Saturday, May 30, 2020

Pentecost: Filling of the Holy Spirit

This Sunday, the church calendar commemorates Pentecost, when Christ's disciples were indwelled by the Holy Spirit. In these perilous times in which we now live, may all believers yield to the Spirit so that His light shines through us to illuminate the darkness!

In Scripture, cleansing water (1 John 5:6,8) and burning oil may each symbolize the Holy Spirit, Who has qualities of Living Water (Jeremiah 17:13; John 4; 7:38) as well as of holy fire (Isaiah 10:17). John the Baptist practiced baptism by water as the forerunner to Christ’s baptism by the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:36). John’s baptism by water was an act of repentance for sin, but Christ’s baptism with the Holy Ghost was compared to fire (Matthew 3:11; Luke 3:16).

Christ’s shed blood washed believers clean of all sins (Revelation 1:5). After Christ’s completed work on the cross and His resurrection, the Holy Spirit, like cloven tongues of fire, landed on the disciples at the feast of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4). The resulting filling by the Spirit allowed the disciples to speak in languages other than their native tongue, for the purpose of spreading the Gospel message to people of all nations.

The parable of the wise and foolish virgins (Matthew 25) suggests that only those virgins with oil burning in their lamps – those who are indwelled by the Holy Spirit – will be admitted to the marriage supper, representing the Rapture to meet the Bridegroom in the air.

To be indwelled by the Holy Spirit, we must be born again, first by water (the physical birth) and then by the Spirit (John 3:5-8). This requires cleansing from our sins through our repentance and God’s forgiveness due to the substitutionary death of His Son (Romans 3:25; 1 John 2:2; 4:10). We must place our faith in Jesus Christ’s death, burial and resurrection (1 Cornthians 15:1-4) as our only Way to Heaven (John 14:6). As we realize, and continue to learn more and more about, Who He is, our hearts will burn within us (Luke 24:32), and we will be on fire for the Lord.

Water is sometimes called the universal solvent, because its cleansing action dissolves impurities and flushes them away. In contrast, oil tends to adhere to small particles, keeping them in contact with the skin or other surface. First we shower and then we apply perfumed body oil or beauty cream – it wouldn’t make much sense to reverse the order!

Similarly, we need the cleansing action of the Living Waters before the oil in our Spirit-filled lamps can burn brightly with a sweet fragrance. God dealt with Jerusalem and His chosen people in a similar sequence – first He cleansed them with water, and then He anointed them with oil (Ezekiel 16:9).

We see a moving example of cleansing and anointing in Luke 7 (38-48), in the sinful woman who wept at Jesus’s feet, washing them with her tears. No doubt her tears were shed in Godly sorrow, in repentance for her sins, as were the tears of David (Psalm 6:60;119:136) and Jeremiah (9:1,18; Lamentations 3:48). First her tears cleansed His feet from the dust and grime of the dirty roads, symbolizing the sins of the world, for Jesus Himself had no sin (Hebrews 4:15).

Then she wiped His feet with her hair, kissed them, and anointed them with precious ointment. The oil in ointment allows it to preserve and convey perfume, spices and other costly substances. This woman stored her ointment in a precious alabaster box, which may have represented her dowry or all her worldly treasure. Yet she broke open the box and bestowed all the ointment lavishly on Jesus without considering the cost, because her heart was ignited by the Holy Spirit with passion to serve Him.

In a rainy parking lot, we may see oil drops floating on the wet pavement, causing a striking, rainbow-hued, swirling pattern known as a fractal. The light would not reflect in this jewel-toned design were the oil not aligned in a thin film, buoyed up by the water beneath. Similarly, the light and beauty of the Holy Spirit are not visible unless carried afloat by the Living Water indwelling each believer.

Cleansing, purification and anointing, as symbolized by water and oil, are essential to true worship. Oil and water in Scripture also reflect God’s provision, blessing, power, and judgment. May currents of living water flow forth from each of us, supporting the oil of the Spirit to reflect His brilliant light!

© 2013 Laurie Collett
Edited and reposted from the archives

Saturday, May 23, 2020

After Life: Legacy of the Fallen

Photo by Robert Lawton 2006

On Memorial Day, the United States honors the ultimate sacrifice of our military who lost their lives defending our nation. After their life has passed, we remember their legacy, long after they have passed into eternity.
The concept of afterlife differs among various religions. To the born-again Christian (John 3:3-8) who has trusted in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way to Heaven (John 14:6), it is the promise of abundant, eternal life with Him and our loved ones in Him (John 3:16; 10:10; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). We will forever enjoy His light and love in our glorified bodies that will never die, age, sin, or experience sickness, pain, or sorrow (1 Corinthians 15:35-58).
He is even now preparing a special mansion for each of us (John 14:1-3) in an unimaginably beautiful City with streets of gold and gates of pearl (Revelation 21:2, 10-27). His rule and reign will be marked by perfect justice, peace and love (Isaiah 9:6). Each of us who trusted Him will have a position of some responsibility based on works we did for Him on earth, if we did them with the right motive of gratitude and love for Him (1 Corinthians 3:10-15).
But when our earthly life comes to an end, and Christ takes us home to be with Him, the words “after life” also take on a second meaning. The United States holiday of Veterans Day honors and thanks our military for their faithful service in protecting our nation and the freedoms it represents. On Memorial Day, we especially remember those military who paid the ultimate price for our freedom by laying down their lives for us. 
The after life of these veterans who died protecting us includes that legacy of the greatest love of all – sacrificing one’s own earthly life for the sake of others (John 15:13). Their love speaks to us even from the grave, just as the righteousness and obedience of Abel still speak to us millennia after his death (Hebrews 11:4), What will be our legacy for those we leave behind? What will remain of us here on earth, and what impact will it have? 
Many are concerned about their financial legacy, and certainly it is important to provide for those dependent on our income, to the extent we can. Even if our loved ones are grown and self-sufficient, we may take pleasure in leaving them an inheritance. They may use that gift not only as a reminder of our love, but perhaps to carry on a work we started, whether it be giving to the church, to missions, or to further God’s kingdom in other ways. 
Even more important than our financial legacy is the impact we had on others, for good or for bad, during this life. Did we lead people to the Lord through our witness, lifestyle, and love? Or did we give them an excuse to reject Him because of our hypocrisy, indifference, or hate? 
Did we encourage the brethren and those in church leadership (Romans 13:1-8; 1 Corinthians 9:1-18) by kind words and deeds, sharing Scripture verses relevant to their trials, and thanking and praising them for their service? Or did we discourage them by being the first to complain and the last to volunteer, give, or even show up? 
What kind of example were we to our children and to young people who followed after us? Did we nurture them in God’s Word, ways, and love, or take out our own frustrations and anger on them? (Ephesians 6:4; Colossians 3:21) Did we show them the importance of Bible reading, prayer, church, and obedience to God’s laws in our own lives (Proverbs 22:6; Psalm 119:105), or did we ask them to do as we say, not as we do? Did we just drop them off at church while we pursued interests that were more important to us, or did we even take them to church at all? 
What we do in this life determines the quality of the after life we leave behind – the footprint, for good or for evil, affecting our descendants. Timothy, the apostle Paul’s protégé, followed the sincere faith instilled in him by his mother Eunice and grandmother Lois (2 Timothy 1:5). I was blessed to be raised in part by a Godly grandmother who was a great role model of faith, giving, love, and prayer, reminding me of the Proverbs 31 woman. 
We can gift our children and grandchildren with a spiritual inheritance of God’s mercy and righteousness (Psalm 103:17-18). If we obey God and trust in His Son, He will preserve our Godly legacy for our children’s benefit (Joshua 14:9). We cannot ensure that our descendants make a personal decision to follow Christ, but we are promised that if we train them in His ways, they will not turn from them in their old age (Proverbs 22:6). 
In the book of Acts, Luke tells us about Tabitha, also known as Dorcas, a sister in the faith who was beloved by all because of her good deeds and charitable giving. Her ministry consisted of using her God-given talents of sewing and clothing design to fashion coats and other garments for the widows. When she died, all those who loved her wept and sent for Peter, who prayed and raised her from the dead! (Acts 9:36-42). 
By virtue of her industry and charity during her life, Tabitha’s after life was one of thankful remembrance by all those she had helped, for she had been a faithful steward (1 Corinthians 4:2). But God answers prayers exceedingly abundantly (Ephesians 3:20) beyond what we could ever imagine or think! In this case, He answered Peter’s prayer by raising Tabitha from the dead, actually giving her a second life on earth after the life she had already lived! 
Even better, Tabitha’s legacy, or after life, continued, because many who heard of this miracle came to trust in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior! So Tabitha’s after life was not only her legacy of giving and caring, and not only her restoration to earthly life, but her eternal reward she enjoyed by playing a part in leading others to the Lord! 
The apostle Paul tells us that any Gospel seeds we sow in the lives of those who ultimately trust Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior will not only change their eternal destiny, but will bless us with the eternal reward of the soulwinner’s crown, or crown of rejoicing (1 Thessalonians 2:19). Those who are saved will in turn sow seeds in the lives of others, which may be a part of our after life long after we no longer walk this earth. 
What will be our after life? May His light shine through us during our earthly life (Matthew 5:16), so that our after life blesses not only those who knew us, but all those who feel the ripples of love emanating from our spiritual legacy! 
© 2017 Laurie Collett
Edited and reposted from the archives

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Seeds of Hope

Photo by Dominicus Johannes Bergsma 2013

I recently dreamed that I was walking in a public garden, but it was late fall, and nothing was in bloom. I was sad because what had been beautiful, lush blooms on my previous visit were now shriveled and brown. Even the plants that bore them were withered and gray.

I was surprised to spot an aster head that still had a few lavender petals attached, and many seeds within it. I walked from plant to plant, digging holes with a large twig, and scattering a few aster seeds in each hole before I covered them over with dirt. 

But then I realized that each plant was labeled with a marker identifying its specific genus and species, and that none of them were asters except for the one from which I had gathered the seeds. I began to regret my attempts at replanting, as the asters might grow, but possibly at the risk of overtaking the plant designated for each space. 

When I awoke and thought about the symbolism of the dream, I was reminded of a passage we had read in our daily devotions a few days earlier, which included the Mosaic Law about not planting a field with more than one kind of seed (Leviticus 19:19; Deuteronomy 22:9). This regulation is not repeated in the New Testament, indicating that it is no longer intended to be followed by God’s people, in contrast to laws such as to honor your parents (Exodus 20:12), repeated not only by Jesus (Matthew 15:4-6) but also by the apostle Paul (Ephesians 6:2-3). 

So what was the interpretation of the dream? The largely dead garden reminded me of the times the world is now going through as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Not only have there been many actual deaths, but also sickness, suffering and financial loss that tend to kill hope within the spirits of all those afflicted and their families and loved ones. 

Whether or not we are personally affected in this way, all of us mourn many aspects of our lives that have entered a dormant phase giving the outward appearance of death. Because of the lockdown, we are unable to continue many of our usual activities, work, school, church attendance, and even seeing our extended family, loved ones and communities. 

Even many of our ministries appear to have died off, or at least to be suspended in an indefinite limbo. Many believers who serve in church will be unable to do so until the doors reopen, and the nature of this service may change dramatically. 

Choirs, for example, are mourning the loss of corporate music, as the breath flow involved in singing is particularly dangerous even when the singers are distanced far apart one from another. The arts and entertainment fields are likely to be among the last to reopen, leaving my husband and me wondering if our dance ministry will ever again enjoy performance opportunities. 

Missionaries are particularly affected because of travel restrictions, lockdowns preventing door-to-door visits, and public suspicion regarding tracts or other literature that might harbor virus particles. The Gideons had to suspend placement of Bibles in hotel rooms and other Scripture distributions. 

Yet God will not allow His work to cease (Romans 12:10-12), and will give new life to our ministries, although these may be transformed from what they once were. Gardens appear to be dead in winter, and yet we know that they will bloom again in due season, according to His perfect will and timing (Genesis 1:14; Psalm 104:19; 1 Thessalonians 5:10). 

The aster in the dream seems to me to represent the Lord Jesus Christ, who died on the cross to save us from our sins (Romans 3:25). The name “aster” means star, and He is the Bright and Morning Star (Revelation 22:16) Who appears just before dawn, when all is at its darkest. The purple color of the aster reminds me of His royalty, for He is King of Kings and Lord of Lords Who will one day, soon I pray and believe, return in all His glory (1 Timothy 6:15; Revelation 17:14; 19:16). 

The golden center of the aster reminds me of a King’s crown, again referring to the royalty of Christ, Who is light (1 John 1:5), with the spike-shaped petals radiating as beams of light from the sun. The apostle Peter writes that the testing of our faith by trials of fire, such as the trial of coronavirus that is now testing all peoples and nations, will be found to be more precious than gold when He rewards us at His return (1 Peter 1:7). Interestingly, in ancient times, asters were placed on the graves of dead French soldiers as an expression of longing for an end to battle, and they are said to symbolize qualities of wisdom, faith and bravery. 

When Christ returns, all who have been saved by trusting in His death, burial and resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way to Heaven (John 14:6) will rise in glorified bodies and see Christ face to face (1 Corinthians 13:12), and we shall be as He is! Death has no more victory and is replaced by eternal life! (1 Corinthians 15:51-57

Death, or at least suspended animation, may seem to prevail in our current circumstances. But let us always remember that God uses times of seeming inactivity to prepare a seed to break through the soil and grow into a plant bearing much fruit ((1 Corinthians 15:35-36; John 12:24). Nine months of new life go by enshrouded in darkness as He knits together the limbs and body of each unique being (Psalm 139:13-16), made in His image (Genesis 1:26-27).

We must die to sin and self (Romans 8:13) before we can be born again as God’s children (John 3:3-8). The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 6:23). Even as believers we must die daily to our fleshly desires to allow full expression of the new life, the Holy Spirit, within us (1 Corinthians 15:31). Even as we grow weary, we must not give up or lose hope, for in due season we will reap the reward of our labors (Galatians 6:9; 1 Corinthians 15:58). 

In the dream, planting aster seeds alongside each plant reminds me that our ministries, and all that we do, will flourish again only if He is an integral part of it. The Old Testament law to keep crop varieties separate is no longer in effect, and many blessings may spring from working together, each with our different God-given talents and abilities (1 Corinthians 12). If we sow the seed of His Word (Matthew 3) in the hearts of those we encounter, their lives will blossom and bring forth much fruit! (John 15:5-8).

The nature of how we plant these seeds may differ now, relying more on phone, written or online communication and less on in-person encounters. But God’s Word, no matter how it is scattered, will not return to Him empty (Isaiah 55:11). If we are faithful and persevering to plant no matter what the season (Proverbs 20:4), we will reap a bountiful harvest and be rewarded by our Lord saying, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant!” (Matthew 25:21)

© 2020 Laurie Collett