Month: February 2016

The Baptism of the Holy Spirit: the Power of the Creator

The Reflection Series for this month is adapted from Reasoning the Rest, which you can read or download from the main menu. This month, we’re reflecting on the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Read along with this series here. 

The Power of the Creator

The baptism of the Holy Spirit not only helps us to finally understand our creator. It goes beyond extending our memories back to a time with him before we decided to follow sin and our own pride to abandon his love for another. While this realization is powerful and is characteristic of the baptism of the Holy Spirit, our relationship to the Creator God also provides us with a new understanding of who He is in nature.

Prior to being baptized by the Holy Spirit, we are taught that God is in control, all-powerful. However, with our numerous unresolved problems, it becomes easy for us to refer to God’s power in the past tense. In other words, while our mouths continue to profess that God can change the world if he wanted to, our hearts doubt every word. Our hearts doubt his power in our world as much as our minds and mouths want to profess that nothing has changed. This outlook on the power of God also hits us personally. We look at ourselves in the mirror everyday and see our imperfections and reflect on the numerous challenges that we face daily. We take inventory of all of these obstacles and we hope for a miracle but doubt that anything will ever change. We read our Bible daily. Nothing changes. We attend Church regularly. Nothing changes. We tithe 10% of our income every month. Nothing changes. We go on a mission trip. Nothing changes. The truth is nothing will ever truly change until one is baptized by the Holy Spirit.

The baptism of the Holy Spirit is the only thing that can bridge the gap between the hopeful mind and the doubtful heart. It unleashes the healing power of the Creator God; suddenly, things begin to change. While we are still tempted by sin and continue to fight the good fight, with the power of the living God the things that seemed insurmountable no longer obstruct our progress. We find ourselves progressing due to a power not our own. We are propelled forward simply because we now have the Creator God moving our steps and dictating our path. This is something that only the baptism of the Holy Spirit can provide.

In Acts, there is no reasonable explanation how 12 regular men with varied backgrounds, none of which support a lifelong missionary or pastoral career, suddenly began to change the world. With men this is impossible, but with God nothing is. This becomes true as a result of the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No Created by Mobile Word Ministry one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. 
Romans 8:31-39

Tuesday Devotional: Judges 17

bible

Read Judges 17

6In those days Israel had no King; everyone did as he saw fit.

What do you do when there is no King?  At first, the absence of a King seems like a gift, a sigh of relief.  No King means no rules.  No King means freedom to do as you please, as you see fit.  However, as the rush of excitement in the face of total freedom to have our own way wears off we’re faced with the reality that we are unprepared, ill-equipped to lead ourselves, and we begin to scramble and guess our way toward what we view as success.

Micah’s mother wanted an object.

 We all have a thing, an object that we either believe will give us peace once we’ve obtained it or gives us peace as long as we retain it.  To some it’s money.  To some it’s education.  To some it’s clothes.  To some it’s a house.  The list goes on and on. Take a second and find yours.  We all have one.  Most of us have many.  Due to our human natures and more importantly our sinful natures we rely on our physical eyes to see and not the spiritual eyes that God, the true King, has promised us.  The promises of God are amazing but, like Jesus, they are in this world, not of this world.  The true gifts that Christ has lavished on us are intangible.  They are not necessarily around us, but are found within us, waiting for us, guaranteed to us in Heaven.  Unfortunately, if we see nothing, most of us believe in nothing.  So as great as those intangible gifts are, we’d simply rather have a thing that we know will make us feel good, no matter how temporary the satisfaction, even if we know full well that our emptiness will soon return and we’ll need a new thing to bring us back our peace.

The Levite wanted a place.

In each of our minds there is a vision of a place that is perfectly made for us.  It’s a place that needs us where we are important and highly valued.  Throughout life we often move from place to place searching for this picture, our place.  In some places we get close, but it’s not quite what we were looking for.  Without a King leading us into our purpose or position in a specific place, we are left to the process of trial and error and are ultimately disappointed in the outcome.  In the same way that our eyes deceive us, our imagination leads us astray.  We strive year after year investing time, money and energy along our vision quest to arrive and we never do.  Somehow, some of us manage to arrive, and soon realize that what we found looked different than what we had imagined. We regret.  Some of us have announced our purpose and destination over and over to the people we know that to admit that we are misplaced is to admit defeat, or look stupid or be wrong, so we fake it until we make it.  Sometimes we force ourselves into a place or a purpose that not only isn’t good for us but could be a detriment to the people around us.  Without the wisdom and guidance of a true King, we evaluate and determine far more than we are made to.

We do our best. God is greater than our disobedience and by His grace there is mercy for our mistakes, but the fact remains that determining our own purpose and place for ourselves always leaves the door open for sin to spread and our distance from God to increase.  While we may feel like we’ve arrived, until the King declares us found, we are still lost.

Micah wanted righteousness.

Why do you go to church?  Why do you read your Bible?  Why are you reading this devotional?  Is it helping you to understand the greatness of the living God?  Is it helping you to understand our sin nature or our need for Christ?  I truly hope so.  Unfortunately, for many people, including myself for many years, the answer to the previous questions would most likely be, “It makes me feel good.”  It makes me feel good because it means that I’m doing what I’m supposed to.  It makes me feel good because it means that I’m doing extra.  It makes me feel good because it makes me feel superior to the people I know that don’t.  As much as we desire an object and a purpose or place to give us value, we also desire to “be good”.  But in the words of Jesus, “…what is good?”  The word “good” is relative. Without a King to define the word for us we are left to define “good” for ourselves.  For many people our goodness is goodness by way of osmosis or by association.  In other words, even though we know that we’re not always doing the right thing, as long as we surround ourselves with things or people that do more good than we do, in turn our goodness increases.  This spirit is rampant in religion.  This IS religion.  Religion is, “I do and therefore I am.”  The gospel and the central message of the Bible is, “God is and therefore I do.”  No matter how many things we do and where we position ourselves we will always fall short of pure goodness or righteousness.  Falling short either makes us feel useless or makes us feel self-righteous.  Neither of these outcomes is the desire of the true King.  God pleads with us to admit that we do not know what we need, where to go, who we are and how to be good.  His response to our helplessness is mercy and truth.  Jesus says, “Come and see.”  Jesus says, “Follow me.”  When we turn to the true King we find what we’ve been looking for. We discover what the living God is willing and able to do and what he deems possible.

The Baptism of the Holy Spirit: the Power of the Cross

The Reflection Series for this month is adapted from Reasoning the Rest, which you can read or download from the main menu. This month, we’re reflecting on the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Read along with this series here. 

The Power of the Cross

The cross is and has always been the sign of Christianity. Today it is unmistakably synonymous with the Christian church. However, while the cross has always and must always be the sign of the faith, the overexposure of the cross without true understanding poses an important question. Do we really understand the cross?

We see crosses blanketing city skylines atop churches that fail at living out the gospel. We see people wearing the cross on necklaces and earrings who openly profess no desire to submit to God. We see athletes drop to their knees following some athletic feat, pointing to the sky and making the sign of the cross on their chest, who place more faith in their athletic equipment and contracts than the Holy Word of God. With so many misrepresentations surrounding us on a daily basis, it is easy to see how the message of the cross has gone misunderstood. In fact, for many Christians, the looming cross on the wall of a Church often evokes much more fear and obligation than peace and joy.

From this landscape of misunderstanding and misrepresentation concerning the cross, the understanding that emerges from  the baptism of the Holy Spirit appears distinctly different. Upon being baptized in the Holy Spirit, the cross is no longer a marketing symbol or burden. The cross suddenly is seen in the light in which it was originally meant to be seen.

This light illuminates more than just wood and metal. This light illuminates pain, the unbelievable pain Jesus endured hanging on the cross. This light illuminates sacrifice, the costly sacrifice Jesus paid for the sake of saving us from the pain and suffering that we rightly deserve and he had no obligation to undertake in our stead. The light also illuminates the sacrifice that God the Father experienced in seeing his own son endure the suffering we deserved, in feeling separation from a son that he had always had intimate fellowship with, a son who had never done anything wrong. Lastly, this light illuminates love, the love of God to see such beauty within us, despite the layers of sin, that to lose his own son was worth seeing us back in unity with him. The love to never give up or let us out of his reach. The love to know how deeply we need a Father to guide us.

This love is not just sacrificial, but is an invitation. The beginning of the end. The start of something new. The cross leads to the tomb and ultimately ends in resurrection and new life, a new life we are given as a result of the cross. The baptism of the Holy Spirit isn’t simply an outward manifestation of the supernatural. The baptism of the Holy Spirit is the only thing that can open the eyes of our heart to see the reality of the cross, beyond what our physical eyes have always seen.

This is why I speak to them in parables:
‘Though seeing, they do not see;
though hearing, they do not hear or understand.’
In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah:
‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding;
you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.
For this people’s heart has become calloused;
they hardly hear with their ears,
and they have closed their eyes.
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
hear with their ears,
understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.’
But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear. For truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.

Matthew 13:13-17

The baptism of the Holy Spirit opens our spiritual eyes to see the cross in the power that it truly possesses.

Tuesday Devotional: Joshua 20

Read Joshua 20 bible

There is a scathing irony in how man views God and how man views himself. Man’s belief in his own humanity and righteousness is foolishly skewed and misguided. Man possesses a view of himself in regards to righteousness and justice that has been proven to be false throughout all of human history. Within man does in fact exist the purity of love and justice that man so desperately defends and professes. However, alongside this purity exists an inability to wield the power of sin also present within man in abundance.

This presence of sin makes executing pure love and justice naturally impossible for man on his own. While man may attempt to be fair or righteous on a daily basis, there will ultimately come a time when he is wronged and seeks justice not for the sake of pure justice but out of a personal and often irrational reaction to the injustice done to him. When action is taken from a standpoint of being wronged, one can no longer claim justice. Justice is objective and unbiased. Justice must be upheld with a standard based not the emotions or opinions of any one man but a fair verdict applicable to all. The scathing irony is that while man often views God as being unjust in the unequal distribution of suffering and blessing portioned out to all of humanity throughout the world, the true source of injustice does not fall at the feet of a Holy God but at Sinful Man. The instinct of man is to be moved by injustice and yearn for justice but falls short in execution. Many people want to act but do not. Many people want to speak up but remain silent. Many people want to be unbiased but cannot.

Therefore, fully aware of his creation and the inadequacies of the human heart to be a judge, the creator God found it necessary to establish law in the world where man could not be expected to create justice. Just as children cannot rule over a household, nor would they ever be expected to, God acknowledged that humankind would not be capable of running the world on its own. While the rules of a household may appear confining to a child or the rules of God may appear confining to human desire, God’s rules and regulations are not purely an exhibition of God’s authority and power. The mere fact that God has given the law and regulations by which to follow it is a testament to the loving nature of God himself. Seeing that a creation left to its own devices would destroy itself, God knew that lacking the law meant death for his children and giving the law meant life. The law is not an oppressor. The law and the regulations that come with are liberators. Within the law is freedom to enjoy this life without living in fear of losing it at a moment’s notice. The law does not prevent us from experiencing our true potential for good. Rather, the law protects us from experiencing our true potential for destruction. With God one finds peace in knowing that in his presence is safety from ourselves. Without God we are left out in the open, unprotected and vulnerable, living in a constant state of anxiety, apprehension and fear.

The Baptism of the Holy Spirit: the Power of the Promise

The Reflection Series for this month is adapted from Reasoning the Rest, which you can read or download from the main menu. This month, we’re reflecting on the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Read along with this series here. 

The Power of the Promise

For many, there is a disconnect between the stories of the Bible and everyday life. We read stories in the Bible that are supernatural, unbelievable when compared to our own experiences. However, amidst these stories we also read God’s promise to never change his nature, although time passes and people change. Repeatedly God promises that he was, is and always will be the same:

Your word, LORD, is eternal;
it stands firm in the heavens.
Your faithfulness continues through all generations;
you established the earth, and it endures.
Your laws endure to this day,
for all things serve you.
If your law had not been my delight,
I would have perished in my affliction.
I will never forget your precepts,
for by them you have preserved my life.
Psalm 119:89-93

If we are to actually take the Word of God seriously, and believe in it with our whole hearts, these promises should not feel fantastical or far-fetched. Rather, if our experience with the living God is real, it stands to reason that our experience with the promise of God must be real as well.

Now, that is not to say that since God separated the waters of the Red Sea for Moses, he will respond in precisely the same way for us today. However, it does mean that the personal and intimate experiences that Moses experienced with God in person are there for us to experience as well. In Acts, while gathering in the Upper Room, the Apostles experienced the baptism of the Holy Spirit:

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs— we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?”
Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.”
Acts 2:1-13

Their experience was unique in that it found them speaking in various tongues as a sign of the Holy Spirit moving among them. While the act of speaking in tongues easily becomes the focus of their baptism, it is not the act of speaking in tongues that marks their experience as being baptized by the Holy Spirit. They were being personally introduced to the living God that knew them at their most personal level. In that moment they became powerfully aware that God knew them, that the God of old who made promises throughout the ages had always known them. Thus it is for anyone today who is baptized in the Holy Spirit. Upon being baptized in the Holy Spirit we realize that the promises in the Word are not simply words to hope in, but are words intent on being found, experienced and fulfilled in us.

Tuesday Devotional: Deuteronomy 29

bibleRead Deuteronomy 29

The human mind is inquisitive and logical. It seeks answers and explanations and is suspicious of any committed action made without any reasonable explanation. Before we make any decision we want to make sure that we have all of the necessary facts and that we are well aware of why we are making the decision we make. While these decisions are not exclusively correct, we rarely make any decision without a justifiable reason to do so. There are reasons behind every decision we commit ourselves to. To make a decision without any explainable reason would be foolish, and contradictory to the operations of the human mind. Thus, with the questions of life and death hanging in the balance in relation to faith in God or total rejection of him, why would the human mind choose to operate any differently?

In fact, God himself reminds us repeatedly that we are to use our brilliant minds to reach the conclusion that he has saved us and that he has a plan for us. With such a monumental issue, compared to the countless trivial problems and deliberations that pepper our days, it is surprising that we spend relatively little time pondering the secrets of this profound mystery of God. While many choose to settle for the simple conclusion that the God of the Bible is a mystery, desires to be a mystery and will forever be a mystery, this conclusion contradicts the account of God about himself in the Bible. The truth is that God has absolutely nothing to hide and has nothing to fear in the face of his creation. As surprising it is for us to assume that the creator of the Heavens and the Earth chooses to remain silent, it is exponentially more surprising to God that we have not found or seen him yet in the face of all of his work. Daily we are enveloped by the beauty and glory of his handiwork on this Earth. We live and breathe on a planet that daily sings his praises. When we reflect on the aspects of our life that bring us stress or burden, which of any of them have been created or revealed through God’s creation, and which have come as a result of man’s own creations?

The issue at hand is not the existence of a God that is too scared to be discovered as less than his claims and thus chooses to remain in the shadows. Rather, the issue at hand is a people that refuse to acknowledge a power greater and more capable than themselves. The issue at hand is a people that spend so much of their lives worrying about the meaning and purpose of life while never shifting beyond themselves to find an answer that doesn’t end with self. We are children who desperately want to learn a language in order to communicate, while never opening a book on language, all the while bemoaning the fact that we are unable to express ourselves. God makes it very clear on a daily basis that he is God. We, on the other hand, in our persistent falling short make it very clear on a daily basis that we are but man, and not God. In seeking the existence of God there comes a point where one cannot claim ignorance or charge God with secrecy. The facts have been revealed and we are left with only one decision. We can use our uniquely human ability to reason out our decisions and move toward the facts. Or, we can ourselves choose to defy our human instinct to reason and overwhelm our intelligence as humans all for the purpose of inflating our ever-fragile ego that allows us to remain in control and proved right by our own actions and not as a result of anyone else. God clearly states that one decision results in life and the other results in death. The pride of the human heart is so easily corrupted that many would prefer to choose death for the sake of being right.

Reflection Series: The Baptism of the Holy Spirit

The Reflection Series for this month is adapted from Reasoning the Rest, which you can read or download from the main menu. This month, we’re reflecting on the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Read along with this series here. 

From the beginning, the church has had questions concerning the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Unfortunately, these questions have often led to debate and division, ultimately fracturing the Church. While the debate continues among Christians concerning the precise nature of the baptism of the Holy Spirit, it is my belief that there are more important issues concerning the baptism, issues that edify and glorify the church in the unity of all believers in Jesus Christ rather than create divisive standards to outline the way in which all must undergo this baptism.

Whether an individual experiences the baptism of the Holy Spirit in the same way that the Apostles did in the Upper Room through the speaking of tongues or not, I believe that there are five truths that can validate the baptism being truly of the Holy Spirit and not simply a response based on tradition, emotion or presupposition.

These five truths are all based on the foundation of “power.” However, the power is not in the experience of the individual for self-glorification. Rather, these five truths glorify the power of God and God alone. For the next five weeks, we will be considering these truths.

  1. The Power of the Promise
  2. The Power of the Cross
  3. The Power of the Creator
  4. The Power of the Mission
  5. The Power of the Victory

The experience of being baptized in the Holy Spirit can vary depending on the individual but the truths that emerge upon being baptized must not and cannot differ. These are truths, and all who have been baptized by the spirit must proceed to build the new life in Jesus Christ upon these foundational pillars of power.

Tuesday Devotional: Numbers 11

Read Numbers 11:4-35 bible

How quickly we begin to crave other food. We are beings of substantial appetites, yet we are so quick to exaggerate our physical needs beyond the point of reason in response to an overflowing and seemingly never-ending stream of temptation that surrounds and rises from within us on a daily basis. Ever so quickly we overlook the provision given us in exchange for the desires that escape us. We turn up our noses at a healthy piece of fruit filled with vitamins and nutrients that provide our bodies with strength and energy, while leaping at the opportunity to devour a snack that has little to offer our bodies nutritionally but effectively satisfies a craving of the mind. We are beings so quick to want and so quick to forget what we have. We are beings so susceptible to the influence of others that in the blink of an eye we turn our backs on that which has given us much and redirect our eyes on something that has given us nothing at all.

All too often we forget the numerous ways that God has blessed our lives because we allow our eyes to wander away from him and on to the lives of others that surround us. We overshadow his provision in our own lives because we find ourselves obsessed by how he is providing in the life of someone we know. As quick as we are to beg for his provision we are equally quick to indulge jealousy of someone else’s provision. We are much like a child on Christmas morning who receives a gift and rejoices, until the next gift is opened and the joy becomes bitterness and jealousy. This typically has nothing to do with the gift itself. It arises out of the craving for something you don’t have but that you don’t necessarily need or even want. The astonishing thing about this tendency is that God does not withhold provision upon seeing it. God is so ready to be seen that he not only receives these ridiculous complaints with grace and understanding but then responds to our requests in a way that only he will be noticed and glorified. God is so in tune with what we need and what we can handle that the reason there is ever a withholding of anything in our lives is that we are not quite ready for it.

However, if receiving what we ask for, regardless of our inability to handle our request, ultimately redirects our eyes back to the Father that knows best, God allows us to crave, reach and take hold of that which has the power to destroy us. In the near destruction brought about by our own hands at the impulse of our own wills are we then able to see the weakness of our own hearts and the strength of his. Our prayers should never be to ask God for what we think we need or feel we want. Our prayers should be to ask God for what we are ready to receive. Only in committing our desires to his will we come into a life that is abundant in the good things that can help us and avoid the things that have the power to destroy us.