God's Breath of New Life
Good morning. Today, I will share about the new life that the Spirit of God gives to us. This Sunday’s talk is a focus on the work and person of the Holy Spirit. This is most appropriate as we celebrate the Pentecost Week and today’s Trinity Sunday. Our scripture texts are found in Romans 8 and Psalm 29. Let us read:
Romans 8:15-16. “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.”
Psalm 29:9-11. “The voice of the LORD makes the deer give birth and strips the forests bare, and in his temple all cry, ‘Glory!’ The LORD sits enthroned over the flood; the LORD sits enthroned as king forever. May the LORD give strength to his people! May the LORD bless his people with peace!”
Let me start with a personal story. 1993 was the year when I first came to the US for my time of study at Asbury Seminary. The following year, I experienced a terrible case of culture shock. I was missing home and was overcome with loneliness. I started to doubt God’s call in my life. I said to myself: “How can I serve God as a missionary in the future when right here right now I cannot even deal with my loneliness and depression.” Many people encouraged me and the counsel of my friends were very helpful. And yet, I still felt the need to hear God’s voice in a new way; to receive a “breath of new life” from our God.
One time my friends and I were hiking at Red River Gorge enjoying the Autumn colors and soaking in the beauty of God’s creation. We were taking a break from school work and went out for a long weekend to the forest of central Kentucky. All my friends were going in groups to different places. I felt the need to be alone with my God. So I asked my leave from the group and went out by myself to the edge of a cliff overlooking a valley of the Red River Gorge. And there on top of the cliff, God spoke to me. I don’t know how, but my heart felt warmed and I sensed God’s presence. He gave me strength in a very personal way. I went back to our school with a refreshed spirit and a “breath of new life” that encouraged me to keep on serving our God.
Our Lord, the God of the heavens, desires to visit with us and to leave His mark on our lives, that is, the mark of new life. God wants to bring new life in our being and as a result, we receive God’s intimacy and we experience renewal in our lives.
Our readings from Psalm 29 speaks of God’s glory as thundering voice. And yet, as we see in verse 9, it is also described as helping a deer give birth. God’s glory is displayed in splendor and also received in tender ways. Many of the Psalm speaks of the high and low revelation. Psalm 8:2 describes God’s strength is established out of the mouths of infants. This is low revelation indicating intimacy and everyday experiences. The glory of the moon and the stars are presented in majesty and splendor. This is high revelation showing grandeur and glory from spectacular events. Both reveal new life from God’s Spirit. Both can bring a person to an intimate encounter with God and to an experience of renewal that is deep and refreshing. In the end we are able to call Him our Father.
Let me share with you the story of Premika Tamang, a lady leader of one of our Free Methodist communities in the mountains of Country-NP. She is a farmer by trade, but she has responded to God’s call for her to be a prayer coordinator for their local church. This call came with trials and suffering, in the form of the death of her second son. It was at this point in her grief that she started doubting God’s call. But God came to her in a very intimate and personal manner. She heard God say: “Daughter, why are you so worried? Why are you crying? I have your son. You will meet him later. Don't worry too much.” She was encouraged and renewed with these words revealed to her.
Some Christians have similar encounters of God’s visit. These are very intimate and results in enriching renewal. It is almost like the first breath of life at the Garden of Eden. Remember the story? We find this in Genesis 2:7. God reaches down from heaven and breathe life into the first human. The wind from God becomes the air they are breathing. God wants to bring new life in our being and to mark us with His presence.
There are two things resulting from this “Wind of God” visiting our lives and inner being. One is that this new life results in receiving the gift of intimacy from God. Two is that this new life results in an experience of renewal. Let me share some more from each of these results.
One result is that we receive the gift of God’s intimacy. Paul speaks of the encounter of adoption. In Romans 8:15-16, the Spirit enables us to call God the Father our very own Abba Father. This is a very intimate way of calling God, describing our personal relationship with our Creator. Most of the times, this reception of God’s intimacy happens at particular times and places.
A month ago, sometime in April, I was a bit discouraged in my work. Maybe it was brought about by this Covid. Perhaps it was because I could not travel to Asia to see my friends. I was feeling down and wanted to see the results of our church work in Country-NP. God rebuked me in this time of discouragement. He lifted me up and used a moment when I was out in the woods walking and hiking. At that particular time, I hiked to the top of a hill and read my devotional readings for the day. God impressed in my heart that I will not see the fruit of my labor in Asia Just like the prophets in the Old Testament who never saw the promised salvation in Jesus, I will also not see these results in the Asia work. I needed to be content with what God is giving me now and stay focused in serving our loving God.
God wants to meet with us. He appoints special places for this meeting. He wants us to receive His gift of intimacy. These are places when we say to our God, “Abba Father!” Remember our reading from Romans 8:15? In the life of Isaiah, God gave His gift of intimacy when he was in the temple worshipping. We see this in Isaiah 6:1-8. In the case of Elijah, God met with him in a most personal way when he was by the side of a mountain. We see this in 1 Kings 19:9-18. Remember that story? God revealed himself, gave His gift of intimacy to Elijah, not through the mighty storm, nor the powerful earthquake, nor the consuming fire. God met him through the gentle sound of a whisper by the side of a mountain. Tell your friend or seat mate, “I am going to meet God.”
Of course, we know that intimacy is more than just a place. Intimacy is an encounter of the heart. And this brings us to the second point, the renewal of our inner being. God wants to bring new life in our being and as a result we experience renewal in our lives.
Result number two is that we experience the renewal of our spirit that comes from God. It is an encounter that is deep within our soul. In Romans 8:23, Paul speaks of the groaning of our hearts as we wait for the final results of our adoption. At times, this groaning experience or deep prayer of the our soul is not expressed in words. It is simply a breathing, an expression that comes out from our inner being.
I told you the story of Premika Tamang from Country-NP. What she would do is gather some women from her local church and they would hike for a day or two to another village and stay there for four days, and sometimes as long as a week. They would gather in a friend’s house and do nothing but pray. When the local people come and ask questions, then they share the gospel. When the sick come for prayer, then they ask God for healing. Their focus is on God. They wait for God to move first and then they follow.
Premika was tested in her obedience to God. In the same year of his son’s death, her mother in-law became ill and eventually died. It was in one of these prayer ministry that she received word that her mother in-law passed away. She had to cut short her ministry time so she can go back home to her village. In her grief and weakness, she started questioning God’s calling in her life. But God comforted her. She said: “In my sorrow, the Holy Spirit came to me saying that only by struggling with God in this situation can I be rescued. At the same time, this is the way I may be able to encourage my sisters.” Until now, she continues to serve God in that small village in the mountains of South Asia.
Most of us have similar experiences where we are confronted with our weaknesses. In Romans 8:26-27, Paul speaks of the Spirit helping us in our weaknesses and interceding on our behalf, so that we are renewed and we meet with our God and call Him Abba Father. God wants to bring new life in our being and in the end, we receive God’s intimacy and we experience renewal in our lives. Tell your friend or seat mate, “This week, I am going to meet God.”
Let me end this sharing time with a personal story. I mentioned earlier my spiritual encouragement that came when I was out hiking in the hills of Kentucky in 1994. God lifted me up from my time of brokenness. It was there at the edge of the cliff that God met with me. I was watching the valley below and enjoying the Fall colors. It was a particularly calm morning, with no wind at all. All the trees stood still. To my right was a small tree. And I noticed a leaf falling off that tree and slowly “parachuting” down to the valley below. I followed that falling leaf as it swayed back and forth to the valley below until it was out of my sight. And at that moment, I heard God speak to me in the quietness of my heart. He said: “David, before the creation of the world, I thought about forming this Red River Gorge valley so that we can meet up here. And here, at the edge of the cliff, I planted this tree so that someday, you will come and hear my voice. I appointed this time for the leaf to fall because I know that you will gaze at it when it falls down to the valley below. I want you to feel me reach out to you in a very special way. I love you my child. Do not be discouraged. Trust in me, and I will take care of the rest.” I came down from that hill encouraged and marked with a new life from our God.
Our Lord, the God of the heavens, desires to visit with us and to leave His mark on our lives, that is, the mark of new life. God wants to bring new life in our being and as a result, we receive God’s intimacy and we experience renewal in our lives. Will you say with me? “I am ready to invite God’s Spirit in my life today.” Amen!!!
Say with me: “I am ready to meet our God and receive the breath of new life from our God.”
(This is a sermon I shared for Trinity Sunday, May 30, 2021, here in Illinois, USA.)