Friday, November 29, 2013
Part of my quest today is for an answer to a question that in the scheme of things most people would say is of little importance. Did God use faith when He created the universe? Does it matter whether or not He used faith to do His work? Since nothing is impossible with God, did faith even enter into the equation?
Hebrews 11:3 ... "Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear."
Is this scripture saying, "Through (God's) faith the worlds were framed?" Or is it speaking of our faith?
The general consensus is that the writer of Hebrews is clarifying that it's ... "through (our) faith we understand" ... that God made the worlds from something other than what we now see. From nothing. Which is why we need faith to understand that all God had to do was speak, and it was.
I do agree with this scripture in Hebrews, and here as well in Psalms 33:6 that states ... "By the word of the Lord were the heavens made ..." In Psalms the translation from Hebrew to English is correct, with the meaning of "word" being ... a spoken thing, a cause. God spoke and His words caused creation to happen.
But so far, faith is not mentioned as part of the cause. God alone is the cause. If God is God, He has need of nothing, including needing faith to operate. Man needs faith because we are not all powerful like God is. Man needs help ... a lot of help.
I want to look at God Himself for a moment and what men have said about Him ...
God is a spirit, invisible, without body or parts, infinite in being and perfection, having no limits or boundaries in space, time or knowledge. He is almighty, but loving, merciful and long suffering. God is immutable (not subject to change), immense, eternal, and absolute ... His word being final.
God is all-sufficient in and of Himself, self-governing with all authority and power over all creatures He created. He answers to no one. All things are open, naked and revealed to Him. He is infallible (incapable of failure or error), and independent (free from external control); so as nothing to Him is uncertain or contingent on circumstances.
As the Creator of all things, God upholds, directs, disposes, and governs … all … creatures, actions, and things, from the greatest event to the least. And this is the short list of God's attributes.
Therefore ... since God has no limits and can do anything, my answer as to whether God needs faith to act on anything He chooses to do is ... no. But faith is necessary for man to even believe in God because for most of us ... God is incomprehensible without it.
If faith is necessary for man to believe, and it is, where do we get this faith?
In the Apostle Paul's letter to the believers in Rome, he starts off by saying that he's not ashamed to preach the gospel because the power of God is ... "revealed from faith to faith" ... from the one speaking to the one hearing. (Romans 1:16-17)
A little later Paul makes this statement ... "Faith comes by hearing the word of God." (Romans 10:17, edited) Simply hearing the word of God produces faith ... a belief in God ... if you receive what you hear.
Paul continues in his letter and says in Romans 12:3 ... "God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith." Literally, God gives each believer ... a degree of faith. Whether the portion given to each man is the same, I cannot tell from this verse.
After we hear the word of God, and the faith God gives us begins to grow ... a change takes place. Faith many times replaces sight. Paul put it this way in 2nd Corinthians 5:7 ... "We walk by faith, not by sight." Things may look bad, but faith says ... God will get us through it.
To walk speaks of our life, our conduct as we journey through this present seen world, believing in those things which we do not see. To walk by faith, and not by sight ... is to live in the confident expectation of things that are to come; walking in the belief of the existence of those unseen realities, and allowing faith in them to influence us as if ... they were seen.
Why is faith important? Because the battle is real.
In 1st Timothy 6:12, Paul instructs his young assistant to ... "Fight the good fight of faith, (and) lay hold on eternal life."
A believer's life is in a state of constant warfare against ... the things of this life, temptations to sin, Satan, false teachers, false doctrines, and physical afflictions such as sickness and disease. "Lay hold on eternal life" ... salvation is a gift ... not a right. Jesus paid for it, but you must receive it by faith. Paul is saying to seize it, hold on to it, and not let life wrestle it from you.
Jesus said in Matthew 11:12 that "the kingdom of heaven ... is taken by force." The example used here may be of cities plundered and taken by force in war ... therefore men should pursue salvation with all they have with-in them, and lay hold of Jesus ... just as Jacob did when he wrestled with God and would not let Him go. (Genesis 32:24-30)
You have heard ... "the just shall live by faith" ... (Hebrews 10:38.) Do you know why it is necessary to live by faith?
Because the life we now live at this present time, is not eternal life. We're not there yet. We will live that life someday, but right now, this life takes faith ... in Christ ... not in or of ourselves. We have all been given a portion of faith. So ...
Take another look at faith ... and then walk and live in it.
Friday, November 22, 2013
To man there is nothing as unreasonable in the world as the walk that is set before us in the Word of God ... the walk of faith. There is likewise nothing that exposes us to the hatred of the prince of this world as this walk of faith. Joshua was so exposed when God instructed him to cross the Jordan River and take the Land of Promise by conquest.
That land was the land of giants and fortified cities.
The Book of Joshua begins with God reminding Joshua of the promises He gave Moses ... that every place the sole of his foot shall tread, God has given to him. "As I was with Moses, I will be with you: I will not fail you, nor forsake you. Be strong and courageous ... to observe to do according to all the law ... let it not depart out of thy mouth ... turn not from it to the right or the left and you shall prosper wherever you go."
So Joshua and all the people that will become the nation of Israel cross the river into Canaan believing God will give them the promised land. But the kingdom must be taken by force.
Joshua is preparing for battle, and is out in the plains by Jericho, the first city to be taken ... perhaps scouting the walled city, when all of a sudden, unannounced and out of nowhere this awesome looking warrior appears with sword in hand, ready for battle, standing close by in Joshua's path. By just looking at this man, Joshua can tell that he is a formidable warrior; but Joshua can't tell whether he is one of his men or one of the adversaries.
The whole history of Joshua shows him to have been a man of undaunted courage; a man not intimidated or discouraged in the face of danger. An ordinary man, seeing this intimidating warrior with a sword drawn might have headed back to his own camp.
But Joshua approaches this warrior and asks ... "Are you for us or against us?" That's an either/or proposition. Another way to ask this question would be ... "Who are you fighting for, them or us?"
But this warrior doesn't answer Joshua's question directly, but says ... "No."
Wait a minute. No? It's got to be one or the other. Instead this warrior declares who he is ... "I am captain of the host of the Lord, and I am now come." This man says he is the captain of the host. The word "host" as used here means ... a massive army organized for war. This man was not alone ... although if He was, it wouldn't matter; for this was no ordinary man.
This was not a mere man, and although this same man has been called "the Angel of the Lord" in scripture, he was not a created angel appearing as a man. This was the person of the Son of God, the eternal Word, before He was born of Mary. After Jesus is born of Mary ... the Angel of the Lord, or the Captain of the Lord's host ... is never seen again in scripture.
By saying "no" to Joshua, the question is no longer, "whether I am for you," but whether you Joshua, "are for Me." With His sword drawn in His hand He was showing Joshua that He is ready for the defense and salvation of His people and will be the one who leads them into battle.
Joshua then fell on his face in worship, and called this warrior ... my Lord.
I've said it before, and I will say it again ... the battle is real ... yet today. Do you know why? Because there are still giants in the land.
In 1st Timothy 6:12, the apostle Paul says to ... "Fight the good fight of faith."
As I stated in the beginning ... nothing exposes us to the hatred of Satan, the prince of this world as the believer's walk of faith.
Jesus said in Matthew 11:12 that "the kingdom of heaven ... is taken by force."
A believer's life is in a state of constant warfare against not only Satan ... but the things of this life; temptations to sin, false teachers, false doctrines, and physical afflictions such as sickness and disease.
This same warrior that went to war with Joshua, will also fight our battles with us today. And some battles ... because they are too big for us ... He must fight them for us, not just with us.
So ... I'm going to believe that the same God, who cannot change, who spoke the following promise to Joshua, will make the same promise to you and me today.
Joshua 1:9 ... "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with you wherever you go."
The question ... "Are you for us or against us?" ... is no longer in question. Jesus answered that question 2,000 years ago.
God is for us.
Thursday, November 14, 2013
Growing up amongst a charismatic church movement, I was occasionally exposed to things that made me uncomfortable. Expressions I naturally accepted in my youth I began to question as my intellect matured and my personality uncovered its cynical side.
Awkward "prophetic" utterances.
Even a woman who claimed to wet her pants every time the "Spirit fell" on her. (I wish I was joking.)
I never openly rebelled against things, I just quietly severed my heart from the most embarrassing of the chicanery, and subliminally embraced a much more sane and sober understanding of how humanity can connect with the Divine. For the most part, I'm glad I did. I mean really, who wants a relationship with God that requires an endless supply of adult diapers?
But in my noble desire to avoid crazy, I sometimes wonder if I unintentionally neutered my belief in the Supernatural altogether.
Salvation became about self-discipline.
Strength a product of my will.
And wisdom solely a reward for diligence.
And while no one would sanely malign hard work, persistent preparation, or inner courage, I think we mistakenly look only to ourselves as the source of these outflows. And when we do, we miss out on the powerful promise of the Gospel.
"Answer this question: Does the God who lavishly provides you with His own presence, His Holy Spirit, working things in your lives you could never do for yourselves, does He do these things because of your strenuous moral striving or because you trust Him to do them in you?" ... (Galatians 3:5 MSG)
"The LORD gives His people strength. The LORD blesses them with peace." ... (Psalm 29:11)
"If any of you lack wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you." ... (James 1:5)
His work. His strength. His wisdom. For your job, your family, your community, your ministry. Offered to us as a gift.
I long to tap into this life that is so much greater than what I can conjure up on my own. Normal. Everyday. Supernatural.
No incontinence required.
From the "Eric Cooper" blog.
From me to you ... No, I didn't post this just to take a break from writing something this week. It grabbed my attention, because I was raised in the same kind of church ... and had the same questions and feelings as this young man had.
It spoke to me.
Eric Cooper can take just a thought and turn it into an article that brings introspection to your life. I usually can't do that. It seems as though I must find a scripture to write about that the Lord wants to add to my life.
I love how Eric can be so simple but yet profound. You may want to check out what else this man of God has to say.
Here's the address to his web page ... beyondtherisk.com
Friday, November 8, 2013
When I ended Part I, I referenced Paul's question in 1st Corinthians 12:30 ... "do all speak with tongues?" My question relating to this was ... "when a believer is filled or baptized in the Holy Spirit ... does he or she always speak in tongues?"
This question has been in dispute for years. Let me answer that question this way ... "If you are in a room full of people, say at a Bible study, and another person enters the room and sits down and just listens to what is going on ... but doesn't speak ... does that mean he isn't in the room?"
In time, when he has something to say, he will speak. Could not the same thing be said about the infilling or baptism of the Holy Spirit in believers?
So, what are tongues scripturally? Usually, whenever the word "tongue or tongues" are used in the New Testament ... the word translated from the Greek means ... "a language not acquired naturally, an unlearned language, not of your own."
This is what happened on the day of Pentecost. Through the anointing of the Holy Spirit they spoke in other dialects enabling the visiting unbelievers to hear in their own languages and understand what was happening.
Normally ... tongues will be a dialect, a language that is foreign to you, which can be interpreted. It will not be just "babble" or strange sounding noises. If it is ... it is sometimes called the tongues of angels. Paul spoke about tongues of angels in 1st Corinthians 13:1, when he said ...
"Though I speak with the tongues of men (a naturally learned language or dialect) and of angels, (an unlearned language which no man can interpret, because it is not of this earth) and have not charity, (love) I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal."
An example of "tongues of angels" would be your own private prayer life when you feel the anointing of the Holy Spirit and you begin praying in your own Heavenly language ... a tongue that only God can understand. Usually this cannot be interpreted by others ... but sometimes God will give you the "understanding" of what your spirit has been talking to God about.
Usually a person with the gift of tongues, when given in a church service by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit ... the utterance spoken, their language or dialect, will sound exactly like the tongue they use in their own private prayer life. In other words ... the tongues of angels. But these can and should be interpreted by someone else with that gifting ... when spoken in a body of believers.
Why does there need to be an interpretation of tongues?
1st Corinthians 14:14-15 ... "For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful. What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also ..."
Why doesn't the Holy Spirit just speak to us in our own language? He does many times through a word of knowledge, one of the nine gifts, or through a declaration of faith spoken like a prophecy to the church body.
God will also speak to your heart through the still small voice of the Holy Spirit. We just need to train ourselves to hear and recognize the voice of the Lord. Jesus said this in John 10:27 ... "My sheep hear my voice ..."
How much of the Holy Spirit do we receive when we are born again? Paul speaks to this subject in Ephesians 1:13-14 ...
"In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise, Which is the earnest (a downpayment) of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory."
The small measure of the Holy Spirit, (which could also be called the Spirit of Christ) that you receive when you are saved, (or born again) is a down payment that God places in your heart and spirit. (It's like the earnest money in a contract.) Whatever the amount ... it is enough to do great things in your life and start you on your Christian walk of faith.
Concerning the baptism of the Holy Spirit ... which gives you more of the Holy Spirit ... don't forget Paul said in 1st Corinthians 12:31 ... that we are to "covet earnestly the best gifts" ... which basically means, "desire" more of the Holy Spirit.
How do we do that? You "ask" God the Father who is the baptizer in the Holy Spirit.
Luke 11:13 ... "If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?"
From this scripture, some teach that you must ask God to fill you with the Holy Spirit or you won't ever receive it. I'm not too sure about that. Many people Paul laid hands on never asked ... and they were filled. (We've already covered the twelve men in Ephesus, in Part I.)
I don't much care what other people say anyway ... Paul said in 1st Corinthians 12:11 ... that the Holy Spirit gives these gifts, as the Spirit wills. We should desire the best gifts, but even so ... the Spirit gives them.
For me personally ... I know the baptism of the Holy Spirit has helped me walk closer to the Lord. Do I have any of the gifts? Not all the time. But there have been times in my life when I have operated in one gift at a time, and not always the same gift ... and then only when God anointed me to do such work.
In every case ... any word, any laying on of hands, any deliverance, any work of faith, any healing, anything done or work attempted ... was always the Holy Spirit, and the Spirit of Christ Jesus within me that did that work. It was nothing of mine ... for I have nothing good to give. Anything good in any of us ... is always Jesus.
Do you need the baptism of the Holy Spirit? Honestly ... I really don't know. But I do know what Paul wrote in 1st Corinthians 14:2 & 4 ... "He that speaketh in an unknown tongue speaketh unto God ... (and) ... He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself."
To edify means, "to strengthen or build up spiritually." So it certainly won't hurt.
What I do know is this ... we all need more of Jesus.
Friday, November 1, 2013
I believe there is an added anointing or infilling that goes beyond the initial receiving of "the Holy Spirit" that a new convert receives when he or she accepts Jesus as Lord and is born again.
According to John 3:34, God did not give the Spirit by measure to Jesus ... which I understand to mean, we are only given a measure (a small amount, a portion) of the Holy Spirit. Jesus was God wrapped in flesh ... He had it all. An example of how much of the Holy Spirit we receive at conversion would be Romans 12:3 where it says ... "God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith." We don't know how much that measure is. But whatever the measure is, it is enough to give birth to our faith.
There's a story in Acts 19:1-7 about twelve men that the Apostle Paul found in Ephesus. They were disciples of John the Baptist and were believers in Jesus. Paul asks them ... "Have you received the Holy Ghost since you believed?" And they answered ... "We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost." So Paul re-baptizes them, this time in the name of Jesus, and as Paul laid his hands on them, they were filled with the Holy Spirit (Ghost) and began to speak with tongues, meaning ... unlearned languages.
So ... if we receive a measure of the Holy Spirit when we first believe and are born again, what is this added anointing or infilling that these twelve men received?
Jesus said this on three separate occasions about the coming of the Holy Spirit ...
In John 14:26 He said ... "But the Comforter, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in my name, shall teach you all things ..."
In John 15:26 He said ... "But when the Comforter is come, (the Holy Spirit) whom I will send to you from the father ... he shall testify of me."
Finally, in John 16:7, Jesus said ... "It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter (the Holy Spirit) will not come; but if I depart, I will send him unto you."
On the day of the resurrection of Jesus, (John 20:19-22) He appears to the disciples gathered together again, most likely in the upper room, and does what might be considered a little strange. Jesus breathed on them and said ... "Receive ye the Holy Ghost." The way it is written ... "He breathed on and said to them" ... it appears as though Jesus went to each one individually and ministered personally to them.
And now here's the ... But ... the Holy Spirit hadn't been sent yet. But this was Jesus.
If the disciples received the anointing (or baptism) of the Holy Spirit when Jesus breathed on them ... and I believe they did ... a few days later on Pentecost, is when they received their tongues ... not at the moment they were filled.
In Acts 1: 8, just before Jesus ascended into Heaven, He tells His followers that they would receive "power" when baptized with the Holy Ghost in a few days.
This word power in the Greek is "dunamis" ... meaning: "miraculous power, ability, might and strength ... beyond your own." This is what happened in Acts 2:1-11 ...
"And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place ... And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven ... the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language. And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans? And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born? Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God." (edited)
Simply put ... this added anointing, (the extra infilling of power, or "dunamis") gives you a boldness and strength to tell others about Jesus. In this case, the first outward sign was the miraculous ability to speak in other languages or dialects ... called speaking in tongues.
So, what are the tongues all about? According to 1st Corinthians 14:22 ... "Tongues are for a sign ... to unbelievers ..." Why did God choose tongues? I have no idea. That's His business.
Paul speaks of helps and gifts given to the church body in 1st Corinthians 12:27-31 ...
"Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular. And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healing, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.
Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles? Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret? But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet show I unto you a more excellent way."
Is Paul showing the rank of importance? Notice, of the few gifts Paul speaks of ... tongues and interpretation of tongues are listed last. When Paul asks ... "do all speak with tongues" ... could he be saying, not all will be able to operate in "the gift of tongues." Your personal gifting of the Holy Spirit may be one or two of the other eight gifts, not tongues.
This leads me to wonder ... when a believer is "filled or baptized in the Holy Spirit" ... does he or she always speak in tongues? Could this be part of Paul's question ... "do all speak with tongues?"
To be Continued ...