Holy Spirit, You are Welcome Here

Worshipping God with this song is a life-changer: it’s a challenging song, that must be sung whole-heatedly or not at all.  Here’s Kari Jobe and Cody Carnes leading in 2015, as part of Graham Kendrick’s suggested Pentecost Worship Playlist.

Addressing the Spirit of Jesus by name is a bold move and it should challenge us. How do we acknowledge the Holy Spirit as personal God? Scripture teaches us that the Holy Spirit is Jesus’ own spirit as well as the Spirit of the Father, yet we believe He is a distinct person of the Godhead. Is your theology of the Trinity strong enough that you have the confidence to address the Spirit of God in person?

Now this is the crux of the song: all believers acknowledge the power of God’s Spirit in their lives and in the world. But how many of us welcome him? Or in how much of our lives do we welcome the Holy Spirit to work? Let’s be honest – the Holy Spirit can be terrifying. What if we invited him to change our lives and he brought about a time of being without work? Or what if we follow him in speaking to friends boldly about their need for Jesus and we are made to feel uncomfortable, unhappy or angry? Miracles would be welcome in our lives if they were predictable and would be guaranteed not to arouse the attention of cynics and people wanting to make their own fame from them. Healing would be welcome if it were on our own terms, according to our own understanding.

But the song has a completely different take on the Holy Spirit’s presence in our life: it is an open-ended and unlimited invitation for God in person to invade our lives.

Have you ever visited a place where you know you weren’t welcome? Where your hosts are waiting for you to leave, because they don’t feel they can get on with their real life with you in their front room? They don’t feel safe enough with you to relax themselves?

And have you ever visited a friend who just doesn’t want you to leave? You can eat all their biscuits, drink all their tea, empty their fridge, stay the night, follow them to pick up their kids, and they still don’t want you to go? I have one or two precious friends who treat me like that. Now that is welcome – not just a cold acknowledgement of relationship, but a selfless love that melts the boundaries of who owns what and who should do what.

What do we say to Jesus – to Father God – to the wonderful, life-giving spirit when we address him? Do we give him a limited welcome? Or are we prepared to welcome him without any limits.

I love singing the bridge of this song: we ask, together, to become more aware of God’s presence. We need to notice Him more frequently and have a better understanding of what it means that he dwells in us and in the church. And we ask to experience the glory of God’s goodness: because experiencing is the key to learning and changing. It’s not enough for us to hear about God’s power or God’s presence: we need to experience it in our emotions and our physical experience and in our imagination. And then, instead of fearing what he might do, we know that his power is always good and his will is for us and for all of the lost. And then we need to sing the chorus again to reinforce our welcome – to mean it more and to sing it over the parts of our lives that we are finding really tough to surrender.

Holy Spirit of the living God, you are welcome to ruin my life as I think of it: to derail my plans if you need to, to make me uncomfortable, to change my morality system, to change my habits, my words, my intentions, my hopes, my preferences and my desires. Make me like my Jesus by being in my life, Holy Spirit. Help me to see and believe in the presence of my Father God wherever I am and in every moment of the day. I allow you and welcome you to cause me to experience new things so that I follow my Jesus more closely and have more compassionate heart for those whom you love. Make me Holy as you are Holy.

Psalm 119 – 169-176

May my cry come before you, O Lord;

give me understanding according to your word.

This cry is the voice of the human spirit, now rising up to God whether things are good or bad – now I can remain in heartfelt communication with my Lord.  And my cry is – continue to teach me, so I can learn and grow in your Word – with Jesus, by the Spirit, with your word on my lips, speaking and living in your paths, righteous and sanctified and glad to act!

May my supplication come before you;

deliver me according to your promise.

My cry – my appeal – should repeatedly reach the throne of God, say simply ‘Sanctify me, save me, according to your promise, your word, your Son, the promised one, the living Lord Jesus!  Save me in him and in his spirit!’

May my lips overflow with praise,

for you teach me your decrees.

I want my mouth to be overfull and for words to pour out constantly, praising God for this, my prayer, is being answered now [sic.8.6.14, but also 7.11.16].  As I write this, as I read it again in the future, whether times are hard or easy, he is teaching me this pattern of life, his way of doing business.

May my tongue sing of your Word,

for all your commands are righteous.

I want to sing!  To be noisy in your word – for and through the Spirit of Jesus – because your way of ruling is proper, good, upright, effective and able to redeem your people.

May your hand be ready to help me,

for I have chosen your precepts.

I am going to need your help, Lord – but now I understand that to ask in the Spirit is to prophesy – to ‘speak into being’ – to ask with faith is to begin to receive.  We can’t have faith in the wrong things, because faith comes from the Spirit, so what we have been given holy faith to believe, we should pray wholeheartedly for and act upon.  This is to choose God’s precepts rather than our own way of living.

I long for your salvation, O lord,

and your law is my delight.

Being saved is so exciting!  I want to run on in it – because your words and ways fill me with gladness and excitement.

Let me live that I may praise you

and may your laws sustain me.

Yes – this is life to the full – to worship in Spirit and Truth – in understanding of the real state of affairs – and sustained by God’s living law, by the Spirit of Jesus living in us as his word, showing, explaining, drawing our attention.

I have strayed like a lost sheep.  Seek your servant

for I have not forgotten your commands.

And this is the power of God’s law – I strayed – I spent all this time trying to do it – but I have not forgotten your commands because they have continually acted upon me.  As long as God seeks me, holding me on the path through his law, through his Word, his command is to follow.  His command is impossible to resist – his command is the person of Jesus – his person is the greatest command, commanding us to know him by his very presence in the world he created.

Josh Davidson 4

Dry thistles at Thames Barrier Point

Dry thistles at Thames Barrier Point

Part I

Now, Joshua didn’t stay there long. He followed the voice that told him to go out into the hills and woods of the country, and underwent a test of his own self. A time of self-seeking, some might call it, although this Joshua already knew who he was and what he was called to do. But every accusation that could come at him, as he walked and thought and prayed, attacked him with the voice of the devil. Because he wasn’t eating or drinking, the whole time, longer than a month, and if you’ve never been without food that long then you can’t say you know what hunger was. But he knew what hunger was – past the pangs of longing, into the feeling of bodily need, when your own body feels light because you have metabolised every scrap of fat between your sinews and under your skin. When the cushions of cartilage and fluid are empty and your nerves run directly over your bones.

“Hungry?” asked the Devil scornfully. “But you don’t even need to be hungry! You’re just indulging your need for drama – and needlessly. You’re going to survive – so why invite all this pain and starvation? Only a sadist does that. And are you a sadist?

“And anyway, didn’t we all hear it? If you are God’s son, you can turn any of these stones from the path into something good to eat – you can call a tree to fruit right in front of you. And I thought you liked that whole blossoming, fruiting, growing thing anyway? There’s no need for this stupid fast.”

But he knew why he was there. The hunger was the unavoidable companion of the degree of discipline and sacrifice he had chosen. The Devil was just trying to distract him from the real reason for his fast. “I know what it says,” replied Joshua to that needling voice. “Food doesn’t keep you going and breath doesn’t keep you breathing – it’s God’s promises that keep us alive.” He remembered the way his dad Joseph had said that – sometimes when he had been hungry and sometimes right before a feast. His dad had stuck to what he knew to be true.

But then it was as though Josh’s wanderings had brought him, suddenly, around a dry-stone wall and beneath overhanging trees to the pinnacle of the tallest tower in London, the city spread our below him, the trains rushing into and out of London Bridge station, vans delivering, riverboats accelerating away, and no-one looking up. And the Devil challenged him again.

“I don’t even know why you’re being careful with yourself. If you fall, you’re not going to die! If you were God’s son he’d send an angel to catch you, wouldn’t he? Like it says in that book you love – ‘His angels have orders to protect you, so they’ll carry you and you won’t even stub your toe.’ It’s a written promise, isn’t it? So just jump and leave all this stubborn walking.”

Joshua shook his head. “And it says ‘Don’t joke about with God’s promise.”

But then it was like Joshua had climbed even higher, so that in one view he could see all the countries of the worlds, their rulers and parliaments, all the wonderful diverse and developed kingdoms of men. And he heard the Devil say. “And where is God, anyway? Have you heard him, after all this time not eating or drinking? But you can hear me. Do what I say and you’ll have this – you know you will. You’re powerful enough to take it, if you let me direct you. If you choose me instead…”

“Don’t you dare,” said Joshua. “Don’t you dare even suggest it, you liar! I know what it says: ‘You belong to God – so don’t let anyone else take charge.’ I know what will happen if I choose you, you liar! Go away.”

And that was the last he heard of that needling voice. But I tell you what, he didn’t stub his toe on any stone as he came off the hills and back towards home. And whichever way he looked he saw figures guarding and guiding. And they even fed him with a food that he couldn’t quite recognise. And by the time he was back from his walk, he looked better and fitter than ever.

On the journey back he heard that John Waters had been arrested and was being held pending charges. He returned to his mum’s place and picked up a few things. And then he went down to Chesterfield, because it had always been said that when God would choose to change things, he’d start there. Perhaps because if God could change Chesterfield, he could change anywhere. So that was when Joshua Davidson started to tell people. “Change your life,” he’d say. Whether it was someone on the bus next to him or when he got on local radio or a visit to a school. “Change your life, because God’s reign is coming.”

First forgive anyone

Mark 11:25 But when you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your father in heaven will forgive you your sins too.

This is Jesus’ answer to the disciples’ desire to work miracles. It is straightforward for him – grudges and dissatisfaction are obstacles to the expression of God’s power. However deeply buried, unforgiveness will always work out in lack of faith, because unforgiveness is rooted in a selfish world-view. Releasing others and ourselves from grudges is absolutely necessary for a continuing Christian walk, as well as the only way to see God’s power work through our lives.

In fact, it is so much the prioriry that Jesus has changed the conversation here from one about miracles in the world to being about the greatest miracle we can experience: forgiveness of our own sins and justification with God. It’s not in keeping with Jesus’ lessons of a good father or the Hebrew scriptures to launch from this verse into a validation theology – that our salvation is dependent upon our forgiveness of others – but it is fairly observable that unforgiveness presents an experiential obstacle to appreciating our salvation!

Taking Jesus at his simplest here and in the previous verses, all I can see is that he links our ability -or desire – to really believe in God with the degree of intimacy we have with him, and unforgiveness and grudges, regrets and other unhealthy emotions obstruct that intimacy, not because He is unable to surpass them but because we become preoccupied with them! How wonderful that one promised day, we will no longer have to fight to keep our attention on God – and that every believer is in the process of being changed into this place by God’s sanctifying Spirit.

It is our job while here on earth, through God’s Holy Spirit, to present ourselves as living sacrifices, blameless and acceptable – to work out our salvation by engaging with the process by which the Spirit of God changes us to resemble Jesus. So be free of anger and hold no grudges and see God’s power work through you.

Isaiah 32 14-20

The fortress will be abandoned, the noisy city. deserted; citadel and watchtower will become a wasteland forever, the delight of donkeys, a pasture for flocks,

These words of Isaiah are concluding a section in which he promises, in God’s name, that things are going to change! He directly addresses complacency, warning that the very things we can delight in are the most liable to changing – but the rhythm of these chapters has a pattern of renewal, not destruction.  We all need renewal at stages in our life of faith, particularly when we have become too attached to the ‘pleasant fields and fruitful vines’ or have begun to trust in ‘citadel and watchtower’ instead of in the person of God.  Things can change in an instant!

till the Spirit is poured on us from on high, and the desert becomes like a fertile field and the fertile field seems like a forest.

Jesus’ ministry was the long pouring out of the Spirit of God.  Although he promised his disciples that the Helper would come ‘after’ him, he himself, ‘filled with God’s spirit’, had brought God near and their awakening faith – which is the gift only of God’s spirit – proved that they had begun to receive.  This also has the sense that times of renewal and over-turning will necessarily end in a pouring-out of God’s spirit upon us.

The Lord’s justice will dwell in the desert, his righteousness live in the fertile field.

Reading this today I saw the person of the Lord’s justice, Jesus, heading out into the desert to dwell there before his ministry and I heard a voice like is written so many times in the Gospel saying, ‘As it is written…’  I’m sure that as he went, consciously choosing to and unconsciously fulfilling all the prophecies made about him, Jesus would have had these words of Isaiah in his head. The desert is easy to recognise – where is the fertile field?  Well, Jesus loved to talk in the metaphors of a farmer.  He called himself a sower in a field.  Was he choosing to align his behaviour with an ancient prophecy?  That seems like inspired marketing to me.

The fruit of that righteousness will be peace; its effect will be quietness and confidence forever.

Every cycle of disruption and calming does have permanent effects in our character, in the same way that every storm that bends the branches of a tree leaves that tree stronger in places, barer in others.  I’m increasingly aware of ‘renewal’ cycles, which I think happen constantly at different scales in our lives.  At this time of year I love to attend the Renewal conference in South London, where I personally challenge myself to accept disruption of my habits of sung worship – and danced worship – to receive a lasting confidence and quietness.  I can attribute significant changes in my character and my way of life to going to Renewal like this in the last few years and I can’t wait to be there on January 30th.


My people will live in peaceful dwelling places, in secure homes, in undisturbed places of rest.  Though hail flattens the forest and the city is levelled completely, how blessed will you be, sowing your seed by every stream and letting your cattle and donkeys range free.

God does not want us to bind ourselves up in the ‘security’ of wealth, you see.  We are less able to sow, less able to care for our responsibilities – whether animals, the natural world, communities or individuals.  He will disrupt us.  We can accept that and grow to depend on him more or be left like those barren ruins.  I don’t think this a threat from the prophet – he is simply explaining a truth about the process of change.  His inspiration, his insight, as a gift from God, should prompt us to obedience and a keenness to live in reality, but with an insider’s knowledge of what is to come.  Roll on the new year!

Isaiah 32 1-4

We have a role and responsibility in the Kingdom of Heaven.

Isaiah prophesied this in Ch 32: See, a king will reign in righteousness and rulers will rule with justice.

When Jesus comes, and come he has, he invites rulers to rule for him. Not to follow their own desires but to administer justice – fairness, obedience to God and concern for the needy.

Each one, says Isaiah, will be like a shelter from the wind and a refuge from the storm, like streams of water in the desert and the shadow of a great rock in a thirsty land.

We each cast a shadow, and Jesus gave us a promise about this in John 7: Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink! Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.

Your faith in Jesus, friends, and your obedience to th Holy Spirit as you discover him within you, is God’s Plan for the Kingdom of heaven.  You might not feel influential, but let me tell you, this doesn’t depend on your skills or strength of character. The rock casts a shadow because of the brightness of the sun – the waters spring from the aquifers beneath the earth. He will make his power work in you and you will create safe places and shelters for people around you.

Pay attention today. Who prefers your company? Those in need? Then offer them the rest they seek by sharing your story.

All this was prophesied 2500 years ago. God gave Isaiah a picture for you. Jesus gave you the power to live in it through his name.

Verses 113-120

I hate double-minded men,
But I love your law.

How can we have anything but the strongest antithetical reaction to men – and that part of all men – when they are changeable, deathly, deceitful, unintentional, when we profess to love a living word that is secure, alive, honest, purposeful and good?

You are my refuge and my shield;
I have put my hope in your word.

God is a cave – an overhanging tree – a windbreak – a stormwall – a dam, a cordon, a barrier.  My belief for the good in tomorrow resides entirely within his word, nestled inside it.  You have to unfold the flaps of God;s voice and there, beautifully hidden, you see your hope – your own belief.  Find it!

Away from me, you evildoers,
That I may keep the commands of God!

Harsh words – but the price is great.  You cannot save a drowning man unless you are secure in the boat.  Distance is important – it brings clarity and freedom of sight – and allows me to keep God’s commands – not simply begin them.

Sustain me according to your promise, and I shall live;
Do not let my hopes be dashed.

This strength to see things through to the end is to be found in God’s promise to us.  Life is when something is being continued, sustained, not otherwise.  Your hopes – all of them – are secure in that single word – undashable.

Uphold me, and I shall be delivered;
I shall always have regard for your decrees.

Keeping God’s law is prominent, upheld like an offering in the sight of the people – but for delivery – and this is eternal life – satisfaction in his word!

You reject all who stray from your decrees,
For their deceitfulness is in vain.

Shortcuts are a waste of time – self-defeating.  Attempts to trick God are folly.  Those who stray are choosing a path that will be harder and less profitable.

All the wicked of the earth you discard like dross;
Therefore I love your statutes,

Here, there is some fear – not to be discarded – but you can see the poet’s value on his relationship with God.  I do not want to be unnecessary to the purpose, for wickedness makes us unusable – cannot be forged into good tools.

My flesh trembles in fear of you;
I stand in awe of your laws.

For his word is like a furnace – burning, changing, melting – on a vast scale.  More terrifyingly hot that a furnace crucible – than all the molten metal in the world – the process is on such a scale and is so effective.  This is what the word of God does – refine!

So we might learn distaste for the company of evil, but God effects our separation.  This verse of the Psalm is a window into his process in our hearts, convincing us through shows of strength and mercy.  The mercy is in his sustenance – we can only keep his laws because he hears our prayers and does his will.

Verses 105-112

Your word is a lamp to my feet

And a light for my path.

God’s Word is both the path and the light to see the path – the way, the truth and the light, in fact.  Light for planting our feet – ie for making decisions – not that he controls where we tread but that he gives light to us to choose where to tread.  Light like this is strong, but silent.  We’re not meant to walk in the dark – the Word should be showing us the way clearly.

I have taken an oath and confirmed it,

That I will follow your righteous laws.

Double charge!  How do we confirm our promises to God – do we back them up with sacrifice or gift?  A vow to follow this new path – the long path!  Baptism is such a time of dedication and vow and confirmation.

I have suffered much,

Preserve my life, O Lord, according to your word.

Some pains – like blisters – are simply the result of walking so far for so long.  Then there are attacks from enemies, but God’s promise is to defend and protect his pilgrims.

Accept, O Lord, the willing praise of my mouth,

And teach me your laws.

Teach me as I praise – after I praise – and only willing praise counts!

Though I constantly take my life in my hands,

I will not forget your law.

I will not focus on my own preservation or the threat to me.  I will have to willingly forget myself so that I can concentrate on the truth of your word – and I would have to willingly forget you, God, to think of myself after this praise.

The wicked have set a snare for me,

But I have not strayed from your statutes.

They have – they will have.  It’s certain.  But it doesn’t just affect me.  Everyone set on this path has these challenges.

Your statutes are my heritage for ever;

They are the joy of my heart.

Praise Him!  What an heirloom to receive from previous generations.  No wonder I am glad.  All of the people of my house – all the pleasure within me is because of your law.  Gladness and deep satisfaction has only ever come to me through your good law of forgiveness, freedom, righteousness and truth.

My heart is set on keeping your decrees

To the very end.

My heart is now set.  My decisions are made, my bag packed, emotions decided, will submitted, spirit conquered.  To the very end I will walk after you, O Lord, because of joy – the joy of inheriting your word!

Verses 97-104

Oh, how I love your law!

I meditate on it all day long.

Certainly scripture is meaning more to me – but so is his word by the Spirit.  This Psalm has been constantly in my head this weekend – the words and their lessons.  A good way to be.  Oh that my ways were steadfast – that I thought on God’s word through my working day! [I wrote this in April 2014.  It’s far too easy to condemn ourselves for ‘not reading Scripture enough’.  That feeling alone is a symptom of something disconnected in our Spirits.  I think it is and always will be a struggle to tear our minds off earthly things and truly concentrate on the Word, and because we remember the effects of studying it much more than the joy of studying and learning the word, we stop ourselves from falling in love with Scripture.  So – one of our collective priorities must be to talk about God’s word with excitement and love – the same way we gush to one another when we fall in love!]

Your commands make me wiser than my enemies,

For they are ever with me.

Able to see further, in time and space, and able to judge what is important – not just of people, but I can out-do and out-think temptation when God’s command is close to me.

I have more insight than all my teachers,

For I meditate on your statutes.

Insight – knowledge of God’s will and way arising from the spirit within each of us.  It develops with the dwelling – ruminating – Eugene Petersen would say ‘gnawing’.

I have more understanding than the elders,

For I obey your precepts.

Understanding in the mind, born of experience, develops particularly as a result of obedient experience.  This is God’s intention in giving us his commands – that we would understand him.

I have kept my feet from every evil path

So that I might obey your word.

Here is another direct walking parable.  There are paths that are evil to our intention and purpose, like Christian’s path in the Pilgrim’s Progress.  Because we long to follow God’s purpose at the great scale – to finish the race and complete the walk – we must be singleminded and turn down other distractions.  Even if not immoral, they can be evil to us if they lead us off the path.

I have not departed from our laws,

For you yourself have taught me.

So at no time have I been able to escape the effect of God’s law and his justice, since he himself has been actively engaged in my education.

How sweet are your words to my taste,

Sweeter than honey to my mouth.

Yet we have to chew to get the sweetness!  Looking at food, we never really remember how good it tastes.  God’s word is sweet remaining in our mouths, too.

I get understanding from your precepts;

Therefore I hate every wrong path.

The strength of my reaction to the paths and ways around me, splitting off from my route, is a result of my mind’s new openness to God’s word and my dwelling in his teaching.  If I continue to learn by making myself available to God, my mind will be even better able to warn me from bad paths, and more able to actually decide against them.  To have a pliable will and insight to see – that is freedom to walk wherever you want!

Verses 81-88

My soul faints with longing for your salvation,

But I have put my hope in your word.

That internal longing?  That yearning after fulfillment of God’s promises?  That’s the soul’s cry for a rescue that is of God.  While it remains I have a healthy appetite, but my hope runs deeper than emotion.  It is a fact – a completed act and vow that I can observe within myself.

My eyes fail, looking for your promise.

I say, “When will you comfort me?”

My body follows the pattern of my spirit and my mind, properly confessing that he will, that he has promised to save, but asking when.  We are allowed to ask “When?” – but asked to trust he will.

Though I am like a wineskin in the smoke

I do not forget your decrees.

Losing weight, tanned, dirty, smelly, stinging eyes – all this is secondary.  Though I am in pain and though my body tends cries for attention, I do not forget, for my knowledge of God’s laws is not simply the interest of my mind.  My spiritual memory is formed of my past actions, which prove that I have not forgotten God’s way, because even now I long for him.

How long must your servant wait?  

When will you punish my persecutors?

Asking these questions directly means that the only real answer comes with God’s action.

The arrogant dig pitfalls for me –

Contrary to your law.

Ridiculous, isn’t it Lord?  What do they imagine they will achieve?  Let me draw your attention to it, Father.  Here are traps – illegal traps!  For me!  When I am following your decrees the path is firm and dry – but traps are everywhere.

All your commands are trustworthy,

Help me, for men persecute me without cause.

My persecutors do not know, follow or understand your commands.  Help me by helping me to follow these trustworthy commands that will characterise my life so differently – by trusting, not imagining my own way, by doing, not worrying – and so within my own mind to remove those causeless, weak persecutors which I now know to be impermanent and senseless.  My own self-indulgent habits and ways of thought that have become traps for me as I walk your path – help me to disregard such unholiness.

They almost wiped me from the earth

But I have not forsaken your precepts.

Even King David risked being forgotten, it seems.  But what is more permanent than wealth and Kingdoms?  God’s law – and all those things that follow the pattern of God’s instruction share its security.

Preserve my life according to your love

and I will obey the statutes of your mouth.

These aren’t just any statutes!  God’s spoken care for us is as eternal as his ancient rules – but we have a new promise of these rules, no longer rules to us but a conversation.  And this is his preservation – to be with us and in us by his Word.