Advent – A Time of Signs, Dreams, Visions. . . Miracles Are Coming

Today’s Christian seldom expects miracles. Oh sure, during Advent we recount the birth of Christ, tell its story, read of how God intervened in human history, but few of us act as if we believe the foolish tales of wise men watching, shepherds praising, and heavenly angels singing. The idea that God’s Holy Spirit would come upon a virgin and inseminate her with his son are at odds with our sense of what we know of science and the realities of nature.

Advent. . . a time of signs, dreams, visions, and the miraculous is best left on the pages of a Christmas book we dust off each year to remind ourselves that once upon a time we believed – or said we did. But what if the wise men, shepherds, a poor priest, and the young couple were telling the truth?

During the time of King Herod, Magi (wise men) from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” Matthew 2:1

A star. One among hundreds in the sky. Why this star? Why now? How did these wise men, these expert astrologers, know this star was for the one who had been born king of the Jews? And why had they left their homes in Mesopotamia to travel for a month or more in order to find this one whose star settled over Jerusalem? Would we? On a Sunday morning after a week of work, we can barely find the energy to drive to church.  And yet. . .  these wise men risked being robbed, killed by wild beasts, and slept under a frigid night sky in order to see if what they sought and saw was in fact God’s miraculous intervention into the lives of men.

Are we waiting for a sign from God? Are we watching? Or are we so settled in our comfortable lives that we no longer look up with expectation? Are we so wise in our own ways that we no longer expect God to intervene in our sickness, finances, families? One star among hundreds. . . but this one is different. And only a few recognize its significance.

Dreamer of dreams. . .

If a prophet, or one who foretells by dreams, appears among you and announces to you a sign or wonder, and if the sign or wonder spoken of takes place, and the prophet says, “Let us follow other gods” (gods you have not known) “and let us worship them,” you must not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer. That dreamer must be put to death for inciting rebellion against the Lord your God. Deuteronomy 13:1-4 

Death. That is the end of dreamers and prophets and priests who lead others astray. And yet this man Joseph, a man of little significance, is willing to risk his reputation, and possibly his life, in order to lead others to an encounter with God.

What are we willing to risk? Our reputation? Certainly not. Who among us will say with boldness to a stranger that we hear God in our dreams, in our prayers? Better to let those whom we encounter remain lost in darkness than admit that we hear voices.

After Joseph had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.” Matthew 1:20 

The punishment for adultery is death. . .  and yet Mary was pregnant. Not by Joseph, that much he knew. But by who? God’s Holy Spirit? Who would believe such nonsense? Would we? If so, based on what evidence? An angel in a dream? Is that how the miraculous comes, how faith begins? By rejecting death and grasping for life?

When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up! Take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.” Matthew 2:13

A nighttime departure. No time to pack. No time for goodbyes.  Jolted awake from a dream so disturbing that it leaves him shaken with fear, Joseph finds himself visited once more by the God of dreams. His life and that of his wife and son are in danger. The king, the one with legions of Roman soldiers at his disposal, has placed a bounty on Joseph’s head and that of his family.

Suddenly awake, would we turn over, think about what our mind’s eye saw, our mind’s ear heard, and conclude it was all too much to believe? Has God warned us of what’s to come? Do we have a sense of uneasiness regarding someone we love? Do we respond with action? Or do we conclude that God no longer speaks to his people through dreams? Not like before, not like in the old days before we knew better than to believe in such fables?

And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, the wise men returned to their country by another route. Matthew 2:12

Another way. Not the well traveled path of before. Not with the easy route. No, this time our journey will be different. Harder. Perhaps more painful. For our safety and the safety of others, we must go a different way. And yet. . . here we are still wishing we could take the familiar route. There is comfort on the old road. There are places of rest along the old way. Acquaintances welcome us. But we have been warned. For the sake of others we can not go back by the way of old. Before us lies a vast landscape filled with dangers we’ve yet to face. So in darkness, alone, scared of what we will find as we travel through this land of death, we follow God’s whisper and take the narrow road.

After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt. Matthew 2:19

We can go home, now. The threat is gone. But we’re not so sure home is where we wish to be. We have made a place for ourselves in this foreign land. We know it is not our home, but it is safe. Who knows what this next journey will bring. In fear we arrived; in fear we return, for we are fearfully made. Fear is our default state of mind. We worry about what is ahead, if we can endure the journey. Though we knew this call would come, we are not ready. And yet. . .  we gather our loved ones around us and announce: “It’s time to go. Home awaits.” But will home look anything like what we remembered?

When Joseph heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee. – Matthew 2:22

Now every small detail matters. One wrong step and we could lose our life, our soul. No longer is it enough to believe in a vague God. Now we must know him so well that his every whisper reaches our ears. We now see it is not the destination that matters, but our walk, our way of listening and responding to the giver of dreams.

When Zechariah came out, he could not speak to them. They realized he had seen a vision in the temple. Luke 1:22

No more dreams. Now visions interrupt our reality. We can discount dreams. Dreams come to all who sleep. Why should our dreams be more significant than those of my neighbor?

But visions? To be suddenly blinded by the light of an angel speaking to us? Hallucinations happen to the heavily medicated. And yet I am sober. This can’t be. . . and yet it is. What of those other visions we saw? We had thought them only our wishful thinking. Now we see that all along those visions were from God.

In these last days he has spoken to us in such a way that we can no longer deny the truth: God is coming. He wants us to proclaim his arrival. And if we doubt, if we question the authenticity of his voice, silence may be our final word.

 

Advent – Benefits of Life Through the Holy Spirit

Romans 8

Now that the Holy Spirit has come upon you, you are in Christ and Christ is in you. You, God, Christ, and His Spirit are one.

But of what benefit is this new union? Let’s explore how this new birth will change you.

  • First you are no longer under condemnation. Romans 8:1
  • You are set free from the law of sin and death. Which is to say, sin no longer rules over you. Romans 8:2
  • You now meet all the righteous requirements of the law through your union with Christ. Romans 8:4
  • Your mind is now set on what the Spirit desires, not on the sinful desires of the flesh. Romans 8:5
  • You have peace of mind through the controlling nature of Christ’s Spirit. Romans 8:6
  • You please God and now willingly submit to His law, not to be saved, but as an act of love. Romans 8:7
  • In all things you are controlled by the Spirit of God. Romans 8:9
  • You belong to Christ. Romans 8:9
  • Christ is in you. Romans 8:10
  • The Spirit of Christ has given new life to your mortal body. Romans 8:11
  • Your earthly body will be redeemed. Romans 8:23
  • You are now obligated to live by the Spirit and produce its fruit. Romans 8:12-13
  • You are led by the Spirit. Romans 8:14
  • You are free from the spirit of fear. Romans 8:15
  • You are now a son or daughter of God. Romans 8:14 (Before you were God’s enemy.)
  • You received a Spirit of sonship. Romans 8:15
  • The Spirit of Christ testifies before God that you are His child. Romans 8:16
  • You are an heir of God and co-heir with Christ. Romans 8::17 This means you now share in all the benefits due a child of God.
  • You share in the sufferings of Christ. Romans 8:17 This may not sound like a great benefit, but when you recognize that those who persecute you do so because you are in Christ, you will enjoy a sense of honor in knowing you are worthy to be counted with Christ. Romans 8:17
  • Through your suffering in Christ you will also share in his glory. Romans 8:17
  • You enjoy a hope others lack. A hope that saves. A hope that endures patiently, expectantly. Romans 8:24-25
  • The Spirit of Christ prays for you. His Spirit knows what to pray on your behalf and intercedes for you. Even if all you can do is groan, if words fail you, Christ searches your heart. He knows the mind of the Spirit. You no longer need to wonder how to pray. The guesswork is gone. Even if you pray incorrectly, the Holy Spirit intercedes for you, correcting your requests. These prayers will align with the will of God. Romans 8:26-27
  • When God calls you to a task, whatever you do, however you do it, regardless of the circumstances or perceived outcome, God will work it out for the good. Not necessarily for your good, but at least your efforts won’t be wasted. Romans 8:28
  • You will be conformed into the likeness of Christ. If you like how Jesus behaved, cared for others, listened before speaking, never seemed to be in a panic or hurry. . .  You’ll like the way He fits on you. Romans 8:29
  • You will possess: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Galatians 5:22-23
  • All your sins will be rinsed and removed. Not once, but each time you go through the wash cycle.
  • As a result, you will be glorified. Romans 8:30
  • God will have your back. He will be in your corner. Romans 8:31
  • No charge lodged against you will stick. Though others will slander you, God will eventually clear your name. Romans 8:33
  • God is your justice. Romans 8:33
  • Not only is the Holy Spirit tweaking your prayers so they align with God’s will, but God himself is praying for you. Romans 8:34
  • You will remain fixed in the love of Christ. Romans 8:35
  • No amount of trouble, hardship, persecution, famine, danger, violent threats, or poverty will take you from the arms of Christ. Romans 8:35
  • You not only win your battles, but you are the champion of champions. Romans 8:37
  • No power, neither death nor life, angels or demons, your past, present or future, your deepest valley (depression) or highest mountain top experience (ecstasy) can take you from the love of God. During any and all of this you will remain in Christ and he will remain in you. Romans 8:38-39
  • You will know the thoughts of God. The Holy Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. No one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 1 Corinthians 2:10-11
  • You will receive wisdom and revelation, so that you may know God and his Word better. Ephesians 1:17
  • When you read God’s Word, your heart will be warmed. Luke 24:32
  • When you read God’s Word, the Holy Spirit will explain what was said in all the Scriptures concerning Christ. Luke 24:27 This is as it should be. The author of the text always has a greater understanding of its meaning than the reader. When you read Scripture with the Holy Spirit as your guide, the Author is revealing His deep truths to you. The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God (His Word), for they are folly to him. He is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 1 Corinthians 2:14 All Scripture is God-breathed (God’s Spirit). 2 Timothy 3:16 
  • You will know the hope to which you have been called. Ephesians 1:18
  • The eyes of your heart will be informed. Ephesians 1:18
  • You will have power. Acts 1:8
  • The Spirit of Truth will guide you into all truth John 16:13 Christ says, “I am the way and the truth and the life.” John 14:6 His Spirit will guide you in His Truth. “You will know the truth (Christ), and the truth will set you free (of sin).” John 8:32 & John 8:34-36
  • Your inheritance is guaranteed. When you believed, you were marked in Christ with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit. Ephesians 1:13
  • You will not gratify the desires of the flesh. Galatians 5:16 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry (loving anything more than God) and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies. Galatians 5:19-20 The transformative process of the Spirit may take time — maybe a lifetime. But in the same way a child grows from infant to toddler to child to young adult to maturity, you should over time, see these changes take place.

A Barna survey in 2009 showed that only 25% of professing Christians were certain the Holy Spirit is real and dwells within those in Christ. This lines up with Jesus’ parable of the sower where only 25% receive the seed and produce a good crop. Clearly, it’s hard to grow fruit when you are not connected to the vine. Those in Christ and who have Christ in them “now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root.” Romans 11:17 We should not boast in this. It is not our doing. We do not support the root, but the root supports us. Romans 11:18

If you wish to enjoy all the benefits of being in Christ and having Christ in you — in having the mind of God, character of Christ, and clear insight into God’s words and meaning — then ask Christ to come into you so that you may also be in Him. Become one of the 25% who produce a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. Be like Christ. With His Spirit, you can!

 

 

Advent – The Holy Spirit Will Come Upon You

Advent – The Holy Spirit Will Speak, Act Upon, Warn, & Instruct

Wait for the Gift My Father Promised

“If you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.” John 14:15-17
 

Questions to Consider as You Read the Verses Below

  • Who / what is the Holy Spirit? 
  • When and how do we receive the Holy Spirit?
  • What does the Holy Spirit do?
  • What is the role of the Holy Spirit in our lives?
  • How can I know that I am filled with the Holy Spirit?
  • How can others know you have the Holy Spirit?
  • What physical attributes does the Holy Spirit express?
  • How does the Holy Spirit assist you?

“Wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about.” – Acts 1:4

“John baptized with water. In a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” – Acts 1:5

“You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you.” – Acts 1:8

“You will be my witnesses to the ends of the earth.” – Acts 1:8

“The Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things. The Holy Spirit will remind you of everything I have said to you.” – John 14:26

The Holy Spirit Will Come Upon You

The Holy Spirit will come upon you. The power of the most high will overshadow you. – Luke 11:35
 
After they prayed, the place was shaken. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit. – Acts 4:31
 
A sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on them. All were filled with the Holy Spirit. They spoke in other languages as the Spirit enabled.  – Acts 2:1-4

When the Spirit of God and Christ comes to you, it is a sacred and holy act. The imagery is striking. A weight pressed upon us, a presence that overshadows. The nearest comparison we have in our physical flesh is when a husband and wife become one on their wedding night. Consider the verbs used to describe the act of receiving the Holy Spirit, of becoming one with God and Christ. Violent sounds, shaking, tongues aflame, being filled, speaking, seeing, hearing, hands roaming, receiving into ourselves this sacred gift from God.

Repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The gift is for all whom the Lord will call.” – Acts 2:38-39

God gives the Holy Spirit to those who obey him. Our Prince and Savior gives repentance and forgiveness of sins. – Acts 5:31-32

In the same way that our wedding vows are a promise of fidelity, we agree to turn from all others and love only the one who gave himself for us. Water baptism is our spiritual wedding ceremony, a public profession that we are united with Christ until death in this body.

“We cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.” – Acts 4:20

With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord. – Acts 4:?

They all spoke the word of God boldly. – Acts 4:31

When in love, we cannot help but speak about our spouse, to testify to what she or he does and is. This is as it should be, both at the beginning and throughout the life of our marriage. Should not our love for God be even greater?

Because the Holy Spirit had not yet come upon any of them, Peter and John placed their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit. – Acts 8:15-17

Can you recall your spiritual wedding ceremony, your baptism and public announcement of fidelity to God and Christ? Baptism does not save us, but it is our confession that we will, from that moment on, be loyal to God and Christ and honor this holy union.

Have you experienced the sacred intimacy that comes when you are joined in holy union with God and Christ? If not, find three or four disciples of Christ who will witness your wedding. Be baptized with water. Afterwards, ask your witnesses to lay hands upon you and baptize you with His Spirit. On that day you will experience the gift promised by God. You will become one with your Lord and Savior. Your bridegroom is waiting.

“I, Christ, am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.” John 14:20

The Holy Spirit Will Speak to You

The Spirit told Phillip, “Go to that chariot and stay near it.” – Acts 8:29

“The Holy Spirit says. . .” – Acts 21:11

“The Holy Spirit spoke the truth to your forefathers when he said. . . “ Acts 28:25

“As the Holy Spirit says: ‘Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.’” – Hebrews 3:7-11

“The Spirit came into me and raised me to my feet, and I heard him speaking to me.” – Ezekiel 2:2

“When they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. – Matthew 10:19-20

“The Spirit of truth will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.” – John 16:13

The Holy Spirit Will ACT UPON You

The Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Phillip away. – Acts 8:39 Phillip next appeared in Azotus, 19 miles away. – Acts 8:40

“Having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in. . . “ – Acts 16:6

“The Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to. . .” – Acts 16:7 “Therefore we concluded that God had called us to preach the gospel to. . . “ – Acts 16:10

Compelled by the Spirit, I am going. . . not knowing what will happen to me.” – Acts 20:23

“The Holy Spirit has made you overseers.” – Acts 20:28

The Holy Spirit Will WARN You

“The Holy Spirit warned me. . .“ – Acts 20:23

The Holy Spirit Will INSTRUCT You 

“It seemed good to the Holy Spirit not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements.” – Acts 15:28-29, Acts 21:25

  • Do not eat food sacrificed to idols.
  • Do not eat meat from strangled animals.
  • Do not drink blood.
  • Abstain from sexual immorality.

Some Observations as You Consider This Gift God Gives

  • The Holy Spirit is a gift from God. 
  • God gives the Holy Spirit to those who love Christ, keep His commands, and repent.
  • The Holy Spirit is a Helper, and Advocate, and with us forever. The Holy Spirit councils, teaches, and reminds us what Christ and God said. The Holy Spirit speaks, instructs, warns, moves, retrains, and prompts us. 
  • The Holy Spirit is Truth.
  • The Holy Spirit lives in you and with you.
  • The world does not know the Holy Spirit nor can it accept the Holy Spirit. This gift is only for those who accept Christ as their savior and exchange their life for his.
  • We receive the Holy Spirit through baptism. Christ commanded, “Baptize them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.” Matthew 28:19 
  • Our union with the Holy Spirit often comes with:
    • sounds
    • shaking
    • warmth
    • speaking in words or utterances we cannot understand
    • speaking in different languages 
  • Through the Holy Spirit God, Christ, and you become one.
  • Through the Holy Spirit we have power.
  • Through the Holy Spirit we are witnesses to Christ. We testify about Christ. We speak the word of God boldly. 
  • For most, the coming of the Holy Spirit is the only advent we will experience. The coming of the Holy Spirit is Christ coming to us to be with us and dwell in us forever. We celebrate the birth of Christ and look forward to his coming in glory, but he seeks to be with us now. Will you welcome him in?

Advent – The Coming of Christ In Us – Wait for the Gift My Father Promised

Wait for the Gift My Father Promised

“Wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about.” – Acts 1:4

“John baptized with water. In a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” – Acts 1:5

“You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you.” – Acts 1:8

“You will be my witnesses to the ends of the earth.” – Acts 1:8

“The Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things. The Holy Spirit will remind you of everything I have said to you.” – John 14:26