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Sunday Message for 23 May 2021: “Spirit Renewal”

Brace yourself! Pentecost is here and we’re diving into Acts 2:1-21. We’re celebrating the core of God’s essence, which is spirit. You are created in God’s image, which means that you also are a spiritual being intimately related to the Almighty.

Jesus promised that shortly after his departure from earth he would send God’s marvelous spirit. Jesus sent spiritual energizing because he didn’t want his followers to be powerless orphans in a fledgling new religion. Even now, God comforts, guides and empowers believers like you. Realize this great truth as you demonstrate God’s presence, ideally through transformed attitudes and behaviors.

Strange things happened on that original Pentecost almost two-thousand years ago: flames of fire appeared above the assembled disciples; people spoke foreign languages without prior knowledge; and the astonished new believers were gathered for a wonderful awakening. Peter, Jesus’ closest friend, stood up and explained that even greater things would happen, such as prophecies and diverse signs and wonders.

Are you confused and perplexed about all the spirit talk and miraculous claims? If so, then you’re not alone amid the controversies. Christians are divided, some arguing that you should expect the same miracles as described during Pentecost in Acts. Such a belief assumes that God’s spirit intends to perform the same types of miracles today as what happened in ancient times. A challenge with this position is that it assumes God must do now what was done previously; God is not locked within a box of our expectations. Also, placing too much literal emphasis on the miracles in Acts may feed an appetite for sensationalist sideshow distractions.

An opposing view about God’s wonder-working spirit suggests that the age of God doing public, fantastic miracles is long over, and that God uses other, often more subtle or creative means to equip and empower believers. The belief here is that conditions were very different long ago and God doesn’t need glitzy parlor tricks. A limitation of this belief is that it can ignore or diminish possibilities of God doing dramatic things in peoples’ lives today.

There’s no easy solution to decide which side of the spirit debate is absolutely right. As usual, it’s not an either/or because there are insights in each position. A larger problem concerns how people on either side of the controversy perceive only what they want to see; contrary evidence is either ignored or dismissed (an increasing problem in American culture). The same process of people trying to create their own facts has been occurring with increasing frequency outside the church, such as in secular politics. A lesson is that each person is entitled to his/her opinion but not to their own facts; alternative facts are false and not facts at all.

Unfortunately, divisive debate is commonplace in Christianity. How does anyone manage theological controversy without becoming either a Fascist fundamentalist or an unbelieving skeptic? The key is to focus on God’s love, which is the greatest force in the universe and the central point of Christianity. Also, with some effort you might detect a balance between extremist positions about the role of God’s spirit. It’s worth the effort to engage spiritual issues without becoming hysterical or delusional on one side or skeptical and cynical on the other. Embracing God’s spirit doesn’t mean that you speak contrived nonsense—“tongues” or babble as it often manifests–but it does mean that you can embrace love for God and for your neighbor, which is the heart of Jesus’ gospel.

It helps to accept the basic premise that God’s spirit is within you. It’s worth exploring the wondrous things that can happen when you open yourself to transformed attitudes and actions. Increase your understanding. Consider that you have access to almost unlimited power. What a waste when closed hearts and minds render people resistant to how God wants to bless them. Resist the temptation to ignore the possibility of spiritual gifts and power, which some people neglect or refuse to accept.

Your personal relationship with God exceeds any tradition or theology. To realize your potential as God’s child you can heed the prophetic voice and engage the path of spiritual maturity as you forge your unique path. Are you ready? Are you in a process of becoming a new you or are you so set in your ways that you are not open to the transformation to which God calls you?

As an awakened Christian you can choose to let God accomplish great works in your life. The challenge is to advance and keep your faith alive by claiming God’s promises. Your spirit can progress as you engage a journey of enlightened maturity. You are invited to set goals that promote God’s kingdom and that challenge you to become a more compassionate, loving person. Otherwise, you won’t gain much from just going through the motions of mere religion.

Resolve to do whatever you can to demonstrate that God is alive in you even if you need a spiritual makeover to help you become more receptive. Celebrate Pentecost by yearning for and embracing God’s spirit. Life-fulfilling joy awaits your positive decision.

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