You Can’t Handle the Truth

Sometimes the truth is hard to hear. When we are involved in an argument with someone, truth may come out that brings pain and regret. Facing the reality of our sins is always hard. When Nathan confronted David about his sin of adultery, the great king had to reconcile his actions with his faith. Being told that he was breaking God’s law was something he couldn’t handle. We can’t handle it either when we are confronted with ugly truths about our behaviors and actions.

In our passage from John today, Jesus tells his disciples that they will not be able to handle the things he has to say as he is preparing to leave this world. He has been speaking about sin, righteousness, and judgment:

John 16 (Common English Bible)

“I didn’t say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you. But now I go away to the one who sent me. None of you ask me, ‘Where are you going?’ Yet because I have said these things to you, you are filled with sorrow. I assure you that it is better for you that I go away. If I don’t go away, the Companion won’t come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. 

When he comes, he will show the world it was wrong about sin, righteousness, and judgment. He will show the world it was wrong about sin because they don’t believe in me. 10 He will show the world it was wrong about righteousness because I’m going to the Father and you won’t see me anymore. 11 He will show the world it was wrong about judgment because this world’s ruler stands condemned.

That was a lot to take in. Jesus says that the world has been wrong about sin and righteousness, perhaps referring to the old way of living under the minutiae of the 613 man-made laws that supplanted the Ten Commandments. Remember that Jesus himself has clarified things according to a new way: we are to love God and love one another with all our hearts, minds, souls, and strength. The world has been wrong about him because they don’t believe in him. But judgment is coming, and the world’s ruler stands condemned. They just can’t handle this truth.

12 “I have much more to say to you, but you can’t handle it now. 

In a final act of mercy, Jesus promises to send the Spirit of Truth to continue to teach and guide them in this new way. This will enable them to handle the truths to come.

13 However, when the Spirit of Truth comes, he will guide you in all truth. He won’t speak on his own, but will say whatever he hears and will proclaim to you what is to come. 14 He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and proclaim it to you. 15 Everything that the Father has is mine. That’s why I said that the Spirit takes what is mine and will proclaim it to you.

All of the promises of God are still available. The gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost will be the deliverer.

Today as you meditate on this text, ask the Spirit of the living God to fall afresh on your heart. And ask him to reveal his truths to you and through you.

Fall Afresh on Me by Michelle Robertson

Mine! Mine!

In the Disney classic Finding Nemo we meet a group of greedy seagulls who chant “MINE! MINE!” as they forage for food. While fish and sea life are definitely their preferred diet, seagulls will also feast on human food, garbage, and refuse. Have you ever watched two seagulls tussle over a French fry in a fast food parking lot? The Disney spin that a seagull will claim anything they see as “mine” is not far from the mark. And as someone who lives near the beach, can I please make a request? DON’T FEED THE SEAGULLS. You are contributing to their behavior!

When I read today’s passage, I wondered if the early Christ-followers didn’t have a similar perspective. Jews who understood all the messianic prophecies and realized that Jesus of Nazareth was the fulfillment of all they had waited for were probably quite startled to learn that Jesus came to save everyone, including the gentiles:

Acts 10 (The Message)

44-46 No sooner were these words out of Peter’s mouth than the Holy Spirit came on the listeners. The believing Jews who had come with Peter couldn’t believe it, couldn’t believe that the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out on “outsider” non-Jews, but there it was—they heard them speaking in tongues, heard them praising God.

The proof was in the pudding. The outsiders spoke in the tongue of the Holy Spirit, a unifying voice that proclaimed that what once was “mine” is now for everyone. The outsiders have been let in.

46-48 Then Peter said, “Do I hear any objections to baptizing these friends with water? They’ve received the Holy Spirit exactly as we did.” Hearing no objections, he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.

Then they asked Peter to stay on for a few days.

With the evidence of the universality of Christ right in front of them, they acted in one accord to acknowledge the work of the Holy Spirit and confirm it with baptism in the name of Jesus. The “mine” became “ours.”

If only we could adopt that same perspective! Our bitter division, our denominationalism, our thinking that “my doctrine is better than your doctrine”…all of this surely grieves the Holy Spirit, who calls us to be one in Christ.

One body. One voice. One heart.

A quote that is attributed to many sources including John Wesley helps us to keep the main thing the main thing: “In essentials, unity. In non-essentials, liberty. And charity in all things.” If we live in a time when we can’t agree on the essentials or the non-essentials, let us at least agree on charity in all things.*

This passage points to the main thing. The Holy Spirit is the transforming power of God and will come upon whomever God chooses to come upon. The outward and visible sign of this is found in baptism, which is a confirmation of the work that God has already done. Jesus instructs us to go into the world and teach and baptize in his name. We can all agree on this.

In the kingdom of God there is no mine or yours…only ours. Go and share him with someone today.

*Read more about this quote here.

OBX Seagull by Agatha Knab

Cornerstone

The definition of the word “cornerstone” offers two meanings. A cornerstone is a stone uniting two masonry walls in the construction of a building. It also describes something that is essential, indispensable, or basic. So you can attend a ceremony where the cornerstone of a new federal building is being laid while recognizing that democracy is the cornerstone of a free society.

I like the fact that cornerstones unite walls. Think about that in a figurative way…people often put up walls around them as they draw lines around their political, religious, racial, and societal preferences. Living in community with people of opposite preferences requires that common cornerstones be used to hold things together.

Jesus is such a cornerstone. Salvation can be found in no other place, regardless of one’s thoughts or leanings. He is the uniting factor that brings disparate entities together.

Our passage in Acts today follows a healing miracle that Peter and John performed in Jesus’ name. They are immediately questioned by the leaders, elders, and legal experts:

Acts 4 (Common English Bible)

The next day the leaders, elders, and legal experts gathered in Jerusalem, along with Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, John, Alexander, and others from the high priest’s family. They had Peter and John brought before them and asked, “By what power or in what name did you do this?”

One would think that the healing of a fellow citizen would bring unity to the commUNITY and be met with joy and appreciation. One would be wrong. It only brought division.

Then Peter, inspired by the Holy Spirit, answered, “Leaders of the people and elders, are we being examined today because something good was done for a sick person, a good deed that healed him? 10 If so, then you and all the people of Israel need to know that this man stands healthy before you because of the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene—whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead. 

Peter is clear that it is only through the power of Jesus’ name that the man was healed. He was also clear that God had raised Jesus from the dead.

11 This Jesus is the stone you builders rejected; he has become the cornerstone! 12 Salvation can be found in no one else. Throughout the whole world, no other name has been given among humans through which we must be saved.”

The message of salvation is a cornerstone of our hope, our belief, and our faith. It is an essential and indispensable teaching of our faith, one that we can build upon.

Whether we allow it to unite our walls or divide us is up to us. Jesus came to save the whole world and salvation can be found in no one else. Let this be the cornerstone of your witness as you proclaim the good news of the one raised from the dead.

A Cornerstone of Faith

Wildfire

We don’t speak each other’s language today. Even those who live in the same country, occupy the same neighborhood, or live right next door to each other don’t speak the same language. We can look at the tragic events surrounding the death of George Floyd and “hear” it different ways, due to the filters we all have in our ears for processing such information.

The filters that divide our attempts at a common language draw up along the lines of black and white, conservative and liberal, rich and poor, blue and red, Democrat and Republican, and ridiculously, those who wear masks and those who refuse. Somehow we have lost the ability to hear the common language of justice, compassion, unity, and humanity.

Shame on us.

In the book of Acts, the Holy Spirit came upon the people gathered there like a “wildfire.” Wildfires are uncontrollable. They change everything they touch in an instant. Everything is treated equally in a wildfire. And this Pentecost wildfire brought an incredible gift: people of every nation were able to hear and speak each other’s language:

1-4 When the Feast of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Without warning there was a sound like a strong wind, gale force—no one could tell where it came from. It filled the whole building. Then, like a wildfire, the Holy Spirit spread through their ranks, and they started speaking in a number of different languages as the Spirit prompted them.

5-11 There were many Jews staying in Jerusalem just then, devout pilgrims from all over the world. When they heard the sound, they came on the run. Then when they heard, one after another, their own mother tongues being spoken, they were thunderstruck. They couldn’t for the life of them figure out what was going on, and kept saying, “Aren’t these all Galileans? How come we’re hearing them talk in our various mother tongues?

Parthians, Medes, and Elamites;
Visitors from Mesopotamia, Judea, and Cappadocia,
    Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia,
    Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene;
Immigrants from Rome, both Jews and proselytes;
Even Cretans and Arabs!

Even Cretans and Arabs could communicate! The power of that Holy Spirit wildfire knew no boundaries. God was enabling them to share an incredible message of the Good News of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection. They could all hear and understand the mighty works of God. They were thunderstruck with the enormity of it all.

“They’re speaking our languages, describing God’s mighty works!”

12 Their heads were spinning; they couldn’t make head or tail of any of it. They talked back and forth, confused: “What’s going on here?”

13 Others joked, “They’re drunk on cheap wine.”

Then Peter stood to give some context to what was happening. He reminded them of the Old Testament prophecies that pointed toward this very day—a day when young men would see visions and old men would dream dreams.

14-21 That’s when Peter stood up and, backed by the other eleven, spoke out with bold urgency: “Fellow Jews, all of you who are visiting Jerusalem, listen carefully and get this story straight. These people aren’t drunk as some of you suspect. They haven’t had time to get drunk—it’s only nine o’clock in the morning. This is what the prophet Joel announced would happen:

“In the Last Days,” God says,
“I will pour out my Spirit
    on every kind of people:
Your sons will prophesy,
    also your daughters;
Your young men will see visions,
    your old men dream dreams.
When the time comes,
    I’ll pour out my Spirit
On those who serve me, men and women both,
    and they’ll prophesy.
I’ll set wonders in the sky above
    and signs on the earth below,
Blood and fire and billowing smoke,
    the sun turning black and the moon blood-red,
Before the Day of the Lord arrives,
    the Day tremendous and marvelous;

This passage gives us hope that one day, through the power of the Holy Spirit, we will be able to set differences aside and hear and speak a common language.

A language of love.

A language of trust.

A language of righteousness.

A language that cries out in one voice for justice for ALL the George Floyds.

Holy Spirit, we need you now.

And whoever calls out for help
    to me, God, will be saved.”

Help us, God. We need to be saved…from ourselves.

Be the Light by Becca Ziegler

Life on God’s Terms

Toddlers are such unique creatures! Somewhere around age two to four, children move from being dependent babies to becoming individuals who are separate from their parents. This transition comes with independent thinking, resulting in children wanting to do things their way. Toddlerhood is all about trying to do life on their own terms…and it’s exhausting.

Our twin toddlers are in this stage right now, and the challenge is REAL. On any given day they refuse naps, are very particular about their clothing choices, insist on carrying their alligators all day, and will or won’t cooperate depending on their moods. Each day brings a new expression of stubborn independence.

I wonder if God ever looks at us doing the same thing and thinks to himself, “What a group of toddlers I created!” Thank God HE never gets exhausted.

Part of the challenge to “flatten the curve” of the pandemic is that some people refuse to give up freedoms they feel entitled to as part of living life on their own terms. This week a friend described watching a large group of teenagers doing “chicken fights” on the beach. It’s hard to practice social distancing on each other’s backs.

Doing life on God’s terms is always the better way. It involves asking God to move in and set up permanent residence. It requires us to give over our terms to receive the life he has promised:

Romans 8 (The Message)

9-11 But if God himself has taken up residence in your life, you can hardly be thinking more of yourself than of him.

Anyone, of course, who has not welcomed this invisible but clearly present God, the Spirit of Christ, won’t know what we’re talking about. But for you who welcome him, in whom he dwells—even though you still experience all the limitations of sin—you yourself experience life on God’s terms.

It stands to reason, doesn’t it, that if the alive-and-present God who raised Jesus from the dead moves into your life, he’ll do the same thing in you that he did in Jesus, bringing you alive to himself?

When God lives and breathes in you (and he does, as surely as he did in Jesus), you are delivered from that dead life. With his Spirit living in you, your body will be as alive as Christ’s!

I love how this passage points out that if God has taken up residence in your life, you can hardly be thinking more of yourself than of him. This is an important reminder to us in this moment. The call to obedience we experience as followers of God should have prepared us for this season of doing hard things for the greater good.

God is calling us to think more of each other than we think of ourselves. That means following all the social distancing guidelines and demanding that our kids do so as well.

These are hard days. This season will be long, and requires a lot of sacrifice. But we know that when we live life on God’s terms, we will not only experience God living and breathing in us, but we will be delivered from that dead life of living only for ourselves. God’s spirit dwelling in us guarantees it, and blesses it.

Spirit of the Living God, Fall Afresh! Photo by Lisa Cobb Lawrence

Percolating

Back before Keurigs, way before Starbucks, even before drip coffee makers with automatic shut-off switches, there was an ancient device known as a percolator. You might run across this historical artifact today in an antique store, the Pawn shop, or any local church’s kitchen.

It was a thing of beauty and simplicity. A basket that holds the coffee grounds sits atop a long, thin metal cylinder. This unit is inserted into a metal coffee pot. Water is poured into the pot, and the attached cord is plugged in. As the water heats, it bubbles and percolates up through the cylinder and over the basket, running through the coffee grounds and magically, you have coffee. You couldn’t pre-set it the night before, and you had to unplug it to turn it off, but hey, if it was good enough for the original Apollo astronauts, it was good enough.

I love the idea of percolating. Heating something up, bringing it to boil, channeling the bubbles, and then watching it produce something well-considered is a joy. Good things come when we percolate. Sermons, ideas, stories, arguments, speeches, hanging wallpaper with your spouse, new ventures, movies…all manner of things benefit from taking the time to percolate.

Percolating should precede any major decision we make. Thinking about divorce?Percolate. Contemplating a move? Percolate. Ready to pop the question? Percolate. About to send an angry email/post a snippy retort/yell at your teenager? PERCOLATE.

The reason percolating is so effective is that it gives you time to step away from your immediate and emotional response and allows the Holy Spirit to weigh in with other ways to go about doing the same thing.

Opening ourselves to God’s guidance always pays off. I learned the hard way not to immediately fire off an email when I was deeply aggravated. I learned that after a time when I fired off an email when I was deeply aggravated. I regret it to this day. How about you? Ever wish in hindsight that you had waited for the right words to come to you?

Matthew 10 (The Message)

17-20 “Don’t be naive. Some people will impugn your motives, others will smear your reputation—just because you believe in me. Don’t be upset when they haul you before the civil authorities. Without knowing it, they’ve done you—and me—a favor, given you a platform for preaching the kingdom news!

And don’t worry about what you’ll say or how you’ll say it. The right words will be there; the Spirit of your Father will supply the words.

That’s why percolating is such a helpful practice. In the slow warming up of an idea, in the increasing heat of a completed thought, and in the bubbles of the Holy Spirit rising up in your spirit, your finished product will be soooo much better. Like the best cup of brewed Sumatra with heavy cream, it will be a delight rather than a thin and possibly nasty version of what it should have been.

So take a beat. Stop and breathe. Suspend your need for instant gratification and sloooow youuuuur rolllll. Give God a chance to enter in, and let percolation have its way. The right words will be there; the Spirit of your Father will supply them. You’ll never regret letting God percolate inside you.

Fresh brewed.