Tag Archive | Holy Spirit

Thankful for the Indwelling Holy Spirit

“For it is you who light my lamp; the Lord my God lightens my darkness.” Psalms‬ ‭18:28‬

Something unusual happened while we were at church one Sunday in May. We had watched a video teaching on the Bible study we were doing at that time, and I had just finished leading our discussion on the promise of God we were covering that week – when the lights went out. With stormy weather outside, our classroom was really dark. A couple minutes later, the lights came back on, and we were able to finish the class and leave for home.

This morning, as I was preparing to write this week’s Thankful Thursday post, this experience came to mind. While it was just a small inconvenience, it brought to memory God’s promise to enlighten our darkness. And one of the ways He does that in our daily lives is through the indwelling Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit comes to live within us when by faith through grace we accept Jesus’ death on the Cross as the payment in full for our sins, receive His forgiveness, and accept Jesus as our Savior and Lord. And from that moment on, we never have to walk in darkness.

I am currently working on writing a Bible study which I’ve given the working title The Holy Spirit: Stranger or Friend. For many of us, Jehovah our heavenly Father and Jesus Christ our Savior are parts of the Godhead we understand fairly well. In one of the lessons from the Bible study our iConnect Bible study class at church recently completed based on Max Lucado’s book Unshakable Hope: Building Our Lives On The Promises Of God, we read the following quote.

“Ask a believer to answer the question ‘Who is God the Father?’ He has a reply. Or ‘Describe God the Son.’ She will not hesitate. But if you want to see believers hem, haw, and search for words, ask, ‘Who is the Holy Spirit?’ Many believers settle for a two-thirds God.”

Yet there are more that a hundred references in the Bible to the Holy Spirit. From the Gospels, where Jesus says He will be returning to heaven but He will not leave them alone (https://www.bible.com/59/jhn.14.26.esv) through the book of Acts, and all the way to Revelation, we learn that the Holy Spirit is central to our lives as Christians.

Today, I’m grateful for the Holy Spirit and the many things He does in our lives. Here are just a few of the functions and names of the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit is our Regenerator. When we put our faith in Jesus Christ for salvation, He is the one who opens our heart and imparts life. “Jesus answered, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.’” John‬ ‭3:5‬

The Holy Spirit is our Empowerer. He gives us power to be witnesses and complete the work He has called us to do. “And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” Luke‬ ‭24:49‬

The Holy Spirit is our Helper. He encourages, consoles and comforts us when life becomes difficult. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever,” John‬ ‭14:16‬

The Holy Spirit is our Teacher. As the Spirit of Truth, He shows us the lies we are believing and instructs us in God’s truth. “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” John‬ ‭14:26‬ ‭

The Holy Spirit is our Guide. He leads us down the path God has planned for our lives. “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.” Romans‬ ‭8:14‬ ‭

The Holy Spiritis our Intercessor. He prays for us and His prayers always line up with the perfect will of God.  Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” Romans‬ ‭8:26‬ ‭

The Holy Spirit is our Sanctifier. He works in us to make us look more like Jesus. Like the apostle Peter, we too are among the elect, “according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood…” 1 Peter‬ 1:2

There are many more functions and names of the Holy Spirit, but these seven give you a picture of His important place in our lives as Christians. And this week, I’m grateful for Who the Holy Spirit is and for all He does in our lives. How about you? Have you stopped in your busy day to thank God for the Holy Spirit? Who lives within you if you’ve accepted Jesus as Savior and Lord of your life.

Overcoming Prejudice: A Lesson from Acts 10

I feel very blessed to have a primary doctor who is a woman who really cares about her patients. But earlier in the history of our nation, this was not an option.

Elizabeth Blackwell, M.D. (1821-1910), was the first woman to graduate from medical school in the United States and America’s first woman doctor. She began her practice in 1851 in New York, but not without having to overcome some big obstacles. Her first hindrance was finding a place to rent for her practice – no one would even rent her a room once she mentioned that she was a doctor. Finally, after weeks of trudging the streets, she was able to rent rooms from a landlady who asked no questions about what Elizabeth planned to do with them.

But when the office was set up, for some time she had no patients. Some Quaker women finally became her first patients, but then she faced another barrier – no hospital would allow her on it’s staff. In 1853, Dr. Blackwell was finally able to open her own clinic in one of New York’s worse slums, announcing that all patients would be treated for free. Again, for several weeks no one showed up.

Then one day a woman in such agony that she didn’t care who treated her, staggered up the steps and collapsed in Elizabeth’s arms. This woman was treated and recovered, and she told all her friends about the wonderful woman doctor. After that, her practice gradually expanded, later moved, and became a branch of the New York Infirmary on East Fifteenth Street, which is still there today. And women doctors are now an accepted part of American medicine.

In my personal Bible study time this week, I’ve been reading about another pioneer, not in the medical field but in the work of spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ to those in the Gentile world. Jesus Himself had made it clear that the truth of who He was and what He came to do was not only for the Jewish people. In Mark 16:15, Jesus said the Gospel was to be preached to “all the world,” not just to the Jews. He said to His disciples, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.”

Now was the time for this to begin, and yet for that to happen God had to do a major work in the apostle Peter’s life. As a Jewish man, he had accepted the prevailing understanding of the Jewish nation that they were called by God to remain completely separate from Gentiles. While the Old Testament did teach that the Jewish people were to be a separate people, the early Jewish leaders took this command well beyond what God had intended. In an attempt to build a fence around the Old Testament Law so people wouldn’t even come close to breaking God’s commandment, they had come up with an almost unending list of oral traditions the Jewish people were to live by. These extra-biblical rules were taught by repetition to the young Jewish men, then later (around A.D. 200) written down in the first major work of Rabbinic literature called the Mishnah. This “oral Torah” included laws related to every aspect of the Jewish life: agriculture, relationships, ritual purity, the Temple, the Sabbath, Jewish festivals, fast days, and other holidays.

Because of the “oral Torah” that he had been exposed to since his youth, Peter would have nothing to do with Gentiles, whom he considered unclean. The oral traditions he had grown with prohibited him from being a guest in the home of a Gentile, inviting a Gentile into his home, eating food prepared by a Gentile, and even required purifying any cooking utensils purchased from a Gentile before using them. So God had some essential lessons to teach Peter in Acts 10.

The chapter opens with a vision given to a man named Cornelius. Scripture tells us he was a Roman centurion, not a Jew but a devout man who feared God with all his household, prayed continually, and showed generosity in giving alms to the needy. But since Cornelius was a Gentile God-fearer and not a circumcised Jew, all of his good works were not enough to make him acceptable to the Jews – or to earn salvation – so Cornelius needed to hear the Gospel. And God chose Peter to be His spokesman.

As Cornelius was praying around 3pm, the Lord sent a vision of an angel with a message. His prayers had been heard, his alms had ascended as a memorial before God. He was instructed to send some men to Joppa to bring Peter to his house. This seeker did exactly as he was instructed by the angel, called two of his servants and a devout soldier who attended to his needs, and sent these three men to Joppa to complete their mission.

While Cornelius’ servants were in route to Peter’s house, the day after this vision, Peter too was having a time of prayer. And as with Cornelius, God sent a vision to Peter. In it he saw what looked like a sheet with all kinds of animals, reptiles and birds in it. He also heard a voice, saying, “Rise, Peter, kill and eat.” But unlike Cornelius, Peter resisted the message. Instead of saying, “Yes, Lord,” he responded, “By no means, Lord, for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean. The voice spoke again, saying, “What God has made clean, do not call common.” Apparently Peter was still not convinced, because verse 16 says, “This happened three times, and the thing was taken up at once to heaven.”

‭‭Even after seeing this vision three times, the Scripture says Peter was “inwardly perplexed.” But the Spirit spoke some clear instructions. “And while Peter was pondering the vision, the Spirit said to him, ‘Behold, three men are looking for you. Rise and go down and accompany them without hesitation, for I have sent them.’”(Acts‬ ‭10:19-20‬ ‭ESV). The three men from Cornelius arrived, and this time Peter obeys.‬‬ He got some of the brethren to accompany him and then left with the entourage for Caesarea and Cornelius’ house.

In the meantime, Cornelius had called together some of his relatives and close friends. At the sight of Peter, the first thing Cornelius did was to bow down at his feet in worship. Verse 26 says Peter lifted him up, saying, “Stand up; I too am a man.”

‭‭After sharing with those gathered what God had shown him, the next words out of Peter’s mouth reflect a changed heart. He says, “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.” (Acts‬ ‭10:34-35‬‬‬)

And for the first time, a group of Gentiles hear the good news of forgiveness through faith in Jesus Christ, believe in Him and receive that forgiveness. The men who had accompanied Peter were amazed, as they observed God confirming pouring out the Holy Spirit on these new Gentile believers, in the same way as He had been poured out on the Day of Pentecost. This chapter ends with Peter asking those who accompanied him, “Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?”(Acts‬ ‭10:47‬) There was apparently no objection, because Peter then commands these new Gentile believers to be baptized in water in the name of Jesus Christ.

So why is this chapter of Acts so important? It teaches us two major truths concerning salvation:

  1. No man or woman is saved by their good works. If that weren’t true, this whole chapter could have been left out of the book of Acts. Being a God-fearing man wasn’t enough to secure a relationship with God in Cornelius’ life, and it isn’t enough in our lives. (For more on this, check out my article on Cornelius at the following link, https://hopeandlight.blog/2019/05/29/are-you-a-god-fearer-or-a-born-again-christian/lives)
  2. Salvation is available to anyone who believes, Jew or Gentile (non-Jew). God does not favor any one group. His Word makes it clear that He desires all men and women to come to a knowledge of the truth and be born again. In 1 Timothy 2, we are urged to pray for the lost, “This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy‬ ‭2:3-4‬)

I am grateful that God was able to open the apostle Peter’s eyes to the truth that the good news of Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection was for all people. This was the turning point in the early church, as it moved out to continue fulfilling the commission Jesus had given the apostles. This commission to be God’s witnesses to the ends of the earth wasn’t just for these leaders of the early church. It’s also our calling, that all who are willing may be saved.

Because God enabled Peter to overcome his prejudice against Gentiles, the Gospel was available for me when my heart was ready to move past a works-based faith in Jesus to believe in salvation by grace through faith. For this, I am eternally grateful.

Yes, I’m grateful to have a doctor who is a woman (and also a Christian), who understands the emotions I face in dealing with a long list of chronic illnesses. She has been a God-given blessing in my life. But I’m even more grateful that Peter overcame his prejudices against Gentiles and partiality toward Jews and was a pioneer in spreading the Gospel to the Gentile world. If you are a Christian who is not from a Jewish background, you too should be grateful that the Lord was able to overcome Peter’s limited understanding and swing open the door of the Church to Gentile believers. Grateful enough to allow God to reveal any prejudices in your heart that are hindering you from being the witness He is calling you to be.

The Antidote to Poisonous Words

“Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit—you choose.” ‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭18:21‬ ‭MSG‬

What were the first words out of your mouth when you woke up this morning? Whether they were spoken aloud to someone or simply words that went through your mind, your words are important. They have the power to give life or destroy, to encourage and strengthen or to demoralize and cause distress.

Last Thursday, we completed the study of Choosing Gratitude: Your Journey to Joy, by Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth. As I was praying this week about where to go from here,  one word came to mind. Negativity. Conquering this habit in both our thinking and our speaking is an essential for a lifestyle of gratitude. And why is this so important? Negativity is like adding poison to your mind and thinking you’ll be okay. It will lead to spiritual decay and even death.

We live in a world where negativity is common place. Add the challenges of life with chronic illness, and our lives can easily be the perfect soil for seeds of negativity to take root and start growing. Did you wake up with pain this morning? After a poor night’s sleep? With anxious thoughts about the future? Our initial thoughts and words each day have the power to set a pattern for how our day will go. If we allow circumstances and emotions to determine how we begin our day, it starts us off in a direction that will rob us of thankfulness and vitality.

The epistle of James, believed to be written by a half-brother of Jesus, has much oneto teach us about the importance of taming our tongues – and the total impossibility of doing this in our human strength.

“For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell.” James‬ ‭3:2-6*‬ 

The tongue is like a rudder that determines the direction of our lives. An out-of-control tongue will lead to a life of unrighteousness and constantly falling short of the will of God. Yet in the next two verses James says, “For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.” So what can we do to turn this area of our lives around?

Jesus said, “The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” Luke‬ ‭6:45‬

So changing the words that come out of our mouths begins with a changed heart. That is a work of the Holy Spirit, but also a process we have a part in.

  1. Begin with prayer. Dedicate your heart, mind and tongue to the Lord daily. Pray specifically for a changed heart that reflects the heart of God. “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me… Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.” Psalms‬ ‭51:10, 12‬ ‭‭
  2. Make a commitment to be a doer of the Word. Agree that you will “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” Ephesians‬ ‭4:29‬ ‭ The Greek translated corrupt or corrupting (depending on what translation you’re using) means “to produce rot or decay.” If the words in your mind will have this effect in your life, make a commitment to not give them utterance.
  3. Rely on God’s strength to follow through on this commitment. Remember, “it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” Philippians‬ ‭2:13‬ ‭‬‬ Stand on God’s promise in Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”
  4. Begin each new day by dedicating your heart and tongue to the Lord. Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” Psalm 19:14
  5. ‭‭Put your heart in tune with God’s Spirit by reading your Bible daily. When God speaks to you through a particular verse, slow down and pay attention. Memorize and meditate on the verse. “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17
  6. ‭‭Accept responsibility for every word you speak. Jesus said, “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” Matthew‬ ‭12:36-37‬
  7. Give thanks to the Lord for the good work He is doing in you in this area. Remember, we are still in process, but God will finish what He has started in our lives . “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Philippians‬ ‭1:6‬ ‭‬‬

‭‭Let’s keep moving forward in this journey to a consistent attitude of gratitude. Don’t allow yourself to be derailed by poisonous words that lead to spiritual rot and decay. Ask God to do the needed work in you to tame your tongue, to rid it of words that are negative and don’t line up with His ways and His Word. God wants to change our hearts in this area. Let Him do the needed work to make us willing and able to bring this area of our lives under His Lordship.

*All verses in ESV unless otherwise noted

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Boundaries and the Christ-Controlled Life

I woke up at 6am today, with the pulse-oximeter alarm going off in our special needs son David’s room. He has drops in his oxygen level and changes in heart rate that require monitoring using an oximeter, and when his numbers go outside the pre-set boundaries an alarm sounds. It doesn’t mean he is in grave danger, but it is an indication he needs to be checked and possibly some treatment done. This morning he simply needed some oral suctioning – he was sound asleep with his mouth open and saliva was blocking his airway.

After taking care of this routine care of our son, something I’m well acquainted with during the hours when he doesn’t have nursing care, I sensed God speaking to my spirit. “Setting boundaries is necessary for David’s physical health and for your spiritual health.”

I have heard of the concept of establishing boundaries in Christian circles for many years, but during the last year it has become a daily part of my life through Taste For Truth, a Christian weight loss program I’ve been following. This program does not recommend a specific diet to follow, that is between you and God. Instead, it has two main emphases, renewing your mind to replace the lies you are believing with the truth of God’s Word, and prayerfully setting boundaries concerning eating and exercise. Through these two principles, an area of my life that has been a lifelong struggle is coming under God’s control.

But boundaries are needed in more than just eating. Any area that needs to come under God’s control in our lives requires these same two steps of renewing our mind and setting boundaries. This applies to our thoughts, words, actions, relationships, how we use our time and how we spend our money. Without renewing our minds to know what God says in His Word about each of these areas and then setting boundaries we will follow, change won’t consistently happen. These two principles are our part in being conformed to the image of Christ.

Boundaries alone do not result in change, but when we renew our minds according to the Word of God and yield our lives to the promptings of the Holy Spirit who lives within every person who has acknowledged Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, transformation will come. It may not be overnight, but if we do our part in the transformation process it will result in change.

So what exactly are boundaries, and how do we set them? A boundary is something that indicates a border or a limit. With property, it may be marked by a fence that indicates the end of one piece of property and the beginning of another. Biblically speaking, boundaries are related to self-control. For example, as I set my boundaries in Taste For Truth, they limited how many calories I would eat per day and how many days per week I would exercise. With managing money, a budget sets boundaries concerning how we will spend our income. Relationship boundaries might include separating yourself from people who pull you down or ridicule your faith.

So how do we go about setting and keeping within wise boundaries? First, seek God’s will by praying about the area where you recognize a need to set boundaries. See what God has to say about the issue in His Word. Consider the consequences of failing to set boundaries in this area, and make a decision. Trust God to lead you and empower you to change this area of your life. For me concerning weight loss, having an accountability partner was also helpful, someone I could contact for encouragement when I was struggling.

Boundaries have been a part of life on earth since shortly after creation. The first boundary given to man mentioned in Scripture is in the second chapter of Genesis. “And the Lord God commanded the man, ‘You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die’ ” (Genesis‬ ‭2:16-17‬ ‭NIV). ‬‬Living within this boundary would have brought Adam and Eve and their descendants blessing, but unfortunately they chose instead to overstep the one boundary God had given and as a result sin entered this world. Boundaries are an effective way to limit destructive behaviors and take personal responsibility for our lives. They are a key to overcoming besetting sins and learning to walk in freedom from bondage. Are there some boundaries God is calling you to set?