I want to live a Spirit-filled life.

Connie & I have begun a study about the Holy Spirit. I feel like this is an oft-neglected area of Christianity in America. While I think it’s neglected theologically, I think it’s even more neglected practically. Here’s a challenging quote from Forgotten God by Francis Chan that I thought was worth sharing:
Churchgoers all across the nation say the Holy Spirit has entered them. They claim that God has given them a supernatural ability to follow Christ, put their sin to death, and serve the church. Christians talk about being born again say that they they were dead but now have come to life. We have become hardened to those words, but they are powerful words that have significant meaning. Yet when those outside the church see no difference in our lives, they begin to question our integrity, out sanity, or even worse, our God. And can you blame them (Pgs 32-33)?

Another great quote, from the same book, is about the confusion a caterpillar must experience and a challenge for us to live a Spirit-filled life:
For all its caterpillar life, it crawls around a small patch of dirt and up and down a few plants. Then one day it takes a nap. A long nap. And then, what in the world must go through its head when it wakes up to discover it can fly? What happened to its dirty, plump little worm body? What does it think when it sees its tiny new body and gorgeous wings?
As believers, we ought to experience this same kind of astonishment when the Holy Spirit enters our bodies. We should be stunned in disbelief over becoming “new creations” with the Spirit living in us. As the caterpillar finds its new ability to fly, we should be thrilled over our Spirit-empowered ability to live differently and faithfully.
I want to live so that I am truly submitted to the Spirit’s leading on a daily basis. Christ said it is better for us that the Spirit came, and I want to live like I know that is true. I don’t want to keep crawling when I have the ability to fly (Pg 37).

Do you know any Christians like this? Do you know anyone who is undeniably filled with the Holy Spirit? It’s my prayer that Connie and I continue to grow in this area!

Forgotten God: Reversing Our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit


Harry Potter vs. Jesus?

My wife loves Post Secret. Big time! For a while we had a tradition of logging on there together every Sunday morning to check out the latest secrets but I think she got tired of waiting on me so now she does it by herself.

It just so happens that this weekend I was with her when she checked it and I saw this postcard:

Untitled picture

At first—if I’m completely honest—I was a little offended. I mean, how could the Harry Potter books even be compared to the Bible? Isn’t it like comparing a lighter to a flame thrower?! But I decided to hold my peace about it and later that morning I asked Connie what her impression of that card was.
Her reaction was very thought provoking:
“Daniel, if I just read the Bible without any instruction I would be inclined to feel the same. The Bible is not an easy book to understand…”
Well, besides the obvious fact that she must not be reading my Biblical Interpretation 101 blogs (*wink wink*), I think she hit the nail on the head! In fact, I’m almost embarrassed that I didn’t start with this topic when I started writing about Biblical interpretation.

That’s right:  illumination. The Moody Handbook of Theology does a great job of defining illumination:

Because the Bible is God-breathed and therefore in an entirely different dimension from other literature, it is necessary that man receives God-given help in understanding the Bible (1 Cor. 2:11). Additionally, the unregenerate man’s sin-darkened mind cannot apprehend spiritual truths (1 Cor. 2:14). The work of illumination then is necessary to enable man to comprehend the Word of God (cf. Luke 24:44–45). Illumination can thus be defined as “the ministry of the Holy Spirit whereby He enlightens those who are in a right relationship with Him to comprehend the written Word of God.”
When Jesus described the Holy Spirit, He said that the Holy Spirit would teach us all things (John 14:26) and that the Holy Spirit would guide Christians into all truth (John 16:13.) The simple truth is, you cannot understand the Bible without the Holy Spirit. Elsewhere, Jesus said that non-Christians were incapable of receiving the Holy Spirit and that the Holy Spirit would dwell with and in Christians (John 14:17).
I say all this because I want to be very clear:  it is impossible to understand the Bible without the Holy Spirit. Sure, there are things about the Bible that even a child can understand, but there are also things that only the Holy Spirit will reveal to us (1 Corinthians 2:10, 13).
So how can we hope to understand the Bible? Simple: Pray! James 1:5 is a promise that if God’s children ask Him for wisdom, He will give it to them. Before reading the Bible, it’s very important to pray to God—and I actually like to pray specifically to the Holy Spirit. Thank the Holy Spirit for inspiring the Scriptures, and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to your heart and mind the meaning of the Scriptures. You’ll be amazed at what He shows to you as you read the Bible!

I believe in the Holy Spirit

(This is part thirteen of a multi-entry blog series exploring the Apostles’ Creed.)

This is a line that I recited my entire life but didn’t fully grasp until around this time last year (an experience that I blogged about here). I think this line is about Someone that Christians forget about all too often:

“I believe in the Holy Spirit.”

To start, the Holy Spirit is a He, not an it. The Holy Spirit is a person and not some immaterial force. The Holy Spirit has feelings, thoughts, and even emotions. The Holy Spirit makes His first appearance earlier in the Bible than you might initially think! In Genesis 1:2, the Holy Spirit hovers over the water during creation. This tells us that the Holy Spirit participated in the creation of the world.

Throughout the Old Testament, there are dozens of references to the Spirit coming upon different judges and prophets and working through them. For example, the Holy Spirit empowers the Judges to guide Israel as a nation (Judges 3:10, 6:34, 11:29, 13:25, 14:6) The Spirit gives Samuel his power as a king (1 Samuel 10:6) The Spirit gives Isaiah his prophetic powers (Isaiah 11:2, 61:1). (I found a great list here that has dozens of OT references to the Holy Spirit.) My point is simply that the Holy Spirit was the inspirational engine of the Old Testament.

The Holy Spirit has an even more active role in the New Testament. For example, read through Luke and Acts (both written by the same guy) and you’ll see that the Holy Spirit empowers Jesus through the course of His ministry and then does the same for the Apostles. For example, in Luke 4:1, the Holy Spirit fills Jesus and even leads Jesus into the desert; after His temptation in the desert, Jesus returns “in the power of the Spirit” (Luke 4:14). Then, in John 1:16, Jesus promises to send the Holy Spirit to believers. And finally, in Acts the Holy Spirit arrives and empowers the early Christians to spread the Gospel throughout the entire Roman empire.

And nothing has changed since then! The Holy Spirit is the engine in the life of modern believers, too! First, the Holy Spirit actively convicts non-Christians of guilt for their sins (John 16:8). Thus, true regeneration is impossible without the power of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit guides Christians in daily living (Galatians 5:25). In fact, the Holy Spirit is the litmus test for being a true Christian (1 John 4:13)!

This truth became profoundly important to me last year and since then I’ve started to be intentionally aware of the Holy Spirit’s role in my life. The Holy Spirit gives me power, gives me His fruit (Galatians 5:22-23), and connects me to God the Father. I can do nothing if I am disconnected from the Holy Spirit. In short, I believe in the Holy Spirit.

who was conceived by the Holy Spirit

(This is part four of a multi-entry blog series exploring the Apostles’ Creed.)

First we looked at God the Father; then we started talking about God the Son; now we’ll look a little bit at how God the Spirit has participated in our redemption with the third line of the Apostles’ Creed:

“I believe in God the Father Almighty, creator of Heaven and earth;
and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord:
Who was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit…”

This line is fairly simple, so I don’t think we need to break it into segments, but there are at least a few things stand out about this line to me….

First, this line reveals that the Apostles’ Creed is Trinitarian. The first line is about the Father, the second line mentions the Son, and the third line mentions the Spirit. This is not an accident. During the first few centuries of Christianity, the Roman Empire heavily persecuted followers of Jesus. This made it very difficult to iron out any systematic theology, let alone publish and widely circulate Christian doctrine. The Apostles’ Creed was created almost immediately after Roman persecution of Christians ended and was made to affirm doctrinal beliefs in a largely illiterate culture. It’s a condensed version of Christian doctrine that is meant to be easily memorized and passed on and served two purposes. First, it allowed Christians to share their beliefs with non-Christians around them. Second, it helped to prevent the spread of heretical doctrine. One of the most important Christian tenants is Trinitarian Doctrine.

Second, this line is talking about both Jesus and the Holy Spirit and how the Holy Spirit helped Jesus during his ministry. First and foremost, as this line indicates, the Holy Spirit conceives Jesus (Matthew 1:18; Luke 1:35). The Spirit signals to John the Baptist that Jesus is the Messiah (John 1:32-34). God the Father and God the Spirit endorse Jesus after His baptism (Matthew 3:16, 17; Mark 1:10,11; Luke 3:21-22) and the Spirit descends on Jesus before He goes into the wilderness (Matthew 4:1; Mark 1:12; Luke 4:1). We find that the Holy Spirit partners with Jesus during his earthly ministry.

Third, if the Holy Spirit conceived Jesus and partners with Him in his earthly ministry, won’t He also conceive us as new creations when we are born again? Won’t He also partner with us during our time here on earth? Jesus was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit; this power is also available to us. Ephesians 3:20 states that God is able to do more than we ask or imagine according to His power that is at work within us. That power is the Holy Spirit. We’ll look more closely at the Holy Spirit in another entry soon…

Praise the Father, Son, and that other guy…

This is part two of a multi-entry blog series titled “Lessons I Learned in the Desert.”

Before I deployed, I decided I was going to lead at least one small study group through a book outside of the Bible. The first study I decided to go through focused on a subject that I felt compelled to learn more about: The Holy Spirit. Thus, I decided that I would lead a small group through Francis Chan’s Forgotten God.

I’ll be the first to admit that I didn’t know a lot about the Holy Spirit, and I had a lot of prejudices because of some of the people I’ve encountered and how overly focused they seemed on the gifts of the Spirit. To me, it seemed like they thought the Holy Spirit was vending machine and prayer gave them magical gifts from the vending machine. These people didn’t seem to care about God the Father or Jesus the Son, but only about the “giftings of the Spirit.” I admit that may sound harsh, but those are the kind of encounters I’ve had!

Also, I had always thought of the Holy Spirit as an “it” and not as a “He.” There is definitely a difference in the two, although I had honestly never thought about it. I rarely thought about the Holy Spirit or how He works in me and through me in my daily life. The tragedy is that my ignorance of the Holy Spirit had inadvertently led to an incomplete understanding of the Triune God! By not understanding the Holy Spirit’s role in my daily life I was missing out on the power of God living inside of me and, at least intellectually, distancing myself from God.

Although I knew about “it” from a head-knowledge perspective, now I know “Him” in my heart. He’s been there this whole time, I just never knew it! Now I’m aware of the Spirit’s power and role in my daily walk. Galatians 5:25 tells us to keep in step with the Spirit. It’s hard to have a daily walk with God when you don’t even know who’s walking beside you.

One of the ways that God demonstrated how the Holy Spirit works is through someone else. Right when our group first started our study of the Spirit, someone asked me to pace him during the run portion of his PT test. I grudgingly said yes, even though I didn’t really want to. I had a feeling that God was going to teach me something through this experience. The night before our run, I was studying the Holy Spirit and learned that when Jesus talks about Him in John 14:16, the Greek text uses the word “parakletos.” This word means “counselor” or more literally “someone to come along side.” Coincidence? The next day I ran alongside my friend for his PT test and he got the best score of his whole Air Force career! Because I, a faster runner, ran alongside him, he did better than he would have done on his own.

This is one of how the Holy Spirit helps us. He runs alongside us in our life and gives us the power to live lives that honor, please, and glorify God. Forgotten God really challenged me to ask myself whether or not I was relying on the Holy Spirit to empower me in my daily life. Was I taking steps in faith? Or was I relying on my own talents and abilities? It’s hard for the Holy Spirit to work miracles through us when we never take a leap of faith right?

There are many more things I learned about the Holy Spirit during and after the study, but perhaps the most important is simply the fact that I am never alone. The Holy Spirit is always with me no matter where I go and He will always give me the power to serve God in whatever capacity I am called.

For more information on the Holy Spirit I encourage you to read Forgotten God by Francis Chan, check out the free e-book published by Re:Lit called A Primer on the Holy Spirit, or listen to the Mars Hill Church podcast about the Trinity from their Doctrine sermon series (or just watch it below).