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.

Oh Come, Oh Come Emmanuel

The advent hymn “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” originated in part from the “Great ‘O’ Antiphons,” part of the medieval Roman Catholic Advent liturgy. On each day of the week leading up to Christmas, one responsive verse would be chanted, each including a different Old Testament name for the coming Messiah.

The text for this 8th century hymn comes from a 7 verse poem. It was used in a call and response fashion during the vespers, or evening, service. In fact, the original text created the reverse acrostic “ero cras,” which means “I shall be with you tomorrow,” and is particularly appropriate for the advent season.  

nativity-from-the-alamo-in-san-antonio
Nativity depiction from a San Antonio mission

In the 13th century a metrical version of five of the verses appeared on the musical scene.  That version was translated into English in 1851 by J. M. Neale. Although many hymnals do not include all the 5 verses translated by Neale, each verse is an acknowledgement of Christ as the fulfillment of Old Testament prophesies.  Each of the five verses expounds upon one of the names for the Messiah:

  • “Emmanuel” (Isaiah 7:14, Matthew 1:23) means “God with us”
  • “Adonai” (Exodus 19:16) is a name for God, the giver of the law
  • “Branch of Jesse” (Isaiah 11:1) refers to Jesus’ lineage
  • “Daystar” or “Oriens” (Malachi 4:2, Luke 1:78-79) is the morning star
  • “Key of David” (Isaiah 22:22) again refers to Jesus’ lineage

(This listing compiled by Greg Scheer, 1994)

We sing this hymn recognizing that the Kingdom of God has already come in Christ Jesus but it is not yet here in its completion.   Christ’s first coming gives us a reason to rejoice again and again. Yet the minor tone of this carol reflects our realization that all is not well with the world. So along with our rejoicing, we plead using the words of this hymn that Christ would come again to perfectly fulfill the promise that all darkness will be turned to light.

The tune for this hymn is Veni Immanuel, originally music for a Requiem Mass in a 15th century French Franciscan Processional.  The chant tune was adapted to the poem by Englishman Thomas Helmore (1811-1890) and was published in Part II of his The Hymnal Noted (1854). 

Here is the text of this beloved Christmas hymn. As with all carols that have been sung through the centuries, there are variations in the content of the verses.  So, if the following stanzas do not include one that you are familiar with, forgive me; I believe that the majority of the verses in use today are reflected in this listing.

Please feel free to read this as you listen to an instrumental version by The Piano Guys on their album A Family Christmas.

1 O come, O come, Immanuel,
and ransom captive Israel
that mourns in lonely exile here
until the Son of God appear.

Refrain:
Rejoice! Rejoice! Immanuel
shall come to you, O Israel.

2 O come, O come, great Lord of might,
who to your tribes on Sinai’s height
in ancient times did give the law
in cloud and majesty and awe. Refrain

3 O come, O Branch of Jesse’s stem,
unto your own and rescue them!
From depths of hell your people save,
and give them victory o’er the grave. Refrain

4 O come, O Key of David, come
and open wide our heavenly home.
Make safe for us the heavenward road
and bar the way to death’s abode. Refrain

5 O come, O Bright and Morning Star,
and bring us comfort from afar!
Dispel the shadows of the night
and turn our darkness into light. Refrain

As we read these words and think about their meaning through the centuries of Christianity, we come to a new realization of the power of our Lord and His Word.  We in this world mourn as many Christians are in physical danger and exile in today’s world.  But even if we are not in physical exile, we experience the separation from society that comes when we follow the commands of our Lord which run counter to the culture around us.  In short, we are different or as Peter puts it:

But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light: [KJV]

1 Peter 1:9.  The English Standard Version translates “a peculiar people” as “a people for His own possession”.  In short, although we reside in our various countries on earth, believers in Jesus Christ are citizens of another kingdom in which Jesus Christ is Lord of Lords and King of Kings.

Each of the verses of this beautiful carol ask that the Lord would guide us so we could live in His kingdom that was ushered into this world by the birth of the Babe in the Manger. 

While Christmas Day is past, our God is the same today as He was two days ago and even as He was before the creation of the world.  He does not change and He will be with us today and through the end of time, and even past that into eternity because He is omnipresent, omniscient, the Almighty God.  Time has no hold on Him and His names that applied in the millenia before the coming of the Babe in the manger still apply in the millenia since that Christmas blessing.  

Take take time to praise Him as you contemplate these names of God and the incredible Gift that He has given to us both in the Babe at the manger as well as in the salvation that comes through that Babe’s atoning sacrifice on the cross thirty-three years later. 

Father, I thank You that Emmanuel did come to this earth as a human Babe. I further thank You that He lived a perfect life that I cannot live, and that He took my sin upon Himself and died an atoning death on the cross of Calvary.  Finally, I thank You that He conquered death and is currently alive in heaven, interceding on my behalf before Your throne.  Thank You for salvation that was the very reason that He came at Christmas.  Thank You that in the manger, we see the shadow of the cross, all for the saving grace extended to Your children through Jesus Christ, our Lord.

WHERE IS THE PEACE?

Our world is so frenetic, we often feel that we are penned in by so many obligations that there is no way out. We have the calendar calling our name when the alarm rings in the morning. We have the cell phone buzzing to tell us people need our viewpoints immediately, whether we are ready or not. We have the children calling for our attention even as we are trying to work or fix breakfast. We have our spouse who seeks our attention even as we are preparing the evening meal. We have the iPod clanging that we have new emails that have not yet been read, and when we break into our activity to attend to the emails we find that they are advertisements for products we don’t need. The telephone distracts our attention with a recorded message for the politician or for the survey that some marketing company wants. Then there are the charities that call, the handicapped, the symphony, the church, the various ministries that we support … EVERYONE wants our attention on a daily, hourly, minutely basis! Peace is a desired characteristic of our daily, personal life but it often seems to be an illusion of the highest order in the reality of daily duties.

But then the news wreaks havoc on any semblance of peace that may otherwise have survived the daily distractions. Something extraordinary is subject of “Breaking News” and our mundane disturbances are brought into sharp focus as being what they are, relatively minor inconveniences.

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

Indeed, we have become aware of such “Breaking News” this past week when hatred interrupted a prayer service by barging into the walls of a beautiful, historic church in Charleston, South Carolina when a gunman opened fire and killed nine innocent people.   (Picture of Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, taken from the church website.)

Because of the cell phone videos and the media coverage swarming the area, we who are miles away from the scene participate in the shock and sickening disgust at the carnage the actions of a lone gunman can cause. The actions were particularly malevolent given the place in which they occurred; the sanctuary of a church where people go to pray and seek solace from God and their brothers and sisters in the Faith. Such evil is almost impossible for us to contemplate.

Clearly chaos was released into that building that day. But, the gunman’s actions did not kill Christ’s peace notwithstanding the havoc wreaked on the victims’ physical bodies. The Spirit of peace, of love and of forgiveness was brought into dramatic contrast to the spirit of evil when the victims’ families told the gunman that, despite their profound grief, they forgave him and were praying for his soul.

Such love and peace is impossible on our own. Jesus commanded that love was to be the primary characteristic of His people. John 13:35. The Apostle John said:

“So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.”

I John 4:16.

Jesus further instructed that He would give peace, even in times of extreme distress. One such time recorded in Scripture was when Jesus told His disciples of His imminent betrayal, trial and crucifixion. Needless to say, His disciples were confused and afraid.

After telling them that He would send the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, to them, He said:

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” John 14:17.

Then just before His crucifixion, Jesus told them:

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33.

Easter Empty Tomb Depicted at Canterbury Cathedral, Canterbury, England
Easter Empty Tomb Depicted at Canterbury Cathedral, Canterbury, England

The empty tomb is evidence that death has been overcome; Satan and evil have lost the cosmic war. Although in the short-term it may seem that evil is winning the contest, Jesus is the final victor. In other words, no matter what happens, we can have peace because, as He promised in John 16:33, He has overcome the world, including the evil therein!

Without a doubt, hatred won the headline for the day – but, those believers who were praying at the time of the shooting won the war.  Through Christ, they were victorious over evil on that dark day in Charleston.  They are with their Savior and are beyond any pain, tears or grief.

Because Jesus has overcome evil and death, His believers can have peace …

  • a peace that is resident within them through His Holy Spirit;
  • a peace that overcomes the evil in the world;
  • a peace that enables the victims’ families to forgive in the midst of their grief;
  • a peace that is truly beyond understanding. “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:7.

This peace was on display when the victims’ families expressed love and forgiveness for the one who had inflicted this unutterable loss on them.  No one was hiding their grief — this peace was transcendent over their grief.  This is the peace that is available to all who believe on Jesus’ Name and repent from their sins, accepting Him as their Savior.

Do you have this peace?

MORNING AND NIGHT – TOGETHER!

Have you ever noticed how people are different? Of course I know there are gazillions of differences between people. But, consider a very mundane, but personally relevant, distinction – Morning People and Night People. I have conducted a non‐scientific survey of many couples who are paired together in marriage even though they fall on the opposite ends of what I will call the “clock spectrum”. In other words, it seems that often Morning People are married to Night People and that these marriages are successful despite this fundamental difference between the partners.

Sunlight coming through trees
Sunlight coming through trees

Case in point: My Beloved Husband (a Morning Person) and Me (a Night Person). My Husband will arise no later than 6:30 a.m. whether he needs to do so just because it is the morning and that is when you should get up! He LOVES the sunrise – He loves to stand on the porch, listen to the birds awaken and then hear them serenade the sun as it comes up over the trees while he drinks his cup of coffee that he brewed before the sun lit the way to the coffee pot!   I don’t know what all he does between when he gets up and when he wakes me up just before he leaves the house … I’m asleep! By the time I am aware of anything, he has been up for hours.

Getting up that early is simply foreign to me. I can get up early if I have a meeting in the morning; in fact  I am more than capable of getting up at 6:30 a.m., washing, dressing, getting papers together, doing the breakfast thing, and getting out the door to get to the meeting, even with time to spare. I certainly won’t like it, but I can do it. But, if there is no deadline staring at me, I would be content to continue resting until …. Well, we really don’t need to state an actual time; suffice it to say that it would be past 6:30 a.m., that’s for sure.

Moon rising over still lake.
Moon rising over still lake.

At the other end of the “clock spectrum”, I love looking at the moon and the night sky. When we are camping, I can sit outside with a cup of decaf and look to the heavens watching the stars for hours … Night, now that’s my time of day.

How that plays out on a day‐to‐day basis in our home, for example, is something like this. We will be watching television and my husband will have fallen asleep in the recliner about 10:00 p.m. I, on the other hand will be knitting or reading recipes while watching the 11:00 p.m. news. When the news is over, I will get him to bed and then do some work on the computer, or read, or continue knitting, or do whatever else is beckoning, but it will be at least midnight and more likely 1:00 or 2:00 a.m. before I am ready to sleep.

We have tried to “normalize” our time schedules by my awaking at 7:30 and his “sleeping in” to 7:30 but it doesn’t change anything at the end of the day. He is still asleep in the recliner at 10:00 p.m. and I am still awake at 12:00 a.m.

Clock face
Clock face

Simply put, he is a Morning Person and I am a Night Person – there is no way around it. He explains that he had a paper route when he was a child so he had to get up early. I don’t have any other explanation, but his paper route was over 50 years ago … I don’t buy it!

Interestingly, we are not the only ones. I have spoken to many others and more people than not tell me that they, too, are involved in “mixed marriages” – night and morning people are united in the holy bonds of matrimony! We are like this for some other reason.

Is this an example of God’s sense of humor?  Perhaps.

In fact, I have made that comment in the past. But upon reflection and leadership of the Spirit, I expect God is doing something much more important here.

What if this is God’s way of providing each marriage partner some “sacred time” – a time when they can focus on being with God while not taking away time from their partner?   Wouldn’t it be just like God to, in His sovereign grace, give us a partner who checks out physically at a time when we are still awake, or who remains asleep when we awaken, so that we can have time to meditate and “be still and know” that He is God, even while we hear the steady, comforting breathing of the one God has given to us as our mate?

Antique clock face
Antique clock face

Whether it is in the morning or at night, if your spouse is asleep and you are awake, why not spend that “alone” time with your Lord? After all, He is the Bridegroom Who has given His Life for you and Who has an everlasting Love for you. Perhaps His plan in uniting you with your opposite Morning/Night Person was to create some free time in your schedule so you could spend quality time with the Creator of the Universe. If He created the opportunity for this appointment with you, don’t waste it!

Cherish it and let Him fill your Soul, Beloved.

[If you want to “take part” in my non-scientific survey, let me know in a comment whether you are a Night or Morning person … and, if you are married, whether your spouse is the same or different!  If you just agree with the thoughts, hit the Like button and there is no need for further comment!  Remember, it really makes no difference because we are all loved by our Savior and He created us to be as we are! Thanks.]

CRAZY QUESTIONS

There are times that my mind takes off on a tangent and I start laughing until tears form, and then my husband looks at me and says “All right, what’s so funny now?” Often it is a twisted question about the English language that has come to mind, and we both wind up laughing.

This happened the other evening as we were in the car returning from a visit with friends. Our last name is Mowles – rhymes with towels. It doesn’t seem that it should be that hard to pronounce. But, such is not the case!

It is not at all uncommon for people to pronounce it “Mow-less” with the “mow” sounding like what you do to your grass during the summer. Take the sentence, “Hi, Sam, did you mow your grass?” Or, “Joe, did you tow my car last week?” Or “That top is cut too low, Susie!”

Consider: “Oh horrors — the bow is aimed to send the arrow directly through the bow of the ship!” Or: “She was wiping the bowl with a towel when she heard the wolf howl!”

Why does “mow”, “tow”, and “low” all sound one way with “how” sounding differently? Why does “bowl” sound like “mow” as in “mow the grass” when “howl” sounds like “towel” or Mowles?

Another crazy question relates to plurals.

Shrivenham house
Shrivenham house

Here is a house in England that I thought was charming. It reminded me of a doll house that I wanted when I was a small girl. The singular word “house” is pluralized as “houses” while the singular word “mouse” is pluralized as “mice”. Why the difference?

Houses along street in Oxford, England
Houses along street in Oxford, England

Why couldn’t more than one house be “hice”? Or, more than one mouse be “mouses”?  “Greetings, Jim. How long does it take to mow the grass at all your hice?” Or, “By the way, did you hear of the rash of mouses in the neighborhood hice?”

By the way, these hice are on a street in Oxford, England. They reminded me of the brownstones in New England!

Or this question:  Why do we have a “leaf” on the tree but we have a pile of “leaves” in the yard?

Child playing in the leaves
Child playing in the leaves

Why don’t we have “leafs” in the yard or a “leave” on the tree? But of course, you couldn’t have a “leave” on the tree because, in the fall, when the “leave” would “leave” there would be a bunch of “leafs” on the ground! .. Good Grief!

While there are hundreds of crazy questions such as these and, although they are of interest (perhaps), we must admit that they are mundane and of very little consequence. However, there is another question which may sound crazy but which is anything but. Indeed, it is deadly serious.

In the Bible, at John chapter 3, we find recorded the encounter between a Pharisee named Nicodemus, who was a ruler of the Jews, and Jesus. Nicodemus came to Jesus at night, presumably so that the other Jews would not know of his interest in what Jesus had to say.   Jesus, knowing the unexpressed but real inquiry in Nicodemus’ heart, understood that he wanted to know how to have eternal life.

In John 3:3-18, Jesus says:

Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to him “How can a man be born when he is old?” Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?”   Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” … Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” …  “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.”

Crazy question – must we go back into the womb to be “born again”? Nicodemus certainly was correct in asking how these things could be. And then Jesus told him exactly what would be required to enter the kingdom of heaven. The Son of God would be lifted up and those who believed on his name would not perish but have eternal life. They would see, and even be included in, the kingdom of God.

Indeed, this is the same question that the jailer asked Paul in Acts 16:30 “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” The response to this question was straightforward: “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved…” Acts 16:31.

Beloved, some questions are crazy and of very little consequence. But the question asked by both Nicodemus and the jailer is of eternal consequence and it has a specific, direct and clear answer that applies to us today as well as it did to them 2,000 years ago.

If you want to be included in the kingdom of God, believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the One who saves you from your sin and enables you to stand before the Almighty God, the Creator of the universe, the Omnipotent, Omnipresent and Omniscient God who is Holy and who could not look at us except for the blood of His Son – we stand before Him not because we have done good deeds or are righteous, but because Christ is righteous and we have claimed Him as our Savior, Redeemer and King.

Praise Him Who provided the way of salvation to us; and Praise the Son who died the death that we should have died; and Praise the Holy Spirit for sealing us as children of God through the obedience of the Son.