You Can’t Handle It Now

“I have much more to say to you, but you can’t handle it now.” John 16:12 CEB

In his “farewell discourse” with his disciples, Jesus lets them know there is more, much more, that he would like to say to them, but they can’t handle it at the moment.

How awesome is it that Jesus knew his friends well enough to know their limits and respected them enough to hold off on saying some things to them?

How many times have I unloaded words on people when they were already up-to-here and unable to handle more?

How many times has Jesus wanted to tell me something, but knew I couldn’t handle it?

The discourse continues with some assurances about the role “the Companion” (CEB) plays in communicating. While you can’t handle it “now,” God is already preparing for the moment when you can handle it.

Thanks be to God.

Revealing Our Imperfections

A. W. Tozer makes a great point: “To treat an imperfect brother or sister impatiently is to advertise our own imperfections.” When I am impatient with someone because of their flaws, I reveal my own. On the other hand, I have noticed that when people are impatient with me, it often says more about their flaws than mine. Truth is, there’s enough sin to go around. Love wins!

A Prayer for Sunday

God our Father,

You are a God of love, joy, and peace.
You are patient and kind and good.
You are gentle and faithful and willing to sacrifice for the good of others.

And we want to be like You, O God.

Teach us to love.
Grow us into a joyful men and women.
Transform us into peace-lovers and peace-makers.

Build our patience.
Bring out Your kindness in our lives.
Help us express Your goodness.

Change us into gentle Christians.
Mold us into dependable people.
Break and control our raging egos.

Thank You for the gift of Your Holy Spirit.
Thank You for the power of the the Holy Spirit to transform us.
Thank You for leading us.
Thank You for shaping us.

Thank You for living within us.
Thank You for bringing out Your nature from within us
and into our daily lives
through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Forgive us when we grieve Your Holy Spirit.

Open our eyes to the blessing of
the supernatural transformation process that is
happening in our hearts
right now.

Bring us Together Sunday
so that we can remember
and celebrate.

We pray in Jesus’ name,

AMEN

Breath of God

“Breathe on me, Breath of God,
Fill me with life anew,
That I may love what Thou dost love,
And do what Thou wouldst do.

Breathe on me, Breath of God,
Until my heart is pure,
Until with Thee I will one will
to do or to endure.

Breathe on me, Breath of God,
Till I am wholly Thine,
Till all this earthly part of me
Glows with Thy fire divine.”
— Edwin Hatch

I Want to Wake Up Kicking and Screaming

“Don’t waste your time on useless work, mere busywork, the barren pursuits of darkness. Expose these things for the sham they are. It’s a scandal when people waste their lives on things they must do in the darkness where no one will see. Rip the cover off those frauds and see how attractive they look in the light of Christ.

Wake up from your sleep,
Climb out of your coffins;
Christ will show you the light!
So watch your step. Use your head. Make the most of every chance you get. These are desperate times!

Don’t live carelessly, unthinkingly. Make sure you understand what the Master wants.

Don’t drink too much wine. That cheapens your life. Drink the Spirit of God, huge draughts of him. Sing hymns instead of drinking songs! Sing songs from your heart to Christ. Sing praises over everything, any excuse for a song to God the Father in the name of our Master, Jesus Christ.”
Ephesians 5:15-20 MSG

The Power of the Holy Spirit


Throughout March, April, and May I am preaching from the Luke’s Acts of Apostles. In fact, the church is reading selections from Acts each day, our Sunday Bible classes our studying Acts, and our CORE Groups are discussing Acts on Sunday evenings.

It’s hard to miss Luke’s emphasis on the Holy Spirit in either his gospel or the Acts. I hope the following extended quote about the “power of the Holy Spirit” will be a help to all those who are reading, discussing, and experiencing the power of the Holy Spirit. So here’s the quote, from Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places by Eugene Peterson, pages 270-272.

Twice, at the end of the Gospel and at the beginning of Acts, as Jesus tells his friends that he will send the Holy Spirit to them, he also says that this coming of the Spirit will be accompanied by power: “stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:49); and “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you” (Acts 1:8).

“Power” is a critical word for understanding what we can expect as the Holy Spirit “clothes us” and “comes upon us.” But a dictionary is not a good place from which to determine its meaning. Dictionaries are wonderful tools and we would be the poorer without them, but in Gospel matters they are among the lesser helps. The reason is that everything in the Gospel is personal, relational, and embodied in particulars. There are no generalities. Every word is embedded in the Story and, in the most comprehensive sense, incarnate in Jesus, “the word made flesh.” Isolated in a dictionary a word has no context and therefore no relationship, no “flesh.” For those of us who are interested in living the truth and not just acquiring information, it is necessary to discover the meaning of a word by looking it up in the Story, not the dictionary.

The first two times that Luke employs the term “power” are instructive. The first is in Gabriel’s annunciation to Mary: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you….” Here Holy Spirit power makes a woman pregnant. All five of the Holy Spirit references in Luke 1-2 are related to pregnancy and birth. This is a most interesting use of “power” and not at all the way it is conventionally used. Sexual impregnation is associated with intimacy and lovemaking, gentleness and mutuality. If the sexual act is impersonal or harsh or forced, it is understood as a violation. If we are careful to let the Story provide the meaning of “power,” it is inconceivable (literally!) to understand power as anything impersonal or imposed by force. We can footnote Gabriel with a text from the prophet Zechariah: “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the LORD” (Zech. 4:6) -the kind of power that is synonymous with “might” is no part of the way the Spirit works.

The second occurrence of the term “power” by Luke is in the account of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness. Jesus is tempted by the devil to command stones to become bread, to become the ruler of all the kingdoms of the world, and to prove his divinity by performing a spectacular circus trick by diving off the pinnacle of the temple and having an angel save him at the last minute. Each is a temptation that has to do with the exercise of power: power to impose his will on the creation, power to impose his will on nations, and power to become a talk-of-the-town celebrity. Each of these exercises of power could be, and with Jesus most certainly would be, good: feeding a lot of people, ruling the whole world justly, demonstrating the miraculous, ever-present providence of God to the people on the street. Jesus said no to each one in turn. Why? Because in each case it would have been power used impersonally, power abstracted from relationships, power without any engagement in love, power imposed from the outside. Each instance – and Jesus’ citations of sentences from the Story each time highlight this – would have been a use of power that was ripped out of the context of the Story and therefore ripped out of the participating context of people’s lives. Whatever the power of the Spirit means, bullying force isn’t part of it. It is certainly not what takes place when a fuse ignites a stick of dynamite (named after the Greek word for power, dynamis). The power of God is always exercised in personal ways, creating and saving and blessing. It is never an impersonal application of force from without.

After the three great refusals to use power to do good things in the wrong way, Luke tells us this: “Then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee. . . . He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone” (4:14-15). We observe in detail as the narrative continues that as Jesus teaches, whether in word or act, he is always personal and relational. Jesus, employing the “power of the Spirit,” is set in explicit contrast to the three depersonalized, decontextualized uses of power in the wilderness: power to help the hungry, power to do justice, power to evangelize by miracle. The moment the community exercises power apart from the story of Jesus, tries to manipulate people or events in ways that short-circuit personal relationships and intimacies, we can be sure it is not the power of the Holy Spirit; it is the devil’s work. The Holy Spirit, no matter how loudly or frequently or piously invoked in such settings, is a stranger to such religious blasphemies.

A Prayer for Pentecost

by Martin Luther (1524)

Come, Holy Ghost, God and Lord!
Be all Thy graces now outpoured
On each believer’s mind and heart;
Thy fervent love to them impart.
Lord, by the brightness of thy Light,
Thou in the faith dost men unite
Of ev’ry land and ev’ry tongue;
This to Thy praise, O Lord, our God, be sung.
Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
Thou holy Light, Guide Divine,
Oh, cause the Word of life to shine!
Teach us to know our God aright
And call Him Father with delight.
From ev’ry error keep us free;
Let none but Christ our Master be
That we in living faith abide,
In Him, our Lord, with all our might confide.
Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
Thou Holy Fire, Comfort true,
Grant us the will Thy work to do
And in Thy service to abide;
Let trials turn us not aside.
Lord, by Thy pow’r prepare each heart
And to our weakness strength impart,
That bravely here we may contend,
Through life and death to Thee, our God, ascend.
Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

Quoted from The Contemporaries Meet The Classics On The Holy Spirit
Compiled by Randall Harris, pp. 54-55

The Open Door Mystery

“Dear brothers and sisters, after we were separated from you for a little while (though our hearts never left you), we tried very hard to come back because of our intense longing to see you again. We wanted very much to come, and I, Paul, tried again and again, but Satan prevented us. After all, what gives us hope and joy, and what is our proud reward and crown? It is you! Yes, you will bring us much joy as we stand together before our Lord Jesus when he comes back again. For you are our pride and joy.”1 Thessalonians 2:17-20 NLT

Paul uses a lot of family language and imagery in writing 1 Thessalonians. For example, he compares his use of apostolic authority to the gentleness of a mother (2:6-7) and the encouragement and comfort of a father (2:11-12). Further, he repeatedly uses the word “brother” throughout the letter. In this section where he is discussing his separation from the Christians at Thessalonica, he again uses family imagery. The pain of separation from loved ones can be intense, especially when the parting was pushed upon you by the circumstances and against your wishes.

Paul describes the pain of leaving the Thessalonians as being as intense as that of a parent losing his child. Paul assures the readers while they are physically separated; they are still in his heart. Meanwhile, some of Paul’s opponents are trying to convince the folks in Thessalonica that Paul really doesn’t care about them; but, Paul’s heart-pain argues a different position, as do his repeated attempts to return.

But the return visit never happened because Satan cut in and prevented the reunion. Satan “prevented” (NLT), “stymied” (The Message), or “stopped” (NIV) the homecoming.

Have you ever wondered why Satan gets the blame for these plans being interrupted when on other occasions God is credited for changes to the travel itinerary? See for example Acts 16:6-10 where Paul is prevented from entering Bithynia by the Holy Spirit and concluded God had called them to go to Macedonia.

Was this just a human evaluation made in retrospect or did Paul have some supernatural gift of discernment? And just how did Satan blocked Paul’s plans? Jewish opposition? Thorn in the flesh? Political opposition? While we will never know for sure, the Thessalonians may have known exactly how Satan interfered.

These passages in 1 Thessalonians and the Acts reveal another great mystery of how God works. We know God opens doors and closes doors and can make it clear which door to enter. But we also know that Satan can cut in and stop what you believe to be a good thing to do. Questions abound when we experience the opening and closing of doors. Did God close this door or did Satan? Do I respect God’s closing of the door or do I repeatedly try to open the door, thinking Satan has blocked it? How do I tell the difference between God’s closed door and Satan’s closed door?

The open door mystery leads me to seek God with all my heart and mind and to trust Him even when I find a closed door.

The Fullness of the Spirit

“The failure and poor performance of many Christians are evidence not of their need to be baptized with the Spirit (even the proud, loveless, quarrelsome and sin-tolerant Corinthian Christians had been baptized with the Spirit), but of their need to recover the fullness of the Spirit which they have lost through sin or unbelief.”

John R. W. Stott
From Baptism and Fullness, p. 66.