Category Archives: Holy Spirit

In step with God and others?

‘Has not the one God made you? You belong to him in body and spirit. And what does the one God seek? Godly offspring. So be on your guard, and do not be unfaithful to the wife of your youth.’ (Malachi 2v15) I love the way that Malachi starts the verse by reminding us of the unity of God found within the Godhead. God who is Creator, Saviour and Life giving Spirit, has no disunity within Him. In the same way  the Bible also states that God has no favourites because all are considered equal in His Sight. Hence, the Divine expects the same from his creation in our treatment of one another, particularly those encountered, whatever their marital state.

During the time of Malachi, it was easy for men to divorce – all they had to do was just repeat a statement of wanting a divorce from the person and it was enough for it to be considered done. Moreover, very often women had no rights to defend themselves against the accusations which also carried the risk that they would be left destitute and/or shunned by their own family. God’s response is  a warning to all – male or female – to be on guard against the carnal desires that overcome our spiritual integrity and lead us on a road away from God. His answer – seek to keep unity and stability within ourselves by not allowing the body to overwhelm our spirit into making poor choices. By maintaining stability, we will not only be on our guard but we will keep unity with those we might otherwise wrong and be unfaithful to.


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Everyday insight, wisdom and intelligence?

‘I  have heard that the spirit of the gods is in you and that you have insight, intelligence and outstanding wisdom.’ (Daniel 5v14).

Following on from the last post,  I’d like to add a second post as to what having the (Holy) Spirit of God living within you actually means. In the book ‘Flour Babies’ (Anne Fines), an unruly class of children are set the task of each looking after a bag of flour as if it were their baby. That is, taking care not to leave it exposed to danger (such as rain or the edge of a desk), avoiding handling it too roughly in case it tore and lost flour, etc.

Now I can’t remember how the book ends but I do know that when I trialed it with my class, they – like the characters in the book – struggled to give care and attention to that which had been put in their charge. Likewise, ourselves in that we do carry the most precious gift of God’s Holy Spirit within us. In scripture, we learn that our behaviour and actions can quench and grieve the Holy Spirit who lives within us. Hence, why we need to be open and responsive to God, seeking Him in all things and being prepared to be guided by the Holy Spirit for insight, intelligence and wisdom in the day to day issues we face.

 

 

 


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Joy over mourning?

‘…and provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendour.’ (Isaiah 61v3).
The contrast of the peoples’ lives before and after God’s intervention are crystal clear.
Previously, the collective grief in Zion resulted in the people heaping ashes upon themselves so that their sorrow would be obvious to everyone. Likewise, their despair as they went about their business with little or no vigour as they considered themselves a people who had been set aside. Of course, the ‘spirit’ of despair they experienced was not from God but of their own doing…and yet God is on the case and will bring a solution.
In Isaiah 61v3 we learn how the ashes God’s people had covered themselves with as an act of regret and mourning for their past behaviour,  will be replaced by God with a crown of beauty – in other words, their downcast presence will be covered by a mantle of positivity as their life and posture orientates towards God and not human despair. Similarly, the oil of joy they are anointed with  is intended to give them confidence to see beyond  the past and present travails they are experiencing. Why? So that praise  might inhabit their being. This is the promise of God – to raise us up, encourage us as a people so that we might fulfil the calling to be God’s presence in the world!

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The God who lives within!

The Year of the Lord’s Favor ] ‘The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners…’(Isaiah 61v1),

If you’ve never read the book of Isaiah and this verses sounds familiar to you, it’s because it is! This is Isaiah’s pronouncement – aka ‘The Year of the Lord’s Favour’  – but it is also spoken by Jesus several hundred years later (Luke 4v18) as he brings to fulfilment the prophesy delivered by Isaiah.

That said, the first century attendees had little or no idea as to the impact the verse would have on their lives. Possibly, they imagined it as a time of peace and prosperity where they could recover and take stock of all that has happened to themselves and ancestors. Maybe a return to their homes to worship God as they used to do. But Jesus’ proclamation goes so much further. It’s a declaration of God’s power coming to live within each person through His Holy Spirit – the Third Person of the Trinity who was there, hovering over the waters in Genesis 1 and now living with each person who believes. A  guide who lives within each person to guide and explain the truth of God and how to live as a spiritual being. To equip and send each person that they too may

proclaim good news to the poor (and) bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners…’(Isaiah 61v1). This is the God who lives within all who believe.


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God’s plan for humanity.

‘For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants.’ (Isaiah 44v3)

Okay, you might want to read the whole chapter to get the gist of what this verse is about – find it by clicking here.  This verse needs to be understood in the context of future events which breaks into two categories:

  1. The first is a promise from God to meet their physical needs by providing rain and streams to facilitate what would otherwise be a desert land into something that will be inhabitable for the people.
  2. The second – the spiritual promise – carries the most significance as prior to the experience of Pentecost, people would never have presumed that God could live within them – nor even want to!

How significant then is God’s promise in the proclamation that ‘ I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants.’  For hundreds of years, God’s people had come to think of the Divine as remote and  inaccessible –  and rightly so! After all,  God was Invisible and beyond understanding.  Moreover, separate from His Creation – but all would change with the birth of Jesus Christ as God becomes man – that is the Divine made human – made accessible to those he will come into contact with. God walking and teaching the people. Explaining what their leaders were unable to fathom, then tragedy: Jesus is slaughtered in the prime of life. Confused and heartbroken, his followers  scatter only for a resurrected Christ to appear to them to reveal that God cannot be killed. Jesus’ instruction to wait for the Counsellor (God’s Holy Spirit) to arrive results in his followers praying fervently for the next 3 weeks – until one day, out of nowhere,  supernatural fire falls from the sky into the room where they’re praying and the disciples fall out into the city, telling everyone about God. And of course as they tell the people so others (aka descendants) come to understand, experience and  believe that God is living within them. ‘I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants.’

 


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Invitation to God?

‘Look in the scroll of the Lord and read: None of these will be missing, not one will lack her mate. For it is his mouth that has given the order, and his Spirit will gather them together.’ (Isaiah 34v16)

 In the verses that come before this scripture, a desperate edict is delivered to the people of Israel. More worryingly, it’s not from humans but from God as evidenced that the ‘Spirit’ (note the capital ‘S’ the word starts with which denotes God’s Holy Spirit) who will bring Divine judgement into being. How different is the Holy Spirit understood by those in Old Testament times  from how Christians understand Him today as  content to live within the believer and not to judge or condemn, other than to show  grace at the end of it and reassure each with forgiveness and assurance. However, you understand God, know this – God loves you. Moreover,  a simple prayer of invitation  is all it takes for  God’s Holy Spirit to come and live within each of us.

 


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The how’s and why’s of God’s Spirit of judgement and fire?

‘… he will cleanse the bloodstains from Jerusalem by a spirit of judgment and a spirit of fire.’ (Isaiah 4v4)

It is easy in this verse to misunderstand what is being said by the prophet. The reference to a spirit of judgement and a spirit of fire seems to suggest that multiple spirits are in operation – each with their own particular function. And yes, our New Testament understanding is that there is One God and One Spirit so how are we to understand this?

For me, this passage speaks of the future way in which God will operate in the world – a time that was heralded at the first Pentecost in which the visitors from many nations came to Jerusalem are were cut to the heart by Peter’s words (Act 2) as he tells them the way to God is through Jesus Christ who was crucified by one and all who fail to believe his message. ‘What must we do?’ comes the collective reply of the visitors who are mortified and experiencing judgement as the spirit touches them. ‘ Repent and be baptised,’ replies  Peter as God’s Holy Spirit, like a fire descends on the visitors, who then go back to their communities taking the message of God. In short, in this instance – One Spirit- two functions: to help people recognise their need for forgiveness and (once achieved) to physically, mentally and spiritually receive God into their lives as the Holy Spirit indwells them as Counseller, Guide and Enabler (to name but a few). Be blessed and know God’s Spirit lives within

 


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God’s eternal plan?

‘and the dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.’ (Ecclesiastes 12v7).

I can remember as a child learning how the majority of dust that finds its way into a home arises from our decaying bodies – by that I mean, the erosion of minute skin follicles that collectively settle on surfaces until someone gets a duster or vacuum and cleans up. I also remember learning that skin replenishes itself every seven years – an obvious necessity given that we can’t erode skin without new skin appearing at some point to replace it.

With the development of DNA in more recent years, I remember hearing how within each human being, traces of star dust can be found. In other words, we are intrinsically linked to the physical act of Creation in a much larger way than first supposed – and why not if Adam is created from the soil of earth which is part of an expanding universe?  Personally, I love the thought that within my DNA is the essence of the start of the universe, the far flung places on the farthest edge of the Milky Way or wherever. But what has this to do with  ‘dust returning to the ground it came from and (our) spirit(s) returning to God?

Well, much as we may like to think that God and Creation are one and the same, this is inaccurate. We know this because from a theological perspective,  God is the author of Creation. Indeed, Creation occurs through God’s spoken Word and made for Himself…but also for others things to inhabit and grow: humans, insects, mammals, dinosaurs, birds etc. Now, interestingly, the Holy Spirit who was instrumental in the creative act at the start of time, also figures in God’s rescue plan for humanity. The Holy Spirit who infills humans with the presence of the eternal God creates a blend between the physically created and the eternally present God. Hence, the reason why at the end of our lives, our dust returns to the ground it came from, and our spirit returns to God who gave it.’


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The Holy Spirit and speaking face to face with God?

‘I will no longer hide my face from them, for I will pour out my Spirit on the people of Israel, declares the Sovereign Lord’.(Ezekiel 39v29) I love the fact that this verse is loaded with far more than the scripture suggests at first glance. Reading ‘on the line’ it seems to be saying that change is in the air and that God will pour out His Spirit into the people. Remarkable in itself but…

 

…journey back to Israel’s exodus in the desert when they came out of Egypt and the ark travelled with them. Each time they set up camp in a new location, the ark was placed in the centre of the community with various priestly family groups gathered around it in close proximity. Why? Because there was a fear that ‘ordinary’ Israelites might get lost and in the camp and inadvertently come too close to God and be consumed by holy fire. Another  possible reason why God mentions hiding his face from the community is that many people  believed that should they catch sight of God they would die. In short, God’s holiness would be seen as a holy and awesome thing. And yet, here is  God declaring that in the future He will engage with people in the same way humans do – face to face. This is the ‘between the lines message’ made possible by the fact that God’s Holy Spirit would be within people.

And lastly, ‘beyond the lines.’ In the future, people will no longer need to carry an ark around or go to a certain place to find God with someone interceding on their behalf – why? Because God will live in each person through His Holy Spirit. No longer with they fear accidentally happening across God and catching a glimpse of his holiness and dying (more likely from a heart attack at the shock of it). God lives in us and can be reached at any time we lack without fear of death visiting us for being unclean before him. This is what God is doing and has done!


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Holy Spirit in History?

‘I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the Lord have spoken, and I have done it, declares the Lord.’”(Ezekiel 37v14)’ (Ezekiel 37 v1)

What I love about this scripture is God’s promise to ‘put’ his Spirit into the people. Of course, it is only when we factor in that it was spoken during the period we now refer to as the Old Testament that we realise its significance. God’s eternal plan of infilling his creation has begun.

Here we have the first inklings of what the disciples will encounter at Pentecost. Six hundred years on after the death of Ezekiel and Jesus instructs the disciples to wait on God’s Counsellor who will come to them after his departure. After Jesus’ death and resurrection, the disciples begin a period of fasting and praying in readiness for the Counsellor to come – but truth be told, they had no idea what to expect!

The Holy Spirit enters into each of them and – filled with the life and presence of God – they fall into the streets telling everyone the good news of Jesus. The persecution that follows only makes them bold and resilient. Soon their numbers grow as a handful of disciples multiply into the 2.18 billion followers in the world today. Not by clever marketing or strategy but because God lives within each person and what they have is good news. This is how we know ‘the Lord has spoken and he has done it!’ (Ezek 37v14)

 


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