Holy Spirit Peace

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“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” ~John 14:26-27

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” ~John 16:33

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The peace of the Holy Spirit of Christ Jesus is different from the peace of the world. The main reason for that is that the world’s peace is not based on reality. The world can’t keep its promise of peace. It’s impossible.

See this ship? It’s unsinkable. Don’t worry about a thing on your cross-Atlantic adventure. Nothing bad can happen. This ship can never sink.

This school is super safe. Put your children in this school and nothing bad will ever happen to them. They’ll be safe, they’ll be protected. They’ll turn out exactly the way you want.

Vote for this candidate. If this candidate wins the presidency, ISIS will be destroyed and terrorist attacks will become a thing of the past.

Invest in this stock and your retirement fortune will be guaranteed.

Have this surgery and you’ll never get sick again.

The world promises peace, but the world can’t deliver it. The world tells you, “You can do this. You’ve got this. Think smarter. Plan better. Work harder on your marriage. Be more efficient with your job. Be more disciplined with your habits. Pay more attention to your kids.” And we’re all neurotic and anxious and fearful, thinking any success we might have is all on us. And Jesus says, “That’s not how I’m going to do it.”

Remember, you are not God. Neither is Trump or Clinton or Blue Cross – Blue Shield or Dow Jones or Ford or Southwest Airlines or your parents. You are not good enough to make happen everything you want to happen. And our Lord steps into that space where we’re not capable and where the world cannot deliver. The Holy Spirit of Jesus comes to us and we melt into this knowing that we’re not able, but he is. And that results in peace, perfect all-surpassing peace.

Jesus gives us all a heads-up. Bad things are going to happen to you, he says. You’re going to have trouble. The world’s going to do bad things to you and sometimes you’re going to do bad things to yourself. Some of this trouble you might can avoid, but won’t; and some of this trouble is completely unavoidable and totally out of your control. Don’t be shocked when it happens. It’s going to happen. In this world you will have trouble. But in me, he says, you’ll have peace.

That is so real. That’s so grimy and dirty and real. God’s Holy Spirit adopts us as his sons and daughters and gives us new life and teaches us how to love and obey in a community of faith. He comes to us and makes his home with us and is the eternal source of everlasting peace.

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The Texas Rangers’ magic number is eight for clinching their seventh division championship. Last night’s 3-2 win in Houston was the team’s 44th come-from-behind win this year, the most in MLB. It was their 18th win in their last at bat this season, also the most in the big leagues. The Rangers are 33-10 in one-run games, the best record in that category in MLB history. And they are 15-3 this season against the Astros. The shaky bullpen is a big reason, I think, for the high number of come-from-behind wins and one-run victories. So, too, though, is the never-ever-quit attitude of this team. They’re never out of it. They never give in until that 27th out has been recorded. This team is fun to watch.

Peace,

Allan

Holy Spirit Identity

Holy Spirit, John, Salvation, Texas Rangers No Comments »

“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you… Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.” ~John 14:18-20

holyspiritbreathThe adopting work of the Holy Spirit pulls us out of the cosmic orphanage into an intimate and eternal relationship with God. The Holy Spirit gives us new life in Christ — Christ in us. By the work of the Spirit, God lives in us and we live in God. And the overflow of joy and grace and peace and love of the Trinity belongs to us. It’s ours. We’re in! This is our brand new life in Christ! This is my new and primary identity. This is who I am. And nobody or nothing can take it away from me.

I am Carrie-Anne’s husband. One of my identity markers is that I am Carrie-Anne’s husband. That’s who I am. For 27 years now, I am Carrie-Anne’s husband. And I dig it. It gives me love and stability and joy and support and, sometimes, sopapilla cheesecake. But my identity as Carrie-Anne’s husband can be taken away from me. We’re both getting older. God forbid — something could happen and I would not be Carrie-Anne’s husband anymore.

Another of my identity markers is that I am the father of three awesome daughters. That’s who I am. But could be taken away from me. Again, God forbid — something could happen and I wouldn’t be a father anymore. There aren’t any guarantees.

Another of my identity markers is that I’m the preacher at Central Church of Christ. And I love being the preacher at Central. It’s who I am. But the elders could get together and take one vote tonight and it could be taken away from me. (I’ve got dirt on every one of those guys; so, it’s not going to happen!) But you understand what I’m saying.

All of my identity markers can be taken away from me. I’m not all powerful. I’m not all seeing and all knowing. I’m not God. I live in a broken world where there are no guarantees.

But the Scriptures say the Holy Spirit guarantees that we belong to Christ. I have been adopted into a new life in Christ. So I have this one thing you can’t touch. I am a son of God. I am loved and protected and provided for and saved by my new Holy Spirit life in Jesus. I can get sick and it’s still true. I can lose my job, I can lose my family, everybody can hate me, and it’s still true. I can die and my identity as a saved child of the King does not change one bit. The Holy Spirit gives us new everlasting life and a permanent identity in him.

Peace,

Allan

Where is Jesus? Part Three

1 Timothy, Carrie-Anne, Christ & Culture, Church, Colossians, Ephesians, Holy Spirit, Jesus 1 Comment »

BandAidRedPlease keep my darling wife Carrie-Anne in your thoughts and prayers for the next few days. She’s having surgery this afternoon to repair a fairly significant hole in a sinus passage. The surgery is only supposed to take about an hour and a half, but everybody’s telling us the eight days after are going to be horrible. As you’re probably aware, Carrie-Anne has the best looking nose in our family, and we don’t want anything to happen to it.

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“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.” ~Colossians 3:1

“God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms.” ~Ephesians 2:6

It’s a well known and well rehearsed spiritual reality that by our baptisms we all participate in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. We are united with Christ, we are one with him and share in his death and resurrection. But the Scriptures are clear that we also share in his ascension. We reign over the world with Christ both now and, ultimately, when he returns, in the future forever. We’re co-regents, co-rulers with Jesus.

Now, let’s be clear about what this means and what it doesn’t mean. Reigning with Christ does not mean that Christians are supposed to take over the world and start passing laws and trying to push the way we live on others by power or threat or force. Reigning with Christ does not mean telling everybody what to do. Christians have tried that. Christians are still trying that. And it’s always led to disaster.

Reigning and ruling with Christ means the Church — empowered by the presence of Christ by the grace of the Holy Spirit — enters the world vulnerable and suffering, praising and praying, sacrificing and serving. The Church lives in the world as misunderstood and misjudged by humanity, saved and vindicated and raised by God. Like Jesus. Why would we ever believe we can reign with Christ if we’re not going to reign like Christ?

Man, that’s a good sentence right there. I’m going to write it again. Maybe you should tweet it right now: Why would we ever believe we can reign with Christ if we’re not going to reign like Christ?

RightHandWeReignWe like the idea of Jesus being with us everywhere, even inside us. Jesus is present with us because of his Holy Spirit. He dwells in and with his Church. But the One who is present with us and living inside us by his Spirit is also the King of Kings and Lord of Lords who rules with all power and authority from a position over us, directing us, rebuking us, encouraging us, teaching us. So, yes, in a very real sense we do reign with Christ today in the heavenly realms, but only in the ways he directs — with Jesus, in the name and manner of Jesus.

We are a kingdom of priests, or kings and priests, it depends on how it’s translated. Either way, it means we participate in the reign of God like Jesus. We have important roles to play, we have Christ-ordained jobs to perform with our Lord as he brings his Kingdom rule to earth just as it is in heaven. But we don’t fight what’s wrong in the world with the power of the sword, we use the power of love. We don’t threaten or condemn anyone; like our Lord, we suffer and we serve everyone. We’re priests, so we intercede, we pray, we bring the world to God, we lift up people to God. We cannot bring in the Kingdom of God, but we can witness to it. We can’t create the Kingdom of God, but we can set up signs and tell stories. We can’t build the Kingdom of God, but we can live it with humility and faith — turning the other cheek, walking the extra mile, forgiving others, giving up our freedoms and rights, loving our enemies, and praying for the people who want to do us harm.

Jesus is bringing his eternal rule to this world in ways this world does not understand. 1 Timothy 6 says it’ll happen in God’s own time. He is with us, yes. We reign with him, oh yeah. But he is our Lord. And for us to use methods that are contrary to Jesus’ methods is to reject him as Lord and to try to establish a rival kingdom.

Peace,

Allan

Where is Jesus? Part Two

Acts, Heaven, Holy Spirit, Jesus, Resurrection No Comments »

RightHandJesusCloudsOne of the very first things Jesus did when he “sat down at the right hand of God” was send us his Holy Spirit. Christ Jesus our Lord is in heaven — his physical body, resurrected and glorified, his human-self is in heaven. But because of his Holy Spirit, our Lord is also present with all of us right here in this world today. He’s right here with us.

As he’s ascending, Jesus promises his disciples:

“You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” ~Acts 1:8

And then it happened. Peter and the apostles experience it on the Day of Pentecost and then they proclaim it:

“God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact. Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear.” ~Acts 2:32-33

Jesus could not send God’s Spirit until he had returned to the Father. He could not be present with his followers and live inside his followers until the ascension. And what it means for us right now is that Jesus is right here with us!

Before the ascension, you had to go where Jesus was. If you wanted to be healed, if you wanted to ask for something, if you wanted to eat with him, if you wanted to be taught or to be in his presence, if you wanted to be saved, you had to go to Jerusalem or Galilee; you had to go where Jesus was. But now he ascends to his throne in heaven at the right hand of God and he rules in a cosmic, universal way. Jesus is still in his physical body, but because of the Spirit, he’s no longer restricted by the barriers of time and space and matter. Our Lord Jesus is everywhere!

RightHandGoingUpChristians do not have a mecca. We don’t believe there’s a place on earth where God’s power and the presence of Christ is more concentrated. We don’t believe the power of God resides in stronger ways or better ways in some places than in others. Not even at ACU, no matter what people from Abilene may tell you. Christ Jesus is no more present with you in the mountains of Angel Fire or at the temple mount in Jerusalem as he is right now at your desk or your kitchen table. Or inside your soul. Jesus is both reigning physically at the right hand of the Father in heaven AND reigning spiritually, and just as real and powerfully, inside us. Here with us. It’s both.

Now, there’s a lot of theology to be done here. This is physical AND spiritual, it’s right now AND future. There’s a lot of deep thinking and reflecting that needs to happen. The ascension of Jesus is a foundational doctrine of the Christian faith, and what we believe about where Jesus is and what he’s doing has far reaching implications for us. What we believe about this will truly impact how we behave. It’s vitally important.

We’ve talked this week about where Jesus is and what he’s doing. Now, where are we in this? What are we doing? Let’s address that tomorrow.

Peace,

Allan

Nouns and Verbs

Bible, Holy Spirit, Jesus, John, Ministry No Comments »

“Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” ~John 20:21-22

CrossRoadsThe Father sent the Son here on a mission. God perfected Jesus through his obedience, he protected Jesus and provided for him, he confirmed him and filled him with the Holy Spirit. And he promised ridicule and rejection and even death. But God sent the Son here to serve and to bless the world. Now the Christ tells us, “I’m sending you to do the same things in the same way.” And he empowers us. He breathes on us and gives us his Spirit.

What are we afraid of? Why do we hesitate or hold back?

Mission is not one of the Church’s programs. As followers of the King, mission is who we are. All of us are sent by God in Christ to be a blessing. To serve. To rescue and heal and love and bless just like Jesus who says the student should be like his teacher and the servant should be like her master.

Student and teacher. Servant and master.

You know, it’s a lot easier to just be a fan of God. I can be a great fan of God. Jesus is the mascot. Weekly worship and a Bible study now and then is the show. The church is the audience. And I can get my religious fix when I want it.

Or I can be an admirer of Jesus. I can read a lot of books about Jesus, I can learn a lot of Scriptural language and I can quote Jesus and become a real Jesus expert. He’s so great!

Or I can be a believer in Jesus. I can memorize all the doctrines and recite all the theological truths and win a lot of arguments.

No. The student should be like his teacher. The servant should be like his master.

Here’s where I get into trouble. See if this is true for you. When I read the Scriptures, my tendency is to pay more attention to the nouns than the verbs. When we put the nouns first, when we concentrate on the nouns, we spend all our time translating and defining and exegeting and interpreting. And we go back and forth with different contexts. The culture was like this. The name of the mountain means that. This word in the original language implied something else. And we don’t have to land anywhere or do anything. Nouns in the Bible are tough. And if we emphasize the nouns, they can actually separate us from the Story. They can create distance between us and the script.

Verbs, though… verbs are every day and easy. Verbs are cross-cultural. They’re timeless. You don’t need a translation. There’s no distance. We share the verbs with all peoples for all time. We share the verbs with Jesus. The fastest way to make a script out of Scripture is to emphasize the verbs.

God tells Abram to go. He tells Moses to speak. God tells Joshua to lead. He tells Isaiah to prophesy. Mary, give birth to the Savior of the World. Paul, take Christ to the Gentiles.

God has put his Church on a mission. He’s put you — you forgiven and saved and Holy Spirit-indwelled Christ-follower — he’s put you on a mission. We’re in a position right now, you’re in a place right now, to do more for the Kingdom of our Father and to proclaim the Good News of salvation in Christ Jesus than has ever been done in your community before! That’s the call. And that’s our Lord’s expectation.

Pick your favorite Bible story this weekend — I don’t care which one, just pick one. Now read it out loud and pay special attention to the verbs. Maybe try employing a couple of those verbs into your prayers this weekend. Become more like the student, more like the servant our Lord is calling you to be. You’ve got his Spirit inside you. What’s holding you back?

Peace,

Allan

Community Proclamation

Acts, Church, Evangelism, Holy Spirit, Luke, Story of God No Comments »

CommunityColorsHandsI don’t know if it’s possible to have as many white people as black people in the same church. I don’t know if it’s possible to have just as many people living in poverty as people living in the upper middle class in the same church. I don’t know if it’s possible to have more than one language worshiping and serving God and the community together in the same church. It’s hard. The differences between us are real. The barriers are many and imposing. I can’t name more than four or five churches in this whole country who are doing it successfully.

So, don’t hear me say that breaking down the barriers in our churches is easy. It’s not. In fact, I fully understand it might truly be impossible.

But the reality of the lordship of Jesus and the Kingdom of God, the urgent message that Jesus is Lord and that he’s fixing everything, compels us to try. We have to try. Together.

“All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts… And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” ~Acts 2:44-47

Please notice how God’s Church, in breaking down the dividing walls to bring people together — living together, worshiping together, serving the community together — leads directly to the spread of the message. It is the spread of the message. The Church is the proclamation.

“They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the Word of God boldly. All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus.” ~Acts 4:31-33

“All the believers used to meet together in Solomon’s Colonade… more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number.” ~Acts 5:12-14

“The Word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly.” ~Acts 6:7

The Word of the Lord, the message, the Good News spread rapidly and with Holy Spirit power through the way the Church was living. Their lives together in Holy Spirit community was the proclamation.

Karl Barth said, “Grace is the enemy of everything.” He claimed that grace is what declares to the world that all the powers have been defeated. Jesus said the Kingdom of God is like a woman who mixes a little bit of yeast into about 60 pounds of flour until that yeast has worked all through the dough.

It’s not about taking something little and turning it into something large. It’s not about mixing the two things together. It’s about taking the qualities of the yeast and encrypting them into the flour until the whole thing is changed. The whole thing becomes something brand new. New creation.

A little bit at a time. One act of grace here. Another act of mercy there. Forgiveness in this situation. Sacrificial love in that circumstance. Service. Justice. Generosity. Subversive acts that disrupt and reverse the world around us until the world around us has completely changed. It’s completely different. That’s the Kingdom of God.

And we proclaim it when we live it. Together.

Peace,

Allan