasoline and oil. If it runs on gasoline alone, it’s just a matter of time before it burns up.

Living without the presence of God in our lives is like running the mower that way. We function as best we can but never achieve our potential and eventually break down. The coming of the Spirit of God into your life is like putting oil in the machine. If his Spirit is in us, we live life to the full, even beyond the grave.

Here’s how what Paul prayed for his friends [in today’s Key Bible Verse] happens. Jesus said a change must take place in your life every bit as dramatic and important as your own physical birth. Maybe this is what Tennyson had in mind when, frustrated with himself, he cried out [today’s Thought to Apply]. In a sense that’s what happens. Who we are doesn’t cease to be. But the presence of Christ comes into our lives and helps us become who we want to be.

—John Yates in Preaching Today

My Response: I’ll thank God that the Spirit in my life guarantees that “these dying bodies will be swallowed up by life” (2 Cor. 5:4).

Thought to Apply: Oh, that a man might arise in me, that the man I am might cease to be!—Alfred Lord Tennyson

Adapted from Preaching Today (#87).

Prayer for the Week: I’m not strong enough, Lord, to live up to your standards on my own. Teach me how to rely on the internal power your Spirit provides.

 

Converting to Wind Power – The Force Be with You?

Central Church's Holy Spirit Stained Glass Window

Central Church’s Holy Spirit Stained Glass Window

Key Bible Verse: “The world … doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you.”  – John 14:17

Bonus Reading: 1 Corinthians 2:9-12; 12:11; Ephesians 4:30

Several years ago, I attended a bizarre weekend at a retreat center in the Colorado mountains. Two groups—leaders from the evangelical Christian community and leaders from the new age movement—had been invited to see if any bridges of understanding could be erected.

Both groups referred to “the spirit” to articulate their positions. But it soon became obvious that to the new age group the “spirit” was some kind of impersonal cosmic energy force. You could possess more or less of this force, and of course, it was always with you. Their explanations gave me the sensation of entering a theological “Twilight Zone” or of becoming an extra on the set of Star Wars.

But the Holy Spirit is not a force. He’s a person. As Jesus told his disciples [in today’s Key Bible Verse] he’s a he, not an it. Consistently throughout the New Testament, the Holy Spirit is referred to with masculine personal pronouns. The significance of the pronoun isn’t so much in its gender as in its being personal. It’s possible to become a modern gnostic, even as a Christian, when we think of the Spirit in terms of a force or entity rather than person.

—Bob Beltz in Becoming a Man of the Spirit

My Response: How do the Bonus Readings demonstrate the intellect, volition, and emotion of a person?

Thought to Apply: No human power can replace the power of the Spirit. —Lewi Pethrus (Swedish pastor)

Adapted from Becoming a Man of the Spirit (NavPress/navpress.com, 1999)

Prayer for the Week: I’m not strong enough, Lord, to live up to your standards on my own. Teach me how to rely on the internal power your Spirit provides.

 

Converting to Wind Power – Reality Check

Central Church's Holy Spirit Stained Glass Window

Central Church’s Holy Spirit Stained Glass Window

Key Bible Verse: Just as you cannot understand the path of the wind … so you cannot understand the activity of God. Ecclesiastes 11:5

Bonus Reading: John 3:3-9

When trees are waving wildly in the wind, journalist G.K. Chesterton once observed, people have historically thought that it is the wind that moves the trees—that the invisible gives energy to the visible. More recently others have concluded that the motion of the trees creates the wind—that what they see and hear and touch is basic reality and generates whatever can’t be verified with the senses.

The word translated “spirit” in our English Bibles carries in Hebrew the primary meaning of “wind” and “breath.” Imagine how our perceptions would change if we substituted these words for “spirit” in our language. For our ancestors, spirit was not “spiritual”; it was sensory. Although invisible, it was not immaterial. It had visible effects. Air, after all, provides the molecules for the quiet breathing that is part of all life, the puffs of air used to make words, the gentle breezes that caress the skin, the brisk winds that fill the sails of ships, the wild hurricanes that tear roofs off barns and uproot trees.

It would clarify things enormously if we could withdraw “spirit” and “spiritual” from our language stock for a while.

—Eugene Peterson in Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places

My Response: Can I honestly repeat Paul’s claim that “we live by believing and not by seeing” (2 Cor. 5:7)?

Thought to Apply: Those who have the gale of the Holy Spirit go forward even in sleep.—Brother Lawrence

Adapted from Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places (Eerdmans, 2005).

Prayer for the Week: I’m not strong enough, Lord, to live up to your standards on my own. Teach me how to rely on the internal power your Spirit provides.

 

 

Converting to Wind Power – The Impossible Challenge

Central Church's Holy Spirit Stained Glass Window

Central Church’s Holy Spirit Stained Glass Window

Key Bible Verse: “I will not abandon you as orphans—I will come to you.”  –  John 14:18

Bonus Reading: John 14:15-17

Life is difficult.” That’s the opening sentence of M. Scott Peck’s best-selling book, The Road Less Travelled. The opening words of Peck’s sequel,Further Along the Road Less Traveled are “Life is complex.” Let me take these observations one step further: “Life is impossible.” This statement is always true when we view life from the perspective of a man who desires to be the kind of man God wants him to be.

“You are to be perfect,” Jesus instructed.

“I can’t,” the honest man replies.

One night, Jesus met with 12 ordinary men in an upper room in Jerusalem to share the Passover meal. Jesus startled them by assuming the household slave role of washing their feet, and then telling them that they were to serve one another in the same way. He then told them that the guiding rule of their lives was to have a love for one another that equaled his love for them. These ordinary men should have been thinking, “This is impossible!”

This is the dilemma of the spiritual man living in a fallen world. You and I don’t have the ability to live the way God intended us to live. That is, not under our own power. We need help. We need a helper.

—Bob Beltz in Becoming a Man of the Spirit

My Response: How could Jesus say “It is best for you that I go away” (John 16:7)?

Adapted from Becoming a Man of the Spirit (NavPress/navpress.com, 1999)

Prayer for the Week: I’m not strong enough, Lord, to live up to your standards on my own. Teach me how to rely on the internal power your Spirit provides.

 

 

Converting to Wind Power – Sweat, Drift, or…

Central Church's Holy Spirit Stained Glass Window

Central Church’s Holy Spirit Stained Glass Window

Who Said It … John Ortberg

John Ortberg is the senior pastor at Menlo Park Presbyterian Church in Menlo Park, California. He is passionate about “spiritual formation,” which is how people become more like Jesus. His teaching brings Scripture alive and invariably includes practical applications and warm humor.

The latest of several books John has written is Faith and Doubt. He and his wife, Nancy, have three teen and young adult children.

What He Said … Sweat, Drift, or …

Significant spiritual transformation is a long-term endeavor that involves both God and us. I liken it to crossing an ocean.

Some people try, day after day, to be good, to become spiritually mature. That’s like taking a rowboat across the ocean. It’s exhausting and usually unsuccessful. Others have given up trying and throw themselves entirely on “relying on God’s grace.” They’re like drifters on a raft. They do nothing but hang on and hope God gets them there. Neither trying nor drifting are very effective in bringing about spiritual transformation.

A better image is the sailboat, in which if it moves at all, it’s a gift of the wind. We can’t control the wind, but a good sailor discerns where the wind is blowing and adjusts the sails accordingly. Working with the Holy Spirit, which Jesus likened to the wind in John 3, means we have a part in discerning the winds, in knowing the direction we need to go, and in training our sails to catch the breezes that God provides. That’s true transformation.

Adapted from our sister publication Leadership Journal (Summer, 2002)

Prayer for the Week: I’m not strong enough, Lord, to live up to your standards on my own. Teach me how to rely on the internal power your Spirit provides.

 

 

Pentecost – Come, Holy Ghost: A Wesleyan perspective on the Holy Spirit

Central Church's Holy Spirit Stained Glass Window

Central Church’s Holy Spirit Stained Glass Window

Today’s issue of the UMNS Daily Digest, produced by United Methodist News Service, contains the following article of interest on the Holy Spirit as we prepare for the arrival of Pentecost Sunday this weekend.

While most United Methodists can articulate what they believe about Jesus and are reasonably comfortable talking about God, our confidence might waver when talking about the Holy Spirit.

Maybe that is because we can relate to Jesus as a human being and understand God through personified imagery like “Heavenly Father.”

The symbols we use to talk about the Holy Spirit, on the other hand, are far less human. At Pentecost we read about the Spirit as fire and wind. In Baptism, we recognize the work of the Spirit through water and a dove. Not to mention the confusion caused by referring to the Spirit as the Holy Ghost.

Additionally, cultural understandings talk of specific work attributed to the Spirit like ecstatic utterances and other highly emotive responses. While we do not discount those experiences, many of us have not had them and wonder about the Holy Spirit’s role in our lives.

John Wesley, founder of the Methodist movement, may be able to help. The unimaginatively titled sermon “On the Holy Spirit,” from the 1872 edition of The Sermons of John Wesley, seeks to address not the “particularly extraordinary gifts” of the Spirit, but “what the Holy Spirit is to every believer.”

Hymn writer Charles Wesley, brother of John, wrote a song known to many United Methodist congregations even today. “Come, Holy Ghost, Our Hearts Inspire” (The United Methodist Hymnal 603) shares many of the same themes that help us better understand the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Harbinger of Day of Resurrection

Pentecost, depicted in this icon, is the day the Church celebrates the gift of the Holy Spirit. Photo by МЕЛЕТИЙ ВЕЛЧЕВ, courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Pentecost, depicted in this icon, is the day the Church celebrates the gift of the Holy Spirit. Photo by МЕЛЕТИЙ ВЕЛЧЕВ, courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Wesley understood the Holy Spirit as the fullness of God at work in our broken world.

The “sin of Adam,” as the events of Genesis 3 are described in the sermon, distanced human beings from the image of God we were created to be. Addressing Adam’s desire to cover up after sinning, the sermon states, “Well might Adam now find himself naked; nothing less than God was departed from him.”

In Jesus, God has bridged this separation by overcoming sin. “[W]hat we lost in Adam,” the sermon reads, “we might receive in Christ Jesus.”

While that process of reconciliation begins when we put our trust in Jesus, it will not be complete until the Day of Resurrection to come. The Holy Spirit is a harbinger of our future with us in the present.

Spiritual Gifts

Every child of God is filled with the power of the Holy Spirit, specially gifted to play a unique and valued role in the body of Christ.

Fountain of love

From the earliest days of the Methodist movement, John Wesley sought to help Christians live faith in the midst of ordinary lives of family, friends, work, bills, and more. He encouraged the Methodists to participate in what he called the “means of grace,” which included acts of piety like worship and prayer, along with acts of service like feeding the hungry and giving to the poor.

These acts are gifts strengthening us to live into the two-fold nature of discipleship: loving God and our neighbors.

In his hymn, Charles invites the Holy Ghost to strengthen us to live our faith daily.

Come, Holy Ghost, our hearts inspire, let us thine influence prove;
source of the old prophetic fire, fountain of life and love.

Revealer of truth

John Wesley often called himself a “man of one book.” That book, of course, was the Bible.

Wesley was an ardent student of the Scriptures. He knew that the same Spirit that inspired the authors would also move in the hearts of readers centuries later, revealing God’s truth to us. The sermon states that the Holy Spirit is “a light to discern the fallacies of flesh and blood, [and] to reject the irreligious maxims of the world.”

In the second verse of “Come, Holy Ghost, Our Hearts Inspire,” Charles prayerfully asks the Holy Ghost to come to reveal God’s word to us.

Come, Holy Ghost (for moved by thee the prophets wrote and spoke),
unlock the truth, thyself the key, unseal the sacred book.

Holy SpiritBearer of New Creation

Having the Holy Spirit among us, a sign of that future day of restoration, also gives us the ability to live as people of that future now. Through the Spirit we see the world not only as it is, but as it will be, and are invited to participate in the work of reconciliation.

In the sermon we read that the Holy Spirit “is some portion of, as well as preparation for, a life in God, which we are to enjoy hereafter. The gift of the Holy Spirit looks full to the resurrection; for then is the life of God completed in us.”

When we sing verse 3 of Charles’ hymn, we pray for that day to come. Using an allusion to the presence of God’s Spirit moving over the face of the deep before the first day of Creation (see Genesis 1:2), we long for the new creation.

Expand thy wings, celestial Dove, brood o’er our nature’s night;
on our disordered spirits move, and let there now be light.

Assurance of salvationHoly Spirit 2

If you have ever wondered if you are really saved, you are not alone. Many Christians, including John Wesley, have gone through seasons of similar struggles. This sermon points to evidence in the gifts we see in our lives.

In “On the Holy Spirit” we read, “[W]here that divine Guest enters, the laws of another world must be observed.” A shift the Spirit brings to our priorities is then described. Where we once were primarily concerned about ourselves, the Spirit enables us to focus on our love of God and others.

In verse four of “Come, Holy Ghost, Our Hearts Inspire,” Charles Wesley writes how love flowing through us is evidence of the Spirit living in us.

God, through the Spirit we shall know if thou within us shine,
and sound, with all thy saints below, the depths of love divine.

It may be difficult for some of us to articulate a relationship with one described as fire, water, wind, or a dove. What we need to know is that the Spirit is the presence of the Holy in and around us each day, enabling us to live into the people God created us to be and will be restored to one day.

The Spirit is the presence of the Holy … enabling us to live as the people God created us to be.

Learn more about the spiritual gifts described in the New Testament, and take an online assessment to help you discover and cultivate your gifts.