Monday, April 19, 2010

Pentecost - Conceived and Received

A “Go With God” moment.

For 105 of our seniors, this will be the final Monday Memo and the last time I will write to you (at least as a student). It’s difficult for me to express to you in words how proud of you I am. Just think of all that you have accomplished in the last 4 years, you have tackled the impossible; reading all the assigned books (well, most of them anyway), written countless papers, and attended class after class (upwards of 1800 by my count). But in the end, that is simply what you have done. I am proud of who you have become. You know, Being vs. Doing. The joy of being a professor comes as we watch the transformation which takes place inside of you between your freshmen and your senior year. Child psychologists tell us that the greatest spurt of human development takes place between birth and 18 months. But we know the greatest spiritual development takes place from the time you begin making your own decisions for Jesus (can you say, “freshmen year at IWU”). We as your professors have the delight to watch you do this for four consecutive years. Yes, you made many poor decisions. But each time picked yourself up and moved forward, leaning into the voice of Jesus, following ever more intently. May I simply say, “Thank you for letting us, your faculty watch the Lord work in your life.”

Much of your post-IWU life will be learning how to lean into the future God has for you, rather than timidly approaching God’s plans. That is why in the past several weeks, I have been talking about looking ahead to Pentecost, (May 23rd), preparing yourself for the arrival of the Spirit just like you may be gearing up for the summer or graduation. We have talked about several biblical passages that discuss the gift of Pentecost, but can I give you one huge observation that the early church put forward to speak about Pentecost as being the high-point of a Christian’s life. Read the Apostles Creed.

I believe in God, the Father Almighty,
the Maker of heaven and earth, and


in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord:

Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, dead, and buried;

He descended into hell.

The third day He arose again from the dead;

He ascended into heaven,
and sits on the right hand of God the Father Almighty;
from thence he shall come to judge the living and the dead.


I believe in the Holy Spirit;
the one holy unified church;
the communion of saints;
the forgiveness of sins;
the resurrection of the body;
and the life everlasting.

I am certain that you quickly notice that the creed is broken into three stanzas, one to each member of the Holy Trinity. But did you also note that the statements about the Father and the Son simply describe what they have done. It is not until we get to the third stanza pertaining to the Holy Spirit that we are told in rapid fire succession what is appropriated for us through the salvation of God; the gift of the Church, the fellowship of the body, the forgiveness of our sins, our own resurrection and eternal life. Chris Bounds said it to me this way, “What is conceived at Easter was not received until Pentecost.”

So, as you prepare for Pentecost this year, think of it as a means of leaning into your life of faith, “receiving the Holy Spirit” as Jesus offered in John 20. May He infuse you with Himself.

Lord Jesus;
May we receive all You have for us, without hesitation.

May we ingest Your goodness and may it saturate our very being.

May we conquer our temptations in our own desert places just as powerfully as You did.

May we be empowered to love You and one another fully.

May Pentecost be a present day reality.


Now, Go with God.


Monday, April 12, 2010

Passion for Pentecost

A “Go With God” moment.

As we look ahead to Pentecost, (remember May 23rd) I would like for you to think about preparing yourself for the arrival of the Spirit just like you may have geared up for Lent. You may ask, “Why?” Simply think about how valuable the coming of the Holy Spirit is to the Gospel writers themselves. In John’s Gospel, Jesus specifically says that it is “good that I go away” because then, and only then will another comforter will come (John 16:7). Luke lays down a similar climatic premise when the Resurrected Jesus says to His disciples “
I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:49) And the promise of the Father is not an eternal home in heaven, or the second coming of Jesus, but the filling of the Holy Spirit made manifest at Pentecost.

Now, would you allow me to bring this home with just a simple biblical insight that I never saw until this semester in IBS. It comes from Romans 12:1. You have probably read it more times than you can remember. But this time the truth climbed off the page and gripped my heart. “Therefore, I urge you, brothers (and sisters), in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship.” The NIV misses the mark with this translation, for the word “sacrifice” is singular in the Greek, NOT plural. Do you see it? The simple observation of a plural noun (your bodies) being focused into a singular metaphor (living sacrifice). To me, this changes everything. Paul is not depicting a person in the act of consecration alone at an altar of prayer. Rather, you are seen as one person among many, who consecrate their lives to the good of the whole; together creating one beautiful and sweet smelling aroma to the Lord. This act, in our modern America, where the individual’s rights and privileges reign supreme, may be the most powerful display of the Work of the Holy Spirit. Pentecost calls us to individually put aside any and all ambitions which might lean in the direction of self-centeredness and rather take upon us the image of “other-centeredness” (check out Phil 2:3-4).

Lord Jesus;
What will cause us to lose ourselves and be refashioned into a “living sacrifice”?

What will it take to look and think like You Lord?

What will empower us to be seen as loving You and one another fully?

What will refashion Your image; the Imago Dei in us?

Lord, it seems as if I am asking the wrong question Lord. It’s not what but who.
Lord, we long for nothing short of You; Your precious cleansing Holy Spirit.

Come sweet Pentecost, from there we will walk in a new manner; not to be served, but to serve; and gives ourselves away to others.


Go with God.


Monday, April 5, 2010

After Easter, What is Next?

A “Go With God” moment.

Welcome back from our Easter “Holy-day.” Did you take any time over the time away and reflect that Easter is the end of Lent? We have spent the last six weeks preparing ourselves, through acts of personal denial, to be ready for Easter…and now it’s over. So now we as Christians can now put the spiritual stuff to rest until the end of the semester? Right? I mean nothing comes after Easter of any significance until Advent and Christmas. Nothing tops the Resurrection, right? Well, may I correct your Church calendar theology. Easter is in actuality a pre-cursor of another event in the life of the church that is yet to be encountered; Pentecost. Originally, Pentecost was one of the three main pilgrimage feasts in the life of ancient Israel. It comes 50 days after Passover, in conjunction with the celebration of the harvest. In the early church it also commemorates the arrival of the Holy Spirit in the midst of the praying 120. According to Luke’s theology, it is the climax of the promise made by the Father (Luke 24:45-49). Wow, the Resurrection is not the spiritual trump card? And it is what the early church was instructed to wait for in Acts 1:4-8.

May I put it to you simply? Jesus’ death and resurrection is more than a means of forgiving your sins. If that is the way you view Easter, your thinking is far too reductionistic, self-centered, and reeks of a modern western individualism. Rather, the New Testament as a whole understands Easter as a portent for making possible the shaping of the Body of Christ into His Image here on earth. This is continually portrayed in the New Testament in a corporate/community sense, not individually. Maybe we can think of Pentecost this way, “Through the Power of the Holy Spirit, WE are being fashioned into ONE.” Those are not really my original thoughts, but they are a paraphrase of Jesus’ prayer to His Father in John 17. Remember that John chapters 14-16, at least in part, are about the Gift of the Holy Spirit. Jesus actually tells the disciples that “it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.” (John 16:7)

Now, listen to the Son pray:
“My prayer is not for them [disciples] alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” (John 17:20-21).

Think of it this way, Easter and the Ascension lay the groundwork for Pentecost, the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the church; empowering us to live a “Christ-like life.” And that Christ-like life is best described in “one-ness.” And the best model is the Trinity. The concept of Pentecost should be that we resemble the relationship of the Father-Son-Holy Spirit. And if you say, “That’s impossible,” I dare say, you have just limited the work of God in your life. Make that our life. For your faith indeed impacts my life, for good or for...well you get the picture.

BTW, Pentecost Sunday is May 23rd.

Lord Jesus;
We desperately need the power of Your Spirit in our lives.
But Jesus, power as You define it, not my concept
Make it Your Will and Your way.
I want nothing short of Your work.
Make me an instrument for the world to see You.
You may begin today.

Now, Go with God.