Thursday, July 7, 2011

Ch. 2: Why Do I Need the Spirit?

The Holy Spirit and God’s Transforming Power

Chuck opens up Chapter 2 by asking, “how can anyone explain the transformation?” referring to the stark difference between Jesus’ disciples pre and post crucifixion, resurrection, and Pentecost. He elaborates on the character of the disciples and their weaknesses during Jesus’ earthly ministry, from Peter’s rashness, to Thomas’ doubts, to John’s dreams, always emphasizing the power of God to transform these men to work in miraculous ways to spread His Gospel according to His will. These men, who were scared, anxious, and confused, at the subsequent death of their master, were radically changed by the presence of the Holy Spirit to become bold, courageous, wise counselors of the Gospel preaching Christ Jesus the Lord unashamedly to a lost and dying world, no matter the consequences. Swindoll then explains four changes among those that received the Holy Spirit:

1. Their human frailties were transformed into supernatural gifts and abilities. The disciples, who were given the power to speak in other languages to preach the Good News, became bold in faith and confident in God to do all things.

2. Their fearful reluctance was transformed into bold confidence. He tells of how upon Peter and John’s arrest, their interrogators knew they were uneducated and untrained men, but “they were amazed and begun to recognize them as having been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13).

3. Their fears and intimidation were transformed into a sense of invincibility. It was not until He came and filled those frail and frightened men with His supernatural dynamic, Chuck says, that they were genuinely and permanently changed deep within—transformed.

4. Their lonely, grim feelings of abandonment were transformed into joyful perseverance. Peter and John’s boldness—“we must obey God rather than men”—was surely tested throughout their ministries as they suffered shame, were beaten and flogged, threatened and reviled, yet the inner strength of the Spirit proved God’s power to be far greater than man’s as they continually rejoiced in knowing Christ Jesus and to be counted among the privileged to be persecuted for His name.

Chuck concludes that these changes among the disciples were due to nothing other than the Spirit of God. “It was the life-changing, attitude-altering, dynamic power of the living Lord that swept over them, permanently residing within them” (54). He then gets real personal asking us to probe ourselves to find out how we feel about this one question: Are you allowing the Holy Spirit to transform your life? If not, why not? Are you afraid of how that might look like? No need to fear about your weaknesses and inadequacies, you have them on purpose so that Spirit will work in and through you to do amazing things for the sake of glorifying Christ above all things, and so that you will never be able to boast in your own strength. Only He can save and redeem! Jesus explained that the Spirit of truth will guide you into all the truth (John 16:13). Oh that we would embrace the calling of God to be transformed, not just in our thoughts or actions, but in our whole being, by the power of the Holy Spirit to live unashamedly to show a lost and dying world the Good News that God can change anyone radically to experience His joy, taste His goodness, be enveloped by His love, and to see Him as the supreme treasure of all things! To His name be the praise and glory forever!

Random thoughts: Several scriptures ran through my head as I read through this chapter that Swindoll didn’t mention. You may find them relevant, you may not- my hope is that you would read through some or all of these and wrestle with how to embrace the Spirit’s transforming power and recognize His presence in your life!

“For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, "Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.” -1 Cor. 1:26-2:5

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” –James 1:2-4

“For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake” –Phil. 1:29

“Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one—I am talking like a madman—with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant? If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness” -2 Cor. 11:23-30

“We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part” -2 Cor. 8:1-2

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation” -1 Peter 2:9-12

“I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries and bring you into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. You shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers, and you shall be my people, and I will be your God” –Ezekiel 36: 24-28

"For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God" -1 Cor. 1:18

"For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes" -Rom. 1:16

In case you’ve made it this far here’s a couple questions Chuck asks:
- In what ways have you changed (mind, character, hope, thinking, perspective, etc.) since you came to Christ?
- How has the Spirit given you the ability and power to do something you couldn’t have done on your own?

Just for Fun : )

Ah man you name it bra, I promise I done done it all
So busy doin me that I ain't care at all (I'm changed)
I know I ain't the person that I used to be
I look the same but I promise this a newer me
See what I used to be was selfish and conceited
I was living for myself and telling Jesus he could beat it
At the time I couldn't see it, all I saw was havin fun
Went to church to look for ladies, not to look upon the Son
I was a hedonist, now Jesus is my pleasure
I was a narcissist but now I'm lookin betta.
But I ain't fix myself, ain't turn myself around
I gave it up and told the Lord that he can have it now

I used to do it too, I used to do it too,
I used to do it, used to do it, used to do it too
But I'm changed, now I'm something different
I'm changed, I love the way I'm living
I'm changed, saved me from my own sin
I'm changed, I learned how to live again
-Lecrae, “Used to do it too”

Monday, June 27, 2011

Embraced, Chapter 1

When I started reading Chapter 2 of Embraced by the Spirit I realized I might need a refresher course on John 13-17. I grabbed up my Bible (The Message) and was caught up in this one verse: "Master, said Peter. Not only my feet, then. Wash my hands! Wash my head!" Of course this came after Peter refused to allow Jesus to wash his feet, to which Jesus replied, "Alright then, you can't be a part of what I'm doing." (...that was the Angie translation).
I'm with Peter...if washing my feet lets me be a part of what Jesus has going on, by all means, don't stop there! Of course there was no need for a complete shower, and Jesus let Peter know it, but I see where Peter was coming from. Gentlemen, you will forgive the girly reference here, but I'm just saying, if I'm getting all gussied up to go out on the town, I'm not just going to flat-iron one section of my hair! I'm getting my nails done, I'm using the expensive lotion, and I'm using my best hair fact...I'm even going to apply all three colors of eye shadow! So why is it that when it comes to the Christian life we just go through our everyday routine rather than going all out? I'm not pointing fingers, I'm in this one with you.
So I am shouting out today, "Jesus, don't stop there...give me a good scrub down if you must...I WANT IN ON WHAT YOU ARE DOING!!" (He doesn't mind us just lets Him know just how much we mean it).
How does this apply to our book study? Well, first, I want in on what the Lord has for me. He sent the Holy Spirit to dwell within us, but many Christians haven't really given permission for the Holy Sprit to have His way with them. Some time ago I sat in a church service and the pastor, Steve Meeks of Calvary Baptist, said something like this, "The Holy Spirit is a gentleman. He is just waiting for you to give Him permission to have his way in you." Yes, all believers are given the Holy Spirit, but we have to ask Him to be our companion. We have to listen to His voice within us. This brings freedom to the believer. On page 24 Swindoll writes it this way, "...They long for depth, for passion, for satisfying peace and stability instead of a superficial relationship with God made up of religious-souding words without feelings and on-going struggles without healings. Surely there must be more to the life of faith than church meetings, Bible study, religious jargon,and meaningless prayers. Surely the the awesome Spirit of God wishes to do more within us than what is presently going on." That night at Calvary Baptist Steve gave an alter call...not for salvation...but for those Christians who wanted more of God, who wanted to invite the Holy Spirit to have control. There was no head slapping, pastor screaming, people dropping moment. I don't really remember what was going on around me, but I went forward. I had to have more, there had to be more to the Christian life. The prayer I received was gentle and quiet. I asked God to have his way in me through the power of the Holy Spirit.
On pages 26-27 Swindoll refers to Phil. 3:10 from the Amplified Bible, "For my determined purpose is that I may know Him [that I may progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, perceiving and recognizing and understanding the wonders of His person more strongly and more clearly], and that I may in the same way come to know the power outflowing from His resurrection." Without the guidance from the Holy Spirit we are left with head knowledge, the Holy Spirit is the intimate part of the Trinity. He is the power Jesus promised us (Acts 1:8). He is the promise that we will never be alone.
This week find time to spend alone with God. Ask Him to reveal Himself to you through the Holy Spirit. Then listen. We spend so much of our prayer time me...I'm chuckling a little at that...all of you know how much I like to talk. It is in the quiet time that God speaks to us through the Holy Spirit. I have mentioned ministry team training to you before. One of the concepts taught when praying for others is to sit and wait on God to take control. It is difficult to do at first, but I am going to encourage you to just allow time for the Holy Spirit to guide your prayer time with the Father. I can't wait to hear what He has to say to me...and you.
Blessings friends.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Embraced by the Spirit, Introduction

Energized by our time together last night, I came home and immediately delved into Dr. Swindoll's book. I read the introduction...I wanted to read so much more, but that alone gave me more than enough. More than enough. That is Jesus. God's amazing gift of Jesus is more than enough for me, but being the God he is, he gave us more than enough, he gave us the gift of the Holy Spirit, a companion to walk with us when Jesus left.
This week I am going to encourage each of you to read the introduction and spend time with Jesus. Seek out the answer to only one question...who is the Holy Spirit to you? Where are in you in your relationship with our Comforter and Companion? My guess is that we are all in different places, my hope is that at the end of our time together we will all be running, jumping, and leaping toward the same relationship...arms open wide.
I am glad you are on this journey with me, post your thoughts here by Sunday, June 26. If you do not yet have the book do not be discouraged. Catch up when you can. I'll see you here in "bloggy land"!