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 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 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: Acts 20:22-38 Nothing Else

Paul speaks the elders at the church of Ephesus that he dearly loves. He tells them that he knows the Holy Spirit is compelling him to go to Jerusalem, and he knows that hardship awaits him. Even so, Paul has set in his heart to obey and to go. His only desire was to obey God and to do exactly what God had called him to do. Paul says this:

“But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.” Acts 20:24 ESV

Life is not easy, and living for God with a heart that is wholly His is not normal to the world around us. Because those around us who do not know God do not value Him or His ways. But Paul had an encounter with Jesus Himself, and Paul had experienced the fullness of the Holy Spirit in his life. He was forever changed and wanted to know God alone. He only wanted to please God no matter what.

Have you come to that point in your life? Have you had an experience with Jesus and found that He alone satisfies? Have you entered into fellowship with the Holy Spirit? Can you hear Him speak to you, and do you know He hears you when you pray? This is what you were created for! Nothing else matters!

My prayer is the same as Paul’s. May I testify if the grace of God in my life! God has been so very good to me! I want you to experience that same goodness! But that goodness is only experienced when you surrender your life to Him. That is when the Holy Spirit fills you to overflowing and you experience the same Jesus Paul encountered on the road to Damascus and the same Holy Spirit the disciples were filled with in the upper room at Pentecost.

May our hearts be His alone! Come Holy Spirit!

Pentecost in Acts: Acts 20:1-21 Declare Without Hesitation

Paul went from town to town and from house to house declaring Jesus. He even stated:

“…I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house,” Acts 20:20 ESV

Paul did not hesitate to preach anything that he thought would be helpful to the believers he knew. Especially the importance of faith in Jesus:

“testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.” Acts 20:21 ESV

That is how we need to live our lives. There is only one answer to the circumstances of life that we find ourselves in. There is only one truth! May we declare this to those we know. It is the only thing helpful in a world that is confusing and full of hurt!

Holy Spirit speak to us and through us!

Pentecost in Acts: Acts 19:11-41 The Word Prevails Mightily

Temple site for Artemis
“And God was doing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul,” Acts 19:11 ESV

People were being healed, demons were being cast out, lives were being changed. People who had practiced sorcery brought their scrolls they used to do so and burned them. They were turning wholeheartedly to God!

“So the word of the Lord continued to increase and prevail mightily.” Acts 19:20 ESV

This disturbed Demetrius, a silversmith who made idols. It cut into his profits he made by selling his gals gods. So he accused Paul of discrediting the ways of the Ephesians who worshipped their “great goddess.” He stirred up a riot.

Satan is not creative in his techniques. What he did in Ephesus of Paul’s time he will do today in ours. He does not want us to get close to God. He doesn’t want miracles to occur in our lives or the lives of those we are around. He most definitely does not want God’s word to increase or prevail! He will do all he can to stop the goodness of God. But he cannot prevail!

The “great goddess Artemis” is an idol of history. She was never alive, temple in ruins, and mostly forgotten. The name of Jesus is still going strong! The Holy Spirit is still working in our lives! Our God is still victor!

Pentecost in Acts: Acts 19:1-10 The Holy Spirit Came

Paul went to Ephesus on his missionary journey. When he arrived there he found disciples there who had believed. They had not heard of the Holy Spirit and had only been baptized with John’s baptism of repentance. Paul explained:

“John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus.”” Acts 19:4 ESV

They were baptized and then Paul placed his hands on them to receive the Holy Spirit. Once again the Holy Spirit filled the people as He did on Pentecost:

“And when Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking in tongues and prophesying.” Acts 19:6 ESV

God had not changed. He filled the believers in Ephesus with the same promised power and presence of the Holy Spirit. God has not changed still today! We are a part of the promise:

“For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.”” Acts 2:39 ESV

Come Holy Spirit!

Pentecost in Acts: Acts 18 Keep Speaking!

Paul frequently went to the synagogues to reason with the Jews explaining that Jesus was the Messiah. He testified of Jesus to both Jews and Gentiles. Several times he was rejected, even to the point of hostility.

One night Jesus spoke to Paul in a vision.

“And the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent,” Acts 18:9 ESV

The world will reject knowing Jesus. There will be opposition from those who have hardened their hearts. But we are to not be afraid to speak of Jesus to those around us. Because the Holy Spirit can soften the most hardened of hearts.

We are to follow Jesus’s directive as well! “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent,”