Saturday, October 03, 2009

Holy Spirit Power

Today’s Reading: Acts 8:14-17 NIV

14 When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them. 15 When they arrived, they prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, 16 because the Holy Spirit had not yet come upon any of them; they had simply been baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. 17 Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.

Good morning!

Something miraculous happens when believers lay hands on you and pray. It is hard to adequately describe the wonder-working power of a Spirit-filled prayer.

The Sunday before I had neck surgery to repair crushed discs in my cervical spine, our Faith congregation gathered in the middle of the church aisle to lay hands on me and pray in community for my physical healing. Pastors Kim and Jeff held my hands and shoulders, as folks stood behind, placing their hands on the shoulders of the people standing next to them. The entire room was filled with praying believers, asking for the power and the presence of the Holy Spirit to illuminate my life; to heal my body and work through the gifts of the physicians, who would be the hands of Christ in the operating room the next day. I knew I was healed before I ever left the sanctuary on Sunday morning. I had the confirmation of the Holy Spirit working within me, telling me so.

Why is it important to seek out the Holy Spirit in your life? We cannot help but be drawn to the stories of the Apostles in the Book of Acts, as it was their sure defense against an unbelieving world. It is only through the Holy Spirit power, alive and working within them, that made an everlasting difference for all people.

The Holy Spirit provides courage in the midst of danger and adversity. The Spirit helps us discern Truth and speak it with power and authority; this can only come from faith in Jesus Christ. When we fail to make right choices, it is the Holy Spirit’s prompting within that helps us turn around and repent. But the most important piece of the Spirit’s life song is how He draws us into deeper relationship with Christ every minute of every day. When I pray in the morning, I realize I have no ability with which to reach out and connect to my kinsman redeemer. He reaches into me through the wonder working power of His Spirit, and I am immediately drawn to Him; when I ask to come into His presence, it is His call that I respond to. Believing in Jesus Christ is a choice all of us must make; yet choosing comes only by and through the Holy Spirit power. If you want to walk with Jesus every day, you must not hesitate to ask for the gift of the Spirit power to convict, cleanse, and comfort you. We learn just how important it is to trust in His direction, as we journey toward life everlasting.

The Holy Spirit was moving and shaking in the pre-op area of the hospital Monday morning. Just before I was taken from the holding area into the operating room, Jeff, Cindy and I took the hands of the physicians and anesthesiologists, and we prayed over the healing miracle that would unfold during surgery. It was comforting for me to feel Christ in that room and I witnessed that same presence fall down and touch the hearts of my doctors. They wiped tears from their eyes while pushing my gurney down the hallway. I just couldn’t help but sing! The medication had already started to make me sleepy; yet, I was determined to praise the Lord with every breath I had. So I sang an entire verse and chorus of Great is Thy Faithfulness. I remember the anesthesiologist saying to me, “You are a singer – you have a beautiful voice.” I looked at him and whispered, “I love to praise the Lord with my life.” Even in this moment, I was given yet another opportunity to share Christ with praise and thanksgiving, and it was only because of the Holy Spirit power working within my body and soul.

The gift that Jesus gave to His Apostles is available to you and me today. You can have His Holy Spirit power right now. The Samaritans are proof positive that this gift is for all who believe. Do not hesitate to invite the Holy Spirit to come into your life today. It is Christ’s gift, given to you.

Grace and peace,

Deb Spaulding

Faith UMC - St. Charles, MO


© Copyright 2009, Deb Spaulding

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Friday, October 02, 2009

"Performance or Genuine Faith"

Today's reading: Acts 8:9-13 (NIV) 9Now for some time a man named Simon had practiced sorcery in the city and amazed all the people of Samaria. He boasted that he was someone great, 10and all the people, both high and low, gave him their attention and exclaimed, "This man is the divine power known as the Great Power." 11They followed him because he had amazed them for a long time with his magic. 12But when they believed Philip as he preached the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. 13Simon himself believed and was baptized. And he followed Philip everywhere, astonished by the great signs and miracles he saw.

Scene I: Hey you – look over here at what I am doing! I am Simon and I can do amazing things because I have the power. Watch me, I will perform magic, I can tell you about your future, I know when it will rain and where a good place to plant your crops are. Come back everyday, I will have a new message for you and I want you to see what I can do for you.

Scene II: Sir, I believe you are new in town, may I help you? Do you and your friends need a place to stay or food? No, we are fine; we have enough for the Lord God has been providing for us. We have joined together and share our food and belongings and help each other and all our needs are met. We believe in Jesus Christ, the son of God, who was crucified in Jerusalem, have you heard about him? You haven’t, well let me tell you about Jesus.

When the good news of the kingdom of God is preached, people listen! There is something miraculous about God’s word and it has nothing to do with being magical. There are no tricks when God’s word is spoken or read or heard. They are God’s word, nothing less than divine!

Have you known someone like Simon with the attitude of it’s all about me? Trying to have a conversation with them is difficult and often doesn’t last long. I find myself trying to stay away from those conversations, probably not the right thing to do.

How about knowing someone like Philip? Perhaps a friend or acquaintance whose mere presence, behavior, character, kindness and compassion all exude a deep spiritual life. Those are the kind of people I love to be around, they encourage me to be better, they are the type of person I want to strive to be, I want to grow spiritually because of what I witness in them.

This is possibly the type of person Philip was, for people listened to him and they believed. The scripture does not tell us what type of speaker he is or if he is a leader, it tells us of the power behind him and the truth of the message he shared. It tells us that the Holy Spirit is at work in Philip, in the hearts and mind of the Samaritans and even in Simon. They believed and were baptized. Do you know someone that needs to hear about Jesus so they too will be baptized?

If you do, be Philip and share Christ with others.

Dorothy Brucks
Aldersgate UMC
Nixa, Mo.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

"Samaria comes Alive"

Today's reading: Acts 8:4-8 (NIV) 4Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went. 5Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Christ there. 6When the crowds heard Philip and saw the miraculous signs he did, they all paid close attention to what he said. 7With shrieks, evil spirits came out of many, and many paralytics and cripples were healed. 8So there was great joy in that city.

I am so glad that the preachers did not give up when the people were scattered into Judea and Samaria. I can not imagine what might have happened to the gospel message and Christian faith as we know it today.

My faith is largely affected by my own past experiences. I recall the years in high school when I first became interested in God. I starting taking bible study at a local Episcopal church and eventually joined that church my senior year. That was my very first faith step taken by my own choice.

Later in my adulthood is when my heart opened wide to the Lord and I began my spiritual journey with Christ. When God’s word is preached and taught, amazing things happen. Verse 6 is evidence of this for sure. But why Samaria, not the place one would think these new Christians would have traveled to, since Jews and Samaritans hadn’t mixed well. That is preciously where God wanted them to travel in order to share the message of the resurrection with those that had not yet believed.

Each time I take a step to share about the love Jesus has provided for me, I know that God is providing my courage (miraculous sign vs 6). If the conversation continues and someone asks me more, or I sense they are seeking (paying close attention vs. 6), I dig a little more and share a deeper personally and ask questions of them. At times like these I am very close to God, He draws me into Him.

When joy is present in one’s life greater things are yet to come (from a familiar contemporary song). As the spirit of God fills the hearts of the congregation ministry is done by more and more. Crowds begin to come to hear about this joy. Our pastors preach the gospel and reveal how others too can receive the joy.

The kingdom of Samaria came alive with belief as Philip shared in his ministry. The church is alive today because of the ministry of many over the generations, because God wants every last individual to have the opportunity to hear the Good News! Won’t you share it?

Dorothy Brucks
Aldersgate Church, Nixa, MO.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

"Better reasons to go house to house."

Today’s reading: Acts 8:1-3 (NIV)

1And Saul was there, giving approval to his death. On that day a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. 2Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him. 3But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off men and women and put them in prison.

Stephen’s death was peace-filled and is an example to us of how we can face our own mortality, desiring to make ourselves ready to see Jesus at the right hand of God. However, for those around him war was breaking out and the Jewish people were executing their prisoner. Over the past 3 – 4 decades there have been many prisoners of war in these modern times. We have heard their stories of capture, torture, death, trial and for some, return. Not much has changed.

What has changed as a result of Stephen’s ministry and his willingness to claim Jesus as the savior is the fulfillment of the Christ’s message in Acts 1:8 ‘you will receive the power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’ Stephen declared Jesus as Lord and revealed him as worthy of worship and praise. Luke the writer, shares this message because he desperately wants people to see Jesus to believe in His divine nature.

I found it interesting how Luke introduces Saul by name, saying Saul was there and approved of the stoning. The writer makes mention of him by name to draw attention to him as a man of influence. God has another plan in mind about Saul and he wanted everyone to remember his name and what he had done, thus it was spoken and written.

As I open my heart to allow the presence of the Holy Spirit in, He gives me strength and He gives me peace. When you recognize what a strong man of God Stephen was, we take that with us, we must remember why he endured to the end. When we need to endure the challenges we face, remember the face of Stephen and draw upon his example.

Many left the area; many stayed to be sent to prison and killed. I want to follow in Stephen’s steps and share the gospel message, not scattered or kept from sharing the gospel. As believers we must be in prayer and we must start at home. Our pastor Dennis prays weekly with 5 other pastors of other denominations here in Nixa and they pray for each other in ministry, their congregations, the community and how together we can reach the un-churched, to serve them and introduce them to Christ. They do this because it is the right thing to do. Christians are scattered over our land and have the common thread of the Holy Spirit. Introducing someone to have an opportunity to meet Christ is what God commanded us to do. We must care for the orphans and widows and go and make disciples.

Every opportunity you have, look up into the sky, whether it is cloudy, sunny or filled with dull gray storm clouds, know that Jesus is sitting at the right hand of God and is directing your life every moment of every day. Go house to house as Saul did, only go in the name of the Lord God Almighty.

Dorothy Brucks
Aldersgate UMC, Nixa, MO.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

"Enjoy the Light"

Today's reading: 2 Samuel 22:29-30 (NIV)

29 You are my lamp, O LORD; the LORD turns my darkness into light. 30 With your help I can advance against a troop with my God I can scale a wall.

As I opened a book on my desk this evening, I came across this scripture and decided that before we start the next chapter in Acts, I would share a bit about darkness and light.

It seems as though there are experts everywhere in front of us, newspapers say so, advertising tell us that, television shows try to heal us, etc. Bookstores have a giant array for self-help books on any topic. Who are the people writing or speaking these messages that millions of people receive? What is truth and what isn’t; what is reality and what isn’t; what message is really being received? Reality is, people can believe lots of things from lots of people and still find themselves failing.

I visited with Deb tonight on the phone and if you have ever had a conversation with her in person or on-line or over the phone, you just know deep within that she would never want to say anything or write anything that would lead you astray. She only wants to bring God’s light into the world, and I mean literally the world. The Lord has been her lamp throughout her life and most recently in this place she and Jeff have found themselves.

Deb sends her love to each of you and says a warm thank you for your prayers these last few weeks. Feeling has come back to several of her fingers now and one last finger, as she puts it ‘is thawing out.” She knows that God has scaled this wall with her just as He did for David in his written song of praise. God has been her helper.

Please continue your prayers for Deb and her family for yet other health issues of their children have come to the forefront this week. Their daughter Rachel had a difficult surgery today to repair her body after her cancer surgery of two years ago. Their son David had an MRI today to help doctors get his seizures back under control.

Each day as we face the next wall that is before us, we must remember there is only one expert for us to turn our lives over to and that is God and into His word. His word will never fail us or lead us astray for He turns our darkest times into light.

Enjoy the light!

Dorothy Brucks
Aldersgate UMC
Nixa, MO

Monday, September 28, 2009

"It is Not the Final Call"

Today's reading: Acts 7:54-60 (NIV) 54When they heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. 55But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56"Look," he said, "I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God."

57At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, 58dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul.

59While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." 60Then he fell on his knees and cried out, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them." When he had said this, he fell asleep.

The curtain rises for the climatic ending of Stephen’s ministry and the scene begins with the Sanhedrin men gnashing their teeth. The crowd went wild in response to Stephen’s testimony, fierce gnashing of teeth in anger and rage. Stage right we see Stephen, looking up, ever so confident in what he is seeing in front of his eyes; he goes on to announce to everyone “Look, I see the heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” What a power declaration in front of the entire audience that had gathered. Every last individual present heard his words and the men of Israel would not tolerate this claim.

What if, for 20 minutes, every ear in our houses of worship listened to every word of the sermon? What if, the good news was received by open hearts? Would the reaction of the people be as dynamic as with the scene at the end of Stephen’s life? Would the ones that hear rush with urgency to share the message? Or do many ‘cover our ears’ so to speak by nodding off during worship, or not opening our bibles to read the scripture, or write notes to the person next to us about where we are going to lunch after church?

The sand and dirt covered Stephen’s feet most likely, his clothes were torn as they drug him outside the walls of Jerusalem, cuts and wounds were gaping open as each stone hit his body. A familiar story is unfolding in front of the people’s eyes once again.

There is a difference this time; Stephen spoke of seeing the Glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. Stephen declares the divinity of Jesus and affirms his resurrection! The Sunday sermon should be so powerfully filled with this message! Our lives must live in response to this message!

In center stage Stephen turns, looks at the men stoning him and spoke to Jesus. As you watch him fall to his knees, he speaks again to the Lord asking ‘do not hold this sin against them’ and falls asleep. A peace-filled ending to Stephen’s earthly life, but the curtain hasn’t closed on the message; the characters are you and I. The story lives on and we have Stephen to thank, God to answer to and Jesus to praise!

Dorothy Brucks
Aldersgate UMC
Nixa, MO

Sunday, September 27, 2009

"Keep trying!"

Today's reading: Acts 7:51-53 (NIV)

51"You stiff-necked people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are just like your fathers: You always resist the Holy Spirit! 52Was there ever a prophet your fathers did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered him— 53you who have received the law that was put into effect through angels but have not obeyed it."

Stephen is exhausted and exasperated by now, his speech to the members of the Sanhedrin seemed to take forever and no one was really paying attention to him. He knows he must sum it up quickly. His words take on a different tone and right away two sentences end with exclamation marks.

There are times that I too exhaust myself emotionally when I am trying to explain myself with the right words but nothing happens. My voice gets louder, my speech quickens and I begin to repeat over and over the main point.

Stephen is trying to convince minds and save souls as he made this final attempt. He accused them of accepting God’s law but adamantly declared they did not follow it. Some of us can relate this to disciplining our children to have them remind us of our past indiscretions. Anger can take over and reactions are often harsh.

The foretelling of the coming of the Messiah runs throughout Old Testament scripture, and for the Jewish people to reject Jesus as the Messiah is to have uncircumcised hearts and ears. They adhered so strictly to the law of Moses that they just could not let their hearts be open to this revealed truth.

Why is it that we humans close our hearts and ears? We do it to each other; we do it to friends and family who are the very people we are closest to. Perhaps the Sanhedrin thought it a sign of weakness to believe the message that had come from their own scripture.

There will always be people so far from the Lord that we yearn for them to open their hearts. The Lord’s message of salvation is not over; we are His disciples just as Stephen was. We must embrace the power of the Holy Spirit and speak with all courage, power, wisdom and truth and the spirit will do the work of penetrating souls.

I don’t want to let my ego get the best of me. I want the Lord to have the best of me and that means I must continually seek opportunities to share the good news of the risen savior.

Dorothy Brucks
Aldersgate Church
Nixa, MO.