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Sunday, May 17, 2015

Pentecost Sunday 2015

May 24, 2015

From: http://www.gotquestions.org/Pentecost-Sunday.html




Celebrated 50 days after Easter, Pentecost Sunday is a commemoration and celebration of the receiving of the Holy Spirit by the early church. John the Baptist prophesied of the first Pentecost when Jesus would baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire (Matthew 3:11).


Matthew 3:11New International Version (NIV)

11 “I baptize you with[a] water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with[b] the Holy Spirit and fire.

Jesus confirmed this prophecy with the promise of the Holy Spirit to the disciples in John 14:26


John 14:26New International Version (NIV)


26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.

He showed Himself to these men after His death on the cross and His resurrection, giving convincing proofs that He was alive. Jesus told the disciples to wait in Jerusalem for the Father’s gift of the Holy Spirit, from whom they would receive power to be His witnesses to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:3-8). 


Acts 1:3-8New International Version (NIV)

After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with[a] water, but in a few days you will be baptized with[b] the Holy Spirit.”
Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”
He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive 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.”

After Jesus’ ascension to heaven, the men returned to Jerusalem and joined together in prayer in an upper room. On the Day of Pentecost, just as promised, the sound of a violent wind filled the house and tongues of fire came to rest on each of them and all were filled with the Holy Spirit. They were given the power of communication, which Peter used to begin the ministry for which Jesus had prepared him. After the coming of the Holy Spirit, the disciples did not stay in the room basking in God’s glory but burst out to tell the world. This was the beginning of the church as we know it.

Pentecost Sunday is celebrated to recognize the gift of the Holy Spirit, realizing that God’s very life, breath and energy live in believers. During this service, John 20:19-23 may be the core of the message about our risen Savior supernaturally appearing to the fear-laden disciples. 


John 20:19-23New International Version (NIV)

Jesus Appears to His Disciples

19 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.
21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” 22 And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”

Their fear gave way to joy when the Lord showed them His hands and side. He assured them peace and repeated the command given in Matthew 28:19-20


Matthew 28:19-20New International Version (NIV)

19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

saying, “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” Then He breathed on them, and they received the Holy Spirit (John 20:21-23).

The celebration of Pentecost Sunday reminds us of the reality that we all have the unifying Spirit that was poured out upon the first-century church in Acts 2:1-4.


Acts 2:1-4New International Version (NIV)

The Holy Spirit Comes at Pentecost

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues[a] as the Spirit enabled them.

It is a reminder that we are co-heirs with Christ, to suffer with Him that we may also be glorified with Him; that the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good (1 Corinthians 12:7); that we are all baptized by one Spirit into one body (1 Corinthians 12:13); and that the Spirit which raised Jesus from the dead lives inside believers (Romans 8:9-11). This gift of the Holy Spirit that was promised and given to all believers on the first Pentecost is promised for you and your children and for all who are far off whom the Lord our God will call (Acts 2:39).


1 Corinthians 12:7New International Version (NIV)

Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.

1 Corinthians 12:13New International Version (NIV)

13 For we were all baptized by[a] one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.

Romans 8:9-11New International Version (NIV)

You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. 10 But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life[a]because of righteousness. 11 And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of[b] his Spirit who lives in you.

Acts 2:39New International Version (NIV)

39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Ascension Day 2015




Ascension Day commemorates the ascension of Christ into Heaven. Observed generally by Catholics and Anglicans, Ascension Day, also known as the Feast of Ascension, occurs on the Thursday 40 days after Easter. It’s a critical event in the history of the Christian faith. Jesus’ ascension marked the completion of his ministry on earth, and upon his return to heaven he fulfilled his promise to send the Holy Spirit to guide the fledgling Christian church. And at the ascension, Christ’s disciples were assured that he would return one day. For many Christians, Ascension Day provides a sense of hope that the glorious and triumphant return of Jesus is near .It is a reminder of the Kingdom of God within their hearts, and of the ever-present Spirit of God, watching over them and protecting them, as they spread the light of Jesus' truth throughout the world.

Also see http://kiranmj.blogspot.in/2011/06/7-proofs-of-resurrection.html


Acts 1:1-11

New International Version (NIV)

Jesus Taken Up Into Heaven


In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with[a] water, but in a few days you will be baptized with[b] the Holy Spirit.”
Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”
He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive 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.”
After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.
10 They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them.11 “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”

Other descriptions of Jesus’ ascension can be found in:

Matthew 28:16-20

New International Version (NIV)

The Great Commission

16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Mark 16:14-20

New International Version (NIV)

14 Later Jesus appeared to the Eleven as they were eating; he rebuked them for their lack of faith and their stubborn refusal to believe those who had seen him after he had risen.
15 He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. 16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. 17 And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; 18 they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.”
19 After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, he was taken up into heaven and he sat at the right hand of God. 20 Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it.

Luke 24:50-53

New International Version (NIV)

The Ascension of Jesus

50 When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. 51 While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. 52 Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy.53 And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

David Livingstone


"I place no value on anything I have or may possess, except in relation to the kingdom of God. If anything will advance the interests of the kingdom, it shall be given away or kept, only as by giving or keeping it I shall most promote the glory of Him to whom I owe all my hopes in time or eternity."

David Livingstone prayed this prayer in all his crucial junctures. When he gave his life to Christ; when he was sent to the mission field; when he was found stranded with the kids burying his wife; and when he was leaving earth. In all the defining moments of his life, his heart was genuinely committed to Christ.

This is the Prayer.
  
"Lord, send me anywhere, only go with me; lay any burden upon me, only sustain me; sever any tie that binds, except the tie that binds me to thy heart and to thy service."

Read more about him here: http://www.wholesomewords.org/missions/bliving2.html

Here's a short story that I found interesting.

A. Parnell Bailey visited an orange grove where an irrigation pump had broken down. The season was unusually dry and some of the trees were beginning to die for lack of water. The man giving the tour then took Bailey to his own orchard where irrigation was used sparingly. “These trees could go without rain for another 2 weeks,” he said. “You see, when they were young, I frequently kept water from them. This hardship caused them to send their roots deeper into the soil in search of moisture. Now mine are the deepest-rooted trees in the area. While others are being scorched by the sun, these are finding moisture at a greater depth.” (Our Daily Bread).

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Finding Hope - Paul Gerhardt



During the Thirty Years' War in the 17th century, German pastor Paul Gerhardt and his family were forced to flee from their homeOne night as they stayed in a small village inn, homeless and afraid, his wife broke down and cried openly in despair.

To comfort her, Gerhardt reminded her of Scripture promises about God's provision and keeping. Then, going out to the garden to be alone, he too broke down and wept.

He felt he had come to his darkest hour. Soon afterward, Gerhardt felt the burden lifted and sensed anew the Lord's presence. Taking his pen, he wrote a hymn that has brought comfort to many.


 "Give to the winds thy fears; hope, and be undismayed;
God hears thy sighs and counts thy tears;
God shall lift up thy head.
Through waves and clouds and storms He gently clears the way.
Wait thou His time, so shall the night soon end in joyous day."


It is often in our darkest times that God makes His presence known most clearly.
 He uses our sufferings and troubles to show us that He is our only source of strength.

And when we see this truth, like Pastor Gerhardt, we receive new hope.
Are you facing a great trial? Take heart.

Put yourself in God's hands. Wait for His timing. He will give you a "song in the night."

Thursday, April 23, 2015

God Will Fulfil His Promise


Genesis 21:5-7New International Version (NIV)

Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him.
Sarah said, “God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me.” And she added, “Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.”

Sarah laughed twice.
The first time it was in unbelief because God had promised her a child in her old age. The second time it was with joy because God had fulfilled His promise. But between these two events she went through the most wrenching experience of her life.
A heathen king took her to his harem and would have violated her had God not intervened. Only a woman who truly loves her husband can understand what Sarah went through that night.
There's a lesson here.
Between praying for a miracle and getting one, you'll be tested, you'll grow, and you'll learn to trust God more than you ever thought possible. Plus, here's something else that's important to remember:
When you share your experiences with others don't just tell how you started or where you are today; instead, tell them what God brought you through, for those are the very things they're struggling with too.
Tell them how your faith was tried in the furnace of affliction before you came forth as gold.
 Don't leave them feeling frustrated because they claimed God's promise and haven't received it yet.
King Abimelech's tent where Sarah spent that terrifying night was in a place called Gerar, which means ‘The halting place'.
 Yes, there'll be times when you'll feel like your life has come to a screeching halt and you're getting nowhere. Maybe that's where you are today. If it is, please know this:
God will be faithful to you. Not only will He bring you through, but like Sarah, your joy will return as you watch Him fulfil His promise to you.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Testimony of Helen Berhane

- Kaley Payne (eternity.biz)


As we sit in an African restaurant I can’t help but think it a slightly incongruous setting. Sitting opposite is a woman who just three years ago fled severe persecution in Eritrea. While we eat our injera she talks about her experience through an interpreter. Before answering my first question, she asks to pray. And so, our heads bowed in the midst of meal orders, deliveries and menu queries, I get a taste of the extraordinary character and uncompromising faith of Helen Berhane.

Helen Berhane spent some time in Australia in August, travelling with Open Doors Australia, an organization helping to raise awareness of the persecuted church around the world.
She visited churches across the country, speaking to other Christians about her experience in Eritrea. She has also written her autobiography, a powerful account of the persecution she faced as a vocal Christian in a country that ranks eleventh on Open Doors’ World Watch List for the most dangerous places for Christians. Helen can only be called a serial evangelizer.

A member of the banned Rhema Church – a minority evangelical church in Eritrea, Helen was well known to Eritrean authorities and frequently imprisoned for preaching the gospel in the country’s capital, Asmara. “The police would capture me and ask "When are you going to stop this?’” said Helen. “They all knew me and I would come in and out of prison. When I would arrive, the other inmates would say ‘Helen’s back! Welcome!’” But after releasing a recording of her gospel music, Helen faced her toughest trial.

Separated from her young daughter and taken to the notorious Mai Serwa military camp, she was imprisoned for almost two years, spending much of that time in a shipping container masquerading as a prison cell. In her book, Helen describes the cell: “The container was no more than twenty feet long, so we were packed closely together. There were eighteen of us inside. We were given a bucket as a toilet and allowed out once a day to empty it,” she said.

Yet even in the rancid conditions of her imprisonment, Helen sang.  She speaks of her desire to praise God despite her circumstances. “Even though we were in a dark situation, we could not suppress the word of God. We praised God in spite of the fleas, the lice and the heat. We could not be prevented from singing – even in captivity.” But singing praises to God meant severe punishment for Helen and the other women who joined her in worship. 

Helen is reluctant to describe in detail the torture that came as a result of her stubbornness in Christ. They would handcuff me and fasten my ankles together too tight so the pain is excruciating. They left us there the whole night – I was in too much pain to sleep. I concentrated on the stars, because if I let myself think of my legs the pain became unbearable.”

Helen and the other prisoners were frequently promised release if they signed a document declaring they would no longer preach. But Helen refused, instead looking for ways to continue to share her faith in captivity. It was Helen’s Christian witness that forced the guards to separate her from the other prisoners. She spent four months in solitary confinement. After a severe beating for being discovered writing Bible studies for another prisoner, Helen was taken to hospital with fears she would never walk again. From there, Helen’s family helped her flee to Sudan.

“It was a miracle – I felt the hand of God on my situation. By his grace, I was free.”

Evan Peet, National Development Manager at Open Doors Australia, said Australian Christians could learn from people like Helen. “For Western society, it’s so easy to view faith as something that ‘works for us’, and that is constantly changing,” he said. “But for Helen, faith is steadfast, the foundation she is built on. People like Helen do anything to live out their faith. Yet here, too many of us don’t go to church when it rains.”

Mr Peet says bringing Helen Berhane, and others like her, to Australia, is mutually beneficial. “We want people to pray, support, give – to be aware of what’s happening to Christians overseas and advocate for them through government. That’s what we can do for them. But they have so much to offer us too.”

Now living in Denmark after being granted asylum, Helen is humble about her experience. “As I see it, what I’ve gone through isn’t that much at all. You might think that because of all the things I’ve faced, that I am strong. But there are so many others that have walked where I have walked, and there is so much I still have to learn,” she said.

‘Song of the Nightingale’ by Helen Berhane with Emma Newrick is published by Authentic. Click here to purchase it from Amazon India