Cost of Reproduction

seedsprouting

I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.  John 12:24

For a kernel of wheat, reproduction is a total commitment!  As Jesus made clear to His disciples, unless it dies, it remains as it is—a single seed.  Ironically, when it dies, it becomes many.   

Drive to multiply

We see the commitment to reproduction demonstrated throughout nature.  Plants devote their energy to producing scores, hundreds, thousands of seeds in a bid to create a few or even one scion.  Animals invest their strength, time, their very lives to producing, protecting, and launching a succeeding generation.  This is powerfully and poetically portrayed in  the documentary March of the Penguins . A ‘must see’ if you haven’t already.

God the multiplier

This drive of nature is much more than a practical necessity.  It reflects the very nature of God.  His first command to Adam and Eve, freshly made in His image, is that they ‘be fruitful and multiply’.  Their fruitfulness was to reflect the Fruitful God, source of all life. 

When God decided to hit the ‘restart’ button on His plan of salvation through the calling of Abram, multiplication was again His goal.  He promised that Abram/Abraham would be the father of descendants as numerous as the stars. 

There were a lot of Jews in the world when Jesus was born among them, but these were not the promised multitude.  It was not those born of blood nor the will of the flesh, nor the will of man, but of God, through Jesus, that were given the power to become children of God. (John 1:12-13 reordered) The Father is devoted to having children, many children, more numerous than the stars or sands of the sea shore. 

How committed is the Father?  ‘He did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all’ (Rom 8:32).  How committed is the Son?  He came … ‘to give his life as a ransom for many’ (Mt 20:28).

Partners in reproduction

And this is where you and I come in!  As those made in God’s image, filled with Christ’s Spirit, drawn to life in His Body, we are now to share in His sacrificial commitment to reproduction.  Jesus’ instruction to his disciples was to ‘go make disciples of all nations’ (Mt 28:18).  Jesus makes it very clear that this is the top priority.  He says that this is how the ‘… Father is glorified,  that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be my disciples’ (Jn 15:8).

Frankly, hearing this I start to get uncomfortable.  All nature points to the costly commitment to reproduction (ask any Mom about that!).  God speaks of and then acts with total commitment to multiply His family.  And then He invites me to join Him sacrificially in the process of reproducing disciples.  But I’m not that committed to it!  Sure, I would like to see more people become children of God.  But am I really willing to be the kernel of wheat falling into the ground and dying for it? 

A preference for leaves

There are other things which tug at me.  Renewal,  cooperation among Christians, growing in character, worship, maybe wisdom, good things all — and, of course if I am honest, pleasing myself!  

Is this not maybe true of much of the Christian church, and even us here in The Word of God?  The costly investment in disciple making is for individuals and ministries what a special call, not so much for ordinary Christians like us.  But are we really reflecting the driving passion of the Father’s heart in this, He ‘who so loved the world that He gave his only Son’ (Jn 3:16)?

Fruitfulness unleashed

The Father fully understands our situation.  He knows that we prefer growing branches and leaves to making the tremendous investment in fruit.  He is the Vinedresser who lovingly prunes us that we may bear fruit.  I see this not as a threat for low performance, but as a promise to conform us to the image and priorities of the Son, empowering us to do what He does — bear fruit/make disciples.

What fruitfulness would be unleashed if you and I and the whole church, were to make the same costly investment in bringing forth the next generation that we see all around us in nature, and supremely in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit? 

 

Empowered for the Road

NewPickup_Truck

As we get ready to celebrate Pentecost again this Sunday I am reminded once more that Jesus connects the gift of the Spirit with our participation in his mission. We are familiar with the Acts 1:8 passage, but let’s also remember John 20: 21&22

Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.

We all love the Spirit’s empowerment for prayer and worship, for hearing God’s word, and experiencing his presence, for guidance and miracles. As we thank him for this many rich gifts, let’s give ourselves again to using them in his mission. We have all seen shiny, perfectly preserved 4-wheel drive pickup trucks which have never left the confines of paved roads and heated garages. How much more fitting it is to see a battered pickup truck which shows the evidence of the hard service for which it was designed and built! Having been equipped with a super charged hemi engine and 4-wheel drive with tremendous torque and towing power, with a crew cab and extended bed, let’s use those gifts in kingdom building and not worry about the paint job or getting a little dirty and dented!

Come Holy Spirit! Vroom, Vroom.

Holy Week Readings

Jesus went to Jerusalem to announce the Good News to the people of that city. And Jesus knew that he was going to put a choice before them: Will you be my disciple, or will you be my executioner? There is no middle ground here. Jesus went to Jerusalem to put people in a situation where they had to say yes or no. That is the great drama of Jesus' passion: He had to wait upon how people were going to respond.HENRI J. M. NOUWEN, "A Spirituality of Waiting," The Weavings Reader

In the Cross is salvation, in the Cross is life, in the Cross is protection from our enemies, in the Cross is infusion of heavenly sweetness, in the Cross is strength of mind, in the Cross is joy of spirit, in the Cross is the height of virtue, in the Cross is perfection of sanctity. There is no salvation of the soul, nor hope of everlasting life, but in the Cross. THOMAS A KEMPIS, The Imitation of Christ

 

He died, but he vanquished death; in himself, he put an end to what we feared; he took it upon himself, and he vanquished it; as a mighty hunter, he captured and slew the lion.

Where is death? Seek it in Christ, for it exists no longer; but it did exist, and now it is dead. O life, O death of death! Be of good heart; it will die in us also. What has taken place in our head will take place in his members; death will die in us also. But when? At the end of the world, at the resurrection of the dead in which we believe and concerning which we do not doubt. AUGUSTINE, Sermon 233

 

There is wonderful power in the Cross of Christ. It has power to wake the dullest conscience and melt the hardest heart, to cleanse the unclean, to reconcile him who is afar off and restore him to fellowship with God, to redeem the prisoner from his bondage and lift the pauper from the dunghill, to break down the barriers which divide [people] from one another, to transform our wayward characters into the image of Christ and finally make us fit to stand in white robes before the throne of God. JOHN STOTT, The Preacher's Portrait

 

Easter is not the celebration of a past event. The alleluia is not for what was; Easter proclaims a beginning which has already decided the remotest future. The Resurrection means that the beginning of glory has already started. KARL RAHNER, Everyday Faith

A New Life -- I Peter 1:3-9

Here is a 'Message' version of I Peter 1:3-9 If you can, read through it s-l-o-w-l-y... Consider the depth and undeserved richness of the gift Peter is exclaiming about. This is the gift you have been offered and have received. As you read, remember God really wants all his hand-crafted creatures to receive this gift...

A New Life I Peter 1:3-5 What a God we have! And how fortunate we are to have him, this Father of our Master Jesus! Because Jesus was raised from the dead, we’ve been given a brand-new life and have everything to live for, including a future in heaven—and the future starts now! God is keeping careful watch over us and the future. The Day is coming when you’ll have it all—life healed and whole. I Peter 1:6-7 I know how great this makes you feel, even though you have to put up with every kind of aggravation in the meantime. Pure gold put in the fire comes out of it proved pure; genuine faith put through this suffering comes out proved genuine. When Jesus wraps this all up, it’s your faith, not your gold, that God will have on display as evidence of his victory. I Peter 1:8-9 You never saw him, yet you love him. You still don’t see him, yet you trust him—with laughter and singing. Because you kept on believing, you’ll get what you’re looking forward to: total salvation.

Now, ask God to bring to mind someone(s) you and He would really love to see respond to the offer of faith.... Imagine the internal state of this person as they do so... Consider what joy it would give you (and God). Thank God that He wants this more than you.

As this person comes to mind in the future, keep before you the image you had of the person as they responded to God's offer of faith.

Father thank you for you universal call to faith. Thank you that you've placed a longing for a life built on trust deep in the heart of every human.

Help us live the reality of our new life and so witness without stressing to the joy, the laughter, the thankfulness which you've placed in us.

Thank you for new life to be lived today.

We remember as encouraged all those you call us to encourage. We look forward to all the ways you will call us to do what we see you doing in this coming week.

Thanks for being our Dad and inviting us into your family.

God is our refuge

From Ps.344 I sought the LORD, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears. 5 Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame. 6 This poor man called, and the LORD heard him; he saved him out of all his troubles. 7 The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them. 8 Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.

When have you known God as refuge? When a boss or person in authority 'scolds' without comprehension of the truth of the situation?

When you find yourself ridiculed for being 'who you are'?  or when God allows a life crisis to overtake you without warning; Being turned down for a promotion you'd been sure about Like losing a job without notice-Failing a major exam-
For me it was the sudden death of my 20 yr. old son, John.  At such times we either run towards God as refuge or away from life as meaningless.
Day by day the Lord continues to deliver us from all our fears... As we name them and specifically seek him for freedom exercising our covenanted right to renounce them one by one!

Do you realize how radiant your face looks as you walk without shame having separated yourself from all your fears??

David's formative years were in fields watching over the sheep by night... Pondering God's beauty & greatness, his unchangeable qualities like his steadfast love and mercy, his justice, his desire for intimacy with us, his people.

Father, give us the discipline to set aside sufficient time to abide in you as David did... long enough to honestly seek, intentionally take refuge, truly taste and see your goodness, doggedly discern areas of fear/ anxiety, realize our need for deliverance and then claim it with gusto!

For all this brings you pleasure and glory!

Do Not Be Afraid To Speak My Word -- John Whiting

Do not be afraid to speak my word.Proclaim it strongly! People need to hear it. Even if people contradict you and oppose you, proclaim my word! My word will be vindicated by events: the humble will be raised up, and the proud will be brought low, and all people will see that Jesus is Lord!

This message came at a time when I'd been reflecting on Exodus 14:13-15. Several points in that passage stood out to me:

"Do not fear!" "Stand your ground!" "You will see the victory the Lord will win for you today." "Tell the Israelites to go forward."

As the apostle Paul wrote, we haven't received a spirit of timidity. God is bold because he knows he has something we need very badly. He knows that no obstacle can stop him, and he wants us to go forward boldly with him on his mission of mercy.

From another perspective, I was struck by the magnitude of the benefits which are provided by life in Christ even in the present "age": -knowing God personally! -receiving and perceiving infinite love -receiving forgiveness -receiving a purpose in life -freedom from: --habitual sins --addictions --fear and anxiety --resentment --pride -family ties in the Body of Christ -a sure hope -peace -joy -healing -spiritual -psychological and emotional -physical -in personal relationships -empowerment to love and to bring blessings to others -and certainly others that I've left off this list.

Spreading the Gospel is a tremendous work of mercy. As the apostle Paul wrote about the Holy Spirit -- who, of course, produces all the benefits cited above -- these benefits are the first fruits of what we'll experience in heaven. People need these things desperately. I think God wants us to keep these things in mind as we consider whether and how to share the Gospel with others. We're not "selling" merely a dry, abstract, legal forgiveness. We're offering real, living personal relationships with tangible, observable benefits in the here and now. The Kingdom of God truly IS "at hand"!

There is no discontinuity between life in heaven and life on earth. We're living in eternity now. The choices we make now and the relationships we form now will endure, with eternal consequences. I think we should keep this in mind as we consider how to evangelize. I think this is the message that we need to proclaim. Christianity is not about "pie in the sky, by and by". What we do to others, we do to Jesus. God is not an "absentee landlord". "In him we live and move and have our being" (Acts 17:28). The Kingdom of God is at hand!

Prayer Meeting 3/13 postponed, Attendance at Healing Service 3/16 Recommended

The Word of God has decided to postpone its regularly scheduled prayer meeting on Sunday 3/17 to Sunday 3/24 in order to make it more possible for community members to attend the Charism School featuring Damian Stayne the weekend of 3/15-17, and particularly to go to the Healing Service at 6:30pm on Saturday, 3/16. The School is being sponsored by Christ the King Catholic Church and more information and on line registration is available at www.rc.net/lansing/ctk . No registration is needed for the Healing Service on Saturday evening 3/16. Damian has taught all over the world and led people into a greater release of the gifts of the Spirit. The Lord has worked through him and those that he has mentored at such schools to heal many people. As we focus on expressing the Kingdom of God in all the places God has placed us, we are asking for a greater release of the work of the Spirit. Hopefully the Lord will use Damian and this weekend to answer that prayer.

Here is a short video regarding Damian Stayne.

Changing the slope to incline, by John Whiting

[on January 6 Phil Tiews spoke about ‘Counting the cost’ at our prayer meeting, describing the characteristics of bodies in ‘incline, recline, and decline’. Below John Whiting shares what he sensed the Lord saying through that talk.] A thought about the slide which shows us at the beginning of a new upswing: perhaps we're being called to die to an old way of life in order to take up a new one. Times are changing, and it appears that God is calling us to move from a period of "lying fallow" to a period of more active service to the people around us. That'll require changes to the lifestyles of many of us.

It's too bad there wasn't more time for the end of your talk Sunday. We need to give serious attention to your "serious questions" about what God is saying to us and what we'll do about it. The needs around us are great, and they're likely to become greater. I think God would like us to respond with Isaiah's cry of "Send me!" We certainly need to listen for God's direction, but I think we'll be more likely to hear it if we're eager to act on it. This might well be worth another talk or two in the future.

In considering how to act, I'm reminded of the story about King Saul's son Jonathan considering how to approach the Philistine army. As you remember, he took one small step at a time, looking to see whether God blessed it and presented him with an opportunity to move further. Pretty soon the whole Philistine army was routed. I think that would be a good approach for the Community right now. We're doing that already with our contacts with 3 Dimensional Ministries, the bike outreach, our Christmas celebration gathering, and the discipleship groups. I'm sure many individuals are likewise testing opportunities to see how much fruit they might yield. Still, it might be good to encourage people in the community to be more aggressive in this approach. I suspect strongly that God would like to use us more powerfully than we expect. If we were more opportunistic -- and, perhaps, less analytic -- we might be very favorably surprised at what we see.

God bless you!

John Whiting

I Long To Live My Life As An Artist by Sam Williamson

[We reprint this article with permission from Sam Williamson’s blog Beliefs of the Heart because it captures a great sense of what it means to approach our world with a positive, missional vision. ] A friend of mine challenged me to adopt—perhaps embrace—a Transcendent Pursuit for the coming year, something life changing, something I can bring to the world to make a difference.

Then I re-read the first chapter of Genesis. It felt like I was reading it for the first time, and I felt the nudge of God.

 The first thing I noticed was the creative artistry of God. The opening verses do not focus on God’s unparalleled power. Instead they reveal—and almost revel in—the beauty. After each creative act God doesn’t say, “That was powerful;” he says, “This is beautiful” (a better translation than what we are used to).

 Next I noticed that God sees potential where no one else ever could. God hovers over and looks into the chaos and void; he takes the raw materials of darkness and depth, and he creates light, and it is beautiful. As are the oceans and fields and skies.

 After observation and creation, God gives. He gives this unparalleled treasure of creation to man. The opening chapter of the Bible surges with swarming fish, teaming land animals, luscious vegetation, and a sky pregnant with stars.

 And God turns to man and says, “It’s yours. Take it. Care for it. Love it.”

 The opening of the Bible reveals a completely different God than any man has ever created. The opening of the Bible reveals God as an artist, seeing beauty, creating incomparable art, and giving it away. It is a radical image of God.

 I long to live like that artist

 Seeing God as the creator—not merely powerful but a creator of beauty—moved me. It makes me want to be more like him in a selfless giving of light, life, and joy. And then I read the next few verses.

God makes man in his own image. God revels (imagine a reveling God!) in this description of human design: “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness … God created man in his image … in his own image he made him” (Gen. 1:26-27).

 It is almost as if God needed an editor to say, “Uh, God, you are being redundant.” But God wasn’t writing useless repetition. He was being emphatic. He wanted us to know—he needed us to know—that his image is the blueprint of our design.

 God’s first act is to make us his masterpiece—his literal artistic crown of creation—and his second act is to make us artists as well. He animates his masterpiece, breathing into us a creative force to see beauty, create incomparable art, and give it away.

 When he puts us in the Garden of Eden—asking us to dig the earth, rule creation, and name the animals—God is inviting us to join with him as creative comrades. He enters into partnership with us as we artistically cultivate and nurture this world.

 What is the church meant to be?

 When God gave his creation to mankind, he said, “Subdue it and have dominion.” But these words do not mean to invade earth like a conquering king—God spoke these words before the fall. They don’t mean subjection, they mean cultivation.

 The church—God’s people on earth—are meant to be gardeners, maybe a guild of gardeners. We are here to create the Garden of Eden, to cultivate and nurture. To create an environment of peace and life, joy and light, and hope.

 How do we cultivate each other? We begin to see the unseen. We learn to spot beauty in each other. We become gardening treasure hunters; recognizing the raw materials of gifts and passion in each other and speaking it into life: “I see this in you; it is beautiful.”

 We are called to be an Army of Artists or Guerilla Gardeners. We win the world through the cultivation of a Garden. The church on earth is that collection of artistic gardeners who are cultivating the Garden of Eden, bringing light and beauty.

 The Christian life is joy, light, and creation in comradeship with the creator of all.

 Don’t confuse the Garden shed with the Garden

 Religious groups can frustrate me. I get sick of the same weekly board (or perhaps bored) meeting, or the memo to write, or the program to manage. I say to myself (and sometimes to my wife), “This can’t be God’s plan for his people! There has to be more!”

This week I realized my problem: I’ve been confusing the garden shed with the garden.

God’s people—this guerilla band of gardeners—are here on earth to cultivate His garden. But I’ve been tripping over the spades, hoes, pickaxes, and rakes. They are just tools. They are used to create the garden, but they aren’t the garden.

If my primary experience of God’s people is frustration, it might be time to let go of a gardening tool—that spade of board membership or that pickaxe of the program I manage. All our programs, plans and meetings are simply tools to cultivate the garden.

Sometimes I feel we cannot see the garden for the shed. When the tools are creating blisters, it’s time to lay them down. It’s the garden we are creating, not a tool shed.

Creation and re-creation

When Christ came into the world, scripture says of him that “a bruised reed he will not break … [and yet] he will faithfully bring forth justice” (Is. 42:3).

Christ came to earth as the ultimate guerilla gardener; he brought justice not through violent invasion but through violent gardening, through aggressive art.

After the fall of man—after we rebelled against his creative design—God again hovered over the dark void of the earth and saw what we could be if brought back to life. By sending his son, he again proclaimed, “Let there be light,” and it was beautiful.

I long to live my life like that Artist.

         Sam

Excuse me . . . May I interrupt?

Recently I read someone’s opinion that a lot of God’s work takes place in the interruptions in our life. This is an interesting point. Jesus runs across Zaccheus hiding in a tree, a woman reaches out and grabs his hem, they run out wine at a wedding he attends, and miracles happen. It would make an interesting Bible study to look in both Testaments at all the times God breaks in when the ‘normal’ gets interrupted – and then really get disrupted! You have probably heard that there are different words for ‘time’ in the New Testament. The normal flow of time is chronos (hence chronology). A special instant is kairos, as in ‘the time has come’. Most of us like a nice smooth flow of chronos, things happening the way we expect. But most of the notable things in life seem to happen at kairos moments – for good and for bad. We see that person across the room fall in love, we are shocked by a friend’s betrayal; we get the new job, we lose our old job; we get healed, we get injured …. These are the moments when our life’s autopilot is disrupted and we have choices to make, and God has a fresh opportunity to get our attention and break into our lives.

Despite our preference for that smooth, predictable flow, we all know that life is actually made up of a continuous series of interruptions from the trivial (another red light!) to the gigantic (t-boned at a red light). These are opportunities for God to take whatever the interruption, no matter whether it appears good or bad on the surface, and use it for good. This is his promise to us.

But interruptions are not just for us. If we will stay alert, we will find that the interruptions in life are often the opportunities for us to ‘bring the kingdom’ into someone’s life or some situation. Rather than rushing past them and trying to ‘get back on track’, let’s ask the Lord what he is doing. Maybe this interruption for us is a significant kairos moment for someone else. God is opening a door and putting us on the threshold as his ambassador.

If you are like me, you are probably intimidated by the notion of evangelism when it calls to mind trying to break through the resistance of someone who doesn’t even want to talk about spiritual matters and violently disagrees with what you would have to say to them anyway. That is not really a very likely formula for success even if we had the courage or bullheadedness to do it! But what if we were to see that God has placed us in the flow of time and events so that we are ready for those interruptions in our lives and the lives of those around us, those kairos moments. Jesus is sitting by the well when the Samaritan woman comes for water and starts up a wise-cracking spiritual discussion. We are having some neighbors over for a barbeque when they mention they just lost their job. Rush past and get back on the chronos train as quickly as possible or step into the kairos and see what God is up to?

Band of Brothers takes to the field

With the Lord speaking to us about being part of bringing His Kingdom on earth as it is in Heaven, the Band of Brothers has been asking, ’what more can we do?’ For the last several years we have met monthly and enjoyed great fellowship, (not a few pancakes!), and shared on topics which have helped us grow as God’s men. Along the way we have learned how to wire a house, shoot a flintlock, operate an MP3 player, brew a perfect cup of coffee—and a perfect pint of beer, join wood, and gaze at the stars, among other topics! We have had a great time and grown, but now we are asking, what can we do to have a Kingdom edge to brotherhood?

In researching men’s ministry, we have been reminded of what a critical impact men have on society. Problems of crime, poverty, aimlessness, sexual license, divorce, abuse and more trace their roots to the brokenness of men, personally and as husbands and fathers. As we impact men through union with Jesus and discipleship we can have a multiplying impact on their families and our culture.

But how to start? We realized that we have a few families who are living right in the midst of a mission field at University Townhouses. For years Jonny Lennon has had a desire to reach out to the children at U Townhouses. As we spoke together we realized that we couldn’t do anything better for them to reach out to their dads!

So, starting in December we are moving the Band of Brothers Breakfast to the U Townhouses Clubhouse. We hope to build relationships with men there, to help them draw close to the Lord and grow in Him, and enlist them as partners in the mission to bring the Kingdom more to their community. There are over 600 units in U Townhouses, so there is a wide field. How could the Lord use 5 or 10 or 20 men to impact it?

To start we offered a ‘Make Mom a Christmas Gift’ event after the December 4 breakfast. We invited dads and their kids to come and make one or more projects which included a recipe card holder, cookbook holder, napkin holder and decorations. Some of the brothers manufactured parts in advance and at the event kids could sand, glue, assemble and finish their projects.

We had a modest turn-out for the event, which was about all we could handle, as we discovered! However, everyone had a good time, some relationships got built, and kids were able to bless their Mom’s for Christmas. Stay tuned for news of future events which may include sledding, a bike repair day and more. Also join us in praying for God’s Kingdom to come to the families living at University Townhouses!

Time and Life in the Spirit, by Mary Denise Curran

With all the life and death moments Vince and I have faced since moving back to Pennsylvania from Michigan, seven years ago in 2004, I have learned something very valuable. . . to treasure life as the gift that it is, in ways I did not know before. Some might call this learning how to live “Life in the Spirit.” . The gift of TIME is at the top of the list. I no longer take for granted the time that Vince and I have together. I am learning to treasure the time that we have. . . just to be with each other. I see now that God has given us the gift of Time to become the man and woman He created us to be. God has given us the Gift of Love to become the husband and wife He created us to be. God has given us the gift of Talent and Treasure to become the parents that He created us to be. And, God has given us the Gift of Grace to become His children, his son and daughter so we can help others become who they are created to be.

The view from the registration table, by Joan K. O’Connell

A joyful thing, recognizing people as they wrestle their way through the red metal door of the Chalet at FaHoLo conference and retreat center, gaze around the room and ‘check in’. Some I saw only last week at a prayer meeting. Others self-identify that they “haven’t been around much lately,” which isn’t to say they have abandoned Kingdom territory or put down their spiritual weapons. In addition to a gently-aging population, there were children and babies, young families, a few people we got to meet perhaps for the first time, and two venerable seniors, Winslow Fox and Bren Quilter. What about the people whose names I never checked off? Well, I missed them. And, I missed the people who weren’t on the pre-registration list. It was a very full weekend of wonderful things to do; some of us were doing other things. I trust you had a good time wherever you were, but you were missed. I especially missed our friends Terry Johnson, Mary Quilter, and Elizabeth Fox who were with us in recent years, are now gone to their eternal home, God rest their souls.

While the children scurried off to various-aged childcare settings, Billy Kangas ably led us through a “what’s it all about?” construct, encouraging us see the bigger Kingdom picture: it is not about me -- Oh, my! As we enter into our part in God’s Story, Billy helped us see how to combine Divine Initiative and Human Effort with Holy Spirit empowering and our unique gifting. We get off-story when we emphasize these in wrong combinations, but when all are at work in our lives, we have the exhilaration of flowing with the movement of God’s Kingdom Story.

How to pursue the Lord’s priorities for us? Billy made some practical suggestions in the afternoon. Make a list on paper what you love to do. What stirs your heart? Keep adding to it. In addition to giving us opportunities to work out areas of challenge or growth, it is out of these heart-rooted joys, that we might perceive the Lord preparing and nudging us into our places in Kingdom service. “I have a heart for….” we say. Is it preparing the way for prisoners to meet the Lord, or to deepen their walk with him? Is it creating a hospitable environment for dinner guests? Former inmates? People with disabilities? Is it teaching children or adults to read? Taking photographs? Caring for the sick? Working out? Writing or illustrating short stories? Running a business? Walking? Talking over tea? Making quilts? Building things? Build in rhythms to our lives which bring us back to the things the Lord has made a priority for us.

Rob and Mary Carpenter and Bob Roleke told us about “Our Father’s House.” Carol Magill described “His Eye is on the Sparrow.” At some future time maybe we will also hear about “Emmanuel House”. Among other things it appears that the Lord is allowing some of us to help Him prepare a place where others may lay their heads in peace, in hope, in expectation of love. To hear Rob describe the basis for setting up one of these homes, one could say that we have resident among us some measure of wisdom and experience gained from living Kingdom life together in households and Christian Living Situations. How awesome is God’s economy! What a privilege to share what we know.

The Saturday afternoon sessions were participatory. We gathered in smallish groups by interest areas and shared ideas, inspiration, perspectives on living Kingdom life in our neighborhoods, in offering hospitality, in the business world, in education, in health care settings. The evening ‘entertainment’ was ‘do it ourselves / community style’ too! Barb Brown led us in a round-the-room series of three games played by teams or 6-8 people each. It was engaging and as competitive as you wanted to be –sometimes perhaps more than you wanted—affording me opportunities for apologies and forgiveness as the teams faced off. Politely coming and going to prayer gatherings, where else would we encounter a chance to test our love under the fire of competition? Barb prepared a time of community entertainment for the kids, too, getting the older to help them younger in a special ‘fishing’ expedition for them where they hooked prizes and other games.

The facility was familiar. Some of the staff even recognized us by now. FaHoLo outdid themselves, once again, with their clean, well-run facility and good food. Speaking of food, Patrick O’Connell, back by popular demand, served a pancake breakfast (with an egg, upon request) to about 30 people Saturday morning before the sessions began.

By the afternoon on Saturday, just in time for the recreation period, the weather was Michigan Fall-cool-and-windy and the sun was out! I believe Billy gave us some things to think about over the coming months: a way to look at what we’re doing with our lives, and a way to balance Divine initiative, the Holy Spirit, the sweat of our brows, and our individual giftings. You can listen to a recording online at our web site www.thewordofGodcommunity.org

Aggressive Grace

In order to protect my bald head, I wear a ball cap when I’m mowing the lawn.  To protect from the loud noise and to protect from boredom I wear ear muffs with a radio in them.  My head is down and I’m focused on the five feet of lawn ahead of me to make sure my lines are straight and I don’t run over any rocks or roots.  Somebody could be passed out and I wouldn’t notice them until I got ready to mow right over them!  At that point I hope I would be quick to shut off everything and rush to their aid.

&

Jesus told the story of the man mugged on the road to Jericho. (Luke 10:30-36)  A priest and a Levite came along with their heads down, focused on the task before them and passed on by.  A Samaritan came along.  No doubt he had plenty on his plate, as well, but he not only noticed the man, but ‘went to him’, fixed him up as best he could, took him to an inn, cared for him overnight and left money for an extended stay, and said he would pay more, if it was needed.  Jesus’ punch line?  ‘Go and do likewise.’

 &

I think the Lord has been speaking to me, and maybe to us as a community, through involving us in the EACH campaign earlier this spring.  540 churches and ministries deliberately reaching out to our region with Good News and good deeds.  I know that we are gracious people.  If, as we are mowing along through life we see someone right in our path, we will show them grace in whatever form needed.  However, what the Samaritan demonstrated might be called ‘aggressive grace’.  He didn’t wait to actually stumble over the man, and didn’t stop at just getting him to the inn and leaving others to care for him.

I think the Lord wants us to get into the habit, or back in the habit, of going through our days with our heads up and our spiritual ears open.  How does the Lord want to answer the prayer for His kingdom to come and His will to be done on earth as in heaven—through us, in the circumstances of our daily lives which He has prepared for us to walk in, today.

Go and do likewise.

Telling our Story – quickly!

But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 1 Peter 3:15 This could stand as the theme verse for the ‘2WordStory’ strategy of the EACH outreach. Through all the prayer and the ‘2WordStory’ signs and gear we hope to create an environment where people will be asking us for ‘the reason for the hope we have’, and we will be prepared to share our story of God’s loving action in our lives – with gentleness and respect. Someone has rightly said that the goal of telling our story isn’t really to get information to folks but to build a bridge so that they might tell us their story. After all, they don’t so much need to know about how God saved us, as about how he wants to come into their life to save.

So, let’s get prepared (or brush up) on how to share our story in a way that just might get us into those sorts of conversations with folks. Many of us have worked on this before, but unless we are regularly using the skill, we are probably a bit rusty.

First, I urge you to develop 3 different versions!

  1. A 30 second version – that is really short! Think of it as a trailer for the movie, just enough to give people the idea and be a teaser for more. You can probably slip this into normal conversion without having to ask whether they want to hear your story first. Useful for brief encounters. Write it out and practice it until it is natural.
  2. 2 to 3 Minute version – this is what you may be used to. You get to put in more information, but still not your whole life story! You will have to work to focus it down to just 3 minutes. Even at this length you should probably expect to ask folks ‘would you like to hear my story’ before you launch into it. It would be good to write out and practice this, too.
  3. 30 minute version – now we are talking about sitting down over lunch or coffee. Obviously this is for the occasion when people really want to hear more. Even in this case it is good to think beforehand about what to include and what to leave for some other time. You don’t want to bury people with information but to tailor your story to highlight what God has done and to address issues and questions they may have.

Secondly what should you include? The basic outline should be: Before, How, After.·

    Before –not all of us have a clear ‘before I gave my life to Christ’ point in our lives. Maybe for you it is ‘before I got serious about following Jesus’ or ‘before I was baptized in the Holy Spirit’ or ‘before my faith was renewed’. Whatever it is for you, think about where you have come from, the issues and problems you faced, where your life was just ‘wrong’. How – how did God break in on your life, draw you to himself in Jesus, fill you with his Spirit, etc.. What means did he use. What were you experiencing. What did you do. What did He do? After – What has changed in your life? How do you experience him in an ongoing way. What have you seen him do. How is your experience of facing problems different than before?

I think that this quote gets at a very important point about where our emphasis should be as we think about dividing time between these three topics.

    After hearing countless people share their faith, I’ve recognized that the typical structure for telling a personal story of salvation is skewed. About 80 percent of the story focuses on the “before” period — what life was like before accepting Christ as Savior. Another 15 percent of the emphasis is given to the process — how the individual came to Christ and the mechanics of asking Christ into your life. That leaves only 5 percent for grace — the transforming power of God in your life since becoming a Christian. This pattern also reflects many of the commonly taught methods of evangelism. What it most painfully ignores is that part of the story that is most appealing to the lost — grace and resulting hope for the future. After all, our call is not to always be prepared to give an answer for the sins of our past, is it?    Michael Simpson, Permission Evangelism

Lastly, some practical pointers. These really apply to most situations where we are speaking with who are not yet Christians.

    Speak in everyday language – When we hang around Christians all the time we develop our own jargon which makes no sense to others and makes what we have to say sound ‘preachy’. No phrases like: ‘He laid a burden on my heart’, ‘I was convicted’, ‘it was edifying’, ‘I was really blessed’, etc.. There are normal language alternatives – let’s use them! Avoid negativity toward people & groups – folks outside Christianity view us as narrow, bigoted, judgmental. May it not be true of us! Time for a heart check. But let’s be careful not to give them ammunition to reinforce a stereotype which might keep them from hearing the story of God’s grace toward us – and toward them. Pray – before, during & after. It is not our job to convince folks or change their hearts. The Father draws people to Jesus. The Holy Spirit brings conviction of sin and revelation regarding salvation. If we don’t put pressure on ourselves, we probably won’t put pressure on folks we talking with. Let God do any pressurizing that is needed! And if we are praying even while we share, He can guide us what to say.

Start praying and thinking, and maybe even writing, now so that you will be ready for the start of the EACH outreach on Easter, and for the rest of your life as a witness! It really helps to do this with others so take some time in your family or small group to work on telling your story in a compelling way so that you are ‘Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have’.

May we be part of Everyone getting a Chance to Hear in SE Michigan!

Top 10 Reasons Why You Should Be Baptized in the Holy Spirit -- Dave Mangan

PicManganDaveAre you still excited about being baptized in the Holy Spirit? Are you still eager to share about it with others? Are you still growing in the spiritual gifts? Do you remember that it was the descent of the Holy Spirit that enabled the early Christians to evangelize? I ask these questions because sometimes need to be reminded that this is part of God’s plan for us. So why should you want to be baptized in the Holy Spirit? Please allow me to share my top 10 reasons why you should. 1. Because God wants you to have it! That should be enough for you. Acts 1:5 - For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” Acts 2:38 – 39 - Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off— for all whom the Lord our God will call.”

2. This is one of the things Jesus came to do. John 1:32 –33 - Then John gave this testimony: “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. I would not have known him, except that the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is he who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’” Also see Matt. 3:11

3. You need a relationship with all three members of the Holy Trinity. Matthew 3:16 – 17 - As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him am well pleased.”

4. You will do the same things as Jesus – and even greater things. Do you actually think you can do this on your own power! John 14:12 - I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.

5. It’s part of the normal Christian life. Acts 19:1- 6 - While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples and asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” They answered, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” So Paul asked, “Then what baptism did you receive?” “John’s baptism,” they replied. Paul said, “John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.” On hearing this, they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied.

6. You need power to witness for Jesus. Acts 1:8 - But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

7. God wants to give you spiritual gifts. 1 Corinthians 12:7 – 11 - Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines. Also see Rom. 12:6 – 8

8. You are a Christian and that is how Christians live their life. Galatians 5:16 - So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. Galatians 5:24 – 25 - Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.

9. We don’t want to be opposing God. Acts 11:15 – 17 - “As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came on them as he had come on us at the beginning. Then I remembered what the Lord had said: ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ So if God gave them the same gift as he gave us, who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could oppose God?”

10. It comes highly recommended. Pope John Paul II – “Thanks to the charismatic movement, many Christians, men and women, youths and adults, have rediscovered Pentecost as a living and present reality in their daily life. I desire that the spirituality of Pentecost be spread in the Church, as a renewed thrust of prayer, holiness, communion and proclamation. May 30, 2004 Many other great Christians have testified to the power of the Holy Spirit in their lives: David duPlessis, Dennis Bennett, Francis of Assisi, John Wesley, Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa (the preacher to the papal household of both Pope John Paul and Pope Benedict) and a host of others.

In summary may I end as I began – Because God wants you to have it! That settles it.

Life in the Spirit Seminar at the Prayer Meeting

We have held Life in the Spirit Seminars (LSS) before and after prayer meetings.  We have done them along with mid-week dinners and on weekend retreats.  But we have never actually turned our prayer meetings into a LSS before now!  In January and February we will be having the LSS talks and discussions during our community prayer meetings on Sunday afternoons and on February 20 we will be praying with all present for a release of the Holy Spirit in our lives.   This is a season when we are returning to our call as a community and in particular focusing on living more and more in the Holy Spirit.  It seemed a good time to not only be refreshed in the Spirit ourselves but to invite our friends and neighbors who are hungering for more of the Lord to join us. 

The LSS got off to a great start on January 9 with more than a dozen guests joining us and Pastor Haroon Bhatti from Pakistan sharing about the Love of God.  His teaching from the Scriptures was made real as he shared how God’s love had impelled his congregation to bring flood relief to devastated areas of Pakistan.  In just such a way God is reaching out to each one of us, though we may be far from him and even hostile.  You can hear Pastor Haroon’s talk at our Audio Archive.

If you didn’t make it to the January 9 meeting, come and join us anyway.  You can jump in at any point.  The grace of God is available to all who are thirsty!  The schedule for the rest of the LSS is

January 23             New Life – Aimee Godfrey

February 6             Receiving God’s Gift – Jack Flanagan

February 20           Prayer to be baptized with the Holy Spirit – Dave Mangan

 

Whether you have never entered a personal relationship with Jesus or you just need some refreshment in your walk in the Spirit, the LSS is a good place to seek the Lord.  He makes himself available to the thirsty!

“If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.

John 7:37-39

Thirsting, coming, drinking -- Phil Tiews

For thousands of years, where the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers come together in what is not southern Iraq, a group of people have lived who are now referred to as the "Marsh Arabs". Some trace their roots back to the ancient Sumerians. Indeed, some folks think this is the sight of the Garden of Eden. These folks have built their houses from reeds on slightly raise ground, fished, kept water buffalos, and lived because the flow of the rivers continually renewed their marshlands, an area about the size of Massachusetts. In the 1990‟s they backed an uprising against Saddam Hussein. In retaliation, Saddam set out to destroy them and their way of life. He built massive levies which channeled the waters of the rivers and caused them to rush right by the marshes. As a result, the marshes dried up, the reeds died, the fish and other wildlife left, and eventually so did the Marsh Arabs.

With the overthrow of Saddam, the opportunity to try to reverse this disaster. Some people took the initiative to tear holes in the levies on their own, but there have also been organized efforts to dismantle the drainage system and restore the flow of water to the marshes. The question was, would life return with the water.

To a degree that astounded the scientists studying it, the marshes sprang back to life as the water flowed again. The reeds which formed the foundation of the way of life grew from the dry ground. Birds and fish returned. And with them, many of the Marsh Arabs. There are still great challenges because now, among other problems, other nations upstream are diverting the water, but life has returned where it looked like it had died out.

On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. John 7:37-39

When l heard about this situation in the Iraqi marches, the above words of Jesus came back to me. The marches are a dramatic demonstration of how life dries up when the flow of „living‟ water is shut off. Not only do we dry up personally, but there is no flow to others to spread life abroad.

I was also struck by the strategy of an enemy to choke off life. Saddam couldn’t stop the river, but he walled it off from flowing into the marches. Satan can’t stop the river of God, either, but if he can keep us from thirsting, coming to Jesus, and drinking, then the living water does not flow into us to bring refreshment and life — and there is none to flow out of us for others.

We are now in a time of seeking the Lord for revival of the life of His Spirit among us. The key, as always, is in returning to the Lord. Even if we feel dried up and things seem to have shriveled all around us, when the living water flows again because we are thirsting, coming, drinking, life will return, quickly and abundantly.

In this Advent season when we are praying for the Lord’s coming, let’s open our lives afresh to the flow of His Spirit. Pray for a greater thirst. Look for opportunities to come to Jesus and drink throughout or day. And let’s expect that the Spirit will flow through us to others to bring them the Lord’s Kingdom life, as well. It may be a word of encouragement, a chance to pray for healing, an opportunity to share your story and to listen to theirs, or an occasion to bless someone.

The more living water is in our marsh, the more life we will have and the more life will flow from us to those around us.

How can we 'live more and more in the Holy Spirit'?

“I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!” – Jesus 

By Phil Tiews

At the very core of our identity as The Word of God is the Holy Spirit.  For many of us being baptized in the Holy Spirit was the revolutionary event in our walk with the Lord and the mission of renewing the church is his call to us as a community.  As we return to the Lord’s vision for us, we are taking the next several months to focus on ‘living more and more in the Holy Spirit’ as we have covenanted together to do.

Clearly Jesus is eager for us to do this very thing!  As we know, he promised his Holy Spirit to the disciples and told them to wait in Jerusalem until they were filled with power so they could fulfill his mission for them.  He said “I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!” (Luke 12:49).  While there are various thoughts on how to understand this verse, one strong candidate is that he was wishing for the fire of the Spirit to enkindle the earth.

Are we burning with the same desire for the Spirit?  We can be, if we ask Jesus to give us his heart.  We don’t need to settle for a cooled-down version of the Christian life, and we shouldn’t.  It is not someone else’s job now to carry on the mission to see the church renewed, re-fired, the mission is still ours until we hear otherwise from the Commander!

So what will in involve for us ‘to live more and more in the Holy Spirit’?  Among others, I am sensing three things:

  • Disruption of our lives
  • Deepening of commitment to the Kingdom
  • Growth in love

Fire will bring change Whatever else might be involved, clearly when Jesus spoke of bringing fire on the earth, he had some tumult in mind!  This is not a crackling campfire safely in the fire pit.  It is a conflagration that is meant to enkindle the earth!  We should expect that this might involve some shaking in our lives, too.  Don’t get me wrong, I am not naturally eager for this.  When we were younger and fresher as disciples, such a thought was exciting and one of the great attractions of following Jesus.  For many of us though, whether young or old, fresh or veteran, the thought of disrupted life patterns and additional challenges is scary.  That is OK.  It should be a bit scary to follow Jesus.  After all, we are not leading, He is, and he is pursuing a monumental mission – to deliver and transform the human race, indeed, the whole universe.

The Holy Spirit is the power he gives us to participate in that mission.  It comes as no surprise, then that living more and more in the Holy Spirit will rearrange the furniture a bit!  Let’s not fear it, but embrace it as the means of running with the Son in His quest.

Fire leads to tempering I was reading in the recent ‘Voice of the Martyrs’ magazine of a church in Indonesia which has undergone severe persecution.  On the day they were to dedicate their new church building, a Muslim mob gathered and threatened them.  A few weeks later, under pressure from Muslim extremists, the local government sealed them out of their own building so they took to praying by the road in front of it.  Enemies throw glass and dead rats and other garbage in the area each Saturday night so they have to clean up before Sunday worship.  Yet despite the oppression and the fear, the Spirit is actually strengthening them!

Outdoor worship is often difficult for the church members, who are forced to endure the scorching sun or drenching rain.  But Muslims often hear the gospel when they pass by – something they wouldn’t hear if the services were held in a church building.

And Pastor Palty says the persecution has actually been a blessing to his church family.  “before…believers seldom came to church.’ He says.  ‘But when the persecution came, the believers gained incentive to come to church and pray and gather together in unity.  Maybe the Lord has allowed this so the believers will have unity.  I cannot tell you what will happen but I see that my congregation has a commitment to keep doing the service, because the church is not a building; the church is the believers.”

As living more and more in the Spirit brings some disruption to our lives and leads us to engage the world around us in mission, it is going to call for a deeper commitment to stay the course.  But that is part of the empowerment the Spirit brings to the body.  Casual Christianity will not be the outcome of living more and more in the Holy Spirit, but rather an ever deepening commitment to one another and the Kingdom mission Jesus has given us together.

Fire leads to love At the recent Fall Retreat Mike Gladieux  reminded us that love is the mark of a genuine disciple of Jesus.  In Galatians 5:16 where Paul says, ‘So, I say, live by the Spirit…’, he has just told his readers ‘…serve one another in love.  The entire law is summed up in a single command; “love your neighbor as yourself.”’  Living by the Spirit is SO we can serve one another in love.  We often think of living more and more in the Holy Spirit in terms of more healings, more prophecies, more miracles.  And may we experience more and more of these!  But another sure sign of living more and more in the Holy Spirit will be a growth in love and service of one another, a turning from our selfish desire, attitudes and ways to selfless giving of ourselves to others.  Like floodwater which on breaking through a levy makes an every widening gap, may love break through and spread out to flood our families, community and County as we live more and more in the Holy Spirit!

Importance of Baptism in the Holy Spirit — Ralph Martin

PicMartinRalphThe 40th anniversary of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal and our 40th anniversary in The Word of God have led me to go back to think and pray and study the Scriptures again to see what I really think about this thing that we call “Charismatic Renewal”. We have also just celebrated the feast of Pentecost which was originally a Jewish feast. They gathered together to celebrate harvest, the first fruits, and also celebrate the giving of the law on Mt. Sinai. It is very significant that Jesus fulfilled his promise to baptize in the Holy Spirit on the Jewish feast of Pentecost because it’s the way of the harvest, the first fruits that are coming to birth, the church coming to birth. It also points to the law which is now being placed in the heart, the fulfillment of all those prophecies about the Lord putting his own Spirit, his own heart, his own law into our hearts so that nobody would need to say to their neighbor ‘know the Lord’ but everybody would know the Lord. Pentecost is the name the feast on which something happened. It doesn’t really tell us WHAT happened. What happened was that the disciples were baptized in the Holy Spirit. That’s the substance of what happened on the day of Pentecost. So when we celebrate Pentecost, what we are really celebrating is people being baptized in the Holy Spirit. This is the language that really Scripture uses. This is the language that each of the four Gospels use, John the Baptist uses, Jesus uses, Peter, the apostle, uses. This is what they described happened on the day of Pentecost people got ‘baptized in the Holy Spirit’.

The New Testament takes the issue of being baptized in the Holy Spirit very seriously. In Matthew 3, John the Baptist is preaching and he’s a little ticked off at the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to get baptized because he doesn’t believe they are sincere. He says don’t presume to say ‘we have Abraham as our Father, for I tell you God can raise up children to Abraham from these stone. Even now the ax lies at the root of the trees. Therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. Mt 3:9-11 This is kind of tough language! It says your repentance had better be sincere. If you claim to be turning away from sin and turning towards God but it’s not sincere, you are going to be cut off and thrown into the fire!

Now we know that John the Baptist was kind of rough around the edges, we know he lived in the desert, and this was his language. But Jesus adopts the same language. In John’s gospel, chapter 15, he says those of you who are bearing fruit will be pruned so you can bear more fruit. Those who aren’t bearing the true fruits of repentance, those who aren’t bearing the true fruits of Christian life, those whose faith really isn’t being expressed in good works and charity are going to be cut off and thrown into the fire! So this language of John the Baptist is being taken up by Jesus. This is kind of serious stuff!

Baptism in the Spirit is a serious issue The Word of God is a serious Word – it is about life and death, it’s about heaven and hell, it’s about salvation and condemnation and it makes a difference how you respond to this Word and how you live in accordance with it. John goes on to say ‘I am baptizing you with water for repentance, but the One who is coming after me is mightier than I. I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fan is in his hand. He will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.’ (Matt 3:11-12) So there is an apocalyptic, eschatological dimension to this whole issue of the baptism in the Holy Spirit. This pouring out of the Holy Spirit is intended to cleanse the human race, that those who receive the cleansing, those who receive the purifying will bear fruit and be gathered like wheat into the Lord’s barn. But those who resist the purification, those who resist the cleansing, those who resist the Spirit run the risk of being thrown into the unquenchable fire because they’ve dried up and don’t bear fruit.

Something more is needed Now Jesus, himself, uses several terminologies to talk about what’s going to happen. Sometimes he talks about the promise of the Father, sometimes he talks about being baptized in the Holy Spirit, and sometimes he talks about being clothed with power from on high.

Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. And he said to them thus it was written that the Messiah would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and that repentance for the forgiveness of sin would be preached in his name for all the nations who came from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold I am sending the promise of my Father upon you, but stay in the city until you are clothed in power from on high. Luke 24:46-49

Despite having three years of the best teaching that anybody could ever have, besides having personal attention and personal spiritual direction, personal formation from Jesus, and despite being instructed by Jesus in his resurrection appearances, and despite having seen the Risen Lord -- Jesus said ‘you are not ready yet’. There is something else that has to happen. You could know everything, you could have seen everything, you could be witnesses to the Resurrection, but something else has to happen to make it all come together. So wait until that happens, and what you need is to receive the promise of the Father.

Acts 1:3 says, “He presented himself alive to them by many proofs after he had suffered.” Jesus spent time with the Apostles after rising from the dead, appearing to them during forty days and speaking to them about the word of God -- more teaching, more explanation. Remember, Jesus would say something and the Apostles would say ‘we don’t get that, Lord, could you explain that to us in plain language’. So Jesus would explain it to them in plain language. They got A LOT of teaching, they got a lot of instruction, but it wasn’t enough to carry out the mission.

When Jesus met with them he enjoined them not to depart from Jerusalem but “to wait for the promise of the Father about which you have heard me speak”. “John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit” Acts 1:5. This is the language of Jesus. When they had gathered together, they asked him ‘Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom of Israel?’ So even despite the Risen Lord explaining things to them, they still don’t get it. They said ‘Are you going to throw the Romans out now -- should we get our weapons now? are you going to throw them out now? So having three years of instruction wasn’t enough, seeing the miracles wasn’t enough, seeing the risen Lord and being taught by him for forty days wasn’t enough.

Jesus said ‘don’t get into this end time speculation, focus on your task. “It’s not for you to know the times or the seasons that the Father has established by his own authority but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:7-8 So don’t worry about that kind of stuff. I told you what you need to know but what you need to do now is receive the power of the Holy Spirit, be baptized in the Spirit and get on with the mission that I’ve given you to do and let the Father take care of those other things. So then they waited and they prayed. And then it happened – the day of Pentecost.

This is it When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim. Acts 2:1-4 ‘A crowd gathered and it said they were all astounded and bewildered and they said to one another ‘what does this mean?’ Acts 2:12 Well, here comes the answer to their question. What does the experience of Pentecost mean? What does being baptized in the Holy Spirit mean?

Peter stands up and says what it means, what the whole thing has been about. This is what Moses prophesized, this is what the Psalms spoke about, this is what the prophets talked about, this is what Joel prophesized, this is what David prophesized. This is it! This is the fulfillment of God’s plan for pouring out the Holy Spirit because his Son Jesus is truly the Messiah, sitting at the right hand of the Father. Peter quotes all the Scriptures. Now how did Peter know this, probably Jesus told him! It’s all kind of coming back to him now. Later on we are going to see Peter saying, ‘and then I remembered what the Lord said’. The Holy Spirit is doing what Jesus said the Holy Spirit would do. He is reminding people when they need to be reminded what this is all about, recalling the words of Jesus.

People were saying ‘what are we to do, my brothers’. And Peter said to them ‘Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you, too, will receive this gift of the Holy Spirit. For this promise is made to you and your children and to all who are far off whom the Lord our God will call.’ Acts2:38-39 Immediately Peter says ‘this isn’t just for us’. And it’s not just for you and it’s not just for your children, it’s for EVERYBODY whom the Lord is calling to himself.

Not just for the Apostles So the first significant thing here is that this isn’t just a unique experience to get the church off the ground. This isn’t just for the special leadership group that the Lord would gather together. Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Peter says ‘this is for you and this is for your children, and this is for everyone whom the Lord is calling to himself.’ He is making a very strong proclamation that this being baptized in the Holy Spirit is for everybody.

As we look on in the book of Acts, we’re going to see that this is an important pastoral strategy that the Apostles had in mind. They are serious about seeing that everybody that they minister to get baptized in the Holy Spirit. They are concerned that every new group of converts comes into the same experience that they had with day of Pentecost. What was that experience? The experience of being baptized in the Holy Spirit, clothed with power from on high, receiving the promise of the Father.

What were the conditions that allowed the Apostles, the disciples, in the Upper Room to get baptized in the Holy Spirit? First of all, they were taught about it. They knew the truth about it even though they did not fully understand it. They believed the Word of God, they obeyed the Word of God to stay in the city, and they prayed for the fulfillment of the Word of God. These are the same conditions that are available today. How can people get baptized in the Holy Spirit? They need to get taught about it. They need to believe it. They need to do what the Lord asks them to do, repent and believe. They need to pray for the fulfillment of it. It’s being revealed. It’s not an esoteric mystery where some people get baptized in the Spirit and some don’t. This is for everybody. How it happens is by hearing the Word, believing the Word, obeying the Word, and praying for its fulfillment.

Everyone needs to be baptized the Spirit Acts 8:14-15 ‘When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them. When they arrived, they prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, because the Holy Spirit had not yet fallen upon any of them; they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.’ Now you know we cannot be baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus without receiving something of the Holy Spirit, because that’s how we become Christians, that’s how we get connected to God. So these Samaritans must have received something of the Holy Spirit, but not enough. Something was missing, the Apostles could tell. Something was missing.

Haven’t you had that experience? You’re talking to somebody and they’re Christians, but something is missing. I had a priest in class this last semester and we were talking about being baptized in the Holy Spirit. This is something that Peter Williamson and I and others teach about it at the Seminary and actually pray for people to receive! But we were talking about baptism in the Spirit in one of my classes and one of the conservative Catholics in the classroom said ‘are you trying to tell me that I’m missing something in my Christian life?’ Well, this Irish priest piped up and said ‘you’re right that I’m trying to tell you that’. He didn’t back off. It’s true, there’s more! Don’t be shy or embarrassed about saying that there’s more. The Apostles, the Scriptures, the Holy Spirit want people to know what’s available and want us to tell them.

Acts 2:18-19 Then they laid hands of them and received the Holy Spirit. When Simon (the magician) saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles' hands, he offered them money and said, "Give me also this power so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit. Unfortunately, there are not a lot of magicians following Bishops around these days saying ‘how much would it cost for me to be able to do that myself! But something happened there that made Simon said ‘hey, that’s pretty cool’. Something really happened there. You could see the difference in these people. The Holy Spirit really fell on them.

The Lord wants to do more. It’s not just about being baptized and confirmed in a rote kind of way or getting a little bit of the Holy Spirit. You’ve got to be baptized in the Holy Spirit and that’s what it means to be a Christian. That is what the Apostles are concerned about.

Acts 10 You know the whole story about Cornelius and his household, a God-fearing Roman, and how Peter was praying and the Lord told him to go hang out with the Gentiles. Peter says ‘that’s against my religion, Lord’. The Lord says ‘well, guess what, I’m going to expand your notion of religion, I’m bigger than you thought I was. I love people more than you think I do. I want more people to be included in salvation than you think so go do what I tell you’. So Peter obeyed. That’s one of the reasons why the Lord chose Peter; he ended up doing what the Lord wanted him to do. While Peter was speaking to Cornelius and his household telling them about Jesus, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who were listening to the word. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles – [How do they know the Holy Spirit was poured out on the Gentiles?] -- for they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God. Acts 10:44-46 There was some manifestation of the Spirit. There was some indication that something had been released in them that allowed them to praise and worship God and manifest some charismatic gifts of the Spirit. Then Peter said, "Can anyone keep these people from being baptized with water? They have received the Holy Spirit-- [listen to this!] -- even as we have.” So what he is saying is the same thing that happened to us happened to them. They received the Holy Spirit in the same way as we have.

Not just for then, but for now There is a temptation to build a little shrine around Pentecost and talk about it as a special moment when the church first began. But Peter is able to tell us NO, NO, NO, don’t do that! This is a permanent reality that the Lord wants to give each new group of Christians. This is something that Jesus wants to do. It wasn’t just for the Apostles.

In Acts 11 Peter gets into trouble for baptizing Cornelius’ household. People thought the cart went before the horse. You were supposed to get baptized first then receive the Holy Spirit Well God can do whatever he wants in whatever order he wants. Peter defends himself saying ‘As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came on them as he had come on us at the beginning. Then I remembered what the Lord had said: 'John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.' So if God gave them the same gift as he gave us, who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could oppose God?" When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, "So then, God has granted even the Gentiles repentance unto life too." Acts11:15-18

In Acts 15 we have the whole debate about what should be done with the Gentiles, do we have to follow Mosaic Law. Peter got up and said to the Apostles, “Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe. God, who knows the heart bore witness by granting them the Holy Spirit, just as he did us.” Acts 15:7-9 There’s a definite identification of this subsequent experience of the Spirit as being the same as what happened to the Apostles.

This is purposeful. Luke is purposely showing us that it’s really important that each new group of Christian converts wherever they are at when you meet them need to be brought into this experience of the Holy Spirit and need to be baptized in the Holy Spirit or they are not going to have a full deck of cards. The Apostles didn’t have a full deck of cards until they were baptized in the Holy Spirit. People today can have great teaching, they can even have experiences of God, but if they’re not baptized in the Holy Spirit, everything doesn’t come together in a certain way. When we are baptized in the Holy Spirit we say ‘this is it – this is what it is all about’. The Holy Spirit is poured out in the hearts, the love of God is poured our in our hearts, we want to tell people about Jesus. We can’t become witnesses unless you experience his love that allows you to be witnesses and that is why being baptized in the Holy Spirit is so important. I’m convinced that being baptized in the Holy Spirit is absolutely essential and important. The Lord wants us not to be embarrassed or ashamed about it. We should tell anybody we possibly can about it because it’s really important for the church and the world for every individual to be baptized in the Holy Spirit.

Well, Sister Debbie, who was with us at the beginning talked about “the beginning” and giving ourselves to the Lord with the generosity that we gave ourselves to the Lord in the beginning. One of the reasons why we gave ourselves to the Lord generously at the beginning is because we experience the Lord’s generosity to us, pouring out his love to our hearts through the Holy Spirit. And I think that is the secret for us giving ourselves to God is renewing our experience of the Lord really giving himself to us.

Before I go any further I want to say that I miss Mary Rickloff at the Hospitality table over there. What a faithful woman, what a faithful daughter of the Lord, who persevered to the end. A couple of years ago I started making little honor rolls of the saints who I’ve known, people I’ve known who’ve died in the Lord (noble servants of the Lord, and I’m going to add Mary to that list) but she certainly is happier now than she was even at Word of God Prayer Meetings. And she is probably being more effective and fruitful than she ever was as she’s drawing her intercession to the on-going intercession of Christ who is continuing to intercede for us who are still on the journey. So we thank God for Mary and remember her with gladness. ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­ And then Michael talked about the experience of Moses on Mt. Sinai and the experience of the Lord passing by. Now, Phil first asked me to give this talk at the Anniversary Gathering back in November. Just because how things unfolded it didn’t happen and we had some scheduling questions, but here we are.

What happened last year was that it was the 40th anniversary of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal and the 40th anniversary of The Word of God community that was inspired by that. And I got asked a number of times to talk about what’s been the significance of these last 40 years and what has the Lord been doing. And that led me to go back to actually think and pray and study to look at the Scriptures again to see what I really think about this thing that we call “Charismatic Renewal” and this thing that we’ve experienced with the Holy Spirit. And even though we’re not celebrating the 40th anniversary any more, we did just celebrate the feast of Pentecost. And so it’s relevant. It would have been relevant if it were in the dead of winter thirty-five years from now --no connection -- you know the Holy Spirit is always relevant! But one of the things about the feast of Pentecost is that that wasn’t a Christian feast. That was a Jewish feast. They gathered together on the Jewish feast day where they celebrated harvest, the first fruits. Then they came to also celebrate the giving of the law on Mt. Sinai. And so it is very significant that Jesus fulfilled his promise to baptize in the Holy Spirit on the Jewish feast of Pentecost because it’s the way of the harvest, the first fruits that are coming to birth, the church coming to birth. It’s also a way in which the law is now being place in the heart of all those prophecies that have been long listened to and long meditated on about the Lord putting his own Spirit, his own heart, his own law into our hearts so that nobody would need to say to their neighbor ‘know the Lord’ but everybody would know the Lord. So this was kind of happening.

We’ve talked about a New Pentecost and we’ve also talked about how Pope Benedict XVI when he was in New York recently said “As you give thanks for past blessings, and look to the challenges of the future, let us implore from God the grace of a new Pentecost for the Church in America. May tongues of fire combine in burning love of God and neighbor with zeal for the spread of Christ’s kingdom descended on all present.” It was kind of a fiery call for an on-going, new Pentecost. Pentecost is the description of the day or the feast on which something happened. It doesn’t really tell us what happened. What happened? What happened was that the disciples were baptized in the Holy Spirit. That’s what happened. That’s the substance of what happened on the day of Pentecost. So we celebrate Pentecost, but what we’re really celebrating is people being baptized in the Holy Spirit. This is the language that really Scripture uses. This is the language that each of the four Gospels use. This is the language that Jesus uses. This is the language that John the Baptist uses. This is the language that Peter, the apostle, uses. This is what they described happened on the day of Pentecost ‘people got baptized in the Holy Spirit.

I don’t have time to go through all of this but I do have time to through some of it because as I was reflecting on all of this I was struck by how insistent the apostles were that each new group of converts experience the same thing they did on the day of Pentecost. The often used that language, and I’m just going to run through some of this. All four Gospels speak about Jesus baptizing in the Holy Spirit. I’m just going to take a little segment here from Matthew’s Gospel (chapter 3). John the Baptist is preaching, he’s a little ticked off at the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to get baptized; he doesn’t believe they are sincere. He says you brood of vipers (gee, John laid a little kind of guilt on any person; he wasn’t really winning friends and influencing people) he says, who ticked you off, who gave you an inside rating (???) to produce good fruit as evidence of your repentance. And he says don’t presume to say we have Abraham as our Father, for I tell you God can raise up children to Abraham from these stone. Even now the ax lies at the root of the trees. Therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.

So now, this is kind of tough language. It says your repentance had better be sincere. If you really want to be turning away from sin and turning towards God and if that’s not sincere, you are going to be cut off and thrown into the fire. Now we knew that John the Baptist was kind of rough around the edges, we knew he lived in the desert, and this was his language. But Jesus adopts the same language. In John’s Gospel where he says those of you who are bearing fruit will be pruned so you can bear more fruit. Those who aren’t bearing the true fruits of repentance, those who aren’t bearing the true fruits of Christian life, those who faith really isn’t being expressed in good works and charity are going to be cut off and thrown into the fire. So this language of John the Baptist is being taken up by Jesus; this is kind of serious stuff.

The word of God is a serious word – it is about life and death, it’s about heaven and hell, it’s about salvation and condemnation and it makes a difference how you respond to this word and how you live in accordance with it. John goes on to say I am baptizing you with water for repentance, but the One who is coming after me is mightier than I. I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fan is in his hand. He will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire. So there is apocolytic, eschential (????????) dimension into this whole thing that this Baptism in the Holy Spirit, this pouring out of the Holy Spirit is intended to cleanse the human race, that those who receive the cleansing, those who receive the purifying will bear fruit and be gathered like wheat into the Lord’s barn. But those who resist the purification, those who resist the cleansing, those who resist the Spirit run the risk of being thrown into the unquenchable fire because they’ve dried up and don’t bear fruit. So this is the context that being baptized in the Spirit is being introduced.

Now Jesus, himself, uses several terminologies to talk about what’s going to happen. Sometimes he talks about the promise of the Father, sometimes he talks about being baptized in the Holy Spirit, and sometimes he talks about being clothed with power from on high. Luke’s Gospel (chapter 24) then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. And he said to them thus it was written that the Messiah would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and that repentance for the forgiveness of sin would be preached in his name for all the nations who came from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold I am sending the promise of my Father upon you, but stay in the city until you are clothed in power from on high. Despite having three years of the best teaching that anybody could ever have, besides having personal attention and personal spiritual direction, personal formation from Jesus, and despite being instructed by Jesus in his resurrection appearances, and despite having seen the Risen Lord, Jesus said ‘you are not ready yet’. There’s something else that has to happen. You could know everything, you could have seen everything, you could be witnesses to the Resurrection, but something else has to happen to make it all come together. So wait until that happens, and what that is is receiving the promise of the Father.

Acts Chapter 1. He presented himself alive to them by many proofs after he had suffered. So Jesus spent time with them after rising from the dead, appearing to them during forty days and speaking to them about the word of God, more teaching, more explanation. Remember, Jesus would say something and the Apostles would say ‘we don’t get that Lord, could you explain that to us in plain language. So Jesus would explain that to them in plain language. They got A LOT of teaching, they got a lot of instruction, but it wasn’t enough to carry out the mission.

Well, meeting with them and enjoining them not to depart from Jerusalem but to wait for the promise of the Father about which you have heard me speak. This is has been a theme of Jesus’ instruction, he’s referring back to previous teaching, it’s not a one planned thing. This is what Jesus says John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit. This is the language of Jesus; this is the only profanative use of the language baptism of the Spirit too – it’s difficult -- (I couldn’t catch his afterthought comment at 12:08 into the tape) When they had gathered together, they asked him ‘Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom of Israel?’ So even despite the Risen Lord explaining things to them, they still don’t get it. They said ‘Are you going to throw the Romans out now -- there should be a representative – are you going to throw them out now? So having three years of instruction wasn’t enough, seeing the miracles wasn’t enough, seeing the risen Lord and being taught by him for forty days wasn’t enough. Jesus said ‘don’t get into this infine (????? 12:46) speculation, focus on your debts. It’s not for you to know the times or the seasons that the Father has established by his own authority, but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth. So don’t worry about that kind of stuff. I told you what you need to know but what you need to do now is receive the power of the Holy Spirit, be baptized in the Spirit and get on with the mission that I’ve given you to do and let the Father take care of those other things. When he said this they were looking on as into the cloud and looked away and the angel said ‘why are you looking into the sky the same Jesus that you saw has been taken away and will come back in the same way. So then they waited and they prayed. And then it happened – the day of Pentecost.

A later passage (Acts 2). When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.

And a crown gathered and it said they were all astounded and bewildered and they said to one another ‘what does this mean?’ Well, here comes the answer to our question. What does these strengths of Pentecost mean? What does being baptized in the Holy Spirit mean? So Peter stands up and says what this means is this is it. This is what the whole thing has been about. This is what Moses prophesized, this is what the Psalms spoke about, this is what the prophets talked about, this is what Joel prophesized, this is what David prophesized. This is it! This is the fulfillment of God’s plan for pouring out the Holy Spirit because of his Son Jesus truly being the Messiah sitting at the right hand of the Father. And so, he quotes all the Scripture. Now how did Peter know this, probably Jesus told him, you know, it’s all kind of coming back now, you know. And now later on you are going to see Peter saying, ‘and then I remembered what the Lord said. And then a little later on he said ‘and then I remember what the Lord said about being baptized in the Holy Spirit’. And the Holy Spirit is doing what Jesus said the Holy Spirit would do. It’s reminding people when they need to be reminded what this is all about recalling the words of Jesus and see it happening. So people were gathering and saying ‘what are we to do, my brothers’. And Peter said to them ‘Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you, too, will receive this gift of the Holy Spirit. For this promise is made to you and your children and to all who are far off whom the Lord our God will call.’ Immediately Peter says ‘this isn’t just for us’. And it’s not just for you and it’s not just for your children and it’s for everybody whom the Lord is calling to himself.

So the first significant thing here is that this isn’t just a unique experience to get the church off the ground, this isn’t just for the special leadership group that the Lord would gather together. Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Peter says ‘this is for you and this is for your children, and this is for everyone whom the Lord is calling to himself. So there’s a very strong proclamation that this being baptized in the Holy Spirit is for everybody.

Now we’re going to see that this is an important pastoral strategy that the Apostles had in mind that they are serious about seeing that everybody that they minister to get baptized in the Holy Spirit. They’re concerned that this new group of converts come into the same experience that they had with day of Pentecost. What was that experience, the experience of being Baptized in the Holy Spirit, clothed with power from on high, receiving the promise of the Father.

What were the conditions that allowed the Apostles, the Disciples, in the Upper Room to get Baptized in the Holy Spirit? First of all, they were taught about it, right. They knew the truth about it even though they did not fully understand it. They believed the word of God, they obeyed the word of God to stay in the city, and they prayed for the fulfillment of the word of God. And these are the same conditions that are available today. How can people get Baptized in the Holy Spirit. They need to get taught about it. They need to believe it. They need to do what the Lord asks them to do, repent and believe. They need to pray for the fulfillment of it. It’s being revealed. It’s not an esoteric mystery where some people get Baptized in the Spirit and some don’t. This is for everybody. And how it happens is by hearing the word, believing the word, obeying the word, and praying for it’s fulfillment.

Acts chapter 8. When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them. When they arrived, they prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, because the Holy Spirit had not yet fallen upon any of them; they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Now you know you cannot be baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus and receive something of the Holy Spirit because that’s how we become Christians, that’s how we get connected to God. So we must receive something of the Holy Spirit, but not enough. Something was missing, the Apostles could tell. Something was missing. Sometimes don’t you have that experience? You’re talking to somebody and they’re Christians, but something’s missing. I had a priest in class this last semester and we were talking about being Baptized in the Holy Spirit and just something that Peter Williamson and myself and others teach about it at the Seminary and actually pray for people, you know. But we were talking about Baptism in the Spirit and one of the conservative Catholics in the classroom said ‘are you trying to tell me that I’m missing something in my Christian life?’ so this Irish priest said ‘you’re darned right that I’m trying to tell you that’. He didn’t back off, you know. That’s true, there’s more, isn’t there! Don’t be shy or embarrassed about saying that there’s more.

The Apostles, the Scriptures, the Holy Spirit want people to know what’s available and wants us to tell them. Then they laid hands of them and received the Holy Spirit. When Simon (the magician) saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles' hands, he offered them money and said, "Give me also this power so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit. There’s not a lot of magicians following Bishops around these days saying how much would it cost for me to be able to do that myself, you know. But something happen there that Simon said ‘hey, that’s pretty cool’. Something really happened there. You could see the difference in these people; the Holy Spirit really fell on them. And that’s why Peter and John went down to pray with them because more, the Lord wanted to do more.

And the Lord wants to do more. It’s not just about being Baptized and Confirmed in a rote kind of way or get a little bit of the Holy Spirit. You’ve got to be Baptized in the Holy Spirit and that’s what it means to be a Christian. It’s got to be a process to be concerned about. Okay.

Acts Chapter 10. You know the whole store about Cornelius and his household, a God-fearing Roman, and Peter’s praying and the Lord tells him to go hang out with the Gentiles and Peter says ‘that’s against my religion Lord’ and the Lord says ‘well, guess what, I’m going to expand your notion of religion, I’m bigger than you thought I was. I love people more than you think I do. I want more people to be included in salvation than you think so go do what I tell you’. So Peter did. That’s one of the reasons why the Lord chose Peter; he ended up doing what the Lord wanted him to do. While Peter was speaking to Cornelius and his household telling them about Jesus, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who were listening to the word. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles (How do they know the Holy Spirit was poured out on the Gentiles?) for they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God. There was some manifestation of the Spirit. There was some indication that something had been released that allowed them to praise and worship God and manifest some charismatic gifts of the Spirit. Then Peter said, "Can anyone keep these people from being baptized with water? They have received the Holy Spirit (then listen to this!) even as we have. So what he is saying is the same thing that happened to us happened to them. They received the Holy Spirit in the same way that we have.

So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.

There is a temptation to build a little shrine around Pentecost and talk about it that it is a special moment when it first began. But Peter is able to tell us NO, NO, NO, don’t do that! This is a permanent reality that the Lord wants to give each new group of Christians. This is something that Jesus wants to do. It wasn’t good for us.

Acts Chapter 11. Peter gets into trouble for baptizing Cornelius’ household, you know, the cart went before the horse, you know you were suppose to get baptized first then receive the Holy Spirit Well God can do whatever he wants in whatever order he wants. We just have to clean up the pieces and set up a little bit Acts Chapter 11. Peter gets into trouble for doing this and he’s defending himself as he says As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came on them as he had come on us at the beginning. Then I remembered what the Lord had said: 'John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.' So if God gave them the same gift as he gave us, who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could oppose God?" When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, "So then, God has granted even the Gentiles repentance unto life too."

Acts Chapter 15. The whole debate about what are we going to do with the Gentiles, do we have to follow Mosaic law, and so Peter got up and said to the Apostles Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe. God, who knows the heart bore witness by granting them the Holy Spirit, just as he did us. So there’s a definite identification of this subsequent restraint (???) of the Spirit as being the same as it happened to the Apostles. Then, I’ll just mention this Acts chapter 19 Paul comes to Corinth and he finds the disciples and he says ‘did you receive the Holy Spirit when you became believers, and they answered him ‘we never even heard there is a Holy Spirit’. And he said ‘how were you baptized?’ – there’s something defective in their catechesis, something defective in the process of Christian initiation. It appears that they were willing to be baptized by the baptism of John through repentance so Paul fills in the pieces and he tells them about Jesus, when they heard this they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus and when Paul laid his hands upon them the Holy Spirit came upon them, they spoke in tongues and prophesized and altogether there were about twelve men.

This is purposeful. Luke is purposely showing us that it’s really important that each new group of Christian converts wherever they are aimed wherever you meet them need to be brought into this experience of the Holy Spirit and need to be Baptized in the Holy Spirit or you’re not going to have a full deck of cards. The Apostles didn’t have a full deck of cards until they were Baptized in the Holy Spirit. Now people today can have great teaching, they can even have experiences of God, but if they’re not Baptized in the Holy Spirit, it doesn’t come together in a certain way. Like when you say ‘this is it – this is what it is all about and the Holy Spirit is poured out in the hearts I want to tell people about Jesus. So you can’t become witnesses unless you experience his love that allows you to be witnesses and that is why being Baptized in the Holy Spirit is so important.

The subsequent fillings of the Holy Spirit (Acts chapter 4) a tough situation with the Apostles say ‘hey, man, we need more of the Holy Spirit and they prayed and the Spirit came where they were. There’s extra help in the Spirit at different times. You should go through Church history. Paul tells Timothy to ‘fan at the flame, to get to receive, then you let the Holy Spirit kind of die down and you kind of forget how important the Spirit is. You can let the embers get a little low. And Paul says ‘fan at the flames and get to where the Spirit is – (26.32) that it was the gift of one nation or whatever is true at our gift of the Spirit that we can fan at the flame the gift we’ve received and it is just important to do. So I tried to look at this again, and there is a lot more that I’ve looked at, I’ve looked at the history of the early Church, I’ve looked at the evidence of us being Baptized in the Holy Spirit and Charismatic gifts, kind of continuing on in the history of the Church, I’ve looked at theological interpretations of it, I’ve looked at contemporary Church teachings, and I’m convinced that being Baptized in the Holy Spirit is absolutely essential and important. The Lord wants us not to be embarrassed or ashamed about it. You can tell anybody you possibly can about it because it’s really important for the church and the world and every individual to be Baptized in the Holy Spirit. Amen