THE MIGHTY RUSHING WIND – PART 2

In an earlier post, we ruminated about the wind which can remind us that the Spirit of God is characterized by wind or by the breath of God.  We then thought about the influence of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost when He came into the room like a “mighty rushing wind” and enabled the apostles to preach to the foreigners in Jerusalem in their own language.  Acts 2:2-5

The Spirit of God did not stop His work on earth when Pentecost was over.  Even in 2017, the Spirit has continuing involvement with those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.  The Spirit convicts us of our sin so that we can repent, and the Spirit teaches us the way of righteousness.  Paul says it like this:

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation [no guilty verdict, no punishment] for those who are in Christ Jesus [who believe in Him as personal Lord and Savior]. [John 3:18] For the law of the Spirit of Life [which is] in Christ Jesus [the law of our new being] has set you free from the law of sin and of death. “

Romans 8:1-2 NIV[Amplified]

And again Paul says it like this:

“What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?  By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?” 

Romans 6:1-2

And again, like this:

“For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. … But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. … But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. … But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”

Galatians 5:5, 16, 18, 22-23. ESV

As Christians, the Spirit of God enables us to walk in ways of righteousness, not in sin.  We, as sinful creatures, cannot defeat sin by ourselves; we need help outside of us to overcome our sinful desires, and that help comes from the Holy Spirit.

What does all this have to do with wind?

Fence with trees felled by wind
Trees felled by strong wind along neighbor’s fence.

There is a fence between our house and our neighbor’s house.  It has been standing there for well over 30 years and has withstood numerous rain/wind storms.  After a recent storm with ferocious winds, we noticed a change in the backyard fence.  Something certainly looked amiss, but we couldn’t quite tell what it was.

Fence with tree root ball and uprooted fence
Root ball of tree with upended fence posts.

Upon a more detailed inspection, it immediately became apparent that a 70+ foot tall oak, along with several smaller trees, had fallen over. Further, it had upended one of section of the fence when its root ball, which apparently had grown under the fence and into our yard, was pulled out of the ground as the large tree toppled over. 

I certainly am not going to say that the tree sinned so it was knocked down by the wind.  But, I am going to say that this can be seen as a mini-parable describing the cleaning out that the Holy Spirit can do in my heart when I give control to Him. 

Paul says that we are not to continue to sin.  We are under grace so sin has no control over us … that is to say, sin cannot make us do wrong.  Because our sinful nature is not yet under the full control of the Spirit of God, we will be tempted to sin.  But, praise God, the Spirit is with us and He can knock down any sinful thought that we have, He can prevent any sinful action that we desire to take, and He can mute any sinful word that we yearn to speak.  Just like the tree came down, and it mattered not that the roots were under the fence – it came down as the roots were pulled out of the dirt, lifting the fence with it.  The Spirit will stop at nothing to rid our hearts of sin, because transforming us into the image of our Savior is His job and He knows how to do it.

“For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.”

Romans 8:29 ESV

“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”

Romans 12:2 NKJV

We are to be transformed into the image of God’s Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ.  This is the Spirit’s work as He leads us away from sin and into righteousness. 

Here is Romans 12:2 as presented in the song entitled “Do Not Be Conformed” and sung on Renewing Your Mind, an Integrity Music Scripture Memory Song album.

When you see or hear the wind outside, ponder and ruminate on whether you have allowed the wind of God’s Spirit to blow through your heart and uproot any sin that is hiding there.  Consider whether you have experienced the freedom in Christ as a result of the Spirit’s snapping the bonds of sin that had entrapped you for so long.  Praise the Lord for His provision of the loving Spirit who desires only that we be conformed into the image of Jesus Christ, to the glory of God the Father, now and forever more.

Father, I praise You for sending the Lord Jesus Christ as my Savior, and for calling me to Yourself so that I could partake of this infinite gift of salvation that You have given to those who believe on the name of Your Son.  I praise You for providing the Holy Spirit as the enabling wind Who can eradicate the sin that besets me, and Who guides me in the ways of righteousness.   

THE MIGHTY RUSHING WIND – PART 1

We have had a number of significant storms in the past month, with very heavy rains, some hail, and extreme, sustained, wind.

Our yard is quite wooded, and we can see the wind even when we can’t hear it because of the trees swaying in the breeze.  When strong winds come, though, it is as if the trees are doing a stationary dance in praise to God, while bending and swaying to the will of His Hand.

“For you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall break forth into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.

Isaiah 55:12 ESV

 

When you watch the tree branches swaying in the wind, it is not difficult to imagine that they are clapping their hands in praise and glory of their Creator, the Almighty God. 

“The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

John 3:8 ESV

Jesus said these words when He was telling to Nicodemus that he must be born again to see the Kingdom of God. 

We know that the wind is present when we see the trees swaying.  Then, too, we hear the sound of the leaves as they are driven in all directions when the wind increases and its force is felt by even the strongest of trees.   

When I hear the wind like this, I recall Scripture telling us that the Apostles heard the Spirit of God at Pentecost, and the sound was like a mighty rushing Wind.

“When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.  And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them.  And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven.”

Acts 2:1-5 ESV

God’s Spirit is characterized as a mighty wind in this Scripture text.  The Greek word used for “wind” is transliterated as pnoe, and it means “breath, breath of life”.  So Luke is saying that the breath of life that comes from God filled the house … it was His Spirit. 

In Acts, the Holy Spirit gave the apostles the ability to speak in languages that they had never learned, languages that the people from “from every nation under heaven” who were in Jerusalem would understand.  The apostles were given this ability so that they could effectively witness to the foreigners of Jesus, the Messiah, the One who rose from the dead and who lives in heaven, the One who could cleanse them from sin and who would give them life eternal.

The apostles’ message that day accomplished something that transformed the known world – it made the Gospel of Christ known worldwide.  An example of this is found in the fact that Epaphras (Colossians 1:7) was the pastor for the church in Colosse, a church to which Paul addressed the letter to the Colossians, but there is no record that Paul ever visited this church.  The people who traveled from Jerusalem to other cities and regions started churches and spread the witness for Jesus Christ throughout the known world.

The application for us? 

Have you been touched by the Spirit of God?  Has He breathed life into your heart so that you can receive the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior and King?  Have you committed your life to Him?  If so, then you have the power of the Holy Spirit resident within you and you can use that power to witness to the miraculous works that Jesus has performed in your life.

Next time you feel the wind blowing in your face, or the next time you see the wind blowing the trees around, or the next time you hear the sound of the mighty rushing wind, think of your God and His Spirit that came to this earth to take up residence in your heart and in mine.

Let the wonder of God’s creation remind us to give praise to Him for His wonderful works to the children of men.  Psalm 107.

 

Father, thank You for caring so much for us that You gave us Your Spirit.  Thank You for blowing Your breath on us so that we can then breathe out Your love to those around us, through Jesus Christ our Lord.  We praise Your holy name and may we give glory to You in all that we do.

A CHRISTIAN LIFE – IS IT SOLITARY OR IN COMMUNITY?

There are times when I wonder if I should be a hermit so I could be quiet and introspective.  Then there are other times that I am glad I am in a community of believers where I am nourished and fed spiritually as well as emotionally and socially.

When we were in Colorado we saw the quintessential example of one who apparently preferred their own company to that of others.

bridge-to-house-in-colorado-mountains
A beautiful cabin in the high mountain woods!

Here, in the high mountains of Colorado, stands a house with a chasm between the roadway and the front door.  It is not a gentle slope that one could walk down and then up to get to the house. Oh no, it is truly a chasm.  It reminded me of the castle of yesteryear with the moat around it and the gate that came down thereby allowing visitors to enter the castle or, conversely, to keep them out!

There was no gate that opened allowing passage over the chasm at this house – rather it had its own bridge.  Look at the picture carefully and you can see the green bridge from the road to the cabin.

When we returned home, Bill found out that this cabin has a name — Thoreau’s Cabin.  A real estate brochure description of the place says this:

FULLY FURNISHED log cabin located along the national “Alpine Loop Scenic Byway”.  …  Spectacular setting in the rugged San Juan Range of the Rocky Mountains of Colorado.  Dramatic Mountain views in every direction; cabin is surrounded by 13,000 foot mountain peaks. … Cabin is located on five private acres at 11,450 foot elevation in Hinsdale County, Colorado.  Cabin borders the 102,000 acre nationally designated “Uncompahgre Wilderness” area. Henson Creek runs through the property with views of multiple scenic waterfalls.  150 foot long suspension bridge over Henson Creek provides access to cabin via private parking area. 

The brochure (that has more pictures) was accessed February 14, 2017 and can be found online at http://lakecitycoloradorealestate.com/15001-County-Road-20-a153865.html

A disclaimer here — I am not making any comment about the people who live there.  I don’t know them and I don’t even know their name.  I can say that I completely appreciate their selection of the view that they have from their home – it is incredible.  I can also say that I would try to insure that I had enough food to last me through the winter because I would not want to be driving that road with the snow and ice that most certainly would come in buckets! And, finally, I would note that someone would have to carry me across that bridge since I suspect my legs would give out at the first step!

However, in all seriousness, I am looking at this view and thinking about those Christians who assert that it is possible to maintain a strong Christian life without associating with other Christians. They build walls around themselves, excluding others from sharing their Christian walk.  They purposefully set themselves apart from others so that they have no, or very limited, interaction with them.  In so doing, they deprive themselves of the encouragement fellow believers could give them.  They preclude others from giving wise counsel so as to prevent error in their doctrine. They miss out on the celebration of joys that others have, and they miss out on the personal joy that comes from helping others in need.  Most of all, they voluntarily extract themselves from the Body of Christ.

Luke, the writer of the book Acts in the Bible, said:

“And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.”

Acts 2:42 ESV

That is the description of the early church.  And each believer, even in 2017, should follow this pattern.  Meet together with other believers for worship, for teaching, for the fellowship, for communion and for prayer.  Don’t try to go it alone.

Each person’s relationship with Jesus is individual and no one, not even your own parents or spouse, can receive Jesus into your heart nor can they put their Christianity over you like a blanket.  That being said, Christianity is not a solitary lifestyle.  It is a life in unity with Christ and with other believers.

Here is a parable that illustrates this point:

The story is told of the man who did not go to church and who lived alone. 

Although he had attended church in the past, that was a long time ago and he did not see any reason to go now. 

The new pastor came to visit him and the man silently opened the door and gave a mute welcome, gesturing to a chair in front of the blazing fire.  The minister entered and sat down.  Both men rocked in front of the fire without any words being exchanged.

Finally, the pastor took the fireplace tongs and grabbed a blazing coal, taking it out of the center of the fire and putting it on the edge of the fireplace.  Still there was no conversation.

After a time, the coal that had been blazing was nothing but a lump of partly burned wood, no blaze, no heat, just some distasteful smoke arose wafting toward the ceiling. 

Silently, the two men looked at the coal for a few moments when the pastor took the tongs and replaced the coal into the fire.  Within moments the coal, that seemed to be dead, was blazing and providing heat and light to the room.

The pastor stood up and, rising slowly, the old man stood:  “I’ll be in church on Sunday morning, Parson.”

A coal cannot continue burning when taken out of the fire. 

The Christian cannot grow in a holy life without corporate worship, prayer and fellowship with other believers.

I pray that you are in communion with other Christians often, that you pray for them and support them with encouragement, assistance and love.  Enjoy peace and quiet but don’t forgo Christian relationships as you study, sing, worship and pray together.

Blessings to you, this day. 

Father, thank You for giving us the Church, the Body of Christ, so that we can worship You and we can grow in our faith, in our understanding of Your Word, and in our transformation into the likeness of Your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior.

WHERE IS THE EVIDENCE OF OUR LIFE IN CHRIST?

Think about how the New Testament describes the early church in Acts 2:42-47 [NIV]:

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. … Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

 

Church with stianed glass window
Church in Roanoke, Virginia in the summer with the roses providing fragrance to worshippers walking along the sidewalk.

 

What a difference would be made in our lives, our homes, our churches, our communities, or world if we reflected God’s love to all persons we meet throughout our day! The early church was known by their care and love for each other. Theirs was not a maudlin kind of service – Scripture says they were together with “glad and sincere hearts” and they praised God and enjoyed “the favor of all the people.” Incredible. No wonder that, as a result of their gospel-driven witness, the Lord added to their number daily.

 

Church - St Margarets church in London (C)
St. Margaret’s Church in downtown London, England.

 

I don’t think our response to the love showered upon us by God through Christ Jesus is intended to result in our withdrawal from society so that we hoard our time with God and ignore our fellow creatures on this whirling sphere we call Earth.  No, that is not the life to which Jesus calls us.   Rather, He calls us to serve others, as He came to serve.  Matthew 20:26-28.

 

Where is the evidence of my life in Christ? The evidence, my friend, is my focused dedication to obey the commands of my Savior as found in Scripture, the foundational command of Jesus being that we are to first love God with all our strength, mind and heart and then we are also to love our neighbors as ourselves. Luke 10:27.

 

In fact, Jesus says that people will know that we are His disciples by the love we show to others. John 13:35.

 

Church
Beautiful church with the bell tower to call the congregation to the house of the Lord.

 

Do I enjoy being with my brothers and sisters in the Lord when I meet with them during worship on Sunday morning, or during Bible study in Sunday School, or during the Women’s Circle Bible Study, or during Choir rehearsal?  Do I cherish the people in my church and seek to attend to their needs?

 

Do I reach out in ministry to others beyond the walls of my church, perhaps even beyond my comfort zone?  Do people see the evidence of my relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ who is my Savior?

 

I know that I have failed to be the loving witness Christ calls me to be, but I pray that each day I come closer and closer to the target of reflecting Jesus to others, of loving them as Jesus loved them.

 

Beloved, what has been the evidence of your relationship with Jesus?

 

How much do you love Jesus?   How much do you love those whom Jesus loved?

 

 

Father, may I express my love to your Son, my Savior Jesus Christ, by ministering to those He loves, whether they may be among my friends or not. May I express my love to you, Father, by studying your Word and praying, listening to the Holy Spirit urge and direct me as I walk the path you have preordained for me to tread. Thank you Father for your Spirit who comforts, encourages and strengthens me. Please give me grace that I may continue to love and serve You throughout my days, even on the hard ones.

 

TO GRIT OR NOT TO GRIT — THAT IS THE QUESTION!

Okay, I will admit that I was born and raised North of the Mason-Dixon Line and that I had never had grits until I was in the process of moving from Chicago to Chattanooga, Tennessee.  I had stopped for the night, somewhere between Nashville and Chattanooga, and had breakfast at the restaurant adjacent to the motel.

When ordering breakfast, I asked for “milk”.  Does anyone know what “sweet milk” is?  The waitress, for clarification of my request for “milk,” asked if I wanted “sweet milk”.   After declining either chocolate milk or milk that had added sugar in it, the waitress walked away.  There clearly was a failure to communicate.  I am confident that she was thinking “Bless her heart”, in the southern way that means “poor, pitiful person!”

(I have since learned that in the South, at least when this occurred, restaurants would have buttermilk available for their patrons, so to distinguish between it and what would be regular milk in the North, non-buttermilk was often referred to as “sweet milk.”)

When the meal came, I saw a serving of eggs, bacon, toast, and oatmeal on the plate with white milk as the beverage.   Now, I was not used to eating oatmeal on a plate – we always used bowls.  But, I was moving into the South, so I attributed it to different customs, etc.

So, after eating the rest of the meal, I poured cream onto the oatmeal and after a bit of swishing it around, I took a bite.  It really did not taste like oatmeal to me – it wasn’t bad, just really odd oatmeal.

When the waitress came back, I asked why the oatmeal was served on a plate because it made it very difficult to eat.  You can understand, it ran all over the plate and couldn’t be corralled onto my spoon.

The waitress said “Oatmeal?  Did you want oatmeal too?”  I responded “No, I had not asked for it but it was on the plate.”  To which she grinned and said with a voice that sounded like the quintessential southern belle:

“Honey, that wasn’t oatmeal – that was grits!”

Who knew?  In the South, at least 40 years ago, you got grits whether you ordered them or not … they were the ubiquitous food made from ground corn that just showed up on your plate.

Obviously, my introduction to grits was not particularly formal or well-timed, although it was apparently humorous as I recall people in the restaurant watching me slurp my “oatmeal” all around the plate.  I am sure they knew I was not “from ‘round here” when I said “GRITS?!” a bit too loud to be proper.

After four decades, I have grown in my culinary skills and tastes so that now I will even order grits, on purpose, when eating out.  I have made instant grits at home (even though “No real southerner would dream of eating instant grits”, a comment that calls to mind the cook at the diner in the movie My Cousin Vinny.)

Proof of this transformation can be found in the fact that I just downloaded a recipe for cooking stone ground grits in the slow cooker – here is the picture of the grits from this recipe, in a cup I might add!  [http://addapinch.com/cooking/easyrecipe-print/2224-0]  Apparently, I have morphed into a quasi-southern girl, I guess!

Picture of grits that were prepared in a slow cooker.
Picture of grits that were prepared in a slow cooker.

I am at a loss, though, about one question … can you eat just one (1) grit?   Who would want to … it certainly would not fill you up.  But you never hear that “a grit” was served at the meal.  You only hear of “grits”, plural.  As a collection of grits, they are beneficial and healthy; and, with some cheese melted into them, they taste incredible.  In short, grits are better when there is more than one.

Moving to the spiritual plain, I think grits are somewhat like Christians.  I am not talking about being in a commune or cult, nor am I advocating withdrawal from society to be with your group alone.

You certainly can be a Christian all alone, and indeed, your relationship with Jesus Christ as a child of His is intensely personal.  No two people come to the Lord in the same way, and He ministers in and through His people in unique ways equipping them with various abilities, all for His purposes.

But, Christians are called to meet together for teaching, preaching, fellowship, and ministry.  While our faith in Jesus is personal, it is not in isolation. We come together as a family of believers and worship our God and His Son, our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ..  Some of our houses of worship are large and grand.

Canterbury Cathedral where there have been worship services for over 1400 years!
Canterbury Cathedral where there have been worship services for over 1400 years!

Some are not are grandiose, or as ancient.

Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC
Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC

Some are more rustic, but the Spirit of our Lord resides within the believer and, when we come together, there is the Spirit of the Lord.

Church in Cades Cove, Smoky Mountain National Park, Tennessee
Church in Cades Cove, Smoky Mountain National Park, Tennessee

And sometimes we even come together in our homes, to study the Bible, pray and fellowship with each other.  We come together as did the early church in Acts 2:42, 27:

And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. … And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.

The writer of Hebrews said:

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

Hebrews 10:24-25

We do not become Christians simply by being around Christians.  We must have our own personal relationship with Jesus Christ for that new birth transformation to occur.  But, we will have a hard time staying on the path of Christ if we do not avail ourselves of one of the means of grace provided by our Father, His Son and The Holy Spirit – the Body of Christ, the Church.

A grit will still be a bit of ground corn even if it is not with any other bits of corn.  But it will not serve its purpose until and unless it is with a group of other grits; and then it will become nourishment for those who consume them.

A coal burning brightly in the fireplace will still be a coal even when it is taken out of the fire and put on the side.  But it will go out without the nourishment of the fire.  It will not be doing that which it was created to do unless and until it is returned to the fire so that it can burn hot and provide light and heat to those around it.

A Christian can be a Christian without being an active part in the Church; but the likelihood is that the light will become dull and the witness will be shallow and undernourished without regular intentional fellowship, worship, teaching, studying, serving and communion with fellow Christians in the Church.

Father, thank you for the lesson of grits.  May I determine to be part of a Bible believing church that follows the pattern of Act 2 in learning the Scripture and the apostles’ teaching, in prayers with and for others, in fellowship with Christians who worship and serve my Lord Jesus Christ, and in regularly sharing communion with fellow believers as we remember the sacrifice that our Lord made for us.  Thank you for the means of grace you so marvelously provided.  Forgive me when I have either ignored them or taken them for granted.  Such arrogance is sin and I ask forgiveness, in my Lord Jesus’ Name.