Category Archives: Holy Spirit

Anointed! God’s hand on your life

Pentecost Icon. The King figure at the bottom represents the world waiting in darkness for the apostles to bring the power of the Spirit they have received to all the nations of the world.
Pentecost Icon. The King figure at the bottom represents the world waiting in darkness for the apostles to bring the power of the Spirit they have received to all the nations of the world.

Last Sunday, in our series on the ministry of the Holy Spirit called Fresh Air, we examined the meaning and experience of the Spirit’s anointing. It was a deeply moving time for us as a congregation.

Listen to the sermon here.

God used the touch of simple olive oil as a sign and reminder that His hand is on our lives to give new life, to empower us for service, to heal (more than cure), and to transform us into the character likeness of Christ!

As a reminder for those attending and as a visual aid for those who listen to the sermon, here is what we put up on the screen as men and women, boys and girls came to be marked on the forehead with oil. Many named what it was that God was speaking to them about – “patience,” “discernment,” “healing,” “I’m available for how God wants to use me,” etc.


“Receive this oil – as a sign of the Holy Spirit’s anointing…”

LORD, I believe. Thank You for renewing my life…

Empower me as you send me out to serve You…

Heal me – as You know all my needs…

Your hand is on my life; use me as you will…

Produce in me Christ’s love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control…


 

You anoint my head with oil. My cup overflows!  (Psalm 23)

It is God himself who makes us, together with you, sure of our life in union with Christ; it is God himself who has set us apart (anointed us), who has placed his mark of ownership upon us, and who has given us the Holy Spirit in our hearts as the guarantee of all that he has in store for us.  (2 Corinthians 1:21-22, GNT)

 

 

The Helper has arrived!

HelpOur series on the Holy Spirit, Fresh Air, is exploring different images the Scriptures use to describe the third Person of the Trinity. In John’s Gospel, chapters 13-16 (the Upper Room Discourse) Jesus, on four occasions, announces the coming of the Paraclete. This word literally means, “One called alongside to help.” (connect to the sermon here.)

The sermon details the central truth that the Holy Spirit is a PERSON – the one who continues Jesus’s presence and ministry through his disciples. The Spirit is the Advocate, Counselor, Comforter, Helper! I suggest two ways we can live the Good News that the promised Helper has arrived!

Allow the Spirit to be the Helper in every arena of your life today: your prayers; your family; your personal struggles; your work; your ministry. This is what it means to be “filled with the Holy Spirit!” (Ephesians 5:15-21) and to “keep in step with the Spirit!” (Galatians 5:16-25).

Note: the book I referenced in this sermon is Jesus Continued: Why the Spirit inside you is better than Jesus beside you! by J.D. Greear.

Breathe!

freshairThe person of the Holy Spirit has been called the “neglected” member of the Trinity! (God doesn’t suffer from neglect – we suffer from neglecting!)

The Spirit is described in many wonderful and vivid images, using all the senses – things we know best by experience rather than explanation: *the force of wind, *the intimacy of breathing; *the instincts of a Dove; *the energy of Fire; *the Comfort of a friend close by; *the fragrant healing balm of Oil; *the power of a river; *the ‘good intoxication’ of being filled and moved, continually being under the Lord’s influence! (Ephesians 5:18)

Fresh Air is the title for our current sermon series at Christ Church. (The title is borrowed from a book I’d recommend by Jack Levison.) 

The first sermon, Breathe! picks up on the image of the Spirit as breath and air, embedded in the very definition of spirit. (Pneuma in Greek; Ruach in Hebrew) Learn what this beautifyl image of breathing has to teach us about the “Holy and Life-giving Spirit.” 

On hearing the sermon theme, someone in our community reminded me of a book chapter titledBreaththat I adapted for the spoken word. I’ll share it here. Listen for the biblical allusions.

“The Spirit is like breath, as close as the lungs, the chest, the lips, the fogged canvas where little fingers draw hearts, the tide (in our lungs) that rises and falls twenty-three thousand times a day in a rhythm so intimate we forget to notice until(we’re out of breath or until a Friend or Guide) says “pay attention to your breath!” and its fragile power awes us again. Inhale. Exhale. Expand. Release.

In the beginning, God breathed. And the dust breathed back enough oxygen, water, and CO2 to make an atmosphere; to make a man. Job knew life – as “the breath of God in my nostrils,” given and taken away. With breath, the Creator kindled the stars, parted a sea, woke a valley of dry bones, inspired a sacred text.

So, too, the Spirit — inhaled and exhaled in a million (everyday) ways, animates, revives, nourishes, sustains, speaks! The Spirit is as near as the nose and as everywhere as the air, so pay attention! 

… And  BREATHE!

(adapted from Searching for Sunday by Rachel Held Evans, chapter 23. Read the original excerpt here.)


Here’s the rest of the sermon themes for the Fresh Air series

May 17 – A Community of Oneness
May 24 – The Helper has Arrived!
May 31 – Anointed to Flourish
June 7 – The Gift Giver
June 14 – Temples 

There’s a lot more going on here!

theophany icon1Jesus’ Baptism – and ours – reminds us that we enter into the very life of the Trinity! We join with God in His Mission to the world! Our teaching series on Ordinary People ~ Radical Kingdom dwells on the beginning of Christ’s public ministry including the CALLING of the disciples as well as OUR calling to follow Him.

The account of Jesus’ baptism by John is recorded in all four Gospels and is loaded with foundational truth about God and how near he is.  You can access the sermon here.

Malcom Guite has written a sonnet describing the beautiful authority and subversion of His Kingdom Reign.

The Baptism of Christ

Beginning here we glimpse the Three-in-one;
The river runs, the clouds are torn apart,
The Father speaks, the Sprit and the Son
Reveal to us the single loving heart
That beats behind the being of all things
And calls and keeps and kindles us to light.
The dove descends, the spirit soars and sings
‘You are belovèd, you are my delight!’

In that quick light and life, as water spills
And streams around the Man like quickening rain,
The voice that made the universe reveals
The God in Man who makes it new again.
He calls us too, to step into that river
To die and rise and live and love forever.

Malcolm Guite, from Sounding the Seasons

Remember your baptism!
You are beloved!
You are called!

 

Prayer: What Difference Does It Make?

prayer_screenOur summer series at Christ Church asks some hard and honest questions about Prayer and our practice of it. Today we explored the relationship of God’s Spirit and continual prayer. God invites us into a love relationship that is intended to push back the lesser and competing loves that cry for our allegiance. [Sunday’s sermon audio is here.]

Some suggested resources on growing in prayer:

Philip Yancey, Prayer: Does it Make Any Difference.

Richard Foster, Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home.

Jerry Sittser (author of A Grace Disguised), When God Doesn’t Answer Your Prayer.

Frederica Mathewes-Green,  The Jesus Prayer: The Ancient Desert Prayer that Tunes the Heart to God.

We prepared for Holy Communion this morning with a poem from George Herbert: Love III

Love bade me welcome. Yet my soul drew back
Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-eyed Love, observing me grow slack
From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning,
If I lacked any thing.

A guest, I answered, worthy to be here:
Love said, You shall be he.
I the unkind, ungrateful? Ah my dear,
I cannot look on thee.
Love took my hand, and smiling did reply,
Who made the eyes but I?

Truth Lord, but I have marred them: let my shame
Go where it doth deserve.
And know you not, says Love, who bore the blame?
My dear, then I will serve.
You must sit down, says Love, and taste my meat:
So I did sit and eat.

 

 

Living ‘Under the Influence’

Pentecost Icon. The King figure at the bottom represents the world waiting in darkness for the apostles to bring the power of the Spirit they have received to all the nations of the world.
Pentecost Icon. The King figure at the bottom represents the world waiting in darkness for the apostles to bring the power of the Spirit they have received to all the nations of the world.

Pentecost is celebrated 50 days after Easter. In our Flourish! series we re-visited the essential question of the Power behind a life of flourishing – the Holy Spirit. Jesus four times (in John, ch. 14-16) promises that he will send the Paraclete  (Greek for “Helper,” “Counselor,” “Comforter,” or “Advocate” – literally, “One who comes alongside to help!”) Paul uses the analogy of drunkenness: being under the influence of too much wine is the OPPOSITE of flourishing!
Listen to the sermon here.

There is joy and power when we live conscously under the influence of the Person of the Holy Spirit – depending on the Helper for every area of life and service!

And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit… (Ephesians 5:18f. ESV)

Here’s my expanded translation:
Do not form the habit of getting your stimulous from misusing substances. This is wasting your life like pagan revelers letting themselves be contolled by false gods. Rather, be constantly influenced by, and submissive to, the Holy Spirit who is in you, and beside you, to personally fill you, and empower you to flourish for His glory and praise!

 

Transformation and Hope – learning from an icon

TRANSF ICON
Theophanes, 15th cent. Tretykaov Gallery, Moscow

The transfiguration of the Christ, described in Mark 9, Luke 9 and Matthew 17, is depicted in this icon from the 16th cent. There is so much of the biblical story and so much powerful theology packed into it. An iconographic picture truly “worth a thousand words!”

Many have asked about the meaning and use of icons. I want to point you to this article by Patrick Comerford, that compares icons of the Transfiguration from several places and time periods. He explains each detail and the meaning behind the forms and colors. This will be helpful if you listen to the sermon which used the icon: More Than Meets The Eye.

The ancient hymn that goes along with the Transfiguration is also instructive:

You were transfigured upon the mount, O Christ our God, and Your disciples beheld Your glory,
as far as they could comprehend it.
Thus, when they would behold You crucified,
they would understand that Your suffering was voluntary,
and would proclaim to the world
that You are truly the radiance of the Father.

Are we cooperating with the Holy Spirit so that Christ can “paint us” – transform us – into his glorious image! (2 Cor. 3:18)

 

Live with the end in mind!

Eschatology – or the study of “Last Things,” has often been mis-applied. What the Bible tells us about the end of all things is not to make us speculate or to make us panic and evacuate.  Rather it is about living NOW in light of the in-breaking of Christ and His Kingdom! It’s about being prayerful, pure, watchful, and on-mission.  Preaching on 1 Peter 4:7-11 made me appreciate again, the challenge of living the rest of my life with POSITIVE URGENCY. (Here is the sermon)

This is a section from N. T. Wright’s Simply Christian that further unpacks the practical implications of the Bible’s end-times teaching:

ntw   God’s future has arrived in the present, has arrived in the person of Jesus. In arriving, it has confronted and defeated the forces of evil and opened the way for God’s new world, for heaven and earth to be joined forever…Not only heaven and earth, but also future and present, overlap and interlock. And the way that interlocking becomes real, not just imaginary, is through the powerful work of God’s Spirit. This is the launchpad for the specifically Christian way of life. That way of life isn’t a matter simply of getting in touch with our inner depths. It is certainly not about keeping the commands of a distant deity. Rather, it is the new way of being human, the Jesus-shaped way of being human, the cross-and-resurrection way of life, the Spirit-led pathway. It is the way which anticipates, in the present, the full, rich, glad human existence which will one day be ours when God makes all things new. Christian ethics is not a matter of discovering what’s going on in the world and getting in tune with it. It isn’t a matter of doing things to earn God’s favor. It is not about trying to obey dusty rulebooks from long ago or far away. It is about practicing, in the present, the tunes we shall sing in God’s new world!   Christian holiness is not (as people often imagine) a matter of denying something good. It is about growing up and grasping something even better. Made for spirituality, we wallow in introspection. Made for joy, we settle for pleasure. Made for justice, we clamor for vengeance. Made for relationship, we insist on our own way. Made for beauty, we are satisfied with sentiment. But new creation has already begun. The sun has begun to rise. Christians are called to leave behind, in the tomb of Jesus Christ, all that belongs to the brokenness and incompleteness of the present world. It is time, in the power of the Spirit, to take up our proper role, our fully human role, as agents, heralds, and stewards of the new day that is dawning. That, quite simply, is what it means to be Christian: to follow Jesus Christ into the new world, God’s new world, which he has thrown open before us.
And a closing prayer:
Almighty God, who alone can bring order to the unruly wills and passions of sinful humanity: Give your people grace so to love what you command and to desire what you promise, that, among the many changes of this world, our hearts may surely there be fixed, where true joys are to be found; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Holy Spirit – THE wind beneath our wings

pentecost

Last Sunday marked the coming of the Holy Spirit to the new community of Jesus called the Church! Nothing would remain the same!

Malcolm Guite, poet, Anglican priest, and song-writer has written a whole book of sonnets for the Christian Year. I want to share his beautiful rendering of Pentecost.

Today we feel the wind beneath our wings,
Today the hidden fountain flows and plays,
Today the church draws breath at last and sings,
As every flame becomes a tongue of praise.
This is the feast of Fire, Air, and Water,
Poured out and breathed and kindled into Earth.
The Earth herself awakens to her maker,
Translated out of death and into birth.
The right words come today in their right order
And every word spells freedom and release.
Today the Gospel crosses every border,
All tongues are loosened by the Prince of Peace.
Today the lost are found in his translation,
Whose mother-tongue is love, in every nation.

I love the implications of Pentecost for the world-wide spread of the Gospel. Note the play on words in the last two lines.  We speak of something being “lost in translation.” With the coming of the Spirit and the Church charged with making disciples of all peoples, NO ONE need be “lost in translation.” Every nation knows the language of love that comes from God!

The Source of our ‘Excellence’

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness,
through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence,
by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises,
so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature…!
(2 Peter 1:3-4, ESV)

Partakers of the divine nature!  Peter’s letter makes it absolutely clear that all virtue in our lives comes from the power of the new spiritual life derived from Christ. The Church Fathers made the distinction that though we do not receive the Essence of God, we do live by the Energies of God. We therefore have all we need to live a truly Christ-like life that produces the Fruit of the Holy Spirit! His beauty attracts us to a life that reflects his own beauty, glory and excellence!

It is from this fuel of communion with Christ -that the Scripture goes on to say, “Make every effort” to add virtue upon virtue. (2 Peter 1:5f.)

“We must say that it is the sheer attractive and compelling beauty, glory, and authority of Christ’s own being and life that comes to us, calls us, draws us irresistibly to him, and elicits from us a corresponding life of godliness and excellence.”                 – Douglas Harink in 1 & 2 Peter, Brazos Commentary

Remain in constant communion with the only source of true excellence!

Glory to God!