Tag Archives: Holy Ghost

How Do I Hear God?

given on Sunday, September 7, 2014

Have you ever heard God speaking directly to you? Have you heard a voice call you by name so clearly that you turned and looked for the source of that voice? Have you suddenly had a thought that came out of nowhere and was just the right answer to a problem?

In all the recent discussions about being a Christian, we seldom add in that we are to listen to God. Listening implies that we know the speaker and are expecting to hear honest answers to our questions and knowledgeable information on which to base our decisions. But in our daily lives, listening is one of the hardest skills we have to develop. Kids, phones, busy calendars interrupt all too often listening—and the list continues to grow.

Last week the significance of our reaffirmation of baptism may have lost its significance because of physical and mental exhaustion following the fair. The business of living constantly gets in the way of our ability to hear God. The irony is that if we slow down and purposefully listen for God, the clutter in our human lives becomes much less disruptive.

The answer lies quietly in our acceptance of the triune God. We refer to it in our creeds, in our hymns, and in the Bible. The answer is the Holy Spirit. We can agree in the concept of God the Father and Jesus the Son because the documentation is in the Bible; and the historical records of humanity supports the life and death of Jesus.

So why do we skip right over the same source which talks about the Holy Spirit, aka Holy Ghost? Sadly, the Holy Spirit is a major key if not THE key to hearing God. Listening is a skill and developing the skills to recognize God talking to us, individually talking to us, is assumed rather than taught in Sunday school, discussed over coffee, or demonstrated.

As difficult as it is for adults to understand the role of the Holy Spirit in the life of a Christian, how can it b explained to young people? I am nearing the end of Eugene Peterson’s devotional called Solo. The Bible is read from Genesis to Revelation in a specific form of lectio divinia, a structured reading process to ‘hear’ God’s words.

This week, the devotion for day 359 was the first reading into Revelation and included more instructions for praying. Praying is conversation with God:

Lie on your back in stillness (outside, if possible, where you can see the sky). Focus on the magnificence of God’s character and how he brings victory to humanity. As you think about who God is, whisper these words to him:

         God, you are A to Z

         God, you are The God Who Is.

         God, you are The God Who Was.

         God, you are the God About to Arrive.

         God, you are the Sovereign-Strong.

Express your gratitude to God in whatever heartfelt way you wish.

Just how often do Christians practice this type of listening for God? I suspect very few do.

How do we hear God? We listen. We reaffirmed our baptism last week, but there is also baptism by the Holy Spirit. This is probably the most difficult concept to understand in Christianity—even more so than God himself. Somehow we can agree that God is the creator, the father of us all, even the son Jesus Christ himself.

First, the Bible tells us how the Holy Spirit works. We often speed read right over it because the words do not always use the proper noun Holy Spirit or Holy Ghost. The scriptures may say God spoke to Moses, or God may deliver an answer like the manna in the desert. The stories of Jesus demonstrate the actions carried out by the Holy Spirit. Whether Jesus brought Lazarus back from the dead or healed the leper, the Holy Spirit is the force that gives us the strength to accomplish God’s work. Reading the Bible is a way to hear God.

A second way to hear God is to pray. The faithful in the Bible took time to pray. They conversed with God and shared the problems that needed attention. Sometimes the busy life got in the way of hearing God’s answer, but we all have witnessed cases when a difficult event suddenly turned into a blessing. The Holy Spirit heard the prayer and provided an answer.

The Holy Spirit is active in our lives all the time. There are times when we suddenly are given an extra dose of adrenaline to avoid danger or to block harm. On occasion some words come out of our mouths that are just the right thing to say in a moment when you have no idea what to say. And then, there are those times when all the stress comes falling down upon you and in the midst you suddenly experience peace and know that even this will pass and you are ok.

The Holy Spirit is how we hear God. The triune God is complete and we acknowledge his power, his son, and our own role as tools for the Holy Spirit to use. The words may not be loud enough for others to hear, but they are for you to hear. The words surround us; we just must listen.

Selecting the hymns for today, I stumbled into a hymn (UMH 649) that gave me some insight:

How shall they hear the word of God

unless the truth is told?

How shall the sinful be set free,

the sorrowful consoled?

To all who speak the truth today,

impart your Spirit, Lord, we pray.

 

True, the words are a prayer, but the answers are implied; yet, Christians can hear them with the gift of the Holy Spirit:

 

How shall they call to God for help

unless they have believed?

How shall the poor be given hope,

the prisoner reprieved?

To those who help the blind to see,

give light and love and clarity.

 

No action of service can be done without the Holy Spirit’s presence. No words of compassion can be said without the Holy Spirit working.

 

How shall the gospel be proclaimed

that sinners may repent?

How shall the world find peace at last

if heralds are not sent?

So send us, Lord, for we rejoice

to speak of Christ with life and voice.

 

How do we hear God? We listen. We lie back on the ground, look up to the heavens, and listen. While we may not fully understand how the Holy Spirit works, when you listen you will sense his presence as ideas and thoughts bubble up in your mind. You know you are baptized by the Holy Spirit when you find yourself in settings where your actions seem unplanned but provide the perfect answer. You are a servant of God when you feel a pull in your heart to respond to a plea. You have the Holy Spirit within you when you reluctantly step out of your comfort zone to go on a mission trip or help complete a task you feel you cannot do.

How you hear God is demonstrated by how you live your life. When others begin seeing a change in you from self first to others first, you begin showing them how God works even in a world filled with evil and injustice. When others come to you for solace, God fills you with words of compassion and guidance.

How do others hear God? They hear him through the words of the Bible, the words of our hymns and prayers, but most importantly they hear God through you who have been baptized by the water and the Holy Spirit.

Closing Prayer

Dear God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit,

Thank you for believing in us despite all our mistakes.

Thank you for loving us so much that you trust us.

 

With your gift of the Holy Spirit, speak to us.

Guide us to actions extending your reach.

 

As we stumble through our earthly life,

Give us the confidence to act on your behalf.

 

Help us to know that when we do listen,

You are speaking to us with grace and love.

 

We pray we hear and do as you would have us do

So others may hear you too.         –Amen.

 

 

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What do you mean Holy Ghost? Who is the Holy Spirit?

given on Sunday, July 8, 2012

If a tree falls in the forest, does it make noise?  This is just one of those questions people ask in fun; but also this is a question to ponder and to argue with deep-seeded thinkers.  Questions like this are used in schools to develop higher order thinking skills, to create inquisitive minds, or to stimulate a conversation.  The same type of questions creates long, evenings of debate at social gatherings.

Abstract ideas easily frustrate a person who lives in a concrete world and struggles to understand non-materialistic concepts.  Is it any wonder when someone mentions the Holy Ghost or Holy Spirit that debates spring up around it, too?  Even the name creates confusion—Holy Ghost to some while others comfortably use Holy Spirit.  How does one explain this third element of the triune?

The answers to these questions are particularly difficult in a society that is more materialistic, more secular, and more skeptical than it was 100, 200, or even 400 years ago.  Americans celebrated another 4th of July this week, but the society we live in today is vastly different than in 1776.

As Christians, we need to be able to put into words exactly what Christianity is, what the triune God is, and what the Holy Spirit/Ghost is.  Skeptics demand physical proof as clear evidence of Christianity, yet faith is an abstract concept itself.  The evidence is in the outcomes of living a Christian life.  The evidence is in the relationships of Christians to their family, their friends, their co-workers, and their enemies.  The evidence is an intangible quality that draws others to them.

The Holy Ghost or Holy Spirit, synonyms or interchangeable names, is visible in the relationships as well as in the actions of Christians.  The Holy Ghost is God’s presence within us; it is the tool that we use to act.  Holy Ghost is a tangible being that is proven over and over by the acts of Christians everywhere.

Evidence:  the outpouring of people racing to Joplin, the firefighters working around the clock right now trying to control forest fires, the neighbors pouring out to locate missing children, neighbors, aging seniors or complete strangers, the first responders to accidents, the sole individual who hears the cry of a lost child in a store.  The list of Christians who respond is evidence of the Holy Ghost in action.  It is the tool that we use to do the seemingly impossible as well as the simplest action of a hug.

Remember that looking at the world through God’s eyes allows us to apply that simple law of loving one another whether we know someone personally or whether someone is a complete stranger.  The Holy Spirit exists to provide us the ability, the resources, and the action to serve.  God’s dream of a world of humans who live harmoniously in his garden is our dream, too.

Back to the questions, though:  What is the Holy Ghost?  Who is the Holy Spirit?  Why do we need the Holy Ghost?  As Christians, we know that with the Holy Spirit, we can continue to demonstrate God’s love.  We can do whatever we can for all those we can in as many ways as we can—if we allow the Holy Ghost to work through us.

The Apostles and the earliest disciples had a man, Jesus Christ, to teach them how to live out the New Covenant.  God provided a concrete means of teaching the earliest believers how to live under the New Covenant, under one simple law rather than the volumes of law the Israelites created.  When the society surrounding the first converts felt challenged, the physical being of God was destroyed—Jesus was crucified.

At Pentecost, which was a traditional harvest celebration in the Jewish culture, the Holy Spirit baptized the Apostles and early disciples so that they were equipped to continue Jesus’ work.  The Holy Spirit replaces the second element of God, the human being Jesus Christ.  This third being may not be tangible, but is evidenced by the work of Christians then and now.

According to the Apologetics Study Bible article, “Who is the Holy Spirit?” by Dave Sterrett, there are five answers to that question:

  1. the Holy Spirit is fully God,
  2. the Holy Spirit is a person, not an impersonal force,
  3. the Holy Spirit is distinct from the Son and the Father
  4. the Holy Spirit indwells Christians; and
  5. we learn that God gives the Holy Spirit to anyone who believes in Jesus.

Wow!  Not just one answer, but five answers to the question of  “Who is the Holy Spirit?”  Sterrett also references Bible verses from both the Old and the New Testaments to demonstrate that the Holy Ghost has and continues to be part of the triune God.  The Holy Spirit is God.  The Holy Spirit is just as mysterious and complex as God because they are one in the same.

Beginning with just the second verse in Genesis, Sterrett points out the Holy Spirit was included:

Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness covered the surface of the watery depths, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters.  (the NIV)

He continues with references from Job and Psalms.  Even a review a concordance shows even more references to the Spirit.  Of course, one can expand the research by looking for additional terms:  Holy Spirit, Holy Ghost, Counselor, Friend, Tongues of Fire, Breath, Wind, and so on.

Looking at the references in John:14-16, I found the arguments for the Holy Spirit parallels those in Luke’s writings:

John 14:14-18:  15 “If you love me, you will obey what I command. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to 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[c] in you. 18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.

John 14:25-26:  25 “All this I have spoken while still with you. 26 But 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.

John 15:26-27:  26 “When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me. 27 And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning.

John 16:5-15:  “Now I am going to him who sent me, yet none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ Because I have said these things, you are filled with grief. But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt[g] in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment: in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me; 10 in regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; 11 and in regard to judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.

12 “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. 13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. 14 He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. 15 All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you.

The arguments are all there, in the Bible, so why the questions:  Who is the Holy Spirit?  What does the Holy Ghost mean?  How do we know there is a Holy Spirit?  What evidence is there that the Holy Ghost is a presence among us even today?

We may live in the 21st century, in a society filled with skeptics and non-believers, but the evidence exists all around us.  The Holy Spirit is present.  Take courage in this understanding and step out knowing you are equipped to do God’s work.

In Eugene Peterson’s The Message Remix:  Solo—an uncommon devotional, on day 246 he refers to Acts 4:24-31.

This excerpt primarily is a prayer that we can still use today.  In verse 23 he begins with the connection to the Old Testament, “By the Holy Spirit you spoke through the mouth of your servant and our father, David . . .” Then at the end of the prayer in verse 31, Luke describes the arrival of the Holy Spirit and how it equipped the Apostles and earliest disciples:

While they were praying, the place where they were meeting trembled and shook.  They were filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak God’s Words with fearless confidence.

Today we may not feel the church tremble and shake, but I know the Holy Spirit is present and working through us.  I know what fearless confidence is.

Dear Heavenly Father,

Thank you for the gift of the Holy Spirit.

We know you have commissioned us

to continue making disciples of Christ,

to transform this world through the New Covenant.

We hesitate all too often thinking we cannot do it.

We fear that we do not have what it takes to do the work.

Thank you, too, for the gift of the Bible.

With these tools and prayer, we know that we can

Fulfill our callings with fearless confidence.  –Amen

 

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Dreaming through God’s Eyes

given on Sunday, July 1, 2012

Hot summer days are traditionally times when we fall into daydreams.  The thoughts of cool vacation spots in the mountains, sitting on a boat in the early morning cool, or lounging on a beach with a book may be the ideal getaway.  Daydreaming lets our minds escape and even gives us some mental relief from the harsh realities existing around us.

Why right now I am daydreaming about one of those summer rainy days when the great big, white, boiling clouds show up and the grey on the bottom intensifies until the bolts of lightening strike out.  The lightening and thunder usher in the rain that tapers into gentle, cooling showers that soaks into the dry-sponge-like ground.

A rainy day filled with relief from the reality of our drought conditions is a not a daydream but a necessity for us watching the crops and gardens struggling to remain productive.  Our daydream must turn into prayers of supplication.  We have no means of managing the weather, we have no control and that makes the reality even feel more demoralizing.  But, we have faith, we have hope, and we have God.  What we forget is to use the tools we have.

Looking at today’s circumstances around the nation, I am reminded of the dreams of the earliest settlers.  The land on which we live and farm were here before we were.  We must remember that others inhabited this land before the European explorers began their journeys into the unknown.  Still, if explorers had not dreamed, would we be living in our homes right now?

Dreaming is a tool.  Dreaming led the Puritans to sail to new shores.  Dreaming led revolutionaries to begin a new country.  Dreaming lead John Wesley to identify methods for developing and growing one’s faith.  Dreaming caused Methodism to grow into an active Christian denomination serving one another in love.

Dreaming is not a dangerous activity especially if we dream through God’s eyes.   As we read Genesis’s creation story, we can perceive God’s dream to have a universe, to have the flora and the fauna, and to have humanity.  As we read through the Old Testament stories, we see how God continually works to preserve the dream.

Imagine the frustration and disappointment even God experiences over and over.  His dream is endangered and he sends Jesus to demonstrate the tools needed to preserve the dream—the universe.  Jesus, God in human form, is love.  Over and over his actions demonstrate how loving one another is the one simple law all people really ever need.  God’s dreams, even our dreams, can be achieved by always maintaining that one commandment:  Love one another.

Dreaming through God’s eyes ideally leads us to repeatedly implement that law.  Loving one another may begin with loving God, loving self, loving family, and loving our neighbors, but it grows.  The very law of loving one another becomes a lifestyle; it becomes the driving force behind our daily activities, our jobs, and even our leisure.

In our daily crisis, we fail to maintain that one law.  We become so filled with anxiety that looking at the problem through God’s eyes is far from our first thought.  We find ourselves panicking as we sense the loss of a dream.  We fail to use the tools of our faith to stabilize the crisis.  We fail to keep in touch with God.  We fail to pray.  We fail to read the Bible.  We fail to work in community.  And, we lose the dream.

As we begin this week, we will take time on Wednesday to celebrate the dreams of our American forefathers.  They dreamed.  They prayed.  And they acted.  We value dreams as Americans, we honor dreams of the past.  Are we ready to continue dreaming through God’s eyes to continue working to make disciples of Christ for the transformation of the world?

Maybe I perceive the world through a “Pollyanna” mindset, but I dream.  I do not think I could manage the various crisis’s life hands me without my faith.  I do not think I could wake up to another 100 degree day without the hope that rain will cool us down—sooner or later.  I hope I do see the world through God’s eyes.  My dreams, I believe, are ones God’s eyes see.

Yet, I know, too, that I fail.  I fail to use the tools.  I fail to keep my eyes open.  I even fail to dream.  Today begins a new year of service to the church; and the dreams of four years ago seem faded.  Yet, I refuse to quit dreaming.

Dreaming led me to Acts.  Struggling to find a way to renew my dreams, I needed to find the tools to sharpen them.  Acts is a book about transition.  Luke may have been shaken by the crucifixion, but his faith did not quit.  He continued telling Jesus’ story and helped bridge the gap between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant.

Luke knew the old dreams and even used Joel’s prophecy to reach across the generations:

17 “‘In the last days, God says,
I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your young men will see visions,
your old men will dream dreams.
18 Even on my servants, both men and women,
I will pour out my Spirit in those days,
and they will prophesy.  (the NIV)

Even though Pentecost 2012 was celebrated over a month ago, the Pentecost initiated or baptized the Apostles with the Holy Ghost or Holy Spirit.  The Holy Ghost is God’s personal tool that exists within us to carry out the dream of a transformed world, a world of believers working in unity.

Dreaming through God’s eyes leads us to use the tools he gave us, especially prayer and the Holy Ghost, to act in making the dream a reality.  The wonderful thing about God’s tools is that they never wear out, never need purchasing, never need redesigning, or anything.           Prayer is always available.  We can talk to God anytime, anywhere, for any reason.  We can cry, laugh, ask, thank, share whatever we have with God.  We also can hear God—if we listen in our prayers.  We can hear God, when we read the Bible or sing a hymn.  We can see God if we watch others who demonstrate loving one another.  Prayer is a tool we have 24/7; it is available in an instant, it never leaves us.  If we dream, we pray.

Dreaming creates the goal.  Prayer is the tool to keep it in touch with God.  But what is next?  Next comes the action.  What tool is there to put the dream into action?  The answer is the Holy Ghost.

Even the earliest Christians did not understand how they were going to continue.  They asked Peter what they should do.  In Acts 2:38, Peter makes one statement concerning how we know the Holy Ghost is with us:  Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”  (the NIV)

Understanding the importance of the Holy Spirit—or Ghost—may still be a reason Christians do not know what to do.  Every individual has unique gifts, talents to use.  We may be carpenters, seamstresses, artists, farmers, bankers, or businessmen.  Our success is connected to the gifts we have been given.  When we combine all our talents, any dream developed through God’s eyes, can be achieved.  The Holy Ghost will provide the inspiration, the skills, the strength, and the pieces needed to accomplish a God-driven dream.

Look at what happens in the face of a natural disaster.  When the tornado tore through Joplin, or any community, can we doubt the power of the Holy Ghost?  People immediately join in and do what might be considered impossible were it not for God’s role in the work.  God—in three people, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost—can work miracles.  We, his children, are able to perform the miracles needed to put the broken world back together again.

Today, dream.  But remember to dream through God’s eyes.  When you see something that needs work, dream a little and then pray.  Talk to God about the dream you have and ask him for his help.  Listen for him, and then act.  The Holy Ghost is with you, and you are equipped. Now you just need to act with all the confidence in the world because you are working to make disciples of Christ for the transformation of the world.  This is what God has commissioned you to do, so do it.

Dear God,

May your dream for a transformed world be my dream, too.

Give me the vision that you see through your eyes.

Talk to me so I know what you ask me to do.

Help me to use the gifts you have given me to do my share.

Thank you for the gift of your son so we know how to love one another.

Thank you for the gift of the Holy Ghost so we can act in your behalf.

Today we dream, we pray, and now must act.

Guide us as we work to follow your dream.

Amen.

 

 

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