Pray for America’s Heartland

Millions of people are affected by destruction and flooding following a massive tornado outbreak in the United States. in Billings, Montana reported that “On the heels of a week of deadly weather in the central United States, Tuesday threatens more of the same, including possible severe storms in the Plains, South, Midwest and Northeast; dangerous flooding in many states; and a suffocating heat wave in the Southeast.”
We lift everyone in the path of the devastation up to God in prayer as we trust in him.
“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.  And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.  
And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand.  And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it” (Matthew 7:24-27 ESV).


CNN News. “Tornadoes and floods ravage nation’s heartland as deadly heat takes hold in the Southeast” May 28, 2019. Web. 28 May, 2019.

Who is the Holy Spirit? – Part One

There are two places in scripture where Jesus spoke to his disciples about the coming of the Holy Spirit just before he made a radical departure.
The first was in the upper room after the Last Supper, as Jesus was about to go to the Garden of Gethsemane in preparation for his crucifixion. He said, “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you” (John 14:16-17 ESV).
In chapter 14 of John’s gospel, we read that Jesus’ disciples were aware that something big was about to happen, but they were confused about what it was. Thomas and Philip asked Jesus questions like, “Where are you going?”, and “Who is the Father?” Judas - not Iscariot - even asked, “Why us, Lord?” (v. 5, 8, 22).
Jesus, knowing that these men who had walked constantly with him for the past three years, witnessing miracle after miracle and hearing his teachings, were not yet ready or able to grasp the magnitude of what was about to take place, said to them:
“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me” (14:1 ESV).
He assured them that he would not leave them alone, as orphans (v. 18). He said, “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you” (v. 25a). Jesus made it clear that he was going away (v. 28), and he said, “And now I have told you before it takes place, so that when it does take place you may believe” (v. 29).
You and I know that Jesus was telling them (not for the first time – see Luke 24:7) that he would be crucified, die and rise again for the sins of the whole world. Even though Jesus spoke to his disciples plainly, they could not understand that what was about to occur would not only dramatically change them but turn the world upside down.
But God, as always, had a perfect plan.
Jesus declared that the Holy Spirit, our Helper, would teach us all things and bring back to our remembrance everything that Jesus had said (v. 26). He promised, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid” (v. 27). This peace that Jesus gives comes to us through his Holy Spirit, who is sent by the Father to comfort us, guide us and counsel us. The Holy Spirit reminds us that there is nothing for we who are made one with Christ to fear because he is always with us.
In fact, Jesus states this very plainly when he says “In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you” (v. 20).
Have you ever wondered how Jesus and the Father can be “in us” or how we can be “in them”? Jesus said to his disciples, “You heard me say to you, I am going away, and I will come to you. If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I” (v. 28). And in John chapter 16 Jesus said, “Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you” (v. 7).
Wouldn’t you think, and I can imagine the disciples would have agreed, that it would be better for Jesus to have stayed on earth after the resurrection? How could it be better that he would go away? Think about what Jesus told Nicodemus, when he visited Jesus at night to question him about what it means to be born again, and Jesus answered:
“…Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (3:5-6).
And he continued, “Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit” (3:7-8).
The spirit is different from the flesh in a lot of ways and one of the main ways is that the flesh – in this case the physical body – can only be in one place at a time, and two bodies cannot occupy the same space at the same time. I cannot be shopping at the grocery store and driving my car at the same time and you and I cannot stand on the exact same spot at the same time. Physically, it’s impossible.
If Jesus had remained on earth, even in his resurrected body, his followers throughout eternity could see him, touch him, hear him speak and observe his every move but we could not have been one in him, one with the Father, or even one with each other. For that to happen, Jesus had to remove his resurrected body to heaven to be with the Father, so that he and the Father could send the third member of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, to abide with us – literally in us – forever. The Spirit can go where the body cannot go; namely, into the heart of every born-again believer.
Paul wrote in his first epistle to the Corinthian church that “…the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God” (2:10b ESV). And Proverbs 20:27 states that “The spirit of man is the lamp of the Lord, searching all his innermost parts” (ESV). The Holy Spirit’s presence can examine places in the human heart that no surgeon will ever see, because only the spirit can enter there.
The Holy Spirit is, literally, the Spirit of God: “For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person…So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God” (1 Cor. 2:11 ESV).
It is because the Holy Spirit abides within us that we can be one with Jesus, with God the Father, and with each other as the Body of Christ: “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body…and all were made to drink of one Spirit. For the body does not consist of one member but of many” (1 Cor. 12:13-14 ESV). Because the Holy Spirit is God’s Spirit, when we receive God’s Spirit by receiving Christ, God’s Spirit becomes joined with our spirit in eternal union.
That is why Jesus tells us that it is to our advantage that he went away, because even though while he is in heaven and we are on earth we cannot see him face to face, nevertheless, he has not left us as orphans, he has come to dwell within us, through his Holy Spirit. He has not left us alone.
 Jesus said: “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you” (John 14:16-17 ESV).
The disciples knew the Holy Spirit, because he dwelled with them, in the person of Christ. But because Jesus went away, it is better for all believers because that made it possible for God’s Holy Spirit to live in us and always be with us. That is how and why we and our Savior and the whole Body of Christ are one – for all eternity.
Immediately before being arrested by soldiers, Jesus prayed to our Father in heaven for his disciples, and for all of us, saying:
““I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them [the Holy Spirit], that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me” (John 17:20-23 ESV).
These are the words that Jesus prayed for us, knowing who we all are, where he was going on our behalf and that he would ultimately send us his peace and comfort through his Holy Spirit - so that we could be one forever in the love of God.

The Mother Anointing

There is a very enlightening story tucked away in chapter 8 of Luke’s gospel. Jesus had been traveling through cities and villages, preaching the news of the kingdom. With him were the twelve disciples, Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Susanna and many other women “…who provided for them out of their means” (8:1-3 ESV).
As more and more people gathered around Jesus and his followers, he recounted the parable of the sower, whose precious seed was trampled underfoot, devoured by the birds of the air, or fell on stony ground or among thorns. But some of the seeds feel on good soil, and yielded fruit a hundredfold (8:18). When his disciples questioned him about the meaning of this story, Jesus explained that the soil in which the seed of God’s Word is sown is the human heart, and the Word that is planted in the fertile ground of a good and honest heart will ultimately “…bear fruit with patience” (8:15).
At the end of this narrative Luke wrote that,
“[Jesus’] mother and brothers came to him, but they could not reach him because of the crowd.
And he was told ‘Your mother and your brothers are standing outside, desiring to see you.’
But he answered them, ‘My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it’” (8:19-21).
Interestingly, scripture gives us the same Greek word for “brothers” – adelphos – in both verse 8:19, “[Jesus’] mother and brothers came to him, but they could not reach him because of the crowd.”
And in verse 21, “But he answered them, ‘My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.’”
In verse 19, brothers/adelphos would mean biological brothers (or sisters) of either the same mother or the same father; but in verse 21, brothers/adelphos would mean fellow believers (men and women) who are united by bonds of affection. Verse 19 would refer to brothers or sisters sharing biological blood, while verse 21 would refer to brothers or sisters united by the bonds of spiritual Blood.
We might think that because adelphos makes provision for either brothers or sisters, men or women, that everybody was represented by that one plural Greek word in verse 21. But Jesus made it a point to specifically speak to one other group of believers: Mothers.
The Greek word for “mother” is meter, which can mean a literal, physical mother, as in verse 19, or figurative mothers, as in verse 21.
Luke tells us that Jesus’ mother Mary was there, with his physical brothers and sisters, but that they couldn’t get close to the Lord because he was surrounded by his spiritual mothers, brothers and sisters.
We know that Jesus was not disrespecting his earthly mother in verse 21, because Exodus 20:12 tells us to “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you” (ESV) and Jesus, being without sin, would not have broken God’s fifth commandment.
On the contrary, I believe that Jesus was speaking something very intimate over all mothers on that day, honoring not only Mary, his biological mother, but also all believing women who have borne physical children or mothered spiritual children. Jesus honored all mothers who hear the Word of God and do it, with a special Mother Anointing.
In Genesis chapter 3, God pronounced a curse over Eve, saying, “’I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children…’” (3:16a ESV).
But through the prophet Jeremiah God said, “How long wilt thou go about, O thou backsliding daughter? for the Lord hath created a new thing in the earth, A woman shall compass a man” (31:22 KJV); and listen to how The Message translates the prophecy of the gestation of Christ: “God will create a new thing in this land: A transformed woman will embrace the transforming God!”
Throughout scripture, God gives us the stories of heroic women who were mothers in faith. Noah’s wife and her daughters-in-law were the progenitors of a new civilization; Sarah carried in her womb a new nation; Deborah was a mother in Israel, a judge, a prophetess and a warrior; Naomi nurtured Ruth, who was the great-grandmother of David, great-great-grandmother of Solomon and ancestress of the King of kings and Lord of lords.
Elizabeth bore John the Baptist in her old age. He prepared the way for the Messiah, whose birth was witnessed by prophets and celebrated by angels, kings and shepherds but was only experienced by Mary.
A transformed woman will embrace the transforming God, who will transform all who believe in his name! Jesus was born of a virgin, which was a new thing on the earth, so that we could be born again as God’s new creation (see Isaiah 7:14; John 3; 2 Cor. 5:17).
As believers whose hearts are prepared like fertile soil to receive the precious seeds of God’s Word, we are grafted in as members of God’s eternal family, sharing one Father, united by the Blood of Christ and his Holy Spirit.
We are brothers and sisters in Christ, who by the shedding of his Blood, has broken every curse that was created at the fall. And Jesus made it a point, in a simple and profound way, to erase the stain of Eve’s sin from the hearts of God’s daughters, making us ready to receive his precious seed in good soil, by naming us his sisters and mothers. We were born again in him – because Jesus was willing to suffer all the pain of sin for us - and in him we are able to “give birth” to spiritual children without suffering because in Christ, Eve’s curse is broken, and we are made whole again. As Isaiah prophesied in verse 10:27, the anointing breaks the yoke of sin that was placed upon us.
“And Mary said, ‘My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation’” (Luke 1:46-50 ESV).
As Mary received God’s Holy Spirit conceiving Christ to rest within her for a time, so we, too, who believe in his name, receive the Spirit of the Living God to become his tabernacle and dwelling place for eternity - and all generations will call us blessed, in praise of the glory of God Almighty, in Jesus’ name.