Joining the Dots — the kingdom and the Holy Spirit
Phil Arnold will be known to many across the church spectrum, in Herefordshire and the borders. He is a farmer in Preston-on-Wye as well as being the pastor of Oasis Church, a vibrant fellowship that meets in the St Barnabas church centre in Venns Lane, Hereford. Here is his engaging teaching on Pentecost and the Holy Spirit in our lives now (watch for the chicken that enters stage right!)
The first revival
Ian Greig offers a short message for Pentecost, the historic outpouring and revival in our time, drawing on the account in Acts 2:1-41
For notes and references to this message go over to this page on The Living Word associated site
FOR many — if not most — of us, this warm dry weather has been one if the best things to offset the lockdown restrictions and gloom. At least we have been able to get out and enjoy clean air and beautiful countryside at a special time of year.
Fields are greening over with growing cereals and the cattle and sheep are clearly enjoying their pastures.
But there is a side that is not so positive for people whose livelihood comes from the land.
“Many farmers are already feeling the effects of a dry April and May”
After winter floods, one of the driest springs on record is threatening grass recovery and the supply of winter forage. And the spring-sown crops, just established and without root systems yet to give them resilience, are starting to show signs of being checked.
The Daily Telegraph reported yesterday (May 29): “…The dry weather is having a particularly bad effect in farmers, with many fearing an ‘extremely challenging’ season ahead.
“Stuart Roberts, the deputy president of the National Farmers’ Union, said: ‘Many farmers are already feeling the effects of a dry April and May, with some cereal crops already suffering from this early dry spell.’ “
Sheep farmer and Oasis church pastor Phil Arnold, over the river in Preston-on-Wye, is seriously concerned about the prolonged dry period and its effect on his grass recovery. He told me: “Two months ago after the floods I could hardly have imagined asking people to pray for rain again. But we desperately need it!”
TO REFLECT IN PRAISE
Psalm 147:5-11 NIV Great is our Lord and mighty in power; His understanding has no limit. The Lord sustains the humble but casts the wicked to the ground. Sing to the Lord with grateful praise; make music to our God on the harp He covers the sky with clouds; He supplies the earth with rain and makes grass grow on the hills. He provides food for the cattle and for the young ravens when they call. His pleasure is not in the strength of the horse, nor His delight in the legs of the warrior; the Lord delights in those who fear Him, who put their hope in His unfailing love.
PRAYER AND BLESSING
For the prayer that links to this, go to the associated prayer site www.glowweobley.com on this page
Wisdom’s instruction is the fear the Lord, and humility comes before honour.
Before we get successful we have to get humble, especially about who God is, and how we defer to Him.
This is a challenge to us about holding God in greater awe than everything else. Greater than ‘following the science”. Greater than public opinion. Greater than the particular political ideology that we follow. Greater, even, than the voice of reason.
Sometimes churches put forward “fear of the Lord” as being beholden to church tradition and its hierarchies. All denominations and even modern streams have them!
What’s the bad news?
In this epidemic, people are dying, others are very poorly and no one has clear answers. It could be us, it could a friend or neighbour from the same village, it could be someone with an existing common health condition. The anxiety, the uncertainty and the need for isolation and distancing is set to go on and on – and we don’t have a way out of it.
In the present pandemic, we hear daily wisdom from experts in science, medicine, epidemiology and data interpretation. But as one commentator remarked drily (on BBC Radio 4 Today), “Scientists like to think they are expert at everything.”
And so do we in our unguarded moments.
Education and knowledge is good and helpful. I studied the science streams and then engineering in early life. I know the value of following scientific evidence and then developing the engineer’s ingenuity in thinking outside the familiar ways, to construct a better solution.
Bringing that into the disciplines of Christian philosophy brings thinking skills which are very helpful in finding our own framework. We all need a framework for what we believe. But it is important for that framework to include the values that come from what we believe, because the values we hold are are what really steer what we do, or avoid doing.
We might believe that God is all-powerful and all-wise. But it is if we put a high value on finding out what His wisdom is, that we’ll be ready to listen and learn.
All of this is really helpful in making a kind of landing pad for what God might be saying to us. We have to bring it down to earth… and we need a way of processing what we discern spiritually. The language of heaven isn’t the language of earth, so we have to translate the whisper of the Holy Spirit and the glimpses of revelation He shows us, when we are attending. We have to do the work of joining them up. The disciplines drummed into us through education and experience help us do this… until they start to take over, and then they don’t help, they hinder. Because then we are putting our faith in the process rather than the source.
The Good News is…
That believing and trusting Jesus is the one simple thing we can all do, which opens the door for His Holy Spirit to be the light which guides our way, and the revelation insight that shows us simply, what we struggle to reason out, and never quite succeed, by ourselves.
“Fearing the Lord” starts out as something that sounds ‘heavy’, but really it is just putting first and foremost God our Father who first loved us, who gave His Son Jesus for us and who loves to honour us as we get to know Him
What do we do?
Consider the question: “Who am I listening to ?” And then, work on ‘tuning in’ to what He is saying and making that our ‘front page news’.
Wisdom’s instruction is the fear the Lord, and humility comes before honour. Proverbs 15:33
Lord, we hear that our priority is to respect You in an attitude of awe at Your incomparable might, majesty – and love.
We understand that the relationship works by our acknowledging our need to depend on You.
We find it hard to depend. We find it difficult to admit that we don’t have the answers. We struggle to admit that answers will not come through our diligence alone, but by Your grace in giving them. It’s human pride, and we ask Your forgiveness again.
Help us, and those who lead the country at this time, to approach You in awe and deference – and be humbly receptive to what You tell us as the final word. Amen.
A message taken from the set readings for May 17 used by many churches, about how anyone can come to know God personally. There’s a prayer at the end to receive Jesus into your heart, done in a way which makes it easy to join in if you wish. This is all about believing the good news!
The Bible passages it is based on are:
Psalm 66:8-20 Praise for God known through His faithful love through salvation history
John 14:15-21 — Jesus spells out the promise of the Holy Spirit who makes God known
Acts 17:22-31 — The Athenians hear from Paul that God is known and personal
1 Peter 3:13-22 — Living with Christ as Lord, ready to tell others why we belong to Christ
Wisdom is the ‘how to’ that goes with knowledge. We know quite a lot about coronavirus, but we desperately need a breakthrough in this area of ‘how to’ – how to cure the infection and how to prevent it. God, who is all-knowing, has that wisdom – and we are the ones who know how how to ask Him.
We need wisdom! Our death rate the highest in Europe. New admissions are still rising. There is no clear end in sight from what the Prime Minister described as “this devilish illness” ( he was right about that).
We desperately need the missing piece of the puzzle, the clue that unlocks the conundrum, the solution no one has thought of yet.
James, writing to first-century believers in newly-started home-based churches outside Jerusalem, has an answer. Like us, these early believers were facing risk – look what had happened to Stephen – and living in uncertain times, trying to work out the ‘how tos’ of being a church. This is the advice James gave them:
If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. (James 1:5)
It seems too simple to take seriously. “You should ask God…”. Well, he would say that!
But we SHOULD ask God, and repent of seeking wisdom in every other quarter apart from a word from God — which might just be a scientific discovery from God!
James assumes two things that would have been completely normal and expected in any church gathering of that time.
First, he assumes hearers will have come to a committed, personal relationship with Jesus, accepting His sacrifice of Himself for our sins, and also submitting their lives to Him as Lord.
Second, He assumes they have all had an empowering encounter with the Holy Spirit, like the first believers did at Pentecost.. This was general. They needed more than KNOWING how to live in the new life Jesus brings – they needed to be empowered to DO it, to have revelation of the reality of resurrected Jesus in their lives.
The relationship with Jesus is like the manual we get with a new appliance from Curries telling us to make sure the machine is plugged in. It will also say, make sure the power is on and flowing!
2. How to seek God’s wisdom
What has this to do with James’ question? Everything. We have two-thirds answered it already .
Wisdom comes to us when we turn to Jesus, by the Holy Spirit giving us revelation. It is all about the relationship – and we have that relationship. Or rather, we are given that relationship by Jesus because He is like that.
Two-thirds of the way – but there is one more thing.
We have to ask. To actually ask, as those serious about getting an answer.
3. How to ask.
ADMIT our need of God’s wisdom as ours is insubstantial.
STOP the various ways we pursue our own wisdom. Put them down. This is not ‘Plan B’, not a back-up for our own efforts.
Humbly, but confidently – ASK, expecting that wisdom will come. Not always an immediate flash of insight, but it will come. now here’s the thing. Suppose there is a boffin out there – an eminent researcher, I should say – who had a line off study that seemed to have reached a dead end – and work was stopped. It could have been a plant derivative, or a genetic theory, or a medical trial. And they were prompted to revisit it – and made a discovery that no one could have predicted! Entirely possible by prayer and faith – and we are the ones who know how to do that.
So we ask God for the breakthrough which we RECOGNISE is in heaven. He is all-knowing – so without doubt He has all the answers. Our job is to pray that wisdom down to earth. So we do, and thank God for it, in anticipation.
For a suggested prayer based on this message, go over to the associated site with its focus on encouraging prayer for communities, GLOW Weobley