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Showing posts with label #HolySpirit. Show all posts
Showing posts with label #HolySpirit. Show all posts

23 August 2016

When the miracles stopped. Oh wait; they didn’t.

God never stopped doing miracles. But you’d never know it to listen to some Christians.

Cessationist /sɛ'seɪ.ʃən.ist/ adj. Believing miracles happened in bible times, and may happen in future, but currently don’t.
2. Believing miracles happened at some point in the past, but don’t now.
3. Believing miracles never happened; that all biblical descriptions of them are exaggerations, fantasies, or misreports.
[Cessationism /sɛ'seɪ.ʃən.iz.əm/ n.]

When you read the bible, you’ll notice there are an awful lot of miracles in it.

Jesus performed many. So’d the prophets of the Old Testament. Since Jesus empowers his followers with the Holy Spirit, Ac 2.38-39 same as himself Ac 10.38 and the Old Testament prophets, Zc 7.12 he told his students they’d perform miracles just like his. Potentially even greater than his Jn 14.12 —which arguably his apostles did do, in Acts.

Certainly the world should be filled with more miracles, just on the basis of pure numbers. Instead of only one Jesus of Nazareth, limited to the Galilee or Jerusalem or wherever else he walked, every Christian everywhere should be able to prophesy, cure the sick, and perform wonders on a Jesus-level scale. And I could spend today ranting about why this isn’t the case (lack of faith; duh) but today I’m gonna touch upon only one part of the problem: Christians who believe this shouldn’t be the case.

Because, they insist, miracles don’t happen anymore. God no longer empowers them. Miracles ceased. It’s why we call ’em cessationists. We find ’em all over Christendom. They come in all sorts, but I’m gonna lump ’em into four primary categories.

07 June 2016

When the Spirit touches you… and you fall down.

Yeah, God’s involved. No, it’s not from the bible. So?

SLAIN IN THE SPIRIT /sleɪn ɪn ðə 'spɪr.ɪt/ vt. Fall down as a result (primary or secondary) of the Holy Spirit’s activity.
[Slay in the Spirit /sleɪ ɪn ðə 'spɪr.ɪt/ vt.]

A lot of Christians believe if a practice isn’t found in the bible, we shouldn’t do it.

Nope, we’re not at all consistent about this belief. Loads of churches and Christians have outside-the-bible practices. In the bible, churches met daily, not primarily Sunday mornings. In the bible, the worship songs are the psalms; where’d all these new compositions come from? In the bible, Christians prayed in tongues, but you’ll notice a number of churches have banned that practice. In the bible, women prophesied, and you’ll notice a lot of these same churches banned that too. I frequently read my bible on my computer or phone, or listen to it on my iPod—and you do realize electronics aren’t in the bible, right?

Obviously if it’s banned in the bible—if Jesus or the apostles forbade it—we shouldn’t do it. But this isn’t that. This is the insistence only stuff with a biblical precedent oughta be done. And if we’re gonna hew to that guideline closely, time to turn off the electricity in our churches: No more microphones, no more video projectors. Heck, no more books with pages. All our bibles need to be scrolls. Written in the original languages.

Basically the “If it’s not in the bible, we shouldn’t do it” argument, is hypocrisy. It’s an excuse Christians use for getting rid of anything they don’t like, or anything which makes ’em uncomfortable. Whenever they get the heebie-jeebies, they try to enforce this “rule”; whenever they don’t care, they don’t bother. It has nothing to do with following the scriptures, and everything to do with maintaining their calm.

This inconsistent behavior applies to a whole lot of prayer practices, but I use it today ’cause I’m gonna bring up the prayer practice of getting “slain in the Spirit.” Yeah, it’s a prayer practice: It’s the result of God giving us a profound revelation through prayer, and as a result of its intensity, Christians fall over. And sometimes do other stuff, but usually we just fall over.

15 May 2016

Pentecost.

The eighth Sunday after Easter, when the Holy Spirit started the church.

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 spoken to them.
6 They were astounded, and wondered aloud, “Look, aren’t all these speakers Galileans?
8 How is each of us hearing our own native dialect?
9 People from Iran, Azerbaijan, Iraq, Israel, eastern Turkey,
10 western Turkey, Egypt, the Cyrenian part of Libya, visitors from Rome,
11 Jews and Jewish converts, Cretans and Arabs
—we hear them speaking of God’s might in our own languages!”
12 All were astounded and stunned. Some asked one another, “What caused this?”
13 Others said, joking, “They’ve been drinking port.”

Lots of Christians call this story the “first Pentecost.” It wasn’t. Pentecost comes from the Greek pentikostí iméra/“50th day.” It’s the Greek term for the Hebrew festival of Shavuót/“Weeks,” the first crop of the wheat harvest. Ex 34.22 From the first day the Hebrews began to harvest wheat, the LORD ordered Moses to have ’em count off seven weeks, or 49 days. Dt 16.9-12 On the last day they were to sacrifice some of the grain to God, and take a day off in celebration. Nu 28.26 Somehow, the first day of the wheat harvest became formally shifted to the first day after Passover, meaning Weeks is the 50th day after Passover—6 Sivan in the Hebrew calendar. (In ours, 14 May 2016.)

All male Jews were instructed to go to temple on Pentecost. Dt 16.16 Meaning Jerusalem was full of devout Jews at the time, bringing the LORD their grain offerings—and suddenly a house full of Galileans broke out in every language they knew, spoken as if to them personally. That got their attention.

05 May 2016

Some of the Holy Spirit’s supernatural gifts.

And how those who don’t believe in miracles, redefine them.

1 Corinthians 12.4-11

When the apostles Paul and Sosthenes corrected the church of Corinth regarding the supernatural—in particular about the gifts the Holy Spirit distributed to his church—the apostles listed a few of these gifts. Didn’t define ’em; just listed ’em.

Nothing wrong with that, but the problem is cessationists, those Christians who don’t believe in the supernatural, have redefined these gifts so they’re no longer supernatural. Still gifts of the Holy Spirit, but now they’re the sort of “gifts” that gifted and talented people—those folks we tend to call “geniuses”—happen to have. You know, like the ability to remember everything you read. Or have perfect musical pitch. Or be able to do complex mathematical equations in your head. Or be really physically coordinated.

In other words, natural gifts. Granted by God, of course, ’cause he’s the Creator. And thus the 1 Corinthians passages become all about how God has blessed his church with really talented, creative individuals. Great musicians, artists, preachers, handymen. There’s even biblical precedent for it: Remember when the LORD wanted Moses to build the tabernacle, and all the instruments which went inside it? And apparently he had a chief contractor in mind:

Exodus 31.1-5 KWL
1 The LORD told Moses, 2 “Look, I call by name Bechalél ben Uri ben Hur, tribe of Judah.
3 I filled him with God’s Spirit, with wisdom, understanding, and knowledge,
and every ability 4 to do work in gold, silver, bronze, 5 and stonecutting;
to plaster, to do woodworking—in every ability.”

Seriously, Bechalel could do everything. And did. Ex 38.22

But that’s not at all what 1 Corinthians is about. It’s about nefmatikí/“spirit-things.” Stuff we can’t naturally do; we can’t do ’em at all unless the Holy Spirit does ’em through us. Stuff which proves the Holy Spirit is active among us, ’cause skeptical pagans can’t just brush them off as the talented acts of clever people. They’re forced into a dilemma: Either God’s really among us, or it’s deception or self-delusion. Either he’s real or he’s fake.

So here’s the list the apostles gave in 1 Corinthians—and the redefinitions which cessationists made up for ’em, and why those redefinitions are crap. Starting with the scriptures.

Christians like that will make such a hash of things, and lead themselves and others astray. It’s why, in the case of Corinth, Paul and Sosthenes had to step in and correct them.

1 Corinthians 12.4-11 KWL
4 And there are a diversity of supernatural things—and the same Holy Spirit;
5 a diversity of ministries—and the same Lord;
6 a diversity of activities—and the same God activating all of them in all of us.
7 Each individual is given an individual revelation of the Spirit—to bring together.
8 For by the Spirit, while a word of wisdom is given to one,
by the same Spirit, a word of knowledge is given to another.
9 To someone else, by the same Spirit, faith.
To another, by the one Spirit, healing gifts.
10 To another, powerful activity.
To another, prophecy.
To another, the ability to judge spiritual things.
To someone else, families of tongues.
To another, interpretation of tongues.
11 One and the same Spirit acts in all these things,
dividing them to each of his own people however he wants.

I remind you: It’s not a comprehensive list. Nor is it meant to be; we already have plenty of supernatural precedents elsewhere in the bible. But this’ll get us started.

21 April 2016

The Holy Spirit and the supernatural.

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. Nor did they sprout up from the ground like mutant orchids. Somebody—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 that behavior unnatural, not supernatural.

And we save the term “supernatural” for stuff which apparently wasn’t done by humans. If a flying saucer shows up in the sky, ordinarily we’d think it was the product of a clever local inventor, or (since I live near a base) the Air Force was trying out something new. But some folks would insist it’s the product of space aliens, and now we’re talking supernatural. Same with stories about ghosts, sasquatches, or if the local raccoons suddenly got smart enough to steal cars: That’s not natural. So it’s supernatural.

Because the word “supernatural” tends to refer to goofy stuff like that—things most reasonable people aren’t sure we believe in—a number of Christians really don’t like it when we use the word to talk about God stuff. “Supernatural” is a word for unbelievable stuff. Like stage magicians, fake psychics, ghost hunters, fools who believe in space aliens and boogeymen. It’s for those who dupe others, and those who’ve been duped.

I get that. But just because frauds and the defrauded use a word, doesn’t mean it’s not a valid word. There’s real supernatural in the universe. When God creates something from scratch, fixes what’s broken, cures the sick, shares unknowable things through his prophets, or otherwise does stuff we can’t adequately explain through science and physics, it’s supernatural.

Now certainly God uses physics to do as he does. When he parted the Red Sea for Moses and the Hebrews, he didn’t do it as shown in The Ten Commandments; a wind blew all night and blew back the water. Ex 14.21 Skeptics like to point to the natural-sounding description as evidence that maybe God wasn’t involved, and like to “debunk” the miracles in the bible by trying to explain the physics behind ’em. But some of ’em just plain defy explanation. Like when God made an axehead float, 2Ki 6.1-7 or when Jesus and Peter walked on water. Natural explanations or not, these events don’t have a natural cause. So they’re supernatural.

09 March 2016

When God turns off the warm fuzzy feelings.

Some of us are only following him for the euphoria. He wants us to follow him.

As I wrote in my article about confusing our emotions with the Holy Spirit, there are a number of Christians who aren’t pursuing God so much as they’re pursuing endorphins. They want the emotional high. That rush is their primary motivation for pursuing God.

Now, God’s got two typical responses for that sort of behavior:

  • He puts up with it. It’s not really harming us right now, and he can use it to redirect us towards proper, healthy ways of following him. So he’s gonna work with it.
  • He shuts it down. ’Cause it is harming us, or others; or it’s about to. ’Cause he’s trying to redirect us, but we’re either not listening, or we’re too easily distracted.

For endorphin junkies, when God makes ’em go cold turkey, it’s devastating. They feel nothing. In comparison with before, they feel like God went away; that he’s no longer there; that his presence is gone; that “the heavens are brass” (an out-of-context reference to Deuteronomy 28.23). Sometimes it’s called spiritual dryness, spiritual desolation, or as St. John of the Cross titled his book, a Dark Night of the Soul. Yep, if you’ve experienced it, you’re hardly the only one. At one time or another, every Christian will.

No, it doesn’t mean God left you. He didn’t. Unless you left him, he remains faithful: He won’t leave. He 13.5 But because we’ve confused our emotions with the Spirit, we feel like he’s left us. The warm fuzzy feelings we’ve incorrectly associated with him: Gone. Absent. Missed—’cause they’re pleasant, enjoyable feelings. But God determined they were getting in the way of true spiritual growth. So they had to go.

And y’know, since they’re the very same brain-chemicals we produce when we’re addicted to a narcotic, going without our spiritual high feels just as awful as when an addict quits their narcotics. Some of us plummet into depression. Some of us even quit Christianity: If God won’t give us a buzz anymore, maybe this was the wrong religion, and we oughta try one which does produce such feelings. (As if any clever con artist—or we ourselves—can’t psyche us into feeling whatever emotions we desire.)

05 January 2016

Getting drenched in the Holy Spirit.

Spirit baptism is a controversial topic. ’Cause it involves power, and people either covet power, or fear it.

Luke 3.16-17 KWL
16 In reply John told everyone, “Indeed I baptize you in water.
And one stronger than me comes. I’m not able to loose his sandal strap.
He’ll baptize you in the Holy Spirit and fire.
17 The winnowing-shovel is in his hand to thoroughly clean his threshing-floor.
He’ll gather together the grain in his silo.
He’ll burn up the straw with endless fire.”

Getting baptized, ritually washed, in water was not a new idea for John the Baptist’s listeners. Any time they wanted to be clean for worship, they baptized themselves and waited till sundown. John’s baptism, for those who were repentant of their sins, was a little different. But Jesus’s baptism would be way different. It involved the Holy Spirit. And fire.

Before Jesus ascended to heaven, he told his students to wait in Jerusalem for that baptism, Ac 1.4-5 and 10 days later this happened:

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.

This, we recognize, is the baptism of the Holy Spirit and fire which both John and Jesus spoke of.

A number of Christians believe this was a one-time deal. The brand-new church, needing a kick in the pants from God to go out and do everything Jesus commanded them to, had God the Holy Spirit specially appear to them, prove he was among them, empower them, and from there they could go out and do the work of mighty Christians. Wouldn’t need to do it twice.

A larger number of Christians believe this so wasn’t a one-time deal. ’Cause it happened again. And again. And again and again and again. Happened to us. Still happens.

08 December 2015

Wanna feel the Holy Spirit? Crank up the bass.

’Cause people don’t know the difference between spirit and emotion.

That title—if you want people to feel the Spirit, crank up the bass—is a joke I regularly make to the folks in my church. ’Cause it’s true. If the sound guy were to take all the lower frequencies out of the sound mix during the worship music, I guarantee you we’d have people in the congregation mutter, “I don’t know what’s wrong, but I really couldn’t feel the Spirit today.” Whereas if we turned that puppy all the way up to 11, those same folks would tell everyone, “Man the Spirit was moving this morning!”

Bass, as any sound expert will tell you, makes people feel the music. Literally.
Yeah, I put this on Twitter.
The sound waves hit a frequency which physically vibrates your innards. Most of us are aware we hear bass, but aren’t always aware we feel it too. All we know is we feel something—and because music sparks emotions, often the bass will spark ’em too.

So because people don’t know the difference between spirit and emotion, they’ll assume when it makes ’em happy, “my spirit is being uplifted.” When it makes ’em sad, “my spirit is downcast.” Just as often they’ll think it’s not their spirit, but the Holy Spirit making ’em feel happy or sad, content or anxious, excited or… well, not nothing. If they feel nothing it means he must’ve been absent.

I’ll repeat that statement in case you missed it: People don’t know the difference between spirit and emotion. And no, I’m not just talking about pagans, new Christians, or immature Christians. I’m talking about you. And me. And everyone. ’Cause I’ve caught very mature Christians making this mistake. I know better, and I still make this mistake sometimes. I’ve yet to meet a Christian who hasn’t slipped up on this one.

12 November 2015

Sealed—not yet baptized—with the Holy Spirit.

’Cause there’s a difference between the two, despite what non-charismatics claim.

Ephesians 1.13-14 KWL
13 In Christ you heard the truthful word—the good news of your salvation!
In Christ you believed; you were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit!
14 He’s the down payment of our inheritance—
releasing our trust fund—praising God’s glory.

’Member when you got saved? Maybe not; maybe it was a gradual process. Doesn’t matter. At some point in that process God decided to take up residence in your life. We call it indwelling. You got “sealed with the promised Holy Spirit,” as Paul put it. He’s in you. Right now. Whispering God’s will into you. Hope you’re listening.

Now, non-charismatics claim when the Spirit gets into us like that, yeah it’s called indwelling, but it’s also called “the baptism of the Holy Spirit.” Lk 3.16, Ac 1.4-5 Those two events, they insist, are one and the same. ’Cause the Holy Spirit gets in you and on you, kinda like the water does in the baptismal when you don’t hold your nose.

Why do they claim this? ’Cause they’re non-charismatics. A charismatic believes God absolutely does miracles in the present day. A non-charismatic really doesn’t think so. Some of ’em will be full-on cessationist and claim the miracles stopped back in bible times. Others know better—why even pray, why even ask God for stuff, if he’s tied his own hands and won’t intervene? But they either insist miracles are rare, ’cause for some reason God doesn’t want to overplay his hand; or they insist God only works through natural means, not supernatural.

And if God doesn’t do supernatural stuff, the Holy Spirit’s baptism doesn’t look like it does in Acts 2. Instead it’s invisible. Unnoticeable. Can’t tell the difference between Spirit baptism and when your phone starts to vibrate in your pants pocket. Plus it happens when you got saved: When you were sealed to the Spirit, you were simultaneously baptized by him. Didn’t you feel great when you came to Jesus? Well that’s Spirit baptism. You’re welcome.

Charismatics, by comparison, believe Spirit baptism is gonna resemble its description in the bible. Maybe not with rushing wind and tongues of fire. Then again, maybe so. But if that doesn’t happen, there will at least be speaking in tongues—a topic I’ll discuss elsewhere.

But not today. Today I just wanna make clear: Getting sealed with the Spirit is not the same as getting baptized in the Spirit. One happens when you come to Jesus. The other happens when the Spirit decides you’re ready to use his power.

29 October 2015

He lives within your heart.

Oh, you thought I was talking about Jesus, huh? Nope. Lots of Christians get that one wrong, too.

Indwell /ɪn'dwɛl/ v. Be permanently present in someone [namely their soul or mind]. Possess spiritually.
[Indweller /ɪn'dwɛl'ər/ n.]

Only Christians use the word “indwell” anymore, so it’s pretty much our word. You’re not gonna find anyone talking about how they indwell their apartment. Or how there are mice indwelling the walls. Nope, it’s pretty much a word we Christians use to describe a spirit living in someone. Either it’s a demon possessing a demoniac, or the Holy Spirit living in a Christian.

I know evangelists like to tell people, “If you invite him, Jesus will come live in your heart,” and I know popular hymns go, “He lives, he lives, Christ Jesus lives today… you ask me how I know he lives; he lives within my heart.” I also know those folks are mixing up their persons of the trinity. It’s not Jesus who lives in my heart; he’s too busy at the right hand of the Father, advocating for his followers on our behalf. Ro 8.34

In fact it’s the Spirit who lives in my heart. And yours, and every Christian’s. From the instant we turned to Jesus, from the instant God identifies us as his children, the Holy Spirit enters our lives, and is sealed to us as collateral—proof we really will receive the kingdom Jesus promised. Ep 1.13-14 What better proof do we need? God himself lives within us.

Jesus told his students once he left, the Holy Spirit would come, and take Jesus’s place in their lives. Jn 14.15-21 He’d be their adviser. He’d remind them of everything Jesus taught, and educate them in new stuff. Jn 14.26 And after Jesus was resurrected, he baptized them in the Spirit Jn 20.21-22 —to lead them, empower them, and get ’em to build this kingdom God’s so interested in. To construct them, along with all Christians, into what we call “the temple of the Holy Spirit.” 1Co 3.16-17

So when the Spirit came, he came to indwell us. Live in us. Not just hang around us, and pitch in when we need his help. ’Cause we always need his help.

09 October 2015

Do you know the Holy Spirit?

If you tend to refer to him as “it,” I’m betting no.

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-really-surprised, that she didn’t know. This being the case, it was time not to be Mr. Theologian. “Holy Spirit is another name for God.”

“Oh,” she said. And our conversation moved on.

That’s really all the explanation we need to give most people. Trying to explain the trinity is going to become a big long discussion, and one we oughta save for new Christians. Mainly because they’ll want to understand the mystery… not mock it.

The Holy Spirit (KJV “Holy Ghost”) is God. Therefore “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 the more common view. Too many people think the Holy Spirit is a force, a power: God’s might, by which he gets stuff done. When God creates stuff, he does it using his spirit. When God heals people, he uses his spirit on ’em. When God saves people from sin and death, he dumps some of his spirit into them. When God drives out evil spirits, he knocks ’em back by throwing some of his spirit at them.

People call him “the spirit of God,” but think of that “of” as a possessive—something God has, not someone God is. After all, the Spirit does so many things for God, and for us, it’s easy to get the idea he’s nothing but an instrument or tool. Which is quite a lot like certain bosses treat their assistants and employees: Like they’re machines, not people. Same way with certain Christians and the Holy Spirit. We ungrateful humans treat him like a refrigerator full of treats, instead of the one who spiritually feeds and nourishes us.

The Holy Spirit is a person. He has a mind of his own, Ac 13.2, 16.6 even though he, same as Jesus, does as the Father wants. Jn 16.13 He’s not the Father, because he comes from the Father. He’s not Jesus either, because Jesus sent him to us. Jn 15.26 He’s his own person. And he’s God, Ac 5.3-4 same as the Father is God.

In fact, he’s the God we interact with on a far more regular basis than we do the Father. Because he’s the God who lives within us, who actually saves us.