The Gift the Father Promised

One day, Jesus told his disciples to stay in the city because “I am going to send you what my Father has promised.” The gift God promised is the Holy Spirit, the person of the Trinity that seems to get the least attention in scripture and worship.

On one occasion, while he 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

In the first sermon in a series on the Holy Spirit, my pastor shared a verse that made me think about why it is for our good that Jesus is not here in the flesh. How could it be good for the disciples that Jesus was leaving them? They were so blessed to see God in the flesh and to learn from him! Oh, how I want to be with my friend Jesus!

But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you

John 16:7

Jesus had to go away because he had to die to atone for the sins of mankind once and for all.

I am thankful that Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to be with us, to guide us, and to be our Advocate. The Spirit empowers us. Lord, let us become more aware of your presence! You are welcome here.

Holy Spirit (Francesca Battistelli)

Holy Spirit, You are welcome here
Come flood this place and fill the atmosphere
Your glory, God, is what our hearts long for
To be overcome by Your presence, Lord
Your presence, Lord

*******

Photo by 卡晨 on Unsplash

Be still and wait on the Lord

Waiting for God to answer your most fervent prayers is hard. I have learned not to expect an immediate answer because I know that God’s timing is not the same as mine. But when you have been waiting on the Lord for months or even years, you may wonder why he isn’t answering your prayers.

In my last Bible study on The Extraordinary Power of Praise, Becky Harling offered excellent advice on what to do while you wait: worship! Thank God for what he is doing in the background.

Even when I can’t see how God is working in my life and in the lives of others, I know that he is working things out for my good. He is accomplishing extraordinary things that I know nothing about (yet).

Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.

Psalm 27:14

When I praise God, I soften my heart to his will. As I wait, God is shaping my heart and my character. He is refining me, making me humble, ridding me of my imperfections and impurities.

Becky Harling said to direct your thoughts to the character of God instead of worrying about the what-ifs. I know that God is good and I know that his intentions towards me are good! I know that he is merciful. I know that he is faithful and he has been good to me!

But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, for he has been good to me.

Psalm 13:5-6

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him to give you the desires of your heart.

Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Psalm 37:4

Be still. Listen. Stop questioning. Stop doubting. Have faith! God is in control. God is good. God is loving and merciful. He is my ever-present help in times of trouble.

❤️❤️❤️❤️

Photo credit: Mindful Christanity Facebook page.

Into your hands, I commit my spirit

My church has been studying the gospel of Luke for well over a year and we are finally at the end of a very rewarding journey. The focus of a recent lesson on Luke 23:44-49 was the words Jesus spoke before he died on the cross. Luke recounted Christ’s words as a quote from Psalm 31:5: “Father, into your hands, I commit my spirit.” These words are quite different from the last words of Jesus found in the gospels of Matthew and Mark.

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
    Why are you so far from saving me,
    so far from my cries of anguish?

Psalm 22:1

Jesus felt both anguish and trust in his last moments. Anguish because he suffered on the cross for the sins of man; trust because he knew that God would deliver him.

My pastor told us that the words of Jesus on the cross were not a prayer of preparation for death but an expression of trust. Jesus trusted the Father with his life. These words – into your hands, I commit my spirit – are not famous last words but famous first words.

Jesus knew the scriptures and committed them to heart.

1 In you, Lord, I have taken refuge;
    let me never be put to shame;
    deliver me in your righteousness.
Turn your ear to me,
    come quickly to my rescue;
be my rock of refuge,
    a strong fortress to save me.
Since you are my rock and my fortress,
    for the sake of your name lead and guide me.
Keep me free from the trap that is set for me,
    for you are my refuge.
Into your hands I commit my spirit;
    deliver me, Lord, my faithful God.

Psalm 31:1-5

What if I were to pray these words daily? Father, into your hands, I commit my (living) spirit. Deliver me, Lord, my faithful God. Deliver me from the challenges I face this day. Deliver me from temptation. Lead me and guide me. I take refuge in you, Father! You are my rock and fortress.

My pastor said, practice makes permanent. When we make reading and praying scripture a daily practice, we will remember it when we need it most. We will all be shaken by difficulties in life. When we are shaken, whatever we are filled with comes out. Fill your mind with the word of God.

Finally, let difficult times draw you near to God, not push you away. Don’t take things into your own hands. Put your life in God’s hands. You can trust him.

****

Photo by Ricardo Moura on Unsplash

Who’s the old lady?

Who's the old lady in the mirror
with the frizzy, graying hair?
Her appearance is so unexpected,
she's given me quite a scare.

Who's the old lady in the mirror
with my mama's jowls and eyes?
Her face is so much like my own,
it has taken me by surprise!

Who's the old lady in the mirror
with the waddle in her neck?
She's much older than I feel inside.
I think to myself, what the heck!

I smile at the lady in the mirror.
Her smile matches mine to a tee.
I see the gentle spirit in her eyes;
This old lady is beautiful to me.

Responding to uncertainty

Uncertainty is a fact of life. I’m reminded of the saying: nothing is certain but death and taxes. These days, things that I once saw as certainties – like America’s democracy or ample supplies of goods and services –  are not certain anymore. I never imagined that I would live through a global pandemic or an attempt to prevent the peaceful transfer of power from one U.S. president to the next. Yet here we are.

Uncertainty was the topic of a recent sermon at my church. After the last supper, the disciples argued about which of them was the greatest (Luke 22:24-30). Jesus had just told them that he would suffer and that one of them would betray him. The disciples initially responded to this uncertainty with pride and self-interest.

The message of the sermon was that uncertain times reveal three things about us: our desires, our certainties, and our purpose. I would add that the way we respond to uncertainty reveals a lot about our character.

Some of us have a desire to be first. Some of us have a desire for control. Some of us desire what’s best for others. Some of us want what is best for ourselves. Some of us want God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. Some of us don’t want anyone on earth or in heaven to tell us what to do.

What do your desires say about your character? Are you proud or humble, selfish or selfless, judgmental or forgiving? How do you react when your desires aren’t fulfilled? With fear, anger, worry, resignation, hope, resolve?

What are your certainties – besides death and taxes? How about the laws of nature or a friend who would never let you down?

I am certain of Christ’s immeasurable love for me. I am certain that God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. I am certain that he is with me. I am certain that he will work things out for my good. I am certain of eternal life.

My pastor said that in uncertain times, our purpose is revealed when we model Jesus. Jesus served others. He didn’t put himself first even though he had the power to do so. He didn’t avoid pain and suffering but took it on for our sake. He was merciful and compassionate.

My pastor said that the battle ahead is not a physical fight; it is internal. We all feel the angst. We need to be on guard. We need to prepare our hearts and minds for the challenges ahead.

I believe that the forces of evil in this world are using their most effective tool – deception – to wreak havoc and sow division. Look at all the people today who fall for conspiracy theories!

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

Ephesians 6:12

I can attest that uncertainty causes internal struggles. The recent decision by the U.S Supreme Court to overturn Roe vs Wade is a perfect example. My desire is that there be fewer abortions because I believe that life is a precious gift from God. At the same time, I have compassion for people who don’t have a relationship with God. I want them to see Christ in me. To model Jesus, my response has to be compassion and mercy not condemnation and judgment.

My pastor left us with a few questions. Do your desires align with God’s? Of what can you be certain? What purpose might God yet reveal?