Today on Pentecost Sunday BE the Church God Intended

We need a refreshing touch, a new outpouring.

We need a fresh reminder of how much we need him, and how lame our efforts are without him.

We make too much noise and think it’s God. We need the NOISE of a mighty wind that makes it clear… this is God.

When Pentecost Day arrived, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound from heaven like the howling of a fierce wind filled the entire house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be individual flames of fire alighting on each one of them. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages as the Spirit enabled them to speak. (Acts 2:1-4, CEB)

The Price of Pentecost

Sunday is Pentecost Sunday. It is celebrated worldwide in the Church. Pentecostals think we’re the only ones who know anything about this. I know that was my mentality for years. Then, I find out the whole Church has a liturgy for this day!

One of the prayers for the day:

To a world dry and thirsty
God has poured out Living Water;
To a world fainting and breathless
God has stirred a mighty wind;
To a world cold and dark
God has ignited the flame
of the Spirit;
Let us worship for the Spirit has come
The Spirit has come – hallelujah!

Yet, having a liturgy for this day, or having the “corner on the market” as Pentecostals used to think, doesn’t mean a thing if it’s just a day.

The passage I will reflect on for Pentecost Sunday is Joel 2. It is packed with promise. But before the promise comes the price. For Israel, they had rebelled so much and the grievances were so great, God had to completely wipe the slate clean. It’s like a hard reboot on your phone. It’s a “wipe” on your hard drive. Just start over!

Joel 1 is ugly. Joel 2 isn’t very pretty for the first few verses. But there is PROMISE.

God is still merciful.

12 Yet even now, says the Lord,
return to me with all your hearts,
with fasting, with weeping, and with sorrow;
13 tear your hearts
and not your clothing.
Return to the Lord your God,
for he is merciful and compassionate,
very patient, full of faithful love,
and ready to forgive.
(Joel 2:12-13, CEB)

He is ready to forgive. He is ready to pour out his Spirit. The price of Pentecost is repentance. When the disciples waited in the upper room, it was ten days before the Spirit was poured out. There was probably some “heart cleaning” to do.

We need to “give up to go up.” We need to release our old life of doing it our way. It’s not working! It is time to seek the Lord. It is time to ask for the Holy Spirit to empower us once again.

The True Power of the Spirit

One of my favorite verses in the entire Bible is Romans 8:11

11 If the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead lives in you, the one who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your human bodies also, through his Spirit that lives in you.

We truly live in the power of the Spirit. We have so much available to us… and we utilize so little. Actually, we care so little.

We are satisfied with riding our nice red tricycles because we love that tricycle! Why ride anything else? It gets us where we’re going! God dangles the key to the Porsche 911 in front of us and we think, “Good, Lord! I could get killed in one of those things!”

Get off the tricycle. When the Spirit is truly at work in your life, you may just find out what “turbo” power is all about!

The Common English Bible and “Flesh”

One of the small translation choices of the NIV was the use of “sinful nature” over the straight use of the Greek word “flesh.” When the TNIV was published, then trashed, and the Committee for Bible Translation decided to back everything up and start over, the one surprise for me out of the whole process was they decided to move from “sinful nature” to “flesh” in most places.

The Common English Bible, striving to bring a bit more clarity to modern usage, goes a different route.

CEB:

4 He did this so that the righteous requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us. Now the way we live is based on the Spirit, not based on selfishness. (Rom. 8:4)

NIV:

4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

The word is “flesh,” but what that means in modern usage is the trick.

We really have moved, in the Spirit, from a life of selfishness to a life of freedom. We have moved from being controlled by the flesh… our sinful nature… to being controlled by the Spirit.

Does the use of “selfishness” convey the same message? Is it a good word to bring in for “flesh?”

The Power of the Spirit – From Confusion to Clarity

The walk through Romans 6-8 is more like a roller coaster ride. There is the power of salvation, being set free from the bondage of sin, in Chapter 6. Then, there is the confusion we have in our own lives when we struggle with what we know TO do while we fall into the temptation of doing the exact opposite.

15 I don’t know what I’m doing, because I don’t do what I want to do. Instead, I do the thing that I hate. 16 But if I’m doing the thing that I don’t want to do, I’m agreeing that the Law is right. 17 But now I’m not the one doing it anymore. Instead, it’s sin that lives in me. (Rom. 7:15-17, CEB)

It is the great struggle most of us, if not all of us, walk through. We just can’t seem to get any traction!

The power of the Spirit brings clarity. It doesn’t mean things are easy. Yet, with the Spirit, we are truly given power to overcome.

We need a new realization of the power of the Spirit. Romans 8 offers us a view that is powerful. When the Spirit is TRULY at work in us, we come to a realization of the God’s radical love for us. We realize nothing separates from that love. We realize all is ours. We are in need of that reality in the Church today. We abide in power. We are offered clarity instead of confusion.

Something or Someone WILL Own You

Slave to sin… or slave to righteousness? Either way, you’re owned. Something vies for control. Something vies for allegiance.

Christ has come to set us free. That freedom leads to new “ownership.” The terms of slavery are used, but freedom is found in the new “ownership.”

We are headed into the Pentecost Sunday. It is a celebration of the Day of Pentecost. We also need to understand the power of the Spirit in our lives. It is beyond an “event” as Pentecostals would describe it. It is about being owned. Being controlled.

Are we truly under the Spirit’s power?

6 But now we have been released from the Law. We have died with respect to the thing that controlled us, so that we can be slaves in the new life under the Spirit, not in the old life under the written Law. (Rom. 7:6, CEB)

Are You Dead Yet?

One of my favorite fun movies is Cool Runnings. It’s a comedy about the Jamaican bobsled team. When the team would crash in practice, the driver would ask, “Sanka, are you dead, mon?”

He would answer, “Yeah, mon.”

We need to remember this as believers. We need to realize we are dead to the old life. The life of sin and the flesh has been dealt with.

Are you dead yet?

12 So then, don’t let sin rule your body, so that you do what it wants. 13 Don’t offer parts of your body to sin, to be used as weapons to do wrong. Instead, present yourselves to God as people who have been brought back to life from the dead, and offer all the parts of your body to God to be used as weapons to do right. 14 Sin will have no power over you, because you aren’t under Law but under grace. (Rom. 6:12-14, CEB)


 

Quit Hanging Around the Corpse

We have a fascination with death, being dead, being undead, etc. I am not even going to attempt to categorize any of it because I pay very little attention to it and all I will get are comments about how I mis-categorized something.

My point is this: we need to quit hanging around the corpse. Once something is dead, leave it. Well, more specifically, once your life in Christ is activated, quit hanging around the corpse of what once was.

This is a place where I am intrigued by the word chosen by the Common English Bible:

6 This is what we know: the person that we used to be was crucified with him in order to get rid of the corpse that had been controlled by sin. That way we wouldn’t be slaves to sin anymore, 7 because a person who has died has been freed from sin’s power. (Rom. 6:6-7, CEB)

Romans 6-8 is one of the most powerful passages in Scripture. The emphasis from death to life is so deeply powerful. Leave the old life. Enter into the powerful life of the Spirit. Don’t let the corpse hang around!

You are born into new life. Get rid of the stinking corpse that was your old life. You may think it’s novel to have it hanging around, but it’s stinking up the place! Move on in Christ.

Don’t Move Until You Get It

Several years ago there was a movie called Searching for Bobby Fischer, about a chess whiz kid named Josh Waitzkin. In one scene, the chess tutor gives Josh a scenario and tells him, “Don’t move until you see it.”

He was telling Josh, “There is victory for you in this situation. It’s several steps away, but it’s there. See it in your mind before you make your next move.”

We need that wisdom in our own lives. Don’t just run charging into a situation. Wait. Listen. Observe. See what is ahead. Then, move.

That is Jesus’ instruction to the disciples before he ascends to heaven.

49 Look, I’m sending to you what my Father promised, but you are to stay in the city until you have been furnished with heavenly power. (Luke 24:49, CEB)

We just aren’t good at waiting. We need to see what the Father has for us, but so often we plunge ahead. We are more like Saul in the Old Testament. Who has time to wait for the old prophet to show up? Why wait for what God has that is best when we know what is good.

We allow the good to rob us of the best.

We need to move out into uncharted waters. We need to get to a place where we can’t do it on our own.

“Will God ever ask you to do something you are not able to do? The answer is yes–all the time! It must be that way, for God’s glory and kingdom. If we function according to our ability alone, we get the glory; if we function according to the power of the Spirit within us, God gets the glory. He wants to reveal Himself to a watching world.”
Henry T. Blackaby, Experiencing the Spirit: The Power of Pentecost Every Day

We need the power of the Spirit in our lives. But don’t think that’s something you can control. If you can control it, it’s not God.

Wait for power. Wait for the presence of God. Don’t move until you get it.

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It’s Pentecost

Next Sunday is Pentecost Sunday. It’s about the only time the Church is somewhat focused on the member of the Trinity we really don’t understand. So… we don’t talk about the Spirit much. If you’re Pentecostal, you are defined by the events of Acts 2, but still may not have a grasp on just WHO the Holy Spirit is.

If you’re not Pentecostal, here is a scary thought: If you are Trinitarian… you have to deal with the Spirit anyway!

We are too often defined by what we’re NOT rather than what we ARE.

We need the power of the Spirit in our lives. He does not need to be ignored.

Prayer of Augustine

Breathe in me, O Holy Spirit, that my thoughts may all be holy.

Act in me, O Holy Spirit, that my work, too, may be holy.

Draw my heart, O Holy Spirit, that I love but what is holy.

Strengthen me, O Holy Spirit, to defend all that is holy.

Guard me, then, O Holy Spirit, that I always may be holy.

Amen.

Joel 2 (CEB)

27 You will know that I am in the midst of Israel,
and that I am the Lord your God—no other exists;
never again will my people be put to shame.
28 After that I will pour out my spirit upon everyone;
your sons and your daughters will prophesy,
your old men will dream dreams,
and your young men will see visions.
29 In those days, I will also pour out my
spirit on the male and female slaves.