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Showing posts with the label #HolySpirit

The Holy Spirit and the supernatural.

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1 Corinthians 12.1-7.SUPERNATURALsu.pər'nætʃ(.ə).rəlnoun. Event caused by (or credited to) some force beyond scientific understanding, beyond natural laws.If you wanna get technical, whenever anyone interferes with the natural course of events, it’s more-than-natural; it’s super-natural.Fr’instance if I put plastic pink flamingos in the front yard. They aren’t the product of Mommy plastic flamingo and Daddy plastic flamingo loving one another very much, and giving one another a special kind of “hug.” Nor did they sprout up from the ground like mutant orchids. Somebody—really a whole bunch of somebodies—drilled for petroleum, extracted the plastic, colored it pink, molded it into a flamingo shape, lost all sense of what’s appropriate for lawn ornaments, bought them, and placed them there. Didn’t happen naturally. But we tend to call this behavior unnatural, not supernatural.Typically we save the term “supernatural” for stuff which apparently wasn’t done by humans. If a flying sauce…

What’s the difference between a seer and a prophet?

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In case you’re the sort of person who skips titles (a phenomenon I’ve seen a bunch of times, and still don’t get), I remind you this article is called “What’s the difference between a seer and a prophet?”Short answer: No difference. Same thing.1 Samuel 9.9 KWLIn the past, in Israel, a man said this when he went to seek God: “Walk, walk to the seer.”For “the prophet” today was “the seer” in the past.The Hebrew רֹאֶה/rohéh, “seer,” is the noun-form of the verb רָאָה/raháh, “to see.” It means what we mean by “seer”: A person who can see. A person whose eyeballs work, so they can point ’em at stuff and identify what they’re looking at. It’s not a complicated word. When I see rainbows, I’m a seer of rainbows. Duh. But when they used this word in the bible they obviously had an attached idea that a seer saw something more than others could. ’Cause like all legitimate prophets, seers had the Holy Spirit, who’d show ’em stuff.It’s a term which didn’t entirely die out “in the past,” because we …

The Holy Spirit’s temple: Multiple Christians.

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From time to time Christians talk about how you, singular, individually, are the temple of the Holy Spirit.’Cause the Spirit is sealed to every individual Christian. Ep 1.13He lives in the heart of every single believer. And whatever God lives in is, properly, his temple. If he lives in you, it makes you his temple. If he lives in another Christian, it makes that person a temple. Dozens of Christians are dozens of temples. Billions of Christians are billions of temples. Get it?But it’s not accurate. God has one temple.As was kinda emphasized in the bible. Moses built the portable temple at Sinai, which English-speaking Christians call the tabernacle, and that was the temple for 4 centuries till Solomon ben David built a permanent one of gold-plated cedar in Jerusalem. The Babylonians burnt that down; Zerubbabel ben Shealtiel built another of stone; Herod 1 and his successors renovated it; the Romans eventually destroyed it. It was the one and only place the LORD intended to meet peopl…

God our Mother.

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Our hangups about gender get in the way of understanding the Almighty. Years ago I observed a rather heated discussion between two people about which pronoun to use for the Holy Spirit.See, when people don’t know the Holy Spirit, they tend to refer to him as “it”—they think he’s a force, or God’s power, or otherwise don‘t realize he’s a person. The Greek word for spirit, πνεῦμα/néfma, isn’t much help in making this determination: In English nearly all our nouns are neuter, but in nearly every other language they’re not; they’re either masculine or feminine. Well, Greek has masculine, feminine, and neuter… and néfma is neuter. The writers of the New Testament didn’t try to masculinize it either, and turn it into πνεῦμος/néfmos or give it masculine noun-markers like ὁ πνεῦμα/o néfma, “the [he]-Spirit.” Nope, they went with the usual πνεῦμα ἅγιον/Néfma Ághion, “Holy Spirit”; τὸ πνεῦμα τοῦθεοῦ, “God’s Spirit”—both neuter. Every reference to the Spirit in the NT is neuter.But in the Old Te…

Christians who don’t know the Holy Spirit.

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Shouldn’t be such creatures, but there are.Recently I was checking out a local Baptist church’s faith statement on their website. These faith statements come in handy when you wanna know what an individual church emphasizes. Not all Baptists are alike, y’know. Pretty much the only thing they have in common is they’re Protestant, and they insist you gotta believe in Jesus before you’re baptized; they won’t baptize babies. Beyond that, they could be liturgical or loose, run by elders or by popular vote, Calvinist or Pelagian, egalitarian or sexist or racist—any stripe of Christian you can imagine.In this specific Baptist church, turns out they don’t know the Holy Spirit.I know; you’re thinking, “What Christian doesn’t know who the Holy Spirit is?” Well, heretic Christians. And you’re gonna find this particular heresy is surprisingly common. Too many Christians don’t understand who the Spirit is and what he does in their lives—that he’s probably the only person of God’s trinity they’ve e…

The Twelve and the miracles.

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The hangups Christians have about how the apostles could somehow do miracles before Pentecost. Mark 6.12-13 • Luke 9.6.Of Jesus’s students, he assigned 12 of them to be apostles, “one who’s been sent out,” and eventually he did send ’em out to preach the gospel, cure the sick, and exorcise unclean spirits.And that’s exactly what they did.Mark 6.12-13 KWL12 Going out, the apostles preached that people should repent.13The apostles were throwing out many demons, anointing many sick people with olive oil—and they were curing them.Luke 9.6 KWL6 Coming out, the apostles passed through the villages,evangelizing and curing the sick everywhere.Yep, all of them. Even Judas Iscariot.And here’s where we slam into a wall with a lot of Christians. Because they cannot fathom how these apostles went out and cured the sick and exorcised evil spirits.They’ll grudgingly acknowledge that the apostles did it. The gospels totally say so, and who are they to doubt the gospels? But y’see, their hangups come …

Continuationism. Because the miracles never stopped.

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Most Christians believe in miracles, though I’m gonna single out the Pentecostals and charismatics a little.CONTINUATIONISTkən.tɪn.jʊ'eɪ.ʃən.ɪstadjective. Believes the Holy Spirit’s gifts (particularly tongues and prophecy) continued from bible times to the present day.I’m not a big fan of the term continuationist. That’s because the default setting for Christianity is, and should be, that the Holy Spirit is living, active, and still doing as he did among the ancient Christians, as described by the prophet Joel and fulfilled on 24 May 33, the date of the first Christian Pentecost:Acts 2.17-21 KWL17 “ ‘God said this’ll happen in the last days: “I’ll pour out my Spirit on all flesh.Your sons and daughters will give prophecies.Your young ones will see visions. Your old ones will will dream dreams.18In those days I’ll pour out my Spirit even on my slaves, men and women.And they’ll give prophecies!19I’ll show wonderful things in the skies above,and signs on the earth below—blood and fi…

Miracles: Actual acts of God.

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As opposed to what insurance companies call “acts of God.”Properly defined a miracle is anything God does or enables. If a human performs a miracle, it’s not legitimate—it’s trickery—if the Holy Spirit doesn’t empower it.Improperly but popularly, a miracle is defined as a violation of the laws of nature. Blame 18th-century Scottish philosopher David Hume for that one. Hume didn’t believe in miracles, but he did believe in science, and decided to set the two of them at odds with one another: If you believe in one, what’re you doing believing in the other? As a result, today we have a lot of Christians who don’t believe in science—and don’t think we’re allowed to believe in it. Likewise a lot of people who do trust science, but are under the misbelief they’re fools if they also trust God—and as a result they hide their religious beliefs from their colleagues. All for no good reason; over a false rivalry between apples and oranges.Also improperly but popularly, a miracle is defined as an…

Is faith a gift?

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Mixing up the types of faith, is why a lot of Christians don’t develop their faith.Oh, I won’t bury the lead. Is faith a gift? Well, supernatural faith is a gift. The other types of faith? Nah.I know why various Christians claim faith, all faith, is a gift. It’s usually ’cause it says so in their church’s catechism. Fr’instance the Heidelberg Catechism:65. It is through faith alone that we share in Christ and all his benefits: Where then does that faith come from?A. The Holy Spirit produces it in our hearts by the preaching of the holy gospel, and confirms it by the use of the holy sacraments.Various scriptures indicate that people have faith after hearing the gospel, Ro 10.17 and the writers of the catechisms kinda stretched these verses to imply it was the gospel, and God granting us the ability to understand the gospel, 1Co 2.10-14 which generated the faith in us. It wasn’t our ability to trust what we heard; it was God sorta flipping a switch in us so that now we had the ability t…

Tongues trigger emotion. Don’t let that misdirect you.

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It’s an emotional experience to pray with God’s power. But we’re called to more than that.1 Corinthians 14.20-21.Praying in tongues is an emotional thing.Y’see, when we pray tongues, it’s usually because we aren’t sure what to say to God. We’re too overwrought to say anything. Or there are so many thoughts in our head, and we can’t sort out what to prioritize. Or we don’t even know what’s going on, so we can’t articulate anything, but we know we oughta pray. Or we have prayed, but it wasn’t enough. For these and many other reasons, the Holy Spirit has granted us the ability to let him say it for us. Ro 8.26 But y’notice in all the circumstances I listed (and the dozens I haven’t), emotion’s a big part of it.Here’s the catch. It’s also possible to pray tongues when we don’t know what to pray—but initially, feel nothing. That’s right. We haven’t resorted to tongues because we wanna pray; we’ve resorted to tongues because we wanna feel. We’re seeking the emotion which comes along with pr…

Tongues and unfruitful minds.

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Plus the unfruitful cessationist interpretations of this passage. 1 Corinthians 14.13-19.This is a passage Christians like to quote. For different reasons.For Pentecostals it’s to quote the apostles—specifically Paul—when they wrote, “I speak tongues more than all of you.” Then argue, “See? Paul did it. Why can’t we?” And then, more often than not, proceed to do it contrary to everything else Paul taught about building up the church.For anti-Pentecostals, it’s to point to the statement, “Pray that you can interpret,” then loudly object, “People ought never speak in tongues tongues at church unless they follow up with an interpretation.” Then they proceed to ban even the tongues which might be followed up with interpretation, just to be on the safe side. If they’re full-bore cessationist, they’re pretty sure tongues are devilish anyway.Well, let’s look at the passage in question.1 Corinthians 14.13-19 KWL13 So tongues-speakers: Pray that you can interpret.14 When I pray tongues, my spi…

Blaspheming the Holy Spirit: The unforgiven sin.

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Yep, it’s a big big deal.Mark 3.28-30 • Matthew 12.31-32 • Luke 12.10Fairly soon after we become Christians, we hear a rumor going round that there’s such a thing as an unpardonable sin: If we commit it, we’re doomed. God’s grace apparently has a limit, and this crosses it. Do it and you’re going to hell. Game over, man, game over.Problem is, the rumor doesn’t always tell people what this unpardonable sin is. I’ve had newbies ask me whether it was murder. (Nope; Moses and David were murderers, y’know. Arguably so was Paul.) Others figure any of the seven deadly sins are unpardonable. (Nope; still not it.) When I was a kid, I thought cursing God would do it. (Still nope.) According to Jesus, it’s when we commit the sin of blasphemy—but not against the Father nor himself, but specifically against the Holy Spirit.Turns up in the gospels, right after Jesus had to correct the Pharisee scribes for accusing him of using Satan to perform exorcisms.Mark 3.28-30 KWL28“Amen! I promise you every

A few tongues to set the mood?

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Tongues aren’t mood enhancers. They’re prayer and prophecy. 1 Corinthians 14.5-12.One of the practices I see too often in Pentecostal churches is the very same one Paul and Sosthenes saw in the church at Corinth. It’s the use of praying in tongues as atmosphere. “Okay everybody, call out to God in your prayer language,” will be the instruction. (Sometimes with the caveat, “If you have a prayer language,” and hopefully they do.) Then everybody’s expected to pray, or sing, or make various joyful noises, in tongues.What’s this all about? Well, tongues are prayer. So we’re praying, and prayer is good. Right?Except that’s not entirely why they’re doing it. They’re doing it to set the mood. “Change the atmosphere,” might be another way Christians put it. Create a vibe.Ostensibly it’s to call upon the Holy Spirit, ’cause he’s the one who empowers tongues. 1Co 12.10 Makes it more obvious he’s in the room… ’cause he’s working the room, in order to get all these tongues unloosed. Secondarily, o…

Are you experienced?

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You wanna know God’s real? Start seeking God-experiences. Every so often someone’ll ask me, “How do you know there’s a God?”They’re not asking me rhetorically, “How do we know God exists?” They don’t wanna go over the apologists’ various proofs for God’s existence. In fact that’d be the fastest way to annoy them: “Well y’see, I know there’s a God because the universe works on cause-and-effect, and if we trace all the causes back to a first cause…” Yeah yeah, they’ve heard the “unmoved mover” idea before. They don’t care about that. They wanna know how I, me, K.W. Leslie, the guy who talks about God as if he’s met him personally, knows God exists.Well, that’d be how. Met him personally.No, really.No, really. See, that’s the problem with such Christians: They’re not sure “met him personally” is a valid option in this present age. Often they’ve been taught to believe in some form of cessationism where God stopped personally intervening in the universe, or interacting with his kids once s…

The explosive power of God?

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Humans covet power. It’s why we regularly misinterpret what the scriptures have to say about it.Dynamis power /'di.na.mis, usually 'du'nə.mɪs 'paʊ(.ə)r/ n. The extra-mighty sort of power God possesses.[Dynamite power /'daɪ.nə.maɪt 'paʊ(.ə)r/]“A little learning is a dangerous thing.” So wrote poet Alexander Pope in his Essay on Criticism, and a lot of people stop there. They figure what Pope meant was be careful with knowledge. Knowledge is power, and knowledge is dangerous.Read the whole poem and you learn different.A little learning is a dang’rous thing;Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian Spring:There shallow draughts intoxicate the brain,And drinking largely sobers us again.The Pierian Spring was a fountain in Macedonia dedicated to the Greek goddesses of wisdom and talent, the Muses. Drink from it, and you’re supposed to gain knowledge. Sip from it and you get half-truths. That’s what’s dangerous: A little learning, partial knowledge. Don’t be satisfied wit…

Tongues. And how they develop prophecy.

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It’s definitely not one or the other.1 Corinthians 14.1-5Tongues are a controversial practice.Not just because far too many Christians believe God turned off the miracles and therefore has nothing to do with tongues, bible to the contrary. To be honest and blunt, tongues are easy to fake, and easy to abuse. Christians who pray in tongues have a bad habit, and therefore a reputation, of being undisciplined about it.Which was entirely the point of Paul and Sosthenes writing 1 Corinthians 14: They didn’t wanna forbid nor ban tongues, like certain overzealous Christians do, and in so doing squelch everything the Holy Spirit wants to achieve through ’em. They simply wanted the Christians of Corinth to police themselves. Stop letting your tongues-speakers run amok. Stop prioritizing tongues above unity, harmony, and especially prophecy.Best I stop summarizing and get to that chapter.1 Corinthians 14.1-5 KWL1 Pursue love. Be zealous for the supernatural.Most of all so you can prophesy:2 Tong…

Shekhinah: Everybody’s favorite non-biblical Hebrew word.

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It’s about how Christians wanna experience God’s glory.Shekhinah /sɛ.xi'nɑ, usually ʃɛ'kaɪ.nə/ n. The glory of God’s presence.2. God’s presence.3. God’s dwelling place.[Shekhinic /ʃɛ'kaɪ.nɪk/ adj.]The Hebrew word šekhiná, which English-speakers tend to spell “shekhinah” or “shekinah,” isn’t found in the bible.No, really. It comes from the Mishna. Sanhedrin 6.5, Avot 3.2, 6 It refers to God’s presence. More specifically the glory of God’s presence—provided we can feel or sense or see any kind of presence. God’s invisible, y’know. But sometimes he makes his presence more visible than usual. Like when he allowed Moses to see his glory Ex 33.18 —from the back, anyway. Or when the Hebrews saw God’s glory in his temple, 2Ch 7.3 or when Stephen had a vision of it. Ac 7.55None of these folks were talking about seeing God himself. The apostle John is entirely sure they didn’t see God himself. Jn 1.18 But they saw something, and what they saw was what God šakhán/“dwells” in. That’s …

Generational curses and fearful Christians.

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Christians are curse-proof. But some of us are convinced family curses still affect us.In the middle of the Ten Commandments, as he warned the Hebrews away from idolatry, the LORD mentioned a little something about how children suffer consequences for their parents.Exodus 20.5-6 KWL5“Don’t bow down to them. Don’t serve them.For I’m YHWH your God: I’m El-Qanná/‘Possessive God.’I have children suffer consequences for their parents’ evil—and the grandchildren, and great-grandchildren—when they hate me.6But I show love to a thousand generationswhen they love me and observe my commands.”Elsewhere in Exodus, when the LORD revealed his glory to Moses, he repeated this idea of forgiving a thousand generations, yet afflicting three or four generations.Exodus 34.6-7 KWL6 The LORD passed over Moses’s face and said, “YHWH. YHWH. God.Compassionate. Gracious. Slow to anger. Great in love and truth.7Lovingly guarding thousands, putting up with evil, rebellion, and sin.Not cleansing, cleansing those …

When supernatural gifts will no longer be needed.

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Contrary to common myth, not gonna happen for a while yet.1 Corinthians 13.7-13I grew up among Christians who loved to use this passage of 1 Corinthians to justify their belief God turned off the miracles. He didn’t, but miracles weirded them out and messed with their End Times theories, so they decided it’d be easiest if he just did. So when Paul and Sosthenes wrote the following, they had their own spin on it. (Here it is, in what they figured was the authoritative King James Version.)1 Corinthians 13.8-10 KJV8 Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. 9 For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. 10 But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.“That which is perfect,” they insisted, meant the bible. The New Testament wasn’t complete in Paul’s day; John wouldn’t write Revelation for a few more decades. So while the ca…

The love we oughta see in supernatural gifts.

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We do untold damage when love’s not part of this ministry.1 Corinthians 13.4-8When Christians write the about the bit from 1 Corinthians 13 which defines love, we almost universally take it out of context. Myself included. ’Tain’t necessarily a bad thing: We quote it when we’re defining love. What love is, as opposed to what it’s not—as opposed to what popular culture, and sometimes even Christian culture, claims it is. The apostles defined it properly, so we’re adjusting our concept of agápi/“charity” accordingly.But in context, the apostles defined it because they were correcting the Corinthians’ misperceptions about the supernatural. If you’re gonna strive for greater gifts, the only valid way to pursue them and do them is in love. If you’re not doing ’em in love, you’re doing ’em wrong.And if you’re not entirely certain what the apostles meant by this “love” concept, permit ’em to straighten you out a bit.1 Corinthians 13.4-8 KWL4 Love has patience. Love behaves kindly. It doesn’t…