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Jesus and the The Racist

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Matthew 4:18-20
18 As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 19 “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” 20 At once they left their nets and followed him.


I have often referred to Peter as the smelly, uneducated, foul-mouthed, racists that Jesus called to be his disciple.  Peter was the oldest disciple according to most scholars.  We know from Scripture that he probably wasn’t the best educated guy (Acts 4:13), that he was prone to swear when he lied  (Matthew 23:74), and he could get violent when he was angry about something (John 18:10).  All those things are fairly easy for Christians to see God delivering from the heart of a man or woman; and Peter is our example of this.

But what about Peter the racist?  Take all of those attributes above and add racist to his resume and you have the formula for Jewish supremacy.  You read it right.  See, before there was white supremacy issues there was a tendency among Jews toward racial supremacy.  (And this is not in anyway anti-Semitic and anyone who reads it as such lacks both wisdom and clear judgement.  My Savior is a Jew and so is one of my favorite theologians, Paul. So, don’t go there.  It is ignorant.)  Simon, his birth name, was raised in a Jewish culture that was living under the thumb of Roman rule.  There was this deep longing in the Jewish community for someone to come on the scene who would free them from the bondage of the Roman Empire, would reset the clock of the nation of Israel (yeah, they were Nationalists too), and would re-establish the throne of David.  After all, the promise of the Old Testament given in 2 Samuel 7:12-16 was that David’s throne would last forever.  These ‘others’ were referred to as Gentiles (goy in Hebrew).  Interestingly this word became synonymous with calling people heathens, people outside of faith in God.  The very word was segregating and separating.  If I may use some editorial liberty here, I think it wouldn’t be a stretch to view it as the “N” word of its day.  At the very least if was not considered a complement when applied by Jews to those outside of Judaism.

And then there are the Samaritans.  They may be even worse than Gentiles in the Jewish culture that Simon was growing up in.  Samaritans were those half-breads. Those mestizos. You know, sort of Middle Eastern molatosEven reading terms like that invokes feelings of anger in folks.  As they should.  But in the Jewish community of Simon the term Samaritan carried a similar disdain.  And why were they hated so much?  Well, for one they weren’t pure.  I mean, they were at the most half-Jews who were mixed with people believed to have come from what is modern day Iraq.  Plus, there Jewish ties were in question.  I mean, you had to go way back to find their link to the Jews of Simon’s time.  Oh, and don’t forget, they were also laying claim to their own form of Judaism (read the story of the Woman at the Well in John 4).

Prior to the Romans there were the Greeks.  They had Hellenized many of the Jews; introducing strange philosophies that were swaying the thinking of the culture.  They did much of this through the education system, even translating the Jewish Scriptures into Greek in what is called the Septuagint.  This sect of Judaism became known as Hellenistic Jews (two cities well known for this sect of Judaism were Antioch and Alexandria.)  So strongly influential was the Greek culture on the Jews that the Latin language of the very powerful Roman Empire never even took root in the Jewish culture.  In fact, a new language was developed among many Jewish communities known as Jewish Koine Greek.

These were the circumstances into which our racist, poorly educated, foul-mouthed, common Jewish fisherman was born.  Simon was a product of his culture.  He was probably not even considered a diamond in the rough.  He was just plain rough.

Jesus apparently was ignorant of these things, right?  I mean, no real Messiah would pick this guy to be a disciple, much less a minister of the Gospel.  Jesus had to have been really culturally insensitive to pick someone of this caliber to be one of his followers.  It is no wonder that folks thought he and his disciples were losers.  Look who he was choosing to hang out with!

Interestingly enough though, I think Jesus had a slight advantage.  He, the Son of God, had the Holy Spirit on his side.  He had this prophetic edge that was able to see past the surface and see something deeper and more beautiful than most would have seen in this smelly, old fisherman.  So much so that he gives him a nickname.  In John’s Gospel we get a little more detail about the calling of Simon.

John 1:40-42
40 One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus[k] was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. 41 He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ). 42 He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John. You shall be called Cephas” (which means Peter[l]).

How awesome is it that Jesus gave Simon a nickname?  Cephas, the Aramaic word for rock.  Peter was the the Greek word petrus or Latin word petros, which could be translated as the little rock or small stone.  Immediately Jesus’ new name for Simon Peter gives a whole new prophetic insight into where Peter was headed.  You see, calling him Rocky (my paraphrase of course) can have lots of prophetic insight.  Using more editorial liberties here, I think Jesus knew he was dealing with a Rock.  You know, that hard-hearted, hard-headed old guy that is set in his ways and it would take dynamite to move him? Yeah, that guy.  The one you think has no chance of ever seeing any other point of view but his own.

Jesus doesn’t see us that way.  He sees us through a Kingdom vision that goes far beyond our prejudices, our cultural biases, our historical experiences, and even our hardened hearts.  Jesus is a man of vision and he knows that when he partners with the love of a Good and Benevolent Father and the power of the Holy Spirit he can separate the waters from the land, call light into darkness, create new and beautiful creatures, and cause things to multiply in new and marvelous ways.  So, the hardness of Peter’s heart wasn’t a challenge to Jesus, it was something to work with.

This partnership of the Trinity is what I like to term as the wooing of the Spirit. Any good romantic knows that wooing is part of the process of falling in love.  Sure, some have a lightening strike and instantly fall in love; but most have a process that eventually turns them into putty in the hands of one another.  And it is the wooing that Jesus starts with Peter that slowly melts his hardness toward his fellow human beings and makes his faith a stone foundation that he bases his decisions upon.  Let’s look at some of the wooing passages that help us see how Jesus and the Holy Spirit moved Peter from being a racist to a loving missionary to the Gentiles.

Jesus doesn’t see us that way. He sees us through a Kingdom vision that goes far beyond our prejudices, our cultural biases, our historical experiences, and even our hardened hearts.

Wooing 101

Step 1: Be Willing To Associate With A Racist

I have actually already referred to these scriptures in both Matthew and John earlier in this article.  Jesus had met Andrew through his cousin, John the Baptist.  Andrew was one of cousin John’s disciples.  Andrew likely was raised in the same household as Peter and wanted his big brother to meet this man he believed to be the Messiah.

We know from the next few verses in John 1 that Jesus was already operating in the gifts of the Spirit because he tells Nathaniel, another called disciple, that he saw him “under the fig tree.”  So, if Jesus already had this kind of prophetic insight and foreknowledge, surely he knew as soon as he saw Simon Peter who he was dealing with.   And he did!  It is for this reason he renames him, no doubt.

Jesus wasn’t afraid to associate and even converse with this racist.  He knew the hardness of Peter’s heart toward the Samaritans and the Gentiles, yet he not only talked with him, but he associated with him.  He dined with him, he fished with him, he hung out with him, and he eventually went into ministry with him.  Yep, he went into ministry with a racist.  Let that sink in for just a moment
Step 2: Be Willing To Work With a Racist

Jesus not only brought Peter into his ministry, but he worked with Peter.  He discipled Peter as any other of the disciples.  In fact, I think it may be arguable that Peter was probably one of the more vocal, attentive, and inquisitive disciples.

Peter, like others of his caliber, suffered from what I like to call foot-in-mouth disease.  He was always stating the obvious, asking the obvious, but ever willing to learn from both his mistakes and his accomplishments.  And Jesus didn’t waist one solitary moment of his discipleship time with Peter.

For instance, it was Peter who in one chapter went from being the star pupil and getting the question right, to being slammed hard by Jesus for saying the wrong thing.

Matthew 16:13-23

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock[b] I will build my church, and the gates of hell[c] shall not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed[d] in heaven.” 20 Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ.

But the story continues…

21 From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. 22 And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord![e] This shall never happen to you.” 23 But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance[f] to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”

Wait, did he just call Peter blessed and Satan in what appears to be the exact same day?  Yep.  He did.

You see, working with someone’s imperfections, including their racism, means seeing what God sees in them and being willing to build enough relationship with them that you can challenge them when they are not setting their minds on the things of God.  That is called the work of Grace.  Grace demands we give people what they do not deserve.  Grace demands that we see beyond the barriers of sin in their lives and call out the good that God has deposited in them.  Grace demands that we observe our own hearts when we are offended by their ignorance or prejudice.  Grace is scandalous and supernatural.  We have to invite the Holy Spirit into us regularly in order to render such Grace to racists; for they either intentionally or unintentionally do the work of Satan.

Grace is scandalous and supernatural.  We have to invite the Holy Spirit into us regularly in order to render such Grace to racists; for they either intentionally or unintentionally do the work of Satan.

Step 3: Be Willing to Confront a Racist

First and foremost, before I even dive into this third step, let me warn you that spiritual confrontation is based in love for the person you are confronting and not anger, rage, disgust, or hate.  If those are the motivators, you have to deal with the spirit of Satan in your own heart, or, as Jesus said, the log in your own eye.

With that said, as you develop a relationship with a racist (and this may be impossible in some cases, but not as much as some may think) don’t be afraid to move toward and actually step into confronting their racism.  As a warning, don’t try to just argue them into submission.  I once read an amazing book in seminary called Dialogical Apologetics.  This book changed the way I approach the ‘others’ in my life.  The gist of the book is that when we are talking with others about our faith it is important for there to be a dialogue and not a monologue.  Taking time to understand where they are coming from, even if it is based in ignorance, will greatly improve your relationship with them and your approach to be a part of the wooing process of God in their lives.  Too often this is the relational divide that becomes the very barrier which never allows us to confront them.  In fact, it is actually easier to just walk away.  And for many this is the easy road.

Christians, generally speaking, do not get that luxury.  We are called to be relational; it is a part of the Great Commission.  You know, that whole “go and make disciples of every nation (which means race, by the way).  But if you are going to accept this challenge, you have to do it with the right heart (refer to paragraph one  of Step 3 again.)

I love the passage where Jesus directly confronts the racism and prejudice of the Jews.  It is recorded in both Matthew 15 and Mark 7, but here we will only look at Mark’s account.  Brace yourself!

Mark 7:24-30

24 And from there he arose and went away to the region of Tyre and Sidon.[g] And he entered a house and did not want anyone to know, yet he could not be hidden. 25 But immediately a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit heard of him and came and fell down at his feet. 26 Now the woman was a Gentile, a Syrophoenician by birth. And she begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. 27 And he said to her, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” 28 But she answered him, “Yes, Lord; yet even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” 29 And he said to her, “For this statement you may go your way; the demon has left your daughter.” 30 And she went home and found the child lying in bed and the demon gone.

Wait, did Jesus just call that Gentile woman a dog! Yeah. he did.  But why?  Because he knew Simon Peter’s heart.  He knew the experiences and culture of all the disciples sitting at the table.  It was his culture as well.  He knew there was this national pride and racial supremacy that had become the idols of the hearts of the Jews.  And he was willing to use reverse psychology and the great faith of this broken and hurting Gentile woman to lay an ax to the root of racism and prejudice in his disciples hearts.  He loved them enough.   He didn’t just get up and walk away from these bigots to help this broken woman.  He used a teaching moment and some rather harsh words to confront them where they were.  He confronted  their sexism, their racism, and their religious separatism all in one fail swoop.  Oh, how it must have cut.

Matthew caught another part of the story that Mark had left out. Jesus expresses with excitement apparently,  “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.”  There it is.  Right there.  He acknowledges her womanhood, her faith in God, and grants a Gentile what they wanted from the Messiah!  That is my Jesus!  And he did it all while discipling a racist named Simon Peter.  And that is my Jesus, too!  He isn’t the either/or Jesus; he is the both/and Jesus.

He isn’t the either/or Jesus; he is the both/and Jesus.

Step 4: Be Willing to Be Betrayed by a Racist

Racist will often have too faces.  The face they show others and the face they show their racists friends.  And this one cuts across the board.  I mean, sometimes people are just consistently racists and don’t care who knows.  But I would dare to say that most of us are passive-aggressive racists.  And I say us because I think this kind of racism is the most subtle and widespread.

These particular people get in what they consider to be a comfortable environment and they let their hair down a bit.  The subtle racial and prejudice slurs come out in their private conversations.  And when you find out about it you feel betrayed.  Just like Jesus probably felt about Simon Peter’s betrayal of him during his trial.

Jesus wasn’t caught off guard though.  No way.  His prayer life and his desire to see Simon truly become Peter prepared both him and Peter for what was coming.

Luke 22

31 “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you,[d] that he might sift you like wheat, 32 but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” 33 Peter[e] said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death.” 34 Jesus[f] said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day, until you deny three times that you know me.”

What amazes me about this story is that Jesus calls him by his birth name two times in a row.  i don’t know about you, but when I hear my name called like that I usually know there is trouble and I am in it.  My guess is Peter felt the same.  Jesus keeps whacking at the roots of Peter’s heart though.  He tells him outright that Satan is at work, he wants to sift Peter like wheat.  Sifting in the Bible always refers to separating.  Jesus lets Peter in on Satan’s plot to separate them.  Jesus has an ace up Peter’s own sleeve though and he reveals it to him.

Basically, Jesus tells Peter two important things in this short passage: your going to betray me and I have been praying for your faith to not fail.  Did you catch that?  That is the ace!  You are going to mess up Peter.  You are going to betray me, but I am asking and believing that your faith will not fail.  Jesus then refers to him in his prophetically given name again; giving him exact instructions on how this is going to go down.  No doubt this intimate moment came back to Peter many times throughout his life and he remembered his vulnerability to revert back to his old self, the Simon in him, but that Jesus never stopped believing for him and never stopped believing in him.  Nothing was going to separate Jesus from Peter, no matter what.  Not even the work of Satan himself.

Are we willing to enter into relationship with racists like this?  Are we willing to set ourselves up to be betrayed by them and still keep them as friends and people we are willing to pray for?  This isn’t easy.  It is the battle against our instincts.  You know, those God-given instincts of fight or flight.  This is where the natural ends and the supernatural begins.  This is a God-given strength that gets us through to the other side.

Step 5: Be Willing to Correct Their Anger and Violence

Racists have these tendencies.  Anger and violence lurk right below the surface.  To be clear, this isn’t just a racist issue.  This is a human issue.  In my career as a counselor I have seen some pretty angry and violent people.  But there is something about those who are racists that ticks people off.  What is that something?  The fact that they base their anger and violence off of people’s ethnicity, religion, and culture is what makes it so very difficult to look past.

Somehow, Jesus was able to take a violent moment by Peter and turn it into a teaching moment that allowed him to move forward into a greater destiny than his present.  Jesus, being betrayed by Judas in the garden is approached by these religious leaders, their servants, and a band of soldiers (maybe Roman Gentiles?).  Here they are taking away Peter’s new best friend.  And for what?  No justified reasons.

So, Peter took out the sword that Jesus had told him to buy and attacks one of the servants named Malchus, cutting off his ear.  My guess is Peter wasn’t aiming for his ear, but was intent on killing this man.  And remember what you read above, he had sworn to Jesus that he was willing to go to jail or even die for him.  This was his chance to prove it and he could do it by killing one of his enemies

How does Jesus respond to Peter’s anger and violence?  Luke 22 records that Jesus simply said, “Enough of this!”  John gives us a little more insight in his Gospel.  In John 18:11, Jesus says to Peter, “Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?”  In that quick moment he reminds Peter of when he had rebuked him before and called him Satan for trying to hinder him from his destiny to die for mankind.

Before you get to cozy with Peter’s responses to Jesus’ wooing, remember that Peter was a racist.  He only wanted to protect what was rightfully his to protect.  This isn’t uncommon to the racists you will meet today.  They sincerely believe that they are doing what is “right.”  There is no justification for their train of thought, but neither was there for Peter’s.  In fact the writer took time to name Peter’s victim.  Why?  Because Jesus cared enough for Malchus that he reached out and immediately healed and restored his ear.

Simultaneously, he cared enough about Peter to teach him about another area of his heart.  He immediately destroyed any will power that Peter had to invoke violence against his perceived enemies.  I mean, why didn’t he hit Judas?  It was Peter’s issues with the ‘others’ that manifested itself here.  Jesus saw it for what it was and he reset everything for Peter in that moment…again.  Grace. Grace. Grace.  It never gets old with God.

Grace. Grace. Grace.  It never gets old with God.

As we are approaching racists and those with deep seeded prejudices, we have to remind ourselves that their tendencies toward anger and violence are often looming right below the surface.  At the same time we also have to remind ourselves that God still sees value in them, just as Jesus did in Peter

Oh, and I know what you are thinking.  Jesus healed the guy.  Well, I do believe we have the same abilities, but that is for a different article altogether.  What we do have is the ability to heal the hearts of friends, victims, and communities shaken by violence of any kind.  We, the body of Christ, have a supernatural God on our sides that we can offer to those who are victims of violence and anger.  We are a reconciling community!

That same healing also has to be extended to those who cause violence.  They, like Peter, have hope.  They, like Peter, have Jesus on their side.  Not on the side of their twisted prejudices, but on the side of their eternal souls.  We are the catalysts to extend such kindness, conviction, forgiveness, and, yes, love to these broken and twisted individuals.  That is the “why”, but the “how” is something we have to work through with the guidance of the Word, the Spirit, and the counsel of community.

As a side note for complete clarity, do not just fluff of criminal activity.  Any form of violence or physical threat is criminal in nature and should not be overlooked.  Incorporate any legal means necessary to keep yourself and others safe.  But, when the dust settles, be willing to always have forgiveness in your heart.  Justice and mercy need not always be separated.  After all, they are both a part of the character of God.

Step 6: Be Willing to Offer Forgiveness

As I briefly mentioned above, we can offer loving forgiveness.  Even though Peter denied Jesus three times just as the Messiah had predicted, forgiveness was always on the table; and it should always be on our table as well.  Racists do hideous things.  You name it and it is there.  Sometimes these things are criminal and violent in nature and require legal actions, much like the cutting off of Malchus’ ear.

Jesus is our model in all things.  Especially in the area of forgiveness.  We have to ask ourselves up front, is there anything that Jesus didn’t die for? Anything?  Is there anyone that he cannot forgive? Anyone?  If the answer is yes, then this conversation is over and we just have to move on.  But if the answer is no, then there is hope, even for the racists.

Apparently this is the posture that Jesus took as well.  A posture of hope.  The disciples had been devastated at the horrific death of Jesus.  But no one could have been as devastated as Simon Peter.  He had done exactly what Jesus had told him he would do, even after he swore his life and freedom to Jesus.  But Jesus was precise in how he dealt with Peter.  Three times Peter had denied him, and three times Jesus asks Peter the ultimate question: “Do you love me?”  Look at this exchange.

John 21

15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16 He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. 18 Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” 19 (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.”

Interestingly, Jesus uses his old name in this exchange, the name his parents gave him.  It is as if he is giving Peter a chance to identify himself anew with Jesus and his Kingdom.  He is extending to Simon Peter forgiveness, but at the same time is calling him into a deeper allegiance.  Notice that not once does Jesus bring up his sin, he betrayal, his shame.  It wasn’t about returning evil with evil.  It was about exchanging darkness for light, guilt for acceptance, shame for relationship.  When he says, “Do you love me?” that third time and we see a hint in the writing of John that Peter felt it to his core.  “Peter was grieved…”  He felt it deep inside of him, in his spirit-man where it all really matters anyway.  He felt the wooing of Jesus to a life of deep commitment.  And he responds as someone who knows that all of his fears, prejudices, character flaws, and all of his internal ugliness is completely exposed, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.”

What an important revelation for us all.  None of us knows the deep recesses of the hearts of racists.  We only know the outward, fear and anger-filled shell.  But the wooing of God can bring anyone, and I mean anyone, to a place of giving up on self and acknowledging, “Jesus, you know everything about me and yet you love me.  Now I am willing to truly and deeply love you.”

The wooing of God can bring anyone, and I mean anyone, to a place of giving up on self and acknowledging, ‘Jesus, you know everything about me and yet you love me.  Now I am willing to truly and deeply love you.”

Step 7: Be Willing to See What Jesus Sees

Lest we miss something really important in this exchange in John 21, we must realize that Jesus was not just forgiving Peter, he was calling this man to do ministry; a man who still had a root of racism and prejudice in his heart, .  I always find it amazing that Jesus called Peter, of all people, to be a disciple.  Peter was just a common, poorly educated, smelly, bigoted, foul-mouthed fisherman and Jesus called him into ministry.  “Tend my sheep, Peter.”  “Feed my sheep, Peter.”

You see, Jesus sees something in Peter that know one else would have ever recognized.  He sees the Imagio Dei, the image of God.  Beyond the flaws and ignorance, he sees a miracle waiting to happen.  Jesus has on his Kingdom glasses; that supernatural ability to look at the brokenness of someone and see what their true identity was intended to be.

Jesus has on his Kingdom glasses; that supernatural ability to look at the brokenness of someone and see what their true identity was intended to be.

Some Final Thoughts

As I leave you with all of this to contemplate I want to challenge you for just a moment with one last picture of Peter.  Before Jesus had the conversation with Peter where he calls him to a lifelong commitment that would end in Peter’s death as a Gentile missionary, we see a beautiful picture of Peter’s changing heart.

Peter told a few of the disciples that he was going fishing and several of them volunteered to go with him.  They caught no fish and were ready to head in when the resurrected Jesus, whom they did not recognize at the time, called to them to cast their nets one more time.  Suddenly a miracle took place and their nets were loaded down with fish.  John writes this in verse seven:

“That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment, for he was stripped for work, and threw himself into the sea.”

For one moment imagine the harshest racist person you know as Peter in that boat.  Imagine that the Holy Spirit has so wooed his heart through constant love, constant compassion and kindness, constant rejection of his hate with a smile, a friendly greeting, and the other cheek just one more time.  You see, it was Peter who had asked Jesus how many times we should forgive.  And it was Jesus who answered the racist with “Seventy times seven.”  It was Jesus who set the standard for loving those who are our enemies.  It was, simply put, Jesus

As we continue to navigate our way through dealing with racism, let’s determine in our hearts that somehow, through supernatural presence of the Holy Spirit, we will be able to see what Jesus saw in Simon Peter.  And that, somehow, we can reach the unreachables with the same freeing Gospel that we were reached with.  We have been given the Spirit of Reconciliation and through him we can forgive anyone for anything, even a hardened racists.  For this reason, in all situations that require a supernatural God, we continue to pray…

Come, Holy Spirit!

 

 

The Spirit Poured Out: A Messianic Promise

“And it shall come to pass afterward,
that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh;
your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
your old men shall dream dreams,
and your young men shall see visions.” Joel 2:28 (ESV)

Judaism45__512x347

So, I am preparing for my hermeneutics class that I am taking this Summer (no rest for the weary) and I ran across this fabulous article on Joel 2:28.  Interestingly the article is not in a Christian journal but written by Jewish Rabbi Mordecai Schreiber in the Jewish Bible Quarterly.

What amazed me about this article is how much insight Rabbi Schreiber shed on my beliefs as a Christian minister.  I am not saying that Christians cannot learn lots from the Jewish spiritual leaders; especially when it concerns the Old Testament.  What struck me in Rabbi Schreiber’s article was how he linked the Joel 2:28 to the story of the Messiah.  No, he wasn’t talking about Jesus.  Well, not intentionally.

He writes:

“This passage (Joel 2:28) is paraphrased in the New Testament (Acts 2:17) and the words / will pour out my spirit have become well-known and commonly used among Christians, but less so among Jews. Most traditional Jewish commentators, notably Rashi, Radak, and Metzudot, relegate them to the messianic era and offer vague explanations as to what ‘pouring out My spirit’ and ‘your sons and daughters will prophesy’ mean. They base their view on the words ‘in those days,’ which they link to the words ‘the end of days,’ ergo, the messianic age.”[1]

What Rabbi Schreiber says here is profound to the Christian understanding, especially for Christians with Pentecostal roots, is how the pouring out of God’s Spirit is linked to the end of time.  And, further, Rabbi Schreiber links the end of age to the time of the Messiah’s rule.  For the Jewish mind this would be a time of peace when the Messiah has come and settled all accounts with mankind and destroyed the rule of sinfulness forever.  It would also be the reestablishment of the Jewish nation, the peace of Jerusalem, and the throne of David established forever.

As Christians when we read these claims by Rabbi Schreiber we see Jesus written all over this.  And we even wonder why he and other Jewish leaders can’t see what we see.  But what is even greater to me is that they see what we seem to have missed.  The pouring out of God’s Spirit was in fact the beginning of the Messianic age.  This is the heart of Kingdom Theology.

In Kingdom Theology Christians call this inaugurated eschatology; another way to say that in an easy way is “the beginning of the end.”  In other words, the coming of the Messiah marks the establishment of the Kingdom of God. To the Jewish mind looking at Jesus it would be hard to wrap their mind around him as the Messiah because there is no real indication of anything changing.  Let’s face it.  Since the coming of Jesus we have had horrific wars and catastrophes.  Nothing indicates in the natural a triumphant messiah with an everlasting Kingdom.

But Jesus didn’t come to establish that kind of Kingdom! At least not yet.  It is the not yet of the Kingdom that we now live in as Christians.  We live in this Messianic Age, in a time when the Spirit of God is being poured out on all flesh, every tribe and nation.  The battle that Jesus, the Messiah, came to win was not the temporal establishment of a earthly kingdom with a capitol in Jerusalem.  Instead he came to establish his eternal presence with mankind by conquering sin, death and the grave!

What this indicates for the Christian is that the Holy Spirit has been poured out in our individual lives in such a way that we get to experience the fulfillment of the Law in our hearts!  And his name is Jesus!  When we enter into relationship with the Messiah he is in fact entering into our earthen temples with his eternal presence.  We literally get to experience the now of his Kingdom by the very presence of the Holy Spirit living inside of us while simultaneously experiencing the not yet of an eternity with God in a hope for a glorious future.

So the implications of Joel 2:28 are far more extensive than just the Acts 2 account of the early church.  Instead God’s Spirit is constantly being poured out on all flesh. This Kingdom is still growing, expanding, and cannot be confined to just the walls of Jerusalem.  This Kingdom is what I experienced when I walked into a leaders’ gathering in China where I instantly felt that familiar Spirit and knew I was with family. The Kingdom is when I see an eternal peace come over someone as the approach their moment of death.  The Kingdom is what I experience when God miraculously shows up with healing for someone.  The Kingdom is not a rigid, boxed up place, but it is the place, the situation, the overwhelmingly impossible circumstances where God’s Spirit is poured out.

We move from this static view of an earthly Kingdom to one where the Spirit of God is actively moving and changing lives, communities and even nations.  Yours is the Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory, forever indicates a certain now in the middle of our not yet everyday life.  And this feeling of the now of God’s Kingdom comes as we open ourselves to the pouring out on our flesh.

So, with this we pray…

Come, Holy Spirit!

[1] Mordecai Schreiber, “‘I Will Pour out My Spirit on All Flesh’ (Joel 3:1),” Jewish Bible Quarterly 41, no. 2 (April 2013): 123–129.

When Life Gives You Lemons: Living Victorious No Matter What

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I have often said that one of the most overlooked and under taught teachings of Jesus was when he told his disciples, “In this world you will have trouble…”  Who knew?  Jesus, right there in plain text in John 16 makes this very definitive statement that life is going to give you lemons.

But this wasn’t just an isolated statement in this text.  This chapter starts with some very woeful thoughts in verses 1-4:

“I have said all these things to you to keep you from falling away. They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God. And they will do these things because they have not known the Father, nor me. But I have said these things to you, that when their hour comes you may remember that I told them to you.

Thanks a lot, Jesus!  Just imagine that your hero and leader tells you that the price of being a member of the this new covenant is being kicked out of the local fellowship of believers and even being pursued and killed.  Step back in time and put yourself in the shoes of these simple fisherman, loathed tax collector, and general band of losers and societal rejects.  And to top it off this cool guy who you have fallen into a deep bromance with (don’t read into that) tells you, “yeah, it is going to get worse for you now.”  I think Jesus may have missed his copy of Dale Carnegies’ How to Win Friends and Influence People.

Before he makes this great announcement of this life being filled with trouble Jesus makes sure that any hopes of an easy ride are thoroughly dashed.  He says in vs 33,”Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me.”  “Yeah, that’s right.  You are going to completely run away from me and hide.” (My paraphrase, of course.)

If these were the only words that Jesus left with his disciples I have no doubt I would have went back to fishing and never looked back.  I mean, this message is like getting a paper cut and squeezing lemon juice into it.  It hurts and it hurts bad.

But that isn’t the real story here.  The complete story is a Kingdom story.  If we took out all of the truths mentioned above and simply left the rest of the story people would simply have an expectation that being a Christian means no more problems in this life.

This chapter is such a wonderful example of the Kingdom of God being in a Not but Not Yet reality.  Jesus doesn’t sugar coat the Not Yet of living this side of heaven.  Instead he is brutally honest with his disciples about their future and about their ongoing personal struggles that will often have seasons of doubt and unbelief.

Sandwiched in the middle between these disappointing words is a very powerful message of hope.  Jesus assures his disciples that his leaving them will be replaced by the Holy Spirit’s presence in their lives.  And he assures them that this new replacement of physical human presence with the presence of the Holy Spirit will be better for them.

13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14 He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15 All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.

“All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he (the Holy Spirit) will take what is mine and declare it to you.”  So what does the Father have?  Perhaps a better questions is “What does the Father not have?”  Your heavenly Father is loaded!  (And I am not talking about just gold and silver just in case anyone with Prosperity Gospel leanings is reading this.)  Your heavenly Father is loaded with the power of the universe.  And he is loaded with the capability to supernaturally empower you to endure the Not Yet aspect of this side of heaven.

Wait, don’t misread or read into what I just wrote.  Don’t look at the word endure and get some kind of sick notion that God wills the troubles onto his children.  At its very core that is a sick notion.  To think that our heavenly Father has some kind of plan for us that includes the pain of cancer as his resource for working in his righteousness makes the Holy Spirit not only a weak God, but a sick person.  Which one of you would actually curse your children or loved one with a fatal and painful disease just to make them love you more?  Yeah, that feeling you just got in your gut when you thought of that means you get it.  So, don’t place that kind of sick mentality on Father God who, according to Jesus, is a better Father than any on earth.  (Just read Matthew 7:7-21 if you need some clarification.)

The enduring I am speaking of is this empowering of the Holy Spirit that helps you realize your identity in Christ Jesus as a rightful heir to the goodness of the Father.  And it it his goodness that will allow us to fight back with faithful resistance when this world system attacks the Kingdom of God, and specifically, each of us as individuals.

We will have unexpected tragedies, sicknesses, surprises and ultimately personal death to face.  These are the troubles that Jesus is speaking of here.  We are constantly being assaulted from the enemy on every side.  With each blow he tries to waiver our faith and get us to doubt the goodness of God.  However, Jesus’ promise of the empowering Holy Spirit inspires hope to each and everyone of us that in those times of troubles we can at some level be victorious.  This is why Jesus has a much more complete thought.  He says in vs 33,

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation (trouble). But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

Take heart!  In other words, dig deep and put all your faith into this!  Jesus has overcome the world!!!  What this means for us as believers is we are equal participants in being victorious with Jesus.  We have not been left out to dry in this new faith.  No matter what the attack (even sickness, disease and death) we have a victorious leader who has sent us the power of the universe in the presence, person and power of the Holy Spirit!  When he enters the situation we become joint heirs with Jesus and can join him in saying, “I have overcome the world!”  No amount of lemons that come your way this side of heaven in the Not Yet reality should result in anything less than a good, fresh glass of lemonade.  No amount of sickness, disease, tragedy, loss, or even death itself can reign victorious over you!  You are an overcomer!  And it is in these times of trouble that we get to see the goodness of God rise to the occasion and go to battle on our behalf.

Proverbs 3:5-6 reads,

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
    and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
    and he will make straight your paths.

 Invite the Holy Spirit into each and every situation you face.  Stop facing these alone.  And stop assuming the worse of your heavenly Father!  Realize his goodness and allow the Holy Spirit to come with all of his power and comfort in the midst of your trials and tribulations.  Allow the Now of the Kingdom to invade the Not Yet of your troubles.  Continually pray “your Kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” over every situation you face.  Don’t just take it laying down, but instead fight the good fight!  And always remember to pray with faith filled expectation…

Come, Holy Spirit!

 

Jesus: The Resurrection and the Life

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John 11:23-27 (ESV)

23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24 Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” 27 She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”

Easter is a time that Christians reflect on the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus.  This ever important weekend for Christians may seem strange to those who have yet to believe, but for us this is what it is all about!  But, why?

Jesus, hanging on the cross, cries out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me.”  Remember for just a brief moment who is saying this.  This is Jesus who is fully God and fully man.  As he takes on the sins of the world, both yours and mine, he feels the separation from the Father and the Holy Spirit for the very first time.

And think about this from the perspective of the Father and the Holy Spirit.  They were abandoning Jesus to “become sin.”  They were literally having a portion of who they are ripped from themselves.  The emotional pain for this triune family who had always known one another was excruciating.  Yes, this is a paradoxical moment.  God was literally beside himself, empty, and in pain.

How many of us can relate to this moment in time.  Maybe not the crucifixion, but definitely the emotions of being separated from the ones we love.  That separation can come in so many different forms.  It could be their death.  Or it could be their rejection through divorce, rebellion, or lack of forgiveness.  Or perhaps it could be someone has lost themselves through addiction, mental illness, or choices that have removed them from the person they were, from their innocence.

All these were crucified with Jesus that day.  All the pain of sin was laid on his shoulders; both the sins we committed and those done against us.. This is not to imply that we do not suffer the consequences of sinfulness this side of heaven.  It does, however, ratify what truth has become.

Jesus was not left in the grave.  Even as they removed his broken body from the cross, wrapped it in grave clothes and placed him in a tomb sealed with a stone, there was hope.  Their hopelessness hung like a cloud over their heads, and many had suppressed the memories of Jesus’ goodness as he raised his friend, Lazarus, from the grave.

However, I have to believe Lazarus, Mary and Martha had even a deeper hope that remained.  I have to believe their faith was strong as they reflected on Lazarus’ demise and the victory that Jesus brought them.  I have to believe that they were encouraging the disciples and other followers that they understood where they were; their feelings of hopelessness, rejection, pain, and anger.  The grief that overwhelms you to the point that you have no idea how to go on with life.

How easily do we as Christians lose sight of God’s goodness!  We so easily forget the goodness of the cross.  Jesus abandoned all and was abandoned for a brief moment in time, but he held to the promise of David that Peter repeated:

Acts 2:25-28

25 For David says concerning him,

“‘I saw the Lord always before me,
for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken;
26 therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced;
my flesh also will dwell in hope.
27 For you will not abandon my soul to Hades,
or let your Holy One see corruption.
28 You have made known to me the paths of life;
you will make me full of gladness with your presence.’

That last verse creates a picture for me that I believe we all must remember.  Jesus, in this state of becoming sin and being crucified for all our transgressions, says his mangled, dying flesh dwells in hope!  And he further says he is full of gladness with the presence of God.

How can he be forsaken, yet full of hope and gladness at the same time?  Because of God’s presence!  In my mind’s eye I see the Father filled with anticipation and the Holy Spirit moving all around Jesus waiting with equal anticipation to have all of this finished and to begin the new covenant of faith, hope and love with not just Jesus, the first born, but with all of us.

Did you catch that?  This all important moment was for you.  All of these mixed emotions, deep sorrowful pain and gladness were for you.  You were worth it all!

Jesus is the resurrection and the life.  The Father anticipated our arrival into his Kingdom.  The Holy Spirit surrounds us with his presence, wooing us to the heart of God. And Jesus, the life giver himself, threw the doors of his Kingdom open, inviting all who will to come.

It is this blessed hope we can hold onto in this life.  The blessed hope that fills the depths of our souls, wooing us with everlasting love, healing the pain, bringing light into the darkness, making our crooked paths straight and smooth.

The resurrection and the life rose from the dead!  He is risen!

Come, Holy Spirit!

The New You: Old Things Have Passed Away

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2 Corinthians 5:17-20 (ESV)

17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

Understanding our new identity is essential to reaching a fuller potential of the Spirit-filled life.  If one remains bogged down in the old ways they have no room for the Holy Spirit to “guide them into all truth.”  And what is truth?  According to Jesus, He is Truth.

To become more Christ-like we must embrace who we are as new creations.  We are no longer slaves to our old self or to sin or to the negative things done to us.  In Christ, we literally die to the past and get a brighter present and future.

But this is easier said than done.  When people suffer traumatic events in their lives it becomes easier to just accept their pain than actually deal with it.  Their pain eventually becomes so much of their identity that they lose sight of any hope of ever being any different.  As I have often said to family members dealing with those caught in these cycles, “No matter how irrational it may seem, it is real to them.”

In the very famous 1986 movie The Mission, Captain Rodrigo Mendoza is doing penitence for murdering his brother in a fit of jealous rage.  In addition, Rodrigo is a soldier who has hunted, captured and killed indigenous people of the jungles of Uruguay, selling them into slavery. In one scene Rodrigo is carrying by a rope on his back the net with which he captured the natives.  Inside the net are all of his weapons and heavy armor.  Rodrigo is struggling up the side of a waterfall with all of this burden.  Father Fielding can no longer take the pain and suffering that Rodrigo is under and cuts the rope, allowing all of the cargo to fall behind him.  Rodrigo looks at him in disgust and heads back down the steep hill to gather his belongings.  The frustrated priest turns to Father Gabriel and pleas with him for this to end.  The wise priest explains that Rodrigo is not ready to let go!

Letting go of pain, guilt and shame is an impossible task to do for someone.  It is also an impossible task to do for one’s self.  I am often disturbed when I hear people say, “Just forgive yourself.”  Asking people to do the impossible is…well, impossible.  We can never truly pardon our own conscious.  If this task were true then we would really have no need for God.

But as believers we are encouraged to identify with Christ.  Look at vs. 18 in the passage again.  All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself.”  Did you catch that?  It is all from God through Christ!

You and I were never meant to carry the burdens of our past.  We were meant to release them onto Jesus.  In fact, to continue carrying our old identity is rooted in a self-loathing pride that says “Jesus, thank you, but you just weren’t enough.”  Sure, you may not actually say that, but “actions do speak louder than words.”

“Okay.  So how do I change?”

I am glad you asked.

John 16:13-15 (ESV)

13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14 He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15 All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.

We were never meant to do this alone.  Anything that we face from our past we are instructed here that the Holy Spirit will guide us into all truth.  The truth is not necessarily understanding our past though.  In fact, I think the truth will more than likely be about our present and future.  The truth will most likely be helping us to better understand the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.  When we truly understand the cost of Jesus’ death on the cross we can then begin to see ourselves as the redeemed.  Jesus didn’t die to almost forgive you.  He died to completely forgive you.  Jesus didn’t die to almost redeem you from the pain of your past.  He suffered on the cross for the “chastisement of our peace.” In fact, Isaiah prophesied that Jesus paid for it all!

Isaiah 53:5 (ESV)

But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed.

Ask yourself a serious question right now.  How much did Jesus not cover for me?  Be completely honest about your feelings with him.  Now invite the Holy Spirit into those areas of the darkness of your soul.  John 1:5 gives us great hope.  “The Light shines in the darkness and the darkness does not overcome it.”  Catch that.  When we invite the Holy Spirit to shine the light of Jesus’ sacrifice into the dark places of our souls he will be victorious no matter how dark it seems. We simply need to give him the invitation.

Come, Holy Spirit!

(Here is a clip of the scene directly after the one I mentioned above.  I highly recommend this wonderful movie.)

 

The Bible Doesn’t Lie

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Jack Deere, PhD was an Old Testament professor at Dallas Theological Seminary when he felt challenged through a series of events to examine his theology regarding the ministry of the Holy Spirit today.  In his book title Surprised By The Power Of The Spirit, Deere writes:

“If you take a new convert, who prior to his conversion knew nothing about the history of Christianity or the New Testament, and you lock him in a room with a Bible for a week, he will come out believing that he is a member of a body that is passionately in love with the Lord Jesus Christ and a body that consistently experiences miracles and works miracles. It will take a clever theologian with no experience of the miraculous to convince this young convert differently.”

So often we allow our experiences and past to dictate how we view God and his Kingdom.  The reality for many is they were trained with both conscious and unconscious walls being built up that keep them blocked from understanding the fullness of the Holy Spirit.  It isn’t necessarily that they are intentionally shutting God out.  Many avoid the full ministry of the Holy Spirit from a desire to honor God; forgetting all the while they are limiting the Holy Spirit who is God .

This isn’t a call for everyone to start speaking in tongues (though I will cover that in a blogpost eventually).  It is a call to reexamine how the Holy Spirit operates among his people.

John 15:26-27 (ESV)

26 “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. 27 And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning.

If Jesus was truly sending us the Helper from our heavenly  Father who is the Spirit of Truth then it doesn’t make much sense to push the fullness of Scripture away.  The Gospels and the book of Acts demonstrate to the believer exactly how Jesus operated in ministry and exactly how Jesus continued his ministry through the early believers.

Miracles, signs and wonders, healings, radically changed lives, racial and cultural boundaries crossed and destroyed, economical barriers overcome with generosity, and gender divisions mended.  These were the norm of the early Christianity.  What has things changed?  Deere offers a genuine explanation:

“There is one basic reason why Bible-believing Christians do not believe in the miraculous gifts of the Spirit today. It is simply this: they have not seen them.  …It often goes unnoticed that this appeal to history either past or present is actually an argument from experience, or better, an argument from the lack of experience.” (p. 55)

My challenge to you today is to reopen the Gospels and the book of Acts.  As much as possible read them as if your were encountering Scripture for the very first time.  Read them as truth.  Ask the Spirit of Truth to teach you how he operated.  God is the same yesterday, today and forever.  Allow him to show you how he was doing things yesterday (the early church), today (the present church), and forever (the future of the church).  Invite him to reveal to you a new experience; one that gives room for him to be fully God in your life.

Come, Holy Spirit!

Unity…Not An Option!

unity

Ephesians 4:1-7 (ESV)
“I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.”

Costa Mitchell, National Director of the Association of Vineyard Churches in South Africa, wrote:
“I felt the Lord told me, 40 years ago, that the unity of the Body of Christ is not an optional extra, and that I should give it as much time (seeking and building relationship with all other Christian leaders in my town) as I give other aspects of ministry. I committed a day a week to this priority. The basis of unity is taken from Ephesians 4, where Paul starts with the unity of the Spirit (which we HAVE and should strive to maintain), and ends with the unity of the faith (doctrine) which we will one day attain. The link between them is the interdependence of gift ministries, doing together what they can do together. As go the leaders…”

This all begs the question of believers as to whether they are leaning into the grace it takes to live out unity. Paul ends the call to unity with “But Grace…”  And then he continues by linking this grace for unity to the same grace for salvation:

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Ephesians 4:8-9

Grace saved us! And it takes away all of our bragging rights! It devastates our arrogance! No boasting because our works had no power in our salvation. May grace empower us to unity through the infilling of the Holy Spirit!!!

We are mandated here be “eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”   How eager are you to invite the Spirit of grace and peace into your relationships?  The Spirit comes with a bond of peace.  He is the One who binds us together, not letting us just get away with disunity.  His very presence demands a submission to His will and to one another.  Invite the Holy Spirit to flood into your relationships with grace and peace today.

Pray this as well: “Holy Spirit, every time I feel a tug toward disunity let it ring in my heart and in my head…’But Grace…’ and let my actions be those of unity for the sake of your Kingdom.”

Come, Holy Spirit!!!

“They are filled with New Wine!”

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Acts 2:13 English Standard Version (ESV)

13 But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.”

Even the mocking onlookers recognized something new was happening in Jerusalem.  They understood this was a new thing, a new wine that had filled the disciples to the point of looking and sounding like a drunken crowd.

These onlookers had no reference point through which to filter what they were seeing other than their own worldview.  The dead, legalistic religion of the Temple was obvious to everyone.  Think for a moment about the events leading up to this moment on the day of Pentecost.  Jesus has been tried, killed and resurrected, all in the face of the Pharisees who were trying to shut him and his followers up for good.

The Holy Spirit didn’t just stop with Jesus’ resurrection though.  On the day Jesus died Matthew records:

Matthew 27:51 English Standard Version (ESV)

51 And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split.

The old wine skins couldn’t contain the new Kingdom that was arriving.  The Holy of Holies was now available to all of mankind to enter through the new High Priest, King Jesus.  This ripping in two of the Temple Veil was just the beginning of what was to come.  The Earth responds with violent shaking and even rocks split.

When we begin to grasp the intensity of the impact of the now of the Kingdom of God that is being set forth in these passages, we can begin to embrace just how powerful this New Wine is that has now filled us.  The Holy Spirit is the very power that raised Jesus from the dead, created the universe, and has now chosen to live inside of these lowly fisherman, crooked tax collectors, prostitutes, and uneducated people.

When people look at you do they realize the depths of the New Wine in your life?  Do they mistake your zeal for the Kingdom and King Jesus for some strange, unexplainable phenomena beyond their worldview?

I challenge you today to invite the Holy Spirit to enter in afresh to the point that those around you wonder just how drunk on God you really are.  The thing about New Wine is that everyone wants a taste.  They want to try it and experience it.  Each and every one of us as believers are the new wine skins from which they get to experience the goodness and presence of the Almighty.

Come, Holy Spirit!

“R-I-S-K” Spells Faith!

Welcome to my new blog.  My hope is that over the next few months I will be able to post lots of thoughts that are growing in my mind as I continue to study the ministry of the Holy Spirit.  As some already know I am currently enrolled in doctoral studies at Southeastern University.  My dissertation is on the intentionality of being a Spirit-filled ministry.  As I am delving into these thoughts I am finding an ever increasing amount personal infilling of the Holy Spirit in my own life.

Recently I asked my wonderful wife Shelly to pray over me because I felt a little sick.  I was lying on the bed and she laid her hands on my stomach.  Interestingly she had a different take on what was going on inside of me.  She stated that she felt that the Holy Spirit was longing to flow out of me.  It was a prophetic insight that jumped started my desire to get out and do something for the Kingdom with all that I am studying and learning.

After leaving my pastorate last November at Spindle City Vineyard in Cohoes, NY, I suddenly found myself out of ministry.  For a pastor this creates a difficult season.  I began to feel a real void in my life.  Not a desperate hopelessness, but simple as if something was missing.  Shelly’s insight as she prayed for me made me realize that I needed to step out by faith.

John Wimber said that you spell faith “R-I-S-K” and he encouraged people to step out.  This summer we as a family are stepping out by faith and taking a risk to travel and do the ministry of the Kingdom wherever God may take us.  If you have any interest or know of anyone who would have interest please get in touch with us so we can place you on our schedule.

Serving Together,

John Manning, MDiv

Doctoral Student/Southeastern University

“He ordered them…to wait”

holy-spirit-filled

Acts 1:4-5English Standard Version (ESV)

4 And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

Jesus took the Holy Spirit very seriously and so should we.  As I read this passage recently I suddenly realized that the idea of living the Christian life without the infilling of the Holy Spirit never crossed Jesus’ mind.  Regardless of whether you are Baptist, Pentecostal, Charismatic, Catholic or Lutheran (sorry if I left your flavor out), Jesus intended that we all be filled with the Holy Spirit.

One can debate on what the infilling or baptism of the Holy Spirit is all they want.  What they cannot debate is that Jesus could not see his church, the body of Christ, moving forward on their mission without the active presence of the Holy Spirit.

At the beginning of the book of Acts, Luke makes it clear through the words of Jesus that the only way to live the Christian life successfully is with a vibrant relationship with the Holy Spirit, filling every part of our being to the point of complete saturation.  Jesus was setting the stage for how he wanted the church and the people who make up his body to live.  He was well aware of just how powerful the kingdom of darkness is and he realized that the only way forward was for each and every Christian to receive a fullness of the Holy Spirit into their lives.

Jesus ordered them to do this.  There was no option.  He order his disciples and many others to not step one foot forward with the Great Commission without first waiting and receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

My challenge to you today is that you stop for a moment and contemplate the words of Jesus in this passage.  Then take an honest inventory of your life and ask if you have enough of God in every area of your life, thoughts and actions.  Humbly wait and invite the Holy Spirit to baptize you again and again.  Make this a regular, intentional practice in your daily walk in the Spirit.

Come, Holy Spirit!