Genesis 2:18 | Significant Other

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My wife went out of town on a trip with our daughter to New York. It was an out of character trip for our family dynamic but it was a trip that would benefit our daughter to see the world up close from a big city perspective. I could not make the trip so I was left at home without my wife’s company. We have been married for a long time and I realized what a complete and total disaster I am when she is not around. I did not eat well. I did not go to bed at a decent hour. I missed her presence and conversation. And I was reminded that I am much better off in this life because of her.

Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” Genesis 2:18 ESV

I love my wife and our life together is more than what I would have been apart from her. However our life together is messy and hard work. When one of us makes a mistake, it impacts both of us. And both of us are sinners who make mistakes every single day. Adam and Eve experienced that flaw in a real way as well.

Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” 12 The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” 13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” Genesis 3:11-13 ESV

God made Eve to be a “helper” and Adam needed a helper. He liked the helper God had provided but Adam and Eve were together helping each other to rebel and disobey God. Partners in crime. Being created in God’s image was not enough to take on God’s perfection. Ultimately because of their sin they were unable to help themselves. The word used when God said he would make a helper for Adam is “ezer” עֵזֶר and only twice in the bible is it used to refer to Eve and both times were before their fall. Everywhere else this word ezer is used to refer to the only helper who can truly help and that is God himself.

I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. Psalms 121:1-2 ESV

After Adam and Eve sinned they were together in the fallen world. She is still his helper but they are equal before God as sinners who have broken the relationship of mankind and his creator. In the fallen world she is in the same boat and so the meaning of helper changes going forward. Because of the curse a new world that is no longer “good” comes forward and God is the only helper. God is the only help. Adam and Eve must look to him for salvation and help.

God never fails and God does not abandon his creation. When Adam and Eve became helpless God provided a new helper. That is where Jesus comes in and here he is making a promise that we may all take hold of.

16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. John 14:16-17 ESV

Whatever limitations Adam and Eve had are eliminated with this new helper that Jesus sends. This helper is not a limited image of God. This helper is God’s very own spirit. This helper is equal to God and part of the trinity that makes up God. The Holy Spirit is the helper we need to live life holy before God. This helper will be with us forever for those who receive him. True help comes only from the Lord. Turn to him and yield to his ways. Accept Christ for salvation and a relationship with the creator.

26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. 28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:26-28 ESV

Acts 1:4-5 |A Heart of Stone No More

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Religion is man striving and working to secure the favor of God. Live this kind of life, go to this kind of church, give money to the poor, follow the ten commandments… I could write for days all of the things people must do in the name of religion. Religion even carries a dark undertone when used to oppress those that do not follow the rules. It is an ugly business when one group to curry favor with the gods will crush another group who follows different rules for life and becomes offensive to those around them. Beyond this ugliness religion also has a major problem. How does one know when they have done enough or the sacrifice outweighs the guilt before god? I can’t even keep a new year resolution more than 60 seconds how do I know God will accept me and the life I have lived?

The answer is we don’t and so I hear from people all the time. “I hope my good is good enough” or “God knows I have done my best he will not hold it against me”. The problem is that these attitudes are subjective wishful thinking of people who have not spent enough time pondering this most important mystery.

God however knows that religion is not going to save anyone. We should understand that also.

In the days of old God set up an elaborate system of laws that the Nation state of Israel agreed to live under. These laws included religious observances that included ways to ask forgiveness for sins against God and neighbors. The people of Israel did not live up to the laws of that state very well and so after many generations of rebellion God dispersed the people all over the known world. This was a very violent dispersal in a very violent world. Yet even in this dark time God continued to reveal a plan and a promise that would impact the future we current live in.

26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. Ezekiel 36:26 ESV

God through his prophet told the people that his plan was to give his people a new heart and a new spirit. This promise is fulfilled at the conclusion of the earthly ministry of Jesus. After Jesus was raised alive from the dead one of the last times he physically met with the disciples he asked them to wait what turned out to be a few short days for the promised Holy Spirit. The new spirit would be poured out generously to those who would chase after Christ.

4 And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” Acts 1:4-5 ESV

So what does this new Holy Spirit have to do with Religion? What does the Holy Spirit an a new heart have to do with our hope that we have been good enough? The Holy Spirit is the fruit of the salvation that Jesus secured on the Cross. Without the Christ and the Holy Spirit living in me the gulf between God and man stands impassable. I can’t be good enough. So, God destroys the hard heart of religion and frees us to stand before him has rightful children. We stand before our heavenly father in full rights of relationship. Our communion takes place through the ministry of this new spirit that God has poured out on those who call on his name in Jesus.

13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. Ephesians 1:13-14 ESV

The Holy Spirit is the promised heart and down payment of a guarantee. Not a hope not a work to be good but a guarantee that our relationship with God is permanently restored and one day, come soon Jesus my savior, I will be fully in possession of God’s presence in heaven to give him Glory for all eternity. Don’t live life with a cold religious doubt eating your soul. Submit now. Surrender now. Seek salvation now from Christ who has the authority to give you a new transformational heart of living breathing grace by way of the Holy Spirit.

The Groans of Prayer

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Prayer is difficult for me because most of the time I do not like the answer. Even still I know God knows better than me and I have on many occasions been driven to my face on the floor before Him in anguish, pain, frustration, desire, and anger. Prayer in those moments has been raw and mostly wordless. Paul describes the prayers of the Holy Spirit on our behalf as groanings. Prayer for me at its most powerful moments might be described that way.

26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. Romans 8:26-27 ESV

The only other time this word for groanings is used in the New Testament is in Acts when Stephen who is about to be martyred is recounting the Jewish history to his accusers. Stephen says that God sent Moses to free the people after He heard their groanings within the bonds of slavery.

34 I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt, and have heard their groaning, and I have come down to deliver them. And now come, I will send you to Egypt.’ Acts 7:34 ESV

We are simple people limited in time space to right now. Our vision is limited our knowledge is limited. How do I know what to pray for? How could I know what is right for me? When Israel prayed to God it was from desire deep within them to be free. God answered that through Moses but I guarantee none were praying for Moses to rescue them. So it is with us. How many times has God provided an answer that was not the way one would have solved the problem? The Holy Spirit intercedes on our behalf and prays for us what we would want to pray for and about if we knew it.

Additionally notice the end of the verse in Romans “according to the will of God”. The Holy Spirit is not praying our will with a groaning. The Holy Spirit is praying for what we should be praying according to God’s will for us. The Holy Spirit is not groaning that I win the lottery because that is what I desperately want. A pastor of my youth once said that prayer is not the time that you change God’s mind but the time God changes yours. The more time you spend in prayer the more the mind of God through the Holy Spirit is revealed to you. Prayer results in a longing to be with God. Prayer before God shapes the person praying in the image of Christ. Prayer opens our eyes to the eternal perspective that this life is not our home. Our hope and expectations look to more than a job, spouse, kids, and money because we start to see the world through the eyes of God Himself.

22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. Romans 8:22-23 ESV

As we pray we start to groan with all of Creation with the realization that this world is temporary and there is a desire and anticipation for something better and more wonderful. The Holy Spirit aligns the heart with a desire for God and the things that are important to Him. The Holy Spirit testifies that we are children of God to whom we can cry out Father!

14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, Romans 8:14-16 ESV

It is this groaning that leads people to become radical for God. The kind of people who quit jobs and move family to the ends of the earth. The kind of people who put family above worldly success. The kind of people who have love and compassion for the unlovable. Prayer of this kind is a dangerous thing that will make one ruined for ordinary self-absorbed living.

Genesis 9:13 | The New Covenant

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God the Creator is a “Covenant” making God. So what does that mean for you and me? Why are the covenants of God important and do I have any responsibility to God because of them?

11 I establish my covenant with you: Never again will all life be destroyed by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth.” 12 And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: 13 I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. Genesis 9:11-13 ESV

The Hebrew word for covenant here בְּרִית is used hundreds of times in the Old Testament text but it is used first with Noah and his family at the start of the flood. The Evangelical Dictionary of Theology defines Covenant as an agreement between two parties obligating themselves to certain ways of life. However the Covenant between God and Noah’s family here is very one sided. It is more of a promise from an all-powerful God that never again would He destroy all life with water in the way that was just completed when Noah stepped on that Ark. This covenant is not a contract or a simple promise. It is a binding unalterable truth given by a King and Ruler to a powerless subject. A contract might be between two people who have business and both enter into the deal as relative equals. God’s covenants to man are not like that.

Noah’s covenant one of the first of many from God does not even require any response from man other than to be reminded and to know who God is and where we stand with Him. God out of his own mercy promises to never flood the world again and then God gives a sign the rainbow in the sky for men to remember forever who God is and what He has said he will do.

14 Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, 15 I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. Genesis 9:14-15 ESV

God has made other covenants and the one that currently applies to us today was first announced by the Prophet Jeramiah. This covenant like the one to Noah is a promise from God to man where God is promising to act on our behalf for our benefit.

31 “The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah. 32 It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them,” declares the Lord. 33 “This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,” declares the Lord. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. 34 No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the Lord. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” Jeramiah 31:31-34 ESV

This “New Covenant” that God is promising is one where he will write onto the hearts of his people who he is and everyone covered by the covenant will have a relationship and know who God is. This covenant will be for people of simple means and people of powerful means.

13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. Ephesians 1:13 ESV

God has accomplished this New Covenant by sealing His people with His Holy Spirit changing who we are with a new heart that comes from Him. This could not be accomplished until Jesus the change agent of the New Covenant completed his ministry.

15 For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant. Hebrews 9:15 ESV

Jesus when he died fulfilled the temporary placeholder covenant from God. The new covenant that God set in motion at the very beginning is now in full effect. God having paid for our sins with the death of Christ is able to give to us, His children with His Holy Spirit and effectively remove our old dead hearts of stone and rebellion.

24 So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith. 25 Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian. 26 So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 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. 29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. Galatians 3:24-29 ESV

This New Covenant is so powerful and so effective that through it people from the greatest to the least can be saved to live eternally with their Creator. But this covenant must be entered into unlike the covenant with Noah. God in his mercy gave a promise to all people that never again would He flood the world. This new covenant requires that individuals agree to a baptized life clothed with Christ by way of the Holy Spirit transforming the heart. Salvation stands before every man, woman, and child. A transformation and new life await. Will you too submit to Christ and be God’s child transformed into the new covenant?

My Prayer for 2016

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At the beginning of the last year I was leading a group of youth at a large two day youth conference. Events like this are stressful for me because I am not a fan of crowds. (I know a youth leader that does not like crowds that is crazy) Plus I am a volunteer with a full time day job. This was the first event I had organized and I felt the weight of planning an organizing this outing. Standing emotionally drained in one of the worship sessions with Kari Jobe on stage singing I started a conversation with God about just how worn out and exhausted I was at that moment. I am grateful to have a relationship with my Creator and I love to serve him as a volunteer in ministry. I know He has drawn me to this point and I know that His work serves an eternal purpose. However I fear drawing close to Him because, well frankly, He asks the impossible and demands to be in control. At this moment standing with thousands of others singing I entered into His presence in a way that is familiar to me but not common. The Holy Spirit was near and God was speaking. As in the past He does not say much but He is always powerful and life altering in these moments before His Holy presence. When Moses went to the top of Mount Sinai and spent time with God He was altered as evidenced by the reaction from the Israelites when he returned to their company (Exodus 34:29-30). What I know from firsthand experience is that it is impossible to come before God and not be altered, moved, changed, or impacted in some unforgettable way. He is too mighty and powerful for there to be any other outcome. So it was for me that day at the conference. God told me that if I thought the previous year was busy and exhausting just wait until I saw what lay ahead for the coming year. I knew it would be true. What lay ahead was an in-law moving into my home, a promotion at work that I did not want, a construction project on the basement of my home for the in-law, a final push to wrap up a master’s degree, The pastor asking me to preach for the first time, all while continuing to be a father and husband, and manage the multiple ministries within the Church that are on my heart. There is no way one person can be outstanding at all of those things. Yet that is what the upcoming year had in store. The Holy Spirit speaking to my heart told me that in order to survive the upcoming year that I needed to step out of the comfort and illusion of control I maintain and trust God to be in control. I started thinking about Peter when he asked if he could leave the boat and walk to Jesus.

28 And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” 29 He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. Matthew 14:28-29 ESV

I am amazed at Peter’s boldness and rashness of that situation. They were in the middle of the sea, it was night, and there was a raging storm. How could he just step out of the boat into that level of chaos? The boat itself was not a fun place to be at that moment but at least he knew he stood a chance as long at the boat stayed above the water. At that moment that is exactly what I felt in my heart. God drawing me out of the security of the boat. God asking me to let go of the controlling, reserved, and rational nature of who I am. I try my best to not make mistakes. I speak once I have analyzed and understand an issue. I act when I am confident of the outcome. God was drawing me into an out of control situation in the upcoming year and he wanted me to embrace it with a newfound level of faith and trust in Him. God wanted to demonstrate to me that He is in control and I do not need a backup plan. God is in control and I do not need to maintain the illusion of control in order to serve Him where He is at work. As I meditated on this invitation to me from God while standing in a crowd of thousands I started to scheme in my heart about how I could step out of the boat but maintain control. If I was Peter I would have been able to trust Jesus while stepping out onto the water but the rational and prudent thing would have been to tie off rope to the boat and myself before stepping out. Yes that would have worked. So in my head I committed to stepping out in greater faithfulness to trust God would carry me though the year, but I also promised myself in my heart that I would continue to maintain some level of control and in my own strength accomplish what He was calling me to do.

Here I am one year later at writing this letter as a way to sort out where I stand and what this New Year will hold for me. When I reflect back on the last year I know it came about exactly as God told me it would and I know that because I wanted to maintain control that it was equally disastrous to me physically and emotionally. I have always been a relatively healthy person and have lived an active lifestyle but that ended this last year where I gained weight and I stopped exercising. My cholesterol and blood pressure levels are now at unsafe ranges. By the fourth quarter of the year I was emotionally drained and had to pull back from several ministry investments that I believe the Church should be focused on just as the new church year was being launched. And something new I had never experienced before overcame me toward the end of the year. I started having what I can only describe as anxiety or panic attacks. The peak occurred over the Thanksgiving holiday. We were visiting family out of state for the holiday. The day was unseasonably warm and beautiful so we took the children fishing at a local park. The surroundings were calm and peaceful. The park was quiet and calm around this pond. The striking thing to me that day was the contrast to how gorgeous and peaceful that day was on the outside yet internally my chest was constricted and in pain. I was struggling to breathe comfortably. I took a walk on the park paths taking deep breaths trying to relax. I started to reflect on why I was such a mess. My job was out of control were that last promotion had left me consumed with an unreasonable and impossible demands. I had drawn away from spending time listening for God and His vision. I felt as if the ministry at Church was on hold because I had nothing to invest physically or emotionally at that point. This is what keeping control looks like and I was not happy with the results. I was immediately reminded of my encounter with God earlier in the year. I knew this was all on me and that I needed to surrender.

So here I am contemplating the upcoming year. I have been slowly spending time drawing close to God and He in is mercy and grace has restored me in several ways. I am once again emotionally restored with a desire to write and teach. The anxiety attacks are gone. I have lost several pounds and am feeling physically better. However there remains one major task before me. The same request that I cheated one year before. Will I step out of the boat? Will I rest in His control? Will I be irrational and do what the world would say is crazy? I want to. Lord and Father know that I want to. I can’t do any of this that you have called me to on my own. Without you it is not even worth doing. Lord give me the desire and strength to wildly abandon the reasonable safety of the boat. Help me to untie the safety ropes. Father I am yours and I want to move forward in this relationship counting everything else as lost. I struggle to say this but I desire it… Father have your way with me.

 

Acts 2: Repent and be Baptized!

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When I think about Acts Chapter 2 I am immediately drawn to verse 38 where Peter responds to the crowd’s question and concludes his first Holy Spirit directed sermon.

38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Acts 2:38 ESV

The crowd was cut to their heart by his message, they realized the weight of their sin against their Creator, and they asked Peter what could be done. He responded with two actions that would result in a solution to the problem. Repent and be baptized. Repentance is first and it is a key to the heart being humbled and ready for God to work. Second is Baptism the first act of public obedience to celebrate what has happened in the heart already. Both work together and the model was established by John the Baptist when he was clearing the way for Jesus.

4 John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5 And all the country of Judea and all Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Mark 1:4 ESV

So what is repentance and how does one get to that state? Repent the word Peter used in the Greek simply means to “change one’s mind”. It is an attitude and a fundamental reversal or 180 degree direction change in what one believes is acceptable or permissible for that individual. Peter is saying repent of your sins. Flee from them, turn from them, renounce them, and confess them before the Creator. The concept of repentance is woven all through the Old Testament and God has always looked for this change of heart in his people.

30 “Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, declares the Lord God. Repent and turn from all your transgressions, lest iniquity be your ruin. 31 Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed, and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why will you die, O house of Israel? Ezekiel 18:30-31 ESV

Paul warns that there are two types of grief in regard to sin. There is the type of grief that the world creates and leads to ruined lives and then there is a grief that comes from God himself and leads to repentance. What the Israelites did not have that Peter and the Apostles gained in Acts chapter 2 is the power of the Holy Spirit creating in God’s children a new heart and a new spirit.

10 For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. 2 Corinthians 7:10 ESV

Judas after betraying Jesus felt guilty about what he had done. However his grief was not based on godly grief as Paul describes but Judas took his grief in a direction that produced death namely that he committed suicide (Matthew 27:5). The grief that Paul talks about is a gift from God that leads to repentance. The crowd listening to Peter preach was “cut to the heart” (Acts 2:37). The Holy Spirit was working on their hearts and they were ready to repent from their sins. Repentance then is possible because of God’s mercy and grace to us in this present time. Take advantage while you may.

4 Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin? 5 But because you are stubborn and refuse to turn from your sin, you are storing up terrible punishment for yourself. For a day of anger is coming, when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. Romans 2:4-5 NLT

The second part of Peter’s answer to the question “what must we do” is to be baptized. Baptism is a mark of obedience that recognizes in public in the physical what has already occurred in the heart and in the spiritual.

21 Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 1 Peter 3:21 ESV

There are few elements that make up this act of obedience as it recognizes that repentance the old self the unrepentant self is dead going under the water. The new self the saved Holy Spirit directed self has come alive. Just as Jesus told Nicodemus that he must be “born again” (John 3:3) so baptism is symbolic of the new life gained through repentance and salvation through faith in Jesus.

3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. Romans 6:3-5 ESV

What had been done in the past prior to Acts Chapter 2 was all leading up to this moment when the promised Holy Spirit is unleashed creating this church age that we currently live in. This church age is directed by the Holy Spirit, is empowered by the Holy Spirit, and is possible because of the Holy Spirit living in God’s children. Have you repented? Have you been baptized? Now is the time to accept the Holy Spirit from Jesus and be baptized to proclaim what has happened in your heart.

11 “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. Matthew 3:11 ESV

Acts 1: The Promise has Arrived!

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Acts is the second half of the Gospel of Luke and primarily concerned with the actions of the apostles many of whom were direct disciples of Jesus in the gospels. In the conclusion of Luke and in the start of Acts we see the disciples soon to be apostles waiting for something unknown and unimaginable.

3 He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. 4 And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” Acts 1:3-5 ESV

Jesus has spent time with them and convinced them of his resurrection. Jesus has restored Peter and given him charge of the church (John 21:17)

15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. John 14:15-17 ESV

Jesus has been promising the Spirit to the disciples before his death and after the resurrection but God through his prophets has promised the Spirit to be in those who love him long in advance. While Jesus who is God in the flesh is powerful and amazing he is still finite in the sense that men are limited to time and space. The Holy Spirit will not be bound to those finite constraints. Jesus as always is allowing God’s prefect plan to unfold right in front of the disciples.

26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. Ezekiel 36:26-28 ESV

God is going to do what we are unable to do ourselves and that is transform our hearts. He will put into us his Holy Spirit who will act on our hearts and transform our desires and hopes. In anticipation of this big day Jesus has asked the apostles to stay in Jerusalem and wait for Him to act.

Before Jesus ascends there is an interesting interaction recorded here in Acts. It is great example of how the disciples still did not understand the plans and power of Christ to build the eternal kingdom. Jesus has just told them to wait for the Holy Spirit in Jerusalem but their questions pick right up where they left off in their thinking before Jesus died.

 6 So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Acts 1:6-8 ESV

Jesus are you now going to destroy the Romans and restore Israel to power? This is what the disciples think they really wanted from Jesus. It is why Judas betrayed Jesus (John 13:29). It is why Peter was ready to go to war when Jesus was taken (John 18:10-11). But that was not God’s plan. God’s plan was not to enrich Judas or send Peter to war. God’s plan is grace and mercy here and now. God’s plan is to save mankind and restore our relationship with Him. God’s plan is just as he said through Ezekiel hundreds of years before to change the heart of men.

Acts 1:8 is the gospel charge from Jesus to the disciples once the promised Holy Spirit arrives and the same charge stands true for the church of today. It is a promise that Luke uses here “you will be” in the same way that Luke recorded Jesus’ words to the thief on the cross “you will be”. Jesus makes a promise about God’s plans and passion for saving mankind.

43 And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” Luke 23:43 ESV

 

8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Acts 1:8 ESV

Will you be part of that promise to witness to anyone and everyone through the power of the Holy Spirit living inside?

The Perfect Helper

Jesus knew exactly what he was doing when he was executing his earthly ministry. He was spending time with his Father and because of that he knew the mission. His disciples seemed clueless and were surprised by every big move Jesus made. The disciples were looking for a triumphant messiah that would run the Roman occupiers out of Jerusalem. One of the reasons why Judas betrayed Jesus was because Jesus had not lived up to that expectation. It was only after Jesus was resurrected and after the day of Pentecost that the disciples moved from bewildered and broken followers of Christ to leaders and founders of the Church. The Gospel of John in chapters 14-16 Jesus lays out everything that is about to happen to the disciples and what they were about to see with their own eyes after his earthly ministry came to a close.

But now I am going to him who sent me, and none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged. “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 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. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you. John 16:5-15 ESV

Jesus is telling the disciples that he is going to leave them to prepare a place with the Father for them (John 14:3). They are confused at the prospect of Jesus leaving them so Jesus responds to tell them that he will send a “Helper” to be with them forever. So has this helper fulfilled what Jesus predicted, how does the helper operate, and who is this helper?

Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus. But seeing the man who was healed standing beside them, they had nothing to say in opposition. Acts 4:13-14 ESV

One of the markers of this helper that Jesus predicted was that the world would not see or know him (John 14:17). Peter and John astonished the community by healing people and preaching a resurrected Jesus. Peter and John were not educated, wealthy, or men of recognized social status. Yet here they are gaining the attention of educated and wealthy leaders of the community. Those leaders of the world could not see the work of this helper and they could not understand how Peter and John were so transformed to have the impact in the community that they were having. This is not the same Peter and John that followed Jesus around, but a Peter and John who act and speak as if Jesus himself was with them guiding and giving direction to their actions. They are certainly being helped just as Jesus told them they would.

And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. Ezekiel 36:26-27 ESV

The helper that Jesus promised to send is the answer to the problem that the people of God have always had from the beginning. That problem is rebellion and lack of understanding God’s ways and God’s plans for his creation. Through the prophets God promised to put his sprit into his people to replace a heart of stone with a heart that will understand and want to walk with God. Jesus while telling is the disciples about the helper he is also telling them that if they loved God they would follow his commands (John 14:15, 23). Jesus was telling the disciples that the helper would change their hearts and help them love Jesus in obedience.

In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. Ephesians 1:13-14 ESV

The helper that Jesus promised is the Holy Spirit. We see his hand at work all through the Biblical Narrative and believers see him at work in their own lives. Jesus told the disciples that the world would not see him or understand him. Salvation is a miraculous event where a person is transformed. The heart is made new. Those that are saved see the Holy Spirit at work in their life. Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to do the work that Jesus wrapped up in the body of a man could not accomplish.

Jesus knew the plan and just as he planned the Holy Spirit arrived. The Helper’s arrival transformed the disciples and everyone who has believed in the name of Jesus since that time. The Holy Spirit has communicated God’s wisdom and direction to us all who hear His voice. Please make sure of your place in God’s plan by believing in Jesus to receive the Holy Spirit who is our lifeline and deposit guaranteeing our assurance of an inheritance that only God can provide.

Christmas: The World Blessed

After the fall of man and the entirety of creation falling under a curse, God chose Abraham to start the plan to restore the creation. God wanted to move forward with a grand plan to bless the world and He wanted to use Abraham to accomplish that purpose.

And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” Genesis 12:2-3 ESV

By way of Abraham God promised that all the families of the earth would be blessed. However the promise does not work out the way I or Abraham might have envisioned. The Old Testament documents the struggles of that chosen nation and only briefly in a few instances can we see where that vision for Israel to be a blessing or an ambassador of blessing is realized in some small way. Most of the energy of Israel is spent in rebellion refusing to be that blessing. God however being God has a plan that no child of Adam can undo and that plan is Jesus.

And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” Luke 4:16-20 ESV

Jesus is here to fulfill the promise God made to Abraham. Jesus is here to reconcile God’s creation to God. Jesus tells the people that it is in him that Israel will perfectly fulfill the promise of being the blessing to all nations and all people.

Peter one of the Disciples of Jesus and a thoroughly Jewish man grew up in that inwardly turned culture. In a famous narrative the Holy Spirit reveals to Peter a feast of food, animals that would not be acceptable in the Jewish diet. The Holy Spirit tells Peter that nothing is unclean that God has made clean and then the vision ends. That vision was preparing Peter not about food, but about being a blessing to other people and nations just as God had promised Abraham. After that vision Peter is asked to travel to a certain man’s home and breaking all social norms Peter enters the home of a Roman and is witness to God saving a non-Jewish family.

So Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. Acts 10:34-35 ESV

Later Peter challenges the church reminding us that we are to be a blessing to all peoples of all nations confirming lessons he had learned and practiced throughout his ministry.

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 1 Peter 2:9 ESV

This Christmas we remember that Jesus is God’s blessing and peace to all creation.