Christianity 201

March 19, 2018

God’s Spirit at Work in a Chaotic World

This is our eighth visit to The Thought Just Occurred to Me, written by Mary Agrusa. Mary’s season of writing ended in December after six years, but she left a vault of great articles for you to read. Click the title below to read today’s — her final post — at source, and then click the blog title to see other items.

The Comforter

“Nevertheless I tell you the truth; it is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you: but if I depart, I will send Him to you.” John 16:7.

Had they consciously/unconsciously ignored Jesus’ previous statements about His impending departure, this time the message was inescapable. “I am leaving.”

For the disciples it had to be distressing, upsetting news. Jesus was their life. When other followers abandoned Christ, they had remained.

“Lord to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that your are the Holy One of God.” John 6:68.

The bridges were burned and there was no turning back. Now their beloved teacher and friend would soon be gone leaving them with…a Comforter?

I can think of other things I would have wanted to learn was my reward for three years of loyal attention and devotion. What would this Comforter, who may have seemed more like a consolation prize for faithful attendance do…make them feel less foolish for forsaking all in pursuit of a dream?

Unlike the disciples then, we know just how well things worked out. The Comforter was exactly Whom they needed. Unaware that they were about to be launched into a world changing endeavor, Jesus knew from personal experience how tough this assignment would be.

While traveling with Him, the disciples tasted small doses of the rejection, animosity and persecution that Christ experienced. Now with His departure they would feel the full force of these attacks. Their decision to take on the mandate offered them would be richly rewarding and satisfying. It would also be filled with pain, suffering and even death for their belief in the Master.

Holy Spirit’s role at this time mirrors that He assumed in Genesis 1:1-2.

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and void, darkness was over the deep, and the spirit of God was hovering over the waters.”

In Hebrew, the earth was tohu bohu or chaotic. The disciple’s lives would now be shaken and their world upended. They’d experience the physical darkness of the crucifixion and the subsequent loss of their light in the world. However, in the midst of all that, the Spirit was at work.

“Spirit” in Hebrew is ruach (wind, spirit). This is a feminine noun and of the eighty-nine times it is used in the Old Testament, only nine times is it a masculine noun. The verb “hovering” is also feminine.

Just as a bird sits on the nest until the eggs hatch and new life appears, the Spirit brooded over those who at Christ’s command waited in Jerusalem until the church was birthed on Pentecost. Then, as in Genesis where light sparked the first sign of life, “tongues of fire” appeared, and we know the rest of the story.

When children are born, mother’s typically play the major role in their early developmental years. The transition from the safety of the womb to life in the real world is difficult, even frightening. Mom’s are there to offer nurture and assurance. They kiss the boo-boo’s, dry the tears and provide a safe place from fear. They systematically impart skills necessary to navigate life: potty training, shoe tying, and keeping your milk in the glass and not all over the table and the floor. I’m not insinuating that father’s don’t play a vital and important role in a child’s life. Our country is suffering on a scale not known previously the bitter fruit of fatherlessness in children’s lives today. God designed women in His image also and they normally display the nurturing, caring character of God.

The early church would need wisdom, power, boldness and so forth. However, Jesus realized that believers also need something just as important when times get tough-comfort. Holy Spirit fills this role in our lives perfectly.

How about you? How do you describe Holy Spirit’s involvement in your life? When have you experienced the Spirit’s comfort? In order of importance, where does comfort fall in the list of His ministrations to you? Can you really live without the comfort that the Spirit gives?

June 23, 2014

He Ascended Into Heaven

Mark 16:19 After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, he was taken up into heaven and he sat at the right hand of God.  

Acts 1:9 Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. 10 And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, 11 who also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.”

Today’s writer was recommended to us by a reader. Nick Peters blogs at Deeper Waters and writes about issues in theology and apologetics. Click the title below to read at source:

Apostles’ Creed: He Ascended Into Heaven

What difference does it make that Jesus ascended? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

We can often read about the ascension in the Bible and wonder what difference it makes. I mean, yeah, Jesus is no longer with us, but does it mean anything else for us? Why would Jesus ascend and leave us to do the work?

Ascension of JesusFor one thing, it is important that we do the work and we would not be as able to do it with Jesus always there with us. Discipling is for a reason but there comes a time when the student is to work apart from the disciple. Note even Jesus said it was because He was going away that the Holy Spirit would come, which would be empowering His message and His disciples everywhere. Jesus being physical could only be in one place at one time.

It’s also important to ask why he ascended. Does this point to an ancient view of the universe? While the ancients certainly might have thought that way, Jesus is not making a statement about cosmology or the location of Heaven really.

Instead, let us consider that the sky is the greatest expanse that we know of when we grow up on this Earth. It’s limitless. No matter where you look, you see it. In comparison, when you go to a beach, as I have done many times, including on my honeymoon, you can look on the shore and see the ocean going far out into the distance. Now we all know eventually past that ocean somewhere is land. If you could travel in a straight line from where you are, eventually, you would hit another mass of land, but you cannot see that mass. Your vision goes so far. All you see is ocean.

When we look into the sky, all we see is sky. Now we all know that eventually if we could keep going straight up into the sky, we’d hit something. It could take awhile, but we’d reach another planet or a star or something of that sort, but our vision can only go so far.

That limitlessness is a good idea of how to view God. God is infinite and to see Jesus go up is a way of saying He’s going to something far greater than we are. Had Jesus instead burrowed underground and disappeared that way, we would have a quite different view of God. (Picture the stories going around years ago about claiming to find Hell under Siberia when people were digging.)

Had Jesus also simply vanished, it would mean that we would be wondering where He went to. Could it be that He is still somewhere around here? Having Jesus ascend is a way of saying that Jesus is going to God, who is far greater than we are, and that He is also no longer going to be with us.

Since He is no longer with us, what are we to do then? That’s right. We are to do the work that he meant for us to do. Of course, I do recommend that we disciple people sufficiently before they do the work, but that discipling is also to be done by other people who have already been discipled.

Jesus is now ascended. So what’s He doing? We’ll save that for the next installment in this series.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Go Deeper: To find other articles in this series by this author, use this link.

January 10, 2013

Jesus’ Last Words

ESV Matt 28:19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you…

In the western world much is made of being present when someone issues their last words. We want to know what the final words were from politicians, authors, great military men and preachers.

The first time my father was hospitalized with a heart attack, he pulled me close to his hospital bed and said, “I want you to know, I have always been very proud of you.”  You have no idea how much I needed to hear that. My father worked in the world of finance, dealing with budgets, financial forecasting and investments. I have only once in my life — a very brief time working with InterVarsity — had anything resembling a regular, normal salary. I’ve always felt like that by the standard he would measure achievement, there wouldn’t be much to be proud of.

But he said he was, and although it was twelve years later when he finally passed away, I have always regarded that sentence as his ‘official’ last words to me; his blessing.

Famous Last Words

So what were Jesus’ last words to his disciples?  Ask most people, and they will say, “The Great Commission;” the command to, as The Message bible puts  it, “Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life, marking them by baptism in the threefold name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then instruct them in the practice of all I have commanded you.”

But another phrase follows that,

(ESV)20 … And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

It’s a promise of his ongoing presence and comfort.  You have no idea how much you and I need to hear that. We live in a world where it is so easy to lapse into the mindset that, as a song once said, “God is watching us, from a distance.” But the scriptures teach that God is very close, very present, very much at hand.

While Luke doesn’t reiterate the exact words, he mentions this blessing.

(NIV) Luke 24:50 When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them.

This was Jesus’ benediction to us.

Matthew Henry writes:

Two solemn farewells we find our Lord Jesus giving to his church, and his parting word at both of them is very encouraging; one was here, when he closed up his personal converse with them, and then his parting word was, “Lo, I am with you always; I leave you, and yet still I am with you;” the other was, when he closed up the canon of the scripture by the pen of his beloved disciple, and then his parting word was, “Surely, I come quickly. I leave you for awhile, but I will be with you again shortly,” Rev. 22:20. By this it appears that he did not part in anger, but in love, and that it is his will we should keep up both our communion with him and our expectation of him.

Many of you will find this verse echoing in your minds as you’ve thought about this:

Hebrews 13:5b God has said,

“Never will I leave you;
    never will I forsake you.” (NIV)

The writer of Hebrews is recollecting several passages including Deut 31:6, Deu 31:8, Joshua 1:5  and 1Kings 8:57  Again, Peterson renders this:  God assured us, “I’ll never let you down, never walk off and leave you,”

You have no idea how much the world needs to hear this. Maybe that’s why it’s paired with the command to go out into the world…

PW