Day 2

The Holy Spirit speaks of hope and promise. This sustains the life of believers. It doesn’t promise that we all get along, agree, and never have conflict. But it does serve as a first installment, a guarantee of sorts even as it creates a certain restlessness for the completion of God’s work.

Why so restless? Because loud business meetings are inconvenient and sometimes embarrassing in the moment to watch. But they are also something else that is quite lovely. They show us that people are passionate and that they care about figuring out how to interpret this call to rebuild, restore, and renew.

He didn’t spare his own Son but gave him up for us all. Won’t he also freely give us all things with him? Romans 8:32 CEB

God also sealed us and gave the Spirit as a down payment in our hearts. 2 Corinthians 1:22 CEB

We cannot figure out in perfect unity what it means to have this Holy Spirit with us and in us. We aren’t going to agree on theological points that have confounded and confused generations of scholars.

But I would suggest to us that we don’t have to do any of those things in order to have a rich and rewarding life. It helps us understand that our restlessness isn’t something to squelch, but rather to celebrate. It represents our longing for a God who has got this – but we don’t necessarily see or understand what he’s up to all the time.

What we can practice are the principles he has provided: act justly, love mercy, walk humbly with God.

And we can trust that the Holy Spirit is continuing the work of God and Jesus right along beside us. That’s probably more reassuring than Baptist business meetings. But I would also suggest that Baptist business meetings might have more to offer us than we might recognize as young’uns. When a community of people (this presumes that the community lives like this) can come together and live with nothing hidden – no matter how humble the view – that’s a God thing.


Day 1

Before faith came, we were guarded under the Law, locked up until faith that was coming would be revealed, 24 so that the Law became our custodian until Christ so that we might be made righteous by faith.

25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a custodian.

26 You are all God’s children through faith in Christ Jesus. 27 All of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek; there is neither slave nor free; nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.29 Now if you belong to Christ, then indeed you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to the promise. Galatians 3:23-29 CEB

Do you remember yesterday’s devotional about church business meetings and brawls? I’m continuing that discussion…I didn’t really like the fighting. I thought committees who came in to present their work should be thanked and given a resounding vote of approval. After all – they had attended meetings and gathered facts and surely they knew what they were doing?

One time I remember that a committee suggested we air condition the rooms that were currently cooled by open windows and big fans. One stalwart member of the church pitched a total fit about it, suggesting that air conditioning was for sissies and bad stewardship. He proposed we take the money and send it for starving children in Africa. It is really hard to vote AGAINST starving children in Africa. My pew mate muttered, “I bet if we send that money over there they’re going to by air conditioning with it.”

My mother-in-law, who NEVER spoke out in public, rose from her seat and took the microphone in her hand. She explained how her precious granddaughter was in one of those classrooms, and how she came home every Sunday with soaking-with-sweat curls. And she further suggested that her little Meredith was not starving, but she sure was hot and uncomfortable and maybe it was time we sent money to hungry children in Africa and made life a bit more comfortable for the children in our own church. Eventually – after years of this discussion – we air conditioned those rooms. But that’s not the point. You see, my mother-in-law was a young widow. And this man with a heart for hungry children regularly trimmed her bushes, raked her leaves, fixed her leaky faucets and more. He didn’t stop doing this after she asked for air conditioning. And she kept making him toll house cookies for his troubles.

I learned a lot about respect and love and conflict back in the day. I am convinced that all that is not possible without the work of the Holy Spirit.


March 31

 Before faith came, we were guarded under the Law, locked up until faith that was coming would be revealed, 24 so that the Law became our custodian until Christ so that we might be made righteous by faith.

25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a custodian.

26 You are all God’s children through faith in Christ Jesus. 27 All of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek; there is neither slave nor free; nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.29 Now if you belong to Christ, then indeed you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to the promise. Galatians 3:23-29 CEB

Only the Holy Spirit has the power to do this next work: create community. It is what unites us with Christ and each other. This uniting power of the Spirit is not for mere togetherness of likeminded people. It is the power of new community that joins strangers and even former enemies. It creates community where formerly there were barriers. It remakes us as persons-in-community who no longer live as isolated self-centered individuals.

When Pete and I got married we joined the church his family went to, Bon Air Baptist, in Richmond, Virginia. It was in this community that I learned that the Holy Spirit was up to something – and it was very good. One of the rich traditions of Baptists is this concept of “priesthood of the believer”, which I don’t hear talked about that much anymore, but when I was young and pretty impressionable it was a regular point in any message I heard. I took it to mean that every person has a priestly role and responsibility – all voices count. I was young and naïve and fresh off the boat of a childhood that was consistently unchurched but in theory that sounded like good news. When Pete and I attended our church business meetings – I felt right at home! These business meetings were more like family brawls after too much liquor than our Sunday School class! My goodness! There was yelling and screaming and gnashing of teeth. And that was just how the adults behaved! There didn’t appear to be any secrets, backroom deals, or committees that pulled strings from behind the baptismal curtain. Initially it triggered my PTSD (although we didn’t know what to call it back in the day). When I asked Pete what was going on, he would say, “This is what it looks like to practice “priesthood of the believer.” I thought perhaps we should revisit that conviction, but Pete assured me that this living with nothing hidden stuff was good news.

Eventually I understood. To be continued…


March 30

“Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (2 Corinthians 3:17).

One weekend recently we were talking about the Micah passage that tells us what the Lord requires: act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God. When we tried to apply it, I dared to suggest that under these set of criteria, we don’t have to waste a single minute judging the decisions other people make. I figure it’s more than a full-time job to figure out how I am to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God.

Someone rightfully pointed out that this is tricky, because not everyone else is going to do that, so maybe this is too….naive? Shouldn’t we have rules? And of course, we should and we do have rules. But here’s the thing. Us making more rules doesn’t keep the lawless from being lawless, does it?

Please don’t take this analogy too far. I think following the posted speed limits is essential and on and on and on.

But sometimes I think we’ve taken the easy path, the wide path of least resistance – hoping that we could make up enough rules and demand others follow them – rather than walk our own path of acting justly, loving mercifully, and walking humbly with God.

This is freedom.

This isn’t the same thing as license to do whatever we please. Instead it is the capacity to take on the mind of Christ (Philippians 2:5), to live according to the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2). It is the freedom to love God and others, the freedom for life in right relationship. It frees believers for a pattern of life that reflects the pattern of God’s love in Jesus. Because injustice destroys right relationship with God and others, the Spirit of God energizes resistance to injustice. It associates new freedom from bondage (Galatians 5:1), and it is the continuation of the work begun by Christ. (Romans 8:21)

Too much information? I hope not! I pray for your time this week to go look up these scriptures and consider the possibility that freedom is in some ways a more narrow path, but it is surrounded by very wide and open spacious places (thanks to Anne W. for this vision).


March 29

Here’s another really amazing thing the Holy Spirit is given credit for: creation of new life. The Spirit is the agent of our second birth. The Spirit is the power of transformation from the old to the new, from enslavement to the powers of sin and death to a new life in communion with God and others. Christians are then enabled to speak of God’s mercy and righteousness and to act as co-laborers with God in the renewal of creation.

An example is in Acts 2, when believers could speak across different languages. Because of the Spirit, all the faithful are given new life and gifts and become contributors to the common welfare, partners in the creative and redemptive work of God.

But I don’t need Acts 2 to tell me this is how the Spirit works. All I have to do is show up for community meetings at NSC. I love it how we might have a guy sitting in a group who has all his possessions in a dirty old backpack sitting next to a guy wearing golf shoes – because he’s headed out to play 18 the second the meeting ends.

I love that.

I love the guys with the shoes, and I love the guy with the backpack.

I love how each man respects the other, despite their wildly different financial circumstances. I love it how when one guys speaks, others say, “Me too!” Rather than, “You should.”

This is the work of the Holy Spirit. In a world that is divided by creed and color, economics and gender – I don’t know of anything else but the Holy Spirit that can bridge this gap.

Be part of the bridge today!!


March 28

Paul wasn’t the only biblical writer in the New Testament to teach us about the Holy Spirit.   John says that the Spirit is sent to bear witness to Christ and to lead the disciples into the fullness of truth in him.

26 The Companion, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I told you. John 14:26 CEB

John Calvin was a theologian during the Protestant Reformation and is famous for his teaching. One of the ways he talks about the Holy Spirit is as a bridge that spans the gab between the past and the present. He said it more like this: through “energy of the Spirit” that we come to “enjoy Christ and all his benefits” (Calvin, Institutes, 3.1.1.)

Is it just me, or have you ever wondered how in the world the bible can seem so relevant in spite of the fact that it was written so very long ago? Have you ever tried to read a book written in 1862 for example? Not so easy, is it? I know some people don’t think the bible is all that relevant, but honestly, I disagree. When I read it, I just keep finding new ways to appreciate its timeless message.

I think that might be the Holy Spirit working.

The Holy Spirit is described by John as a companion.

How might we find ways to appreciate and invite a companionable relationship with the Holy Spirit?


March 27

I discovered a lot of other things about the work of the Holy Spirit as well – things like the Holy Spirit is powerful, a source of joy, a dispenser of prophetic speech and tongues. It even puts to death sinful practices, strengthens, loves, seals, walks, and lives among us. All of this sort of thing is talked about in Paul’s letters; these same activities he attributes to Jesus as well.

The Holy Spirit also searches, teaches, dwells, accomplishes, gives life, cries out, leads, bears witness, has desires, helps us in our weakness, intercedes on our behalf, strengthens, grieves sin, and even acts as an event planner – working everything out together for good.

Here’s the point: the Holy Spirit is very busy.

We don’t have to be so frantic with the Holy Spirit taking so much of the load.

Our work might best be described as slowing down enough to notice the work of the Spirit, and then adding our cooperation and willingness to whatever the Spirit is already accomplishing.

Today, can you look for the work of the Spirit? Maybe join in a bit?


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