Spirit #AtoZChallenge

This year for the Blogging from A to Z in April Challenge I have chosen a single word for each letter of the alphabet. Each of these words is important in the Bible. I am including a story in each post. Links from biblical references go to Bible Gateway.

#AtoZChallenge 2021 April Blogging from A to Z Challenge letter S

Spirit appears in the Bible more than 550 times. Spirit is a word, which is tricky to define. In the original languages of Bible it is often represented by the word for breath. In earlier times it was sometimes translated into English as ghost. The Holy Ghost is now usually called the Holy Spirit. Ghost has spooky associations. There is nothing spooky about the Holy Spirit.

Spirit is not always used in a positive way. Spirit of jealousy is one example of a negative spirit. A deceiving spirit is another.

As well as the Spirit of God there are many references to the human spirit, high spirits and other words of which spirit forms part.

Jesus promised the Holy Spirit, who would guide the disciples into all truth. John 16:12-14

The Holy Spirit is a person. The God of the Bible is one God, but three Persons, God the Father, God the Son (Jesus Christ) and God the Holy Spirit. This is the Trinity. Matthew 28:19

The Spirit of God was active in creating all things Genesis 1:2

Jesus Christ claimed that Isaiah’s prophecy was fulfilled in him, when he read Isaiah 61:1

Isaiah prophesied about the Messiah, that the Spirit of the Lord would rest upon him. Isaiah 11:1-3

Joel prophesied that God would pour out his Spirit on all people. Joel 2:28 Letter P.

To jump to the story Jesus is baptised by John click here.

Many characters in the Old Testament were notable for having the Spirit of God: Joseph Genesis 41:38, Bezalel son of Uri Exodus 31:2-4, Moses and his helpers Numbers 11:16-17, Caleb Numbers 14:24, Balaam Numbers 24:2, Joshua Numbers 27:18, The judge Othniel, younger brother of Caleb Judges 3:9-11, Gideon Judges 6:34, Jephthah Judges 11:29, Samson Judges 13:24-25, King Saul (at first) 1 Samuel 10:9-13, King David 1 Samuel 16:13, Elijah and Elisha 2 Kings 2:9, Amasai, chief of the Thirty 1 Chronicles 12:18, Azariah son of Oded 2 Chronicles 15:1 , Jahaziel son of Zechariah 2 Chronicles 20:14, Zechariah son of Jehoiada the priest 2 Chronicles 24:20, Ezekiel in Ezekiel 3:12 and many other verses, Daniel aka Belteshazzar Daniel 4:9

Job was aware of the Spirit’s power Job 33:4

The prophets Micah, Haggai, and Zechariah all mention the Spirit of the Lord.

Jesus is baptised by John

Luke the physician (medical doctor) wrote about John’s parents, Elizabeth and the priest, Zechariah. Elizabeth was a relative of Mary, the mother of Jesus. The angel Gabriel visited Zechariah and told him that John would be born. John was not to drink alcoholic drinks, but would be filled with the Holy Spirit from birth.

Luke set the scene of John’s ministry firmly in history. When John began to preach and baptise people Tiberias Caesar was the emperor, having already ruled for 14 years. Pontius Pilate was the governor of Judea and Herod was tetrarch of Galilee. He mentions other rulers too. The high priests were Annas and Caiaphas.

Crowds went out to the other side of the River Jordan near Bethany to hear John preach. He was dressed in the same way as Elijah had been, wearing a garment of camel hair with a leather belt around his waist. He quoted the prophet Isaiah, telling people that his prophesies were about to be fulfilled.

He told people how they should behave, sharing their goods and food with the needy, acting honestly and being content with what they were paid.

John prophesied that another man would baptise with the Holy Spirit. John himself baptised with water as a symbol that people repented of their wrongdoing.

That was why he was surprised when Jesus went to him and asked to be baptised. Jesus had done nothing wrong. He did not need to repent. John suggested it would be better for Jesus to baptise him, but Jesus insisted on being baptised by John.

The two of them went into the river. John baptised Jesus. Heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus like a dove. A voice from Heaven declared, ‘You are my son, whom I love. I am very pleased with you’. (See also Letter L)

John had been waiting for a sign that the one he was preaching about had arrived. He had received a prophecy from God that the man on whom the Spirit would come down and remain on was the one, who would baptise with the Holy Spirit.

John testified that Jesus is the Son of God.

The story is compiled from Luke 1-2, Matthew 3:13-17, Mark 1:1-11, Luke 3:1-23, John 1: 1-34

In the New Testament there is more information about the Holy Spirit. Jesus teaches his disciples and the writers of letters to churches and individuals share their understanding of the person and work of the Holy Spirit.

(John 14:15-29, Romans 5:1-5, Galatians 5:22-23 and many more passages, especially in the Acts of the Apostles.)


Holy #AtoZChallenge

#AtoZChallenge 2021 April Blogging from A to Z Challenge letter H

This year for the Blogging from A to Z in April Challenge I have chosen a single word for each letter of the alphabet. Each of these words is important in the Bible. I am including a story in each post. Links from biblical references go to Bible Gateway.
Holy appears more than 550 times in the Bible (NIVUK).

Holiness appears 24 times. Holy is defined in the Collins Scrabble Dictionary as ‘of God or a god’. That wasn’t the first meaning that came to my mind. ‘Set apart for God’ is my understanding. Holy things have to be handled in special ways.

In the Bible (often called the Holy Bible) the word holy is often paired with certain words. The seventh day has to be kept holy as the Sabbath. Genesis 2:3

God’s people were a Holy nation.  Exodus 19:6

Holy place and most holy place (sometimes translated as Holy of Holies) were mentioned in early instructions to priests in the book of Exodus.

We read of places where God met with people as being holy: a Holy Mountain, the Tabernacle, the Ark of the Covenant and the Temple.

God’s name is holy. This theme is part of the worship in the Psalms, for example Psalm 30:4.: Sing the praises of the Lord, you his faithful people; praise his holy name.

The prophet Isaiah wrote about Holy festivals, the Holy One of Israel and his (God’s) Holy Spirit. Isaiah 6:3

To jump to the story Isaiah has a vision of God’s holiness click here.

Another prophet, Jeremiah, wrote of The Lord and his holy words, holy dwelling and holy places.

A third prophet, Ezekiel contrasted holy things with common or unclean things. Ezekiel 22:26

Nebuchadnezzar recognised the spirit of the holy ‘gods’ in Daniel. Daniel 4:18

Other prophets, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Zechariah all use a word translated as holy.

Earlier when Moses heard God’s message from the burning bush he was told that he was on holy ground. Exodus 3:5

The New Testament tells us about events about one hundred years later than the most recent writing in the Old Testament. It begins with the good news told by Matthew.

Mary was found to be pregnant with Jesus the Messiah through the Holy Spirit. Matthew 1:18

The apostle Paul wrote:
For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. Ephesians 1:4 

We also read in the New Testament of holy prophets, holy faith, holy city, holy angels, holy ones and holy people. ‘Blessed’ and ‘holy’ are paired together. Revelation 20:6

Isaiah has a vision of God’s holiness

Sometimes I lose track of time, but some years stand out in my memory. In one such year I realised that God wanted me to be a prophet and King Uzziah died. Learning God’s will for my life was a terrifying experience.

I saw the Lord on his throne in the temple. Above him angels were flying I recognised that they were seraphs, because they had six wings. One pair of wings covered their faces, another covered their feet. They used the third pair to fly. They were praising God, calling out, ‘Holy, Holy, Holy is the Almighty, the whole earth is full of his glory.’

Their voices were so loud that the doorposts and thresholds shook. The temple filled with smoke.

I was overawed. All I could think about was my unworthiness to be in the presence of the Lord and his holy angels.

‘Woe is me’, I cried out in my realisation that my lips were unclean and I was in the presence of much holiness.

One of the seraphs took a live coal in tongs and touched my lips with it. He told me that my guilt was taken away and my sin atoned for.

Then the Lord himself spoke. ‘Who shall I send? Who will go for us?’

Without stopping to think I replied, ‘Here I am send me.’

Then the Lord gave me a message for the people. I don’t know how I dared to reply to him with a question, but he mercifully replied to it. All I can do is pass on to the people what the Lord tells me. Sometimes I barely understand the message myself.

Do click through to the passage (Isaiah 6) I have based my story on. The language is far more beautiful than mine!

Revelation 4:8 is a New Testament passage echoing Isaiah’s vision.


Peter’s story

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My brother Andrew introduced me to the teacher, “We have found the Messiah!” (John 1:35-40)

We were simple fishermen. Why should we be chosen to join him?

Our lives were completely changed. We never knew what might happen next.

When he healed my mother-in-law of a fever, I could hardly believe my eyes. She was out of bed and waiting on all of us as if she had never had a day’s illness in her life.

He gave me a new name. I was Simon, but he called me Peter, the Rock. He gave us a new job description as well. Instead of catching fish, he made us fishers of men. There were extreme highs and an especially extreme low. We stood on the mountaintop with Jesus, Moses and Elijah.

I hate to think about my part in the lowest time. My promise, which I really meant, failed completely. Fear is a strong enemy. I didn’t think I would ever forgive myself for denying that I knew my dearest friend.

But he forgave me and restored me. I had to put the past behind me and move forward into the new life his resurrection brought. Resurrection? Yes! And Ascension. I saw him leave with my own eyes.

Then the Day of Pentecost came. Being with Jesus had given us a new sense of purpose and being valued, but the Holy Spirit gave us power – power to speak and to bring his healing love to others. (And to make some enemies as well, but we had been warned.)

This year for the A to Z Challenge I have taken my 2013 Challenge as a starting point for most of the posts. I have written a post based around something or usually someone from the Bible. Sometimes it is a fictional story, for example when I have added some back stories (as a writing exercise). Sometimes it is a summary.

 I hope my readers will be challenged to consider the original texts in more depth. (If only to discover what liberties I have taken with them!)

My P post from 2013 does not mention Peter