Continuous Action

A person filled with the Holy Spirit cannot help but make a difference wherever they go! Look at how Peter summed up the earthly ministry of Jesus: 

And you know that God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. Then Jesus went around doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him. (Acts 10:38 NLT) 

The continuous action of Jesus was doing good and healing those who were diseased in body and soul. This is supposed to be the continuous action of the followers of Jesus too. The baptism of the Holy Spirit is an empowerment for the continuous, unmistakable, irrefutable action of those anointed by Him.

Andrew Murray commented on the miraculous healings that were recorded in the Book of Acts, “This was the continuous experience of the early church. … The abundant outpouring of the Spirit produced abundant healings.” Indeed it did! Check out the continuous miraculous action that Luke records in Acts. 

The evidence of God’s Spirit in a Christian should produce continuous action that is unmistakable, undeniable, and God-glorifying.

Confirmation Of The Baptism In The Holy Spirit

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on Apple or Spotify.

The baptism in the Holy Spirit is what Pentecostal Christians frequently refer to as our distinctive doctrine. Notice I said distinctive, not better. Can someone go to heaven without being baptized in the Spirit? Yes! But I’ve found that living in this distinctive empowerment makes the journey to heaven so much more productive and joyful.   

After the resurrection of Jesus, everything took on a whole new meaning, because the “light” had been turned on in the Old Testament palace. All of the practices that Jews had been observing for thousands of years suddenly had a new illumination in the New Testament.  

Pentecost had always been a celebration 50 days following the Passover. In the Old Testament, the law was given from Sinai on the fiftieth day after the deliverance from Egypt, so in a sense, the appearance of God on Sinai was the birthday of the Jewish nation. In the New Testament, the first outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the first Pentecost after Jesus ascended to heaven was the birthday of the Christian nation for all people. 

One of our foundational truths says: “All believers are entitled to and should ardently expect and earnestly seek the promise of the Father, the baptism in the Holy Spirit and fire, according to the command of our Lord Jesus Christ. This was the normal experience of all in the early Christian Church.” 

And another foundational truth is a corollary: “The baptism of believers in the Holy Spirit is witnessed by the initial physical sign of speaking with other tongues as the Spirit of God gives them utterance.” 

God has always confirmed His presence with signs and wonders. From the signs in Egypt to convince Pharaoh that Jehovah was greater than the Egyptian gods to the ministry of Jesus. In fact, Peter said that the signs and wonders done by Jesus were God’s authentication of His ministry (see Luke 5:17-26; Acts 2:22; Acts 10:38). 

Jesus said this should characterize our ministry too (see Mark 16:15-20; Acts 1:5, 8).  

R.A. Torrey noted, “The baptism of the Holy Spirit always imparts power for service…. The baptism of the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of God falling upon the believer, taking possession of his faculties, imparting to him gifts not naturally his own, but which qualify him for the service to which God has called him.” 

Check out this chart that walks us through the book of Acts to see how God authenticated the ministry of those who were baptized in the Holy Spirit by performing signs and wonders through them:

You may download this chart in a PDF format by clicking here Chart of signs in Acts ←

When a Christian is baptized in the Holy Spirit there are two types of evidence:

  1. Initial evidence—typically speaking in a language that hasn’t been studied but has been supernaturally given by God. 
  2. Ongoing evidence—I would sum this up in the word sanctification (or as I like to remember it by saying “saint-ification”). This is the lifestyle change, the empowered living, and even the miraculous that cannot be counterfeited by man’s efforts alone. 

Let’s not try to put God in a box—telling Him when, where, how, and through whom He can work. Instead, let’s yield ourselves entirely to Him by letting the Holy Spirit empower us to be effective, unmistakable witnesses for Jesus Christ. 

►► Would you please prayerfully consider supporting this ministry? ◀︎◀︎

I will be relaunching our series called We Are: Pentecostal in two weeks. Please follow along with all of the messages in this series by clicking here for the details.

And if you would like to check out the other messages in our series looking at our foundational belief statements, you can find the full list by clicking here.

The Hiding Place (book review)

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on Apple or Spotify.

In The Problem of Pain, C.S. Lewis writes, “Suffering is not good in itself. What is good in any painful experience is, for the sufferer, her submission to the will of God, and, for the spectators, the compassion aroused and the acts of mercy to which it leads.” This sentiment was never more fully displayed than in the lives of the ten Boom family. Corrie ten Boom relates her story in The Hiding Place. 

The ten Boom family had lived in Holland for a couple of generations at the time the Germans occupied their country during World War II. Immediately, their family home and watch repair shop became a hub for underground resistance activity. But the start of this war was not the start of their compassionate activity in their city. The ten Booms lived out their Christian faith in tangible, compassionate ways every single day, and their neighbors reaped the benefits. 

The entire ten Boom family was actively involved in the efforts to protect at-risk people during the Nazi oppression of their country, including the elderly and sick, their Jewish neighbors, the mentally disabled, and the young men that were being pressed into duties to support the German war effort. As The Hiding Place progresses, the story begins to zoom-in on two sisters: Betsie and Corrie, especially their activities inside the German prisons and concentration camps in which they were imprisoned. 

The miracles that God performed for these women are too many to recount here, but it seems like hardly a page in the story passes before another miracle is seen. These Christian women took full advantage of each miracle and used them to continue to bring light and love into one of the most dark and hateful times in human history. Even after the war has ended and Corrie has returned to her Holland home, the ministry of healing, forgiveness, and reconciliation continued unabated through her tirelessly loving activities. 

The Hiding Place is truly a heroic tale! I highly recommend parents and grandparents reading it aloud to their children and grandchildren. May all Christians follow the example of the ten Boom family in finding ways to daily share the love of Jesus to their neighbors-in-need. 

►► Would you please prayerfully consider supporting this ministry? ◀︎◀︎

The Deity And Divinity Of Jesus

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on Apple or Spotify.

Some really silly guys did a series of videos called “Neature Walk” because they wanted to share how neat is nature! In episode one Vic sees a tree that he really likes and says, “Score! This is an aspen tree. You can that it’s an aspen tree because of the way it is.” This is either circular reasoning or an obvious statement. “Just look at this thing. You can tell it’s this thing because it looks and acts like this thing.” 

I feel a lot like this when I look at the first part of our third foundational truth statement: “We believe in the Deity of the Lord Jesus Christ.” (As a side note, I covered the second part of this statement—“As God’s Son, Jesus was both human and divine”—in another post, which you may find here.) 

Check this out: the definition for Deity is the divine character of God, and the definition for divine means things relating to the Deity. In saying we believe Jesus is God we are really saying, “You can tell that Jesus is God because of the way He is.” 

In order to make this definition work, we need evidence for both the divinity and the deity of Jesus. That being said, let me remind you of J. Warner Wallace’s instruction on faith. There is:

  • Blind faith—believing in something without evidence 
  • Unreasonable faith—believing in something in spite of the evidence 
  • Reasonable faith—believing in something because of the evidence 

Here is some evidence that I think makes it reasonable to believe that Jesus is divine:

  1. Virgin birth—Isaiah 7:14; Luke 1:34-35; Matthew 1:22-23 
  2. Sinless life—Isaiah 53:4-6, 9; Hebrews 7:26-27; 1 Peter 2:22 
  3. Miracles—Acts 10:38; 2:22-24 
  4. Death, resurrection, exaltation—Isaiah 53:10-12; Philippians 2:6-8; Hebrews 1:3 

(Check out all the Scriptural references listed above by clicking here.) 

I think the best evidence for the Deity of Jesus is the connection He Himself made between the “Jehovah” titles of the First Testament and His “I AM” statements in the Second Testament:

  • Jehovah Jireh (I Am Your Provider) → I am the Bread of Life (John 6:35)
  • Jehovah Rapha (I Am Your Healing) → I am the Resurrection and the Life (John 11:25-26)
  • Jehovah Nissi (I Am Your Source) → I am the Vine (John 15:5)
  • Jehovah Shalom (I Am Your Peace) → I am the Light of the world (John 8:12)
  • Jehovah Raah (I Am Your Shepherd) → I am the Good Shepherd (John 10:11)
  • Jehovah Sabaoth (I Am Your Wall Of Protection) → I am the Gate (John 10:9)
  • Jehovah Tsid-kenu (I Am Your Righteousness) → I am the Way, Truth, and Life (John 14:6)
  • Jehovah Shammah (I Am Here) → I am the Alpha and Omega (Revelation 1:8; 22:13). 

(Check out all the Scriptural references listed above by clicking here.)

The Jewish leadership understood perfectly what Jesus was claiming! But the more pertinent question is this: Do we understand what we must do with this evidence? 

We cannot claim that Jesus was born of a virgin, or lived a sinless life, or did miracles, or died and rose again and then not believe He is God. We cannot pick and choose the parts of Jesus we want. 

The apostle Paul reminded us that someday “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:11-12). 

Every knee will bow to Him one day: Either in worship of Jesus their Savior, or in abject terror of Jesus their Judge. 

I pray that you believe in Jesus as your Lord and Savior today… don’t wait another moment! 

►► Would you please prayerfully consider supporting this ministry? ◀︎◀︎

If you’ve missed any of the other messages in our Foundational Stones series, which is exploring our foundational beliefs, you may access all of them by clicking here.

Miracles Out Of Somewhere (book review)

Fans of the band Kansas will recognize that the title of Kerry Livgren’s book is just a slight variation from one of the band’s well-known songs. Miracles Out Of Somewhere recognizes both the miracles and the Source of those miraculous encounters. 

For my listening enjoyment, I am always quick to pull up anything written by Kerry Livgren—his solo work, Kansas, AD, or Proto-Kaw are musical masterpieces and lyrically enriching. One of Kerry’s songs was entitled “Miracles out of nowhere,” in which we are surprised by the serendipitous occurrences that cross our paths. But in this book, Kerry makes it clear that he sees God at work in his life. 

Miracles Out Of Somewhere is a memoir spanning all of Kerry’s life. He takes us back to his boyhood home, to the pre-Kansas days, to the heyday of Kansas, and to his life since leaving the popular rock band. The book is not written in chronological order, but almost as if Kerry were sitting on the front porch and reminiscing with you. 

I have always found Kerry (and all his Kansas bandmates) to be very down-to-earth guys. They enjoyed their success without letting it go to their head. This book has that same accessible, guy-next-door feel to it, which makes it extremely engaging and enjoyable. Kerry simply shares his stories and lets the reader come to their own conclusion of what sort of miracle may (or may not) have happened. 

If you enjoy the music of Kerry Livgren, I think you will appreciate the messages in his songs even more after taking this behind-the-scenes tour with him. 

ADDED BONUS REVIEW: The band Kansas has a rockumentary about the band’s beginnings and its “miracles” that put them on top of Billboard’s greatest hits. This Miracles Out Of Nowhere DVD is very enjoyable and well worth the time of any Kansas fan. 

History Matters

The minor prophets cover a span of about 300 years, from 760-450 BC, and Jonah appears right in the middle of that. Jonah overlaps Amos and Hosea in northern Israel, and he finishes his ministry just before Isaiah’s ministry begins in southern Judah. 

Jonah is the only narrative in the minor prophets. He was a prophet during the reign of Jeroboam II when Israel was temporarily growing in strength. He is the first of Israel’s prophets to be sent to a non-Jewish population. 

Critics have raised questions about this book. Questions like: Did Jonah write this book himself or is it just a story about him? Is this book historical or allegorical? 

The five biggest objections that are raised to Jonah’s historicity are: 

  1. The hyper-nationalistic feel is more like when Ezra and Nehemiah led people back to Jerusalem after their captivity in Babylon, and not during the time of Jeroboam II. 
  2. Parts of Jonah appear copied from the prophet Joel. 
  3. There are no (or incorrect) details about the major city of Nineveh that Jonah visited. 
  4. There are no extra-biblical historical records of a revival in Nineveh. 
  5. Jonah was swallowed by a fish?! 

I think there are very good reasons to believe that Jonah was both autobiographical and historically accurate. 

First, there was a revival of sorts (although not religiously) in Israel during the time of Jeroboam II. This was a time that Israel felt like it could flex its muscles again, so Jonah would not be acting out of character to be so pro-Israel. 

Second, Jonah 3:9 and Joel 2:14 sound similar, but scholars cannot tell which was written first. Couldn’t God amplify a message? Consider how many parts of the Gospel of Mark are used in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. And it’s a regular practice for authors even today to directly quote other sources. 

Third, regarding the lack of details about Nineveh, the biblical writers give very few details of any places outside of Israel or Judah. The only “incorrect” detail skeptics point to is Jonah 3:3 stating that the city was so big that it would take three days to walk around it. Nineveh was a city of about 120,000 inhabitants, so it could easily take three days of walking and preaching in order to get the message to everyone. 

Fourth, the revival in Nineveh was clearly short-lived. Jonah was probably in Nineveh around 760 BC. Assyria was rising politically and militarily during that time and defeated Israel just 40 years after Jonah’s preaching. Assyria itself was then defeated in 605 BC. 

Finally, Jonah was swallowed by a fish?! The root word for fish in Hebrew means something that has grown to such an enormous size that it overshadows everything else. But notice that what caused the sailors to be in awe of God was not the whale/fish swallowing Jonah, but the immediate calming of the ocean when Jonah was thrown overboard (Jonah 1:15-16). Miracles appear throughout this book. And throughout the entire Bible! 

Why should the appearance of miracles surprise us? Some people have a bias against the supernatural, where they wrongly believe that we can know everything through naturalistic means. C.S. Lewis pointed out, “I use the word Miracle to mean an interference with Nature by supernatural power. … Nature as a whole is herself one huge result of the Supernatural: God created her.” 

I don’t think this story is a parable or an allegory because nowhere else in the Bible are such details given in the form of a parable. 

I believe this story is historical because Jesus talked about the historicity of Jonah in the same breath as He talked about other historical people: the Queen of the South and Solomon (Matthew 12:38-42). Jesus clearly viewed Jonah as historically reliable and accurate. To call Jonah into question is to call into question the truthfulness of Jesus Himself! 

History matters because all of History is God’s story! 

Our belief in the message of the Bible is not based upon “once upon a time” or “a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.” It’s based upon real people in real places, especially the historicity of Jesus (notice all of the historical details Luke lists in the birth account of Jesus). 

Jonah was clearly one of those historical people, in an historic place, and at a precise moment in world history that tells the story of Jesus and our redemption which He purchased! 

If you want to check out all of the messages in our series on the major lessons from the minor prophets, you can find that list by clicking here.

How Big?

…your servant has nothing there at all…except a small jar of olive oil (2 Kings 4:2). 

This widow made the right move in going to Elisha for help. The situation seemed impossible, so she had nowhere else to go but to God.

Instead of giving her immediate relief, God asks this widow to extend her faith. The steps she takes next will determine how big of a blessing she will receive. God frequently does this:

  • how many ditches am I willing to dig (3:16)? 
  • how many doors am I willing to knock on to ask for empty jars (4:3)?
  • how many times am I willing to strike the ground with my arrows (13:18-19)?

The ditches were filled with water until they could hold no more.

The jars were filled with oil until they could hold no more.

Joash only struck the ground three times, so he only received three victories.

Jesus told us…

…ask, and keep on asking 

…seek, and keep on looking 

…knock, and keep on knocking 

God IS going to answer. The question is: HOW BIG do I want Him to answer? 

Now all glory to God, who is able, through His mighty power at work within us, to accomplish INFINITELY MORE than we might ask or think. (Ephesians 3:20) 

Miracle Of Miracles

…Lord, the God of Israel, there is no God like You… (1 Kings 8:23).

Yahweh is unique. He isn’t #1 in the categories that men use to rank things—He embodies the categories; He is in those categories all by Himself. He has no peer, He has no rival. He is the I AM. 

This seemingly unapproachable God approaches us—miracle of miracles! He makes a covenant of love, and He keeps that covenant. He makes promises, and He fulfills all those promises. He is the Judge, and yet He provides for the atonement and total restoration of the guilty sinner. He knows every human heart (v. 39) and every human sin (v. 46), and yet He does not abandon, but saves!

Miracle of miracles! He is the one who gives to me a heart that wants to walk in obedience to Him…

  • …so that He can keep all of His promises that are reserved for those who walk in obedience to Him
  • …so that all the peoples of the earth may see and know “that the LORD is God and that there is no other” (v. 60)

Miracle of miracles! The unique I AM wants me to be in a relationship with Him. The One who is complete in Himself wants me to be in this blessed completeness with Him forever! How could I ever say no to such an invitation?! How could I ever refrain from telling others about this invitation?!

God loves me and He has done everything necessary for me to be in an eternal relationship with Him—miracle of miracles indeed!

Thursdays With Spurgeon—God’s Faithful Provision

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

God’s Faithful Provision

     My witness is, and I speak it for the honor of God, that He is a good provider. … My first income as a Christian minister was small enough in all conscience, never exceeding forty-five pounds a year, yet I was as rich then as I am now, for I have enough; and I had no more cares, nay, not half as many then as I have now; and when I breathed my prayer to God then, as I do now, for all things temporal and spiritual, I found Him ready to answer me at every pinch, and for many pinches I have had. … My faith has been often tried, but God has always been faithful and sent supplies in hours of need. If any should tell me that prayer to God is a mere piece of excitement, and that the idea of God answering human cries is absurd, I should laugh the statement to scorn, for my experience is not that of one or two singular instances, but that of hundreds of cases in which the Lord’s interposition, for the necessities of His work, has been as manifest as if He had rent the clouds and thrust fourth His own naked arm and bounteous hand to supply the needs of His servant. 

From The Autobiography Of Charles Spurgeon 

I, too, can declare with Spurgeon how many times God has faithfully provided for us just in time. Every instance of true need has been met by miraculous provision as we have prayed to Him. 

It’s a lie to think that God doesn’t care about your need, or that He is too busy with bigger matters, or that He only helps those who help themselves. 

God loves to help those who cannot help themselves, so that He receives all of the glory. 

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God (Philippians 4:6). 

Growth Problems

…the number of disciples was increasing… (Acts 6:1).

Growth is a nice problem to have. But it is still a problem that needs to be addressed, or else the growth can implode an organization. 

In this instance, the early Christian church was growing rapidly and attempting to address the need for getting food to widows. Apparently, some of the widows were being overlooked in that food distribution. 

To start the ball rolling on solving this growth problem, the apostles gave some simple parameters: We will focus on preaching, the rest of you should select administrators to oversee the food ministry (vv. 2-4). The job description was pretty simple too—they must have a good reputation, be full of the Holy Spirit, be wise, and (this is implied) be willing to serve.

Notice the trust the church leaders placed in that congregation: 

  • seek out from among you
  • they chose
  • they set them [the candidates] before the apostles

The congregation was pleased by both the apostles’ plan and the level of trust that was conferred on them. It appears that seven men were the unanimous selection of both the congregation and the church leaders. 

After these men were installed in their new administrative roles, look at the results:

  • more preaching
  • more salvations
  • more inroads into the Jewish religious leadership sect
  • more people fed
  • more miracles performed
  • and more persecution from those threatened by the church’s rapid growth

It’s interesting to note that Luke uses the word added to talk about the church’s growth in chapters 1-5, but after this growth problem is successfully resolved, Luke stops using added and only uses multiplication terminology. 

When handled the right way, growth problems—or any problems, for that matter—lead to more growth. 

A mark of a godly leader is one who handles growth problems correctly. 

This is part 36 in my series on godly leadership. You can check out all of my posts in this series by clicking here.

%d bloggers like this: