Christianity 201

June 24, 2018

The Fullness of Christ is a Clean Heart

God’s Spirit makes us loving, happy, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful,
gentle, and self-controlled. There is no law against behaving in any of these ways.

-Galatians 5:22-23 CEV

Purge me with hyssop,
    and I will be clean.
Wash me,
    and I will be whiter than snow.
Let me know  joy and gladness;
    let the bones that you have broken rejoice.
Hide your countenance from my sins
    and erase the record of my iniquities.

10 God, create a pure heart in me,
    and renew a right attitude within me.

– Psalm 51 ISV

Graham and Amaryllis are a retired couple living in Trimsaran, West Wales, UK who have worked in Eastern Europe, Africa and the Middle East. This is the first time we’ve featured Graham’s writing here at C201. Click the title below to read this at source.

Create in me a clean heart

We surely recognize these words from David’s repentance after ‘Bathshebagate’ in Psalm 51, a truly special psalm. We probably also recognize these words from our own experience, even though we have not sinned like David did; but these words always come from the deep longings of the soul who seeks after God, who desires earnestly to enjoy all the promises of God.

As we seek after God, we soon recognize His absolute holiness and as we draw nearer to Him, that has the effect of highlighting our sinfulness and we see the need to have a clean heart so that our quest to know God and His promises can be fulfilled, the blessedness of the worshipper, that attaining to the – fullness of God and Christ – that I have recently blogged about from Ephesians.

On the 6th blog, I realized that this ‘fullness’ was the restoration of the beauty of the human nature, back to what God originally created in Adam; this equates to it, in its fullest sense – a clean heart!

It just sounds great, doesn’t it? – a clean heart – it suggests to our minds something very beautiful, something extremely effective, a clean physical heart means the blood goes around the body perfectly. I suggest that all this equates to a consistent demonstration of the fruit of the Spirit, Gal 5:22,23. That presents a beautiful picture, but there is one thing to add to that ‘fruit’ that we see in the disciples in Acts, so I have suggested before that this is the 10th fruit of the Spirit because it is always the consequence of the ‘filling of the Spirit’; it is power! Power to be the people God wants us to be, often in difficult circumstances.

We see that Paul prays for two things for the Ephesian church – love and power – so we see that effectiveness of a clean heart, achieving what it was designed for.

From John 15, the True Vine discourse that those who – abide in Him – will bear fruit and that is obviously the idea of self-propagation, and so in Acts, we see tens of thousands of people being saved as the gospel is seen in all its love and power. Therefore, this clean heart surely is the 10-fold fruit of the Spirit, the fullness of Christ, Eph 1:23 & 4:13 – love, joy, peace, gentleness, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, patience, self-control and power! – these are the sons of God, full of the Spirit, walking by faith and living in love!

Doesn’t that just sound great? Oh yes! But how does it happen, how do we get there? Well, David asks God to create that clean heart in him, so yes, we can’t do it! God must do it, surely this is the gift of faith! As we thought before, this is the product of real, deep communion with God; this is knowing [ginosko] God, that intimacy that is so transformative that it produces the abundant life that Jesus came to bring, Jn 10:10 – living in love – presents the most beautiful of pictures!

It is David who shows how this works, it was his often-repeated desire to be a worshipper in the Tabernacle courts. Psalm after psalm presents this passionate desire to know God so that he can be the man God wanted him to be – the man after God own heart! – what an accolade!

Satan doesn’t want that to happen so he will try every trick in his book to stop that desire from coming about, he knows that his kingdom will take a beating if it does! Yes, with a clean heart we’re in the centre of the will of God and immortal until our work is done!
Another aspect of this pursuit of God is our willingness to listen to God, to listen for God! We get so set in our ways, so entrenched in our church culture that we fail to see anything is wrong, even when there is a perpetual lack of the fruit of the Spirit and ‘church’, that is mere religion is characterized by barrenness. We must prayerfully and carefully read the Word, ask for the Spirit to teach us His way, ask God to speak to us through it. We need to listen for God, for the Spirit to speak in the everyday things of life for communion with God is a 24/7 activity.

A W Tozer wrote the ‘Pursuit of God and had much to say on this, here’s his ‘Pathways into Revival’ –

1. Get thoroughly dissatisfied with yourself.
2. Set your face like a flint toward a sweeping transformation of your life
3. Put yourself in the way of the blessing – obey the Word.
4. Do a thorough job of repenting.
5. Make restitution wherever possible.

Sanctification and consecration are not taught much in our churches but if they are going to make a difference to our sick society, it is the starting point, we must be right with God. We cannot go lightly into this pursuit of God for He looks for serious people to do His will. But wow, the blessedness of attaining to the prize, that high calling, the sons of God! There is one more factor that we’ve not thought about although it is inherent within the fruit of the Spirit, it’s – humility – it is impossible to consistently display the Fruit of the Spirit without humility, it can’t be done; but of course, it fully characterized Jesus.

So too, is the beauty of the human nature seen in humility, that’s where it originally came from and if we’re to display it, it must develop from our communion with the Man who is the Image of God, Jesus, what a Saviour!

March 3, 2018

Can Any Christian Do Deliverance Ministry or is it a Specialized Gifting?

This is a question which came up today and I thought I’d share it with you, as this is a topic which, outside of Charismatic and Pentecostal environments, is not discussed among Evangelicals.

The issue is whether or not ‘the average Christian’ when in a situation of spiritual confrontation can move in the power of the Holy Spirit, or if they need to retreat and defer to ‘the experts’ in this area of ministry. An analogy to the movie Ghostbusters, while rather distracting, is not entirely out of place here. Who are you gonna call?

Before we begin, an important question to ask is, ‘Does the person seek healing and deliverance?’ If the person who needs Christ doesn’t particular want Christ’s help — and I’ve met people on both sides of this equation — then you’re possible going to proceed differently.

Another clarification needs to be made between deliverance ministry and spiritual warfare, something we looked at here in January, 2014:

The difference between deliverance and spiritual warfare is that deliverance is dealing with demonic bondages, and getting a person set free, whereas spiritual warfare is resisting, overcoming and defeating the enemy’s lies (in the form of deception, temptations and accusations) that he sends our way. Deliverance involves the breaking up of legal grounds, the tearing down of strongholds (offensive spiritual warfare), and the casting out of demons. Spiritual warfare on the other hand, is dealing with three key things the enemy sends at us: temptations, deception and accusations.

So we need to keep that distinction in mind as we proceed.

Deliverance is certainly similar to the supernatural gifts of the spirit in 1 Cor. 12, yet it is not one of them; of the nine listed, see especially these:

The same Spirit gives great faith to another, and to someone else the one Spirit gives the gift of healing. He gives one person the power to perform miracles… (12:9-10a)

This certainly gives the believer confidence that part of our ministry can include operating in the supernatural realm. Also, bringing relief to those in need was part of Christ’s mandate as shown in Luke 4:18 (AMP):

The Spirit of the Lord [is] upon Me, because He has anointed Me [the Anointed One, the Messiah] to preach the good news (the Gospel) to the poor; He has sent Me to announce release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to send forth as delivered those who are oppressed [who are downtrodden, bruised, crushed, and broken down by calamity]

and then he tells us (John 14:12-13)

“I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father. You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father.

In Luke chapter 10, Jesus sends out the 72 disciples and then we read in vs. 17:

When the seventy-two disciples returned, they joyfully reported to him, “Lord, even the demons obey us when we use your name!”

The tone of the verse suggests a bit of surprise on the part of these short-term missionaries, but also implies something which came naturally or organically because of their connection to Jesus. We get this sense two verses later in 19-20:

[Jesus:] “Look, I have given you authority over all the power of the enemy, and you can walk among snakes and scorpions and crush them. Nothing will injure you. But don’t rejoice because evil spirits obey you; rejoice because your names are registered in heaven.”

While the last half of the 16th chapter of Mark has been disputed because of manuscript corroboration, it is there we find a ‘spiritual power package’ of instructions including verse 17:

These miraculous signs will accompany those who believe: They will cast out demons in my name, and they will speak in new languages.

You have the authority. So why have we relegated deliverance ministry to being a the purview of a very select few?

It might be that this passage brings with it the potential for deliverance ministry failure:

Mark 9.17 One of the men in the crowd spoke up and said, “Teacher, I brought my son so you could heal him. He is possessed by an evil spirit that won’t let him talk. 18 And whenever this spirit seizes him, it throws him violently to the ground. Then he foams at the mouth and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid. So I asked your disciples to cast out the evil spirit, but they couldn’t do it.”

19a Jesus said to them, “You faithless people! How long must I be with you?…

25 When Jesus saw that the crowd of onlookers was growing, he rebuked the evil  spirit. “Listen, you spirit that makes this boy unable to hear and speak,” he said. “I command you to come out of this child and never enter him again!”…

28 Afterward, when Jesus was alone in the house with his disciples, they asked him, “Why couldn’t we cast out that evil spirit?”

29 Jesus replied, “This kind can be cast out only by prayer.

The Pulpit Commentary elaborates:

Though all things are possible to faith, some works are more difficult of accomplishment than others. This kind can mean only this kind of evil spirit, or demons generally. But the latter interpretation is excluded by the fact that the apostles had already exercised successfully their power over devils without special prayer or fasting. The words point to a truth in the spiritual world, that there are different degrees in the Satanic hierarchy (comp. Matthew 12:45); some demons are more malignant than others, and have greater power over the souls of men. In the present case the possession was of long standing; it revolved a terrible bodily malady; it was of an intense and unusual character. The mere word of exorcism, or the name of Jesus, spoken with little spiritual faith, could net overcome the mighty enemy. The exorcist needed special preparation; he must inspire and augment his faith by prayer and self-discipline. Prayer invokes the aid of God, and puts one’s self unreservedly in his hands; fasting subdues the flesh, arouses the soul’s energies, brings into exercise the higher parts of man’s nature. Thus equipped, a man is open to receive power from on high, and can quell the assaults of the evil one. (emphasis added)

Elliott’s Commentary adds:

The disciples, we know, did not as yet fast (Matthew 9:14-15), and the facts imply that they had been weak and remiss in prayer. The words are noticeable as testifying to the real ground and motive for “fasting,” and to the gain for the higher life to be obtained, when it was accompanied by true prayer, by this act of conquest over the lower nature.

or perhaps this passage from Matthew is in the back of someone’s mind:

17.14b A man came and knelt before Jesus and said, 15 “Lord, have mercy on my son. He has seizures and suffers terribly. He often falls into the fire or into the water. 16 So I brought him to your disciples, but they couldn’t heal him.”

17 Jesus said, “You faithless and corrupt people! How long must I be with you? How long must I put up with you? Bring the boy here to me.” 18 Then Jesus rebuked the demon in the boy, and it left him. From that moment the boy was well.

19 Afterward the disciples asked Jesus privately, “Why couldn’t we cast out that demon?”

20 “You don’t have enough faith,” Jesus told them. “I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it would move. Nothing would be impossible.

We often refer to the website, GotQuestions.org. Some non-Pentecostals or non-Charismatics downplay the need for this as a specialized ministry. Since you’ll find this thinking online in various places, here is a sample from their site:

…The Gospels and Acts relate that Jesus and the disciples cast out demons. The teaching portions of the New Testament (Romans through Jude) refer to demonic activity yet do not discuss the method of casting them out, nor are believers exhorted to do so. We are told to put on the whole armor of God…

…The Gospels and Acts relate that Jesus and the disciples cast out demons. The teaching portions of the New Testament (Romans through Jude) refer to demonic activity yet do not discuss the method of casting them out, nor are believers exhorted to do so…

…It is interesting that we have no record of Jesus’ instructions to His disciples on how to cast out demons…[and then the commentary goes on to list a rather significant number of ‘exceptions.’ Hmmm…]

Did we answer the question at the top of the page?

I think the issue here is not the office or title of the person rebuking the evil spirits, but rather the preparation of the person entering into such a ministry.

Of course, some situations are extremely short notice. We don’t know exactly when we might find ourselves seeing or being part of a direct demonic confrontation. I believe in those situations, a person who has heard God’s word on this subject, and is thereby aware of the powers that exist should resolve to act in whatever timely opportunity is available. (But I also believe God will give you some foreknowledge to be prepared to do so.)

In other parts of the world, I’m told that demonic activity is much more acute; much more visible. People in those situations don’t need to be told what they’re dealing with, they see its effects.

So the answer is both: It is a ministry that is the specialty of some pastors and Christian leaders, but it is also within the reach of any Christ-follower who has prepared themselves for the task.

Do you want to take this on?

It’s definitely worth remembering that the seventy-two were sent out in pairs. That might be a better way to apprentice in this type of ministry.


In any deliverance situation, there’s also the issue of providing ‘filling’ to someone whose ‘casting out’ of something has created a void or a whole. In Matthew we read the words of Jesus,

12.43 “When an evil spirit leaves a person, it goes into the desert, seeking rest but finding none. 44 Then it says, ‘I will return to the person I came from.’ So it returns and finds its former home empty, swept, and in order. 45 Then the spirit finds seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they all enter the person and live there. And so that person is worse off than before. That will be the experience of this evil generation.”

There are some good resources online on this topic, be discerning as you search however, and recognize that there are differences of opinion on this issues from different theological traditions.


Scriptures today were all NLT (just because) except where indicated.

 

 

 

 

 

August 23, 2015

Plugged into the Power of the World Yet to Come

Spiritual PowerPastor George Belobaba was in full-time ministry for over sixty years and was married to his wife, Zena, for 65 years. They had one son and five daughters. Through almost 750 posts, Susan E. Johnson copied the pastor’s writings so they could be preserved on the internet at the blog Scripture Nuggets. Today’s post here is among the final two which were posted. Click the individual links below to read at source and look around the rest of the topics.

Living Off The Powers Of The World To Come

Hebrews 6:5… “And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come” (KJV). The NLT reads, “Who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the power of the age to come.”

What a great verse. It tells of saints who learned how to live in troubled times. They learned how to pray and how to believe in the Word of God. They tasted God’s utterances and experienced how good God’s message is. They were nourished by the Word, and the results were fantastic. They lived off the miracles of the world to come. Mighty works were in abundance. When they believed the Word, they set in motion the powers of the supernatural world. If we know how to pray, we know how to live. If prayer sags, life sags along with it.

I was meditating on this text some time ago, and of the possibility of entering into and reaching into the world to come, taking from that world, bringing into this world, and living by the powers of that world. The NCV reads,

They found out how good God’s word is, and they received the powers of his new world.”

Of course, the powers of the world to come was in receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit. If Christians today can grasp this… That coming age was the “age of the Holy Spirit,” the New Testament era. It is now. I personally believe that soon there will be extraordinary manifestations of the power of God that cannot be explained away. “Is there not a cause?” (1 Samuel 17:29, KJV).

Prayer will help us to penetrate through the natural world into the supernatural world, the realm of God. Prayer draws from His realm the needs for our realm. We can live by the abundance that He provides. If prayer lags, supplies sag. The New Testament teaches that it is by faith we have access (Romans 5:1-2), and by the blood of Jesus the way was opened for us to come in (Hebrews 10:19). There are things in God’s realm that will not come to us unless we pray and believe. God is willing to supply all our needs when we are willing to seek first the kingdom of God (Matthew 6:33). The saints in our text learned to live by tapping into the supernatural by prayer and by faith.

The disciples saw Jesus praying. He relied on prayer for fellowship and communion with the Father. He prayed first at His baptism (Luke 3:21-22), and the Holy Spirit came upon Him. Prayer brought the Spirit, and with the Spirit came the power and the abundance. Jesus prayed for many things as well. When the disciples saw Jesus praying, they asked to be taught how to pray (Luke 11:1-4). Jesus taught the importance of relationship (“Our Father”). He taught them the power of the Name of Jesus (“Hallowed be Thy Name”). He also taught the necessity of the Holy Spirit (Thy kingdom come”). In the early manuscripts of the Gospel of Luke, the words “Thy kingdom come” reads as “Thy Spirit come upon us” (Cambridge Bible, 1910). In the 1950s, I was reading the Lord’s Prayer and came to the words “Thy kingdom come.” The Holy Spirit said to me that this refers to the Holy Spirit coming upon us, and that when we pray, the Holy Spirit needs to be in our asking. It’s the Holy Spirit that brings the powers of the world to come into our living today.

Living Off The Powers Of The World To Come, Pt. 2

The 120 started out with prayer and waited for the coming of the Spirit (Acts 1:14). They did not start out with, “Lord, give us power and success to do miracles.” They were very careful in that they did not use prayer for ego-expanding requests, nor did they use God for their own selfish purposes. Prayer is not capturing Jesus to make Him serve us. Both Jesus and the disciples began on the right foundation. They prayed for the coming of the Spirit. The Spirit makes intercession for us (Romans 8:26-27). The Spirit helps us to pray according to God’s will. 1 John 5:14-15 mentions the words “according to His will.” The qualifying power for answered prayer is “according to the will of the Lord.” Too often the will of God is not in our praying. Faith in what He has said will bring the answer. The 120 prayed for the Spirit, and what each wanted for themselves, they wanted for all. With the Spirit came the miracles from the world to come.

The disciples saw Jesus’ countenance change when He prayed (Luke 9:28-29). Prayer changes the way you look. The glory of the Father manifested itself on the body of Jesus and it will do the same for ours. Paul writes of these things in 2 Corinthians 4:17-18. Through prayer, we become alive, aglow, anointed, and permeated with His glory.

Thou hast made known to me the ways of life; thou shalt make me full of joy with thy countenance” (Acts 2:28, KJV).

The disciples saw Jesus praying in Gethsemane (Luke 22:39-46). Jesus prayed that He would carry out the purposes for which He came–the cross and shedding of His blood for the remission of sin. Prayer was generated to accomplish a specific purpose. Prayer gave Jesus a divine compulsion to do the Father’s will. Prayer gives us a mission and the power and ability to carry out that mission. When saints pray, they soon exchange the chip on their shoulder for the Lord’s hand upon their shoulder, capturing them for Kingdom purposes.

A story is told of an old riverboat pilot. A passenger had marveled at the pilot’s skill in navigating the paddlewheeler up and down the river, “You must know where all the sandbars are.” “No,” said the pilot, “but I know where the channels are.” Jesus knew the channels that led to a Spirit-empowered life… so did the early saints. That channel is prayer and faith in God’s Word. Because they knew how to pray, they knew how to live (which was by the powers of the world to come).

We can experience the miraculous abundance of the world to come as the early saints did. The key is prayer and having faith in what God says. Prayer brings the Spirit, and with Him comes poise, peace, purpose, and power. Many saints seek only the proof of prayer when they should be seeking the practice of prayer. Prayer is talking something over with God rather than trying to talk God out of or into something.

September 1, 2013

God’s People Always Have a Song

In the same way that Moses lifted the serpent in the desert so people could have something to see and then believe, it is necessary for the Son of Man to be lifted up—and everyone who looks up to him, trusting and expectant, will gain a real life, eternal life. (John 3: 14-15, The Message)

Over a week ago, we arrived at the summer camp where me met to pick up our two sons; one of whom had been working there for 17 weeks, the other who was there just over 13 weeks. I love Christian camping and its mammoth potential in the life of a child or teen. If you are one of the ‘givers’ and you’re looking to invest in ministry for maximum lasting impact, I encourage you to seek out an interdenominational camping ministry — they’re the ones that don’t have a source of automatic funding — and ask what their current capital needs are.

Anyway, the staff were having a wrap-up lunch, and even though I hadn’t been there, I got the same lump in my throat that I would have gotten having spent the 13 or 17 weeks there myself. I looked at one young man who was fighting back some tears and I just about lost it.

The staff watched a slide presentation that included four of the songs they had come to love over the summer, one of which clearly engaged them more than the rest, Let it Be Known by Worship Central. It’s not just that the song has a catchy rhythm and physical actions. I believe that God always has a song; that a song gets raised up in every time and place and season.

Let it be known
That our God saves
Our God reigns
We lift You up up
Let it be known
That love has come
Love has won
We lift You up up up oh

Some of the staff are returning to school, others to jobs, others to an uncertain fall season. Some will go back to Christian homes where they’ll be taken to churches on Sunday that sing the same songs; others to non-Christian families that beg the question, “How can we sing the songs of the Lord in a foreign land?” (Psalm 137).

But on that day, in that dining hall, the power of their corporate worship and the sheer volume the soundtrack pumping through the speakers, would empower any of them to say, “With God, nothing is impossible.” (Luke 1:37)

Come on let’s turn it up
We’re gonna sing it out
For all the world to hear…

…Nothing can stop us now
No one can keep us down
We’ve found our voice again…

…No need for fear and shame
There’s power in His name
Come on let freedom reign…

My prayer for them would be that after the energy has faded and they are back home — perhaps with other Christian friends, or perhaps feeling very alone — the power of the Holy Spirit would continue to be as strong in their lives.

God has new songs he is waiting to birth in the hearts of people in different locations, situations and junctures of personal and corporate ministry. Perhaps one of the young people in that dining hall will write one of them.  In the meantime, turn it up loud — really loud — and make their end-of-summer anthem yours as well:

June 3, 2013

Speaking with Boldness and Power

This is combination of two devotional posts by George Whitten, editor of Worthy Devotions, another Alltop – Christianity indexed website.  As we mentioned when we featured his blog here a year ago, one of the key features at Worthy is the topical index which allows you delve into any one of a wide variety of subjects. These two posts — one from February and one from May — have their roots in Acts 4.  The original title and link to each appears at the start of each article.

You have Resurrection Power!

Acts 4:13 Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marveled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.

Just a few weeks prior to this incident, the disciples were trembling for their lives as their Lord was arrested and then crucified. They had all fled in the Garden of Gethsemane and then Peter, whose boldness was legendary, had denied him three times. The fact that they had been serving with Yeshua (Jesus) for three years, witnessing many miracles, including Peter’s amazing walk on the water, apparently did not inspire the necessary courage to watch for an hour or to stick with Him to the end. Perhaps the miraculous had become a bit commonplace for them, so that when the threat to Yeshua came full force, they floundered and failed miserably.

What happened that changed their state of being so dramatically in this encounter with the Jewish leaders? I believe it was two things: one, that they had seen their Lord resurrected from the dead, and two, that they were now filled with that resurrection life and power themselves, by the Holy Spirit. The power of the resurrection was within and upon them! The reality and security of God’s indwelling Presence and power, and His words “Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do”, inspired a boldness far beyond any merely human courage.

This boldness amazed the Sadducees and Pharisees who despised Peter and John as “unlearned and ignorant”men. They marveled at the unabashed fearlessness of the apostles whose knowledge was of a different and superior kind: the knowledge of their RISEN and RESURRECTED Lord. And then they noted, that these men had been with Yeshua (Jesus)!

This power is yours, and it is mine, if we continue to be filled with the Holy Spirit, not quenching or grieving Him. We, too, will confound and amaze the “authorities” of our day with the holy boldness of resurrection life, and though they may despise our humble circumstances, they also will take note that, “we have been with Jesus”.

part two:

React with Boldness!

Psalms 2:1-3 Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed [in Hebrew it is the word Meshiach], saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us.

Acts 4:25-28 Who by the mouth of thy servant David hast said, Why did the heathen rage, and the people imagine vain things? The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against his Christ. For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, For to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done.

When Peter and John had gone up to the Temple for prayer [Acts 3], they saw a man who was lame from birth, and were moved to heal him in the name of Yeshua (Jesus). Immediately the religious leaders laid hands on them [Acts 4:3] and kept them imprisoned for a day. The following day, with boldness, they declared this miracle was done in the name of Yeshua. I love what the “religious” leaders said next — “they perceived that they were unlearned men and they marveled at their boldness!” Why were they bold? They had been with Yeshua, and the leaders took note of that!

It is no surprise that the world rages against the Messiah. Psalm 2 declares it clearly. Every year there are tens of thousands of believers suffering and dying for their faith, in large part because the kings and the rulers of the earth RAGE against the Lord and His Anointed. As followers of the King we should expect this and be prepared for it when it comes.

But, the examples of Peter and John, and every other true Christian martyr, are there to inspire and encourage us that if and when the time of persecution comes for us, we too can be bold as a lion. And this boldness is no merely human bravery, but an unction from the Holy Spirit Himself. So, though the kings of the earth will rage, our simple faith and Holy Spirit boldness will testify that we too have been with Yeshua!

 

April 1, 2012

The Spirit Gives Life

Today marks the beginning of Year Three here at Christianity 201. As I’ve stated before, I began writing this for purely selfish reasons: To keep my personal devotional life grounded and accountable, and to keep from being distracted by the issues, controversies and news stories that characterize tens of thousands of other Christian blogs, including Thinking Out Loud.

I am learning so much in the process of doing this, and I thank all of you who read regularly for your support and comments, and especially those of you whose writing has been “borrowed” to be part of the collection here.


I’ve just started reading Spirit Rising: Tapping Into the Power of the Holy Spirit by Jim Cymbala (Zondervan). His first book, Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire was a unique reading experience simply because the story of what God did and continues to do at the Brooklyn Tabernacle is a very unique story. It’s a church that was birthed into existence through prayer. I’m only a chapter in, but I hope I can whet your appetite for Jim’s writing through this and a couple of other excerpts I’m sure will run here.

First, from the introduction by Francis Chan:

It is the Spirit who gives life. The flesh is of no help at all. (John 6:63)

The Holy Spirit is not merely helpful. He is our only hope. He is the one who gives life. Yet when people lack life, the church often points to other solutions. When church services lack life, we grasp at so many other methods to gry to generate excitement. This is not true at Brooklyn Tabernacle, where Pastor Jim has served faithfully for decades. Their solution to everything is prayer. And it shows…

…We all see problems in the church. We don’t need another book to point those out. We need the faith to believe that the solution is really quite simple: The Holy Spirit.

And from the first chapter by Jim Cymbala

The Holy spirit is God’s agent on earth, yet ye is the least understood, least preached about, and least discussed member of Trinity. And that is sad, because without him, our spiritual lives will always become a dry, mechanical struggle… I can’t think of anything else that will change your prayer life, your study of God’s Word, and your experience during worship in church more than inviting the  Spirit to join you in a new way…

…If you want power, confidence, joy, peace, and more love in your life, ask the Spirit to come in and do something new in you… I promise you that when he does, your spiritual life will cease to be dry and mechanical. Instead, it will be filled with awe at the power of the Spirit and the wonder of God’s goodness.

August 14, 2010

Your Spiritual Report Card

Years ago, I told someone that, “you should always carry a sermon in your back pocket.” In other words, we who are the laity should always have a message to bring.

If I have a sermon in my back pocket, it would be on II Peter 3:18. I’ve actually used this in two different churches. Right now there is a great deal of debate as to whether pastors should preach sermons written by others, but I’m not even sure a pastor should recycle one of his own sermons. But if another invitation would come up, I might actually do this again. If it’s getting near the end of the school year, I compare this word of instruction to a two-subject report card; a way to check up on yourself and see how you’re doing in Christian growth:

But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.


Some people listen to sermons in church and immediately shut down their thinking processes because they’ve heard the verse before, or consider it too basic, too Christianity 101. At that point, I always say, that if you’ve been a Christ-follower for some time, and you want a report card that lists more subjects, if you want Christianity 201, you should look at Colossians 1: 9-12. Here’s how The Message version translates* this section:

Be assured that from the first day we heard of you, we haven’t stopped praying for you, asking God to give you wise minds and spirits attuned to his will, and so acquire a thorough understanding of the ways in which God works. We pray that you’ll live well for the Master, making him proud of you as you work hard in his orchard. As you learn more and more how God works, you will learn how to do your work. We pray that you’ll have the strength to stick it out over the long haul—not the grim strength of gritting your teeth but the glory-strength God gives. It is strength that endures the unendurable and spills over into joy, thanking the Father who makes us strong enough to take part in everything bright and beautiful that he has for us.


That presents a greater challenge. I can give myself passing grades on the II Peter section; grace and knowledge aren’t an issue. But the Colossians passage… Look at the individual phrases and see what marks you would give yourself. Here’s the more familiar wording from the TNIV:

For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his people in the kingdom of light.

*I’ve used the word translation since Eugene Peterson worked from original languages. Some would prefer the word paraphrase, which Evangelicals tend to use pejoratively, and linguists don’t use at all. Placing text “A” in words understood by people group “B” is translating.