Come Away

My son and his bride
“My beloved speaks and says to me: “Arise, my love, my beautiful one, and come away, for behold, the winter is past; the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth, the time of singing has come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land. The fig tree ripens its figs, and the vines are in blossom; they give forth fragrance. Arise, my love, my beautiful one, and come away.”
‭‭Song of Solomon‬ ‭2‬:‭10‬-‭13‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Sunday will mark the 7th Wedding Anniversary of my son and his bride. A lot has happened in seven years for them including a growing family. So I offered to watch my grandsons, three years old and one, for an overnight date for my son and his bride. I told my daughter in law, “You need to go out alone and remember why it was you got married in the first place.” I remember what it was like. Having had four children of my own. My mother in law offered to watch them for my husband and I to go away for our anniversary, so I wanted to give my own daughter in law the same gift my mother in law gave me.

This morning I awoke at 5 am. I contemplated staying in bed a little while longer, but I heard the still small voice say to me, “Come away with me.” So I quietly snuck out of my room, fixed a cup of coffee and headed to my upper deck that faces East. Time to watch the sunrise with the lover of my soul, Jesus.

As I have sat here listening to the sounds of morning, in particular the cooing of the doves in the distance, I was reminded of the verses above. And I thought about how I was as a young mom of four. Laundry!! Lots of it! Cooking, cleaning, baths, and boo boos. My life was preoccupied. When I finally got all my kids to sleep, my mind was not on my romantic relationship with my husband. I was distracted. Getting away with him helped me to lay aside all the responsibilities and to remember why it was I fell in love, or as I told my daughter in law, “why you wanted to get married in the first place.”

My heart toward God is not that different. Things crowd in. They occupy my mind and my time. And He calls to me, “Come away!” He wants me to remember why it was I fell in love with Him.

There was a time when the disciples had a time of busy ministry doing good things, the things of God. When they got back, Jesus saw their need. He told them to come away.

“Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place.”
‭‭Mark‬ ‭6‬:‭31‬-‭32‬ ‭NIV‬‬

He still calls to His disciples, me and you today. Every morning, if I take the time to listen, He speaks. He calls me away to remember. He reminds me exactly what it was that caused me to fall in love with Him: He is so kind. He is so good. He is so patient with me. He gives me so many blessings. He speaks of His love towards me. The doves cooing, the smell of honeysuckle floating through the air, the colors of a sunrise are all His gifts to me. And His presence…none can compare. When I’ve felt Him, just a small taste of what it is like to be totally immersed in His love, my heart is overwhelmed.

This is why He calls to me. This is why He calls to you! Time with Him is not a duty that we mark off a list of chores for the day. If it is we have missed the point. He wants us to “come away with Him” so we can remember. Remember how much He loves us and we in turn will love Him all the more. Then our desire will be to be close to Him, attached, to know Him intimately.

Come away!

Pentecost in Acts: God in Us!

(I write these devotions as a daily text to my nieces. I began to share them on my blog. There is a reference to Grandma and Grandpa, my mother in law and father in law. They believed and received the gift I wrote about.)

Happy Pentecost Sunday! At Christmas we celebrated God with us. At Easter we celebrated God restoring relationship with us. Today we celebrate God in us!!

I want to encourage you today to reflect on the precious presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives. He is the comforter, the teacher, the intercesor, the one who empowers us. The promise of the Holy Spirit’s infilling is for today.

Your Grandma and Grandpa testified frequently to the difference they experienced when they received the Baptism of the Holy Spirit that we read about in Acts. They also practiced daily praying in tongues or praying in the Spirit. This is a part of your rich heritage. This gift of a prayer language that we read about in Ephesians:

“praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication…” Ephesians 6:18 ESV

This Builds us up in our faith. I have experienced its benefits in my life as well. I pray often in the Spirit. It is a daily practice that has helped me in my walk with the Lord.

“But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit,” Jude 1:20 ESV

I mention all of this because I know how hard it is to live victoriously in this world. This is one of the tools that God has given us to help us to overcome sin. I would encourage you to ask the Holy Spirit to fill you and to desire all that He has for you.

“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” 2 Corinthians 13:14 ESV

The Apostle Paul spoke of the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. That is spending time with Him as a friend. I know only a small portion of what this is and I want to know it more. May we all desire to know Him as our dear and closest Friend. Love you all!

Pentecost in Acts: Acts 28 Paul, A Life Full of the Promise

The final chapter of Acts tells of Paul’s time on the island of Malta and the miracles that happened there and his arrival at Rome. No matter what the circumstances or possible opposition, Paul preached to everyone and anyone who would listen to him.

The final verse of Acts says this:

“He proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ—with all boldness and without hindrance!” Acts 28:31 NIV

He lived a life that experienced the promised power to be a witness. He knew how to receive comfort in hard times from the Holy Spirit. His life is an example of what being full of the Holy Spirit is like.

Tomorrow is Pentecost Sunday. It is a time to remember the wonderful promise fulfilled in the upper room years ago. We have an invitation to not only remember, but to receive Him into our lives and to pray for Him to fill us and overflow us. We can know the Holy Spirit and experience His fellowship, His closeness.

Come Holy Spirit!

Pentecost in Acts: Acts 27 All Things For Good!

Paul sails to Rome, but along the way his ship ends up in a terrible storm and the lives of those aboard are in peril. Those aboard the ship “gave up all hope of being saved.”But God continues to speak to Paul about the situation. Paul told those aboard the ship with him:

“For this very night there stood before me an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I worship, and he said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before Caesar. And behold, God has granted you all those who sail with you.’” Acts 27:23-24 ESV

What God spoke to Paul eventually came to pass. The ship was dashed to pieces on rocks, but everyone on the ship survived.

This story may seem like a horrible detour, unfair to a man that desired to live his life only for Jesus. But, God had a purpose in it!

We go through things we do not understand, hardships… As we have yielded our lives to the Holy Spirit and trust God, we will see that God does work all things out for our good and for His glory.

May we trust Him more!

Pentecost in Acts: Acts 26 Almost Persuaded

Paul was brought before King Agrippa to plead his case. He once again tells his testimony of how he had an encounter with the living, resurrected Jesus. In that encounter, Jesus told Paul what his mission in life would be when he met him on the road to Damascus.

“But rise and stand upon your feet, for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you, delivering you from your people and from the Gentiles—to whom I am sending you to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’” Acts 26:16-18 ESV

He was testifying of the power of God that enables us to turn from the darkness of sin- anything we do that is against God’s laws and separates us from God. He told everyone he was in contact with about what he had both physically and spiritually experienced, a God who could take eyes that are blind- unable to see God’s ways and truth- and make them see. He spoke of forgiveness from God for the wrongs we have done and being set apart for God’s purposes through faith.

This is all still available to us today. The Holy Spirit continues to move our hearts to desire to know all of what Paul was telling King Agrippa about. We have a choice. King Agrippa did too. But his response was truly a sad one.

“And as he was saying these things in his defense, Festus said with a loud voice, “Paul, you are out of your mind; your great learning is driving you out of your mind…In a short time would you persuade me to be a Christian?”” Acts 26:24, 28 ESV

Paul’s desire was not simply to be free of his chains. His desire was that everyone he came in contact with would know the Jesus he knew. Paul wanted them to experience the relationship with the Holy Spirit he was experiencing. His response was this to the Kings question.

“And Paul said, “Whether short or long, I would to God that not only you but also all who hear me this day might become such as I am—except for these chains.”” Acts 26:29 ESV

This is why I write these things to you. I know from experience the power of God who broke off the chains of sin by which I was held captive. I can tell you the difference of walking in the darkness of my own ways as opposed to walking into the light of God’s path- His ways. Do not be “almost persuaded” to surrender your heart entirely to God! King Agrippa walked away from Paul’s testimony of Jesus that day unchanged. May we see the value of what he spoke and seek out the relationship he described. It is the only way!

Pentecost in Acts: Acts 25 Surrendered!

Paul stands trial before Festus and is brought before King Agrippa. This chapter has little to say about the Holy Spirit and His working in the situation. But we know from other books of the Bible that Paul spent his time of imprisonment, being chained to Roman guards, witnessing to them about Jesus and to all of those he came in contact with. The Holy Spirit also guided him as he wrote several of our books of the New Testament including Philippians, a book about God’s joy filling us in times of difficulty.

Wherever Paul was he was totally surrendered to the Holy Spirit using him. May our lives be the same!

Pentecost in Acts: Acts 24 When It’s Convenient…

Paul stood before Felix the governor. The High Priest brought in a lawyer to level accusations against him. Paul once again used this opportunity to present his faith in Jesus. Felix would call for Paul off and on several times.

I am struck by Felix’s reaction this time:

“As Paul talked about righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and said, “That’s enough for now! You may leave. When I find it convenient, I will send for you.”” Acts 24:25 NIV

Do we react as Governor Felix did? He was afraid when faced with his own shortcomings/ SINS. He told Paul he had heard enough for now, and he felt he could listen at his convenience. May that never be the way we respond!

The Holy Spirit points out our shortcomings/ SINS so we can repent of them. In repentance, there is freedom. Acknowledging that we have done wrong and we need forgiveness as well as the Holy Spirit’s power to overcome the SIN is the path to freedom from the SIN that holds us in chains! When the Holy Spirit points to an area of our lives that we have chosen sin over God’s way, may we be eager to repent!

Felix did not want to rely on God for freedom from SIN. He did not want to live as God wanted him to. He did not want to hear of the judgement he faced if he did not come to God in repentance. Felix wanted HIS own way above God’s. He thought he could come to God when it was “convenient.” He had his own power, position, and authority. He did not want to surrender in total obedience, total submission, and total dependence on God. He chose to remain in the darkness of his SIN.

May we have a soft heart towards the Holy Spirit and be quick to repent!

Pentecost in Acts: Acts 23 Experience Him

Paul stood on trial before the Sanhedrin, the religious rulers of the Jewish people. He knew some were Pharisees and some Sadducee’s. These were two different groups of the leaders. One of the differences was their belief in the resurrection of the dead. Paul knew this so he stated his belief in the resurrection. This caused an uproar between his accusers, and once again they wanted to kill him. They were about to tear him into pieces. Even so, the Holy Spirit gave Paul boldness to continue to testify. Jesus even came to Him in a vision, telling him he would go to Rome to testify.

Once again difficult circumstances surrounded Paul: accusations, beatings, imprisonment, death, etc. He could have recanted his stories, told his accusers he was a liar and he was sorry. He could have denied what he was proclaiming as truth. It would have all stopped and he more than likely would have been free. Perhaps they would have even made him a hero.

Why did Paul continue? He had a personal, face to face encounter with Jesus. He was changed. The Holy Spirit dwelled within Him. He was not the same man that was on the road to Damascus years before.

It is a known fact that out of the twelve disciples that followed Jesus before His death, eleven of them died as martyrs. Something they saw and experienced made them willing to die for what they believed. People do not die a martyr for a lie willingly. They had experienced truth!

John described it this way:

“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us—” 1 John 1:1-2 ESV

God wants us to experience Him. This is why the Holy Spirit came to live within us. So we could see and touch. We can feel Him. Then we are able to testify to what we know!

May we experience the Holy Spirit’s presence in our lives!

Pentecost in Acts: Acts 22 Testify!

There is power in the testimony of what Jesus had done for you. Paul was not afraid to tell the people his testimony, even though it was controversial and unacceptable to testify that Jesus, God’s son wanted Paul to go to the gentiles to proclaim God’s favor towards them. Paul knew God had chosen him years before on the road to Damascus to do just that. Ananias told Paul shortly after his encounter with Jesus himself:

“…The God of our fathers appointed you to know his will, to see the Righteous One and to hear a voice from his mouth; for you will be a witness for him to everyone of what you have seen and heard.” Acts 22:14-15 ESV

We have been called too. The Holy Spirit given to us as well empowers us to testify. We are to know this is His will. We are to “be a witness for him to everyone of what we have seen and heard.” Our testimony of God’s goodness in our lives will point others to the truth we have found. Lives will be changed!

Come Holy Spirit make us witnesses! Let us share our testimony!

Pentecost in Acts 21:1-16: We Need Him

The Holy Spirit spoke to the believers who were friends with Paul. He told them that Paul would be arrested in Jerusalem. Paul already knew this as well, and he was fully convinced that God had told Him to go to Jerusalem any way. He was prepared to suffer whatever he would suffer. Because he knew he had to testify of Jesus there.

Sometimes the direction of our lives leads us down hard roads. This does not mean that God is not with us when we face difficulty, or that we have missed God’s will. God has a plan in each and every path He places us on. The end of that plan is always for our good and for His glory! We can trust Him in this. Hardship is part of life here in a world that is tainted by sin. The only place we find free of that is heaven where there are no more tears, no more sadness, no more sorrow.

This is why our loving Heavenly Father sent the Holy Spirit to us. He is the Comforter. The question arises as we look more intently at the Holy Spirit within us: Do we need the Holy Spirit? YES! I love what, I believe, was Robert Morris said with regards to this question, “Are you kidding, I need the Holy Spirit just to go to Walmart.” We need His comfort, we need His guidance, we need His teaching, We need His power. The Holy Spirit in us is God’s gift to help us navigate life’s hardest twist and turns.

May we seek to know Him better and to live our lives in His fullness!