The Oldies

Sitting here and it is early morning on a Thursday. It is cool and overcast but promising to be warm and calm. I am camping. Half way through 21 days of tenting, kayaking, paddle boarding, walking in the woods, and simply being away from people and relaxing. I have my best friend with me and he too is an introvert. So, there is often hours of quiet and little talk. Other times we share where we are at in our journey with Jesus. And, try not to talk “business” which is ministry and church. 

Yesterday and again this morning we were talking about songs that were meaningful when we were younger and that still speak to us today. And, even a fun one that brings back memories like Ralf Harris and “Tie Me Kangaroo Down.” But, mostly serious songs that spoke directly to our hearts. In my case, the song “It’s a Wonderful World” by Louie Armstrong. It is my life theme song. Every once in a while I post it on my Facebook page. Almost daily I play it for myself on YouTube. 

So, what are some of the songs that were and are meaningful … Yes, they date me. “In the Year 2525” by Zager and Evans; “The House of the Rising Sun” by The Animals; “Bye Bye Miss American Pie” by Don McClean;  “Piano Man” by Billy Joel, “Hotel California” by The Eagles and “Abraham, Martin, and John” by Dion. You may note that none of these songs are Christian and you would be right. But, they are songs that spoke to me and obviously to my generation and still do. Most Christian songs don’t speak to me because they lack depth and are often not biblical. I honestly don’t listen to Christian music when not in an assembly of believers. Don’t misunderstand, I love to worship but don’t believe that what we call worship today is really that. It is mostly entertainment. 

But, I digress…

It is good to sit back once in a while and think deeply about life and what events and situations formed whom you are today. It is good to revisit some of the things that spoke strongly to you “back when” and to think and feel through why the were so important and even why they still speak volumes to you now. Plato – an ancient Greek philosopher who lived long before Jesus was born – is quoted as saying, “An unexamined life is not worth living” and I totally agree with him. 

Some times it is good and refreshing to think back. Not to dwell in the past but to take the time to quietly review the past and what events, people, and songs brought you to the place where you are now and helped to create the person you have become. So, yesterday while walking up the hills with my friend and again this morning over fresh coffee made in a French Press while camping and waiting for the sun to come out from behind the haze – we are doing just that. 

And, it has been good. In fact, it has been very good. It has even helped us to know and understand each other better because, after all, we are from different generations and had vastly different upbringings. 

Summer is a good time to reconnect with one’s roots and your heart once again. To get away from the every day rush and busyness and reconnect with your feeling and, once again, become alive inside.

Living With Hope

A long-time and great friend of mine died last night. She had been fighting a valiant battle with a number of medical issues over the last year or so. Last night she won the battle. She was a solid, born again believer and the second she took here last breathe on earth she took her next one in the manifest presence of Jesus in heaven. We will miss her as she played a vital roll in our lives and we had many meaningful and even fun experiences together over the years. However, one day we will see her again when it is our time to leave this planet behind, leave time behind, and enter into eternity.

Paul states, “The message we preach is Christ, who has been raised from the dead. So how could any of you possibly say there is no resurrection of the dead? For if there is no such thing as a resurrection from the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, all of our preaching has been for nothing and your faith is useless. Moreover, if the dead are not raised, that would mean that we are false witnesses who are misrepresenting God. And that would mean that we have preached a lie, stating that God raised him from the dead, if in reality he didn’t.

If the dead aren’t raised up, that would mean that Christ has not been raised up either. And if Christ is not alive, you are still lost in your sins and your faith is a fantasy. It would also mean that those believers in Christ who have passed away have simply perished. If the only benefit of our hope in Christ is limited to this life on earth, we deserve to be pitied more than all others!

But the truth is, Christ is risen from the dead, as the first-fruit of a great resurrection harvest of those who have died. For since death came through a man, Adam, it is fitting that the resurrection of the dead has also come through a man, Christ. Even as all who are in Adam die, so also all who are in Christ will be made alive.” (1 Corinthians 15:12-22 The Passion Translation)

As born again Christians and believers in Christ and His resurrection, we don’t live without hope. We believe in the resurrection of the physically dead back to life. We believe that, just as Jesus was raised physically from the dead on the third day after His death … so those who are born again believers are also resurrected from the dead and spend eternity in Heaven with the Lord. 

And, we believe that when we die we will be reunited with those who were true born again believers and who died before we did. That we will meet our loved ones again and spend eternity with them. So, Paul states that our hope is for more than just this life. It is anchored in Christ’s resurrection from the dead and thus guarantees us life after death if we are true believers in Him. If we are born again.

So, I live this life with tremendous hope for all that the Lord, the resurrected Christ Jesus, is doing in me right now and through me as His plan and purpose for my life are released and come to completion. AND, it is a big “and,” I live with hope knowing that when I die it is only the physical body that I inhabit that dies and I simply continue my life and existence in another world more real and certainly more beautiful than this one. It is this hope lived out now and the hope I have for a powerful future that allows me to live a full, satisfied life with meaning and purpose, direction and guidance, as I move forward towards the day when I too depart this life and enter into something far greater and more magnificent. There to meet with those who have gone before me – those who lived with faith and hope and died in the Lord.

I will see my friend once again and it will be like we just chatted a few minutes ago as time will have no meaning or purpose in eternity.

And, I am reminded: “Without hope in the future there is no power in the present.”

Wisdom, Revelation and Understanding

The Church that Jesus is building is built upon the ability to receive revelation. In Matthew 16 Jesus tells Peter that he, Peter, had received a direct revelation from the heart of our heavenly Father about who Jesus is. And, upon the ability to receive revelation that Jesus would build His Church. In other words, to build according to His plan and fulfill His purpose we must hear directly from the heart of God regarding each step that we take.

Matthew 16:17-18 “And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

I have been reading the book of Proverbs recently. It is speaking volumes to me as I am reading it in The Passion Translation. New ways to express familiar and established truths. And, it is hitting home. The writer of Proverbs states, “Wisdom is a gift from a generous God, and every word he speaks is full of revelation and becomes a fountain of understanding within you.” (Probers 2:6 The Passion Translation).

Revelation – hearing the voice of God, the Holy Spirit, for today – gives us godly wisdom on how to live life. But, more than that He gives us wisdom regarding what steps to take to build the Church that Jesus is actively involved in, moving powerfully transforming lives on a daily basis. The revelations we receive that bring us wisdom will lead us further into understanding what He is wanting us to do next and even why He is wanting it done. 

Paul, the apostle who wrote a substantial portion of the New Testament, continues this theme in his letter to the church in Ephesus. Here he writes, “I pray that the Father of glory, the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, would impart to you the riches of the Spirit of wisdom and the Spirit of revelation to know him through your deepening intimacy with him (Ephesians 1:17 The Passion Translation).

Paul is saying here that the deeper our intimate relationship with Jesus is the more revelation we will receive and the greater godly wisdom we will walk in. So, the key is to focus on and deepen our personal and intimate relationship with Jesus which all truly born again Christians have. And, as a result we will receive revelation which brings wisdom and understanding.

Ephesians 1:17 “…that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him…” (English Standard Version)

This is how the Church is to be built. The Church Jesus is building is not built by programming, worship teams, charismatic leaders, terrific preachers, or the best youth group on the planet. The Church Jesus is building is built step-by-step upon the revelation we receive as we walk closely and intimately with Jesus.

And, He only reveals the next step. There are no five year plans to build the Church. We are not a business and cannot build as the business world does. We simply listen, hear from Him what the next step is that we are to take, and then step out in faith and see what happens. No long  term plan built on good business practices. Location, location, location is not the key as some would have us believe. And, adequate parking is irrelevant. These are all worldly, business approaches to growth and success. These are not for the Church.

If we build as directed through revelation then God’s presence and the peace that passes all understanding will be present, available, and experienced. The power of God will be very evident as lives are changed and transformed. This is what we need. And, this is what we can have if we simply build an intimate relationship with the Head of the Church, Jesus. And, listening for His voice follow everything He says to us. Then we will be involved in the Church that He is building and no longer wasting our time and even our lives on building man’s ways – ending up with dead religion and even deader tradition. 

Who Are You?

St. Catherine of Siena once said, “When we are who we are called to be, we will set the world ablaze.”

As Christians we are called by Jesus to be like Him letting Him live His life through us (2 Timothy 3:12). We are called to follow Him and do what He did and then even greater things (John 14:12). We are called to be “fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19) as we move out from the Kingdom into the places of spiritual darkness as ambassadors of the Kingdom and ministers of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:20). We are literally “new creatures in Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:17).  And on and on the list of Bible verses could go. We all have a great calling in life – every one of us. Every believer.

Then, on the foundation of this generic call that is upon every believer we can add the specifics of your own call. Because each of us has been created unique and different from all others we have a specific call upon our life that is uniquely yours. It lines up with your motivations (Romans 12:408) and the gifts that you flow in (1 Corinthians 12:4-11) as well as your unique set of skills and talents you were born with. Add into this mix your personal experiences (2 Corinthians 1:4) and you have the call upon YOUR life. 

So, we need to work hard and receive God’s grace to remove those things that prevent us from being uniquely ourself and thus be who we are called to be. Fear, shame, overwhelming expectations, unrealistic demands, the world’s lifestyle tempting us to buy into it (Romans 12:2), and on and on this list could go as well. There is always one or two key things that hold us back and hinder our becoming who we really are. Your main issues are well known to you and often unique to you as well. So, don’t let (fill in the blank) hold you back from being who God created you be.

Thomas Merton (a favourite author of mine from 50+ years ago) wrote: “You find peace not by rearranging circumstances of your life, but by realizing who you are at the deepest level.”

This is the life task of all who call themselves believers. Find the real you at the deepest level. It takes work because the real you is often buried beneath layers of pain, neglect, rejection, criticism, wrong judgments, wrong choices, tough and painful experiences, and busyness. 

Then learn how to express that real you to those around you and to the wider world as you move out to fulfill the call of God on your life. Then we will set the world ablaze with the good news of the Gospel of the Kingdom and the life changing love of God. 

Everywhere You Go

So, the other day I headed out to the bank and then to the drug store and post office to do some messages and catch up a bit on some office work. It is summer here and so I attempt to spend more time outdoors gardening and reading. But, the weather was a bit on the cool side so I decided to do some necessary running around. I did, later in the day, have time to just sit and read in front of the fire pit in the side yard. But I digress.

As I entered the bank I was faced with – it was rather loud and obvious so confronted by – a huge presentation celebrating the diversity we have in Canada and focused on Pride month. June has been designated the month where we recognize this segment of our national population. June has been designated Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Pride month. Then, entering the drug store there were large posters pointing to this month’s special focus and special sales, of course. And, again, at the post office. 

I am not against having a month to draw attention to all the issues within society regarding this segment of the population. And, I think it is good to come to know the history behind the movement and discover all the less-than-humane treatment that this group has suffered at the hands of general society. I believe, as well, that we need to take a look at how the Church in general has treated those who are part of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer community. We don’t have a very good track record either historically nor in the recent past. In some cases, even today they are not understood or treated in a loving manner by the Church.

Some segments of the Church have elevated this lifestyle – and the Bible does consider it behaviour that is not in line with God’s plan – to the category of major sin. It is the sin that the Church is targeting, emphasizing, and condemning. However, I believe that it is simply one of many sins and that in God’s eyes all sins are equal (James 2:10). So, homosexuality is no worse nor better than drunkenness, divorce, gossiping, abortion, or dishonouring your parents. Yet, we have elevated this one specific sin to a special place and taken aim at it while ignoring many of the other sins very evident and rampant in the Church and in society.

I believe that Jesus loves sinners. And so should we. I believe that Jesus accepts sinners just as they are because He knows that if they begin to walk with Him that He will change them. We should accept them as well – unconditionally. I believe that Jesus forgives all sins (except blaspheming the Holy Spirit) regardless of the gravity of the sin or what the sinner is involved in. He loves unconditionally, He accepts us just as we are, and He forgives us totally.

That is what I call The LAF Principle. And, we would do well to remember that this is how God treated each one of us who call ourselves believers. And, that Jesus expects us to do unto others what He has done unto us. We are to treat others in the same manner that He has treated us. If we were to actually do this we would embrace all sinners and simply love, accept, and forgive them. We would not separate one sin and make it the BIG ONE for today. We would, as God obviously does, simply see sin as sin and love the sinner regardless of the sin.

This means we do not judge those who are in sin – recognizing the sin in our own life helps us not to judge others. We must not be critical of others and the lifestyles they choose to live. And, we must not reject them because Jesus died for them just as He died for us. We, the Church, must welcome all sinners and not fall into the traditional denominational tendency of having big and little sins – mortal and venial sins. Sin is sin and Jesus died for the forgiveness of all sin no matter how big or small, significant or insignificant we may consider them.

I am tired of the way we segregate people into “us and them.” We are all sinners and no matter what the sin is we are all saved by grace and faith. We must welcome all sinners without categorizing the sin and declaring one worse than another. Let’s learn how to love, accept, and forgive. And, in doing so, learn how to no longer judge, criticize, and reject. 

Another Lesson Learned

On my recent journey in life I have learned that what people think about you means nothing in comparison to what you believe about yourself. Essentially, my identity then depended on outward approval, which changes on a dime. So you dance and you please and you placate and you prove. You become a three-ring circus and in each ring you are an entirely different performing animal, anything anyone wants you to be.

The crucial journey, then, for me, has been from dependence on external expectations, down into my own self, deeper still into God’s view of me, His love for me that doesn’t change, that will not change, that defines and grounds everything. 

When you are running your life on what others expect and demand, you are running on the fuel of anxiety, desire to prove, fear or rejection, shame, and deep inadequacy. When you decide to walk away from that fuel of every-day life for a while, there is, at first, nothing but confusion and silence. You are on the side of the road, empty tank, no idea what will propel you forward. It is disorienting, freeing, terrifying. For a while you just sit, contently, and contentment is the most foreign concept you know. But you learn it, shocking as it is, day by day, hour by hour. You sit in your own skin, being just your plain self. And, it’s okay. And it will change everything. 

After a while, though, you realize you were not made only for contentment; that’s only half the puzzle. The other part is meaning, calling, love. And this is, for most people, a new conversation, almost like speaking a second language – faltering, tongue-twisting, exhilarating. 

As I change the pace and live life instead of speed through life I am living in a slower way. It is simpler than the way I use to live. It is sweeter than I can ever remember life being. It feels more like a glass of water and less like taking a drink from a fire hydrant. Pride tells us we are strong enough to drink from the hydrant, and gluttony tells us it is needed and so so delicious.

But those old voices are liars. The glass of cold water is more lovely and sustaining then the fire hydrant will ever be. I’m now trusting the voices of peace and simplicity more than pride and gluttony. They are leading me in a new direction, and it is a direction that I am enjoying.

The more I listen to myself, my body, my feelings, and the less I listen to the “should” and “must” and “to-do” voices, the more I realize what my body and spirit have been whispering all along, but I couldn’t hear them over the chaos and noise of the life I had created. I was addicted to this chaos, but like any addiction, it was damaging to me.

If you are not like me – prone to frantic levels of activity, swirling chaos, fast-moving cycles of over-commitment and then resentment – then you might look at my life with something like wonder and a little confusion. “Why don’t you,” you might suggest, “just slow down?” I understand the question, but it is a little like asking people who are ruining their lives and health with an addiction to alcohol or drugs or both why they don’t just stop.

When I did stop and sat still and silent for a long while – I have to admit that the stillness felt sort of like walking on the ceiling – totally and utterly foreign. What makes sense to me: pushing. Lists. Responsibilities. Action, action, and more action. What’s changing my life: silence. Rest. Reflection. Taking time to enjoy life instead of just live life. 

Why did I wait so long to reach this part of my journey in life. That’s a good question that I have often asked myself. I was highly invested in maintaining my reputation as a very capable and reliable person. I thought that how other people felt about me or thought about me could determine my happiness and contentment. I now know how deeply flawed that idea really is – even how silly it now seems. So, I have left the three-ring circus and am enjoying my glass of cool water as I sit staring at my flower garden and enjoy an evening by the fire in my back yard. 

Heart or Hustle?

I am learning a lot about myself these days. I am changing, growing, and trying new things at a fairly fast rate. Maybe it is because I have been so cautious for so long and needing to be strong, responsible, and very much the adult that now I want to spend some time learning to play (read that again, it is not a typo). 

Playing is when you spend time lavishly, staring into space, wandering around the block, sitting in the yard staring at a slow burning fire in the fire pit, riding your bike – the one that has sat in the shed for half a decade or more. My goal is to become and then remain flexible, silly, ready-to-play, ever-so-slightly irresponsible. 

What I have been delighted to find is that it is not that our real, every day life is all wrong, by any means – and it is not that what I do for a living (called work by some) is something I hate because I love what I do. It is just that once-in-a-while I think we need to let go of the fast paced life we usually lead and slow things down a bit. I call it learning to play.

It is a time to leave hustle mode and return to feeling my heart. For all sorts of reasons it seems I tend to default to hustle mode all too often. Because I enjoy what I do for a living and think it is important, I can slide back into hustle mode without even thinking about it. And, hustle mode is the opposite to heart mode.

I was reading on one of my recent plane rides and the author stated: “…one of the tiny little things I’m learning to do is to play – essentially, to purposely waste time. Strategically avoid strategy, for five minutes at a time. Intentionally not be intentional about every second. Have no purpose – on purpose.” 

I related to that and have adopted this approach to life for the summer we are now in. I am spending more time in my garden just smelling and admiring the flowers. More time sitting on the porch drinking coffee and talking to my dog. More time riding the bike I finally brought out of the shed and fixed up. 

There are a lot of conversations right now about how to do everything better/faster/smarter, how to streamline, multitask, layer, balance, flow, juggle. How to monetize, strategize, and on and on. This is good stuff. Necessary stuff.

But, this summer I am planning on wasting time, playing, becoming aware of the internal engine that always wants to go faster, faster, faster. And, do more, say yes to more, write more, preach more…That engine is not the best part of me. My heart is the best part of me.

And, I am finding that my heart loves to play and relax. To rest and reconnect with the other me who is also part of the real me. So, more heart and less hustle.

What would our lives be like is our days were studded by tiny, completely unproductive, silly, nonstrategic, wild and beautiful five-minute breaks, reminders that our days are for loving and learning and laughing, not for pushing and planning, reminders that it’s all about the heart, not about the hustle? 

The Room

I was recently in another province in Canada ministering and the leader was encouraging the people present to “enter into worship” as the music was beginning quietly in the background. The people were settling in and she commented and encouraged everyone present to enter into the worship that was starting.

I had a “God thought.” Many people enter the room called ‘worship’ but never engage in or embrace worship. They stand and sing, they sit and watch, they read, talk, or snooze. But, they never truly worship. So, ‘entering into worship’ is not enough. One must actively engage in and embrace the time of worship, the songs being sung, and releasing the love that is in your heart for the Lord. 

Worship is part of our relationship with the Lord. And, we need to be all there when we worship. Our minds cannot be running all over the place – we need to be focused. Our hearts must be pure and focused as well. And, our only agenda must be to honour the Lord and glorify His Name. Then, we do all this with enthusiasm and zeal and we have entered in as well as engaged and embraced.

The same is true for any relationship. I had just left and was heading home Sunday when I received an email from a young man who lives in the same city. He had just discovered that I was in his city and was wondering if he could have coffee so he could ask me a number of questions that were heavy on his heart. This is a person who has travelled overseas with me in the past but in the last eight months or so I have not heard from him and had little to no idea what he was doing or even where he was. He is not attending any of the churches I work with in the area. 

He entered into the room called ‘relationship’ but never connected, engaged, or embraced the relationship that was available. A relationship involving discipling or mentoring which might have reached friendship stage had he invested. I am sure that for him it does not seem awkward or strange to be connecting and asking for time with me and help from me in spite of having no contact for two-thirds of a year. In my mind this is not ‘a relationship’ even though he would most likely say that he has a relationship with me.

It is the same for any ‘friendship.’ You can enter the room marked “friendship” and not engage or embrace the friendship that is available. To embrace a friendship means to invest in it – time, effort, emotion, involvement. Friendships take time, effort, and a major investment of an individual’s personhood. 

So, a good “friend” of mine has not contacted me or even spoken to me in over seven weeks. No answers to a personal email that was sent. Texts are ignored when sent. His texts to me are few and very curt and business-like when there is one. I ask two or three times for information I need to continue to minister effectively in his church… He is disengaged in the ‘friendship’ and apparently not investing much time and effort. But, then he reappears and acts like everything is good and nothing is amiss. It’s not. 

To enter into worship, a relationship, a friendship means more than entering the room. We must invest ourselves in these relationships. We must value them enough that we stay connected and involved in building and improving the connection between us and them or Him. Passive does not work. Silence can be and usually is misinterpreted. We must be actively and regularly engaged doing so with enthusiasm and energy. Otherwise we have simply entered the room and not embraced the reason we chose to enter. 

Jesus said, “From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force.” (Matthew 11:12)

The word “violent” here means to have zeal, not be passive, be enthusiastic, engaged, anticipating, expectant… Without being this you cannot “take the Kingdom” or truly enter into Kingdom activity. The same is true for worship, relationships, and friendships. Passive just does not work.

Ministry and Maintenance

Much of what we call “ministry” today is really “maintenance.” We come to a Sunday or mid-week service and we are ministered to by the teaching. Maybe others pray for us because we have a need. Others listen as we share and encourage us. We feel loved and built up and then head out the door and go home. I question if this is really ministry. 

Why? Because it is all about us – the believers. It is about taking care of our needs and our desires. It is helping us to worship. It is teaching the sheep more information that they will likely never use and often didn’t even need to know. We are maintaining the sheep. So, I call it maintenance. Real ministry is when we go out into our work world, our neighbourhoods where we live and where we play and share the love of God as seen in Jesus with others. Praying for them, encouraging them, helping them. Then we are ministering. 

I really deeply believe that it is time we recognize that what we call ministry is really maintenance. And, then real ministry takes place outside the four walls of the church building and away from our Christian gatherings. After all, Paul comments that we are all “ministers of reconciliation” bringing people to the cross of Christ and into the Kingdom through reconciling them with God. This no longer happens inside the four walls of a church building. It happens in homes, coffee shops, and restaurants. 

So then, when we come together as believers what should be happening? We should be equipped and enabled to minister effectively in the world in which we live. Ephesians 4:11-12 states that those in leadership have the task of equipping the saints for the work of the ministry. Remembering that ministry happens in every day life away from the sacred gathering. Instead of feeding the sheep more information and getting fat sheep who do not exercise we need to equip them and send them out to do ministry and thus they become strong and muscular and mature. We need to train and equip them with the skills needed to be true ministers of reconciliation and ambassadors of the Kingdom in the world in which they live.

It is only then that the believers come into maturity and grow in their faith. It is by using what they know that they learn, grow, and mature. And, most importantly reproduce. Once equipped they are ready, able, and even willing “to go into all the world and make disciples.” And, in doing so, they become hungry to learn more, have questions that need answering, and are excited about their faith. And, let’s admit, it would be amazing to see believers excited about their faith.

I have recently just come back from the nation of Kazakhstan and everywhere I went the young people are excited about their faith. They are sharing their faith within the relationships they have at work, at school, in university, and in their neighbourhoods. They are even out on the streets and malls sharing their faith. I had the honour of working in three churches (with a total of 10 churches represented) in two cities. It was powerful. They were excited. People were being saved and baptized in the Holy Spirit. The believers were hungry to learn more and grow so they could be more effective. Everyone had questions. A teacher’s delight! The atmosphere was electric, dynamic, and powerful. Alive! 

This is as it should be. Teaching, equipping, and training the believers who then move out to the unsaved and minister supernaturally showing people the love of God and the power that raised Jesus from the dead. True ministry as seen in the book of Acts and the epistles (letters) to the early Church as found in the New Testament. 

The Spirit-filled Church?

As I travel and minister in various churches in different nations I have noted that the idea of being “Spirit filled” or baptized in the Holy Spirit looks different in many churches. And, in most of them there is an apparent misunderstanding of the purpose of being baptized in the Holy Spirit or what is commonly referred to as being “Spirit-filled.”

Jesus told His disciples to remain in Jerusalem until they had received the promise of the Father which was a prophetic word found in Joel, Chapter two. The promise was supernatural power…

Luke 24:49 “And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

He further explains this experience just before ascending into heaven …

Acts 1:5 “… John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

Jesus goes on to explain the purpose of this ‘baptism’…

Acts 1:8a “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses…”

The Baptism in the Holy Spirit comes with supernatural gifts that release this power so that people’s lives can be impacted with the Gospel of the Kingdom…

1 Corinthians 12:4-11 “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.”

However, in practice, in local churches we see a variety of situations in regard to the promise of the Father, the power received in the Baptism in the Holy Spirit, and the gifts of the Spirit.

 We have people trying to impact the lives of others without the supernatural power and the gifts of the Spirit – born again but not baptized in the Holy Spirit

Paul states that without the power received when Baptized in the Holy Spirit you have done only half the job of presenting the Gospel of the Kingdom

Romans 15:18-19 “For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to bring the Gentiles to obedience—by word and deed, by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God—so that from Jerusalem and all the way around to Illyricum I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ.”

Words and no manifestation of power is a job half done.

We have people who received the experience and simply do not use their private prayer language and certainly don’t flow in the supernatural gifts – so an experience but little else. A gift that was never unwrapped.

Their lives exhibit little of the “life of Christ” who lives in them and they are often defeated by life’s circumstances and situations. They live in a manner that makes it difficult to distinguish the believer from the non-believer.

We have people who are baptized in the Holy Spirit and simply “pray in the Spirit” but do not flow in the gifts and seldom tell others about Jesus.

It is good to “pray in the Spirit” as Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 14 but this is not one of the nine gifts of the Holy Spirit. And, the person who simply prays in the Spirit and does not use the supernatural gifts of 1 Corinthians 12 to touch the lives of non-believers has missed the point of the experience we call the Baptism in the Holy Spirit – “you shall be My witnesses…”

We have people who are baptized in the Holy Spirit, pray in tongues, and witness to others and don’t take advantage of or use the gifts of the Spirit. Again, no signs and wonders proving that the Gospel of the Kingdom is true and that Jesus really is alive and very active in the world. 

Often this is a result of not being taught how to flow in the gifts and given the opportunity to practice while with others who are more mature in the ministry of the gifts of the Spirit. Sometimes it is simply fear that keeps people from moving out and transforming lives with the power of the Gospel. However, for whatever reason the purpose of the Baptism in the Holy Spirit is not released and thus is lost. 

We have people who are moving in the gifts of the Spirit and seeing people impacted with the Gospel of the Kingdom and so lives are being transformed supernaturally.

This is what the Baptism in the Holy Spirit is all about. It is real. It is more than speaking in tongues as good as that might be. It is moving in supernatural power released by moving in the gifts of the Spirit and seeing that power touch and change lives. This should be a daily experience in the life of Spirit-filled believers as we are called to “be” a witness (see Acts 1:8). So, moving in the gifts should happen as we live life and thus our whole life is being a witness to others as we move in the Spirit and speak words that impact people for Jesus in every day situations.  

Anything less is simply ”playing church.”