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Posts Tagged ‘Holy Spirit’

ImpossibleIt’s been the word of the season at Restore Church this year: impossible. And it’s a word that all believers must hear, should hear, need to hear and understand. This word is about us today and our faith. This word is about the extent to which God will do something from nothing. Thanks Pastor Jess Bousa for this word, now illuminated.

It sounds impossible, but listen—you know your relative Elizabeth has been unable to bear children and is now far too old to be a mother. Yet she has become pregnant, as God willed it. Yes, in three months, she will have a son. So the impossible is possible with God. [Luke 1:36-37, The Voice]

The concept is a simple one, that the impossible cannot be expected: it is a miracle after all. And yet these miracles are among us every day but we fail to give them their due. Isn’t it a miracle that a man, like Jess, could be transformed from full-blown drug addict to pastor of a thriving church? Or that I, a self-indulgent, pot-smoking, foul-mouthed actress wannabe could become a follower of the Christ? Or that my children, all adopted, would be “the ones” out of a million orphans to come into our family? All of our lives are filled with the miracles of impossible when God takes the raw material of “nothing” and makes something. Whether one sees the Genesis story as word for word real or symbolic, the message is the same: Creator God is a Maker God, who uses building blocks that none of us can really fathom. Something from nothing. Possible from impossible.

In Greek, impossible is adynateō with meanings that bridge the distance between weakness, inability, and powerlessness to the bottom line: it cannot be done. And God asks me, when will I see and understand the adynateō in myself? Not weakness in what I want to do, my dreams and ambitions. No. This is the weakness in the face of what God wants to do. In Corinthians 12:9, God speaks through Paul saying, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” God is talking about the God Plan in Paul’s life and ultimately, in my life too.

God’s power manifests in doing God’s plan. 

impossible triangleOh, silly me. I have missed this obvious all along. I keep trying to get the blessing (and success) for my ideas, my plans, my ambitions, my projects. But there has been little room in my masterminding for the impossible, the unexpected, the miracles of God.

How many sermons and teachings have we heard about knowing God’s will for our lives, as though we might be able to figure out the impossible?

This is the only time I can truly say that the cliche, “whatever,” used by teens for the last decade or so, is truly the correct word in this situation. Our surrender to God is a “whatever.” That is, whatever God wants to do, whatever the Holy Spirit wants to manifest, whatever is possible in God’s cosmos, I choose to embrace today.

Don’t misunderstand me. I am sure this is not a passivity where we simply lie down on a bed and wait for a miracle. If anything, it’s a reckless abandonment of my narrow views in favor of the expansive potentialities of God.

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Fountain 15 by Woonkey

Fountain by Geoffrey Platt

Joy is a big word in the enormity of its meaning. Appearing 58 times in the New Testament alone, as chara in the Greek; it is a particular kind of gladness, happiness, and delight that comes to us as a result of something or someone. It is our response, but not just a momentary moment of laughter or grins, it comes with an understanding. Joy carries knowledge with it.

But the angel said to them [the shepherds], “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. [Luke 2:10-11, NIV]

The angel is promising the shepherds them the experience of joy because of the import of the message and the opportunity to see the promised Messiah in the flesh. Very few were given this experience. Joy came from revelation!

I remember the first time I went to a wedding (it seems to be more common now, almost as a matter of course) when the bride and groom were introduced, that everyone exploded in cheers and applause because we all knew the difficulties the two had faced to get to this day. It was pure elation shared. It came upon me in a flood and I didn’t have to search for it or do anything to achieve it, merely allow myself to feel it.

Joy cannot be chased down like a fox in a foxhunt. It cannot be bought or traded.

In essence, joy comes from within, based on the big picture, not on circumstances. True joy is not the product of some success or or the avoidance of failure in the skirmishes of our lives. Joy is part of the rock upon which our faith is built.

I wish I could say that I walk in joy. I am even more frustrated to have this head knowledge but not the full grasp of what the plumb line of the Holy Spirit could mean in my life. I am distracted. My ego continues to be unyielding. I am still sorting and labeling and controlling my day to day experiences.

If I look at my time in quiet meditation or worship or praise or contemplation, I can see the fragmentation. Is there any wonder I cannot sustain joy? But I have had those moments, perhaps, as above, in the blessed good fortune of others or while singing a particularly meaningful set of stanzas in church or the burst of love toward a friend or child or other loved one. I have experienced the joy of nature in its beauty and majesty and in the power of the sea.

But deep inside, I know that there is a well of joy from which I have barely drunk. Oh human, we, will this fountain flow free?

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Hope Floats by Lori McNee

Hope Floats by Lori McNee

For the first Sunday of Advent, churches all over the world are lighting a single candle and speaking of HOPE: essentially the hope is of Christ whose coming has been promised and whose coming, we know, did happen. But then, if that Christ came, what is our hope today? Merely for His coming again or something else?

For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? Romans 8:24 [NIV]

“The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”– Isaiah 7:14). Matthew 1:23

Today and tonight, our church also began this Advent season with a cry for hope but with much more power. Jess Bousa announced “It is time for us to stop thinking of the Christmas story as a baby shower.” Yes, it’s sweet that Jesus is depicted as coming among the poor, entertained by mild cows and sheep, and witnessed by the outcast shepherds of the day. But what of the other point? That God sent Spirit into a human woman to create a Savior, someone who could both live and die for us, fully human and fully God, sacrificing all, in order to deposit the Holy Spirit into each one of us : Emmanuel, God with us (in us).

So, if we have Emmanuel. Tonight, one of our worship leaders, Dale Woodring, shared: “If we have Christmas inside us every day and every month, then there is no need to fear holiday commercialism or misplaced focus, God is bigger than all that. God is not worried about the point of Christmas being missed because we have Emmanuel inside of us.”

We don’t have to hope for Emmanuel, if we have accepted the truth of the work of Christ to re-establish our relationship with God, then the Spirit is within us.

So, what dHopeo we hope for? Manifestation of Emmanuel in us. We hope for an explosion of a unified Spirit in humans, the ultimate human who lives and breathes and walks in the power of grace and mercy and love, fully trusting the Presence within, accepting the ongoing paradox of a life in Christ, for to live, truly live, is Christ [Philippians 1:21].

Hope is a word of confidence, an expectation of a good result, with or without evidence, hope remains. Hope is active, not passive. Hope can be regenerated. Hope loves. Hope sees. Hope is born in Emmanuel.

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Sometimes it simply comes down to this basic request of God: Teach me! Even the disciples, in all of their travels and time spent with Jesus, still didn’t get it and all they could say was, “teach us.” [Luke 11:1] But of course, in order to learn, I must be open to the information.

WhichwayTeach me how to do Your will,
    for You are my God.
Allow Your good Spirit to guide me
    on level ground, to guide me along Your path. [Psalm 143:10, The Voice]

First of all, I must know and trust the teacher. In Psalm 143, David identifies clearly his relationship to the teacher for it is God alone who has the ability to teach was David needs in that moment. His life is at a cusp, a turning point and David must figure out what to do next. The only course to take is God’s way, but what is it? This is the eternal dilemma of most believers at one point in our walk or another.

Which way? Where next? What next?

And so, I must turn to God and ask for direction or even better (as translated in the voice), ask for instruction to determine God’s will (both this time and the next time and the time after that).

As part of this request, I am hoping for a little extra help in discerning the way. This time, I say, I really don’t know which way to turn, what to say, how to proceed. Guide me, Lord, and as your Spirit guides me from within, use this opportunity to teach me how you work both inside me and outside me.

So often, I find myself on an uphill climb and I sense it’s not the best way to tackle my issue, my understanding. I may even be making things more difficult than they need to be.

I need to stop striving so. I need to stop, right where I am and confess my “control freak” self has taken over the reigns again and I’ve managed to get myself back into a difficult state of affairs. I didn’t pay attention to the Spirit before I started out on this path. I didn’t even bother to “check in.”

Forgive me Lord. Like Sara of old who thought she had to help out prophecy and gave her handmaiden, Hagar, to Abraham that Hagar  might bear a child whose destiny would be to populate the earth. O Sarah, foolish bride, set a great nation in motion that may have never intended to be one.

Each of us set change in motion by our actions, our words, our decisions: sometimes for good and sometimes not.

I let go of the past. I trust in God’s future for me. Teach me about the now of my life.

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I love the verbs in this Psalm. If I took those verbs into my heart, I would have a prayer life that could change the world.

prayers are manyLord, hear my prayer,
    listen to my cry for mercy;
in your faithfulness and righteousness
    come to my relief. . . .
The enemy pursues me,
    he crushes me to the ground; . . .
I remember the days of long ago;
    I meditate on all your works
    and consider what your hands have done.
I spread out my hands to you; [surrender]
    I thirst for you like a parched land. [Psalm 143:1, 3a, 5-6]

It’s so simple.

I ask God to hear, listen & come, while the “enemy” pursues & crushes, but I am busy: remembering, meditating, considering, surrendering and thirsting [desiring] after the things of God: voice, heart, peace, and confidence.
If I am to successfully face the trials of life, this must be my mode of operation. There is no trial or circumstance that has not been covered by the promises of God when I am surrendered to God. The deal was struck through the covenant relationship that God has with human. . . . and with me.

Trials and disappointments will still be around. In fact, the world pursues us all, through the evil actions of others which cause hurricanes of pain and sorrow. I cannot stop the flood of terror or violence or stupidity fueled by selfish ambitions and delusion. I cannot always understand what drives others. I can only do my part: remember who God is my life; meditate on the presence of Christ’s Spirit within; consider the implications of living a surrendered life; and desiring God’s way and not my own.

This is what it means to pray.

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trust2It’s the ultimate question, really. Do I trust God or not? It is a question who’s answer is black or white, yes or no. Any answer close to “maybe” is a no. It is the essence of faith; they work in tandem, they need each other.

Lord Almighty,
    blessed is the one who trusts in you. [Psalm 84:12, NIV 2011]

It is trust that operates outside of the tangible world. Trust is the foundation upon which I can continue forward in the face of trouble, in the face of terror, in the face of sickness or collapse.

Trust and faith are spirit words. They are not driven by circumstances or the weather. When I live in the realm of trust and faith, I am living in the Maker’s world.

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I suppose it’s been foolish of me to imagine that there aren’t degrees within the broad umbrella of service to God. I enjoyed the openness of acceptance, the equality I found in Galatians 3:28, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” And so I had imagined there was an across the board sameness to us in the eyes of Spirit. But then, I was reminded by my own pastor that there are promises of “crowns” in heaven for some and not for others. Initially, this message made me uncomfortable. I have spent so many years trying to let go of a performance-oriented faith, a weighing in of the value of my response to grace.

Reality check: Some people deserve recognition for their faithfulness. They may be choosing more wisely how to use their time and energies than me.

Just one day in the courts of Your temple is greaterMotherteresa and child
    than a thousand anywhere else.
I would rather serve as a porter at my God’s doorstep
    than live in luxury in the house of the wicked.
For the Eternal God is a sun and a shield.
    The Eternal grants favor and glory;
He doesn’t deny any good thing
    to those who live with integrity. [Psalm 84:10-11, The Voice]

The point is the paradox that the choice is not the “Martha” one of scurrying about and being busy for Jesus. It’s sitting at the feet of the Christ, it’s holding the door, it’s being present and ready when a need comes up and then simply saying, “yes.”

As Pastor Jess taught, if we have accepted the presence of Christ and the Holy Spirit in our lives, then we are “saved,” meaning we are bound to the Spirit and our own spirits will live forever in heaven, in perpetual unity with the Holy Spirit. But the sweetness of that union depends on my devotion, my surrender, my confession, my poured out life.

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