The Power of the Holy Spirit

I came across this quote in my devotional reading, and it reminded me of the great power of the Holy Spirit.

“Why do we grow so little in grace?  It is because we do not use our intellect to meditate upon the forces of the unseen world amidst which we live, or our will to draw upon them.  We know that we are weak, and sin and Satan are strong, and we know the truth.  But there is a third power stronger than either our weakness or the forces of evil, which we commonly forget, and which will never disclose itself except in our using of it.  We must stir up the gift within us.  Within us we have the Spirit of power, the Spirit of Jesus, the life of Jesus. It remains to us to appeal to it;  in constant acts of faith to draw upon it and to use it.  Thus it will become to each of us as much a truth of experience as it was to St. Paul, and no vague language of metaphor, that ‘it is no longer merely I that live, but Christ that liveth in me.'”

Charles Gore

Paul was indeed aware of the power of the Holy Spirit in His life. He acknowledges His own lack of ability and dependence upon the Spirit in Ephesians when he says:

And so it was with me, brothers and sisters. When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God.For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.”  Ephesians 2:1-5

By all accounts Paul was a short, bald man with poor eyesight.  He insists here and in other places that he is not a polished speaker.  His own sin caused him to persecute the Christians.  Only the power of the Holy Spirit could make him into the apostle he became.  You and I have that same power within us.  A power to do good, and speak God’s truth.  Are we using it?


Only Victory

A friend recently told me about a woman she knows who has cancer.  This lady is undergoing treatment, but said something to this effect:  “if I live, I win because I get to stay with my family and loved ones;  however, if I die, I also win because I will be with Jesus.”  This reminds me of something the apostle Paul said in the book of Philippians:

“For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”  Philippians 4:12

He didn’t desire death because if he lived, he could continue to produce fruit for the Lord;  but death and being with the Lord would be even better.

Maybe that’s why I’m not afraid of this virus.  At my age, I have accomplished the life tasks most of us expect to complete.  I’ve had a long marriage, raised two daughters, worked at a career I feel proud of ( because my work helped others} and have even seen my grandchildren be born. I’ve been a daughter, wife, mother, sibling, aunt, friend, employee and Christian (not necessarily in that order).  Have I done these things perfectly?  Certainly not.  I’ve made mistakes, but they’ve been repented and forgiven.  I’ve had opportunities to learn and travel, to read and write.  I’ve never been in serious want.  I’ve suffered physically and mentally, and I’m now beginning to experience the limitations that age brings.  Still, all of that is only what is common to all humans.  My gratitude for my life is great and my regrets are small.  If I did die tomorrow (or today) I would be content.  I could say (again quoting Paul):

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”  1 Timothy 4:7


You see, as Christians, whatever happens, we have only victory ahead of us.

Changed Men (and women)

Peter changed from a man who denied Christ three times to a man who “cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:20)

Paul changed from the most avid persecutor of Christians to the most famous Christian missionary.

Matthew changed from a tax collector to one of the twelve disciples of Christ.

Thomas changed from someone who doubted the resurrection to someone who worshipped Jesus as “my Lord and my God!” (John 20:28)

Mary Magdalene changed from a woman troubled by demons to the first witness of the risen Christ.

There is ample evidence in the New Testament that an encounter with Christ changes lives.  How has Christ changed you?  Bloggers and readers, please respond.  I’m waiting to hear your stories.


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!

Be Kind to One Another

“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”  Ephesians 4:32

Kindness is defined as having a generous, sympathetic, considerate or warm nature.  I think sympathetic is the key word.  When we have sympathy for others we think more about them and less about ourselves.  We try to understand their circumstances;  we ‘walk in their shoes’.

Kindness also seems to be connected to forgiveness, in the verse above and others such as this one:

“Put on then, God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another, and if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must forgive.  And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.”  Colossians 3:12-14

When we show kindness, we are extending to others the grace God already extended to us. In the book of Titus, the apostle Paul says:

“Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle and show perfect courtesy toward all people.  For we ourselves were once foolish,disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.  But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us, but according to his own mercy by the washing and regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit …”  Titus 3″1-5

Everybody wants kindness.  None of us deserve it.  Be kind and forgiving to others, as God has been kind to you.



Let’s Make a Deal!

“When you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness, But then what return did you get from the things of which you are now ashamed?  The end of those things is death.  But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the return you get is sanctification and its end, eternal life.  For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord.”  Romans 6:20-23

I suspect a lot of people have trouble seeing Christians as free.  They world (and the devil) tell them we are people who are governed by old fashioned rules and ideas;  people who give up their time and money in an effort to appease an angry, unreasonable God who probably doesn’t even exist.  Honestly, Christianity to many is a strange delusion, possibly even a mental illness.  What could be the advantage of being a Christian?

In the verses above from Romans, the apostle Paul outlines how wrong this thinking is and  exactly what a deal Christians have.  Sin doesn’t make anyone happy.  Eventually things like dishonesty, envy, greed, immorality catch up with us.  We’re left with broken relationships, shattered reputations, increasing dissatisfaction, shame and yes, as Paul says, even death.  The Christian deal sets us free from ALL of that.

Who wouldn’t want the free gift of God which brings peace and eternal life?  Who wouldn’t trade conflict for brotherhood, jealousy for contentment, acceptance for condemnation, death for life? Tell someone today about the deal Jesus is offering them.


The Prayer of Confession

“Create in me a clean heart, O God” Psalm 51:10

Some people enjoy cleaning, but I am not one of them. Although I like the way my home looks after a thorough cleaning, doing the work that goes into keeping it that way is a different story. Often I rush through my house doing a quick “lick and promise” neatening.  This makes things look better superficially, but true cleaning is hard work, when done properly.  It involves moving furniture to see what’s accumulated underneath, climbing on stepladders to reach cobwebs and getting down on my hands and knees to examine and scrub all the corners and crevices.  The worst part is, no matter how often or how strenuously I clean, dust and dirt soon creep back.  Within a week, it’s time to start over.  Keeping my house clean is an ongoing task that requires continuous attention.

 Cleaning up my soul, or confession, is no different. Each week I confess my failings during worship services. Sometimes, however, I do this without real reflection or repentance.  Once I start looking, I see sins I had completely forgotten or never noticed before. I see the bad things I do over and over again no matter how hard I try to change. Sometimes a sin is so ingrained I despair of ever entirely removing the stain it has left on my life. Others are buried so deeply I have trouble bringing myself to admit to them. I sigh at the stacks of “stuff” I have been carrying around, things I must sort through and examine closely in order to eliminate the garbage.  Such stuff includes a critical attitude, lack of trust, selfish desires or plain old laziness (just as a start!)  It’s a painful and unpleasant process, one that requires discipline and humility.  Worse yet, my confession is never complete because I can’t stop sinning!  Like Paul, in the book of Romans, I mourn, “…I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep doing.”

 Thankfully, when it comes to my sinful nature, I do not need to rely on my own efforts.  The psalmist cries out to God, “create in me a clean heart” because he realizes his  helplessness. I am helpless, too. I can never clean up enough to make myself right in the eyes of God.  A clean heart is His handiwork, accomplished by the sacrifice of Christ and revealed to us through the Holy Spirit. The absolution I hear after confession each week does not just mean I am forgiven for the wrongs I remember and committed recently, it is an announcement that ALL my sins, past and present, known and unknown, have already been erased by the suffering and death of Jesus.

 “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?  Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” Romans 7:24-25.

This was originally published in The Lutheran Ambassador, the monthly magazine of the Association of Free Lutheran Church.