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Posts Tagged ‘Holy Spirit’

Read ye! Read ye!

Oh fun! A  book review at Ikonograph!

I just finished “Spirit Empowered Preaching” by Arturo G. Azurdia III. I am a teacher at my church, and I have read a handful of books on the subject of preaching. This is probably my favorite. It does not give any advice about preaching mechanics, though there is certainly a place for that. As the title states, it largely focuses on the role of the Holy Spirit in preaching.

We dedicated Calvinists can definitely shy away from matters of the Spirit. We acknowledge the importance of the Spirit and understand it’s ministry, but we are also wary of the common abuses of the Spirit (or what is attributed to the Spirit, anyway).

Azurdia does a nice job of laying out the relationship of the Holy Spirit to the explosion of fruitful evangelistic preaching during the Apostolic period, especially after Pentecost. He shows the link to Jesus’ promise concerning the “greater works” in John 14, His ascension, and the coming of the Spirit. Particularly, he spends a lot of time stressing the design of God is paralleling the revelation of His Word and the Spirit’s provision of power.

I also enjoyed his contrast between the preachers Spirit-given fire to preach and see conversions, and his personal powerlessness to accomplish these goals. Azurdia acknowledges that this can be a source of tension and frustration for the pastor. he also note the responsibility of the congregation not to quench the Spirit; that the congregation itself can squelch the preachers desires.

Top to bottom an easy read, short, full of great quotes, and TOTALLY Scriptural. Pick it up if you are looking for a book to help add some zip to your preaching!

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Do your apppliances lack faith?

As long as we’re talking about it, I’ve picked up on talk radio show locally here in Omaha that is pro-charismatic in content and is a great source of wild stories and charismatic fodder for those who want it. It’s on 1560AM, between 1-2PM, I think, maybe longer.

Yesterday I heard a guest on the show talk about how he would go into his prayer room (whatever that it) until God’s glory appeared.

Right off the bat, I’m wondering what am I doing wrong? This never happens to me. Sometimes when it’s dark in the room and I’m really concentrating, I feel kind of spinny, like kind of dizzy. Is that what he means? Do the neighbors notice the shekinah descending next door? I would think so.

So after the “glory” arrives, God would tell him to go somewhere and speak some secret codeword, and bang! doors would open for “revival” in that immediate area. Once, he said, God told him to go to Wall Street and speak one of these super-power words. Someone called him from Long Island, which was great, but not Wall Street, so he did it a second time. The next day, NO! within hours someone called him and invited him to speak!

My first question to this is whether or not God had His decoder ring aligned improperly. Why did it take two attempts? Did he mispronounce the code word? My second question is this: Dude, are you making this up as you go along?

The king daddy story was from the first time I tuned in. This British charismatic said that God gave him a dream to go to a house owned by a woman, showed him the street address so he could find it, told him that her son had a problem with wetting the bed, and that their washing machine was broken.

So he goes to the house, and armed with this special knowledge about this woman’s son and her washing machine, gains entry to the house. “Do you know how to fix washing machines?” she asks. He replies”No, but I know how to pray!” Oh the drama! He goes into the washroom and LAYS HANDS ON THE WASHING MACHINE! For the next several days the dream recurs and he goes back and the process repeats itself. Finally the hardened woman asks to be apart of what he has. No gospel, no nothing.

This radio host eats it all up. He has a love fest everyday with all of his tall-tale-telling, hyperbolizing buddies. And all this without one lick of the gospel. Nobody wants forgiveness of sins, they are drawn to them for their demonstrations of the power of the Holy Spirit.

I have two words for all of this:

Simon Magus. Look it up.

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First of all, my back STILL hurts. I know many of you have been anxiously awaiting word on my physical condition. I don’t know what I did, but it’s definitely different than anything I’ve done before. I’m getting to be an expert. Here’s a checklist: pinched nerve, pulled muscle, slipped vertebrae, herniated disc. Any yes: I did take the needle once. I’m such a mess.

I’m inconvenienced but mostly functional, despite my charismatic aquaintance’s best effort to invoke the power of Jesus’ name. I’m starting to think that she should have invoked Jesus’ name to tell me to go see a chiropractor or a doctor, or take a muscle relaxer or something. She would have been met with the same result. Trust me.

All this talk about my near-miss unsolicited attempt at faith-healing has had me thinking about the nature of miracles, such as healing. I’m not going to lay out an argument for cessation (the belief that the miraculous gifts such as healing, tongues, and prophecy have stopped), but I do want to point out a few things from Scripture to help you out:

1.) Miracles in the Bible were always thorough, complete, and unmistakable. This was so much so that the Jesus’ political enemies only disputed the SOURCE of His power (Saying He was in league with Satan) , not the fact of His miracles (Matt 12:24). Blind men saw, the lame walked, demons were cast out, and so on. None of this business about back pain or neck aches. None of this business about seeing someone “out there” and then claiming responsibility for someone’s claim of being healed.

2.) Miracles drew attention to crucial points in God’s developing plan for humanity. Moses in the desert, Elijah, and Christ all worked at key times for the unveiling of God’s plan on the earth. A study of the distribution of miracles in the Bible reveals that those miracles came in intense and sporadic bursts, being a call to attention for God’s elect.

3.) The effectiveness of miraculous gifts do not rest upon the faith of the person who is to be healed. Faith healers will claim that failure to heal is the fault of the sick. When Jesus healed ten lepers (Luke 17), only one of the lepers demonstrated faith. In the book of Hebrews, the writer addresses many in chapter 6 who have fully experience the miraculous works of the apostolic age and yet are ready to fall away.

4.) Miracles are first and foremost done to glorify God and teach us about Him. Our benefit from miracles is secondary at best. Look at Matthew’s outlay of miracles in the first several chapters. Jesus shows his power over sickness, blindness, nature, and even demons. the message is the Jesus is Lord over all. Every miracle, like his manna0from-heaven discourse from John 6, is an object lesson about HIM.

There could be a lot more said about the nature of Biblical miracles. These are thought I have reflected on since my encounter last week. In timely fashion, I also listened to a message by John MacArthur about the ministry of the Holy Spirit. He essentially says that while the charismatic movement claims to exalt the Holy Spirit, it actually quenches the Spirit. By placing emphasis on the outward power of the spirit, it neglects the inward ministry of the spirit in illuminating the Scriptures for believers (1 Cor 2:12-13), transforming us into the likeness of Christ (Rom 8), and interceding for us (Rom8:26).

What is especially ironic to me is the way that charismatics de-value the Scriptures, which the Holy Spirit illuminates for us, by denying the sufficiency of Scripture with their continuing prophecies. The Scriptures claim to be enough for believers to live on (2 Tim. 3:15-16) and yet charismatics seek more. The de-emphasis on Scripture results in chaotic church life, looking more like a roller coaster than a freight train.

That said, I will glorify God by struggling to rely on His Spirit for my sanctification, acknowledging my weakness and depending on Him. The ministry of His Spirit in me is obvious because of the work of sanctification He has done in me.

And my back STILL hurts!

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Most of the time, sending my wife to the video store produces a similar reaction. Something like, “Uhh…ugh…OK. I guess that’s fine, honey.” It’s why I usually do the honors of selecting the movies we watch. The other night, my wife made a great choice; a film that I wanted to see but thought she might not be up for: “Jesus Camp.”

I told her we’d be left feeling unsettled afterward. She looked at me and asked what kind of movie this was anyway? In a word: unsettling.

“Jesus Camp” is a documentary that probes the agenda of the ultra-religious Christian right, and their intentions to impact the American political process. Mostly, the movie examines a Pentecostal youth camp in North Dakota which is dedicated to training children to be future foot soldiers in the political-religious war to sort of “take back America” (as thought it were ever Christian in the first place).

The film-makers have a clear agenda to paint these people as total whackos, dubbing slasher movie music over many of the scenes involving the children and the worship services. The people they are filming are more than willing to oblige them with eyebrow-raising material.

Now seriously, I could go on at length about the troubling things I saw in  this film, but I will limit myself to a few:

  1. There is a great deal of spiritual arrogance in the preachers and in the children. Pentecostalism takes the major errors of Arminiansim (free will, etc) to seed. The leader of the camp, a female pastor brags about how quickly she can get people saved and have them speaking in tongues, like in a matter of minutes. A child who is being put on stage to “preach” imagines himself receiving praise from the crowd. Camp counselors pray, casting out demons including even Satan from chairs and electrical wiring and microphones. Pride and the commanding of demons, even in Jesus name, is a major hallmark of false teachers (Book of Jude).
  2. Typical to the charismatic movement, there is a betrayal of the sufficiency of Scripture. They talk a lot about the power of God’s Word, but they always sell it short by looking to visions and prophecies.
  3. Emotional drama and manipulation is a substitute for substance. This is the legacy of Charles Finney in the charismatic movement. Every night at worship, the children are worked into an emotional lather, breaking down crying, making overt shows of despair over sin and fear of judgment. Each following morning, they are carefree, silly little children, like they ought to be. These kids are so coached up, one can hardly believe that they really understand what they are saying or are actually changed by it all. And the adults just egg them on.
  4. There is an obvious and complete lack of understanding of the gospel. God is looked at as some kind of genie. The cross is acknowledged, but it has become a kind of spiritual snake oil. They are constantly praying the “blood of Jesus” upon themselves, as if His cross-work were not finished. Arminianism teaches that you can lose your salvation, and that fear is clearly exploited.

This film was scary. It was a reminder to my wife and I that children become exactly what you put into them, the good and the bad. If we teach our children to be actors, they will comply. It also is a reminder of what happens when the boundaries of the Scriptures are discarded; utter chaos as the Holy Spirit becomes an agent of confusion. There were many other threads that could be explored such as the morality of “indoctrinating” children (I’m for it, by the way, just what you teach is the real issue), but time does not allow.

Check this film out. The discussion to follow is well worth the five bucks., disturbing as it may be.

 

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Judging the judges.

Recently, as our High School group has been going through the book of Judges, one particular thing keeps jumping out at me: man those guys had problems! Seriously, most of these people just could not get it straight. Samson, probably the best known judge, pretty much did nothing right.

I was discussing this over dinner the other day and it really hit home. Samson was constantly selfish, violent, committed sexual immorality, and was so stuck on a Philistine that he gave in to her even though it was obvious she was trying to get him killed. Even his famous death was tinged with selfishness.

God’s people clearly struggled and a major reason why was the Holy Spirit, or permanent indwelling lack thereof (grammar check, please!). Without the Spirit to impel them to fruitfulness, many of the Hebrews Ch.11’s “hall of faith” were pretty spotty (re: Jepthah).

This is why it is so significant that Jeremiah says:

“Behold, days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,” declares the LORD. “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the LORD, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. “They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares the LORD, “for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.” (Jer 31:31-41)

This is made possible only by the coming of the Spirit, foretold in more detail by the prophet Joel. The coming of the Spirit would enable God’s people to obey Him. Where the history of Israel shows the inability of man to please God, the “New Covenant” (Jer 31) promises that someday, God Himself will perfectly repair the relationship, through the Spirit.

Here’s your teaser for next week’s post” Are you a Judges “christian” or a church age “Christian”?

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