This is the topic of the day…seeking! [Use an exclamation mark at the end of a strong command, an interjection, or an emphatic declaration.] Seeking has come up over and over these last couple of weeks in my own study, in Bible study and in external reading. When that happens I know this is not coincidence or an accident, it’s the Holy Spirit putting an exclamation point on the word of God so I’ll pay attention.
Paul hasn’t used that exact word but it’s surely implied in this passage. Isn’t the usual response to losing something to seek or replace it? He’s had his own exclamation point on the Damascus Road that has changed his focus from what he already knew from the Hebrew code of Jewish law that those who don’t believe in resurrection have no share in the world to come. His spiritual pedigree was beyond question but that has become “rubbish” to him now. What he had lost has become his personal desire to seek — to “gain Christ and be found in him with “righteousness from God that depends on faith.” Paul has reminded me seeking is much more than an other worldly goal, it’s “the power of [Christ’s] resurrection” at work in my everyday life, here and now. [see Galatians 2:20]
How tragic that we in this dark day have had our seeking done for us by our teachers. Everything is made to center upon the initial act of ‘accepting’ Christ . . . and we are not expected thereafter to crave any further revelation of God to our souls. We have been snared in the coils of a spurious logic which insists that if we have found Him, we need no more seek Him. This is set before us as the last word in orthodoxy, and it is taken for granted that no Bible-taught Christian ever believed otherwise. Thus the whole testimony of the worshiping, seeking, singing church on that subject is crisply set aside. The experiential heart-theology of a grand army of fragrant saints is rejected in favor of a smug interpretation of Scripture… [A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God]
John 18:19 The high priest then questioned Jesus about his disciples and his teaching. 20 Jesus answered him, “I have spoken openly to the world. I have always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all Jews come together. I have said nothing in secret. 21 Why do you ask me? Ask those who have heard me what I said to them; they know what I said.” 22 When he had said these things, one of the officers standing by struck Jesus with his hand, saying, “Is that how you answer the high priest?” 23 Jesus answered him, “If what I said is wrong, bear witness about the wrong; but if what I said is right, why do you strike me?” 24 Annas then sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest. ESV
What is the general theme of the passage?
These priests fear Jesus. They’ve built their system of power and authority on their ability to verify the truth of God; how it’s to be taught and the proper ways to honor it. People are openly responding to what Jesus is teaching; God’s truth alone has the power and authority to the teach people the proper way to respond and honor Him. The priest’s only hope is to expose Jesus and his disciples as dangerous deceivers determined to destroy their honor, and the authority of what they have built.
What does it say about God (or Jesus or the Holy Spirit?)
Why do you ask me to defend myself? “Ask those who have heard me what I said to them; they know what I said…I have said nothing in secret. ”
What does it say about people?
People understand the need to respect authority, the problem is choosing which authority matters most. “…one of the officers standing by struck Jesus with his hand, saying, “Is that how you answer the high priest?”
Is there truth here for me?
How often have I depended on learning the truth of God from someone who’s authority I respect? The answer is a lot, of course. Respect is a good thing but it’s not the only part of the system created by God himself to teach us His truth. These are Jesus’s words from John 14:26 “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” You might be thinking, ‘but those respected people are educated.’ Think a little more about that. Ask yourself where they’re getting the truth you’re putting your trust in? Even respect requires verification. Or you may be thinking ‘what if I don’t get the truth right?’ What makes you think that even the most respected human source always gets it right? The beauty of the system Jesus has put it place is the Holy Spirit teaches you to verify your thinking. He’s the one infallibly right source of truth that promises to confirm OR correct what you’re learning no matter where it’s from as long as you keep checking in for updates.
John 14: 25 “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. 27 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. 28 You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. 29 And now I have told you before it takes place, so that when it does take place you may believe. 30 I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no claim on me, 31 but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father. Rise, let us go from here. ESV
What is the general theme of the passage?
“The ruler of this world is coming. He has no claim on me…I do as the Father has commanded me…Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid…”. I’ve left my peace with you so after I have gone to the Father you will remember I said ‘I am going away, and I will come to you’…The Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you” and you will rejoice!
What does it say about God (or Jesus or the Holy Spirit?)
The Father is sending the Helper in Jesus’s name. Jesus loves the Father and obeys Him because the Father is greater. The Helper is a teacher and a reminder of all Jesus demonstrated about loving the Father.
What does it say about people?
Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.
Is there truth here for me?
The day-to-day world is broken by dull memories of the intimacy people once had with the Father. Time and distance from that long-ago original home have erased much of the awareness of that intimacy. But God’s heart has remained faithful and He still remembers the past! It was God’s own memories of that lost intimacy that sent Jesus in the flesh to demonstrate how to live that perfect relationship with the Father day-to-day. It’s was God’s own memories of that lost intimacy that brought Jesus to the moment of knowing His death would restore what His life could not. It was God’s own memories of that lost intimacy that sent an internal Helper, a Holy Spirit in Jesus’s name to teach dull hearts “all things” about how the Father would insure their future. It’s interesting to consider that I am here this Sunday to write, remember and rejoice with you because of the completed plan that began with God’s own memories of our lost intimacy with Him.
John 14:25 “All this I have spoken while still with you. 26 But the Advocate, 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. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
Advocate: one who pleads the cause of another, defends and maintains a proposal and supports the interests of the cause.
The Word is so much more than just words. It is the place God captures our hearts through our mind. There is only one condition: you must accept that the Lord has placed His Advocate in your heart to begin the process of training your mind to first go to “He will” before it goes to that other place, “I should” which has a very different manager.
2 Peter 1:12 So I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have.
“We let our mind descend into our heart and
there stand in the presence of God.”
Henri Nouwen in Spiritual Direction
John 15:26 “But I will send you the Advocate—the Spirit of truth. He will come to you from the Father and will testify all about me. ESV
The titles the Bible uses for the Holy Spirit range from Advocate to Intercessor and Companion to Friend. All titles have the same implied message; Jesus has provided 24/7 personal support for those who abide with Him. Your commitment is involved and your mind is involved but the bedrock of your personal faith is formed by what the Holy Spirit reveals to God about you, and to you about God.
The Advocate recognizes, and targets, our needs through the transformative stories we read and hear as part of our personal devotion. Those stories become the seeds of His purpose – to direct our personal growth. The Advocate is the Intercessor between all involved parties – God, Himself, Jesus and you. He is the one Companion you have that can speak absolute truth to God on your behalf, fully aware of your needs. Only a Friend with the absolute knowledge of God’s truth is able to testify this encouragement back to you: “Christ’s anointing teaches you the truth on everything you need to know about yourself and him, uncontaminated by a single lie. Live deeply in what you were taught.”a
The bedrock of personal faith, devotion and growth is the testimony of the Holy Spirit that teaches you to “live deeply” in what you are still being taught.
a I John 2:27 [MSG]
I’ve finally reached Chapter 1 of the book of Hebrews. Honestly this grand finale feels like one of the biggest accomplishments of my years of study. I began at the end of Hebrews and have ended at the beginning of the book to discover this simple proof for myself; there is no “the end” anywhere in it. It’s all about beginning.
God’s provision of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit are still at work in every chapter even with my own limitations of what I could comprehend from this theologically challenging book. The weeks of reading with the expectation I would personally discover an ultimate conclusion taught my heart something more than I expected. That is surely the gift of the Word of God.
Chapter 13. ”Outside” is where Christ receives your brokenness and disgrace and makes them his own. It’s the plan of God that we who are outsiders can go to where “new” begins, the Cross.
Chapter 1. I’m in God’s Kingdom because of the provision of that righteous scepter, His Son, “the exact imprint of God’s very being,” being the “crutch” that held me up so I could limp into it.
The ultimate conclusion of the Word of God always leads you to the cross and Christ and the reality there is no “the end” to your beginning.
Hebrews 13 – 9
Throughout the book, we are also challenged to remain faithful to Jesus and follow great models of faith from the Old Testament despite hardships and persecution. These challenges will make us uncomfortable but instead of fearing them, remember that rejecting Jesus is foolish. Jesus is the ultimate revelation of God’s love and mercy and is worthy of all our trust and devotion.
[The Bible Project]
All of Scripture is God letting us look into the past to show us how to build our life of faith today. Usually I read as if chapters are layers that pile up one after another to result in the truth of the book. Reading Hebrews backwards is like peeling those layers back, one a time, to discover for myself truth that can be built into everyday life AND the future. So these are cliff notes from my writings on chapters [13 – 9] each numbered and listed without further editing in that same “backwards” order. My goal is to discover confirmed evidence the Holy Spirit is working through these layers of God’s word to teach me exactly what I need to learn.
 Outside” is where Christ receives your brokenness and disgrace and makes them his own. It’s the plan of God that we who are outsiders can go to where “new” begins, the Cross.  God has saved the unmerited favor of His Grace IN us. Living with the reality of that forgiveness is the discipline of Grace that turns faith into action.
 Those ancestors made it into this “By Faith” chapter because their faith reached into the future of US. That past and their faith has reached beyond time to strengthen our present with the promise of completion for US all as the future unfolds. US is God’s version of “outreach” at it’s most creative.  Today we have God’s incredible exception to those annual sacrifices. The blood of Jesus and the Grace of God have provided a way to remove the guilt of our sin from God’s memory forever…but our memory is still a natural consequence of sin.  Circumstances are where God begins. Right from the beginning God desired to be present with us because of love. Right from the beginning when circumstances might have denied that truth, God began.
√ Re·new·al: the replacing or repair of something that is worn out, run-down, or broken
NIV Acts 2:2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit…
• from the prophet Joel Acts 2:17 “‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people…21 And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
• from David the king 2:28 “You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence.”
• from Peter 2:32 “God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it. 33 Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear.
A big part of renewal in a life of faith is having the courage to come to grips with the Holy Spirit. Identifying the Holy Spirit as wind is familiar but I’ve never noticed the word “violent” before [other versions use “mighty.”] The idea that the indwelling of the Holy Spirit might not be a gentle and virtually invisible interaction at all but the surgical removal of the sin within us that’s so violent it might even require fire to cauterize the wound. That’s just my theory. The truth is the moment the Holy Spirit enters into us the dramatic renewal and healing within us begins. ‘God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it.”
For the “first” time since I began this blog in 2015 and settled into two posts a week I missed my post this Sunday. Oh, I have a list of reasons but when I ticked them off to myself I didn’t find much justification in any of them. I just don’t always get it right. In keeping with my recent theme of “Firsts” I’m reposting an updated version of my very first post. The reality is I need to remember what inspired me to begin this blog in the “first” place. Consistency is of great value in a blog but it doesn’t compare to God’s consistency. “Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you [me] will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6
Hello world! – Edited “First” Post from June 5, 2015
I began what I call a timid, limited slog through the Old Testament. It’s timid because I’m not a scholar, limited because what I read is often far less than a whole chapter and slog because sometimes reading to find faith in my daily life feels like trying to run in a dream. I wanted to explore the human identity of some of the main characters of the Old Testament that I pretty much skip over to get to Jesus. They often seem so remote to me but they’ve become heroic examples of what faith looked like in the “good old days;” days that were so much closer to God’s miraculous intervention in the lives of those real people.
I wanted to look at them as people who didn’t always get it right the first time and see what happened in their lives. Some stayed faithful and learned from their mistakes and some just let their worry or anger destroy them. You know, people just like us. People knowing and believing God but held back from becoming what God created them to be by flaws, or maybe just indifference. This is exactly where many of us find ourselves. This word journey is my attempt to see how God moved them, and still can move us, from being satisfied with being not Godless, but not Godly either.
I am absolutely convinced there is a process God has designed for the purpose of revealing himself to those who care to look and listen. It involves his Word, the Holy Spirit and time. I read many versions of Scripture online and watch for the mental “stop sign” in those words that says “notice me.” These are the methods of the digital age. I copy and paste them into my iPad journal. Yes, I’m a geek. I type, I think, I backspace [a lot] and then I think and type some more until there seems to be a completion of the thoughts I believe the Holy Spirit has brought to my mind. Sometimes I need to be reminded what makes my thoughts important is where they come from and my ability to hear what God is trying to tell me. That’s where I am today.
It brings a smile to my face to imagine that God might use that oft repeated cell phone phrase of the digital age, “can you hear me now” as an object lesson for me. I want to listen, I want to hear, but sometimes I just have to quit moving and stay in one place long enough to get good reception. One thing is absolute though, God is faithfully consistent to ask the question over and over, “can you hear me now?”
Lord, “yes.” Amen.
Luke 1:1 Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, 2 just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. 3 With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, 4 so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught
This chapter’s recent history as part of the Christmas celebration gave me pause as I began. The familiarity of these beautiful Christmas passages can make it easy to overlook other details. I read the chapter several times before something caught my eye. The angel brings up the Holy Spirit when he introduces Mary to what God has in mind for her but the Holy Spirit “filling” John, Elizabeth and Zechariah is a big truth that got lost for me in the familiar.
*15… he [John the Baptist] will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. 16 He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God.
*41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.
*67 His [John’s] father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied
It makes so much sense now that I’ve noticed that truth. The main characters of this unlikely mystery were given the verification of one Spirit to another. The Holy Spirit was a work of God in the flesh for them that knit them together in unique kind of baptism of spiritual recognition.
This is truth for us today too. Living a life of faith is still a mystery of God that only becomes recognizable to the eye or mind when the Holy Spirit verifies itself in the flesh, one to another.