Grieving the Spirit

“And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. ” Ephesians 4:30

In our most recent class about the Holy Spirit, we discussed ways that we can mistreat or grieve the Spirit.

  • Disobedience–In Galatians, Paul says, “live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.”  If we deliberately live in ways contrary to God’s law, we are hurting the Spirit.
  • Blaspheming — this is not only cursing, but using the name of God in an unreverent or trivial way — such as using the phrase, OMG.  This is disrespecting the Spirit.
  • Lying to the Holy Spirit — remember Ananias and Sapphira in the book of Acts?  They tried to pretend they were giving more than they really were.  Peter chastised them, saying, “How could you agree to test the Spirit of the Lord?” Acts 5:9.  A promise to God should not be taken lightly.
  • Hardening our hearts — God is love, and if we when His Spirit is in us, we will be loving;  however, we can resist that Spirit by being angry, resentful, or unforgiving
  • Quenching the Spirit–the Spirit gives us gifts to be used for the benefit of the church and other people;  when we refuse to use those gifts, we are denying the Spirit
  • Spurning the sanctifying Spirit — the Spirit wants to make us holy.  When we refuse to participate in our own sanctification by neglecting worship, prayer and Bible study, we are turning away from the Spirit.

Why do we do these things? (and we all do some of the time).  There may be many reasons — fear, ignorance, worldly influence are at play for sure.  Mostly though, there’s one big answer — SIN.  God loves us; He wants us to be Holy.  He placed His Spirit within us to help us.  Don’t waste that gift.

 

 

Filled With the Spirit or Full of the Spirit?

In our most recent class on the Holy Spirit, we learned that there is a distinction between being filled with the Spirit and being full of the Spirit.

The Bible tells us that all believers are indwelt by the Holy Spirit.  For example, Paul tells the Corinthians:

“Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? “1 Corinthians 3:16
He also reminds Timothy:
“Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure that has been entrusted to you.”  1 Timothy 1:14
If you are a Christian, you have been filled with the Spirit, who is with you at all times, to guide, enlighten and comfort.  However, there are also times when the Holy Spirit fills us in a temporary way in order to fulfill a particular task.  This occurs in both the Old and New Testament.
One example is when Samuel anoints David as king:
Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward.” 1 Samuel 16:13-14
Another is when Mary is told by the Angel Gabriel, that she will bear God’s Son:
“The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.” Luke 1:35
When Peter gave his famous sermon in chapter 4 of Acts, he was “filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 4:8).  In 2 Peter, chapter 1 we are told that all the prophets were “carried along by the Holy Spirit.”  Of course, Jesus Himself was filled by the Holy Spirit at His baptism. (Luke 3:22), when he begins His public ministry.
Maybe you, too, have felt this filling of the Spirit when you were called to take on a task or project that seemed beyond your abilities.  The Spirit is always with us.  He will guide us, enlighten us and empower us to do the things God calls us to do.

 

 

Wind, Wind Blow on Me

When I think about the Holy Spirit, my mind first goes to the description of Pentecost in the book of Acts.

“And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting.  And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them.  And they were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.”  Acts 2:2-4
On Lutheran Via de Cristo weekends, we often sing the song below which brings the same event to life.  Have you ever felt this wind?

 

 

For more songs used on Via de Cristo weekends see these posts:

The Lights of the City

Lord I Lift Your Name on High

Here I Am Lord

 

Protecting the Pastor’s Time -Fanning the Flame CD

Once again our Fanning the Flame team gathered to listen to a CD.  This time the topic was “protecting the Pastor’s time.”  It started out with a reading from Acts, Chapter 6.  There is a controversy about the daily division of food, and the twelve disciples gathered together and decided:

“It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables.  Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom.  We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.”  Acts 6:2-4

Notice it is not a question of the disciples being “too good” to perform such a menial task.  The men selected were also well respected, wise and spiritual.  It is a matter or prioritizing duties.  The disciples were called to a particular ministry, and they needed to focus on that responsibility.

Strangely (or not so strangely) enough, we were also recently reading this passage in Sunday School, as part of our study of spiritual gifts.  Certain gifts such as apostleship, teaching, shepherding and evangelism (probably most pastors have one or more of these) build up the body of Christ — they help it to grow, spiritually and numerically.  If the Pastor is distracted by too many “emergencies” and cannot concentrate on these gifts, the body will suffer.  According to the speaker, a good preacher will spend up to 22 hours per week in prayer, study and sermon preparation.  Is this really important?  Well, studies have shown that one of the biggest factors in whether visitors chose to join a particular church is the quality of the sermons and the preparedness of the preacher.  So, yes, it is.  Also, this speaker contends that a pastor’s counseling load will go down if his preaching is earnest and compelling enough to make a difference in the way his congregants lead their lives.

I actually think our congregation is quite respectful of my husband’s time.  However, as part of our Fanning the Flame process, he is trying to pull back from certain responsibilities that really aren’t his — for example, attending Church Council meetings.  He now goes to begin the meeting with some devotions and then leaves the council members to their work.  There is really no reason for him to be involved in getting the plumbing fixed, or scheduling the church picnic.

This CD urged pastors and church leaders to agree upon a list of 3-5 priorities for the pastor.  The list would probably include:

  1. Prayer and study
  2. Teaching and preaching the Word
  3. Leadership development

The CD also stressed the need for a commonly understood plan for all members to pray regularly for their pastor and church leaders.  This could even include signing a pledge or covenant and setting a particular time of the day.

The bottom line?  Your Pastor and every pastor needs to continue to grow in his relationship with the Lord.  His preaching should flow out of his devotional life.

Good Leaders Accept Help

“O, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and tongue….please send someone else.”  Exodus 4:10 & 13

Moses, probably the greatest leader in the Old Testament recognized his limitations.  He admitted that he was not good at everything.  He asked God to remove the burden of leadership from him.  Instead, God directs him to a helper, someone with the gift he lacks.

“Is there not Aaron, your brother, the Levite?  I know that he can speak well. … He shall speak for you to the people, and he shall be your mouth …” Exodus 4:14-15

Later on, Moses encounters a different problem — time management.  As leader, he is dealing with so many small problems, he can’t get to the bigger ones.  This time, it is his father-in-law, Jethro who gives the advice to delegate.

“Look for able men from all he people, men who fear God, who are trustworthy and hate a bribe;  and place such men over the people as chiefs of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens.  And let them judge the people at all times.  Every great matter they shall decide themselves.  So it will be easier for you, and they will bear the burden with you.”  Exodus 18:21-22

Likewise, in the book of Acts, the twelve apostles found they could not meet all the needs of the growing church.  Some widows were being neglected in the daily distribution of food.

“Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and the ministry of the word.”

We can’t expect our leaders to go it alone.  Good leaders recognize the spiritual gifts of others and they learn to delegate and train.  Maybe the greatest talent of good leaders is to recognize and cultivate the skills of the people around them.

I can see this in my own life.  Leadership is not my strongest spiritual gift, but I have found myself in situations when I am called to lead.  When this happens I know that I need someone with the gift of administration as a strong #2 — I see the goal, but not always the steps that need to be taken to get there.  I also need people with the gift of service — the ones who can just see a task that needs doing, and jump it to take care of it.  For me, leadership is all about assembling the right team–a group who can work together and accomplish great things.

What about you?  What can you do well, and what do you need to delegate?  I’ll be writing more about this in an upcoming post on spiritual gifts.

 

The Laity — Christians in Action

“We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve, if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage then give encouragement; if it is giving then give generously; if it is to lead do it diligently; if it is to show mercy do it cheerfully.” Romans 12:6-8

The book of Acts in the Bible is actually a type of genre that was popular in its time.  Such works chronicled the acts of a heroic figure or an important city.  Some commentators divide this book into the acts of Peter and Paul, but read through it and you will meet a host of gifted early Christians.  These were some of the original laity, and they ought to give us an idea of the many things lay people can accomplish.

  • Lydia used her gift of hospitality to invited others into her home to hear the gospel. (Acts 16:15)
  • Philip had the gift of evangelism.  He witnessed one-on-one to an Ethiopian. (Acts 8:35)
  • Barnabas was called “son of encouragement.” He encouraged Paul, Mark and others.(Acts 4:36)
  • Stephen was known for his wisdom.(Acts 6:10)
  • Cornelius was generous and faithful.(Acts 10:1-2)
  • Tabitha served others. (Acts 9:36)
  • The Bereans studied the Bible earnestly to gain knowledge. (17:10-11)
  • Apollos, Priscilla and Aquila were all gifted teachers (Acts 18:24-26)

Peter and Paul deserve our respect and admiration, but they could not have spread the gospel alone.  The church needs pastors and missionaries, but it also needs the laity.  We have been given gifts to support, encourage and maintain the church.  We also have the ability to reach and serve people in our family, community and work environments, who may never meet the pastor.  Study the book of Acts and see where your special gift fits in — the church needs you!

Turn Around

“…I preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds …” Acts 26:20b

Did you know that the word repentance, as used in the Bible, actually means to “turn your guts (or insides) around”?  Repentance doesn’t just mean saying “sorry” or even feeling sorry.  It means going forward in a different direction — doing an about face.  Many times, maybe most of the time, we really don’t want to do this.  Sometimes we think we can’t  do this, because the sin is so deeply ingrained.  Saying sorry often means we’re sorry we got caught.  We’re sorry our bad behavior was noticed.  We want to look good instead of being good.

In the verse, the apostle Paul is explaining to King Agrippa exactly why the Jews want him to be prosecuted and put to death.  He had the audacity to demand that they change their ways!  He expected them to walk the walk, not just talk the talk, and it made them furious!

True repentance is a willingness to turn away from our sin (whatever that happens to be) and start walking in a different direction, walking towards God’s way instead of our way.  It’s difficult, and sometimes we’ll stumble or even fall.  When that happens we need to get up, get going, and stay focused on the goal.

“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”  Hebrews 12:2

Are you willing to turn around?

 

Book Learning #2

In my last post, I promised to share some of what I have been reading lately.  I read widely and eclectically.  I read because I’m curious, and I like to know how and what others think.  I don’t always agree with everything I read, and so I don’t want our readers to necessarily take this post as a recommendation or endorsement of every book I mention.

First of all, in our weekly Bible study, we’re doing Acts this year.  I can certainly recommend this book!  Acts is exciting reading.  It includes miraculous events, travel, interesting people, sermons and even a ship wreck!  Written by Luke (the gospel author), it can be seen as a bridge between the gospels and the epistles and also between the work Jesus did on earth, and the work He continued to do through the Church.

In our Sunday School class, the material we are using comes from Concordia Publishing House (good if you are looking for solid Lutheran teaching, I recommend you look at their website).  This quarter we are studying kings and prophets.  Our first lesson deals with Solomon, David’s son, and his prayer for wisdom.

I’m also reading two books from our library and both are fairly new.  The first is My Utmost:  A Devotional Memoir by Macy Halford.  I chose it because I’m fond of what I call spiritual autobiographies.  I enjoy hearing about the spiritual journeys of others.  Ms. Halford was raised as a Southern Baptist;  when she was twelve, her grandmother gave her a copy of My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers.  She has read this daily devotional through every year since.  Wow!  That was the greatest take away for me — I never thought of using the same devotional over and over.  I tend to use one for a year and then it remains on my bookshelf forever, seldom touched.  This is an idea I may try.  I admit I have never used My Utmost for His Highest, but I know our author, Leslie has, so maybe she’ll chime in to tell us more about it.  (hint, hint).  I learned a lot about Oswald, who was definitely not a Lutheran.  According to Ms. Halford:

“Attempts at pinning Oswald down generally failed:  ‘He was a sort of proto-Pentecostal mystic, and Wesleyan in his theology,’ wrote an anonymous commenter on Puritanboard.com.’ That was as close to correct as one was likely to get, but it still wasn’t entirely correct.”

He definitely tends toward the Holiness traditions (Methodist and Wesleyan) and my husband and I had a lively discussion about the difference between how the Lutheran view of sanctification differs from the Holiness churches– they believe in the possibility of entire or complete sanctification” — Lutherans, I guess, believe sanctification is always incomplete, on this side of heaven.  (Maybe my friend, Nancy, who is Methodist would like to comment on this).  At any rate, according to the book, someone can read the My Utmost devotional without even noticing Oswald’s views on this.  (If you enjoy theological debates, the book also covered different views on the end times — post and pre millennial, the rapture, etc.).  The author says My Utmost has been called “the little black dress of books”  perfect for every occasion.  I liked that.

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My Utmost: A Devotional Memoir                          An Oasis in Time: How a Day of Rest Can Save Your Life by [Marilyn Paul]

The second book I am reading is written by a Jewish woman named Marilyn Paul and it’s called, An Oasis in Time:  How a Day of Rest Can Save Your Life.  I haven’t gotten too far into it — just reading a chapter a day– but it is about the importance of taking a Sabbath day of rest, and she talks about Christian and Muslin traditions, as well as her own.  I found it interesting to realize how much our life revolves around a weekly routine –on Monday, we plan the things we want to accomplish, and by Friday we’re assessing how we’ve done and winding down.  Rest is an important part of the routine (built into us since creation, when God “rested” on the last day).  Without rest, we lose that routine and become more and more burned out and stressed.  There are suggestions at the end of the chapter and exercises to help learn how to celebrate a day of rest.

Well, that’s it for me and what I have read, studied and learned about this week.  I’d like to hear from other writers and readers:  what are you reading?  What do you like/not like?  What has been edifying?  I want to hear your suggestions, too.

 

 

Achieving Unity

” And all who believed came together and had all things in common;  and they sold their possessions and goods and distributed them to all, as any had need. And day by day attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they partook of food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people.  And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.”

I’ve already mentioned that unity doesn’t happen in a day;  it’s a process.  The early Christians worshipped, ate and praised God together.  They shared one another’s lives.  They cared about each other. They were willing to make sacrifices for the congregation.  This made their fellowship so attractive to others that they wanted to be a part of it.

You may join a congregation by coming to church on Sunday and/or standing up front and professing your desire to be a member.  However, true unity comes from day-to-day working and serving together, having fun together, sharing stories and lives.  It comes from seeing children grow up and older people die.  It comes from being willing to contribute your time, talent and yes, even money to support and nurture the group.  It means sticking in there to resolve problems and disagreements, instead of walking away.

Of course, these days it’s rare to belong to the same church for your whole life.  There are times when we must change because we move.  There may be times when we are called to leave our congregation to serve elsewhere.  Maybe there are even times when our doctrinal positions become so far apart that leaving is the only option.  When this happens, though, I believe we should join into our new church home with vigor and commitment.  We can’t achieve unity without doing our part.

“…and let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”  Hebrews 10:24-25

I would like to hear from our readers and other authors.  Do you feel unity with your congregation?  What had led to that unity for you?

 

Evangelistic Acts

“..the word of God continued to increase and spread.”  Acts 12:24

If you’re looking for a primer on evangelism, turn to the book of Acts.  If there is one overarching theme of Acts, it is the verse above –the spread of Christianity.  Acts is also a book about people, individuals, who through their words and deeds made an impact for Christ.  I’m going to list a few of them here.

  • Philip:  one of the first to preach the gospel outside of Jerusalem (Acts 8:4-40)
  • Peter:  led by God to Cornelius, one of the first Gentiles to become a Christian(Acts 9:32-10:48)
  • Barnabas:  went to Antioch as an encourager; traveled on to Troas (Acts 11:25-30)
  • Apollos:  left Alexandria for Ephesus, preached in Athens and Corinth(Acts 18:24-28)
  • Priscilla & Aquila:  taught the complete gospel story to Apollos (same reference as above)
  • Paul:  went on missionary journeys along with Barnabas and John Mark (Acts 13: 1-14); Silas, Timothy and Luke (Acts 15:36-18:22); Erastus (Acts 18:23 and 19:1-21:4)

In all, Acts mentions over one hundred people who contributed to the growth of the church.  It’s inspiring and exciting reading!