Today’s featured song comes from across the pond as they say in golf. Matt Redman is now based in Brighton, East Sussex, United Kingdom. Matt is also an active member of Compassionart, a charity founded by fellow musician Martin Smith. I was introduced to Matt by a local Christian radio in Delaware. However, during a recent You Tube search, I was touched by the lyrics of Redman’s song Your Grace Finds Me.
But He gives us more and more grace ([a]power of the Holy Spirit, to meet this evil tendency and all others fully). That is why He says, God sets Himself against the proud and haughty, but gives grace [continually] to the lowly (those who are humble enough to receive it), James 4:6.
One of the ways grace finds Christians is through the power of the Holy Spirit. Like the day of Pentecost, grace may arrive unexpectedly or come just when you need to hear some good news. Either way, God gives grace to the humble and those mired in difficult circumstances. As you listen to today’s song, may God’s grace find you in one way or another. Enjoy.
According to ancient tradition, the Spirit of God hovered over the earth prior to the commencement of creation. This information was passed down from generation to generation orally before Moses was called by God to write the first 5 books of the Old Testament. Throughout the early years, God’s presence drifted from one place to another, causing many to wonder, “where is God’s Spirit in the world today?”
The earth was without form and an empty waste, and darkness was upon the face of the very great deep. The Spirit of God was moving (hovering, brooding) over the face of the waters, Genesis 1:2.
Moses compares God’s Spirit to an accompany of blessings, Deuteronomy 28:1-2. The prophet Samuel refers to a special anointing given to David which led him to become King of Israel. From a New Testament point of view, the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2:1-6 ushered in the Holy Spirit to become a greater presence in the lives of human beings. Recognizing Pentecost as a once in a world event, the apostle Paul compares God’s Spirit to a force like momentum which you can follow, Galatians 5:25.
I form the light and create darkness, I make peace [national well-being] and I create [physical] evil (calamity); I am the Lord, Who does all these things, Isaiah 45:7.
In the passage above, another Old Testament prophet claims God’s Spirit allows good and evil to occur. Instead of forcing obedience like a militant leader, God created freewill so that God’s Spirit is only a door away, Revelation 3:20. While false doctrines, prophets and teachings continue to confuse many today, bread crumbs have been left behind in the form of a book, Romans 10:17. The more you open the Bible, Psalm 119:105, the presence of God’s Spirit comes into focus as a light in the darkness of 2020.
Shortly after the great flood depicted in Genesis 7:11-12, a new mindset began to form. Despite hitting the reset button, God could not prevent mankind from developing a desire to reach the heavens. Thus, like minded individuals began to congregate in the city of Babel. This idea inspired the construction of a great tower, seeking to reach the top of the world. Unfortunately, before this project was completed, a spirit of confusion was poured out upon Babel.
And they said, Come, let us build us a city and a tower whose top reaches into the sky, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered over the whole earth. 5 And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built. 6 And the Lord said, Behold, they are one people and they have all one language; and this is only the beginning of what they will do, and now nothing they have imagined they can do will be impossible for them, Genesis 11:4-6.
Several thousands years later, order was restored on the Day of Pentecost. My initial question to this spiritual phenomena is why. Moses suggests that God was afraid that a united mankind could physically reach the heavens, making it to the top. Perhaps, an absence of trust and faith separated human beings from their true purpose on earth. Thus, Jesus’ ascension into heaven opens the door for an invisible presence to be introduced. To fulfill his promise in John 16:13, the Holy Spirit is unleashed in the middle of the first century.
And when the day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all assembled together in one place, 2 When suddenly there came a sound from heaven like the rushing of a violent tempest blast, and it filled the whole house in which they were sitting. 3 And there appeared to them tongues resembling fire, which were separated and distributed and which settled on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled (diffused throughout their souls) with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other (different, foreign) languages (tongues), as the Spirit kept giving them clear and loud expression [in each tongue in appropriate words]. 5 Now there were then residing in Jerusalem Jews, devout and God-fearing men from every country under heaven. 6 And when this sound was heard, the multitude came together and they were astonished and bewildered, because each one heard them [the apostles] speaking in his own [particular] dialect, Acts 2:1-6.
When you ask world class athlete’s, business leaders and entrepreneurs about what it feels like to actually reach the top, considered the best in the world, responses are mixed. Some use this as an opportunity to retire on top. Others seek to become part of a destiny, hungry to set more records and reach new heights. However, many are filled with an emptiness as if to say, “is that it.” When accomplishments don’t fulfill the void in your heart, Jesus provides a spiritual alternative, John 10:10. May this season of Easter inspire you to replace your emptiness with purpose and meaning via faith.
In the passage below, the apostle Paul points out that the Holy Spirit isn’t limited to Christians and Jews. Rather, God’s Spirit now extends to Gentiles who believe by entering into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. The term first fruits likely refers to the extraordinary gifts of the Spirit poured out on the day of Pentecost, Acts 2:1-4. Meanwhile, the foretaste of things to come is symbolic of the grace of God communicated to all in conversion.
And not only the creation, but we ourselves too, who have and enjoy the firstfruits of the [Holy] Spirit [a foretaste of the blissful things to come] groan inwardly as we wait for the redemption of our bodies [from sensuality and the grave, which will reveal] our adoption (our manifestation as God’s sons), Romans 8:23.
One of my former pastors explained grace as God’s riches at Christ’s expense. However, as Paul explains in the passage below, grace is invisible. Thus, as individuals begin to adjust their practices following their conversion from worldly pleasures toward eternal treasures, this transition is rarely smooth. Initial confessions of sin are refreshing, like receiving a shower of grace from heaven. Yet, when you begin to commit the same sinful act day after day, grace is cheapened and hope can be lost.
For in [this] hope we were saved. But hope [the object of] which is seen is not hope. For how can one hope for what he already sees? – Romans 8:24
In a letter to the church of Corinth, Paul pours out his heart during a moment of weakness, 2 Corinthians 12:7-12. Like anyone who is experiencing a spiritual free fall, the conviction of the Holy Spirit is overwhelming. Perhaps, Paul’s plea to God is merely asking the Lord, “why do I have to go through this?” Nonetheless, each Christian goes through a process known as sanctifying grace. This form of grace makes a soul acceptable and justified before God. Despite whatever hardships that you endure, may you recognize the foretaste of grace that will be completed before you meet your creator in heaven.
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 14:6.
When I read the New Testament, I see a Holy Spirit that is far greater than modern times. The seminary I attended nearly two decades ago used the rationale of a special anointing limited to first century Christians. According to Acts 2, the Day of Pentecost enabled apostles and disciples of Jesus to speak in foreign tongues, restoring communication barriers created during the building of the Tower of Babel. When these apostles and disciples passed away, this special anointing of the Holy Spirit disappeared.
When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come, John 16:13.
The one problem with this theory is that Jesus never mentions 2 different outpourings of the Holy Spirit. Jesus compares the Holy Spirit to a counselor, guide and helper. While certain denominations get caught up in debating the validity of speaking in tongues, perhaps the lack of a powerful Spirit lies within. Maybe a lack of spiritual fruit is a symptom of a far greater problem. From my perspective, the Holy Spirit’s full potential has been minimized due to one of three scenarios. Either I am idle, inactive in my faith, missing something like a post baptism transformation or I am unplugged, relying on my human nature instead?
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law, Galatians 5:22-23.
The apostle Paul confronts this issue in a letter to the church at Galatia. According to Paul, there are two invisible forces at work: the Holy Spirit and Sinful Nature. During a letter to the church at Rome, Paul suggests that your mindset will dictate which force you will follow. Until modern believers dedicate themselves to practicing first century spiritual disciplines, the Holy Spirit will remain a unrecognized force. If only I could tap into this power, my camouflaged faith will be unveiled. May this blog inspire other believers to develop a spiritual hunger for God’s Spirit.
My earliest recollection of refreshing comes from a Nestea Commercial. Before advancements in air conditioning units, cold beverages were linked to the term refreshment. During a hot summer day, any type of ice cold drink can be energizing, invigorating or revitalizing. In the passage below, Luke compares refreshing to a cold wind on a hot day.
So repent [change your inner self—your old way of thinking, regret past sins] and return [to God—seek His purpose for your life], so that your sins may be wiped away [blotted out, completely erased], so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord [restoring you like a cool wind on a hot day]; Acts 3:19.
The context of this passage comes from the beginning of Peter’s second sermon following the Day of Pentecost. To a certain extent, the Holy Spirit fell upon Jesus’ disciples like a refreshing wind. This spiritual encounter transformed Peter from a man who was once afraid to be associated with Jesus to a bold pillar of faith. After healing a man lame from birth, Peter seizes this opportunity to reveal what a difference Jesus can make in your life.
Nevertheless, do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years is like one day. 9 The Lord does not delay [as though He were unable to act] and is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is [extraordinarily] patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance, 2 Peter 3:8-9.
Ultimately, Peter compares repentance to times of refreshing. After you make the decision to change your inner self by returning your attention back to God, the Lord gives you a fresh start. This do over in life must include a contrite heart followed by acts of contrition which includes seeking God’s purpose on earth. Whenever I pour out my soul to God in prayer, laying all of my burdens at the feet of Jesus, I walk away refreshed. If this blog finds you struggling to get back on track with God, don’t be afraid to take the plunge of faith where you will find spiritual refreshment.
Whenever you read a long book, there will be lapses in concentration. Human nature may lead to dream dreaming, a lack of focus or result in a desires to speed up. When quantity replaces quality as a goal, I tend to rush through certain details and facts relevant to the story. Thus, words on a page quickly fade from my short term memory. Subsequently, there are portions of the Bible that appear new to me daily.
Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour (3:00 p.m.), Acts 3:1.
A recent discover is the hour of prayer. According to Luke, following the Day of Pentecost Jesus’ disciples began to pray for an hour in the middle of each day. Fellow believers met at a temple daily to lift up concerns, requests and worries to the Lord. Based upon Mark 15:25, 3 pm was the exact time Jesus gave up his spirit, succumbing to death. Perhaps, the hour of prayer was designed to honor Jesus, serving as a means to promote a sense of urgency for prayer while you are still alive.
But Peter said, “Silver and gold I do not have; but what I do have I give to you: In the name (authority, power) of Jesus Christ the Nazarene—[begin now to] walk and go on walking!” 7 Then he seized the man’s right hand with a firm grip and raised him up. And at once his feet and ankles became strong and steady, 8 and with a leap he stood up and began to walk; and he went into the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God, Acts 3:6-8.
If you have ever been to a prayer group, an hour is a long time to pray. Most of the prayer times I have participated in involve a time for requests prior to praying. In same cases, you may only pray for 15-30 minutes as sharing concerns may exceed the scheduled time. Regardless of the specific techniques that churches may use, attending a prayer meeting or service heightens your spiritual senses. Prayer can become addictive, especially as eyewitnesses testify to prayers which have transformed their lives. This confidence inspires minds to think big, craving and hoping for miracles.
21 Jesus replied to them, “I assure you and most solemnly say to you, if you have faith [personal trust and confidence in Me] and do not doubt or allow yourself to be drawn in two directions, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ it will happen [if God wills it]. 22 And whatever you ask for in prayer, believing, you will receive,” Matthew 21:21-22.
When I was 16, I ran two miles after twisting my ankle. My persistence to finish a race resulted in torn ligaments in my left ankle, causing my bone to twist 90 degrees in the wrong direction. After a visit to A.I Dupont Children’s Hospital, I was told by one doctor that I would never run again. Another said, I would be able to walk, but I would need to have a screw drilled into my ankle to keep this bone in place. These doctors did not consider the influence of prayer prior to my surgery. Christians, coaches and students prayed for healing. Like the lame man in the passage above, the power of prayer made the impossible possible. As others begin to emulate this first century practice, prayer can be a vehicle for miracles.
When you study history, centuries are remembered by the movements within each age. Whether you are talking about the Renaissance, Industrial Revolution or Nuclear Age, culture. technology and trends shape the next generation. As philosophers like Plato once proclaimed, these shifts have caused human beings to turn their faith from above to within.
Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through prophecy when the body of elders laid their hands on you, 1 Timothy 4:14.
During periods of spiritual Dark Ages, individuals wandered away from the truth. As access to the Bible was limited to priests and spiritual leaders, saints were unable to fully practice the apostles teachings. Thus, the notion of laying hands on individuals was likely a foreign concept. It wasn’t until the 15th century when Johan Gutenberg’s printing press provided Bibles for the masses, making sure there no excuses from here on out.
Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress, 1 Timothy 4:15.
Within one of the apostle Paul’s letters is an interesting concept, spiritual gifts are conceived following the laying on of hands by elders of a church. In fact in the next verse, spiritual progress is attributed applying spiritual gifts and laying hands on needy people. This leads me to ponder, is this a lost art or a ceased power limited to the Pentecost generation? While theologians will tend to lean toward the latter, perhaps this lost art is the difference between a dying church to one on the verge of revival. Whatever you believe, the next time you have an opportunity to reach out, say a prayer and release the power of the Holy Spirit, just do it!
From an early age, the concept of obedience is reinforced within many childhood games. Simon Says, Mother May I and Red Light, Green Light rewards and penalizes players for either obeying or disobeying. Perhaps, the creators of these activities understood obeying God trumps man.
“We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name,” he said. “Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man’s blood.” – Acts 5:28
Following the legalization of abortion in 1973 after the Roe vs. Wade ruling, the Senate passed the Church Amendment which eventually led states to enact conscience clauses. While the wording may be different, these laws prevent individuals from performing procedures that go against their religious beliefs. Unfortunately, as political correctness replaces the Bible as the moral gold standard, many are faced with the dilemma, “do I please man or God?”
Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than human beings! – Acts 5:29
The disciples of Jesus found themselves in a similar situation around AD 30. Jewish leaders and Roman officials attempted to quench their freedom of speech. Thus, after authorities encouraged Peter to stop telling others about Jesus, he faced a crisis of faith. Prior to the Holy Spirit, Peter would have likely retreated, blending into society like a chameleon. However, after Pentecost Peter was a different man, unable to remain silent anymore. Thus, this is one of those occasions in life when obeying God trumps man.
In the film National Treasure, Nicolas Cage plays Benjamin Gates, a treasurer hunter searching for the Knights Templar. Hidden by the Free Masons, Gates tries to unlock clues left behind and revealed by his grand father. However, in the professional arena Gates is considered a joke, a dreamer who is chasing after something that doesn’t exist. To make matters worse, government officials laughed at him when he warns that the Declaration of Independence is in danger.
Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine,” Acts 2:13.
On the day of Pentecost, Peter and the disciples met a similar fate. As the residents of Jerusalem listened to these Jewish leaders speak in tongues, a group individuals jumped to a conclusion, suggesting these men are merely drunk. Empowered by this spiritual presence, Peter says “at 9 in the morning, I don’t think so?” Despite this come back, I’m sure not everyone was convinced. Thus, whenever you encounter critics, all you can do is trust what you believe by living out your faith.
These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed, 1 Peter 1:7.
If the creative, dreamers or visionaries stopped pursuing their calling due to other people’s opinions, the world would lose its artists, inventors and future leaders. Like the apostles of the book of Acts, the Holy Spirit is an essential force to continue on regardless of whatever others may think. Therefore, don’t overreact if joking, laughing or mocking ensues. Rather, hold fast to your beliefs, roll with the punches and strive to fulfill God’s plan for your life.