Wednesday, May 14, 2014

I Want a Burst of the Holy Spirit

I want a burst of the Holy Spirit.  In my life, in my family, in my church, in my community, in my nation, in our world.

Today I was reading from Polhill's New American Commentary Vol. 26 about the Book of Acts in the Bible.  No, I don't often sit around reading commentaries, but do so on the occasion.  This occasion is required reading for a university class I'm taking in pursuit of my degree in biblical studies.

At any rate, in my reading, I came across a statement that hit me like a brick wall.  Polhill talked about what he learned in H. Zimmermann's "Die Sammelberichte der Apostelgeschichte" about the effect of the Holy Spirit on the church in its early years, and through the summaries found in the book of Acts.

He stated "The long summaries are the three found in chaps. 2; 4; 5.  They thus belong to the first days of Christianity after the burst of the Spirit at Pentecost.  They portray a community marked by mutual prayer and devotion, a total sharing of selves and substance, complete trust in one another, a passion for witness, a sense of the Spirit's power among them, and a unity of commitment and purpose.  They portray and ideal Christian community - the "roots" of the fellowship".

When the Holy Spirit came upon the apostles in Acts Chapter 2, they spoke in every language of every nation.  When the crowds questioned this, Peter spoke and told them of Christ's deity and the fulfillment of prophecy that had occurred with His death, burial, resurrection and ascension.  In the same chapter, in verses 41-47, we see the explosion of the church.  This is the part that I love.

Many repented, were saved and baptized, and began serving in every way possible, establishing the ideal model of the 'church'.  They came together, eager to learn and absorb as much teaching as possible.  They came together in fellowship with one another often.  They came together for the breaking of bread and in prayer with each other often.  They (as verse 43 put it) "kept feeling a sense of awe".  They came together and sold their own possessions to provide for the needs of others.  They came together in the temple with one mind, one common purpose, and spread that out into their homes and into their community.  They came together with a spirit of happiness and sincerity that was true.  They came together to praise God.  And every day people were saved.

Notice a common theme?  They came together, kept the respect and awe for God and Jesus Christ, and continued doing everything they could to reach out to others, spreading His Gospel and saving souls.

There are times in my life when I've been part of a corporate worship and felt this wonderful outpouring of the Holy Spirit.  And there are times in my life when I've been part of it and felt nothing, sometimes even a negativity that weighed measurably on the assembly.  One Pastor told me that what I experience during corporate gatherings (church worship and service) is entirely up to me, and I would only experience negativity if I let myself experience it.  And I understand that thought.  But when there is a palpable negative presence in a gathering, I find it difficult to remain uplifted and joyful, and sometimes find it hard to experience the presence of the Holy Spirit.  I've tried.  Sometimes I've succeeded in pushing the negative aside, but most often I've failed.  Is that my own shortcoming?  Perhaps.  Perhaps not.

Sometimes I wonder if the body of the church (us) squelches the Holy Spirit.  Whether it be our own hindrances, too much negativity within the congregation, sometimes too many restrictions placed on our worship practices (like whether we can raise our hands in the music worship time).  Sometimes there is an unfriendliness and uncooperative spirit about God's calling upon His church, and an unwillingness to get out of out of those four walls and into our communities.

I had to ask myself some key questions.  Do I squelch the Holy Spirit?  Do I place limits on the way other people can express their gratitude to the God we worship?  Do I allow my own fears and misgivings to hinder my own worship experience?  Far worse - does my attitude and reflection of His desires hinder others in their own worship and Kingdom service?  Woe to me if I do.

I realize there is no such thing as the "perfect" church.  If there were, I'd want to belong to it, and when I did, it would no longer be the "perfect" church.  Why?  Because I'm not perfect.  I'm weak, human, fallible, and inconsistent.  

I'm a sinner saved by the grace of God, believe in His Son, Jesus Christ and His death for the atonement of my sins, and have been forgiven, baptized and call myself a Christian.  Therefore, as promised to me, have been filled with the Holy Spirit.  I've been given my own "burst of the Holy Spirit"!

But over the years, my excitement about that has been more like a roller coaster of ups and downs, ebbs and flows.  Instead of allowing that "burst" to remain my constant source of energy and commitment to my God in His commission to spread His Gospel to the world, I've sat on my couch and kept it to myself.  I've missed the boat on so many occasions where I could have helped His church be more like that of the young church found in Acts.  Instead, I've let it fall into the state of the church in Ephesus, where the mission has sometimes persisted, but more out of drudgery and duty than out of a true, honest love for God.

There have been times that I've used that "burst" of the Holy Spirit to light the fire once again in my own life, in my family, in my church, and in the mission field.  Those times have been the best, because I have felt the power of the Holy Spirit, seen the tangible effects of dedicated servitude, and experienced the gathering of those 'like-minded' individuals - sharing love, food, clothes, and most of all - God's love, grace and salvation. Oh, how those days brought me joy!  How remembering them encourages me.  How they speak to my heart and mind.

So what does all of this have to do with anything?  To you it may not matter more than a mole hill.  But to me, they mean everything.  To me, the reminder God gave me in the second chapter of Acts wakes me up and stirs that desire in my heart and soul.  A desire for that young church.  A desire to gather with others who want to grow the Kingdom, to come together with gladness and true sincerity, working with each other - not out of duty, but out of love.

It's up to me to start.  Not rely on others.  All it takes is me, allowing the Holy Spirit to work in and through me, to encourage others, encourage others to encourage others, and so on.  It's time to return our lives, our families, our churches, our communities, our nation, and our world to those that Honor God and spread His Gospel.  It's time to be that young church in Acts.

I want that church.  I want to be a part of that life.  That worship.  That fellowship.  I want to be a force for the Love of Christ, for the increase of God's Kingdom, for the outreach to those so in need of a Savior.

I want a burst of the Holy Spirit.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Trash to Treasure

In honor of my mother, Carol Elizabeth (Dickin) Binnall, who is enjoying another Mothers Day in heaven, I wanted to post a little, simple craft.  Why?  Because my mother was really great at making something big and memorable out of very little.  She was truly a frugal homemaker.  We grew up doing crafts all the time, using whatever was available, and Mama always knew how to use scraps of about anything to help nurture our creativity.

Mama would make our birthday cake and decorate it elaborately, having taught herself all the tricks of the trade, with the very few tools my parents' budget would allow.  There were parties with our friends, she volunteered to help with Brownies, Girl Scouts, was a room mother, and more.  I remember one Halloween Sleepover she did for us and our friends where she made cupcakes and used licorice drops and licorice strips to make them look like black cats.  She sewed a lot of our clothes when we were younger, made a lot of the decor around the house, and knew how to make a meal that would satisfy our hungry family of five out of very little food.  She set the bar pretty high, and I'm grateful for the example she set for me, and the nurturing she gave our creative spirits.  Without that influence I wouldn't be as crafty as I am, and I take pride in creating much out of very little.  I'm grateful for what Mama taught me.

It's from Mama that I get my desire to repurpose what others would throw away, and create something to enjoy.   So ... here is my latest quick and easy craft project.

The last time we ate at one of our favorite restaurants, we had pancakes, and they brought out the Maple Syrup in cute little bottles.  Hubby shook his head when I took the empty bottles home in my purse, and laughed at me with his little remark "I would expect nothing less", as I asked him if he was surprised.  At first I used the little glass bottle to root some plants I had trimmed.  Then I had a wonderful idea.

This project is truly one of those where I'm glad that I save scraps of stuff.  In my craft supplies, I noticed I had some burlap flowers I'd purchased at a craft store years ago, a leftover scrap of burlap from a 12x12 sheet I purchased in the scrapbook department, and ribbon.    Perfect combination!  Let the creativity begin!

Step One:  Gather supplies.  See list above, and add scissors, rubber bands, little bitty glass bottle, and mod podge.  (You could use whatever glue you want, but I like mod podge because it's easy and sticks well.)

Step Two:  Cut burlap to fit bottle size.

Step Three:  Coat bottle with mod podge.  (My bottle of mod podge was bit enough for me to dip the little glass bottle in, so I did that and let it drip for a minute.  Then I wiped the bottom of the jar off so it didn't stick to the paper I set it on.)

Step Four:  Wrap burlap around glass bottle and hold tightly while securing it with several rubber bands.  I wrapped the rubber bands around my bottle as tightly as I could.  My bottle had a small neck on it, so I scrunched the burlap up and tied it very tightly to hold the 'scrunch'.  Then I set the bottle on a piece of paper to dry.  The rubber bands didn't stick to the bottle, so they were easy to take off when it dried.

Step Five:  After all is dry, remove the rubber bands.  Then pull off as many of the little strings from the top of the burlap as you want to create the frayed edge.  You can cut it down if it's too tall.

Step Six:  Wrap ribbon around the 'neck' of the bottle, tie it in a knot, and snip the 'tails' for a fun little look.

Step Seven:  Put burlap flowers in and voila!  You have a little fun crafty bouquet!

Here it is on my dining room table, amidst the other items I put on a doily-covered lazy susan.  It's SO cute!!

Take what you have, and find creative ways to use it to add fun and spice to your life and home!  It doesn't have to be designer, or expensive, or even made from brand new stuff!  Look outside the box and get creative!

This truly is one of those cases where "one man's trash is another man's treasure".  I'm grateful for God's provisions, and try to use what He gives in every way possible, down to the last scrap.  I'm often that way with my relationship with my Father God.  Hubby laughs at me and often says that I can turn just about anything and any situation in life into a lesson about God.  He's right.  Life is not trash unless you allow it to be trash.  It's time to turn what others would toss at you as trash into the treasure God so graciously has for you!  Be bold!  Be grateful!  Be creative!

Happy Mothers Day!