Skilled In Scripture

Last week I shared how in a span of a month and a half Peter went from a man who crumbled before a little servant girl, to one who boldly stood up for Jesus before a huge crowd. Don’t you think that some of the other disciples that had spent the previous 3-plus years with Peter were thinking, “Who is this guy?! He’s preaching this amazing sermon that he didn’t even prepare for ahead of time!” 

That’s what the Holy Spirit does for us: He opens up God’s Word like we’ve never seen it before! It wasn’t just for Peter, or the original 12 disciples, or the first-century Church. This is still available to you and me today!  

Please note that it’s not just a relationship with Jesus that opens up the Scriptures to us. No one spent more time in the presence of Jesus than His disciples. And yet even after Jesus explicitly shared truth with them, we read, “His disciples didn’t understand at the time that this was a fulfillment of prophecy. But after Jesus entered into His glory, they remembered what had happened and realized that these things had been written about Him” (John 12:16). 

Notice those words “after…they remembered…and realized.” 

After what? After they were baptized in the Holy Spirit on Pentecost (see Acts 2:1-16). In every setting after that we see their new understanding and correct application of the Scriptures (check out Acts 2:16, 25, 34; 2:42; 4:25-26; 8:35; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; Hebrews 4:12; 2 Peter 1:21).

This is still available to you and me today! Jesus told us that He had more to say to us, and that’s why the Holy Spirit would come. The same Holy Spirit that inspired the Word of God is available today to illuminate it to us! 

R.T. Kendall made this observation about the teachings of Jesus, “[His teachings] cannot be truly understood until you see that it is our Lord’s doctrine of the Holy Spirit. It means we must embrace His interpretation of the Law and how it is fulfilled in us.” 

This is what God foretold through Ezekiel—I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. Then they will follow My decrees and be careful to keep My laws… (Ezekiel 11:19-20). In other words, God is saying, “When the Holy Spirit is in you, you will know how to apply My laws to your every-day life. You will become skilled in the correct and timely biblical application.”  

ALL Scripture is for ALL servants of God. ALL Scripture is applicable to ALL the circumstances we will ever face in life. But we need the illumination of the Holy Spirit in order to make the connection from the written Word to the real-life application. 

So don’t stop at salvation—press on to be baptized in the Holy Spirit. 

If you have missed any of the other lessons in this series, you may access them by clicking here. 

Toot! Toot!

Do we begin again to commend ourselves?… (2 Corinthians 3:1)

Paul didn’t bring letters of reference to Corinth, nor did he ask the Corinthians to write any testimonials on his behalf.

A mark of a godly leader is one who doesn’t feel the need to toot his own horn.

 Paul’s focus was not on what he could get now, but on what would be his in eternity—

  • any “letters of recommendation” would be written on peoples hearts (v. 3)
  • any skills he had came through Jesus (vv. 4-6)
  • he had hope that God was keeping accurate records (vv. 7-11)
  • he had the freedom to speak boldly in love because he wasn’t trying to win man’s approval (vv. 12-13, 18)
  • he saw transformed lives as his real trophy (v. 18)
  • his ministry was through God’s mercy so he remained humbled and encouraged (4:1)
  • he didn’t feel the need to concoct a “marketing plan” nor leverage his pulpit for personal gain (v. 2)
  • he focused on glorifying God alone (vv. 3, 4, 6)
  • his sermons weren’t me-focused, but always others-focused as he became a bondservant to those to whom he ministered (v. 5)
  • he worked only for eternal rewards (vv. 7-12, 16-18)
  • he spoke only what he had already appropriated and faithfully applied to his own life (vv. 13-15)

Our prayer could be very similar to what Paul taught and probably prayed for himself—“May I lead by serving. May I not look for human praise—nor even be tempted to toot my own horn—but lead and minister only to hear applause from the nail-scarred hands of Jesus.” 

As R.T. Kendall reminds us—

“Every day we breathe in and out—in and out—thousands of times a day. There is a day fixed, that unless Jesus comes first, you and I will only breathe out. No amount of money, power, or prestige can alter the date that we each have with death. And at that moment the only thing that will matter is whether we have known Christ and served Him well—that our lives have made a difference. In short: that we are popular in heaven—and famous in hell.”

This is part 37 in my series on godly leadership. You can check out all of my posts in this series by clicking here.

Raw Emotions In Worship

When someone was out to get David, he turned to God in prayer. And what prayers he prayed! 

He didn’t hold back. He came to God with all of his emotions right out in the open. Raw—but honest—emotions. 

God called David a man after His own heart, so apparently God loved the honesty even when David asked God to break their arms, turn them into jackal food, burn them with fire, give them black eyes, or even blot their names out of God’s book of life (Psalm 10:15; 63:9-10; 68:1-2; 69:22-28)!

Why do we hesitate to express ourselves like this, to tell God what’s really in our hearts? Do we think He doesn’t know? Do we think He’s going to fall off His throne in shock at our brutal honesty? He already knows what’s in our hearts, so the expression of it is for our benefit. We must get it out in His presence because that’s the only way and the only place where true, deep, lasting healing can happen. 

I love what R.T. Kendall reminds us: “Real worship takes place when we are unafraid to express what we feel. Worship ought to bring us to the point where we can be honest. We never need to repress what we feel when we are around Jesus. He will never scold us for our honesty. It doesn’t mean we are right, but if we are being honest, He can help us and bring us to see where we are wrong and to face the truth.” (emphasis mine)

When you hurt, get alone with God and then get real with God. He already knows what’s in your heart, so speak it out. You need to get that poison out of your system so that God can heal you.

Book Reviews From 2014

11 Quotes From “Holy Fire”

Holy FireHoly Fire by R.T. Kendall is an excellent book for dyed-in-the-wool Pentecostals, and for those who believed the operational gifts of the Holy Spirit have ceased. You can read my book review by clicking here. Below are a few quotes I highlighted in this book.

“So if you feel threatened by the Holy Spirit, is it because you are happily in your comfort zone? Are you afraid of what the Holy Spirit might do to you? What He would require of you? What He might ask you to do? Do you think you will lose something if you make yourself vulnerable and totally open to Him? Are you afraid He will embarrass you? Do you think you will lose your identity? Do you think you might have to change?”

“The canon of Holy Scripture is closed. It is final. Absolute. Incontrovertible. It is God’s complete and final revelation. No word that will come in the future will be equal to the Bible in level of inspiration. This means that any leading, prophetic word, word of knowledge, or vision one may have today must cohere with Holy Scripture. If it doesn’t, it must be rejected.”

“The Holy Spirit is our best and only reliable Teacher. In fact, He is the only Teacher who matters. Whatever teaching you hear or read (including this book)—whoever the preacher or teacher, if the Spirit does not apply it and witness it to your heart (which He is most capable of doing), you should learn to hold that teaching in abeyance—if not dismiss it.” 

“The Spirit ‘guides’ us into truth—showing what is there but what cannot be seen without Him opening our eyes. It is humbling for prideful people to admit to the need of the Holy Spirit. The cost? Our pride being shattered. But once we are broken and enabled to see our stubbornness, the Spirit will show us amazing things—in Scripture.”

“The Holy Spirit leads us to praise the Lord Jesus as He deserves.” 

“Don’t come short of discovering how real God is because some well-meaning person says this kind of relationship with God is not possible today.”

“Unbelief is doubt that degenerates to a conscious act of the will. … But when we consciously decide that God did not say what He did—and we can do it better; or that He is not going to keep His word—or manifest Himself, and then put ourselves above His Word, we cross over a line. This is dangerous stuff.” 

“Do you know the context of Hebrews 13:8? Verses 7 and 9 point to one thing: sound teaching. … Whereas we have a perfect right to apply Hebrews 13:8 against cessationist teaching, the immediate context refers to doctrine. Sound theology. The writer wanted the teaching of Jesus to remain the same yesterday and today and forever. Knowing His Word and His ways.”

“What if God in some cases keeps some skeptics from seeing the miraculous even though it actually takes place? What if miracles are largely for those believers in God’s family who have accepted the stigma of being ‘outside the camp’ (Hebrews 13:13)? After all, why didn’t the resurrected Christ appear to everybody on Easter Sunday? One might choose to argue that this would have been a reasonable thing to do if God truly wanted everybody to believe on His Son. Why did Jesus reveal Himself only to a few? Why didn’t Jesus knock on Pontius Pilate’s door on Easter morning and say, ‘Surprise!’? Why didn’t Jesus go straight from the empty tomb to Herod’s palace and say, ‘Bet you weren’t expecting Me!’ He appeared only to a few—those who were His faithful followers. I also suspect that God sometimes allows just a little bit of doubt when it comes to the objective proof of the miraculous. This keeps us humbled. And sobered.” 

“The Holy Spirit can therefore be quenched by a doctrine that does not allow for Him to show up. … It also seems to me that one of the more serious fallouts of being a cessationist is that it can eliminate any expectancy for God to work powerfully in our hearts and lives. One may become too content with his or her sheer intellectual grasp of the gospel. The consequence is that we don’t even consider—much less expect—that God will manifest His power in our lives.”

“This to me is serious—and a very precarious position to take, namely, ruling out categorically the possibility of God manifesting His glory in signs and wonders today and deleting a great portion of the Bible for today. Consider how much the Bible has to say about God’s power. Healing. Signs and wonders. Revelation of truth by the Holy Spirit. Consider what is left in Holy Scripture when you rule out the miraculous or the gifts of the Holy Spirit.”

Holy Fire (book review)

Holy FireI believe the subtitle of R.T. Kendall’s book Holy Fire is the most apt description of this work: A Balanced, Biblical Look at the Holy Spirit’s Work in Our Lives. Truly this book is both biblical and balanced.

“I am writing this book (1) to introduce the Holy Spirit as if you did not know very much about Him, (2) to show the inconsistency of the teaching of some evangelicals, but (3) also to warn you of strange fire that is about,” says Dr. Kendall.

It seems lately there is a great deal of UNbalance when discussing the Holy Spirit, and much “theology” being preached which doesn’t have a firm biblical foundation. Some want to emphasize the Spirit’s role so much that they almost exclude God the Father and God the Son. Others want to so downplay the role of the Holy Spirit in our lives today that they have almost become binitarians. Kendall stated, “The Holy Spirit does not belong to you. Are you Charismatic? He is bigger than your signs and wonders event. Are you Reformed? He will not be limited by your theology.”

Sticking close to the words of Scripture, R.T. Kendall walks us through the various roles of the Holy Spirit in our lives. He brings in the insights of other notable thinkers from Martin Luther, to John Calvin, to Jonathan Edwards, to George Whitefield, and Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. Even for someone like me who grew up in the Pentecostal tradition, I learned so much from this book!

Holy Fire is not written in a scholarly tone, but in a conversational style that made me feel I was talking with R.T. Kendall. This allowed me to drink in what Rev. Kendall was saying, process it, compare it with Scripture, and reach my own conclusions.

An excellent book that is very timely for the Christian era in which we currently live. Whether your background is Pentecostal or Reformed, there is so much to be learned from Holy Fire.

Links & Quotes

link quote

Here are the links to some interesting reading I found this weekend.

“The Holy Spirit does not belong to you. Are you charismatic? He is bigger than your signs and wonders event. Are you Reformed? He will not be limited by your theology.” —R.T. Kendall

“The worst thing that can happen to a man is to succeed before he is ready.” —Martyn Lloyd-Jones

Where is the outrage in the American mainstream media?! Kidnapped School Girls In Nigeria Sold As Child Brides.

It’s funny that many secularists believe that Christian myths about Jesus evolved over time until they were written down generations later. This is the thesis in Bart Ehrman’s latest book. It’s not accurate. It’s funny because there are things believed by some of the same secularists that actually are myths that evolved over time to create the impression that Christianity is a science stopper and anti-intellectual. One of these myths is about the scientific revolution that was purportedly initiated by Copernicus and the supposed subsequent opposition from the church to his heliocentric theories.” Read more of this eye-opening post: Copernicus And The Scientific Revolution.

Disney’s Peter Rummell shares how the Imagineers keep the great ideas coming.

“The State exists simply to promote and to protect the ordinary happiness of human beings in this life. A husband and wife chatting over a fire, a couple of friends having a game of darts in a pub, a man reading a book in his own room or digging in his own garden— that is what the State is there for. And unless they are helping to increase and prolong and protect such moments, all the laws, parliaments, armies, courts, police, economics, etc., are simply a waste of time.” —C.S. Lewis

“When sin is pardoned, our greatest sorrow is ended, and our truest pleasure begins. Such is the joy which the Lord bestows upon His reconciled ones, that it overflows and fills all nature with delight. The material world has latent music in it, and a renewed heart knows how to bring it out and make it vocal.” —Charles Spurgeon

Unhappiness Makes Me Happy

I’m not a sadist. Nor am I a pessimist.

But I am a child that is still learning that I cannot always get my way.

We’re getting ready to start 2011 with a week of prayer, and I’m going to open 2011 with a series of Sunday messages on prayer: The Perfect Prayer. But in studying more about prayer, I’m always confronted by this: Why are some prayers unanswered.

As I pondered that today, I thought about saying “No” to my kids. I love my children and I want them to be happy. They love pop (or “soda” for some of you, or “Coke” for others), and would drink it all the time if I said “Yes.”

Saying “Yes” to this beverage choice may make them happy now, but it would make them very unhappy later in life when they developed osteoporosis (from a lack of calcium), or had skin and eye disease (from a lack of vitamin D), or were losing teeth (from too much carbonation), or had developed diabetes (from too much sugar).

Our Heavenly Father sees my future even more clearly than I can see it for my children. He wants me to be blessed, which is why He must say “No” at times. I’m a child who doesn’t know what is best for me.

“Getting all you want would bring incalculable damage and grief to you. Be thankful for unanswered prayer. It may be a sign of God’s favor.” —R.T. Kendall

So as I’m growing in God I can say, “Father, I’m willing to trust you with the ‘No’ now, because I believe you have a better ‘Yes’ for me in the future.”

My temporary unhappiness with unanswered prayer makes me happy because I know God has something better for me. I’m going to keep on asking, seeking, and knocking, but I’m also going to keep on trusting my Heavenly Father for His very best.

The Lord’s Prayer (book review)

Yeah, yeah… you know about the Lord’s Prayer. Maybe you know it by heart. Maybe you pray this prayer every week at your church, or maybe even every day in your home. But do you really know the Lord’s Prayer? R.T. Kendall is about to take you on a journey of discovery that will energize this prayer like never before.

The Lord’s Prayer leads you through this powerful prayer phrase by phrase, petition by petition. Dr. Kendall calls this “the perfect prayer,” and after reading his insights, I think you will agree with him.

I know that anything I do or say time and time again can lose some of its meaning. The Lord’s Prayer is so well known that many of us can rattle it off from rote memory, almost in one breath, and never really comprehend what we’re actually praying. Dr. Kendall brings out such a depth of understanding in each phrase of this prayer, that I don’t think I will ever pray it the same way again.

For instance, I never realized the significance of even the order of the prayer. Jesus put the first thing first and then puts each following phrase in its perfect place as well. The way Dr. Kendall explains it brings out such a richness of understanding.

I could imagine this book being the perfect tool to help your personal prayer life go deeper. I can also see this book being used by a church’s prayer team to help energize their prayer times together. Whether personally or corporately, your prayer life will be greatly benefitted by this book.

I am a Chosen Books book reviewer.

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