The Holy Spirit — God’s Gift at Pentecost

Holy Spirit in You

Leading up to Pentecost, many people fast and pray, seeking a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Why such earnest hunger for God’s gift? May I present one possible answer? We are a broken people. We leak and run dry. (Or at least, I do.) People of all ages and creeds desire a refreshing experience of God both within and upon them, bringing wisdom, revelation, and power.

In the desiring comes a waiting — a waiting in His Presence for more of His Presence.

Something significant occurs while waiting, both for the disciples and for us. These men and women pressed through three years of personal sacrifice and transition, public expectation and humiliation, and finally Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection. Jesus knew they needed rest in their waiting. By comparison, the past days and years paled to what loomed ahead.

“On one occasion, while (Jesus) was eating with them, he gave them this command: ‘Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about.”
Acts 1:4

Prayer

The Gift

I love giving gifts! Often the smallest gift brings the greatest joy. Someone else goes through the effort and pays the price for gifts given. Someone else considers carefully the most appropriate gift.

As much as I appreciate gifts, I often find it difficult to receive gifts well. Perhaps these strong-minded disciples shared my handicap. There in the upper room, they gathered in preparation to receive. Others assembled with them.

“They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.”
Acts 1:14

Years ago, I painted a landscape picture for someone I deeply cared for. It was my first attempt at oil painting, created with love. Initially, the recipient gladly welcomed my gift, but later returned it. They found something newer and better, which probably wasn’t difficult. My gift, now shunned and rejected, stayed hidden in a closet.

Give gift

Have you given something, perhaps a piece of yourself, only to have it rejected? At some time, we all share the experience. When Jesus offered the gift of the Holy Spirit to these men and women, He ultimately offered the gift of Himself. No gift compares to the valuable treasure of the Holy Spirit. Yet like my painting, it too often becomes pushed aside, shunned and rejected.

In order to receive the Holy Spirit well, we must understand what makes this Gift the best, most appropriate, and needed gift.

A Powerful Gift

For over three years, Jesus cared for and supplied everything His followers needed. But now they struggled to adapt without Him. Jesus knew they needed something, or rather Someone, more.

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
Acts 1:8

For the duration of time they were with Jesus, they operated under His mantle of authority and power. God performed amazing miracles through them. They travelled into the surrounding towns and villages sharing the good news, casting out demons, and healing all kinds of diseases.

That was yesterday! Today called for a difference only the Holy Spirit could make. The most beneficial gifts match the season we live in.

Too easily, the disciples might have dashed into the world ill prepared for the new season ahead. Too easily, self-effort and self-sufficiency may have dominated their strategies. Old season thinking needed to give way to new season momentum.

Living gift

The gift of the Holy Spirit comes with power — power to share Jesus at home and abroad and power for a few men and women to face a world against impossible odds. Sometimes people move out in ministry before the Gift. Then later, they joyfully experience what a difference the Gift of the Holy Spirit makes in missionary endeavors.

A Needed Gift

Paul traveled to Ephesus. His first recorded question reveals much about his priorities in ministry.

“. . . There he found some disciples and asked them, ‘Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?'”
Acts 19:1,2

When Paul learned they hadn’t even heard about the Holy Spirit, he immediately baptized them and prayed. “The Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied” (Acts 19:5,6). With that, the needed gift of the Holy Spirit arrived in Ephesus. Yet years later, Paul continued to pray for this mature, thriving church to experience the Holy Spirit in ever-increasing ways. Why?

“I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.”
Ephesians 1:17

The Holy Spirit enables us to know God better — to know Him more deeply, intimately, and fully. To begin to comprehend the vastness of “the glorious Father” requires Holy Spirit’s help, “wisdom, and revelation.”

May the hunger and desire to “know Him better” be the propelling force, preparing us to receive the Gift available to all who will receive.

The Gift that Gives

Paul’s second prayer for the Ephesian church reveals another reason.

“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge — that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”
Ephesians 3:16-19

Love gift

Paul packs punch into his prayer, asking the Holy Spirit to root and establish his listeners in God’s love. He desires the Holy Spirit to help them “grasp how wide and long and high and deep” the love of Christ is. Who can deny that God’s overwhelming love “surpasses” human knowledge and yet the Gift provides the way? Paul longed for the second generation of Christians to be “filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” It’s a longing straight from the Father’s heart.

The Holy Spirit doesn’t stop there. In the rooting, establishing, and grasping of God’s love, the Holy Spirit gives the ability to offer the same love to others. Isn’t this the greatest expression and evidence of the Holy Spirit’s Presence among us? The remainder of Paul’s letter speaks of loving and living through the Gift of the Spirit.

When I first encountered Jesus Christ, my prayer was, “Lord, teach me to love.” Over four decades later, my heart’s cry remains. To love as the Father loves is beyond personal ability. Only the Holy Spirit enables and empowers such love — even in the smallest form.

The Holy Spirit in You

I apologize as I struggle for words to articulate in a few paragraphs the expanse of the Holy Spirit within us. The Gift turned red-necked fishermen into fishers of men and transformed the uneducated into teachers of the learned. Their lives, and the lives of multitudes since, speak louder than letters and words formed into sentences.

Peter spoke far better than I,

“Fellow Israelites, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him as you yourselves know.”
Acts 2:22

Receive

Peter saw and knew Jesus as a man sent by God. We might easily forget He came to earth fully human. Yet this one Man, Jesus, through the Spirit, performed miracles, wonders, and signs. Let Peter’s words sink in. “Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs.”

Any limitations rest not in our humanity. We are no more or less human than Jesus was. Limitations originate in our responsiveness (or lack thereof) to the Holy Spirit. That’s good news! What God gave to the disciples on the first Pentecost, He fully and freely offers to us. His Presence overcomes any and all human weakness, bringing hope for everyone.

We don’t need to wait for a certain day of the year like Pentecost Sunday to receive this gift. Every day, the Father extends His Gift to us. May faith reach to ask and trust welcome to receive the Holy Spirit in you.

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From Stuck to Unstuck! A Change of Position

I can’t count how many times I’ve gone from stuck to unstuck—overcoming seasons of immoveability from places, positions or ways of thinking. Can you relate?

Yesterday, while ice fishing, someone’s vehicle became stuck on the ice. Though his new four-wheel-drive truck contained the capacity to move, his inexperience driving in icy conditions held him at a halt.

A little pull from another vehicle was all it took to get him mobile again. First, however, he had to do a few things: admit he needed help, agree to receive help, and co-operate with the help given. Does this sound familiar?

Admit

For me, the first step is the hardest—admitting that I’m stuck. I’m stubborn! Born that way, I think! The last thing I want to acknowledge to myself, or anyone else, is I’m in a bind. The quagmire labeled “STUBBORN” overflows with bull-headed stuck ones like me.

Stuck on Lake Ice Fishing

“So with the wisdom given to me from the Lord I say: You should not live like the unbelievers around you who walk in their empty delusions. Their corrupted logic has been clouded because their hearts are so far from God—their blinded understanding and deep-seated moral darkness keeps them from the true knowledge of God. Because of spiritual apathy, they surrender their lives to lewdness, impurity, and sexual obsession.”
Ephesians 4:17-19

I don’t mind reading Paul’s lists if I can’t find myself within the lines. It bites when I do!

When you read through the Bible, you find us: stuck in sin, stuck in the past, stuck in fear, stuck in shame, stuck in bitterness. Perpetually stuck ones blame others for their stuck-ness. It exemplifies the things we struggle to admit about ourselves—empty delusions, corrupted logic, hearts far from God, blinded understanding and deep-seated moral darkness.

No wonder I don’t want to admit how stuck I am—spiritually, relationally, or morally. I honestly desire to move from stuck to unstuck. But, I need help. I often feel like the man on the ice, knowing that God has already equipped me with everything I need, but somehow unable to move. I too must develop the expertise, strength and wisdom to apply God’s provision.

Stuck Snow Storm

Agree

Paul sought to use his own traction to inspire others into faith mobility. Throughout the Book of Ephesians, he pulls his readers to the solid ground of their identity in Christ.

” . . . To God’s holy people in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus. Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Ephesians 1:1-2

Often, just being reminded who we are in Christ is enough to pull us up and out. Other times, considering how God supernaturally grafted us into an incredible global body of believers inspires us to step into united momentum.

With God, yesterday never dictates tomorrow.

“You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires, to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”
Ephesians 4:22-24

Stuck in Snow

Assuming a new attitude enables us to receive the help God sends. Honestly, my mind contains more slippery patches of faulty logic and selfish motivations than the lake we were fishing on.

Consistent daily disciplines help me become spiritually mobile again. Simple practices like worship, prayer, Bible reading and meditation. Each one helps move me out of stuck to unstuck, gradually bringing me into agreement with God’s ways, thoughts and purposes.

Co-operate

Many years ago, our old yellow Chev station wagon, packed to the roof with children and groceries, stopped several miles from home. No amount of coaxing persuaded the worn out engine to turn one more time. After a frantic call home, help arrived. (To ensure a speedy rescue, I probably added, “Your ice cream is melting!”)

Rather than a gentle pull, my help gave me a firm push—a push over the side of a steep hill, a push through the valley, and a push up an even steeper grade on the far side. With each jolt, my muscles tensed and finger whitened as I gripped the steering wheel. Although I absolutely needed the push, it felt dangerously uncomfortable.

Helpful push

I’m reminded of other situations, when I’ve needed even more intensely uncomfortable “pushes” out of apathy or self-protection.

Paul pushed too!

“Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully . . . Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry and do not give the devil a foothold . . . steal no longer . . . work . . . do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths . . . do not grieve the Holy Spirit . . . get rid of bitterness, rage and anger . . . ”
Ephesians 4:25-31

Paul pushes some serious touch points, refusing to soften his words. Unconcerned whether his listeners become uncomfortable or offended, Paul speaks bluntly, saying what he needs to say, because he loves!

Love risks everything to move us from stuck to unstuck. I’m thankful for those who love enough to speak truth to me.

Reposition

Breaking out of old patterns represents an accomplishment worth celebrating. Paul points to positional change, requiring continued movement in an intentional direction.

Driving in Snow

“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Follow God’s example and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”
Ephesians 4:32-5:2

I desire instant change—microwave moments. God prefers to work through process—slow, crock-pot-style process—moving us from stuck to unstuck.

Paul exhorts, “Get up everyone and walk! Take a step; then another. Put one foot ahead of the next and move, creating a momentum of change.”

No Parking!

On New Year’s Day, I crawled out from under my warm blankets early to walk into the new day, and year, with a friend. Poplar bluffs shielded us from -20C windchills, while relaxed conversation warmed our steps. We admitted areas of stuck-ness, pulled each other up to our position in Christ and sometimes even pushed each other toward godliness. We’ve given each other permission to speak boldly, honestly, even bluntly, into our lives. Though not always comfortable, we know it’s necessary for God’s purposes to be worked through us.

We desire to

” . . . Live as children of light (for the fruit of light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord.”
Ephesians 5:8-9

Winter Walking Trails

At one point along our walk, we stopped, breathed deeply and turned to enjoy the quietness of our surroundings. At that precise moment, the sun rose, bringing in a new day. Although God allows brief moments of refreshing and renewing, He posts “No Parking” signs along our path of progress. He walks beside us, pulling us forward, pushing us higher, extending His strong arm of help whenever we need it.

I pray we all begin this year by celebrating the steps we’ve already taken, trusting God with those still ahead, and then picking up the pace and moving on toward goodness, righteousness, truth, and all that pleases God.

With God, we can do it, moving from stuck to unstuck.

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