“To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen”Philippians 4:20
“Jesus, thank you for sending the Holy Spirit to live in me. I can turn to you at any time, day or night, in times of joy and of sorrow and you are with me guiding me, convicting me and loving me. Forever and ever. Amen”
When I married my husband 34 years ago, we promised to be there for each other till the day we die. I plan on keeping that promise, and I’m certain he will too. However, I also recognize that we are both human. We will disappoint each other. At times we’ve felt betrayed by the other. We’ve been angry and hurt. We’ve also loved each other deeply. And although I hope that our promise we made all those years ago stays true, you just never know what strange turns our sinful human nature may take.
In all our relationships there is only one that we can know without a doubt, that we could place a million dollar bet on and know it’s a “sure thing.” And that’s the one we have, as believers, with God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit.
“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— 17 the 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 bein you.”John 14:16-17
Before the glory of Pentecost the Holy Spirit only came and “visited” man. He would come and direct various people in the Old Testament to do God’s work. But Jesus made it clear that He would no longer make us orphans. When He left He would step aside for the Holy Spirit to come and live IN us believers forever. How beautiful, loving and glorious is that? God – this magnificent, mysterious, expansive, all powerful being wants to be a part of me and you, always. While we are taking a shower, making dinner, at work, running errands He is with us.
“You have often left God. Has He ever left you?”
I’ve had friends that no longer talk to me. I’ve turned my back on some myself. I’ve even gotten pretty mad at God. With one of my funnier moments telling Him, “I’m not going to believe in you anymore!” (Ponder the irony of that statement for a minute) But God has stayed true.
Friends, look at the very best relationship you have. The one that brings you laughter, joy, loyalty and more. And magnify that by a billion. That’s God living with us and in us through the Holy Spirit. I don’t know about you but I think that’s certainly something for which we should glorify and give thanks.
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. John 14:26
About 10 years ago the church I attended began a series about the Holy Spirit. I was fairly new in my walk with God and didn’t realize what a big deal this series was for this church. As the pastor began his first sermon, he kept taking care to deal with the congregation’s feeling of discomfort. And I kept wondering what the issue was. So, I finally asked someone. I learned the Holy Spirit just wasn’t something this denomination talked about, ever. I’ve also since learned other denominations avoid teaching about Holy Spirit out of a fear of being too “charismatic.”
Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 1 Corinthians 6:19
Oh, we crazy Christians. How often is our religious life marred by fears of how we will be seen or downright lack of knowledge of biblical truths? Christians who consider themselves “proper and dignified” because they don’t acknowledge the gifts of the spirit are denying Jesus’ own words. But to deny the Holy Spirit as an equal part of the majestic trinity is very unbiblical! Jesus, Himself, told us He would send another in His place to guide us. If we deny this great gift from God what else are we prepared to deny from Him? On the flip side I know of a young woman whose church taught that everyone has the spiritual gift of speaking in tongues. That also is denying biblical truths and the work of the Holy Spirit in each of our individual lives.
In the past I’ve described hearing from the Holy Spirit like a tap on the shoulder. A whisper in my ear which spurs me to either act for God or to stop in my tracks for Him. To keep my mouth shut when needed and to speak when the spirit puts the right words in my mouth. I’m so thankful I know the Holy Spirit and love when the spirit weaves throughout my day. I can’t do this thing called “life” alone; and I don’t want to.
The Holy Spirit helped breathe life into us during creation. It was the Holy Spirit that brought so many to Jesus at Pentecost. It speaks to us and guides us in Jesus’ stead. If you don’t know about the Holy Spirit, call on Him in your prayers. Read what Jesus and the disciples said about Him. I, for one, am so thankful we have this Helper to bring us through our days until Jesus’ return.
The living, the living—they praise you, as I am doing today; parents tell their children about your faithfulness. Isaiah 38:19
I have a confession to make. I wasn’t an intentional Christian parent. Church was often relegated to the backseat during softball season (which pretty much lasts 9 months). I didn’t make sure my kids were involved in Christian youth groups. When we did pray at dinner we prayed the same prayer each time until it became almost meaningless. We didn’t talk about the Bible, we didn’t talk about our faith. I don’t think I’m alone in this confession. And I’m sure I’m not alone in saying there was a price paid for our “Christian-lite” stance.
I am thankful that, when my younger daughter went off to college, she was drawn to a Christian athlete organization and then a local church. Through that program she learned what we had failed to teach – the truth about our Savior and how much God loves us. My older daughter? She’s probably like a lot of our twenty-somethings. She believes in God but beyond that it gets murky.
“The single most important factor of shaping children’s religious lives is their parents – not society, not youth leaders, but their parents.”
In other words, if you model faithfulness, if you live out what you say you believe on Sunday, the chances of your child being a devoted follower of Christ is increased exponentially. And if, like I did, you lead a lukewarm faith life you’ll most likely create the same fruit. Even worse, if you act or speak hypocritically you may get no fruit at all.
A few weeks ago, our pastor taught on Genesis 18:16-19:29. An overarching theme in these verses is the concept of being or having an advocate. Someone who will hold us up and speak for us to God. Abraham wrangled with God to save just a few people from the sin-filled cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. In the end, his pleas saved his nephew, Lot, and Lot’s daughters. It’s a beautiful foreshadowing of the ultimate Advocate – Jesus. As you can see in these two verses.
Then he (Abraham) said, “May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak just once more. What if only ten can be found there?” He (God) answered, “For the sake of ten, I will not destroy it.” Genesis 18:32
Jesus: My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.John 17:15
How many of us, as parents or grandparents or even aunts and uncles, see ourselves as “advocates” for our children? See being in that role as possibly one of the most important ones we will ever have? How many of us have prioritized our faith over the sparkling lights of “after school activities?” Their very souls are what we are talking about here. I’ve heard so many parents grieve their adult children’s faith. And so we pray as their advocate. How about we also live as one too?
Abraham was able to plead directly with God. A back and forth conversation. How? From the beginning of his relationship with God, Abraham obeyed and worked to be a faithful servant – with a few hiccups along the way. What does that look like as modern parents today? How can we be resolute in not compromising our children’s eternity?
In my next post I’ll talk about opening our eyes as parents to our everyday decisions. Are they of the world of the flesh or of God’s will? I recently listened to author Christian Smith about the research he has done in the area of youth and faith. His current book is titled, Handing Down the Faith. Here’s few great nuggets from the book.
Teens are actually paying attention to you. That might come as a shock to many. He found that even into their 20s our kids are actively noticing how we live and what we “preach.”
Just saying you are a Christian (Buddhist, Jew, etc) isn’t enough. Kids are learning both positive and negative faith examples.
We aren’t just counteracting world views but some church ones as well. Many Christian youth programs teach what he termed, Moralistic Therapeutic Deism – act morally, be a nice person, and don’t judge. That’s great when life is easy. But as our kids age and the world comes crashing down it causes them to fall away.
Be authoritative – demand expectations, standards, with an abundance of warmth and support. Note: not “authoritarian.”
Talk routinely about religion. While your faith doesn’t need to be the subject of each discussion your faith should be woven in and used for handling conflict and decision making.
Walk the talk. If you live a life of service, humility, forgiveness and worship your kids will have the best example they will ever need.
Channel “internalization.” Or in other words place your child in situations where they will be influenced positively in your faith by others such as youth groups, religious schools, etc.
Know the Word. A good teacher is only as good as how well they know their topic!
Play the long game. None of us are wholly responsible for anyone’s faith and salvation. But the building blocks you instill are certainly a great cornerstone!
Pray. And pray some more. Pray for knowledge, pray for discernment, pray for your children and your spouse. Pray for doors to open for conversations and then walk through them!
I may have missed the opportunity when my kids were younger to instill Jesus into their lives. But to be fair, He wasn’t deeply rooted in mine either. Thankfully, how I’ve allowed Jesus to change me and use me is also a great lesson for my adult children. Until this Age of Grace is over, it is never too late for God to work in our familys’ lives. As a changed follower I’m asking for His help, so that I can stand resolutely and faithfully in being my kids’ advocate.
…for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.Philippians 2:13
How glorious would it have been to live when Jesus was physically here on Earth? To sit at the Sermon on the Mount and hear His words directly from His mouth? To be in a busy marketplace and bump into Him – turning to see directly into His face? Isn’t it amazing how He spent so little time here with us yet the impact has been so astounding that even our days are marked by when He arrived? And when He ascended, the gift He left behind is something for which we can never be thankful enough.
“If you love me, keep my commands. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—17 the 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 in you.John 14: 15-17
When you study the Bible you see how Jesus and the Holy Spirit touched lives even before the time we say God became fully human. Their presence is woven throughout the Old Testament. So it’s not as though they were created suddenly. God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit all spoke the world into creation and have placed their holy hands on our lives throughout history.
So, today specifically I praise God for the gift of the Holy Spirit and for being our constant intercessor, our inner voice, our God whisperer.
It is the Holy Spirit that helps us to pray when we don’t know what to pray – because the situation has gotten so dire. It is the Holy Spirit who whispers to us to get up and do God’s work. It is the Holy Spirit who partners with us when we need rescue.
In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.Romans 8:26
I shared with my BSGs in the past that when I’m really stressed or worried I have a difficult time praying. My mind is so jumbled and full of negative thoughts I can’t seem to quiet it down. One of my BSGs responded saying, “I’ve just cried out, “help me!” when I don’t know what to say.” That’s great advice. It says it right there in Romans 8. The Holy Spirit will help us pray. Will give us the words to speak to God.
Friends, God is so beautiful and loving that He didn’t leave us orphans. He didn’t leave us grieving because He left us with a piece of Him inside of each of us. I once heard a Christian teacher say that we don’t need to attain patience, kindness, love, etc. We already have all those imputed through the Holy Spirit that lives in us because we believe. We just need to ask the Holy Spirit to help us release those gifts. To help us pray the words to fight back against the devil. To whisper to us “love this person right now.”
We need to believe that God has given us the access to this awesome power. And once we do that, we should pray to unleash it with all its glorious might.