Monthly Archives: August 2014

Holy Spirit Action

The book of Acts in my Bible is titled ‘The Acts of The Apostles’. Titles and sub-headings were added by man. There are great records about the apostles in the book of Acts, but there are also records of others who did great things for God like Philip and Stephen, the certain disciple, Ananias, and others. The common denominator of all those that did great things for God was the gift of holy spirit. Instead of Acts of the Apostles, it might be better to title the book: Acts of Holy Spirit, or maybe even Holy Spirit Action.

God is spirit and everyone who truly loves Him worships Him in spirit and in truth. The very essence of what He is, spirit, has been imparted to man, with measure in the Old Testament, without measure in the New Testament. Throughout the New Testament there are references to the ‘new man’ or the inner godly nature that the spirit of God brings us. The Word of God fans the flames of that spirit. Where God is concerned, ‘spirit’ and ‘truth’ go hand in hand.  Spirit can exist without truth and truth without spirit but both may not be godly. Spirit without truth can be quite lively and misleading. Truth without spirit can be verrrrrrrrry dull.

On the day of Pentecost, Peter delivered a great explanation about what had just gone on in Jerusalem after all the events surrounding the crucifixion of Jesus Christ and the outpouring of holy spirit. Peter was a changed man, no longer denying Jesus, he squarely confronted those who had put Jesus to death. Not only was he changed, but those listening were changed also and acted without fear in response as recorded in Acts 2:42-47:

42 And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. 43 And fear (respect) came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles.44 And all that believed were together, and had all things common; 45 And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. 46 And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, 47 Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.

People recognized the wonderful compassion of God.  They rejoiced. People changed in their hearts as the holy spirit worked in them. They continued boldly in the temple and from house to house and were no longer afraid of those who who sought to extinguish their movement. These verses are about the spiritual reaction to the gift energizing them. Love energizes. They were inspired. This section of scripture should be read with that in mind.  Remember the people in Exodus? They didn’t exactly see deliverance the way the believers in Acts did. On the day of Pentecost God must have been so blessed with the 3000 people who were praising Him and sharing grace with all the people.

The grace continued as Peter  and John ministered to a lame man and he was healed. People got excited about it. Peter responded to their wonder by telling them exactly where the powerful and faithful love  was from:

12 And when Peter saw it, he answered unto the people, Ye men of Israel, why marvel ye at this? or why look ye so earnestly on us, as though by our own power or holiness we had made this man to walk?13 The God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God of our fathers, hath glorified his Son Jesus; whom ye delivered up, and denied him in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let him go. Acts 3:12-13

The power or holiness came from the gift. A lot has been written about holy spirit, some of it very confusing and frankly misleading.  Internal genuine power comes from a loving and willing God. When people truly understand its significance, lives get changed and the glory goes to God. He has given us such a gracious gift and it didn’t disappear at the close of Acts.

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Slavery

As I was reading through the 10 commandments in Exodus 20 and subsequently the expansion of those laws in chapters succeeding, I am amazed at the justice, non-partiallity and compassion implied by God. How loving it was of God to establish a code of conduct on civil and social relationship issues, worship and personal responsibility.

After the listing of the 10 basic commandments, God expounds on the topic of slavery in chapter 21:1-11.

Exodus 21:2 If thou buy an Hebrew servant, six years he shall serve: and in the seventh he shall go out free for nothing.

Slavery is regarded in our culture negatively and rightfully so, but in the Bible it is different. God spells out some important considerations regarding Hebrew slavery. First of all, servanthood in the Old Testament came about when people fell into poverty and also when people were caught at theft (Exodus 22:3). People went to work for a master when they needed money or to pay restitution. Masters were to treat their servants justly. This falls under the category of indentured servant.

3 If he came in by himself, he shall go out by himself: if he were married, then his wife shall go out with him. 4 If his master have given him a wife, and she have born him sons or daughters; the wife and her children shall be her master’s, and he shall go out by himself. 5 And if the servant shall plainly say, I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free: 6 Then his master shall bring him unto the judges; he shall also bring him to the door, or unto the door post; and his master shall bore his ear through with an aul; and he shall serve him for ever. (Exodus 21:3-6)

There is a difference between a servant and a bond servant. A bond servant chooses to remain with the master forever. Through the master he may have received great blessings so after the 6th year, he could decide to stay on with the master.

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Understanding the Importance of Holy Spirit

There are interesting comparisons of the giving of the law at Sinai and the outpouring of the spirit on the day of Pentecost after spirit inonChrist’s ascension. In the Old Testament God placed spirit upon certain individuals but not on the general population. God talked to Moses and Moses talked to the people. God’s Word was literally written in stone for their benefit so they could see it. That is how they understood God. On the day of Pentecost, all who received the gift of holy spirit had access to God in a new and different way, through spiritual eyes. The spirit gives power and strength to the flesh.

Romans 8:3a For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, 

The gift of holy spirit is a big deal, it is unparalleled access to God. It involves communication through inspiration and revelation, as well as imparting power in life’s situations. The Word of God is also revelation of God’s will in written form. The written form that we can study and hold in our hand today is at best a version, and there many people who interpret it in many different ways. One thing we have to keep in mind to get clear on all this is to remember that the word of God is not made of stone. The Word of God is a living breathing reality when combined with the spirit that is in the heart of man.

My trek through the Old Testament is teaching me a lot of things. The Israelites in Exodus tried to see their journey as a dry dusty trail.  That was all they could see at times  despite the miracles with getting away from Pharaoh’s clutches, the Red Sea parting, the pillar of the cloud by day, the pillar of fire by night, manna, water out of a rock, and the brazen serpent. The five senses took front and center when they had something to complain about.

Our lives have been blessed. We can see God and all he does for us. The Word helps us recognize Him and the spirit draws our attention to Him. God works continually through our lives. The adversary tries to too. The devil wants us to focus on the tangle of the world and problems. In the long run he knows the big picture exposes him, but he certainly tries to blow things out of proportion in our minds like a mushroom cloud. We can bring it back into focus with all the tools God has provided (read all of Romans 8 and see!).

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All That He Began

Have you ever had a lyric with a catchy lilt stick in your brain and play over and over? You just can’t get it out of your head? Sometimes that happens to me with phrases in the Bible. The most recent one is: ‘all that Jesus began both to do and teach’. Actually that phrase has a rather melodious ring to it. I’ve read right over it many times when reading the book of Acts.  Last night however, the phrase popped into my head and stuck. After looking it up and checking the context of those beginning verses of Acts, it really struck me that these are very pregnant words. The word ‘began’ stands out in big letters.

Acts 1:1- 2 The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus BEGAN both to do and teach until the day in which he was taken up, after that he through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen:

Jesus Christ was a beginning! The book of Acts is a continuing. On the day of Pentecost those people who, by their own free-will choice decided to believe all that God was doing, became a part of that continuing.

It is interesting to note that Jesus Christ had given his parting words through the holy spirit to the apostles. Holy spirit is a communication life-line. God is spirit and they that love him must love him in spirit and in truth (John 4:24). In order to do that people need to receive the gift of holy spirit. Jesus Christ had the spirit. The apostles received the spirit in their hearts on the day of Pentecost. You and I can obtain holy spirit by accepting the Lordship of Jesus Christ and believing that God brought him back from death to life. Then we become part of the continuation.

Moses made 6 trips up and down the mountain of God to receive instructions during the Exodus stopover at the foot of Mt Sinai. Moses could talk and listen to God because he had spirit upon him. The Israelites couldn’t. Things had to be written in stone for them and sometimes they still forgot. Today God doesn’t need stone tablets when God can impress the fleshy table of our heart.

2 Corinthians 3:2 Ye are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men: 3 Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart.

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Feasting on God’s Blessings

So how many feasts are there in the bible? Some people say 8, some 7 and because of this ,it gets a little confusing.  The big picture lesson may get a  little blurred. God is always teaching, either directly or through foreshadowing, proverbially or in figures. So when I ran across the following verses in Exodus, things seemed to simplify for me.

Exodus 23:14 Three times thou shalt keep a feast unto me in the year. 15 Thou shalt keep the feast of unleavened bread: (thou shalt eat unleavened bread seven days, as I commanded thee, in the time appointed of the month Abib; for in it thou camest out from Egypt: and none shall appear before me empty:) 16 And the feast of harvest, the firstfruits of thy labours, which thou hast sown in the field: and the feast of ingathering, which is in the end of the year, when thou hast gathered in thy labours out of the field. 17 Three times in the year all thy males shall appear before the Lord God.

In the first feast listed, the Feast of the unleavened bread, Passover and the barley harvest can be included. It was a feast celebrating the Exodus from Egypt. This meant deliverance and an escape for God’s people. Jesus Christ is our Passover today.

The second feast is called: the Day of Harvest and the Day of Firstfruits. A good study of ‘firstfruits’ yields utter perfection and reason for this description. The Feast of Weeks involved the wheat harvest. For the Hebrews, it was a day commemorating the giving of the law on Mt. Sinai and God’s arrival in the holy of holies of the Exodus tent. In the New Testament, those that are Christ’s are considered the ‘firstfruits’ of God’s beautiful grace through a spiritual relationship. The veil to the holy of holies dividing God from His people was ripped in half.

The last feast was The Ingathering. It was the celebration of the final harvest. This included the trumpet announcement, day of atonement and the Feast of Tabernacles (booths). For the Hebrew, this was a remembrance of God’s oversight throughout the 40 years in the wilderness. The parallel under the New Covenant involves the gathering together of 1st Thessalonians, the judgements, and the ultimate reign of Christ.

I like the way God maps out his plan: deliverance, firstfruits and conclusion. God has provided an escape out of bondage and corruption. Those who believe in his provision are blessed and receive power. Finally, in the grand scheme of all things, everything is set right and we all live happily ever after!

Maybe I’m being a little simplistic, but it is a simple framework and a story of eternity. Each feast has additional embellishments and plans, but basically, the big picture and results are the same. It fits nicely into my brain!

Check out Leviticus 23!!!

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Burnt Offerings and Peace Offerings

After the listing of the ten commandments, God mentions the ‘burnt’ offering and the ‘peace’ offering. There are other types of offerings but He specifically calls attention to these two. They both involve the sweet smelling savor to God and they are voluntary offerings:

Exodus 20:22 And the Lord said unto Moses, Thus thou shalt say unto the children of Israel, Ye have seen that I have talked with you from heaven. 23 Ye shall not make with me gods of silver, neither shall ye make unto you gods of gold. 24 An altar of earth thou shalt make unto me, and shalt sacrifice thereon thy burnt offerings, and thy peace offerings, thy sheep, and thine oxen: in all places where I record my name I will come unto thee, and I will bless thee. 25 And if thou wilt make me an altar of stone, thou shalt not build it of hewn stone: for if thou lift up thy tool upon it, thou hast polluted it.

It is interesting that God prescribes an ‘altar of earth’ rather than a tooled man-made structure as the altar of these sacrifices. No gold, no silver, no man-made designs were to be involved. God even goes so far as to call it pollution.

Offerings provide lessons and foreshadowing. A ‘burnt’ offering implies ‘ascending’. It is a symbol of commitment and devotion. A flame burns upward. On Pentecost, there were tongues like as a fire that sat on the heads of the apostles as they sat in the temple 50 days after the resurrection of Jesus Christ. These men recognized Christ’s Lordship and were committed to all the provision of God through His son. It heralded in the receiving of the holy spirit. What came out of their mouths was perfect praise and thanksgiving to God. The ‘peace’ offering heralds thanksgiving, praise, and vows because of the peace provided by God. God delights in these offerings.

As with the commandments, God offers protection, guidance and instruction through what he lays out. We can clearly see what he values and enjoys.

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