Proclaiming a Message of Good News and Hope to our generation!

Month: May 2014

Are You a Charismatic?

Back in the 1970’s I resumed fellowship in the small Pentecostal church I attended with my mother as a teenager. Mom was one of thirteen children of a German-Irish father and Swedish immigrant mother who were both Pentecostals. In fact, my grandfather was a kind of pioneer preacher from the early days of the Apostolic branch of the movement. So I admit to a significant familiarity with the Pentecostal experience.

By the seventies the Charismatic Movement was in full swing, and beginning to impact some of the Pentecostal churches in positive ways. In our church, the dress codes were becoming more relaxed and there was a greater emphasis on the blessings and joy of the Lord. The fascinating part to me was the number of denominational walls that were being crossed by this outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon Episcopal, Anglican, Lutheran, and Roman Catholic and other groups of believers.

The closest some of us came to direct association with the Charismatic Movement was in attending meetings of the Full Gospel Businessmen’s Fellowship International. But it was not long before we became identified with the more liberal-minded Charismatics than the hard core Pentecostal denominations that were well-known. As a matter of fact, it was easier to describe our church by the word Charismatic, because all we believed in present day gifts of prophecy and speaking in other tongues, as well as divine healing and miracles. This is what mainly separated us from the traditional mainline churches back then.

In later years I have made a greater effort to identify with all born-again Christians from different backgrounds than mind. So I lost touch with what Charismatic means in today’s Christian circles. Most people today learn about Charismatic Christianity from Christian Televangelists. These days I am shocked at what comes under the banner of Charismatic today. To many it is a code word for greed, vanity, circus-like showmanship, arrogance and ridiculous behavior.

While I am embarrassed at some of the actions of my fellow Charismatics, I do not deny the genuine life, joy, peace and vitality of the experience we call the Baptism of the Holy Ghost. I do not regret for one moment the fact of my background, even though we have sometimes got out of balance in our understanding and practices.

Jesus told His apostles that they would receive power after the Holy Spirit came upon them. And they did. Jesus wants to empower all of His followers, in order that they will continue in the work He started two thousand years ago. Please do not let the errors of some discourage you from receiving all the gifts God has in store for you! Believe me when I say that I need for you to be filled with the Holy Spirit! Yes, when the whole church is built up, we are all empowered as well. Each one has a specific function that we all need operational to be spiritually strong and healthy.

What do you say to some of us who have experienced what I am talking about, simply pulling back? We could take a closer look at some of our habits and practices to see if they are truly consistent with the Lord’s plan for His Church. We need not be ashamed of His work in our lives, or be overly concerned with what the world thinks about us. But we do need to give up the magic shows, the mental telepathy, the manipulation of crowds, and the shear greed displayed by some. Stop supporting activities like these that hurt the cause of Christ!

Looking back, I can see how we have been caught up in emotional experiences and have gotten side tracked. It is not that hard to do. If we stay humble before Him, He will bring us back on track. Thankfully we have the words of Jesus and His personal disciples to remind us of the most important thing, the Love of God. (1 Corinthians 13). At the same time, the New Testament continues to encourage us to be empowered in the Lord, to prophesy, speak with tongues and exercise all the spiritual gifts to build up the Church and glorify Him!

Are You Charismatic?

Back in the 1970’s I resumed fellowship in the small Pentecostal church I attended with my mother as a teenager. Mom was one of thirteen children of a German-Irish father and Swedish immigrant mother who were both Pentecostals. In fact, my grandfather was a kind of pioneer preacher from the early days of the Apostolic branch of the movement. So I admit to a significant familiarity with the Pentecostal experience.

By the seventies the Charismatic Movement was in full swing, and beginning to impact some of the Pentecostal churches in positive ways. In our church, the dress codes were becoming more relaxed and there was a greater emphasis on the blessings and joy of the Lord. The fascinating part to me was the number of denominational walls that were being crossed by this outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon Episcopal, Anglican, Lutheran, and Roman Catholic and other groups of believers.

The closest some of us came to direct association with the Charismatic Movement was in attending meetings of the Full Gospel Businessmen’s Fellowship International. But it was not long before we became identified with the more liberal minded Charismatics than the hard core Pentecostal denominations that were well-known. As a matter of fact, it was easier to describe our church by the word Charismatic, because we all believed in present day gifts of prophecy and speaking in other tongues, as well as divine healing and miracles. This is what mainly separated us from the traditional mainline churches back then.

In later years I have made a greater effort to identify with all born-again Christians from different backgrounds than mine. So I lost touch with what Charismatic means in today’s Christian circles. Most people today learn about Charismatic Christianity from Christian Televangelists. These days I am shocked at what comes under the banner of Charismatic today. To many it is a code word for greed, vanity, circus-like showmanship, arrogance and ridiculous behavior.

While I am embarrassed at some of the actions of my fellow Charismatics, I do not deny the genuine life, joy, peace and vitality of the experience we call the Baptism of the Holy Ghost. I do not regret for one moment the fact of my background, even though we have sometimes got out of balance in our understanding and practices.

Jesus told His apostles that they would receive power after the Holy Spirit came upon them. And they did. Jesus wants to empower all of His followers, in order that they will continue in the work He started two thousand years ago. Please do not let the errors of some discourage you from receiving all the gifts God has in store for you! Believe me when I say that I need for you to be filled with the Holy Spirit! Yes, when the whole church is built up, we are all empowered as well. Each one has a specific function that we all need operational to be spiritually strong and healthy.

What do you say to some of us who have experienced what I am talking about, simply pulling back? We could take a closer look at some of our habits and practices to see if they are truly consistent with the Lord’s plan for His Church. We need not be ashamed of His work in our lives, or be overly concerned with what the world thinks about us. But we do need to give up the magic shows, the mental telepathy, the manipulation of crowds, and the shear greed displayed by some. Stop supporting activities like these that hurt the cause of Christ!

Looking back, I can see how we have been caught up in emotional experiences and have gotten side tracked. It is not that hard to do. If we stay humble before Him, He will bring us back on track. Thankfully we have the words of Jesus and His personal disciples to remind us of the most important thing, the Love of God. (1 Corinthians 13). At the same time, the New Testament continues to encourage us to be empowered in the Lord, to prophesy, speak with tongues and exercise all the spiritual gifts to build up the Church and glorify Him!

Christ In You, the Hope of Glory!

Paul wrote in his letter to the Colossians 1:25-28:
“I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness- the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the saints. To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ.” NIV

The Christian life is a supernatural life from beginning to end. The entire experience is initiated by God Himself Who is a Spirit. It was His plan from the beginning for Jesus to offer Himself as the perfect sacrificial Lamb for the sins of the world. Then in three days He broke the power of death and appeared to His followers. After ascending to the right Hand of the throne of God, He filled 120 of them with the Holy Spirit, empowering them to prove to the world that He was truly the long awaited Messiah of Israel and Lord of all! (Acts 2:36).

This power is intended for everyone who believes in Him. God had previously dealt with the people of Israel through the prophet, John the Baptist, who was filled with the Holy Spirit from his mother’s womb. He convinced many that the time had come for the Kingdom of God to appear, and that they should repent for all their wrong doings. Soon afterward Jesus began to travel and teach what the Kingdom of God was all about. Again we see evidence of the supernatural throughout His ministry in miracles and healings.

Once He explained to Nicodemas, a Pharisee and teacher in Israel, that life in the Kingdom of God was a spiritual experience. The only way a person could even see the Kingdom of God was to first be born from above. To enter the Kingdom of God we must be born of the water and the spirit. (John 3:3-8) He also wanted Nicodemas to see that Kingdom life is quite mysterious. Like the wind, you do not know where it came from, nor where it is going.

It is a fact, however, that those who were born again knew they were born again. How can a blind person not know that his sight has been giving to him? Still, the whole process is very mysterious. Some people can remember the time and the place it happened to them. Others just wake up one day after a long process of God’s dealings, and find they have changed! The only thing the new person in Christ can do is be grateful for what the Lord has done, whenever and wherever it happened to him or her!

There is an interesting story in Acts 19. Upon coming to Ephesus, Paul found some believers who had repented and followed the teachings of John the Baptist. He asked them if they had received the Holy Spirit since they had believed. They had not even heard of the Holy Spirit up until that time! So Paul explained unto them that John himself even said to believe in the Messiah who would come after him. Upon hearing this they were baptized in the Name of Jesus. After Paul laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came upon them. Then just like the original 120 they were supernaturally able to speak in languages unknown to them and to prophesy the Word of the Lord!

Sometimes even in our day, people accept what the Bible teaches and give their hearts and lives to obeying God. This is course, by the working of His Spirit. But like these Ephesian disciples they are unaware of the fullness that is available to them. Here is the reality of the New Covenant, which states that God Himself will write His laws upon the hearts of His people. They can know Him personally and even have His life, His power, His Holy Spirit living within them. (Jeremiah 31:31-34, Ezekiel 26:25-27, John 7:38-39).

It was God who filled John the Baptist while he was yet in his mother’s womb. It was God who used John to call the people in Judea to repentance and preparation for the Messiah and the Kingdom of God. It was God Who fulfilled all His promises in Jesus through His Life, His ministry, His death and resurrection. It was God in Jesus Who told His followers to wait in Jerusalem for the power of the Spirit to come upon them. It was also God Who spread the teachings of John as far as Ephesus, to prepare these 12 men to receive the ministry of Paul and the power of the New Covenant inaugurated by Jesus.

Apollos and the believers in Ephesus were not judged or criticized for what they had not known. It was with humility and pleasure that the way of God was more completely explained unto them! (Acts 18:24-19:7). What wonderful news it is that we do not have to live this holy and abundant life on our own human strength and will power! We too can receive the power of God to overcome our past, and our failures, weaknesses and doubts. We have a great and marvelous hope. We have Christ Himself within us!

Even those who have experienced His power within them can become discouraged, and tempted to work things out on their own. (Galatians 3:3). All of us need to know and be reminded of the Word of God in it’s fullness, which has been hidden from other generations but is now made known to the saints, to whom God Himself has chosen to make known among the nations the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory!

This Christian life is supernatural from beginning to end. Let us be determined to remind one another of this fact! You can do ALL THINGS THROUGH CHRIST, Who empowers you! It is He Who has begun this good work in you and He Who will continue to perform it unto the Day of Jesus Christ! (Philippians 4:13, 1:6).

The Kingdom of God is Within You!

Luke 17:20-21:

“Once, having been asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is within you.” NIV

When I first came across this passage in Luke forty years ago, I was astounded. I had recently come through a season of darkness and confusion, and was just beginning to see the full wonder and glory of Jesus Christ, and the abundant life that He came to give us all. This was a complete change of perspective for me. Before I had thought that every time the Bible was talking about the Kingdom of God or the Kingdom of Heaven, it was referring to the place Christians go after they die.

While I still understood and do understand that Christians pass from this life and into the immediate presence of our glorious Lord, then I learned something about our present experience of His presence. Finding the words of Jesus telling that the Kingdom of God is within us only confirmed what I was already experiencing! I had discovered genuine righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Ghost! (Romans 14:17).

Today these scriptures are commonly quoted and even taken for granted. Sometimes I think they are taken too much for granted.

Have you ever seriously considered the context of Luke 17:20-21? The people who asked Jesus about the Kingdom and the ones he answered were the infamous Pharisees. While not all Pharisees were bad guys, the picture we get from the New Testament was that many of them who came in contact with Jesus were against Him. I can understand that the Kingdom of God is in those of us who have been born again according to John 3:3-5. But how could He say that the Kingdom of God was inside of those nasty Pharisees?

In fact, some Bible students and a few translators believe what He actually said was that the Kingdom of God was “among them.” They believe that the Kingdom of God was present among them in the Person of Jesus, which is true, but let us consider another possibility. Could He really have meant that every human being has a place within them where God could actually set up His throne?

Since Jesus came two thousand years ago, preaching, teaching, healing the sick, raising the dead, dying on a cross, returning to life and ascending to the right hand of the throne of God, the world has never been the same. The greatest change took place in the hearts and lives of people from all backgrounds and stations in life. He did not ignore their sinfulness, but He also saw something else in them. He saw that place in each one of us that is reserved for God alone, that only He could fill.

Those who followed Him were instructed to pray for the whole world, that the same Kingdom reign of Christ from heaven would fill others as well, that His will would also be done on earth in them. This is where it must begin, within you and me. The same goes for everyone else. Sometimes it is hard to look at another person and see that one as a potential Kingdom citizen. But Jesus did this very thing. He insisted that nothing was too hard for God.

When I look as the state of my country and society, it gets harder all the time to see the Kingdom of God advancing forward, but that is the challenge given unto us. Many of us are regularly challenged to believe and expect a better life for ourselves, our families, and our churches. Today I would challenge us all to believe God for His will to be continually done in this whole earth, as it is in heaven! That means that as we pray the Lord’s prayer, He will open tens of thousands of hearts around this world to His Kingly reign of light and love. He reigns as King in our hearts and desires to do so in all hearts everywhere. Will we join Him in His vision for His Creation? Will we enlist in His glorious army of light, clothed with the helmet of salvation, the breastplate of righteousness, the shield of faith, the belt of Truth, the spread of the Gospel of peace, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God?

Maybe it isn’t all about me after all. Yes, the Kingdom of God is within me, but it is also in others. Jesus wants to call that marvelous lifestyle forth from all people everywhere. Some may be satisfied to get their personal mansion in heaven, but there are others who possess a holy dissatisfaction with the state of God’s universe. They are seeing how He must continue to reign, until all His enemies are put under His feat, even death! Our prayers, intercessions and testimonies play a great part in this transformation of hearts, even to end the source of death, that carnal mind that resists Life Himself!

The King of the Kingdom came two thousand years ago. He announced that it had come and inaugurated it. It has been advancing ever since. It is active in many of us today, and many are already living under His Lordship. It will continue through cultural storms and political upheavals. It will prevail through economic downturns, riots, revolutions, and dictatorships. But perhaps even in our lifetime we will fully see “the knowledge of the glory of the Lord cover the earth, as the waters cover the sea!” (Habakkuk 2:14).

Honest to God!

Sometimes when people are trying to get others to believe them, they will resort to saying things like “it’s the God’s honest truth! Or “if God should strike me dead!” Growing up, we often heard this one, “honest to God!” Hopefully we all know that God certainly knows if we are witnessing to the truth or a lie.

In my lifetime I have witnessed many lives changed by the Word of God and the Holy Spirit at work in the hearts of men, women and children. A real born-again experience is usually characterized by a liberating sensation. An individual suddenly realizes that God Himself has forgiven their sins and that they are truly and fully guilt free before Him!

It is not either uncommon for individuals to go through a range of emotions and doubts soon afterwards. They have an enemy at work behind the scenes, tempting them, working to discourage and confuse them. It is at this point that a solid foundation and caring leadership can make a huge difference. I happened to have been blessed with that kind of support as a young Christian, but in my Pentecostal background, I have found that all are not so fortunate.

Conversion can be a powerful emotional experience. But our emotions can easily be swayed. Often when that initial emotional high diminishes, we begin to wonder. Have I drifted away from the love of God! Have I lost something? Have I sinned? If a sin is committed, we are not sure of what to do about it. Should we respond to the next alter call? Should we offer some sort of penance? Or do we need a new spiritual experience, a new revelation?

Once I was discussing with a young Christian the fact that the Christian life is about a relationship with God. He tried to explain to me that he understood human relationships, because we physically see, hear and touch one another. Since God is a Spirit, we cannot see Him with our physical eyes, hear Him with our physical ears, or touch Him physically.

In fact, for many the first time they sense the real presence of God is at their initial conversion to faith in Christ. Often they sense His presence for days or weeks afterwards, but their necessary involvement with this life soon distracts them. It’s kind of like a young couple on their honeymoon. When they finally have to settle into life with jobs and housekeeping, a greater effort is required to keep the romantic aspect of the relationship alive.

The new Christian then learns the regular activities of the Christian life: prayer, Bible reading, church meetings, giving to the work of the Gospel etc. These activities can and should help us continue to be conscious of His Presence, but not always. What can easily happen is that we relate more to the activities themselves than in their purpose, to remind us of our relationship with our Savior and Lord.

Is it possible that we can become more focused on how to get to heaven, and what requirements must be met, than just the simple fact that we have been reconciled to God through Christ? Now that we are in Christ, how can our relationship with Him grow? How can we come to more fully know and love Him? What is it that truly pleases Him?

In recent years there is much discussion on whether or not Christians should confess their sins before God. The passage in 1 John 1:7-10 is seen as a threat to the security of the believers salvation. Nowhere does John say that a believer loses his salvation when he sins, and must confess sins to regain that salvation. Because of this wrong assumption, the passage must be twisted to mean something else.

It seems so counter to grace, unmerited favor, that some insist that these verses must be intended for unbelievers or Gnostics, those of a counterfeit faith. We are to confess only our righteousness, not our sins, they say. First of all it is His righteousness not ours that is at work in us. We are the children of God, no longer of the darkness. We all know, however, that believers can and do sin.

1 John 1:8-2:1:
“If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

My little children, these things write I unto you, that you sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous:”

John is writing to the believers that their joy might be full! (1 John 1:4). He knows that they are still God’s children even after they sin. They do not lose their salvation, but they will lose their joy and victory. You can say anything you want about grace and unmerited favor, I contend that God expects honesty from His children.

When my son was little, I questioned him about something he should not have done. When he denied it, I had to teach him that the act was not as bad as the lie. Mistakes happen, but we all should be learning to avoid them in time. I wanted his joy to be full. I wanted trust in our relationship. I wanted him to grow in grace to a successful adult and fruitful child of God.

Do you think our Heavenly Father cares any less for our progress in Him? He knows we need to be open and honest before Him. He already knows the situation, and He has graciously supplied the remedy. This remedy was discovered by King David of old time, a great believer who commited great sins. He humbled himself before his God, Who restored unto him the joy of his salvation! (Psalm 51). Are we looking for the restoration of David’s tabernacle? Maybe we first need the restoration of David-like humility and honesty before God!

He understood the need for “truth in the inward parts.” Unlike many religious people in the past and present, he knew that no ritual or outward good deed could take the place of an honest and humble heart.

Ps 51:17:
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart , O God, you will not despise.

Isaiah 57:15:
For thus says the high and lofty One that inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.

These conditions transcend the law and the Old Covenant. They are keys to the very heart of God!

God’s Not Dead!

Several weeks ago, my wife and I, along with my son and his wife went to the movies to see “God’s Not Dead.” We did not know what to expect, but I did see several negative reviews about it on the internet.

After seeing it I realize now how much it goes against the trends of our day. The story is about a young Christian who faces intimidation in the college classroom from his philosophy professor, played by Kevin Sorbo of the SyFy channel’s Hercules series.

People who complained of how the situation was set up fail to admit of how common the “good guy vs bad guy” theme is in the movies. The reality of intimidation of those who believe in God by “authorities” in science and the media however is not at all fiction.

This movie challenges Christians to take a stand for their belief in God Who created all things. Not only that, but it challenges us to examine why we believe what we believe. It was a close friend of Jesus who encouraged us to:

“not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.” But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed. For it is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.” 1 Peter 3:14-17

The young hero in the movie showed this passage in action. We all left the theater refreshed and inspired. I highly recommend it!

© 2022 Living Truth

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑