Tag Archives: Pentecost

Immersed in the Deep End

When I was in the third grade I took swimming lessons at the Collier Park Pool in Ramona, California. I can remember many scorching southern California days spent cooling off in that pool. But none stands out in my mind quite like the last time I ventured into the deep end.

The swimming lesson for the day was treading water. It’s a simple maneuver – anyone can do it. You simply get into the water, push away from the edge of the pool, and begin moving your legs and arms to keep your head above the water. Everyone floats and so this lesson should have been a simple one.

Only it wasn’t. For a skinny little girl with barely an ounce of fat on her and not the best lung capacity in the world it wasn’t simple at all. In fact, it proved to be impossible as I sunk to the very bottom of the pool unable to return to the surface. I looked up through the increasing expanse of water between me and the surface, still moving my legs and arms in the proper manner, but I was unable to return to the surface and save myself. Instead, my swim instructor had to jump in and pull me out. I don’t remember what the instructor looked like, or even whether it was a man or a woman. I only remember what it looks like to be sitting helplessly at the bottom of a 7′ deep pool.

Consequently, I’ve been afraid of water ever since. Even if I do get into the water – whether in a pool, a river, or the ocean – I always keep my head above water.

Yesterday at church our youth minister gave the sermon with a focus on the Holy Spirit (since it was Pentecost). She used the image of walking into the ocean until we were completely immersed as an illustration of being completely filled with the Holy Spirit. This was a difficult image for me. I don’t even like to think about being under water.

But as I thought about it I realized that her illustration coupled with my fear of water was the perfect example of how we, as Christians, often deal with the Holy Spirit. Just as I am afraid of being completely immersed in water, those of us who are indwelt with the Holy Spirit (because we have placed our trust in Christ Jesus) are often afraid of being completely immersed in and consumed by the Holy Spirit. We are okay with giving Him a little control, like dangling our feet in the pool, or maybe even getting all the way in – except we keep our head above water and keep at least a little bit of control for ourselves.

This reminded me of a song by Casting Crowns called Somewhere in the Middle. This song talks about how we often have deep water faith, but we stay in the shallow end. Fear often keeps us from taking hold of the abundant life that God has in store for us. We don’t want to give up our dreams because we aren’t convinced that God has something better for us. If only we could completely surrender to God and be immersed in the Holy Spirit, trusting that the deep end is not a scary place to be because Jesus will always be there to pull us through, I believe we would know the greatest joy.

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Pentecost – A Poem

Today is Pentecost. It is the day we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit into the hearts of believers. Jesus has returned to heaven to sit at the right hand of the Father, and this day marks the fulfillment of His promise to send the Counselor to give wisdom, comfort, and strength.

Pentecost
Peter and the others gathered in the house
Enter in the violent wind
Noise like they had never heard
Tongues of fire come to rest on everyone
Enter in the Holy spirit
Common faith connects them now
Over centuries we are connected, too
Sweet Jesus the Savior of us all
Truth resides in our hearts

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues
as the Spirit enabled them. Acts 2:1-4 (NIV).

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Whoosh – A Poem

At dVerse Poets Pub today, Sheila provided us with the interesting prompt of writing a poem involving onomatopoeia. As I read her post, the word-sound “whoosh” came to mind and I could see the roomful of disciples on Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came upon them. I decided to try to write a poem based on this sound of God.

Whoosh

Whoosh
Did you hear that?
It sounds like the wind
blowing through the trees

The doors and windows
are all closed, locked up tight
Whoosh
It couldn’t be the wind
It couldn’t blow in

Now we see
Now we know
It is the Holy Spirit
that sounds so strong
Whoosh

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. Acts 2:1-4 (NIV).

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To Following Willingly

Several months ago I wrote about Revelation 3:20 and a painting of Jesus that portrays this verse that hangs in my in-laws house and in my own living room. This is a great verse to ponder in preparation for Thanksgiving because it talks about Jesus coming in to eat with us.

“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.” Revelation 3:20.

Although Jesus will come dwell and dine with all who open the door and welcome Him, He is ever the gentleman. He will not knock the door down and force anyone to believe in Him. It is a choice we are all given whether to welcome Him into our lives and hearts.

In the book we are reading for our adult education class at church — The Master Plan of Evangelism by Robert E. Coleman — the author points out another instance in which Jesus did not force Himself on others. Talking about John 6:60-69, Coleman notes that Jesus did not force any of those who followed Him to accept His teaching if they did not want to. “The surprising thing is that Jesus did not go running after them to try to get them to stay on his membership roll.” The Master Plan of Evangelism pg. 45. There was truth to be taught and a price to pay in terms of giving up one’s selfish desires for those who willing chose to follow Him.

It seems that some churches today have forgotten this principle. They do not simply teach the truth and leave it to the individual whether to believe and follow as Jesus did. Instead, they run after people with offers of compromise and programs to fill their selfish desires for entertainment and instant gratification, all to increase membership numbers. Rather than focus on the quality of teaching and the depth of commitment of the congregation, they focus on sheer numbers.

I’m not suggesting that increasing the number of believers is not a laudable goal. The early church began with only 120 members, as recorded in Acts 1:15, but quickly grew. After being filled with the Holy Spirit, Peter preached the Gospel to the people gathered around. “Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.” Acts 2:41. But each of those disciples who believed was then taught what was necessary to be a disciple. The church grew not only in numbers but in wisdom.

Jesus will not force any to follow Him, but those who do will be blessed beyond measure. The price for such blessing is to surrender one’s own will in exchange for the will of God. It may seem a high price to pay, but it’s really a bargain. Are you willing to pay the price? If you do, your life will never be the same.

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The Priesthood of All Believers

Yesterday was Pentecost, considered the birthday of the Christian Church. The events of the first Christian Pentecost are recorded in Acts 2. However, Pentecost was a Jewish celebration of the Festival of Weeks, which is why the first disciples were gathered together on this day.

In church yesterday, our visiting pastor preached on the priesthood of all believers, which is a teaching that comes out of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on all the believers of Christ at the Pentecost gathering. He pointed out that although the early church did have apostles, there were no pastors, bishops, priests, or cardinals mentioned in the Acts 2 account. The Holy Spirit came upon all who believed — upon each the same as on the apostles. This was something new and different from what occurred in the Old Testament.

In the Old Testament, the tribe of Levi was set apart as the priests, and only they could sacrifice the lamb on behalf of the people for the forgiveness of their sins. But when Christ came, that changed. When John the Baptist first saw Jesus, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” John 1:29. No longer would the priests sacrifice the lambs for the people’s sins, for the sacrifice of the Lamb of God would take the place of the repeated sacrifices by the priests.

Interestingly, on the way to church yesterday, I was listening to a song that fit the sermon topic perfectly. It’s by a band called The O.C. Supertones and it’s called “The Shepherd is the Lamb.” The chorus is:

The Shepherd is the Lamb
Do you understand
That God became a man?
The Shepherd is the Lamb

I wonder, do you understand? God is both Shepherd of the flock and the Lamb that is slain to atone for our sins. In the background of the song, at the beginning and in the middle, is a person speaking, and he says:

The incarnation is God’s grace made evident and obvious. People matter. Life is sacred. Men, women, and children are worth the greatest sacrifice, the supreme effort, the ultimate gift.

It is the amazing manifestation of His unshakeable love for the unloved and the unlovely, the weak, the base, the unworthy and the unwarranted, the rebels and the sinners. . . . You and me.

In the Old Testament, the Israelites had to go through the priests, the Levites, to communicate with God. In the temple, God resided in the Holy of Holies, the inner chamber of the temple where the Ark of the Covenant was stored. Only the High Priest could enter there and there was a curtain several inches thick that hung in front of the opening to the place where God was. The unclean — the unloved and the unlovely — had no access to God because they could not even approach the temple courts.

But when Christ died, the curtain in front of the Holy of Holies was torn in two, as recorded in Matthew 27:51, Mark 15:38, and Luke 23:45. The barrier between all believers and God was ripped away so that we became the priesthood of all believers. We are all called to show others the Way to forgiveness and reconciliation with God. We are all, whether pastor or lay person in the church, called to serve one another in love. No longer are we separated from God and in need of another, of a priest or pastor, to do something to atone for our sins. We need only Jesus, the Lamb of God, who takes away all our sin. Like John the Baptist, we are called to point to Jesus and say to others, “Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.”

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