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Showing posts with the label #HolySpirit

The Holy Spirit reminds us what Jesus taught… assuming we know what Jesus taught.

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John 14.25-26. Most Christians figure Jesus’s students followed him three years. It might actually have been longer than that. The idea of three years comes from the fact three Passovers get mentioned in John , Jn 2.13, 6.4, 11.55 the last one being the Passover for which he died. But just because John mentioned three particular Passovers doesn’t mean these were the only Passovers which took place during Jesus’s teaching time. Coulda been nine for all we know. No I’m not kidding: 7 BC : Jesus was born. 24 CE : Jesus’s 30th birthday. Luke states he was ὡσεὶ / oseí , “like,” 30 when he started teaching. Lk 3.23 Didn’t say exactly 30, but let’s start from there. 33 CE : Jesus died. And woulda been about 39. Time for some basic arithmetic. If Jesus started teaching in the year 24, and “like” just means he was a few months shy of 30, by the year 33 he’d’ve been teaching nine years. If “like” instead means he was already in his thirties; say 33… he’d’ve been teac

The Holy Spirit of truth… and dense Christians.

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John 14.15-17. Christians take for granted that we receive the Holy Spirit by virtue of being Christian: When we say the sinner’s prayer and claim Jesus as our individual savior, we individually, automatically get the Holy Spirit to indwell us and guarantee us an eternal place in God’s kingdom. Right? Right. But the assumption Jesus makes when he says as much to his students in John , is his students don’t just passively believe in him. Don’t just passively believe all the correct things about him, and have the proper “faith”, and that’s what saves us. And once we die after a lifetime of taking God’s grace for granted, we get to use the Holy Spirit as our entry fee to heaven. The Holy Spirit’s been granted to us to help us continue to follow Jesus. John 14.15-17 KWL 15 “When you love me you’ll keep my commands, 16 and I’ll make a request of the Father, and he’ll give you another Assistant, because he’ll be with you in this age: 17 The truthful Holy Spir

He lives within your heart.

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INDWELL ɪn'dwɛl verb . Be permanently present in someone [namely their soul or mind]. Possess spiritually. [Indweller ɪn'dwɛl'ər noun. ] There’s a hymn we sang in my church growing up; “He Lives” by Alfred Henry Ackley. Chorus goes like yea: He lives! He lives! Christ Jesus lives today! He walks with me and talks with me along life’s narrow way He lives! He lives! Salvation to impart You ask me how I know he lives; he lives within my heart ’Cause that’s the common Evangelical belief about where Jesus currently is: He’s in our hearts. As a boy I was taught Jesus knocks at the door of our hearts, asking to come in. (Much later, I read that particular bit of Revelation and found out it doesn’t mean that. But anyway.) Once we permit Jesus entry, he takes up residence in our hearts. As kids a lot of us took this literally: We imagined a tiny Jesus taking over one of the chambers of our cardiac muscles, and even moving a bed and furniture into it. Bit cram

Spirituality. Which leads to religion.

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SPIRITUALITY spɪ.rɪ.tʃu'æl.ə.di noun . Being concerned with the human spirit, as opposed to material things or the material world. 2. [ Christianity ] Following the Holy Spirit. [Spiritual 'spɪ.rɪ.tʃ(.u)əl adjective ] I regularly meet pagans who consider themselves “spiritual, but not religious.” I sometimes like to poke back at ’em by describing myself as religious, not spiritual. Of course pagans and Christians have very different definitions for these words. By spiritual they mean they’re trying to be mindful of their spirit. And they have some idea what a spirit is. They know it’s the immaterial part of themselves. Frequently they mix it up with the soul, and use those words interchangeably—and to be fair, so do many Christians who likewise don’t know the difference. If they believe in afterlife, they figure their spirit lives on when they die. Otherwise… they kinda associate everything in their heads, which they think is immaterial, with their spirits.

Christians who don’t know the Holy Spirit.

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A few years ago 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, be run by elders or by popular vote, be Calvinist or Pelagian; be 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. Thing is, you’re gonna find this particular heresy is startlingly 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 ever

Do you know the Holy Spirit?

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Years ago a pagan relative of mine asked me, “You keep saying ‘Holy Spirit’ this, ‘Holy Spirit’ that. What do you mean by that? What’s the Holy Spirit?” “Oh,” I said—half surprised, half not-all- that -surprised, she didn’t know. And since she’s pagan, the simplest answer was best: “Holy Spirit is another name for God.” “Oh,” she said. And our conversation moved on. Yeah, I could’ve given her the full-on theological explanation of what spirit is, how Jesus revealed him, who he is in the trinity, what he does, how he lives in Christians, and how he’s a he instead of an it . But that’s the introduction we really oughta save for new Christians. Mostly because they’ll want to know all this stuff. Pagans don’t always care. But basically the Holy Spirit ( KJV “Holy Ghost”) is God. “Holy Spirit is another name for God” is a quick-’n-dirty explanation which points people in the right direction. As opposed to the wrong direction, which is all too common: Too many people thi

Pentecost.

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I’m a Pentecostal… and weirdly, a lot of us Pentecostals never notice when Pentecost comes round. I don’t get it. I blame anti-Catholicism a little. Anyway, Pentecost is the last day of Eastertime, the day we Christians remember the start of the Christian church—the day the Holy Spirit gave power to Jesus’s followers. Like so. Acts 2.1-4 KWL 1 When the 50th day after Passover drew near, all were together in one place. 2 Suddenly a roar came from heaven, like a mighty wind sounds, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 Tongues, like fire, were seen distributed to them, and sat on each one of them, 4 and all were filled with the Holy Spirit. They began to speak in other tongues, in whatever way the Spirit gave them the ability. 4 The Jews who inhabited Jerusalem at the time were devout men from every nation under heaven. 5 When this sound came forth , the masses gathered, and were confused: Each one of them was hearing their own dialect sp

The Holy Spirit and the supernatural.

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1 Corinthians 12.1-7. SUPERNATURAL su.pər'nætʃ(.ə).rəl noun. 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

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 KWL In 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

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 1.13 He 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 L ORD int

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 τοῦ θεοῦ , “God’s Spirit”—both neuter. Every reference to the Spirit in the NT is ne

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 KWL 12 Going out, the apostles preached that people should repent. 13 The apostles were throwing out many demons, anointing many sick people with olive oil—and they were curing them. Luke 9.6 KWL 6 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

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. CONTINUATIONIST kən.tɪn.jʊ'eɪ.ʃən.ɪst adjective. 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 KWL 17 “ ‘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. 18 In those days I’ll pour out my Spirit even on my slaves, men and women. And they’ll give prophecies! 19 I’ll show wonderful things in the skies above, and s

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 d

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 n

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 co

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 KWL 13 So tongues-speakers: Pray that you can interpret. 14

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 12.10 Fairly 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 KWL 28 “A

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 unloo

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