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

Miracles: Actual acts of God.

by K.W. Leslie, 12 March

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 anything which looks awesome, or really works out in our favor. So a newborn baby is a “miracle.” Our sports team beating the odds to win is a “miracle.” Figuring out how to land on the moon was a “miracle.” A stretch where we manage to avoid red lights while driving, a pretty sunset, a really good Reuben sandwich—all these things are “miracles.” We use the word for everything. Kinda ruins its impact.

But back to the proper definition: If God does it, it’s a miracle. So, newborn babies and sunsets sorta count, since God did create all the conditions for nature to form sunsets and babies. Less so with sporting events, cooking, lunar landings, and meaningless coincidences. We might think God’s involved ’cause we’re not so sure about human effort or coincidence. But if he’s not, it’s not.

Is faith a gift?

by K.W. Leslie, 02 March

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 to understand and believe.

Um… no. I can see how you’d get that by reading your own pre-existing deterministic philosophy into the bible. But I’m pretty sure if it all comes down to God dropping faith into us, and nothing else whatsoever, Jesus wouldn’t command people to believe or have faith. Mk 1.15, 11.22, Jn 10.38, 14.1, 20.27, 1Jn 3.23 If there’s any truth to the idea God grants us faith, he shouldn’t have to order us to use it: It should just be there, and we should just believe. But we don’t. Some of us struggle. Sometimes we cry out to God for extra help. Mk 9.24, Lk 17.5 And the reason we struggle is because it’s not just there. It’s a trait we have to develop. It’s fruit.

Why do the catechisms get it wrong? Mostly it’s ’cause their authors suck at grammar.

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

by K.W. Leslie, 02 November

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 prayer-tongues. Less so God.

And the symptom of that problem is when we’re not praying with our minds.

1 Corinthians 14.14 KWL
When I pray tongues, my spirit prays. My mind isn’t fruitful.

When we’re praying tongues (or rote prayers,) we should engage our minds. Prayer’s about communicating with God, not getting a heavenly buzz. So there should be some communication on our part, right? Some thought about what to tell God, how to praise him, our needs, others’ needs, even what scriptures we’ve been turning over in our minds. Never pray brain-dead. Turns too easily into dead religion.

Okay. The anti-tongues crowd don’t really care about any of this stuff. They’re just looking for an excuse to ban tongues. So whenever they get any hint we’re praying brain-dead, they pounce. Blow it up into something profoundly awful, some form of egregious sin. If we pray tongues, but in any way aren’t praying mentally (that is, enough for their satisfaction), they figure ’tis better we didn’t pray at all.

Which is completely wrong. Tongues are good! They build us up, 1Co 14.4 because they’re prayer. Since when is prayer bad? Okay, yes, when we have wrong motives. When we’re praying for the wrong things. Jm 4.3 But God doesn’t have to answer such prayers with yes. And if we’re listening to him as we should be, the Holy Spirit can always straighten out our defective motives.

Hence Paul and Sosthenes’ simple solution to the problem of mindless prayer:

1 Corinthians 14.15 KWL
Why is this? I’ll pray by my spirit; I’ll pray by my mind.
I’ll sing by my spirit; I’ll sing by my mind.

Anyway. I bring up mindless prayer ’cause I’m focusing on the emotional dimension of tongues. It gets to the core of why the apostles had to correct the ancient Corinthians about their prayer practices: They, too, were praying in tongues for all the wrong reasons.

Tongues and unfruitful minds.

by K.W. Leslie, 04 August

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 When I pray tongues, my spirit prays. My mind isn’t fruitful.
15 Why is this? I’ll pray by my spirit; I’ll pray by my mind.
I’ll sing by my spirit; I’ll sing by my mind.
16 For when you praise in your spirit, and the place is full of newbies,
how will they say amen to your thanksgiving, since they don’t know what you said?
17 You did give thanks properly, but others weren’t built up.
18 I thank God—and I speak tongues more than all of you.
19 But in church, I want five words in my mind to speak so I can also instruct others.
(That, or tens of thousands of words in tongues.)

Yes, my translation reads a little different than others you might’ve read. That’s because we have different biases. When others translate this passage, they imagine the apostles were contrasting. To them this passage is about speaking tongues versus speaking ancient Greek—or English, or Spanish, or whatever the locals speak.

That’s not at all my attitude, and I’m pretty sure it wasn’t the apostles’ attitude either. They spoke tongues; they never forbade it; they ordered the Corinthians to not forbid it either. 1Co 14.19 The issue wasn’t tongues versus no tongues; it was proper versus improper. It was using tongues for personal worship, not group worship, nor to create a “spiritual” atmosphere.

If you’re convinced the apostles were trying to contrast between tongues and no tongues, it’s really easy to make it sound that way by slanting your translation. First of all, the word de/“and.” Ancient Greek used it to connect sentences which had a common theme, much like today’s English uses paragraphs. When you translate, you can drop every de entirely; it shouldn’t change the meaning of the translation any. But when you translate de as “but,” like the KJV and many other translations, you’ve introduced a contrast which isn’t in the original text. And here’s what you get. (I highlighted every word in the passage which translates de.)

1 Corinthians 14.13-15 NIV
13 For this reason the one who speaks in a tongue should pray that they may interpret what they say. 14 For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful. 15 So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my understanding; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my understanding.

Plus if you translate i/“or” as “than,” you get:

1 Corinthians 14.19 NIV
But in the church I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue.

Those four little words make four big differences, ’cause now people have the idea tongues are negative and undesirable—that in our churches, people should speak English only.

Bias, man. It’s a sneaky little critter.

A few tongues to set the mood?

by K.W. Leslie, 17 May

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, once people realize the Spirit’s in the room, that God’s really up to something, their attitudes might change.

Plus there’s this false idea found among too many Christians that when we pray, we gotta be in the right headspace. We gotta “incline our hearts towards prayer.” We gotta psyche ourselves into feeling holy, or receptive to anything God might say, or at least banish distracting (or naughty) thoughts from our minds.

For many Christians, when we find ourselves in a church building where a whole lot of Christians are audibly worshiping, it feels… well, different. Otherworldly. Holy. They love this feeling. It’s part of the reason one of my Orthodox friends loves going to church: He doesn’t speak a lick of Russian, but the incense and all these guys praying away in Russian… it just makes him feel transported to a mystic place. Pentecostals also don’t mind not understanding a word. And honestly, they wouldn’t mind (well, much) if it turns out a number of these “prayers” aren’t even prayer, but Christians making funny sounds to the best of their ability—with no Holy Spirit behind any of it. I’ve caught plenty of Christians praying in Spanish, figuring none of these monolingual Anglos sitting by them would know the difference anyway.

Like I said, it’s about setting the mood. Evoking a feeling of the Holy Spirit in the building, empowering people to pray. So… now that he’s empowered the tongues, what’s he gonna do next? ’Cause his presence is here! He’s making the place holy! The Holy Spirit’s gonna do something!

So what does he wind up doing? Well, it varies by church. In most of the churches I’ve been to: Not a lot.

I mean, the church service was nice. The music was good. People came away feeling positive and uplifted. But what’d we see in the way of miracles? Prophecies? People getting cured of illness? People having life-changing transformations, like coming to Jesus, dedicating themselves to follow him better, making major life decisions? Well… maybe there was four or five of those. But that happens at any church; even among cessationists, who are pretty sure the Holy Spirit’s only job is to magnify your bible. If that.

Oh, I won’t even touch what the cessationists think about this practice. They got their own issues anyway.

Generational curses and fearful Christians.

by K.W. Leslie, 11 January

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 KWL
5 “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.
6 But I show love to a thousand generations
when 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 KWL
6 The LORD passed over Moses’s face and said, “YHWH. YHWH. God.
Compassionate. Gracious. Slow to anger. Great in love and truth.
7 Lovingly guarding thousands, putting up with evil, rebellion, and sin.
Not cleansing, cleansing those counted as evil—
from parents to children to grandchildren,
to the third generation, to the fourth generation.”

And in Deuteronomy Moses also forbade certain people from joining the qehal YHWH/“the LORD’s assembly.” That’d include

  • a mamzér/“mongrel,” the child of a Hebrew and a gentile, “till the 10th generation.” Dt 23.2
  • Ammonites and Moabites; 10th generation. Dt 23.3
  • Edomites; third generation. Dt 23.7

And of course there’s total depravity, the idea that humanity is innately messed up because Adam and Eve’s original sin was passed down to the rest of us, spoiling us from the moment of our birth.

In general, these ideas are the basis of the popular Christian idea there are generational curses, a problem that’s passed down from parent to child in a family for centuries. Like alcoholism, or the tendency to have heart attacks in one’s forties. Like bad genes. Only this time it’s a particular form of sin problem.

Fr’instance say your grandfather was involved in conjuring up the spirits of the dead. And whattaya know; mine was. According to generational-curse theory, that’s gonna affect me. Even though I’m Christian; even though I was Christian before Grandpa got involved in necromancy; even though Grandpa later repented and became Christian. Simply by virtue of his being my grandfather, evil spirits have been called upon to plague my grandmother’s life, my parents’ lives, my aunts’ and uncles’ lives, my siblings and their kids, my cousins and their kids. And of course me.

Gee, thanks Grandpa.

When the Spirit touches you… and you fall down.

by K.W. Leslie, 07 June

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.

When God turns off the warm fuzzy feelings.

by K.W. Leslie, 09 March

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.)

Getting drenched in the Holy Spirit.

by K.W. Leslie, 05 January

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.

Wanna feel the Holy Spirit? Crank up the bass.

by K.W. Leslie, 08 December

’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.

Sealed—not yet baptized—with the Holy Spirit.

by K.W. Leslie, 12 November

’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.