Filled with the Holy Spirit

Acts 2:1-4 (New Revised Standard Version)

When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.

It was unusually hot out today with a high temperature of 97°F, so I seized the opportunity to take my family out for ice cream after dinner. While sitting in the restaurant, I quickly noticed a big guy sitting at the table next to me as he devoured a painfully enormous sundae: 3 scoops of ice cream, hot fudge, whipped cream, nuts, and a cherry on top. His wife and son offered him no help with his task as they munched on their own ice cream cones. Suddenly, the man picked up a tall glass filled with a white liquid, which he sucked down between spoonfuls of ice cream. “Is that… milk?” Yes! Yes it was. After finishing his lactose charged meal, he sat back and patted his stomach. He was filled to the brim and there was no room for anything else.

In the Scripture passage above, Luke describes how the Apostle Peter and the 120 believers who were gathered together became “filled with the Holy Spirit” on the day we know and celebrate as “Pentecost Sunday”. 20th Century pastor, author, and theologian, A. W. Tozer, shared in his sermon “How to be Filled with the Holy Spirit” the idea that many Christians want to be FULL of the Holy Spirit, but few desire to be FILLED with the Holy Spirit. This means that many Christians desire certain benefits that come with experiencing God’s presence, such as a sensation of power, the thrill of victory, the stillness of inner peace, and the usefulness of knowledge and wisdom, but few Christians desire the Spirit to be Lord of their life, who requires obedience to God’s Word, who does not tolerate our selfishness and self indulgences, who humbles us when we want to boast, who takes away our selfish goals for our life and puts us through spiritual boot camp, who strips away our beloved objects of affection which secretly harm our souls, and other challenging things.

Unless you eagerly seek the Holy Spirit’s entire work of making you into a new creation, you do not want to be filled. How can we prepare our hearts so they can be FILLED with His most Holy Presence? Tozer offers this Biblical response:

Surrender:

I Beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God. (Romans 12:1-2)

Ask:

If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him? (Luke 11:13)

Obey:

We are His witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey Him. (Acts 5:32)

Believe:

This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? (Galatians 3:2)

Speaking to a large audience, D.L. Moody held up a glass and asked, “How can I get the air out of this glass?” One man shouted, “Suck it out with a pump!” Moody replied, “That would create a vacuum and shatter the glass.” After numerous other suggestions Moody smiled, picked up a pitcher of water, and filled the glass. “There,” he said, “all the air is now removed.” He then went on to explain that victory in the Christian life is not accomplished by “sucking out a sin here and there,” but by being filled with the Holy Spirit.  -Today in the Word, September 1991, p. 30.

Do you seek to be FILLED with the Holy Spirit today? I encourage you to take a moment right now to close your eyes and prayerfully ask Him to guide you as you SURRENDER, ASK, OBEY, and BELIEVE.

Onward!

Rev. Lincoln Skinner, Interim Senior Minister

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The Connection Between Lent and Baptism

Isaiah 40:3 (New Living Translation)

Listen! It’s the voice of someone shouting, “Clear the way through the wilderness for the LORD! Make a straight highway through the wasteland for our God!

Lenten Season is Here!

Lent is a Christian season commonly characterized as a 40-day period beginning with Ash Wednesday and ending on Easter Sunday. The name “Lent” comes from the Middle English “Lente” which means springtime. When we think of spring, we think of new life. In the same manner, Lent is connected to the sacrament of baptism, which represents repentance, or death to our former life of sin, and resurrection into a new spiritual life of faith in Jesus Christ.

In the early Christian Church, all baptisms took place on Easter Sunday. Isn’t that interesting? If you became a believer in Jesus, you had to wait until Easter Sunday for this important public ceremony. Imagine the excitement! A few days before the big event, each individual would set aside time to prepare their hearts, bodies, and minds through a variety of disciplines including fasting from certain foods, spending time in prayer and reflection as well as devotional study of the Scriptures. It was during the Medieval Ages that this time of preparation was extended to the 40-day period (minus Sundays) that is popular today.

Why is Lent useful for Christians? As we daily reflect upon Jesus’ journey to the Cross and resurrection from the dead, we seek to prepare a way for the Lord in the wilderness or wastelands of our souls. Reflection is an important component to this process because it humbles us, revealing our weakness, stubbornness, and complacency towards sin in our lives. I encourage you to join me this Lenten season as I use the following resource:

“From Ashes to Glory” is based on this version of the Ignatian Examen:[1]

  • I thank God.
I say to the Lord: I am content with what I am and have. Thank you for stars and universes, for mountains and oceans. Thank you for health and home and work, for those I love and those who love me. Thank you that I know Jesus Christ and am his—for the Church, and sacraments, and hope in eternal life. And thank you for this day.
  • I ask for light.
Let me see myself and my behavior the way the Holy Spirit has been seeing me, who am God’s splendid creature, adopted and “set free in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:24).
  • I look for God in my life.
I ask what I have done for love—love of God, of others, and of myself. If I have decided to change a habit or to grow a virtue, I give myself an account.
  • I face what’s wrong.
I accept responsibility for what I have done or not done, rejoicing in the good and repudiating the bad. I do not blame circumstances, upbringing, or others.
  • I determine what to do now.
I see what I can do to love God better, grateful for what Jesus Christ is doing in me. I watch where the Spirit is leading me.

Onward!

Rev. Lincoln Skinner, Interim Senior Minister


How do we cope with the news re: Sandy Hook Elementary School?

The news of this morning’s shooting massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School left me devastated and heart broken. Thankfully, there are many resources out there to help us cope with this tragedy. I would like to share a few that have given me hope and answers to tough questions.____________________________________

Brene Brown, PhD. shared the following resources (SOURCE- http://www.ordinarycourage.com/my-blog/2012/12/14/prayers-for-the-sandy-hook-elementary-school-community.html):

Lord, help me send love and light to those in pain. Let me stay calm and openhearted while I manage my own fear and anger. Help me remember that news coverage is traumatizing for me, not healing, and that my children need safety and information, not more fear. 

Here are resources that I find helpful for talking to children about violence and death: 

The American Academy of Pediatrics on School Shootings

University of Minnesota on Talking to Kids About Violence Against Kids

National Association of School Psychologists on Talking to Children About Violence

What I consider to be one of the best articles on talking to children about death (by Hospice)

Explaining the news to our kids from Common Sense Media.

And this wonderful advice from Mr. Rogers (shared by Angel Marie):

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” To this day, especially in times of “disaster,” I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.

_____________________________________________________

Also, this prayer from Max Lucado was published on the Huffington Post (SOURCE: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/max-lucado/a-christmas-prayer_2_b_2302548.html):

Dear Jesus,

It’s a good thing you were born at night. This world sure seems dark. I have a good eye for silver linings. But they seem dimmer lately.

These killings, Lord. These children, Lord. Innocence violated. Raw evil demonstrated.

The whole world seems on edge. Trigger-happy. Ticked off. We hear threats of chemical weapons and nuclear bombs. Are we one button-push away from annihilation?

Your world seems a bit darker this Christmas. But you were born in the dark, right? You came at night. The shepherds were nightshift workers. The Wise Men followed a star. Your first cries were heard in the shadows. To see your face, Mary and Joseph needed a candle flame. It was dark. Dark with Herod’s jealousy. Dark with Roman oppression. Dark with poverty. Dark with violence.

Herod went on a rampage, killing babies. Joseph took you and your mom into Egypt. You were an immigrant before you were a Nazarene.

Oh, Lord Jesus, you entered the dark world of your day. Won’t you enter ours? We are weary of bloodshed. We, like the wise men, are looking for a star. We, like the shepherds, are kneeling at a manger.

This Christmas, we ask you, heal us, help us, be born anew in us.

Hopefully,

Your Children


“Delighting in the Unexpected”

A Kindergarten teacher was observing her classroom of children while they were drawing. She would occasionally walk around to see each child’s work. As she got to one little girl who was working diligently, she asked what the drawing was.  The girl replied, ‘I’m drawing God.’ The teacher paused and said, ‘But no one knows what God looks like.’ Without missing a beat, or looking up from her drawing, the girl replied, ‘They will in a minute.’

A Sunday school teacher was discussing the Ten Commandments with her five and six year olds. After explaining the commandment to ‘honor’ thy Father and thy Mother, she asked, ‘Is there a commandment that teaches us how to treat our brothers and sisters?’ From the back, one little boy (the oldest of a family) answered, ‘Thou shall not kill.’

The children were lined up in the cafeteria of a Roman Catholic elementary school for lunch. At the head of the table was a large pile of apples. The nun made a note, and posted on the apple tray: ‘Take only one. God is watching.’ Moving further along the lunch line, at the other end of the table was a large pile of chocolate chip cookies. A child had written a note, ‘Take all you want. God is watching the apples…’

Ah, the honesty and creativity of a child! Just when we adults think we have the world, each other, and even God figured out, a fresh perspective causes us to stop and think, take another look, and sometimes laugh.

I once heard a pastor define humor as “delighting in the unexpected.”

In a relationship, a sense of mystery can sometimes be a good thing. Did you know my wife and I are celebrating our 5th wedding anniversary next week? In spite of all the ways we have grown to know to each other, we constantly surprise one another with new thoughts, insights, hopes, fears, and so on. This experience brings joy, surprise, and refreshment into our relationship.

However, human nature also fears the unknown. When it comes to our money, our companionship, our safety, and our health, the notion of “delighting in the unexpected” is perceived as foolishness or lunacy. Our survival instincts tell us to control, to plan, and to take calculated risks. This is especially true when it comes to our eternal souls.

The question that burns in the heart of every hearer of the Gospel is, “Can I trust this Jesus?”

If the answer is no, then we attempt to create, follow, and worship a notion of Christ that is unintrusive and predictable. We fabricate rules and boundaries for our Savior, to cram Him into a little box so He can fit into our meager plans and comfortable schedules, expecting Him to comply with our demands, and bitterly forsaking Him when His presence seems removed.

If the answer is yes, we must humble ourselves and delight in His unpredictability, which is an act of faith. What is next, Lord? Where are we going? Why is this happening? Who will lead us there? From where or whom will the resources come? What happens if we lose this or that?

Faith is not the ability to predict another person’s will, but trusting in the character of another. God is wild, powerful, and untamed like C. S. Lewis’ famous depiction of Aslan the lion in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe Series, who is not “safe”, but thoroughly “good”. Father God longs to challenge us as individuals as well as His Church to rise above our sins and limitations and, through faith in Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit, transform us into world changers, salt, light, a city on a hill, and more!

To His disciples, Christ’s death upon the cross was the most unpredictable event imaginable. It rocked their world! And yet, it wasn’t the end of the story. Christ rose from the dead and came to those broken men and women with a new mission and purpose. My friends, let us delight in the faithfulness of our Lord! Let us fix our eyes upon Jesus, faithfully live and share His Gospel with the world, and delight in what lies ahead.

This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted; anyone who refuses to trust him has long since been under the death sentence without knowing it. And why? Because of that person’s failure to believe in the one-of-a-kind Son of God when introduced to him. (John 3:16-18, The Message)

Onward!

Rev. Lincoln Skinner


ONE Worship’s 4th Anniversary is Here!

ONE logo-finalAll are invited to join the celebration Sunday, November 11, at 11:30am in Gray Hall as our congregation celebrates four years of great music, fun fellowship, and real Truth at “ONE Worship”, Oneonta’s contemporary worship service. Our full band will be playing an extended set of popular worship songs. We will have a time for prayer and sharing. Refreshments will be served at the end.

“ONE Worship” was developed in 2008 as a result of a strategic initiative to meet the diverse spiritual needs of our surrounding community. We set out to create a worship experience where people of all ages, especially youth, young adults and families, could encounter the transformational love of Jesus Christ in a heartfelt, informal atmosphere with high-energy music and relevant teaching from the Bible. By God’s grace and through the tireless efforts of members of our staff and congregation, ONE Worship continues to be a crucial part of Oneonta’s mission to “love God, love others, and serve humanity.”

I hope to see you there!

Sincerely,

Rev. Lincoln Skinner, Interim Senior Minister


The Best Way to Give…

2 Corinthians 9:6-8

The point is this: the one who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the one who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work.

On Sunday, October 21, 2012, we will gather together as a church family in our 9:30am & 11:30am services to lay our financial pledges upon the altar and seek God’s favor, power, and leading now and throughout the upcoming year. The Apostle Paul has given us important insight into the attitude we should have when we give to God:

GIVE… DELIBERATELY

Each of us must prayerfully “give as we have made up our minds”. We often make detailed plans for the most important things in our lives, such as attending college, getting married, buying a home, and retirement. We make plans because we want to make sure success is achieved. But what about caring for the needy? What about training up people to become mature Christians? What about sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ with others? If we are willing to make plans for things that are temporary, then we should also consider how God is calling us to make plans for eternity as well. Oneonta Church is excited to deliberately move forward and be a part of building God’s Kingdom in 2013. You are invited to be a part of these plans as well! I encourage you and your family to take time in prayer over this next week, asking God for direction on how to give deliberately.

GIVE… GENEROUSLY

When we look at our own limitations, we often feel unsure and afraid to live generously toward God and others. But when we look at God, we see that He is limitless! This helps us experience true freedom when we give generously because we acknowledge that with God’s family, there is always more than enough to go around. If we give in love, we will receive abundantly in return. Let us break out of the mentalities of fear, discouragement, and scarcity and experience the joys of giving generously.

GIVE… CHEERFULLY

God doesn’t want our money, he wants our hearts! We must have the right attitude when we give or else we risk doing so for the wrong reasons. Matthew Henry wrote: “Persons sometimes will give merely to satisfy the importunity of those who ask their charity, and what they give is in a manner squeezed or forced from them, and this unwillingness spoils all they do. We ought to give more freely than the modesty of some necessitous persons will allow them to ask: we should not only deal out bread, but draw out our souls to the hungry, Isa. 58:10. We should give liberally, with an open hand, and cheerfully, with an open countenance, being glad we have ability and an opportunity to be charitable.”

Don’t miss out on this wonderful opportunity to give faithfully as the Body of Christ. Please make sure to pick up a pledge card at the church office or as you enter the worship service next Sunday, fill it out, and bring it forward during our commitment ceremony.

May you experience God’s abundant blessings as you seek to give deliberately, generously, and cheerfully to God and others.

Onward!

Rev. Lincoln Skinner


No More ‘Ball and Chain’

Harvest Season is here at Oneonta Congregational Church! Yesterday, at our 10:30am All-Church worship service, I shared my first of three sermons on stewardship: “Give… Deliberately”. My hope for this series is to share the Bible’s emphasis on ATTITUDE when it comes to giving. With this in mind, I would like to share a testimony I found by Pasor Scott Distler:

All my life I grew up being taught that I had to give 10% of every dollar I earned into the church offering. Every dime I received as a kid saw a penny plunked down into the plate as it went by me in Children’s Church. That practice carried on through college and all the way through my 10 years as a Youth Pastor in Ohio. Even as I began my first Senior Pastorate ministry in Indiana, I faithfully gave 10% of all of my income every Sunday in the offering. Now before you bestow upon me the “life-time achievement in tithing” award, let me make a confession. I hated it! I mean it. I hated it! I couldn’t stand giving 10% of my money every week in the offering. It grinded me to have to do this week in and week out. The longer I practiced this principle the more I hated it. To me, tithing was a huge “chain and ball” wrapped around my spiritual ankle.

Then our church in Indiana began to hit some had times financially and the Elder Board suggested I preach a series on giving. To me, this couldn’t be too hard. I would do to my church what had always been done to me. I will laden them with a guilt-filled message on why they must give 10% of all of their income in the church offering in order to be considered spiritual. So, off I went to search the Bible and find that all-inclusive New Testament verse that clearly and neatly outlined the 10% principle of tithing. The only problem was that I couldn’t find it.

The more I searched the New Testament, the more intrigued I became. When my study was done, I had come to a new conclusion than I had never known. The pattern of giving in the New Testament wasn’t a 10% “chain and ball” like I had thought it was all those years, even ministry years. The New Testament pattern of giving seemed to simply be this . . . give your best. Suddenly I felt a freedom in giving that I never knew existed. The 10% “chain and ball” was taken off my spiritual ankle and I felt like I could spiritually run for the first time in my life when it came to stewardship. So I had to ask myself a question. I knew I was giving 10%, but was I giving my best?

My wife and I talked about this principle. I couldn’t believe what our conclusion was. Yes, we were faithfully (yet reluctantly) giving 10% every Sunday but we could not honestly say that were giving our best. We could give more. Oh, it would mean some sacrifice, but can we really say that we are giving our best if there is no sacrifice involved? From that time forward we have always given more than 10%. Not because we have to . . . but because we want to. The amazing thing is this. When I gave 10% I hated it, but when I started giving my best which was more than 10%, I loved it. It became my favorite check to write each week. I found myself looking for other ways to give. Suddenly the very thing that had felt like a “chain and ball” in the past now had become one of my spiritual joys. And with this joy came spiritual growth in many other areas of my life as well.

Paul was right when he wrote in II Cor 9:7, “Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”

(SOURCE- Pastor Scott Distler, http://folkslisten.blogspot.com/2006/01/i-hate-tithing.html)

Onward!

Rev. Lincoln Skinner, Interim Senior Minister