Sunday, August 30, 2015

helping the poor

Gal 1-2

Paul explained the validity of his apostleship, but he also explained that he confirmed his theology with the other apostles.  I think it is fascinating that after confirming their agreement on doctrine, their main concern was taking care of the poor:

2:10 All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I had been eager to do all along.

Unfortunately, most of the time, I don't think my doctrinal study leads me to compassion for the poor.  I hope that God grows in me a Christ-like concern for others, especially the poor.

Heavenly Father, please help me grow in my attention and compassion of others.  I want to lead a Christ-like, selfless life.  Lord Jesus, thank you for your example of caring for others, especially the poor.  Holy Spirit, please help me listen to you in how you are leading me to care for the poor.  I love you, and I pray in the name of Jesus.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Value and productivity

In a previous message, Greg talked about how we don't need to produce anything to be valued by God.  We can begin with a realization of acceptance by God and move into productivity.  The world (especially academia) says that our value is proportional to our productivity.  I think my first couple of years of workaholism were fueled by this pervasive paradigm, and exacerbated by my freshly desire for approval.

But God says we are priceless because He made us in His image, and He chose to spend His Son's life to demonstrate His love.  I think I came to a conscious awareness of this reality about half a year ago.

But today, Greg preached about hurriedness, which is related, but different.  Jesus was undoubtedly busy in His ministry, but He made time to be still and rest.

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."
Matthew 11:28-30 NIV

You can't do it all, and you can't do it alone.  I need to make time to be still and rest, and know that I am not less of a person because I am not doing anything.  I need to cast my cares upon Him and let go of my internal hurriedness to acheive.

Heavenly Father, please deliver me from my desire to do what is expected of me.  Help me focus on doing what you lead me to do.  Help me daily come to you and receive your rest.  I love you, and I pray in the name of Jesus.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Ask versus command

In Acts 3:6, Peter said, "In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazereth, get up and walk."  He didn't ask God to heal the man.

In Acts 9:34, Peter said, "Jesus Christ heals you." He didn't ask God to heal the man.

In Acts 9:40, Peter said, "Tabitha, get up."  He didn't ask God to heal the man.

I wonder if I should have told that Sister on Sunday that she was healed instead of asking God to heal her.

Heavenly Father, I don't understand this.  Please make it clear to me.  I love you, and I pray in the name of Jesus.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Call me by name

When Jesus interrupted Saul on the road to Damascus, He called him by name.

When the Lord instructed Ananias to lay hands on Saul, He called him by name.

Heavenly Father, please speak to me.  Call me by name.  I want to hear you and obey.  I love you, and I pray in the name of Jesus.

Monday, August 17, 2015

talking with the Holy Spirit

When I woke up yesterday morning, I vaguely remembered a dream where I was searching for the Holy Spirit.  We were out in relatively open country with scattered brush and a few trees, and I knew that the Holy Spirit was ahead of me, and I was determined to catch up with Him.  I was encouraged by this dream, but I had a sore throat and a headache, and I allowed it to put me in a bad mood.

Yesterday morning, we attended the church gathering with Brandi's parents.  I wasn't singing because my throat was sore.  I noticed a lady sitting a couple of rows ahead of us while everyone else was standing and singing.  I felt impressed that Brandi and I should go pray for her.  I felt an impression that she was sick and we should pray for her for healing.  In my mind, I tried to rationalize and dismiss this impression as something that I was only imagining because she was sitting down.  But I couldn't shake the impression; it felt like conviction of the Holy Spirit.  

I told Brandi that we should go pray for her if they started another song.  Unfortunately, that was the last song.  So, while the pastor was preaching, I tried to dismiss the impulse.  I tried to make an excuse that I had missed the opportunity.  But then I asked the Lord to be patient with me and to give me a chance.  I wanted to take the risk that He was really speaking to me, and I wanted to be obedient to what He was asking me to do.  After communion, the pastor told us that they were going to sing one last song.  I knew that it was my chance.  So, Brandi and I walked around to her, and I told her my name and that I felt impressed by the Holy Spirit during the earlier singing that we were supposed to pray for her for healing.  She immediately started crying and said that she had been asking the Lord for healing.  It was such a confirmation that the Holy Spirit had spoken to me, and I hope that it was an encouragement to her that the Lord heard her prayers and confirmed it through another Believer.  

As I started praying for her, I realized that I wished I had asked her name and if she wanted to tell us to pray for healing for anything in particular.  I didn't really know what to pray for, but I just prayed what was on my heart.  I believe that the Lord heard our prayers and that He is gives grace abundantly, even in our inexperience and immaturity.

In retrospect, I wonder if I should have prayed for her as we did, or if I was supposed to simply declare her healed, as I observe Jesus and the disciples.

Heavenly Father, thank you for patiently looking after me and caring for my soul.  Holy Spirit, thank you for speaking to me yesterday morning, and thank you for giving me the faith to step out in obedience.  Let's do this again; I really enjoyed this experience of hearing you and obeying you, and I want to have a lifestyle of consistently hearing from you and ministering to others.  Lord Jesus, give me boldness to heal in the power of your name.  I love you, and I pray in the name of Jesus.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Healing, miraculous signs and wonders

Acts 4

When questioned by the high priest, rulers, elders, and teachers, Peter and John clearly explained that it was by the name of Jesus that the crippled beggar was healed.  And while the religious leaders wanted to squelch the event, they asked themselves (v.4):

"What should we do with these men? For it is plain to all who live in Jerusalem that a notable miraculous sign has come about through them, and we cannot deny it."

It seems to me that signs and wonders are particularly effective for sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ if they are undeniable, irrefutable, and unarguable.  If we are debating philosophy or doctrine, then you can always count we with a rebuttal, but a miraculous event can be proof of supernatural power, not just ideas.

So, all the religious leaders came up with was to scold and flog Peter and John.  But they replied (v. 20):

"... it is impossible for us not to speak about what we have seen and heard."

I sure have heard a lot of preaching and teaching in my life, and I don't want to undermine its significance.  But I think personal, first-hand observation of supernatural power would be engaging evidence for several of my friends.

I think it is fascinating that, after these events, the disciples asked God for more:

29 "And now, Lord, pay attention to their threats, and grant to your servants to speak your message with great courage, 30 while you extend your hand to heal, and to bring about miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus."

What would it look like if every follower of Jesus was asking God to grant us courage and miraculous signs and wonders?

Heavenly Father, thank you for the example of the apostles and disciples in following you boldly.  Lord Jesus, it is by your name that we have salvation and healing.  Holy Spirit, please embolden and empower me to be an agent of your Kingdom here.  I love you, and I pray in the name of Jesus.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Miraculous stuff

Recorded in Acts 3, Peter and John were going up to the temple, and instead of giving a crippled beggar some money, they healed him.

Somehow, I grew up with an implicit cessationistic perspective that the miraculous stuff happened in the lives of the apostles to jumpstart the chrch, but that miraculous stuff doesn't really happen anymore.  Except for missionaries, who had some really crazy stories.

The question that I am considering is, does God want miraculous stuff to be a more common occurrence in disciples' lives today.  I am beginning to think that He does.  I have heard too many stories of miraculous stuff to maintain a cessationistic position.  I cant think of anything in Scripture that would indicate that this demonstration of signs And wonders would die with the Apostles. And how sad, really, to believe that God won't work that way any more.

Frankly, I want to see Him do stuff like that through me.

Jesus modeled supernatural and miraculous demonstrations (e.g., casting out demons, healing people, etc.), and then He sent out the disciples (not only the twelve) to replicate.  He said that we who believe would do similar things (Mark 16:15-20), and He said that we would do even greater things than He (John 14:12). Paul said, "Imitate me as I imitate Christ." (1 Cor 11:1) That is pretty crazy when you think about all of the miraculous stuff that Jesus and Paul did.

Heavenly Father, thank you for the examples of Christ and the Apostles in joining you in your mission, by the power of your Spirit.  I want to live as a disciple of Jesus.  Please use me to demonstrate your supernatural power.  I love you, and I pray in the name of Jesus.

Monday, August 3, 2015

presence of the Holy Spirit

I'm trying to understand the presence of the Holy Spirit.  In summary, it seems to me that there are two aspects of His presence: (1) a permanent indwelling of the Holy Spirit, initiated upon belief in Jesus Christ, and (2) a dynamic annointing/(re)filling associated with spiritual power.

First, Jesus taught that the Holy Spirit would be sent from the Father and from Jesus (John 14 and 15, respectively). This teaching was just before Jesus's death, burial, and resurrection.  Soon after His resurrection, Jesus appeared to the apostles in the locked room and gave them the Holy Spirit:

John 20:21 Again Jesus said, "Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you." 22 And with that he breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit.

For everyone else thereafter, I think you receive the Holy Spirit upon putting your faith in Jesus.  Peter preached at Pentecost:

Acts 2:38 Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

And Paul taught the Ephesians:

Eph. 1:13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession—to the praise of his glory.

I have generally understood this first aspect of the presence of the Holy Spirit since I believed in Christ, but I am beginning to think that there is a dynamic aspect to our relationship with the Holy Spirit, as well.

It seems to me that this dynamic aspect is associated with us continuing to fulfill Jesus's (Messianic) mission.  Jesus told the disciples:

Acts 1:4 On one occasion, while [Jesus] was eating with them, he gave them this command: "Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. 5 For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit."  ... 7 He said to them: "It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."

This is curious to me, because in John 20, he had already given them the Holy Spirit.  But, sure enough, at Pentecost:

3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

Throughout the rest of the book of Acts, people believed in Jesus, were baptized in water, and were baptized by the Holy Spirit.  And it seems to me that there is a correlation between being baptized by the Holy Spirit and validation of the Gospel through miraculous signs and wonders.  It is still not all clear to me, but I think I am trying to get past the pride of doctrinal sufficiency to be open to what He is teaching me and how He is leading me.

Heavenly Father, thank you for giving us your presence through the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit.  Jesus, I want to experience the abundant life that you give.  Holy Spirit, please anoint me with your power to be a witness of Jesus.  I love you, and I pray in the name of Jesus.