Daily Devotional

Move Button Move Button
Spiritual Thinking, part 3, Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Heavenly-minded people will do things that earthly-minded people merely scoff at. There are many times that heavenly minded people will even turn down opportunities to make money through some business deal because they simply have no interest in doing what it would take to make the money. Time and time again, I have been approached with "sure deals" that I have turned down simply because that is not my desire. Many of these sure deals (ways of making money) make perfect sense to the earthly-minded person – but the heavenly-minded person understands that his or her dependence should always be upon their God. I don’t mean to infer that the spiritual person is not interested in making a living for their family. It’s just that some of the things offered to me would side-track me from the true priorities of life.   

Acts 10:1-2 “At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion in what was known as the Italian Regiment. 2 He and all his family were devout and God-fearing; he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly.” Cornelius gave, and he prayed. These two practices force one into a more spiritual state of mind. You cannot even begin to think spiritually until you are a giver and a pray-er.

Pastor Cho in Seoul, Korea, used to tell his church members that unless they tithed their money, they could not even consider themselves Christian. You might say, “Isn’t that being a bit legalistic to say that we must tithe in order to be a Christian?” My response to that is that only earthly-minded people worry about legalism. Heavenly-minded people worry about obedience. Why not concern yourself with whether or not you can be in obedience to the Lord and not give Him what you owe Him. Shouldn’t obedience to His Word be a bigger issue in your life?

To be a spiritual thinker you must set your affections (your mind), on things above, not on things on earth. To struggle with tithing is to be so tied to this world that you will not let go of the security blanket we call “money.” If money is your security, you cannot let God have it. Giving releases you to think about heaven.

Jesus put it this way in Matthew 6:21: “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” That’s not just a cute little saying; it’s a divine principle. The spiritual thinker must have his or her heart surrendered - and the heart is where one's treasure is. The more you give to God, the more you think about spiritual things. I have never met a spiritual man who is not a giver. In fact, I believe it is impossible to get close to God without desiring to obey Him in the area of giving.  

I’ll admit that I get weary of the teaching that says, “You can’t out give God. The more you give Him, the more you will get back.” Though I fully believe in the law of sowing and reaping, if that is the only motive you have for giving to God, then it’s possible for you to be earthly-minded - even while considering yourself spiritual. You have merely stumbled upon a principle that allows you to maintain an earthly-mindedness. 

Continued tomorrow


Move Button Move Button
Spiritual Thinking, part 2, Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Salvation is more than just an intellectual decision. Certainly, a person could reason the issue out and come to the logical conclusion that it makes more sense to live for Jesus than it does the devil. But I believe that true conversion is more than just a mental decision. It involves the seat of our emotions, the heart. Then, when the heart is transformed, the book of Romans says, your mind will be renewed.

Now, I think there can be some give and take on this issue. I believe it’s entirely possible for a person to make a logical decision about salvation and indeed surrender their life to Christ. But what they surrender is their heart, their will, their emotions.  

In Isaiah 1:18, we hear God inviting us, “Come now, let us reason together.” There are times when God says in essence, “If you’re not going to let your heart get involved, then let’s analyze this.” The mind is our reasoning, or analytical, side. To be a spiritual thinker, one must first surrender their heart, the things they think about, their emotions, to God. Then they must set their mind on heavenly things, rather than earthly things.

The reason this is important is because there really is nothing about heaven that makes much earthly sense. Someone has written it this way: 

If you are a Christian, you believe some incredible things! You believe that you were once a walking dead man while you were still alive. You believe that, though still alive, you are really dead; and while already dead, you are more alive than ever before. And though you fully expect to die, when you do, you will be alive forever. Incredible!

You believe that, though already dead you were one day slain on a cross. Yet the very cross that slew you gave you priceless life. And though you were crucified on the cross you actually were not, because a sinless substitute, the Lord Jesus Christ, was there in your place. Consequently, when you see a cross it means death, and you glory in it, because it has given you, life.

You remain on earth to die and go to heaven to live, yet if you do not “die” before death, you cannot live after death. Though you are in the world, you do everything opposite to its general pattern. You hate the world so you can win the world. You tell people they are condemned and lost so that they might be saved. Incredible!  

If you have a family, you give them to the Lord, not because you do not want to keep them, but because you do! If you have possessions, you plead not to own them - not to disown them but to be entrusted with them in a much greater way. Anything you keep, you know you will lose! Anything you lose, you know you will find again! To save your life, you lay it down! You go down in prayer, that you might rise in devotion! If you refuse to go down in humbleness, you are already down. When you start down, you are really on your way up. 

When you feel strong, you are weak! When you are weakest, the Bible says you are then strong! You may have an abounding table, yet if you covet a morsel, it will turn bitter. You may be destitute and poor, but you can make others wealthy with a word. When you possess riches, you lose power to enrich others! You have the most, after you have given the most away! That’s incredible!

To be forgiven once, you can forgive seventy-times-seven. You will go two miles when asked to go one. If a man wants your shirt, you will offer him your coat also. You will be defrauded by a brother, not because he is your brother, but because you want to be a brother to him. Yes, it’s true! If you are a Christian, you believe some incredible things! (anonymous).   

Continued tomorrow


Move Button Move Button
Spiritual Thinking, Part 1, Monday, January 24, 2022

Last week we looked at the subject of Spiritual Growth. This week we are going to be looking at the concept of Spiritual Thinking, basing our study on Acts 10.  

The fact of the matter is we need to be spiritual thinkers if we’re going to have an impact on the world in which we live. Colossians 3:1-3 “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.”

Even though we’re starting off with these verses from the book of Colossians, our main focus this week, as I’ve already said, is going to be on the book of Acts.

There are several things that I believe God would want us to study and apply to our lives, the first of which is “Spiritual Thinking.”  The apostle Paul lays out the subject for us in the book of Colossians. First, he says, “Set your hearts on things above.” The NIV is the only translation to use the word “hearts” here in verse 1. Almost all the other translations use the word “seek.”

Notice that in it says, “hearts,” not “heart.” So, it is not speaking of the “kardia,” which is the Greek word for heart. Though “kardia” is the word for heart, it relates more to our feelings than anything else. The word also means, “the middle.” The heart is the middle, or center, of our feelings. Obviously, I’m not talking about the actual organ in our bodies we call the heart. The way the word is used here in this verse is that the heart (or “hearts”) is the center of our feelings and emotions. So, when the other translations use the word “seek” rather than heart, there still is not much difference.

The idea is that whatever we seek represents the desires of our heart. Therefore, the little phrase “set your hearts on things above,” could, just as properly say, “keep seeking the things above.” In either case, it’s talking about the things that occupy our heart.

Have you ever thought about what you think about? I think a lot; at least I think I do. I would much rather think than talk, unless, of course, I’m preaching. What do you think about the most? 

Psalms 139:23 “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.” In this verse, King David is relating the heart to the things we think about the most.

Have you ever asked God to search you in order to know your heart? Have you ever said, “God, show me my heart?” How do you think God does that? How does God reveal to us what really is in our hearts? I believe the second part of this verse tells us. God examines what we give our thoughts to. What we think about is what we are seeking, and that which we are seeking is the central thing in our lives. In other words what we think about the most is what’s in our heart. So, in this verse there is a relationship between what’s in our hearts and what’s in our thoughts, just as Paul says in Colossians.  

After dealing with our hearts, Paul starts messing with our minds. In verse 2, he says, “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” There are a lot of similarities between the heart and our minds, but there is a basic difference. What the heart dwells upon, and what the mind dwells upon, can be quite different.

The heart is led by our emotions; that is why salvation is referred to as giving your heart to Jesus. 

Continued Tomorrow

Move Button Move Button
Spiritual Growth, part 5, Friday, January 21, 2022

Taste and See

Now let’s talk about the third step in this process. It’s called "delight" or "taste." The process is desire, discipline, and delight (or craving), growing, and tasting. 

I Peter 2:3 “Now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.” Once our desire has launched us into the second phase of discipline; we eventually come to the final stage which is, delight. Discipline finally pays off. The student who studies hard finally graduates. Graduation is the delight! If you want to eat Octopus bad enough, if the cravings are strong enough, you will finally go out and catch one in Lake Superior.

The craving drives you to the second phase of catching one – and cleaning it and doing whatever is necessary to get it ready to cook it. That’s the discipline part or the growing part. Finally, after all the work has been done you get to eat it. It's then that all your discipline pays off. 

This verse seems to be tied into Psalms 34:8 “Taste and see that the LORD is good.” Remember, we are coming from the perspective that God is really what we desire. And once we have gone through the whole process of craving, and growing, we finally come to the tasting. Once we have tasted of the Lord, once God is really what we delight in, then we will never turn back. Subsequently, trials and persecutions will be secondary to the real objective of our life: Jesus Christ and Him glorified. 

Until we come to the place where we truly delight in the Lord Himself, persecution will seem overwhelming. This is because until the Lord is our delight, we are the delight of our lives - and if we delight only in is ourselves, we could never handle trials, temptations, and persecutions because they go against what we delight in. How could Peter handle being crucified upside down? The only way possible would be if he saw Christ as the objective and delight of his life. Peter was no longer into himself.  

Paul the apostle is believed to have been beheaded. Historical evidence highly suggests that Paul's death occurred after his fifth missionary trip which ended in 67 A.D. Do you remember me talking about the summer of 67 AD at the beginning of this study? Nero tried to blame the Christians for burning Rome. It was in the midst of the persecution that ensued the Emperor Nero martyred both Paul and Peter. Both Paul and Peter had Jesus as the delight of their lives. They had tasted of the Lord Himself and could not get away from it. (Nero committed suicide on June 9th of the same year.)

“Taste and see that God is good.” We never crave anything that we have never tasted. Those who have never tasted of the goodness of the Lord simply do not understand the value the average Christian puts on his/her commitment to Jesus. END

Move Button Move Button
Spiritual Growth, part 4, Thursday, January 20, 2022

Step one is desire. Desire is like a catalyst: it launches us. It gets us moving in the direction in which we want to go.

When desire is great enough, we will finally take the second step and that is discipline. Way back in 1970, I felt God call me to the ministry (I was eight years old at the time). To be honest, it took some time for the desire to be involved full-time in ministry to grow and mature in my heart. Finally, that desire became great enough for me to quit my job and move to Minneapolis to study to be in the ministry. Once I got to college, I quickly found out that I had to actually study. I was hoping that my desire would carry me through, but it didn’t. It merely launched me into a new growth period. 

I Peter 2:2 “… crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation.” The word “grow” is very similar to the word discipline. Rarely is there any spiritual growth without discipline.

Let’s go back and look at the discipline issue Peter suggests. He says, “As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind.” These are the growth issues. These are the things that prove your desire. The person who says they have a great hunger for spiritual things but will not live a life free of such things, proves that their statement of love is not sincere. If we say we want spiritual milk so that we can grow, we prove that statement by our willingness to “rid [ourselves] of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind.”

Growth is a pain. It hurts to grow. Have you ever heard the term "growing pains?" What are growing pains? They don’t refer to any kind of physical pain, as much as they refer to the discipline it takes to grow up. There were times when I was developing my prayer life so that God could use me in teaching on the subject, that I had to grit my teeth and simply make myself stay at it. There were times when out of sheer discipline, I would pray for hours at a time. 

I remember being in my home town, preparing to preach at my home church. It was Saturday evening when I began to get sick. I felt a flu-type illness coming on in a very strong way. I began to panic and tell God that I was supposed to speak the next day (I guess I thought He didn't know that). All I got from Him was Isaiah 40:31 – one of my all-time favorite verses. “They that wait upon the Lord will renew their strength.” 

I asked Him, “What are you getting at?” He replied, “Wait on me and see.” It was about 10:00 pm, so I determined to pray for the next two hours. By the time midnight rolled around, I was completely healed – He had renewed my strength.

That was a growing time – but it was not very pleasant. Growth rarely is. That is why the desire, the craving, needs to be strong in the first place. Discipline is maintained by desire.   

 

Developing Desire

Before we get into the third step in this process, I want to share another principle within the greater principle. All three of these things tie together - desire, discipline and delight. However, if you feel you lack the desire you should have, there is a way to develop it. And it brings us right back to discipline.

For instance, suppose you want to develop a prayer-life but lack a real desire for it. In Luke chapter 18 Jesus teaches a little parable to show the importance of prayer. Luke 18:1 “Then Jesus told His disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.” Jesus is telling us that there are times when we must simply discipline ourselves regardless of how we feel.

In other words, a person can develop desire, even when there is no desire, through discipline. Since we are talking about hunger and how we are to crave or hunger for spiritual things let’s continue to use that thought, as I share a story from a friend in ministry.

In an effort to convince me to try and eat some “salo” (rendered pig fat & garlic) while I was in Ukraine, he said, “The first few times I went to Africa, I was served a native dish there called Matoke. Matoke is made from bananas. It’s was not very tasty however, being made from bananas it was a-peeling. [Sorry for that pun.] It has the look and texture of rutabaga – that right there should tell you it’s gonna be bad. It seemed that Matoke was served at every meal. I had no desire for it – but I ate it. The last time I was in Africa I ate it again and it tasted quite good. I actually grew to like it.”

That is part of the idea Jesus is conveying in Luke 18 He said we should always pray – even if we don’t feel like praying - because if you do it long enough, you will begin to want to pray.

Prayer is spiritual food. There are times when we know we need to eat even if we don’t feel like it. When my friend was recovering from gall bladder surgery a few years ago, he had absolutely no appetite. However, even in his illness he said, “I would make myself eat small portions. With time I began to want to eat more.” 

Physical food does that to us – but so does spiritual food. The inward consciousness of spiritual need creates desire. The more we respond to this need, the stronger its cravings become.

Continued tomorrow


Move Button Move Button
Spiritual Growth, part 3, Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Here is what happens. If we leave things in the soil of our heart that should not be there, then we tend to justify our situations, rather than simply allowing the Word of God to convict us and develop us. When we nurture sin, we make the Word of God conform to our heart's current condition, rather than allowing the Word of God to transform our heart. I cannot tell you how many times, especially in my younger days, I have allowed ungodly desires, which were still hiding in my heart, shape how I interpreted the Word of God.

 

The Word of God

I have this theory that the milk of God’s Word and the meat of God’s Word relate to what others have said about God’s Word and what you yourself have discovered in God’s Word. Milk is a food that has gone through the digestive system of something else before you receive it. It’s processed food. I cannot present to you the meat of God’s Word. No matter how much the spoken Word ministers to you, you can only receive it as something I, or someone else, has already processed.  

Meat, on the other hand is a food you have to process; you have to chew on it. The meat of God’s Word comes through your own study of it. When you take God’s Word and read it, meditate on it, study it and afterwards, digest it, it becomes "meat."

Here is the problem: milk does bring growth. Babies grow on milk, but there comes a point where they must have meat added to their diet. If you fail to give a baby that has grown to the point of needing meat, the baby will fail to thrive and will eventually die.

That is Peter’s concern in this chapter. If there is no hunger, it’s possible there is no life.       

 

Desire

There are three things I want us to see here: it’s to crave, grow, and taste. Many years ago, I did a teaching on how things develop. Most things develop through a three-step process, called desire, discipline and delight. As I was studying chapter two of 1 Peter, I found this same principle.

The first step is desire. Everything begins with desire. Peter tells us to crave spiritual milk. The word “crave,” fits into the meaning of desire. If we desire something we can easily say that we crave the same thing. Crave or desire sincere or spiritual milk. 

Let’s define what it is we are to desire. Spiritual milk can also be called sincere milk. We must ask ourselves why we read the Word of God. Why would Peter tell us to crave spiritual milk? Is it purely a desire to know the Word of God or is it ultimately to know God?

I have to believe it’s a little bit of both. There is nothing wrong with knowing the Word of God. But in the midst of it, if a person fails to come into an intimacy with the Lord, then all their knowledge is of little value. That was Christ’s whole argument with the Pharisees. They knew the letter of the law - but did not know God. Suffice it to say that our ultimate craving or desire needs to be that we might be brought closer to the Lord.  

Desire is the first step towards anything. Long before we do anything there is desire. Long before you developed your career, there was a deep desire for that particular thing. Desire is not merely a simple wish; it is a deep-seated craving; an intense longing for attainment. Peter doesn’t just say crave spiritual things; he is also saying that if we are truly born-again, there should be an innate hunger for spiritual things. We should be driven towards spiritual things. And that drive must be strong because of the next step in this process.

Continued tomorrow

Move Button Move Button
Spiritual Growth, part 2, Tuesday, January 18, 2022

What Peter is saying is this: if we have experienced the new birth, we should crave spiritual things (similarly to how a new born baby craves physical sustenance).

But Peter is also saying this: if there is no natural craving for spiritual things, it’s possible there has never really been a new-birth. Cravings are natural. Everything that has life has hunger. This applies to us spiritually as well. If there is spiritual life, there is spiritual cravings; and if there are no cravings, it indicates there is not life. You don’t have to teach a baby to be hungry– unless there is something wrong. In its natural state, a baby's hunger is voracious and he becomes very impatient at mealtimes. This is part of the point Peter is making about how babies naturally desire milk. If there is no natural craving for spiritual things, no longing to go deeper in the Lord, then it is possible there has never been a new birth.

It would seem that the only way to easily walk away from your faith is if there really has never been a new birth. Walking away from your faith, I believe, is quite different from simply falling into sin. Interestingly enough, a person can struggle with sin and still maintaining a love for the Lord. They are simply in the midst of a conflict. The barometer is our hunger, our spiritual hunger. 

Hunger is natural and it indicates life. How can a man go to church all his life, yet have no spiritual desire or drive for more - yet still claim to have new life? It doesn’t make sense. Where there is life, there is hunger.

Peter has been speaking of the Word of God as being active in their regeneration.  Now he urges us to cultivate a healthy appetite for this Word, which, while mighty, is simple or sincere and elementary, like milk.

In this way you will “grow up in your salvation.” That phrase; grow up in your salvation is found in some of the best manuscripts, and it refers to the believer's ultimate deliverance. Remember the setting for these verses: Christians were being killed on a daily basis; at the very least they were being beaten and robbed. Peter is trying to tell them that their best opportunity for deliverance is through going deeper and deeper into the Word of God and the presence of God.  

 Grow up in your salvation” - the longing for spiritual growth shows that they were regenerated. This is the end we should always have in view - and nothing can so effectually promote this as continually receiving the pure truth of God, claiming the fulfillment of its promises, and acting under its dictates.

As babies grow on their proper nutrients, holiness in the heart of the Christian becomes susceptible to growth. It is further developed by its proper alignment in proportion to its nourishments. That is why this chapter begins by saying, “Rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind.” These are the things we take out of the soil of our hearts, so that we are left with the right kind of nutrients. Once we repent of, and remove, these things from our heart, we can then receive the pure, unadulterated Word of God.

Continued tomorrow


Move Button Move Button
Spiritual Growth, part 1, Monday, January 17, 2022

This past week, I was reading through the book of I Peter. (This is one of those books with more good stuff than we have time to cover in one setting.) In the book (letter) of I Peter, Peter is really writing a lot of very practical things that followers of Jesus need to know and live by. This short book deals a lot with practical Christian living. 

How many of you remember back to the summer of A.D. 64? (I am not surprised, there aren’t many who do – outside of history buffs.) It was during that summer that a great fire destroyed much of the city of Rome. It was widely believed that Nero, Emperor at the time, was responsible. Not wanting to take the blame, Nero needed a scapegoat and decided that Christians would receive this dubious honor. 

Subsequently, waves of oppression and persecution washed over the Empire. In their deaths, Christians were made the subjects of sport. They were covered with the hides of wild beasts and mauled to death by dogs, or they were nailed to crosses, covered with pitch and set on fire when day-light declined, or they were burned at the stake, to serve as lights for the walk way of Nero’s Garden. During this period the Apostle Paul was killed by beheading and the Apostle Peter was crucified upside down.  

These things were the backdrop of Peter’s letter to the Christians in the Roman provinces. I Peter 1:1 “To God’s elect, strangers in the world, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia.” 

In the middle of the first chapter, Peter says this; I Peter 1:13-15 “Therefore, gird your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, 15 but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior”

He starts off telling us that we cannot conform to the evil desires we had before we knew Christ. We are to be holy, because He (Jesus) is holy. We are to be self-controlled, and sober in spirit. All of these things deal with the Christian lifestyle.

Peter begins the second chapter in a similar wayI Peter 2:1-3 “Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. 2 Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, 3 now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.”

As we move through this study it is important to keep in mind the context of these verses. This is the Lord’s formula that will enable us to endure persecution and maintain and even grow our faith in the midst of every struggle and trial.

I believe verses 2 & 3 are the key. Let's begin by looking at verse 2: “Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk.” Peter admonishes us to crave spiritual milk, comparing us to new born babies and how they naturally crave milk. Remember that Peter is directing his comments to Christians - and not just newborn Christians. He is simply saying that all of us, no matter how long we have served God, should crave pure spiritual milk just like a newborn baby craves natural milk.

Continued tomorrow

Move Button Move Button
The Holy Spirit is Sufficient, part 5, Friday, Jan 14, 2022

First of all we need to make a distinction between someone giving a message to the church body vs someone praying to the Lord. This all has to do with direction of speech. If someone speaks out during our worship time with a message in tongues, that is a message to our body. In that case, there needs to be an interpretation otherwise no one is edified through it. 

This is like when I’m in Ukraine: if a Ukrainian comes up to me and starts speaking in Russian or Ukrainian to me, directing their speech/conversation to me, I’m going to need to call an interpreter over to help – otherwise I get nothing out of it. However, if I just spoke to a group of pastors using an interpreter so that they can understand me, and then asked them to all stand and praise God in their native language, I don’t need an interpreter, because their direction of speech is not to me, but to God. 

When I ask the congregation to all praise God in the Spirit, our speech is directed towards Him, not each other. In that case there is no need for interpretation. 

Jude 20 “But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit.” Praying in the Holy Spirit edifies (builds up) the pray-er. Just knowing that I’m praying according to the will of God satisfies me. I don’t need an interpretation beyond that. 

I want to close by sharing the testimony of a man named, John Benefiel. On Oct 19, 1987, known as Black Monday, he lost 95% of his income in the Stock Market crash. He had made his living as a stockbroker and now was facing bankruptcy. He went through all sorts of emotions wondering what the future held for him and how he would pay his bills. 

But in the midst of it, he remembered a teaching he had heard about faith and giving. At home that evening he said to his wife, “There is only one option for us: we need to double our percentage of giving.” He goes on to say that he can’t explain how they managed, but through the whole ordeal they never missed a payment on any of their bills.  

The greater point I want to make here is what really turned his life around. They were trying to figure out what the Lord was saying to them regarding their future, whether they were supposed to move to another state or not. In an effort to figure things out, they decided they would pray in the Spirit. For the next three and a half years John prayed one to two hours a day in the Spirit. His wife Judith prayed anywhere from 2 to 4 to 6 hours a day in the Spirit. Eventually they received the direction they were looking for. 

When they determined to follow the Lord’s leading, John said, “Because we’d prayed the whole thing out in tongues, it was the easiest thing we’ve ever done.” The rest of his testimony is incredible - through these beginning steps, God used him to establish a thriving prayer ministry. 

When I read about John's experience, I was struck with fact that they merely prayed in the Spirit until they received God’s direction. I wonder what might happen in our individual lives, families, churches and communities if we made a similar decision to pray exclusively in the Spirit for at 30 minutes a day. Will you take that challenge for the remainder of this year?  END 

Move Button Move Button
The Holy Spirit is Sufficient, part 4, Thursday, Jan 13, 2022

What advantage is it to just profess you have the baptism without speaking in tongues? How does that help a person? If I said that by faith I have the gift of healing, but never heal anyone, what would I or anyone else gain from that? What if I professed to being able to give a word of wisdom but never did give anybody a word? Being in possession of the gift is not what makes a difference in a person’s life. What makes the difference is the use of the gift that changes a person. To say you have the gift of tongues, but never pray in tongues, means the gift is doing nothing to affect your life. 

The baptism of the Holy Spirit exclusively means speaking in tongues. Here is where I believe the Pentecostal church has created its own problem. We have made the mistake of assuming the other gifts cannot operate in us until we have been baptized in the Holy Spirit; subsequently; because some have operated in other gifts and yet have never spoken in tongues, they assume they have the baptism without having the initial evidence of tongues. 

However, the Bible has many examples of people who have operated in the other gifts without being baptized in the Holy Spirit. Look at 1 Samuel 10:9-10 “As Saul turned to leave Samuel, God changed Saul’s heart, and all these signs were fulfilled that day. 10 When they arrived at Gibeah, a procession of prophets met him; the Spirit of God came upon him in power, and he joined in their prophesying.”

Saul found the Spirit of God coming on him and he began to prophesy. This was way before the day of Pentecost, before the resurrection of Christ, before the Spirit of God could possess a person because they were not yet able to be born-again. Keep in mind the Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity.

Now look at Matthew’s Gospel with me: Matthew 10:1 “He called His twelve disciples to Him and gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.”  Matthew 10:8 “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give.”

We can see from these verses that Jesus gave His disciples the authority to cast out demons and to heal, long before the day of Pentecost, long before the Spirit of God dwelt in men. For the most part, the gifts of the Spirit function through authority. Jesus gave them authority to operate in the gifts.

Now look at Luke 10:17 “The seventy-two returned with joy and said, ‘Lord, even the demons submit to us in Your Name.’” We can see from this verse that this power/authority was not exclusively given to the 12 disciples. Some believe that the gifts were given exclusively to the apostles, that’s just not true. Jesus has given this authority to anyone who is born -again.

 

Direction of Speech

There is one last issue I want to address and that is that of all of us praying in the spirit at one time. Many times I have asked us all to pray in your heavenly language during one of our times of worship. Some people struggle with that because they believe there must be an interpretation whenever someone speaks in tongues.

Continued tomorrow 


Move Button Move Button
The Holy Spirit is Sufficient, part 3, Wednesday, Jan 12, 2022

Now, I want to address what I believe is a misconception regarding this gift. When people say they have received the baptism in the Holy Spirit, but have not experienced any external evidence (they just believe by faith that they received it without any manifestation), well, that is just not Biblical. Every incident in the Bible had an external manifestation. 

The first manifestation of the Holy Spirit that we read of in the Scriptures (after the Day of Pentecost) is that of speaking in tongues. There is no other significant manifestation emphasized. Acts 10:44, 46 “While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. 46 For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God.”

Acts 19:2, 6 “‘Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?’ They answered, ‘No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.’ 6 When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied.”  

Some might ask, “What about the incidents in the book of Acts where it says they were baptized in the Holy Spirit but it doesn’t specifically mention that they prayed in tongues?” The most logical conclusion is that the manifestation was the gift of tongues. Why would it change from tongues to any other kind of manifestation without any mention of them? This addresses, “the law of first mention.” 

There is a rule used in Bible interpretation called the law of first mention” which states that the first mention of something sets a precedent for it. All other incidents of the same thing defer to the “first mention” of that issue. Speaking in tongues is the first mention regarding the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Tongues function as the uniform sign of the Spirit-baptism in each of these cases. Tongues do not always appear in each of these passages and yet there is an implied sign of evidential value.  

Those who defend the doctrine of tongues as the Initial Evidence of being baptized in the Holy Spirit, argue that something happened in this case (Acts 8) and it is reasonable to suppose it was tongues since the other passages affirm it and they speak of no other sign following the baptism. Not only is the Spirit-baptism distinct from conversion or faith, but it is uniformly accompanied by a visible or audible sign.  

On the day of Pentecost, the evidence was tongues – why is it important to us that the other gifts be included in the baptism? Where does this resistance to the Scriptures come from? Why has it become important to insert our own feelings about what the evidence should be? Romans 8:27 “And He who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.” 

The baptism of the Holy Spirit (speaking in tongues) is designed to be a testimony of what it means to have Jesus reining in us, and the power that comes with that. The other gifts do not require the baptism of the Holy Spirit to operate, there really is no need for that when it comes to the other gifts because they are not designed to change the possessor the way praying in the Spirit does.  

Giving a prophetic word does not necessarily announce the reign of Christ within the vessel being used. The same is true with a word of wisdom, a word of knowledge, or the gift of healing. We are merely a conduit in which the gifts flow through. Speaking in tongues, as your personal prayer language, changes the one who has the gift, which in essence becomes a testimony to who Christ is. It’s the only gift that changes the possessor. Not so with the other gifts. The other gifts are for the primary purpose of blessing those to who it is being administered. The gift of prophesy blesses the one who is being prophesied over. The same is true with a word of knowledge or wisdom. 

Therefore, to be used in the other gifts does not necessarily change the person in the way speaking in tongues does. The uniqueness of the gift of tongues is how we line ourselves up with the will of God through the practice of the gift. The more you pray in tongues the more you pray according to the will of God. The more your life lines up with God’s will the greater your testimony is of who Jesus is.

Continued tomorrow


Move Button Move Button
The Holy Spirit is Sufficient, part 2, Jan 11, 2022

This really comes down to where you stand concerning the Trinity. We, the A/G, are Trinitarians. We believe that it’s God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. If you are a Trinitarian, you cannot downgrade the ministry of the Holy Spirit any more than you can downgrade the ministry of Jesus. I’ve heard of many churches that tell their people that if they have a prophetic word from God or a message in tongues they need to go to the prayer room to give it and not in the main sanctuary. Isn’t that interesting? Would they do the same for Jesus? Would a pastor ever say, “I want to preach about Jesus today but in order to do that I’m going to the prayer room so if any of you want to hear about Jesus, follow me there, because I don’t think it’s right to talk about Him in the sanctuary"? That would be absurd wouldn’t it? Yet some treat the Holy Spirit that way because they do not have good, solid theology on the Trinity. They don’t see Him as GOD the Holy Spirit.

Let me share an account from an evangelist friend of mine. He told me, “One Sunday night a young mom came up to me after the service and asked me about demonic possession (I told her I was against it). She then began to tell me how the pastor and some of the men of the church had spent hours praying over her. When they did, she would manifest demonic voices and contort herself. 

I asked her if she wanted me to pray for her and she wasn’t sure because of what might happen. I asked her about her salvation experience and whether or not she could utter the words, “Jesus is Lord.” Then I asked her if she had ever been filled with the Holy Spirit - and that’s when some very strange things began to happen. She began to twist her mouth and coil like she had stomach cramps. I began to pray audibly in the Spirit and as long as I did she manifested demonic characteristics. 

At that point the pastor came up and began to give me a little of her history. 

Once she settled down, she said that she wanted to come back to the meetings the next night because we were going to deal with the subject of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. But she never came back.”   

This type of thing is what the Baptist missionaries were experiencing out in remote villages where witchcraft is prevalent. Without the baptism of the Holy Spirit, they could get nowhere with the attacks of the enemy.   

I contend that praying in the Holy Spirit is sufficient. Though there may be times when praying with your understanding is helpful, praying in the Holy Spirit is sufficient - and I believe all a person would ever need to pray. 

In the case of demonic activity there may be the need to declare some things like the Lordship of Christ and to speak of the authority He has over the powers of darkness. But I found it quite interesting that the girl my friend encountered could state with her own mouth that Jesus is her Lord - but it wasn’t until he mentioned the baptism of the Holy Spirit and started praying in tongues that she began to react. 

Another pastor friend and his church took the month of July and committed themselves to praying in the Spirit exclusively for 1 hour every single day of the month. He said to me, “I said to my congregation, ‘I don’t know how praying for an hour a day in the spirit, for 30 days during the month of July, affected you, but it affected me in a most positive way. On day one of that thrust, God quickened to my spirit with a whole 'pay off our mortgage with cash at one time' project. The Spirit gave me the assurance that He was going to do this and now we wait in faith for it to happen, thanking Him in advance for it.

But there was more happening in me than just that. God began to move in our services in powerful ways. During our weekly time of praying in the Spirit here at the church, people were getting filled with the Spirit. Some people received healings. There was the testimony of our Associate Pastor’s college tuition (student loans) getting miraculously paid off. I think a $60,000 miracle is significant don’t you?”   

Personally, I have typically included praying in the Spirit in my prayer times, but had not really exclusively spent my whole prayer time in the Spirit, until recently. I have come to discover that the Spirit of God is sufficient. Why wouldn’t He be? He is God. The Holy Spirit is not a lesser facet of the Trinity. He is fully God. 

How could a different mode of prayer be more effective than when the Spirit of God is praying through us? 

Continued tomorrow

Move Button Move Button
The Holy Spirit is Sufficient, part 1, Jan 9, 2021

This week, as we begin the second full week of a New Year, we are going to be considering the sufficiency of the Holy Spirit today, in the year 2022. 

As you probably know, we (Waseca Christian Assembly and the Assemblies of God as a whole), are a Pentecostal church. We believe that the gifts of the Holy Spirit are still available and are in full operation today. We encourage people to pray in tongues (in the Spirit) in their private prayer lives as well as corporately. We are not “cessationists” (meaning that the gifts of the Spirit ended with the death of those in the first century church and the Apostles). We do not believe the gifts of the Holy Spirit were given only for the establishment of the New Testament, nor do we believe that they ended when the last Apostle died.   

Many years ago, a class was discussing the gifts of the Spirit as we studied the book of Romans. Someone asked the Professor what he thought about the gifts no longer being active today. The professor proceeded to tell his class that there is absolutely no New Testament evidence that the gifts ended when the last Apostle died -but the professor still personally resisted receiving these gifts for himself.

Friends, religious pride is the worst pride there is. When people resist the prompting of the Holy Spirit because they don’t want their doctrine tampered with, they quench the Holy Spirit - which exactly what I Thessalonians tells us to be careful of. 

I Thessalonians 5:19 – 22 “Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not treat prophecies with contempt 21 but test them all; hold on to what is good, 22 reject every kind of evil.” This verse associates quenching the Spirit and treating the gifts with contempt as evil. How could anything that comes from God be categorized as evil? 

I believe there is a resurgence of the gifts of the Spirit today largely due to the spiritual opposition we are up against. At some point we have to accept the fact that our intellect alone will not suffice against the enemy. 

Just a few years ago, I read an interesting article about something that was beginning to happen within the Southern Baptist Convention. Historically, the Southern Baptist denomination has (for the most part) rejected the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the modern world. But that seems to be changing - at least in regards to their missionaries. Following is an excerpt from that article.

After much resistance, the Southern Baptist Convention will admit missionary candidates who speak in tongues, a practice associated with Pentecostal and charismatic churches. Allowing Southern Baptist missionaries to speak in tongues, or have what some SBC leaders call a “private prayer language,” speaks to the growing strength of Pentecostal churches in Africa, Asia and South America, where Southern Baptists are competing for converts and where energized new Christians are enthusiastically embracing the practice. 

“In so many parts of the world, these charismatic experiences are normative,” said Bill Leonard, professor of church history at Wake Forest Divinity School. “Religious groups that oppose them get left behind evangelistically.” 

Southern Baptists have long prided themselves as among the world’s most ambitious missionaries —reaching countries and regions few dared to go —but they are increasingly finding competition from fast-growing Pentecostal Christianity, which now has an estimated 650+ million followers worldwide.

For Southern Baptists, the practice, also known as glossolalia, ended after the death of Jesus’ apostles. The ban on speaking in tongues became a way to distinguish the denomination from others. These days, it can no longer afford that distinction.

While Pentecostals sometimes go too far in claiming that anyone who is baptized in the Spirit must speak in tongues, the Baptists went to the opposite extreme in the 20th century, betraying their roots by denying the existence of a second baptism, along with tongues. Theirs was an overreaction to the excesses of the Azusa Street revival of the early 20th century… and they parted company with earlier Baptists like DL Moody and RA Torrey (both of whom talked of the baptism of the Holy Spirit).

The bottom line is that any Christian movement, which completely shuts out the charismatic movement is making a colossal mistake, because every modern revival movement anywhere in the world sprung from charismatic roots.  

(Just for clarity: the Assemblies of God does not believe you must be baptized in the Holy Spirit AND speak in tongues to be saved. There are some Pentecostal groups that do (wrongly) believe that; many of the Apostolic churches do. We do not. We and the Assemblies of God, teach and hold to the Biblical teaching that salvation is by grace, through faith in the blood of Christ alone.)

The baptism of the Holy Spirit is a second work, but exclusively for the purpose of power to overcome the trappings of this world and to be witnesses of the Gospel. 

Some might ask, “Isn’t the Word of God sufficient for overcoming the world?” Well, if you really are looking to the Word of God you’ll find that it admonishes us to seek the gifts. So, yes it is sufficient, as long as you follow it, and don’t pick and choose which parts you want to believe.  


Continued tomorrow