Walking in the Comfort of the Holy Spirit: The Bible in Lent Day 34 

In the book of Acts, we see the Early Church starting to grow and fulfill their mission to make disciples in Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria, and the whole world. The Church was gifted with the Holy Spirit and empowered to endure through the persecution they will endure.  But there’s a unique phrase at the end of Saul’s conversion story.  So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samar′ia had peace and was built up; and walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit it was multiplied. – Acts 9:31 RSVCE We’ve seen the call to walk in the fear of the Lord many times in the Old Testament. There was a strong call to know what He is God, and we are not God.  But there was a new phrase added to this familiar call.  They walked in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit had fallen upon the people and was comforting them.  He came to teach them all things. To help them understand the fulfillment of the prophecies and all that Jesus taught on earth.  Instead of the confusion, the blindness they faced, He gives them clarity and understanding.  In Chapter 14, we see how the Holy Spirit inspires the Council at Jerusalem to properly understand the implication of the freedom from the Law of Moses for new converts.  They walked in the fear of God, as all people should, but it is no longer alone. They walk also with the comfort of the Holy Spirit guiding them, equipping them to live as God has called them.  Because in the New Covenant, we see the fulfillment of God’s promise to equip us to give us hearts that will follow Him.  Throughout the New Testament, the role of the Holy Spirit will be expanded upon. But this first little phrase change is a signpost, a marker of the change that began in the New Covenant.  And it explains the way the Christians in Acts were able to endure persecution, even to the point of death.  We see in Stephen, in Peter and John, and also in Paul men who are willing to suffer for the sake of the Gospel because they are walking in the comfort of the Holy Spirit and the fear of the Lord.  They have a proper understanding of…

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A Christian Woman’s Guide to Holy Week

Holy Week is upon us. It is a time to enter into the suffering Christ, to relive His willing suffering and death as an atonement for our sin and ultimately, His resurrection to show that He had defeated death and the grave.  As Christians, we should walk through this week with intentionality. From Palm Sunday to our celebrations of the Resurrection, we should be remembering Christ’s actions in His final days and commemorating His death and resurrection as the world-changing, radically redeeming acts that they are.   If you’re looking for a daily Holy Week devotional with activities for each day, you can download the free the Holy Week Devotional Guide in The Thin Place Resource Library!  As we prepare for Holy Week, here are ideas on ways to celebrate each day and a few ongoing things to be doing throughout the week. 1. On-Going Activities:  Lenten Reading and Prayer – Continue on with Bible reading to help draw you into the Lenten season and dedicate yourself to prayer. This year, I will continue on with The Bible in Lent Reading Plan but the Holy Week Guide also has reading suggestions specifically for Holy Week.  Sacrifice Beans (to be replaced with Jelly Beans) – This is a simple, visual reminder of offering up little sacrifices in light of Christ’s sacrifice. Put a jar in the center of your table. Throughout the week, whenever you offer up a small sacrifice or act of kindness, put a bean in the jar. On Easter morning, replace the beans in the jar with delicious jelly beans and remember how Christ’s willing suffering on the cross has redeemed suffering by making it the means in which Death was defeated.  Watch The Passion of the Christ/The Price of Egypt – The Prince of Egypt is a great, kid-friendly watch to gain a historical perspective on the Passover celebration and what it means for Christ to be our Passover Lamb. The Passion of the Christ is for older audiences but is an impactful way to remember the agony Christ suffered on our behalf.  This “Holy Week in Handprints” craft for kids is a simple, fun way to help them visualize each day of Holy Week. Pro-tip: If paint is too messy for you this week, swap for crayon outlines instead!  2. Palm Sunday – The Day Christ Enter Jerusalem on a Donkey 1. Every Palm Sunday, I…

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“If I Only Touch His Garment” – A Remarkable Woman of Faith: The Bible in Lent Day 33

In the book of Luke, we see again a story that’s repeated through the Gospels, the story of a woman of faith who reached out and touched the hem of Christ’s garment and was healed.  The scriptures tell us that she’d been afflicted for 12 years. During that time, she’d spent all she had seeking medical care, going from doctor to doctor looking for a cure and being left empty-handed.  But she crawled through the crowds, pressing towards Jesus, believing He could heal her. Not even through deliberate action, just by virtue of His power, she believed she would be healed.  “If I only reach out and touch His garment.” Despite the countless crushed dreams, the years of saving, of trying to buy hope, of putting everything she has into a dream of normalcy, she was still ill. She bled and lived a life of uncleanness.  For twelve years. Twelve years of being unable to worship in the temple, of living with illness, or hoping for relief and walking away empty-handed.  As someone who has dealt with chronic illness, the faith this woman had shown was remarkable. When you’ve seen many doctors with relief, discouragement abounds. It is hard to imagine ever moving past discouragement, let alone moving into faith. But she pressed on.  She not only pressed on, she knew that miracles didn’t have to be flashy, dramatic business. She was not Zechariah demanding a sign, she was Mary, humbling believing the impossible would happen. She simply needed to touch the hem of His cloak and she would be healed.  We see several of these grand demonstrations of faith in the Gospels. The Syrophoenician woman who asked for the falling crumbs. The centurion who said he was unworthy for Christ to enter under his roof, asking only for Jesus’s words. And this women who fought against the pressing crowd, not to speak to Jesus, but to simply touch His clothing.  And she was healed because she was a woman of faith. I wonder why she wanted to remain hidden, anonymous. Was she afraid or did she think herself unworthy? Had years of being unclean taught her to hide herself away? Did she think this holy man would spurn her as others had? But Jesus didn’t want her to remain hidden. He felt the power leave Him, and wanted to see whose hand had reached out in faith.  Jesus said,…

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Jesus Wept – Do We Weep with Others? The Bible in Lent Day 32

In the Gospel of John, we come across the shortest verse in the Bible – Jesus wept.  It is often cited as proof that Jesus was a real human who had real emotions or to prove that it’s okay for Christians to cry. Both those things are true. Jesus was fully human (and fully God – but don’t ask me for the details of how all that works, it’s above my pay grade) and Christians shouldn’t shy away from feeling and expressing human emotions – God created us with those emotions. But I think this passage does something deeper, I think it shows us how to grieve, and sit with others in grief, in light of the hope of the Resurrection.  Before Jesus arrived at the town of the grieving sisters of Lazarus, He told His disciples two things, that Lazarus was dead and that He was going to bring him back to life.  When he met Lazarus’s sisters, grieving over the loss of their brother, Martha told him she believed in the resurrection of the dead on the last day. But she still grieved the loss of all of the days in-between and all the life she anticipated living without her beloved brother. And both she and Mary wept with their community. When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled – John 11:13 RSVCE Jesus knew that in a few short minutes, Lazarus would be raised to life. He knew all would be well and that their mourning would be turn to joy. But He still saw their mourning as significant. It was significant enough to move and trouble Him.   And in response to their sorrow, we find the shortest verse in the Bible.  Jesus wept. –  John 11:35  Jesus didn’t try to explain away their sorrow. Instead of pointing out their joy to come or offering up comfort they weren’t ready to hear, he entered into their sorrow and wept with them.  I think we need to learn from Jesus’s example and renew the practice of simply weeping with those who weep.  Too often, we quickly try to minimize or reduce pain because of the hope we have in Christ. Funerals are now called, “Celebrations of Life.” Grief is often put at bay and grievers told to remember the hope of the Resurrection. We…

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Prepare and Persevere: The Bible in Lent Day 31

It is hard to narrow down one topic, one focus for the book of Matthew. A few years ago, I did an entire series just on a few verses from Matthew 5! There is so much beauty, teaching, and fulfillment in the life in Christ. But today, I decided to focus on a theme at the end of Matthew, perseverance and preparedness.  Shortly before his betrayal, arrest, and crucifixion, Jesus warned His disciples about being prepared for the coming of the Lord. He told them of great persecution and trials that would come to them and the whole earth before that day.  He told them they would be reviled, that some would be led astray by false prophets and others would betray them, but then he tells them, “he who endures to the end will be saved.” – Matthew 24:13 RSVCE Enduring the end. Pressing on despite obstacles. Continuing the love despite the increase of wickedness.  Jesus was preaching a message of perseverance and was helping equip His followers by telling them what was to come.  But He also reminded them of the need to prepare themselves. The Lord is going to return. Jesus made that very clear to His disciples. Not only is the Lord going to return, but it is going to be suddenly and unexpectedly. And the people of God need to be prepared.  In several parables, Jesus emphasizes this need for preparedness, but I particularly appreciated the one at the end of Matthew 24 this week.  Watch therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the householder had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have watched and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready; for the Son of man is coming at an hour you do not expect. – Matthew 24:42-44 RSVCE The coming of the Lord is compared to someone breaking into a house. Unexpected. Those in the home are caught off guard and unprepared. In the previous passage, he compares it to the coming of flood on the people of Noah’s time. Both analogies are dramatic and highlight the need for preparedness.  Because we need to prepare our hearts and lives for the return of the Lord. If our roots aren’t deep, if our foundation isn’t solid, our faith…

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