Thursday, May 24, 2012

What does the Holy Spirit do?

This weekend is Pentecost. The time where many in the church celebrate the birth of the church through the power of the Holy Spirit.

A little background....

1400 – 1500 hundred years before the birth of Christ, Moses lead the Children of Israel out of captivity. Their freedom came after the death angel at the first Passover feast, passed over the Jewish households and killed every first born of the house of Egypt.

50 days after their deliverance Moses presented the Israelites with the ten commandments. This was the First Pentecost Sunday  (Pentecost meaning 50th day)

Jesus was crucified and resurrected during Passover. Then for 40 days He spent time ministering to and encouraging his disciples. He was then caught up into heaven but before that gave instructions to those around Him to wait for the promise of the Holy Spirit, who came to them 10 days later, filling them with power. The power gave them boldness to preach the Gospel and on that day 3000 came to Christ. This is the birth of the church.

The Holy Spirit is still with us today. Here are a few of the things the scripture shows us that He does. It is a fairly exhaustive list but worth the read. (From Patricia King's ministry)

  1. He leads and directs. (Matthew 4:1; Mark 1:12; Luke 2:27; 4:1; Acts 8:29; Romans 8:14)
  2. The Holy Spirit speaks – in, to and through. (Matthew 10:20; Acts 1:16; 2:4; 13:2; 28:25; Hebrews 3:7)
  3. He gives power to cast out devils. (Matthew 12:28)
  4. He releases power. (Luke 4:14)
  5. The Holy Spirit anoints. (Luke 4:18; Acts 10:38)
  6. The Holy Spirit “comes upon” or “falls on”. (Matthew 3:16; Mark 1:10; Luke 2:25; 3:22; 4:18; John 1:32,33; Acts 10:44; 11:15)
  7. He baptizes and fills. (Matthew 3:11; Mark 1:8; Luke 1:15,41,67; 3:16, 4:1; John 1:33; Acts 1:4-5; 2:4; 4:8,31; 6:3,5; 7:55; 10:47; 11:24; 13:9,52; 1 Corinthians 12:12)
  8. He gives new birth. (John 3:5,8)
  9. He leads into worship. (John 4:23)
  10. He flows like a river from the spirit man. (John 7:38-39)
  11. He ministers truth. (John 14:17; 15:26; 16:13)
  12. He dwells in people. (John 14:17; Romans 8:9,11; 1 Corinthians 3:16)
  13. The Holy Spirit gives comfort, health, and strength. (John 15:26; Acts 9:31)
  14. He proceeds from the Father. (John 15:26)
  15. He shows us things to come. (John 16:13)
  16. He gives the gift of tongues. (Acts 2:4)
  17. He releases prophecy, dreams and visions. (Acts 2:17,18; 11:28)
  18. He can transport people physically. (Acts 8:39)
  19. The Holy Spirit brings direction and guidance. (Mark 13:36; 13:11; Acts 10:19; 11:12; 21:11; 1 Timothy 4:1
  20. He is Holiness. (Romans 1:4)
  21. He is the Spirit of life and gives life. (Romans 8:1,10)
  22. The Holy Spirit invites us to walk with Him. (Romans 8:4-5)
  23. He groans, prays and intercedes. (Romans 8:26-27)
  24. He is a Sword. (Ephesians 6:17)
  25. The Holy Spirit produces fruit in our lives. (Galatians 5:22-23; Ephesians 5:9)
  26. He helps us in our weakness. (Romans 8:26)
  27. He bears witness. (Acts 5:32 15:28; 20:23; Romans 8:15-16; Hebrews 10:15; 1 John 4:13; 5:6-8)
  28. He is the Spirit of Adoption. (Romans 8:15)
  29. He gives power to mortify the deeds of the flesh. (Romans 8:13)
  30. He provides power for signs, wonders and preaching. (Acts 1:8; 1 Corinthians 2:4)
  31. He ministers love. (Romans 15:30)
  32. He searches the deep things of God. (1 Corinthians 2:10)
  33. He quickens the mortal body. (Romans 8:13)
  34. He brings revelation. (Luke 2:25; 1 COrinthians 2:10,12; Ephesians 1:17-19; 3:5)
  35. The Holy Spirit reveals to us what has been given by God. (1 Corinthians 2:12)
  36. He washes, sanctifies, purifies and justifies. (Romans 15;16, 1 Corinthians 6:11; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; 1 Timothy 3:16; 1 Peter 1:2,22)
  37. He gives gifts. (1 Corinthians 12:4-11; Hebrews 2:4)
  38. He seals us. (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 4:30)
  39. He is liberty. (2 Corinthians 3:17)
  40. He changes us into the image of Christ. (2 Corinthians 3:17)
  41. He is the promise of the blessing of Abraham. (Galatians 3:14)
  42. He releases a cry to the Father. (Galatians 4:6)
  43. He gives access to the Father. (Ephesians 2:18)
  44. The Holy Spirit builds us together for a house for God. (Ephesians 2:22)
  45. He strengthens us with might. (Ephesians 3:16)
  46. He is unity. (Ephesians 4:3-4)
  47. He is wine. (Ephesians 5:18)
  48. He supplies. (Philippians 1:19)
  49. He is fellowship. (2 Corinthians 13;14; Philippians 2:1)
  50. He is grace. (Hebrews 10:29)
  51. He is glory. (1 Peter 4:14)
  52. The Holy Spirit speaks to the churches. (Revelation 2:11,17,29; 3:6,13,22)
  53. He calls for the Bridegroom. (Revelation 22:17)
  54. The Holy Spirit has the power of conception and anointing for God’s purposes. (Matthew 1:18,20; Luke 1:35)
  55. He teaches. (Luke 12:12; John 14:26; 1 Corinthians 2:13; 1 John 2:27)
  56. He gives commandments. (Acts 1:2)
  57. He provides power to be a witness. (Acts 1:8)
  58. He provides boldness. (Acts 4:31)
  59. He give sight. (Acts 9:17)
  60. He commissions. (Acts 13:4)
  61. He restrains. (Acts 16:6)
  62. He appoints ministries and gives them authority. (Acts 20:28)
  63. He releases love. (Romans 5:5)
  64. He is righteousness, peace and joy. (Romans 14:17; 15:13; 1 Thessalonians 1:6)
  65. He confesses Christ’s Lordship. (1 Corinthians 12:3)
  66. The Holy Spirit brings the gospel. (1 Thessalonians 1:5-6)
  67. He is keeping power. (2 Timothy 1:14)
  68. He brings renewal. (Titus 3:5)
  69. He moves on believers. (2 Peter 1:21)
  70. He convicts the world. (John 16:8)

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

It is OK to ask questions!

In our intense information age we are flooded with new views of everything. It is not unusual to hear perfectly sensible, conflicting views on any subject. During an election season it is especially evident. These conflicts can create doubt and confusion. As Christians we will hear things that seem at first to be contradictory to our faith and we will also hear things that are absolutely contradictory to our faith. How do we figure it out? The best way is to ask questions.

You would think that this would be a "no-brainer" but for some this is a trial of faith, thinking that somehow questions show a lack of faith. I believe questions are the way we prove our faith and prove also God's love, mercy, and patience toward us.

John the Baptist had known from the time he was old enough to understand that Jesus was the Messiah. His mother and Jesus' mother were relatives. A miracle had taken place when they met for the first time after Mary became pregnant, read Luke 1: 39 - 45. Later, John baptized Jesus and he heard the voice of the God affirm Jesus and saw the presence of the Holy Spirit fall on Jesus, something very few had seen or heard in all of history.

Despite all of this affirmation, after John had been imprisoned by Herod, he was hearing the stories of Jesus ministry and he began to have doubts. John was called to a different ministry than Jesus. John was the forerunner calling people to repentance so that they would be prepared to hear the Father's heart shared through Jesus. John had in his mind what this would look like and apparently Jesus' ministry did not fit the mold. John had questions! 

Luke 7: 18,19

"Then the disciples of John reported to him concerning all these things. 19 And John, calling two of his disciples to him, sent them to Jesus, saying, “Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another."

John was questioning with an honest heart. This was not a question out of bitterness, frustration, or anger instead it was an earnest desire for the truth. We are human, our flesh will cause doubts to arise, we can control our flesh by seeking the truth regarding any situation. Jesus said that He is the "truth", the Holy Spirit is the "spirit of truth". Seeking the truth will always bring the flesh under control and lead us to the Lord.

Are you going through a difficult time? Have you had a struggle that you just can't get over or through? Do you feel like you are all alone with no hope? Start asking questions! Talk to the Lord like he is really listening, because He is. He wants to lead us into the truth and the truth will bring you freedom. Do not give up on asking. Jesus said in Matthew 7:7 for us to ask, seek, and knock. His challenge there is not simply to ask once but the Greek tense is of us to ask and keep asking until we get an answer.

Don't stop asking until you get and answer. Your enemy is not doubt but giving up!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Homosexuality, Marriage, and Faith

In our culture today, we are presented with all types of challenges.  One of those challenges is to love people the way that Jesus loves. The controversy arises as people make their own judgments of how Jesus would love. As men and women who love God, our passions can be a two-edged sword. On one hand, we should have a passion and zest for life about everything. On the other hand, our passions can control us, rather than fulfilling us.  They place demands on us that lead us away from our destiny.

Everything God made is good. Food is good, but to a glutton it can be a control factor. If a desire for food is out of God’s control and replaced with lust for food, the lust takes control.  This can ultimately lead to an untimely death due to various diseases. Food becomes the god of a glutton, for whatever you honor the most, is your God. The same can be said of a drug, pornography or sex addict, as well as the thief, liar and homosexual.

I know that when discussing homosexuality, many will revert to Levitical law. However, if we are going to do that, we must consider the whole Levitical law and if so, then our point becomes mute. Read the book of Leviticus if you want to understand what I mean.

Paul in his letter to the Corinthian church wrote this in chapter 6:9-11 of First Corinthians

“Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.”

If we believe the Bible to be God’s Word, then what conclusion can we draw from these few words of Paul? Here are three that I can see:

      1) Some who were now in the church were having sex outside of marriage, some were drunks, some served other gods, some were party animals, some passive homosexuals, and some aggressive homosexuals and so on.

    2)  Left to these conditions, they would spend eternity in hell. “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the Kingdom of God?”

        3)  All of these conditions were able to be overcome by the name of Jesus through the Holy Spirit.

Please understand Paul’s attitude here. It is not an attitude of hostility, anger, or “holier-than-thou.” Paul is speaking from a heart of love and compassion for all people trapped in sin. We must also understand that everything listed here is sin. Sin defined is simply missing the mark, and with each of these areas, those who commit them are missing God’s mark for their lives.

God’s plan for people is hope, trust, love, and receiving their fulfillment through Him. A thief is not trusting in the Lord to meet his needs. He is stealing from others, not believing that God can be faithful to him. A fornicator desires sex above lovemaking in its proper venue of marriage. Sex is the ultimate bonding of one body, one heart, to another for a lifetime. God’s Word establishes that it be the fruit of a covenant between one man and one woman. Fornication is sex outside of this union, which leads to broken hearts and wounded spirits, as well as psychological and physical damage.

So it is with homosexuality. The Bible defines it as sin. Some have played with the Greek definition here trying to make these words somehow refer only to prostitution. However the definition of homosexuality, as Paul uses it, is merely a man having sex with another man and can easily be extrapolated for lesbianism as well. Do homosexuals “love” one another? I have a number of gay friends and I believe they do.  But are all feelings of love healthy and true? I have had many men and women in my office who have “fallen in love” with someone else other than their spouse, but what they are really saying is, I have a need that this person is filling. It doesn’t negate that the feeling is there. It is a real feeling; it is simply being fulfilled in a way that will never completely fulfill them. Most of the time it is about woundedness, loneliness, or lust. There is a brokenness here that needs healing.

If the Bible says that stealing and drunkenness are wrong, then there must be a reason. Drunkards and thieves will never be able to fulfill God’s purpose for their lives because they demand their own way above the great plan that He has for them. So it is with homosexuality. God wants everyone who considers himself or herself gay, to understand a love that is deep, pure, and that will last a lifetime, trusting that God has a better plan and that the life they are now living is not one based on truth but on brokenness. There is a real genuine love that God has for every broken person. All of us were broken at one time or another. Falling in love with Jesus heals our brokenness and leads us away from our wounds, rejections, lust and so many other things. It leads us to wholeness.

Often when this discussion takes place, I am considered intolerant of others. That would be the farthest from the truth. If I truly believe the Bible states that homosexuals, thieves, liars, fornicators are going to hell, then I would be the most hateful of people to not express a plan of God’s love and healing about them and to them. I am intolerant of sin - my own and others -and anything that would keep people from knowing God’s great love for them.

So how does marriage fit into this discussion? Man does not have the right to dictate the definition of marriage. God created and defined marriage. It is not an institution established by man.

Genesis 2:24:

“Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”

Marriage is God’s institution for nurturing, growth, health, love, and a strong society and culture. Yes, marriages fail. Fornication, adultery, lying, and all sorts of things have corrupted it. None of that has to do with God’s intent and purpose. A man and woman submitted to God’s plan and purpose and committed to God can be a sign and an example of God’s great love for all people. Marriage, according to Ephesians chapter five, is an example of God’s great love for his church.

This battle over the culture is really not about marriage, law, or civil rights; it is simply about God’s plan and purpose for people. Our culture has walked away from the love of God and has instead chosen to define life and love as we see fit. In the book of Judges in the Old Testament, when every man did what was “right in his own eyes,” violating God’s plan and purpose, the nation suffered.

God’s plan for all people is freedom, love, joy, and a fulfillment of the destiny He has created for us all.  Please refer to Jeremiah 29:11