When I was a little girl our family lived next door to an elderly woman whose living room was filled with curio cabinets and trinkets. When her granddaughter would visit, I was often invited over to play.
The grandmother would bring out a little toy box and a few old dolls, but oh how I longed to get into those curio cabinets! There was an antique collection of ceramic roses and another cabinet with finely-dressed 18th century figurines that were perfectly poised and poetic. I pressed my nose against the glass doors imagining the feel of those delicate pink rose petals…
And wondering what it might be like to see that lovely couple come to life!
However, my daydreams were usually interrupted with a stern warning not to touch. Those cabinets were strictly off limits lest something get broken.
Sometimes it seems like many of us are living the curio cabinet kind of life. We press our noses against computer screens, TV screens, movie screens and cell phones. We long to connect, but we’re desperately afraid of getting hurt or hurting someone else. The glass walls between us keep us from life and from knowing what real feels like.
Jesus is the perfect role model for this kind of dilemma. Unlike the off-limits curio cabinets, He makes Himself completely accessible. John says that He “became human and made his home among us” (John 1:14 NLT). He unlocked the glass doors of heaven and came to earth so that He could bring life to the curious, the selfish, the disenchanted…and even the overly pious. He came to release captives, heal the brokenhearted and bring dead hearts back to life. Jesus was willing to be broken so that we could know what it means to really live.
What if we accepted His invitation to came out from behind our own glass doors and get real? It would mean vulnerability; it would almost certainly involve some brokenness. But in exchange for this risk we would get reality. We could quit hiding, posing, and day-dreaming. But most importantly, we could finally know what real feels like.
“Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. ” John 11:25
If God really cares, why are people dying in wars, accidents, sicknesses, floods and so on? Questions like these can get a girl in her own mental wrestling match.
Somebody please switch the channel to cartoons. Enough already.
Still, like it or not, even with our best efforts to distract, we all tend to wander back to nagging questions like this. Where’s God in all this mess?
Lately, I’ve been reading a book by Cornelius Plantinga, Not the Way it’s Supposed to Be: A Breviary of Sin. Seriously…it’s one of the best books I’ve read about the hows and whys of evil in the world. Plantinga writes, “In pondering the 23rd Psalm, Joseph Sittler once observed that though we walk through the valley of the shadow death just once, we [do in fact] spend our whole lives walking through the valley of the shadow of death” (1).
Ever since that unfortunate incident in the Garden of Eden, death is now the prescribed lot for us all (thanks a lot, guys). We are now obliged to suffer under the weight of our own freedom. Plantinga goes on, “You cannot have power for good without having power for evil too. Even mother’s milk nourishes murderers as well as heroes” (78).
Hitler as a little guy…interesting thought.
But you know what I love? The story doesn’t end here. Maybe shut off CNN a sec…I think we got options :-)
Even though the valley of the shadow of death may be our current address, Psalm 91:1 provides us with this promise, “Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty” (NIV).
Yes, death and evil are pretty much a one hundred percent certainty in this life. However, God provides Himself as a companion for our journey. We can find rest from the scorching realities of life in the shadow of the Almighty. And not only this, but God has even fixed it so that death no longer has the final word.
“When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us…And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation…So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God” (Romans 5:6, 9, 11 NLT).
I’ve seen people make it through some of the worst agonies you can imagine because of this.
Then the saying will come true:
Death swallowed by triumphant Life!
Who got the last word, oh, Death?
Oh, Death, who’s afraid of you now?
It was sin that made death so frightening and…guilt that gave sin its leverage, its destructive power. But now in a single victorious stroke of Life, all three—sin, guilt, death—are gone, the gift of our Master, Jesus Christ. Thank God! (1 Corinthians 15:56-57 MSG).
This is Easter, my friends. This is what we celebrate in the midst of wars, accidents, sicknesses, floods. Isaiah 26:3 says, “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you”.
No need for a distraction from this reality. This is grace. This is peace.
More great helps for the journey…
Have you ever known someone who puts tremendous effort into creating environments of warmth and beauty? I know many people like this…my friend, Amy, and my daughter, Bethany just to name two. I’ve known these gals to wander flea markets and craft stores for hours…no, sometimes weeks looking for just the right thing to fit in a cozy little corner needing special attention. Being one who tends to prioritize schedule over creativity, the cozy little corners in my house are more likely to be well-fitted with crumbs and dust bunnies. These women are driven by more than creativity though…they are driven by love. I know this, because I’ve asked them :) There is nothing they enjoy more than watching the stress of the day fall off friends and loved ones as they enter a room filled with all that is warm and inviting. Amy and Bethany are pretty little chips fallen off of the Great Creator Himself.
I caught a glimpse of God in Amy’s house when I noticed a delicate sand dollar ingeniously fixed to the wall by a tiny paper clip. God is infinitely concerned with the little things in our lives. “And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered…” (Matthew 10:30 NIV). I caught a glimpse of God when Bethany refurbished an old window frame into a beautiful wall-hanging. God is also in the business of making all things new. “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV).
God was the first one to take delight in creating the perfect environment for the ones He loves. Way back in the beginning, God spoke the world and all its beauty into being. Can’t you just imagine the look on His face as He stood back observing it all? Genesis 1 says, “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good…” (Genesis 1:31 NIV). I wonder if He pictured us gasping in awe as our eyes scan the vastness of an ocean horizon for the first… or the fiftieth time.
I think He knew just what we would need at the end of a long winter, so he decided to coax the crocus out from under a bed of snow…
and drape long barren trees with beautiful blossoms….
…each a reminder that death doesn’t last forever.
Life gets crazy. Desks, laundry rooms, and hearts can all get piled up real quick-like. Still, in the midst of the chaos, God’s affection for you and me consistently pours forth in breathtaking sunsets…
…and promise of new life.
James 1:7 reminds us that “Whatever is good and perfect comes down to us from God our Father…” (NLT). This means that every time we bear witness to something beautiful we are receiving a gift from the hands of our Maker.
Hands that are only and always motivated by love.
All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful,
The Lord God made them all.
Each little flower that opens,
Each little bird that sings,
He made their glowing colours,
He made their tiny wings.
The purple-headed mountain,
The river running by,
The sunset and the morning,
That brightens up the sky.
The cold wind in the winter,
The pleasant summer sun,
The ripe fruits in the garden,
He made them every one.
He gave us eyes to see them,
And lips that we might tell
How great is God Almighty,
Who has made all things well.
“He who appoints the sun to shine by day, who decrees the moon and stars to shine by night, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar–the LORD Almighty is his name” Jeremiah 31:35 NIV
A friend of mine recently found out she’s going to have a baby. As we sat talking about nursery colors and baby strollers, I smiled as she told me all about her newest pet peeve. She explained how she kinda gets a little incensed when people ask her, “When’s it due?” For this mama, her baby is no it…her baby is a person even though the gender of the little person it not yet known.
As we study the members of the Trinity, God the Father and God the Son are easily recognized as being gender-specific. But what about the Holy Spirit? How do we know the Holy Spirit is not an “it”? Well, friend, I’m glad you asked!
Shortly before his crucifixion, Jesus gives his followers some detailed instructions about the coming Holy Spirit. He says, “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 NIV). Just two chapters later, Jesus says, “Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.” (John 16:7 NIV). Notice that Jesus did not say I will send it to you. Jesus personifies the Holy Spirit by using the personal pronoun, him.
Scriptures further demonstrate the Person of the Holy Spirit. We can see that he has a will, he has ability to reason, and he has emotions and behavior. Regarding spiritual gifts, we see that believers do not choose spiritual gifts; rather, gifts are given to each individual by the sovereign will of the Holy Spirit. “All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines” (1 Corinthians 12:11 NIV). As we pray, the Holy Spirit knows the will of God. “And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God” (Romans 8:27). The Holy Spirit has emotions. For example, he can be lied to, “Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit…?” (Acts 5:3); he can be insulted, “How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace?” (Hebrew 10:29); and he can be grieved, “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption” (Ephesians 4:30 NIV). Finally, the Holy Spirit can act or behave, “…because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who give life has set you free from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:2).
When we better understand the Person of the Holy Spirit, we can to relate to him more intimately. We realize we are never alone—even when no other human being is around. The Spirit of God is always present in the life of anyone who believes Jesus is God and who has accepted his gift of salvation.
“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (2 Corinthians 3:17 NIV).
Wanna know more?
Check out this article by Charles Swindoll: The Spirit who is not a Ghost
Stepping out the front door and into the yard, I drew my sweater tightly around me as the wind whipped at my hair and whistled through the trees. I made my way across the lawn, maneuvering around fallen branches and whirling leaves. There was no denying I was in the midst of something strong and powerful—the evidence was all around me—yet the wind itself was invisible.
Jesus uses a similar description to explain to Nicodemus the mystery of being “born of the Spirit” in John chapter 3. Jesus said, “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit” (John 3:5-8). I can imagine the look on the face of Nicodemus as he tried to wrap his head around what Jesus was trying to say. Just like Nicodemus, I too, have struggled to grasp the beautiful mystery of the Holy Spirit; yet there is no denying His presence. The evidence is all around me.
I’d love to share with you a little of what I’ve learned in my study of the Holy Spirit. I’m not shooting for a theological treatise here. No big words or mind-bending definitions. So I promise, if you’ll stick with me, together, we will gain a basic understanding of the Holy Spirit. Hopefully, we’ll reap a huge blessing of renewed worship and continued wonder.
The Deity of the Holy Spirit
The Bible reveals the Holy Spirit as the third Person the Triune God. As far as the Triune God (the Trinity) goes, well, we’ll have to dive deeper into that one in another post :). But here’s a quick pass at it. Who gets to be God? God-status is reserved for Anyone who has eternally existed, who is able to be present everywhere all the time, who knows everything about everything, and who has exclusive and sovereign power. Now you and I both know folks who think they belong here, but in reality, it’s a pretty exclusive club! It is God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.
As the third Person of the Trinity, Hebrews 9:14 describes the Holy Spirit as eternal. “How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!” (NIV). David sings of the wonder of the Spirit’s ever-present existence in Psalm 139:7, “Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence?” (NIV). John records Jesus teaching the disciples about the all-knowing nature of the Holy Spirit, “But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth” (John 16:13 NIV). And finally, Luke records the incredible work of the all-powerful Holy Spirit in the womb of Mary the mother of Jesus, “The angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be calledthe Son of God” (Luke 1:35 NIV).
Secondly, the writers of the New Testament routinely refer to the Holy Spirit as God. For example, in that unfortunate real estate incident Peter asks Ananias, “How is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit…?” (Acts 5:3) and in the very next verse he says, “You have not lied just to human beings but to God” (v. 4). It stands to reason that if lying to Holy Spirit is lying to God, it would necessarily follow that the Holy Spirit must be God. In 1 Corinthians 3:16, Paul writes a letter to the church, reminding them that their bodies are the “temple of the Holy Spirit” and that they are obligated to “glorify God in your body” (v. 1 Corinthians 6:19, 20). In both instances, the Holy Spirit and God are used interchangeably.
So there ya go. A very basic understanding of the Holy Spirit as God. Next up, we’ll take a quick look at the characteristics of the Holy Spirit as a Person of the Trinity.
Wanna know more?
Check out An Exploration of Christian Theology. It’s an easy read—no advance degree required!
Billy Graham does some Q &A on the Holy Spirit