Saturday, May 27, 2023

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 47:38) 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 20, 2023

Remembering “Baba” – A Proverbs 31 Grandmother


As we celebrate Mother’s Day, we honor our own mother and are remembered by our children, but we should also give thanks for all the women in our lives who have inspired, encouraged, supported and loved us. For me, that includes all of you ladies, and especially Baba, my grandmother!

Marya, my mother's mother, was born in a small village near Kiev, Ukraine. As a young girl and teen she was said to be the best folk dancer in her village! Judging from the lavishly decorated, traditional tea towels, aprons and blouses she made and my mother still had decades later, she was also a talented and creative artist. As a special treat on rainy days in childhood, I was allowed to open the steamer trunk containing these linens, their once bright red and purple embroidery faded to maroon and tan, yet still rich in their intricate designs.

When she was 16, Marya fell in love and emigrated to Canada with her husband, a mining engineer, leaving her family and country and following him with the faithfulness of Ruth (1:16-17). They had a hard life in blustery Nova Scotia, and although she gave birth to 10 children, including three sets of twins, my mother was the only one who survived past infancy. The others died from pneumonia or other infections, as antibiotics were not yet available.

Her husband died suddenly when he was 35, probably from a brain aneurysm, two weeks after telling her that he would die soon because he had seen Jesus. Yet she was faithful to God through it all, praying to Jesus, drawing strength from her faith in Him, and serving Him even in the trials (1 Thessalonians 3:8; 2 Timothy 4:7; Hebrews 12:1; Galatians 6:9)

Although she had never learned to read, write, or speak much English, Marya and my mother moved to New York City shortly thereafter. Marya worked very hard in a bakery in the lower East Side, and became an active and loyal member in the sisterhood of the local Russian Orthodox church. Although she made hardly any money, she scrimped and saved to fund the purchase of a beautiful, full wall mural of Ruth gleaning in Boaz' field (Ruth 2:8) for her church. Her humble home was always open for hospitality, and she was always ready to give generously to those in need (Luke 6:38; Philippians 4: 16; Mark 9: 41; Matthew 6).

When my mother married, she moved to a small town in Pennsylvania where my dad worked. Seven years later, when I was born, my parents invited my grandmother to come live with her in the new house they were building so she could help raise me. Imagine their surprise when they went to pick her up at the train station and she was carrying an unassuming satchel containing $10,000 in small bills -- nearly a fortune in those days -- to help with the down payment on the house!

While awaiting my arrival, she cooked, cleaned, and made a huge pair of down-filled pillows for my parents, complete with crocheted-trim linen pillowcases!

When I learned to speak, I called her “Baba,” the Ukrainian pet term for grandmother, or old woman (“babushka”). She did so much more than help to raise me -- she was a great role model of faith and prayer. One of my earliest memories is seeing and hearing her pray out loud in her bedroom, where she kept a framed picture of the Last Supper by a portrait of her husband, and singing the Russian version of “Come, Thou Almighty King.”

One winter vacation in the then-small town of Hollywood, FL, when I was six, Baba spotted a couple of vacant lots in the middle of nowhere and insisted she wanted to buy them "to pay for Laurie's education." Despite the concerned, well-meant advice of my parents, she went ahead and purchased these lots for a song. Ultimately, when Hollywood became a busy and popular tourist destination, proceeds of those lots paid in full for my medical school education!

While leaving me this inheritance, she left me far more -- her shining example of faith and love that can't be measured by worldly standards of education, income and position. Not to mention my penchant for dance and for real estate! When, as a 14-year-old, I helped to care for her in the end stages of stroke and Alzheimer's, she inspired me to pursue a career in medicine, specifically in neurology and in dementia research.

Marya was a true Proverbs 31 woman who blessed her children, her husband, and all those in her household, community, and sphere of influence (v. 12). She was virtuous (v. 10), faithful (v. 11), hard-working (v. 13-16, v. 27), morally and physically strong (v. 17), generous and charitable (v. 20), She had a realistic opinion about herself (v. 18), provided for her family through her hard work and planning (v. 21, 24), and enhanced the reputation of her husband (v. 23). She was kind, speaking the truth in love (v. 26).

How can we become a Proverbs 31 woman, whose family and community recognize that the blessings she gives them are priceless? (v.10, 28, 29). Not by relying on our social skills or our physical charms, but by fearing the Lord – by putting His will for our life ahead of all else (v.30).

May we respect, honor (Exodus 20:12) and cherish our mothers, grandmothers and sisters, by blood or in Christ, while they are yet with us, and may we learn from their Godly legacy of faith, sacrificial love, and service (Proverbs 22: 6; 29: 15; 1 Timothy 5: 5). May they inspire us to give such an example and leave such a legacy for those following us! 

© 2013 Laurie Collett
Reposted from the archives

Saturday, May 13, 2023

Her Family Call Her Blessed

As we saw last time, Solomon describes in Proverbs 31 the ideal woman he prayed for his son to marry. The Proverbs 31 woman is generous and charitable (v. 20), trusting that God will allow her to be a channel through whom blessings flow (2 Corinthians 9:6), and knowing that you can’t outgive God (Luke 6:38), Who is the source of all good gifts (James 1:17). She is a blessing to her family (Proverbs 31:12), has a realistic opinion about herself (v. 18), provides for her family through her hard work and planning (v. 21, 24), and enhances the reputation of her husband (v. 23).

God’s plan for marriage is for the wife to submit herself to her husband’s authority, who in turn loves her self-sacrificingly (Colossians 3:17-24; Ephesians 5:20-33). This is a beautiful picture of the relationship between Christ and His bride, the church (Revelation 19:7-9). He loves us so much that He died to redeem us (Romans 5:8), and we follow His authority because we trust that His infinite love and power enables Him to work all things together for our good and His glory (Romans 8:28).

Although the hard work, thrift and prior planning of the Proverbs 31 woman allow her to be well dressed (v. 22), her true beauty comes from being clothed in good character traits. People admire her not for the clothes she wears, but for her spiritual and moral strength in following God’s Word, and for the honor she brings to her family. God has clothed her in magnificent garments of salvation and righteousness (Isaiah 61:10; 1 Peter 3:3-10).

Because she is a woman of character, she finds joy in following the Lord, no matter what the external circumstances (Nehemiah 8:10; Philippians 4:4). She knows that she can be patient and wait upon the Lord to bring her through trials and to bless her (v. 25; Psalm 23:4-6).

The Proverbs 31 woman is kind, speaking the truth in love (v. 26), but knowing when to be silent (v. 26). She can control her tongue, refraining from gossip (Matthew 12:35-37), criticism or anger that could ruin her testimony (James 3:2-13). Her restraint in speech reflects the Word of God that she has hidden in her heart to avoid sinning (Psalm 119:11) and the subjection of her actions to the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:1).

This type of woman, although rare, is a tremendous asset to her family and all those around her, and they respect and praise her, recognizing that the blessings she gives them are priceless (v.10, 28, 29). We should strive to be praiseworthy in setting a good example and teaching our children how to behave and fear the Lord (Proverbs 10:1; Titus 2:3-5), in our generosity (Luke 6:38, Philippians 4:16-18; Mark 9:41; Matthew 6:20-21), and in our faith and prayer life (Philippians 4:13; Colossians 1:27; 1 Thessalonians 5:17; Psalm 119:10-11).

We can become this kind of woman not by relying on our social skills or our physical charms, but by fearing the Lord – by putting His will for our life ahead of all else (v.30). In doing this, we can live in a way that will reflect our position in Christ to those around us (Ephesians 4:1)

As important as it is to love and provide for our family, even this can become an idol in our lives if we put it ahead of our obedience to God and our desire to please Him. Rather, if we put God first in our lives, He will provide for our physical needs (Matthew 6:33), let us be a blessing to others (Proverbs 31:30), enlarge our sphere of influence in this world and give us eternal life in the next (Mark 10: 29-30).

Until Christ comes again, may we honor Him by giving to all we encounter our example of faith in Christ, in His death, burial and resurrection as the only Way to Heaven (1 Corinthians 15:1-4; John 14:6) that they too may accept and follow Him (2 Timothy 1: 5; Acts 16:31).

© 2013 Laurie Collett 
Reposted from the archives

Proverbs 31: 20 She stretcheth out her hand to the poor; yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy.
21 She is not afraid of the snow for her household: for all her household are clothed with scarlet.
22 She maketh herself coverings of tapestry; her clothing is silk and purple.
23 Her husband is known in the gates, when he sitteth among the elders of the land.
24 She maketh fine linen, and selleth it; and delivereth girdles unto the merchant.
25 Strength and honour are her clothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come.
26 She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness.
27 She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness.
28 Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her.
29 Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all.
30 Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised.
31 Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates.


Saturday, May 6, 2023

Who Is the Proverbs 31 Woman?

Photo by Peter van der Slujs 2012

Whom do you picture when you think of the ideal woman described in Proverbs 31:10-31? Feminists might think that a Biblical model would portray a self-effacing, mousy, stay-at-home woman who is a doormat to her husband, but nothing could be further from the truth. May this passage teach us more about the person that God would have women to be as a blessing and strong support to their husband, children, and all in their household, community, and sphere of influence.

The book of Proverbs contains practical wisdom to help us in our relationships with one another, and conveniently contains 31 chapters – one for each day of the month!  Reading one chapter of Proverbs each day would help us beyond measure in how we treat people and are treated in response. The author of Proverbs is King Solomon, who prayed to God for wisdom and was rewarded with all blessings, in addition to being the wisest man who ever lived (1 Kings 3:7-14; 4:29-34). In Proverbs 31:10-31, Solomon describes to his son the type of woman he prays he will someday marry.

In Hebrew, the verses of this passage describing the ideal wife begin with the letters of the Hebrew alphabet in order. This Divinely-inspired organization may reflect the woman described here – her life and her priorities are ordered around her relationship to God. She is virtuous (v. 10), or morally strong and courageous. She possesses Godly wisdom, or fear of the Lord (v. 30; Proverbs 1:7;;9:10) which is priceless (Proverbs 19:143: 13-18).

Under Divine inspiration, Solomon describes the virtuous woman as being more precious than rubies (v. 10). These gems are prized even more than diamonds because the internal qualities of the stone shine out, whereas diamonds reflect whatever is around them. Similarly, the light of the Holy Spirit indwelling the virtuous woman shines forthmaking her a new creation (John 3:5-8; 2 Cor. 5:17). In contrast, the unsaved woman conforms to the world and is molded by its ungodly values and character (Romans 12:2).

good example of the virtuous Proverbs 31 woman is Ruth (3:11), who put her faith in the true God and her loyalty to her mother-in-law above the false gods her people worshippedGod rewarded Ruth’s faith and virtue by leading her not only to the perfect husband for her, but also by allowing her to become part of the genealogy of Jesus Christ! (Ruth 4:13-22)

The Proverbs 31 woman is faithful (v. 11), hard-working (v. 13-16, v. 27), morally and physically strong (v. 17). She “girds her loins” with the strength and truth of God’s Word, as part of the armor of God (Ephesians 6: 10-18), obtaining spiritual wisdom and meditating on God’s Word to protect her virtue and to keep her chaste and righteous.

She is loyal and faithful not only with her love, but with all her resources, and she does not spend foolishly. She is a shrewd and capable business woman who provides for her household in all seasons, working joyfully (v. 13). She spins, plants, invests, shops, makes clothes and sells them (v. 13-19)

But faithfulness, loyalty and honor in a woman mean far more to her family than any financial gain – these character traits are priceless. We can be an example to our children of faithfulness to our spouse and of considering his best interests. He won’t need to look elsewhere for companionship, nor will he have to wage war to get profit or gain, if he knows his wife is trustworthy in her love and faithfulness to him.

Next time, we’ll discuss other qualities of the Proverbs 31 woman: her generosity (v. 20), kindness (v. 26), realistic self-appraisal (v. 18), provision for her family (v. 21, 24), and praiseworthiness (v.10, 28, 29). Most important, she fears the Lord! (v. 30).

© 2013 Laurie Collett 
Reposted from the archives

Proverbs 31:10 Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies.
11 The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil.
12 She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life.
13 She seeketh wool, and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands.
14 She is like the merchants' ships; she bringeth her food from afar.
15 She riseth also while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household, and a portion to her maidens.
16 She considereth a field, and buyeth it: with the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard.
17 She girdeth her loins with strength, and strengtheneth her arms.
18 She perceiveth that her merchandise is good: her candle goeth not out by night.
19 She layeth her hands to the spindle, and her hands hold the distaff.