The Old Preacher

Viewing the World through God's Word

Category: Miracles (page 1 of 2)

“Don-cha Just LOVE It?”

Christian author Walter Wangerin, Jr. (one of my literary heroes) tells of the summer he, his wife and four children (two of their own plus a black  boy and girl by adoption) drove from Indiana to Colorado for a family reunion.  Talitha,  black and youngest of the four, was age six.  (Picture a chocolate brown cherub.)

“Talitha peered at the world with an irritating enthusiasm.  Her phrase for the trip was, “Don-cha love it?”—flopping her tongue out on the word love so that it left little dribbles on her chin.  She drove her brothers (then seven and eight) to gloom and to bloody expression.  Every morning, every sandwich, every stream and tree in the landscape received from her the same obnoxious approval:  “Don-cha loooooove it?”

One windy Colorado Sunday, when Grandfather Wangerin concluded his sermon to his family on an outcropping rock, Talitha jumped up and threw open her arms in a wide embrace and at the top of her lungs shouted, “Don-cha love it?”

On the return trip home, the family stopped for lunch in Kansas.  A waitress approached, pen in hand, ready to take their order.  Looking up, she gazed at the family and frowned.  The children (thinking this is what folks do in Kansas) gazed back.  The waitress wondered aloud if this black-and-white group was a school field trip. “No,” answered Wangerin, “family reunion.”  She gazed another moment, stumped.  Then, with brightening face, “Adopted!”

Having taken their orders, the waitress left.  Talitha, bright-eyed and smiling proudly, announced her new-found secret discovery:  “I know how she knew I was adopted.”

“How?” asked her father.

“The child stood up and threw out her arms and shouter louder than grandpa on the mountain:  ‘BECAUSE I’M . . . BLACK!'”

Every head in the restaurant turned to stare.

“And then Talitha caused her brothers a mortal anxiety by asking the diners, one and all, their opinion on this particular issue. 

‘Don-cha just love it?'”

(From Mourning Into Dancing.  Available from Amazon—https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_c_2_14?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=mourning+into+dancing&sprefix=Mourning+into+%2Caps%2C669)

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A wonder for the family of this story, because earlier on Talitha was largely unresponsive to most stimulation.  For me the story is a wonder because of Talitha’s wonder.  That’s what I hear in this little chocolate cherub’s “Don-cha just love it?”.  Wonder.  That feeling of surprise mixed with admiration at seeing something beautiful or unexpected.

Like a poor young girl from the Midwest plowing up a sand dune and, for the first time, gazing wide-eyed  at the broad and blue rolling  ocean.  Like the young couple standing arm in arm in sanctified silence watching every breath of their precious newborn sleeping in her cradle.  Like a lonely, abusive, ridden-with-guilt old man realizing for the first time God really loves him and through Christ forgives him for all his sins.  Like the gray-haired widow roaming through her empty house looking longingly at photos of her beloved who  is gone now two years suddenly thinking of heaven soon and a joyous reunion forever, because of Jesus.  Wonder.

Too little wonder in my life.  Especially the older I get.  Not that wonders are absent.  I just don’t see them.  O Talitha, I want to look at a butterfly in flight and shout, “Don-cha just love it?”!  I want to watch rain drops splash into a puddle, a toddler take her first step, feel my wife’s hand on me, read God’s good promises in his Word and cry, “Don-cha just love it?”!

“Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law” (Psalm 119:18).  MoreoverOpen my eyes that I may see wonderful things in all you have done, O Lord.  Take the blinders from my eyes.  Take the crustiness from my soul.  Wonders never cease with you, for you are the eternal God.  And one day you will make all things new (Revelation 21:5).

I want to “tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD, his power, and the wonders he has done” (Psalm 78:4).

I want to stand awe-struck before you and declare,  “Many, O LORD my God, are the wonders you have done. The things you planned for us no one can recount to you; were I to speak and tell of them, they would be too many to declare” (Psalm 40:5).
So let’s . . .

“Give thanks to the LORD, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done.  Sing to him, sing praise to him; tell of all his wonderful acts. Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice. Look to the LORD and his strength; seek his face always. Remember the wonders he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced . . . ” (Psalm 1051-5).

 

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The West Coast Rumble: Final Thoughts

O Preacher“It pleased God…to display his free and sovereign mercy in the conversion of a great multitude of souls in a short space of time, turning them from a formal, cold, and careless profession of Christianity, to the lively exercise of every Christian grace, and the powerful practice of our holy religion” (Jonathan Edwards, “A Narrative of Surprising Conversions,” Carlisle: The Banner of Truth Trust, first published in 1736, p. 2).”

“We are about to enter a zone where no man has ever gone before. The Lord spoke to me and said, ‘I’m going to freak you right out with the things that I’m going to be doing because you’re going to have no grid for it.’ … The Lord’s about to take us on some roads that don’t exist on human maps”  (Darren Stott, 34, pastor of the Seattle Revival Center).

Contrasts.

The contrast between these two descriptions couldn’t be more striking.  Is it just a language-change from the 18th century to the 21st?  Or is it a change in revival aims?   The First Great Awakening seems aimed at conversion and holy living.  Today’s seems aimed more at ecstatic spiritual experiences.  It’s as if today we see these revival experiences as the high point of spiritual life.

Patrick Morley, Christian author and speaker, describes what a revival is:  “During a revival, God supernaturally transforms believers and non-believers in a church, locale, region, nation, or the world through sudden, intense enthusiasm for Christianity.  People sense the presence of God powerfully; conviction, despair, contrition, repentance, and prayer come easily; people thirst for God’s word; many authentic conversions occur and backsliders are renewed.”  Even that enthusiastic explanation implies that God sends a revival because people have become spiritually lethargic and weak.  A revival isn’t like a doctor advising a healthy patient how to have optimum physical health; it’s more emergency room doctor using defibrillation paddles to re-start a patient’s heart with a dose of electrical current.  The ultimate goal isn’t a heart restart; it’s optimum physical health.  So, while God certainly uses revivals his ultimate goal is Christ-likeness.

“For those whom he foreknew he also predestined
to be conformed to the image of his Son . . . ”
(Romans 8:29a)

Need.

Having said that, I’ll repeat what I wrote in an earlier blog:  I think the church in the U.S. needs a revival.  Despite mega-churches and high-production worship services and creative sermons and “portable” Christian music on smartphones, I get the impression that Christianity in America is, as they say about Tampa Bay’s waters, a mile wide and an inch deep.  The church needs renewing.  Whether what’s happening on the West Coast is part of that renewing  remains to be seen.

Skepticism.

I have to admit I get skeptical about “prophetic words” from leaders associated with “the Rumble”:   “The Lord spoke to me and said, ‘This whole thing is going harvest . . . The angel of the Lord is going to be connected with you now,.  You will not leave Seattle until the angel tells you to go'” . . .  and the already-cited, “We are about to enter a zone where no man has ever gone before. The Lord spoke to me and said, ‘I’m going to freak you right out with the things that I’m going to be doing because you’re going to have no grid for it.’ … The Lord’s about to take us on some roads that don’t exist on human maps.” Prophecy as forth-telling I can abide; prophecy as foretelling makes me uneasy.

In the 1970s or 80s (I can’t remember which) the charismatic movement got caught up in extreme discipleship.  Every Christian was to have a discipler to oversee his/her life.  I heard some horror stories.  Leaders of “The West Coast Rumble”. according to author Holly Piver,  “share a common belief that the church is to be governed by apostles and prophets,.  Churches come voluntarily under an apostle and pastors are supposed to submit to them. ‘Spiritual covering’ is what they call it, and if they are not under this covering, they are outside of God’s blessing.”  I don’t see allowance for that in the New Testament and am concerned these folks are repeating the same error as their predecessors 30 years ago.

Confusion.

Revivals tend to feature confusion.   Here’s what Edwards wisely wrote about that:  ” . . . if God is pleased to convince the consciences of persons, so that they cannot avoid great outward manifestations, even to interrupting and breaking off those public means (meetings) they were attending, I do not think this is confusion, or an unhappy interruption, any more than if a company should meet on the field to pray for rain, and should be broken off from their exercise by a plentiful shower. Would to God that all the public assemblies in the land were broken off from their public exercises with such confusion as this the next sabbath day!  We need not be sorry for breaking the order of means, by obtaining the end to which that order is directed. He who is going to fetch a treasure, need not be sorry that he is stopped, by meeting the treasure in the midst of his journey.”

Warning.

Whatever we think of revivals, I warn myself and others not to be found opposing God.  At the end of my writing about revivals, I haven’t discovered any hard, fast rules for discernment, except this:  Jesus must be exalted as Lord and Savior.  If he is not (because, say, ecstatic spiritual experiences are), then either the revival is not from the Holy Spirit or the Spirit is speaking as if through Balaam’s dumb donkey (Numbers 22:21-30).

Pray.

Lastly, I think we should be praying fora genuine revival/awakening/renewal (whatever the okay word is for us) in our churches.  How quickly our routines become ruts!  How low our expectation that God is really going to act in our services!  How little our influence in the community for Jesus’ sake!  When the world can take us or leave us, and when the government fearlessly dares to still our Bible-talk as homophobic or hate speech, the church needs renewed power to effectively proclaim God’s truth in Christ!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Is the West Coast Rumble for Real (2)?

O PreacherI’m offering Jonathan Edwards’ “signs” to evaluate revivals like the West Coast Rumble—an evaluation, I believe, it’s incumbent on us to make.  “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1).

By the way, if you haven’t, you should read my last two posts before reading this one http://theoldpreacher.com/the-west-coast-rumble/ and http://theoldpreacher.com/?p=4913&preview=true.

Eighteenth century revivals raised questions and moved Edwards to write “The Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God”.  In it he identified nine “negative signs” (last post) and five “positive” signs (below).  Again, my goal:  to help us (in John’s words) to “test the spirit to see whether they are from God”.

Positive Signs

Edwards introduces this section:  “I now proceed in the second place, as was proposed, to show positively what are the sure, distinguishing Scripture evidences and marks of a work of the Spirit of God, by which we may proceed in judging of any operation we find in ourselves, or see among a people, without danger of being misled.”
I.  The work exalts Jesus and establishes in people’s minds the truth of the gospel of the Son of God and our Savior. “This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God,  but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world . . .Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God” (1 John 4:2,3).  Edwards explains:  “And it is to be observed that the word ‘confess’, as it is often used in the New Testament, signifies . . . an establishing and confirming of a thing by testimony, and declaring it with manifestation of esteem and affection.”  In other words, to confess is more than mimicking a doctrine; it is an admission that the confessor stands in worshipful awe of Jesus and his saving sacrifice.  Any spirit that fails to exalt Jesus is of the devil, who abhors Jesus and hates his redemptive work.
To put this sign in question form:   “Does this work exalt Jesus and establish in people’s minds, not only that Jesus powerfully heals and delivers,  but that Jesus is the Son of God and the sinner’s Savior?”

II. The work operates against Satan’s interests. Satan entices us with “the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.”  Such seduction “is not of the Father, but is of the world” (1 John 2:16).   Therefore, the Spirit that lessens our value of the world’s pleasures, profits and honor and pulls our hearts away from pursuing these things and compels our hearts toward the eternal kingdom of God and convinces us of the sinfulness of sin has to be the Spirit of God.

To put this sign in question form:  “Does this work make people easier prey for Satan or stronger opponents of him?”

III.  The work causes people to have a greater regard for God’s written word. We are from God.  Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us.  By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error” (1 John 4:6).  Remembering that the only other spirit is of the devil, Edwards comments:   “The devil never would attempt to beget in persons a regard to that divine word which God has given to be the great and standing rule for the direction of his church . . .The devil has ever shown a mortal spite and hatred towards that holy book the Bible: he has done all in his power to extinguish that light; and to draw men off from it: he knows it to be that light by which his kingdom of darkness is to be overthrown.  He has had for many ages experience of its power to defeat his purposes, and baffle his designs: it is his constant plague . . .  It is the sword of the Spirit, that pierces him and conquers him.”

To put this sign in question form:  “Does this work create in people a hunger for God’s written word or distract them from it?”

IV. The spirit at work “operates as a spirit of truth, [leads] persons to truth, [and convinces] them of those things that are true.” Edwards takes this from the end of 1 John 4:6, “the spirit of truth and the spirit of error”.    He writes, “For instance, if we observe that the spirit at work makes men more sensible than they used to be, [that is] that there is a God, and that he is a great and sin-hating God; that life is short, and very uncertain; and that there is another world; that they have immortal souls, and must give account of themselves to God, that they are exceeding sinful by nature and practice; that they are helpless in themselves; and confirms them in other things that are agreeable to some sound doctrine; the spirit that works thus operates as a spirit of truth; he represents things as they truly are.” 

To put this sign in question form:  “Does the spirit of this work make people love the truth and want to seek it or fascinate them merely with a power that ‘works’?”

V.  The work produces love to God and love to others“Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another . . . No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us . . .  If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen” (1 John 4:11.12,20).  Love is a distinctive mark by which we know who has the Spirit of God.  “By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit” (1 John 4:13).   Love is the first and primary fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22).  “Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.  All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments'” (Matthew 22:37-40).

Edwards writes:  “Therefore, when the spirit that is at work amongst the people . . . brings many of them to high and exalting thoughts of the Divine Being, and his glorious perfections; and works in them an admiring, delightful sense of the excellency of Jesus Christ; representing him as the chief among ten thousand, and altogether lovely, and makes him precious to the soul; winning and drawing the heart with those motives and incitements to love, of which the apostle speaks in that passage of Scripture we are upon, that is:  The wonderful, free love of God in giving his only-begotten Son to die for us, and the wonderful dying love of Christ to us, who had no love to him, but were his enemies; must needs be the Spirit of God, as ver. 9, 10. “In this was manifested the love of God towards us, because God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love; not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” And ver. 16. “And we have known, and believed, the love that God hath to us.” And ver. 19. “We love him because he first loved us.” The spirit that excites to love on these motives, and makes the attributes of God as revealed in the gospel, and manifested in Christ, delightful objects of contemplation; and makes the soul to long after God and Christ—after their presence and communion, acquaintance with them, and conformity to them—and to live so as to please and honour them; the spirit that quells contentions among men, and gives a spirit of peace and good will, excites to acts of outward kindness, and earnest desires of the salvation of souls-and causes a delight in those that appear as the children God, and followers of Christ; I say, when a spirit operates after this manner among a people, there is the highest kind of evidence of the influence of a true and divine spirit . . . What kind of love that is, we may see best in what appeared in Christ’s example. The love that appeared in that Lamb of God, was not only a love to friends, but to enemies, and a love attended with a meek and humble spirit.”

To put this sign in question form:  “Does this work move people to love God and others more fully or encourage people to focus more on themselves?”

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I’ll have a few final thoughts next post.  Meanwhile, may the Lord give us wisdom to discern what is from him and what is not that we might glorify him and enjoy his saving work in the world!
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Is the West Coast Rumble for Real?

O PreacherWhat are we to make of “The West Coast Rumble” and similar “revivals”?  (This post makes much more sense if you’ve read the lasthttp://theoldpreacher.com/the-west-coast-rumble/).  Are they “for real”—a genuine work of God the Holy Spirit, or of the devil, or of human origin?  I’m not sitting in judgment.  I want to know so we can praise God for what he’s doing and pray for revivals or steer clear because he’s not doing it.

Jonathan Edwards was an 18th century Christian preacher and theologian.  He “is widely acknowledged to be America’s most important and original philosophical theologian,” and one of America’s greatest intellectuals (http://www.ccel.org/ccel/edwards),  He “was a key figure in what has come to be called the First Great Awakening of the 1730s and 1740s” (http://www.theopedia.com/jonathan-edwards). 

 The First Great Awakening  was a series of religious revivals that swept over the American colonies the middle of the 18th century.  It brought  doctrinal changes, influenced social and political thought, and created not a small measure of theological controversy.  Edwards’ wrote The Distinguishing Marks of the Work of the Spirit of God  “to show what are the true, certain, and distinguishing evidences of a work of the Spirit of God, by which we may safely proceed in judging of any operation we find in ourselves, or see in others. And here I would observe, that we are to take the Scriptures as our guide in such cases.”  I’ll use The Distinguishing Marks to evaluate the “Rumble” and other such revivals.
Edwards divided his treatise into two sections, the first  . . .

Negative Signs

By this he means,  “what are not evidences that a work is not from the Spirit of God.”  In other words, if every person turns purple, that doesn’t prove this “revival”  is not from God’s Spirit.

Edwards gives nine negative signs.  Since grammar and writing styles have changed significantly since the 18th century, I’ll summarize in my own words.  Quotes are his.  And all of his are available at https://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/sdg/edwards/edwards_distinguishingmarks.html.

I.  Very unusual and extraordinary ways of doing things.  If the method of the meetings is unusual and extraordinary that doesn’t mean the Spirit isn’t at work (as long as the method is not contrary to Scripture).  We can’t evaluate events by what we’ve been used to, because God may work in new and extraordinary ways “to surprise both men and angels.”

II. “Tears, trembling, groans, loud outcries, agonies of the body, or the failing of bodily strength” and similar “bodily effects.” Because Scripture gives no such rule, these behaviors are not evidence this is not of God.

III. “A great concern, strong affection, and a general engagement of mind”  doesn’t prove the Spirit is not at work.  It’s human nature to be “turned on” about something important and meaningful.   So, unless this causes “a notable, visible and open commotion and alteration amongst [the] people”, this does not indicate that the work is not of God’s Spirit.

IV.  Many have great impressions made on their imaginations is not a sign the work is not from the Spirit.  “Such is our nature, that we cannot think of things invisible, without a degree of imagination . . . And the more engaged the mind is, and the more intense the contemplation and affection, still the more lively and strong the imaginary idea will ordinarily be . . .  It is no argument that a work is not of the Spirit of God that some who are the subjects of it have been in a kind of ecstasy, wherein they have been carried beyond themselves, and have had their minds transported into a train of strong and pleasing imaginations, and a kind of visions, as though they were rapt up even to heaven and there saw glorious sights.”

V.  Means are used in producing it.   This does not prove that the work is not of the Spirit.   “Means” are “the medium by which something is accomplished.”  God uses the “means” of his Word to reveal himself to us.  God uses the “means” of music to raise our affections for him.  God may also use the example of someone expressing great joy or, at the other extreme, terrible torment to convey his message.

VI.  Many “are guilty of great imprudences and irregularities in their conduct”. 
These behaviors do not signify the Spirit is not at work.  “Is it no wonder that, in a mixed multitude of all sort–wise and unwise, young and old, of weak and strong natural abilities, under strong impressions of mind–there are many who behave themselves imprudently?”  The church at Corinth, full of the Spirit and, at the same time, of ungodly conduct, is a prime New Testament example.  The weakness of human nature and residual sin can prompt foolish behavior, even when God’s Spirit is present.

VII.  Many errors in judgment and some deception of Satan are found in the work.  Such activity doesn’t mean that the work in general is not of the Spirit.  It appears the devil’s actions increased when Christ came to earth.  “It is not to be expected that the Spirit of God should be given now in the same manner as to the apostles, infallibly to guide them in points of christian doctrine, so that what they taught might be relied on as a rule to the christian church . . . Many godly persons have undoubtedly in this and other ages, exposed themselves to woeful delusions, by an aptness to lay too much weight on impulses and impressions, as if they were immediate revelations from God, to signify something future, or to direct them where to go, and what to do.”

VIII.  Some fall into disgusting errors or scandalous behavior.  This is no argument that the work in general is not of the Spirit.  Counterfeits don’t mean nothing is true.  “Such things are always expected in a time of reformation”.  The heretics who attacked the church throughout her history are a classic example.  The classic biblical example is Judas.

IX.  It seems to be promoted by leaders who magnify the terrors of God’s holy law.  This  doesn’t imply the work is not from the Holy Spirit. “Why is it not proper for those who have the care of souls to take great pains to make men [aware] of [hell’s torments]?  The reverse is also true.  If leaders are captivated by the glories of Christ and the world to come, we’d expect them to be passionate and animated about them.

What do these negative signs indicate about the authenticity of “The West Coast Rumble” and similar “revivals”?  Do they indicate they’re works of the Holy Spirit or not?  We may say, “I’m 3000 miles away.  What difference does it make to me here?”  We read about such revivals in books or see and hear their meetings online.  Discernment, then, is important for us all.

Of course. we can’t make a final evaluation until we read Edwards’ positive signs.  These come next time.

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Is The West Coast Rumble for Real?

O PreacherWhat are we to make of “The West Coast Rumble” and similar “revivals”?  (This post makes much more sense if you’ve read the lasthttp://theoldpreacher.com/the-west-coast-rumble/).  Are they “for real”—a genuine work of God the Holy Spirit, or of the devil, or of human origin?  I’m not sitting in judgment.  I want to know so we can praise God for what he’s doing and pray for revivals or steer clear because he’s not doing it.

Jonathan Edwards was an 18th century Christian preacher and theologian.  He “is widely acknowledged to be America’s most important and original philosophical theologian,” and one of America’s greatest intellectuals (http://www.ccel.org/ccel/edwards),  He “was a key figure in what has come to be called the First Great Awakening of the 1730s and 1740s” (http://www.theopedia.com/jonathan-edwards). 

 The First Great Awakening  was a series of religious revivals that swept over the American colonies the middle of the 18th century.  It brought  doctrinal changes, influenced social and political thought, and created not a small measure of theological controversy.  Edwards’ wrote The Distinguishing Marks of the Work of the Spirit of God  “to show what are the true, certain, and distinguishing evidences of a work of the Spirit of God, by which we may safely proceed in judging of any operation we find in ourselves, or see in others. And here I would observe, that we are to take the Scriptures as our guide in such cases.”  I’ll use The Distinguishing Marks to evaluate the “Rumble” and other such revivals.
Edwards divided his treatise into two sections, the first  . . .

Negative Signs

By this he means,  “what are not evidences that a work is not from the Spirit of God.”  In other words, if every person turns purple, that doesn’t prove this “revival”  is not from God’s Spirit.

Edwards gives nine negative signs.  Since grammar and writing styles have changed significantly since the 18th century, I’ll summarize in my own words.  Quotes are his.  And all of his are available at https://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/sdg/edwards/edwards_distinguishingmarks.html.

I.  Very unusual and extraordinary ways of doing things.  If the method of the meetings is unusual and extraordinary that doesn’t mean the Spirit isn’t at work (as long as the method is not contrary to Scripture).  We can’t evaluate events by what we’ve been used to, because God may work in new and extraordinary ways “to surprise both men and angels.”

II. “Tears, trembling, groans, loud outcries, agonies of the body, or the failing of bodily strength” and similar “bodily effects.” Because Scripture gives no such rule, these behaviors are not evidence this is not of God.

III. “A great concern, strong affection, and a general engagement of mind”  doesn’t prove the Spirit is not at work.  It’s human nature to be “turned on” about something important and meaningful.   So, unless this causes “a notable, visible and open commotion and alteration amongst [the] people”, this does not indicate that the work is not of God’s Spirit.

IV.  Many have great impressions made on their imaginations is not a sign the work is not from the Spirit.  “Such is our nature, that we cannot think of things invisible, without a degree of imagination . . . And the more engaged the mind is, and the more intense the contemplation and affection, still the more lively and strong the imaginary idea will ordinarily be . . .  It is no argument that a work is not of the Spirit of God that some who are the subjects of it have been in a kind of ecstasy, wherein they have been carried beyond themselves, and have had their minds transported into a train of strong and pleasing imaginations, and a kind of visions, as though they were rapt up even to heaven and there saw glorious sights.”

V.  Means are used in producing it.   This does not prove that the work is not of the Spirit.   “Means” are “the medium by which something is accomplished.”  God uses the “means” of his Word to reveal himself to us.  God uses the “means” of music to raise our affections for him.  God may also use the example of someone expressing great joy or, at the other extreme, terrible torment to convey his message.

VI.  Many “are guilty of great imprudences and irregularities in their conduct”. 
These behaviors do not signify the Spirit is not at work.  “Is it no wonder that, in a mixed multitude of all sort–wise and unwise, young and old, of weak and strong natural abilities, under strong impressions of mind–there are many who behave themselves imprudently?”  The church at Corinth, full of the Spirit and, at the same time, of ungodly conduct, is a prime New Testament example.  The weakness of human nature and residual sin can prompt foolish behavior, even when God’s Spirit is present.

VII.  Many errors in judgment and some deception of Satan are found in the work.  Such activity doesn’t mean that the work in general is not of the Spirit.  It appears the devil’s actions increased when Christ came to earth.  “It is not to be expected that the Spirit of God should be given now in the same manner as to the apostles, infallibly to guide them in points of christian doctrine, so that what they taught might be relied on as a rule to the christian church . . . Many godly persons have undoubtedly in this and other ages, exposed themselves to woeful delusions, by an aptness to lay too much weight on impulses and impressions, as if they were immediate revelations from God, to signify something future, or to direct them where to go, and what to do.”

VIII.  Some fall into disgusting errors or scandalous behavior.  This is no argument that the work in general is not of the Spirit.  Counterfeits don’t mean nothing is true.  “Such things are always expected in a time of reformation”.  The heretics who attacked the church throughout her history are a classic example.  The classic biblical example is Judas.

IX.  It seems to be promoted by leaders who magnify the terrors of God’s holy law.  This  doesn’t imply the work is not from the Holy Spirit. “Why is it not proper for those who have the care of souls to take great pains to make men [aware] of [hell’s torments]?  The reverse is also true.  If leaders are captivated by the glories of Christ and the world to come, we’d expect them to be passionate and animated about them.

What do these negative signs indicate about the authenticity of “The West Coast Rumble” and similar “revivals”?  Do they indicate they’re works of the Holy Spirit or not?  We may say, “I’m 3000 miles away.  What difference does it make to me here?”  We read about such revivals in books or see and hear their meetings online.  Discernment, then, is important for us all.

Of course. we can’t make a final evaluation until we read Edwards’ positive signs.  These come next time.

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The West Coast Rumble

O PreacherFollowing is a current report from Religion News Service of a West Coast revival.   Some will immediately brand this the devil’s work.  Some will claim the leaders are deceivers.  Others will say, “Bring it on here!”  While others won’t know what to think.

Need for Revival.

One comment before the report.  I think the church in the U.S. needs a revival.  (What that should look like isn’t for me to say.) Despite mega-churches and high-production worship services and sermons and music galore on smartphones, I get the impression that Christianity in America is, as they say about Tampa Bay’s waters, a mile wide and an inch deep.  The church needs renewing.  Whether what’s happening on the West Coast is part of that renewing  remains to be seen.

But the question before us now is this:  What are we to make of this West Coast revival?

Distinguishing Marks of the Spirit’s Work.

In my next post, I’ll apply Jonathan Edwards’ “The Distinguishing Marks of the Work of the Spirit of God” to “The West Coast Rumble” (let’s not pre-judge because of that name!) and similar events, so we might wisely discern the true from the counterfeit.

* * * * *

Pentecostal Revival Sweeps Parts of West Coast

 

(RNS) They call it the West Coast Rumble: a set of multiweek revivals in Seattle and San Diego, plus a large Christian rally in Los Angeles two weekends ago.

The main players are 30-something Pentecostals who are just as apt to broadcast their messages via Periscope, Skype and Twitter, as well as on their ministry’s Facebook pages.

Can’t make it to their meetings? They’ll pray for you over their cellphones.

They belong to a loose network of roving preachers who have adopted some techniques from past Pentecostal revivals but with a digitized spin. They hope to bring faith to a region that has some of the country’s lowest church attendance.

“I feel like in the Northwest we are giving birth to a baby and it needs to be nurtured,” said Darren Stott, 34, pastor of the Seattle Revival Center, a 170-member nondenominational church where the revival is now in its eighth week. “For me, to be a pastor in Seattle is easy. To be a revivalist and contend for miracles is difficult.”

The center has hired several part-time workers to oversee the revival, stream online video and schedule and pay for a succession of visiting worship bands and speakers. The church has posted a list of hotels on its site for visitors who have flown in from around the Pacific Northwest and Australia. While an average of 210 people attend nightly services, an additional 225 people will watch the entire four-hour service online, with up to 1,000 people logging in and out on any given night.

Meanwhile, in the San Diego suburb of Rancho Bernardo, a series of meetings that was supposed to end Jan. 25 has morphed into what is now a 12-week revival. The meetings were sponsored by an Albany, Ore., group called The Elijah List and headed up by two evangelistic couples: Jerame and Miranda Nelson and Joshua and Janet Mills.

“We began to notice an unusual manifest presence of God invading the meetings,” Jerame Nelson, 35, wrote on elijahlist.com. “Miracles were happening quite easily and people were really getting touched by God during the worship times.”

Just the week before, Nelson continued, a Franklin, Tenn., evangelist named James Goll, 63, had prophesied that a “West Coast rumble” would break open in port cities along the West Coast from Tijuana, Mexico, to Vancouver, B.C.

San Diego, Goll had told Nelson, would be the first spark in this spiritual line of fire. So when Joshua Mills asked Nelson if they should continue the meetings, “I immediately said, ‘Yes, let’s do it!’” Nelson wrote on the site.

The San Diego meetings are part of a tapestry of events connected to Azusa Now, a large evangelistic meeting held April 9 at the Los Angeles Coliseum that attracted 56,586 worshippers.

Perhaps the most unusual occurrence during the rally was when Catholic charismatic leader Matteo Calisi knelt and kissed the feet of Azusa Now organizer Lou Engle in the name of Catholic-Protestant reconciliation. (Engle then returned the favor.)

The event marked the 110th anniversary of the legendary Azusa Street Revival, which birthed the Pentecostal movement in the U.S.  Led by William Seymour, a pastor whose prayer meetings lasted for some four years, the 1906 revival sparked a massive spiritual awakening that today numbers some 279 million adherents worldwide. Known for having received the gifts of the Holy Spirit, Pentecostals often speak in tongues and dance during worship services and report healings and other miracles.

Seymour is said to have prophesied that an even greater revival would happen a century later.

Charlie Shamp, 34, a Nashville preacher who helped jump-start the Seattle meetings, said he doesn’t like calling the West Coast Rumble a revival.

“They only last a year or two,” he said. “I really believe this is the Third Great Awakening. So many people are feeling it across denominational lines.”

In late February, Shamp appeared for what was supposed to be one weekend at the Seattle Revival Center in Newcastle, a well-to-do Seattle suburb. He ended up staying for five.

The church established a Twitter handle, #westcoastrumble, and began live-streaming the nightly services. Viewers from around the world could log in, chat, leave comments and register prayer requests.

Now the 350-seat church is full most weekends. Explaining this to his congregation on March 6, Stott said: “The Lord spoke to me and said, ‘This whole thing is going harvest.’”

During a typical meeting in both venues, the preacher will get what charismatics call a “word of knowledge,” usually an interior sense that God is healing certain people of a particular ailment.

Those who are physically at the church will walk up to the front to be prayed for, although online viewers can also identify themselves as having that ailment. One of the pastors — usually Stott — monitors the viewer feed and will announce to the congregation the names of people claiming to be healed or asking for prayer.

Chelsie Carbonell, 36, an artist from Bonney Lake, Wash., attended a session a few weeks ago, just as visiting evangelist Munday Martin, 38, of Nashville, Tenn., announced that someone who’d been in multiple car accidents would be healed.

Carbonnell had been in a series of accidents in the 1990s and felt she was out of alignment.

She went forward and Martin told her to sit down, as he wanted to pray for her legs to be the same length.

“I don’t think the problem is my legs,” Carbonell told him.

“Will you let a crazy evangelist try?” Martin asked her.

“My left leg grew out right then,” Carbonell said later. “I felt it. It was a strange, quick sensation. It took me four days to walk normally but now I’ve been able to jog for the first time in years.”

The congregation has no doctor-verified healings, although on March 11, it posted on its Facebook page a PET scan of what appeared to be a person’s spine and identified as “before and after photos of Stage 4 cancer.”

“I want to assemble a team to pursue these people,” Stott said. “Once we get X-rays, that kind of stuff, I will take that and publicize that on bulletin boards in Seattle. I’ve seen so many people from our immediate congregation healed. That has boosted my faith.”

In San Diego, Nelson wrote, “glaucoma healed, metal plates and pins that had been surgically inserted into people’s bodies have dissolved, deaf ears are hearing, deformities from birth are being healed, and many are getting saved, reconciled to God, and filled with the Holy Ghost.” He did not respond to requests for an interview.

Shamp, who eventually left Seattle Revival Center to fulfill other speaking engagements, said he’s seeing similar meetings around the country.

“I just got back from Columbus, Miss., and it exploded there as well,” he said.

Shamp said he was inspired by members of a 1980s movement known as the Kansas City Prophets, a loose network of Christian leaders who considered themselves apostles and prophets to the church. He called one of those leaders, Paul Cain, a week before going to Seattle in February, to ask for prayer.

“He said, ‘The angel of the Lord is going to be connected with you now,’” Shamp recalled. “‘You will not leave Seattle until the angel tells you to go.’”

Shamp, Nelson and other revivalist leaders are part of an informal network of two dozen Pentecostal and charismatic ministers, mostly under age 40, who like to push the envelope on spiritual healing.

They’ve integrated controversial parts of past U.S. revivals: reports of feathers mysteriously floating through the air during services, gold fillings appearing in the mouths of attendees, hands covered with oil or gold dust and people being overcome with fits of so-called holy laughter.

Holly Pivec, who co-authored a 2014 book with Biola University philosophy professor Doug Geivett on the movement, said these revivalists are part of the New Apostolic Reformation within the wider charismatic movement.

“They share a common belief that the church is to be governed by apostles and prophets,” she said. Churches come voluntarily under an apostle and pastors are supposed to submit to them. “Spiritual covering” is what they call it, and if they are not under this covering, they are outside of God’s blessing.

“Whole generations of young people have grown up under these NAR teachings. It’s the only version of Christianity they’ve ever known. Some 3 million people in the United States attend churches that embrace these teachings.”

Stott, whose church broke with the Assemblies of God a year ago, has been sending members out into nearby neighborhoods to do street evangelism.

He told his congregation April 6: “We are about to enter a zone where no man has ever gone before. The Lord spoke to me and said, ‘I’m going to freak you right out with the things that I’m going to be doing because you’re going to have no grid for it. … The Lord’s about to take us on some roads that don’t exist on human maps.”

 

 

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Dead and Alive (Jesus and Me)

O PreacherChristianity is a miracle faith.  It’s not just a set of doctrines or a moral code.  Christianity is marked by “extraordinary events manifesting divine intervention in human affairs” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary definition).

The Courtroom.

Paul refers to one of the greatest  in this next text of his Galatians letter; but he first concludes his teaching about justification by faith begun in his rebuke (1:6 and following).

We who are Jews by birth and not ‘Gentile sinners’
know that a man is not justified by observing the law,
but by faith in Jesus Christ.
So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus
that we may be justified by faith in Christ
and not by observing the law,
because by observing the law no one will be justified.
(2:15,16)

“Justified” (Greek, dikaio-o) refers to one’s right standing before God–more a legal term than an experiential one.  Paul’s meaning is crystal-clear.  ” . . . a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ.”  Jewish Christians (professed) visited the Galatian churches insisting that right standing with God required faith in Jesus Christ plus circumcision and adherence to the laws of Moses.  Paul responded by rebuking the Galatians for turning to a “different gospel” (1:6).

Since observing the biblical law of Moses doesn’t achieve justification, no other law or rule or system does either.  Being good, going to church,  helping the poor, praying regularly are all good behaviors, but they’re not meritorious.  Faith alone in Christ alone alone results in justification.

That’s both bad news and good.  Bad, because it punctures my ego (I can do nothing to merit being right with God!) and compels me to confess I’m a lawbreaker, a criminal according to God’s moral code.  So put me in an orange suit, shackle my ankles and lead me to my cell!  Good, because even a little child can trust.  The “faith-bar” is low.  About as low on the ground as a grain of mustard seed.

This is the gospel, full-of-wonder–the “courtroom” side of it.  A little more “legal” before the miracle . . .

If, while we seek to be justified in Christ,
it becomes evident that we ourselves are sinners,
does that mean that Christ promotes sin? Absolutely not!
If I rebuild what I destroyed, I prove that I am a lawbreaker.
For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God.
(2:17-19)

That question may imply what the “Judaizers” claimed:  Justification by faith alone (and not good works) provides license to sin.  I imagine Paul writing “Absolutely not!” in all caps (and shaking his head at the ludicrous idea).  To add obedience to law is to rebuild a system of good works and prove yourself (again) a law-breaker, because you will inevitably break God’s law.  Paul knows the law condemns him.  So, as far as law is concerned,  he’s a dead man walking.  But God has a purpose in law’s death sentence:  “so that I might live for God.” 

The Miracle.

Now the great miracle and an explanation of how the law “kills” so we might live for God . . .

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live,
but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body,
I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
I do not set aside the grace of God,
for if righteousness could be gained through the law,
Christ died for nothing!
(Galattians2:17-21).

God’s law condemns me–a law-breaker–to death.  Christ, who never broke God’s law, died as a law-breaker in my place.  Thus, Paul writes, “I (the old “I” trying to earn right-standing with God) have been crucified with Christ and I (the old “I) no longer live.  Christ’s death for me was also my death (to justification by obedience) with him.  So “I” no longer live.  Now here comes the great miracle . . .

” . . . but Christ lives in me.”  Wait!  Stop!  Think!  How can the incarnate Christ, who ascended bodily to reign from heaven, live in me?  It’s not the incarnate Christ but the Spirit of Christ, the Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit who indwells me.  All are one in the same.  In Romans 8:9, Paul writes . . .

Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ,
does not belong to Christ.

In other words, the internal mark of a Christ-belonger is the Spirit of Christ.  A person who belongs to Christ through faith in him, has the Spirit of Christ.  ” . . . Christ (the Spirit of Christ) lives in me.”  It’s the Spirit of Christ who enables faith in Christ.  It’s the Spirit of Christ who sanctifies.  It’s the Spirit of Christ who bears fruit.  It’s the Spirit of Christ who gives gifts.  The Spirit of Christ is Christ in the person of the Holy Spirit.

Therefore, we live the Christian life by faith in Christ, like a little child trusting the One who loved us and showed it by giving himself for us.  This is the gospel of God’s grace.  Trying to religiously work for righteousness is anti-grace and an arrogant implication that Christ died for nothing.

For some of us, the miracle of “Dead and Alive (Jesus and Me)” blows right over our head.  We don’t ponder it deeply, so Galatians 2:20 becomes little more than an empty religious chant.  For others, the miracle is too familiar.  We’ve known it since childhood when we “asked Jesus into our heart.”  No longer do we stand in awe of the wonder.  Christ lives in me!

Above is a video.
A simple song to sing.
Scripture-words to ponder.
An affirmation of faith to repeat.
An offering of praise to make.
To the Christ who died for us
that he might live in us
and transform us
from one degree of his glory to another.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Search and Rescue

O PreacherJesus was no Dalai Lama enthroned on a high Tibet mountain waiting for seekers.  Nor did he hold to the philosophy, “If you build it, they will come.”  Jesus gave us his strategy:  ” . . . the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost” (Luke 19:10).

In the Book of Acts, author Luke reports how the Holy Spirit carried on Jesus’ mission through the church.  We see it again in the newly-planted church at Antioch . . .

In the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off (Acts 13:1-3).

Probably the Holy Spirit spoke through the gift of prophecy while these leaders were open and sensitive to him during worship and fasting.  His message was clear.  Barnabas and Saul were to be set apart for a specially-called mission—as we’ll see, a search and rescue mission similar to Jesus’.  The other leaders designated them as church representatives and sent them off.  This mission would eventually reach Rome itself, the heart of the Empire—and perhaps even Spain on the eastern Atlantic.

Barnabas and Saul left from Antioch’s port city, Seleucia, headed for Cyprus.  The island, the Mediterranean’s third largest, lay 275 miles to the west.

The two of them, sent on their way by the Holy Spirit, went down to Seleucia and sailed from there to Cyprus. When they arrived at Salamis, they proclaimed the word of God in the Jewish synagogues. John was with them as their helper.  They traveled through the whole island until they came to Paphos (Acts 13:4-6a).

Their search and rescue mission took them from the port of Salamis on the east to the western-most city of Paphos.  As was to become Paul’s practice, they preached Jesus as Messiah in the Jewish synagogues along the way.  John Mark, Barnabas’ cousin, accompanied them.  It’s been speculated that his “help” was perhaps to pass along his eyewitness report of Jesus’ suffering and death.  When they arrived at Paphos, things got a bit exciting.

There they met a Jewish sorcerer and false prophet named Bar-Jesus,  who was an attendant of the proconsul, Sergius Paulus. The proconsul, an intelligent man, sent for Barnabas and Saul because he wanted to hear the word of God.  But Elymas the sorcerer (for that is what his name means) opposed them and tried to turn the proconsul from the faith.  Then Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked straight at Elymas and said,  “You are a child of the devil and an enemy of everything that is right! You are full of all kinds of deceit and trickery. Will you never stop perverting the right ways of the Lord?  Now the hand of the Lord is against you. You are going to be blind, and for a time you will be unable to see the light of the sun.” Immediately mist and darkness came over him, and he groped about, seeking someone to lead him by the hand.  When the proconsul saw what had happened, he believed, for he was amazed at the teaching about the Lord (Acts 13:6b-12).

Both Salamis and Paphos were flourishing centers for commerce and the worship of the pagan goddess called “the Paphian”.  For more than 50 years, Rome had ruled Cyprus through the administration of a proconsul, the current being Sergius Paulus.

That he calls for Barnabas and Saul “to hear the word of God” is quite extraordinary.  He’s “an intelligent man” wielding significant power.  Barnabas and Saul are nobodies without authority or political prestige.  If one didn’t know better, he might think the Holy Spirit had already been at work!

But so is the devil.  Elymas the magician, a member of the proconsul’s court,  sees Sergius Paulus starting to accept the missionaries’ message and tries to divert him.  Paul will not allow it.  Led by the Holy Spirit, he confronts the magician, calls him some non-politically correct names and curses him with temporary blindness.  While poor Elymas fumbles around for someone to take his hand and get him out of there, the proconsul believes the amazing teaching about the Lord.

We’re not told anything about the results of the missionaries preaching anywhere on Cyprus, except at Paphos.  As far as Luke’s account shows, no one believed, though seeds may have been planted.  But as far as I can tell, there was one Gentile proconsul on the far western end of Cyprus, 275 miles away from Antioch, the Holy Spirit apparently had searched out and begun working in.  When he hears two “nobody” Jewish preachers are in town telling about Jesus, he calls them in.  And the Holy Spirit uses a Jewish spiritual con-man’s opposition attempts to confirm the Gospel and the proconsul believes.  If I’m getting this right, this was a Spirit-directed search and rescue mission for one man.

If you are a Jesus faith-follower like me, that means at some point in our lives the Holy Spirit went on a search and rescue mission for you and for me.  In our case, we’re the “nobodies.”  Yet the eternal God of the universe, not only sent his Son to the cross, he sent someone with the Gospel through whom he searched for and rescued us.

We would do well to sit quietly and ponder that wonder, then worship him—not only singing praise to him with our words but serving him with our lives.

 

 

 

 

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Visions?

P.AllanHe was wide awake.  Yet it was dream-like.  But real.  Three o’clock in the afternoon Cornelius saw an angel.  Terror gripped him, but he couldn’t look away.  He heard himself stammering:  “What is it, Lord?”

The angel announced:  “Your prayers and gifts to the poor have not gone unnoticed by God!  Now send some men down to Joppa to find a man named Simon Peter.  He is staying with Simon, a leather worker who lives near the shore.  Ask him to come and visit you.”

Then the angel was gone. Cornelius was alone again.  He was more used to giving orders than taking them.  He commanded 100 Roman soldiers.  His unit was part of the Italian Regiment (the Cohores II Miliaria Italica Civium Romanorum).  Centurions like him were the backbone of the Roman army,  natural leaders, men who would hold their ground when being beaten and hard pressed, ready, if necessary, to die at their posts.

He was also a Gentile worshiper of the God of the Jewish Scriptures.  He kept their ethical code, attended synagogue,  and observed the Sabbath.  However, he wouldn’t become a Jewish proselyte.  Therefore, Jews counted him a ritually unclean Gentile.

Despite the strangeness of the angel-experience, Cornelius chose to believe and obey.  Calling two personally-close household servants and a faithful soldier, he confided everything that had happened and sent them  on the thirty mile trip to Joppa.  He wondered what might come of it.

* * * * *

After the raising of Tabitha from the dead, Peter remained in Joppa at Simon the leather maker’s home.  The day after Cornelius’ vision, his servants neared the city.  Meanwhile, at Simon’s house,  Peter tramped up the outside stairway to the flat roof.  The Mediterranean breezes and awning would help cool him during noon prayers.

As he prayed he could hear a meal being prepared downstairs.  The aroma wafted on the breeze and his stomach growled.   A movement in the heavens caught his eye.  He was awake.  It was real.  But like  a dream.  The heavens opened and a great sheet, like a ship’s sail, was being let down by its corners.  He could see inside it now—animals and reptiles and birds of all kinds.  A voice came to him:  “Peter, get up, kill and eat!”

He refused.  He’d never eaten anything the Jewish food laws called common or unclean.  But the voice spoke again, more insistent:  “What God has made clean, don’t call common!”  Three times the scene repeated.  Then slowly the sheet-sail ascended to heaven.

Peter rubbed his eyes.  What did it mean?  He was perplexed.  At that moment Cornelius’ messengers stood at the front gate calling for a Peter who might be staying at the house.  On the roof, the Spirit spoke:  “Peter, three men are looking for you.  Get up and go down and go with them right away.  I have sent them.”

Peter lumbered down the outside stairway.  “I am Peter.  Why have you come?”  The messengers explained,  “We were sent by Cornelius, a Roman officer. He is a devout man who fears the God of Israel and is well respected by all the Jews. A holy angel instructed him to send for you so you can go to his house and give him a message.”   Peter invited them in to be his guests.

* * * * *

The next morning they all set out for Cornelius’ home in  Caesarea, accompanied by some of the believers from Joppa.  When they arrived the following day, they found Cornelius had invited relatives and close friends.  Peter entered the house and Cornelius bowed down to worship him.  But Peter rebuked him saying, “I am just a man.”

Peter knew he was on unlawful Gentile ground.  “But God has shown me, he said, that I should not call any person common or unclean.  That’s why I came.  Now tell me, why did you send for me?”

Cornelius explained his angel-appearance.  “So I sent for you at once, and it was good of you to come. Now here we are, waiting before God to hear the message the Lord has given you.”  (all the above from Acts 10:1-33)

* * * * *

Happenings like this provoke unbelievers to deny the Bible.  Visions?  Of an angel to Cornelius?  Of an animal smorgasbord to Peter?  Surely if God wanted two men to meet, he could have found a more normal means!  Maybe so.  But my point here is to comment on visions.

Why dismiss them as weird?  Since God can create out of nothing, open the Red Sea, speak to humans, and so on, why is it weird for his angels to take God’s message to men?  Admittedly, a sail holding a zoo is a little “out there”, but it obviously got Peter’s attention.

If we begrudgingly believe visions might have been real then, what about today

In his book, “Killing Christians”,  Tom Doyle tells eight thrilling stories of Muslims becoming Christians and the sufferings they endured.  One tells of a woman on foot with her two children fleeing war in Syria.  At one point along the way they are befriended in Amman, Jordan by a Muslim Christian woman who gives them an apartment to temporarily shelter in.  It had been a dangerous, frightening journey.

One morning Dori’s daughter Hania says, “Mother, I had a dream that lasted almost all night.  A man in a white robe told me that we are safe now, and He would take care of us.  He said His name was Jesus.”

Dori asks if the man in the dream said anything else.  “It was something very strange.
He told me that He loves me.  And, Mother, somehow I know that He does!  I could see it
in His eyes.  And it wasn’t just a dream.”

A shiver goes up Dori’s back.  “Sweetheart, I had the same dream!”

Being Muslims, the family believed that Jesus the prophet had appeared to them.
Through the witness of another Muslim-turned-Christian, the family gradually
came to believe who Jesus really is and gave their lives to him.

Events like these don’t appear in the news, so most of us are completely unaware of what God is doing “beneath the radar”.  Consequently, unbelievers dismiss as crazy talk of God intervening by dreams and visions into the world’s darkest, most violent places.  If God’s to be anywhere, let’s keep him  inside the church building!  But God isn’t subject to our small-minded, unbelieving attempts to box him in and shut him up.  In fact, these are the very days we are to expect such wonders . . .

“And in the last days,” God declares,
I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams;
even on my male servants and female servants
in those days I will pout out my Spirit and they shall prophecy.
And I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below,
blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke;
the sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood,
before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day.
And it shall come to pass
that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord
shall be saved.”
(Acts 2:17-21)

Be encouraged, Christian!  God is at work in the world—
in ways that are beneath-the-radar extraordinary!

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Is Jesus Back?

O PreacherSeemed like Jesus was back in Judea, even though at least five years had passed since his death.

Jesus heals the Paralytic Aeneas (Acts 9:32-35).

As Peter traveled about the country, he went to visit the saints in Lydda.    There he found a man named Aeneas, a paralytic who had been bedridden for eight years.  “Aeneas,” Peter said to him, “Jesus Christ heals you.   Get                   
up and take care of your mat.” Immediately Aeneas got up.  All those who lived in Lydda and Sharon saw him and turned to the Lord  (Acts 9:32-35).

We last saw Peter preaching  the Gospel in Samaria (9:25).  He’s now traveled south to a town called Lydda in Judea.  The “saints” he visits are believers in Jesus having been converted either at Pentecost (Acts 2:1-41) or from Philip’s preaching in that area (Acts 8:40).

The miracle here is quite similar to author Luke’s account of Jesus healing a paralytic in Capernaum.  The paralytic’s  friends had lowered him through the roof into a crowded house.  When Jesus told him his sins were forgiven, the Pharisees silently condemned him for blaspheming.  To prove he had authority to forgive sins, Jesus said to the paralytic, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.”  When he did, “Everyone was amazed and gave praise to God.  They were filled with awe and said, ‘We have seen remarkable things today'” (Luke 5:18-26).

Here are similarities.  Both the paralytic in Luke 5 and Aeneas in Acts 9 suffered the same ailment.  Both immediately got up when spoken to.  Both had a mat to pick up.  In Luke 5 the people were “amazed and gave praise to God.”  In Acts 9 they “turned to the Lord.”  And in both cases Jesus did the healing.  In Luke 5, Jesus did it in person.  In Acts 9 Jesus did it through Peter.  Peter said to Aeneas, “Jesus Christ heals you.”  Anyone who had known of Jesus’ healing the paralytic in Capernaum would have been reminded of that at Aeneas’ healing in Lydda.  Seemed like Jesus was back in Judea.

Jesus Raises the Dead Woman Tabitha (Acts 9:36-43).

 In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (which, when translated, is Dorcas), who was always doing good and helping the poor. About that time she became sick and died, and her body was washed and placed in an upstairs room.  Lydda was near Joppa; so when the disciples heard that Peter was in Lydda, they sent two men to him and urged him, “Please come at once!”  Peter went with them, and when he arrived he was taken upstairs to the room. All the widows stood around him, crying and showing him the robes and other clothing that Dorcas had made while she was still with them.  Peter sent them all out of the room; then he got down on his knees and prayed. Turning toward the dead woman, he said, “Tabitha, get up.” She opened her eyes, and seeing Peter she sat up.  He took her by the hand and helped her to her feet. Then he called the believers and the widows and presented her to them alive.  This became known all over Joppa, and many people believed in the Lord.  Peter stayed in Joppa for some time with a tanner named Simon (Acts 9:36-43).

Joppa lay about 11 miles northwest of Lydda.  Close enough to be considered near, yet far enough in time for Tabitha to have truly died.  We don’t know what the disciples (a term author Luke typically uses of believers in Jesus) expected Peter to do; but Peter immediately knew what he would do.  This is the only account of an apostle raising someone from the dead.

This miracle is much like Mark’s account of Jesus raising Jairus’ daughter from the dead . . .

When they (Jesus, Peter, James and John) came to the home of the synagogue ruler, Jesus saw a commotion, with people crying and wailing loudly.  He went in and said to them, “Why all this commotion and wailing? The child is not dead but asleep.”  But they laughed at him. After he put them all out, he took the child’s father and mother and the disciples who were with him, and went in where the child was.  He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum!” (which means, “Little girl, I say to you, get up!”).  Immediately the girl stood up and walked around (she was twelve years old). At this they were completely astonished.  He gave strict orders not to let anyone know about this, and told them to give her something to eat (Mark 5:38-43)..

Note the similarities.  In both cases people were crying and wailing at the death.  In both cases the crowd was removed from the dead person’s room.  In both cases the dead person was directly addressed with virtually the same words:  “Tabitha, get up” (Acts 9:40) and “Little girl, I say to you, get up!” (Mark 5:41).  In both cases the dead person got up.  Not surprisingly, reactions were similar.  In the case of Jairus’ daughter, “they were completely astonished” (Mark 5:42).  And in Tabitha’s case, “This became known all over Joppa, and many people believed in the Lord” (Acts 9:43).  Anyone present at both miracles might very well have thought Jesus was back in Judea.

Jesus Still Doing (Acts 1:1).

I’ve noted this before, but it bears repeating.  Author Luke opened Acts with these words:  “In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach . . . ”

” . . . all that Jesus began to do and to teach . . . ”  Luke declares that his Gospel writing was the record of what Jesus began to do and teach.  And by those words Luke implies that his Acts’ writing is the record of what Jesus continued to do and teach.  This is Trinitarian theology.  The Spirit of the Risen Christ—God the Holy Spirit—was continuing in Acts what Christ had begun in the Gospel.

That leads to this question:  Is Jesus still doing today? 

In his book Miracles, Eric Metaxas tells story after story of miracles today.  One short one is about his own grandmother . . .

I remember my own grandmother telling me how she had prayed for her own leg, which was hurting, and “felt a sizzling” and was instantly healed.  This was in the 1970s.  My mother was at work and my grandmother was taking care of my brother and me over summer vacation.  She told me that she spoke to God, saying, “I can’t take care of these children today unless you heal me,” and as she was talking to God . . . she felt a warmth in her leg and it was healed, just like that.

I’ve also come across a lengthy “Christianity Today” article from 2012.  There’s probably at least one thing in this that many people will question or outright dismiss as being “too charismatic.”  But, since “Christianity Today” is a middle-of-the-theological-read magazine and since the couple involved seem genuinely sacrificial givers for Christ’s sake, I came away believing the miracles are real.  You can read it here . . .

http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2012/may/miracles-in-mozambique.html\
Miracles in Mozambique: How Mama Heidi Reaches the AbandonedIs Jesus “back”?
If so, we have reason to hope for signs and wonders
that will glorify him and fill us with great joy!

 

 

 

 

 

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