Monday, June 16, 2008

God is good - The gift of the Holy Spirit.

I think one of the greatest lessons I have learned this year, is also one that I have been told all my life - that is "God is good".

Words are so easy to say without thinking about what they really mean (especially words that are overly familiar from youth), its easy for us to become so familiar just skimming over the surface superficial meaning that we miss the actual message God intended. But God is also faithful that if we desire to know more about Him that He will indeed show us, revealing Him self more and more to us in all His kindness and splendor.

These last 8 months have been a growth spurt spiritually for me -especially the last 4/5 months - this is significant as the more I have obeyed and surrendered the more God has poured our His love, peace and joy on me, and so the more I have sought to hear His voice and obey and so the more He has blessed me. Its a snowball effect, starting small and getting bigger and bigger as I roll along with God (all praise to God in His patience with me).

I have learned more about the character of God and what He desires in the last 8mths than I have in the rest of my life combined. This year I have been baptized (both with water) but more significantly with the Holy Spirit and it is a powerful teacher.

I think its interesting that I feel like I have only been baptized in the Holy Spirit in the last 8 mths, given that I have been a Christian for almost 2 years now, and have known Christian values all my life. But when I look closely at Scripture I realize that this shouldn't be surprising. After all the disciples believed in Jesus Christ, they walked with Him everyday, were taught by Him, loved Him and were loved by Him, yet it wasn't until after the transfiguration that they received the Holy Spirit, during Pentecost, 40 days after Jesus death and almost 4 years after they would first have met Him.

Acts 1 "1When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them."

When the Holy Spirit came it brought with it power and wisdom, both of which Jesus had demonstrated while He was here on earth. Indeed He used this to comfort His disciples when He told them that He would be going where they could not go yet. Telling them in John 14: 15,

"If you love me, you will obey what I command. 16And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever— 17the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be[c] in you. 18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you."

In Galatians it talks about living in the Spirit's power. It then lists the qualities that the Spirit living in us will inevitably produce. "But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control." Before I totally surrendered to God and accepted the fullness of the Holy Spirit, I used to think that this was a list of qualities that Christians should aim for everyday.

But since being baptized with the Holy Spirit and personally experiencing life with Him I see this passage with new revelation (PTL). This fruit that is produced is not by our effort, we cannot make ourselves joyful for example, we cannot make ourselves gentle or patience. I have tried on several occasions but my true "old man" always comes out under pressure. The verse says "the Holy Spirit produces", it does not say "when you receive the Holy Spirit you will produce". I used to beat myself up, because I thought that my personality was not as naturally inclined to goodness and gentleness as some other people who I had witnessed, I tried to attain the standard by human strength and human reasoning (how prideful) and failed many, many times getting more and more discouraged with each failure. God know that the fruit of the Spirit is unnatural for our human nature and so He provides. His provision is our strengthener, our teacher and our guide - the Holy Spirit. This does not mean that we have nothing to do, that we can just rest on our laurels and let the Holy Spirit do the work. What this means is that we are like a seed, the seed only has to concentrate on growing - the fruit is a by product of growth. We only need to concentrate on hearing God's voice and being sensitive to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, every minute of everyday. If we seek to grow in this way, then the fruit of the Spirit living in us, comes naturally with time. God provides the sunshine and the rain (the good times and the challenging time) both are important for sweet, ripe fruit.

Interestingly looking back in retrospect these people who I so admired for their "good nature" were clearly being led by the Spirit, each of them had a personal relationship with God where they daily sought His face and will and obeyed and as promised in the word a transformation had taken place. We cannot know God and not be transformed. Obedience is such a key factor, Jesus said Matt 12 : 48
"Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?" 49Pointing to his disciples, he said, "Here are my mother and my brothers. 50For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother." By obedience and the death of Jesus on the cross we are adopted into God's glorious family, we are heirs with Jesus, by obedience I am His sister and God's beloved. A book I was reading recently summed it up beautiful "our unconditional obedience is a love response to God's unconditional Love." As simple humans we struggle to love what we cannot see. Loving God I believe, in my experience came from obeying God, and witnessing His faithfulness in what He asked me to do. Everything no matter how difficult or illogical at the time was for my good, was asked in love for me. By acting in faith, my faith increased, by obeying God because He loved me, I have learned (and am still learning by His Spirit) to love God. God delights over us and desires for us to delight in Him, this only comes by knowing God, which is a direct result of obedience.

He brought me out into a spacious place;
he rescued me because he delighted in me. Psalm 18 vs 19

and for us...

"Trust in the Lord, and do good.
Then you will live safely in the land and prosper
Take delight in the Lord
and He will give you the desires of your heart." Psalm 37 vs 3-4

Once I myself surrendered and invited the Holy Spirit, I too became transformed. It was not an overnight process... I should say it is not an overnight process. Fruit takes a while to grow, and the growth period is important to the quality of the fruit. We can only have this fruit in our lives by the power of the Holy Spirit. We can only have the Holy Spirit by "follow(ing) the Spirits leading in every part of our lives". Again this sounds familiar, anyone with a Christian upbringing will know that we should submit to God and obey Him, but what does this really mean in a practical sense? Is it really just following a set of Does and Don'ts? For example "love you neighbour" very simple, very clear, very concise - a "do"... right? But what about the days that your neighbour is your enemy, your oppressor, is slandering your name, is seeking to kill you, still so simple? No, and I dare say impossible to do with sincerity... without the Spirit's power. Some said recently that "we need God to love God" the Holy Spirit is the third part of God" (Father, Son and Spirit) by accepting Him we open the door to know and love God.

This comes by spending time in prayer and sincerely daily inviting the Holy Spirit to have control over every aspect of our lives (actions, feelings, thoughts and words), He will take us up on our offer if we are sincere. Then by immersing ourselves in Gods word and meditating on the messages that He seeks to give us, we become tuned into God's guiding, through His Spirit. We then become aware of God's character through His word and so can use the wisdom He provides to indeed test the leadings we are being given. If it is inline with His commandments and His word, in keeping with His character and accompanied by a deep peace we can be assured that the leadings are from Him.

But Satan likes nothing better than to trap a believer in a web of deceit. Just like a spider he cannot wait for us to get stuck so he can suffocate us in lies and drain all the life out of us. What better way for Him to trap a sincere believer than to disguise Himself as an "angel of light", giving us seemingly godly leadings. We must be like the sheep that are familiar with their shepherd so when He speaks to us we can recognize His voice and not get led astray by an enemy is sheep's clothing.

What a great provision... a counselor, a comforter, a strengthener and a teacher. The Holy Spirit is our ultimate weapon in the Armour that God has provided us. It would be foolish of us to think that Spiritual Warfare is not a daily occurrence, even more so when we are truly running after God and obeying Him in all things great and small.

For this warfare - which takes place in different ways, God has provided us with protection, of course armor only works if we accept it and put it on. God calls us to accept daily the protection and leading of the Holy Spirit, to invite His full control over our thoughts and actions. The biggest spiritual change for me came when I decided to make this my prayer every morning. I am NOT a morning person, and indeed lately I have been so busy that I am rarely in bed before mid-night. But I felt God calling me to arise early in the morning (as the bible tells us Jesus did) and to give Him this morning sacrifice. This is still a fairly new thing to me, its been maybe 2 weeks. But these last 2 weeks have been so nurturing because of this early quiet time. By starting my day with prayer and worship, inviting the Holy Spirit to come and teach me and use me and reaffirming my commitment to take up my cross and walk with my Lord Jesus, I put on the armor of God. I am more prepared for the battles that will come and I have increased fruit in my life already. Joy spilling over into love and a deep settled peace.

"26But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you."

Let us accept this amazing Gift wholeheartedly, let us shed off failure and put on the provision of armor that our Loving Father has provided.

Dear Heavenly Father,

Thank-you Lord for in your infinite wisdom you have recognised our weakness and provided an awesome gift for us in your Holy Spirit. In Jesus name we pray that you will help us to surrender our wills (our actions, thoughts, words, hearts, hands) to Him each day, sensitise us to His leadings, promptings and correction so that we may walk with you all the days of our life.
Thank-you Lord for loving us this much.
In Jesus name,

Publish His Deeds...

Since I became a Christian almost 2 years ago to the day, I have felt God urging me to write about my experiences with Him. Initially it was just in prayer journals, not for anyone else, only for myself to remember with thank-giving how present He is in my life and the wonderful experiences He has brought me and taught me through.

As time passed though I have felt God asking me to share these, to "publish His glorious deeds amongst the nations" Psalm 96 vs 3. This is where it is all going to begin, where I begin to share my daily reflections on God's awesome self and his incomprehensible love for us even though we are like grass hoppers compared to Him.

Dear Heavenly Father,

I thank-you Lord for rescuing me, for drawing me close to yourself and transforming me in the light of your presence. Lord I thank-you for your love poured out so freely on me, and I long Lord that the love, mercy and forgiveness you have shown me could flow out through me and touch the lives of others.

Lord in Jesus name I pray that you would take the reins in this project and I would not type one word more or less than you have planned. Lord I give all the glory to you for I remember all too well that I am nothing without you and can do nothing spiritual without you, I remember with sorrow the pitiful, self-centered, angry kind of person I was when I was living life without you, when I was seeking only to please myself and to run after my own desires. I repent of how destructive that time was both to me and those around me. I thank-you Lord that you are a God of reconciliation, new beginnings and healing.

I now commit my day and everyday for the rest of my life into your hands. Use my words, thoughts, actions, hands, heart according to your will and purpose. I am your servant Lord Jesus and you are my Lord, I lay my life at your cross, because you are a loving Saviour and brother who loves and intercedes for me, even now you are praying for me in my weakness. I love you Lord Father and I trust you with my life, I will go where you send me, I will do what you ask me for I know you are a good and loving God who plans only what is good for me. Help me to be joyfully obedient in the difficult times, in the storms as well as in the sunshine that you might delight in me Lord, that I might bring Honor to your name.

Lord I know that I do not have all the answers, but I pray for the anointing of your Holy Spirit that I might know you more, that I might learn more about your character and learn to listen to and respond to your voice. I pray Lord I would be obedient to all you would ask me to write about and not hold back because I feel too vulnerable to reveal that part of my journey with you, help me to give freely Lord as you have given freely.

Finally I rebuke and silence Satan and His kingdom in Jesus name, that they would have no part in this blog, that you would silence their voices so that I would speak only what is true and what is from you Lord.

In Jesus Name I pray for your blessing upon this blog, that you might put your hand of blessing upon all who read here and stir their hearts to return when you have something specific to say to them through what You have written through me. Let me only be the vehicle by which the message is brought and not the author.

Lord I pray in Jesus name I could be like a mirror reflecting your Glory and not drawing any attention to myself. You are worthy Lord to be praised in my life and among the nations. You are worthy of time, meditation, prayer, worship and praise.

All glory and power be to your Lord.
In Jesus Name,