It’s easy to think that Jesus ministered for three years and then the Holy Spirit showed up on Pentecost. In fact, Jesus’ earthly ministry could not have happened without the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit empowered Jesus the same way he empowers believers today. In part, that means mostly operating in the background.… Read the rest
The church celebrates Christmas and Easter in a big way. Many churches at least devote a sermon to Pentecost, the birthday of the church. How many Christians know about Ascension Day? It’s exactly forty days after Easter, which means it always falls on a Thursday. It’s easy for it to come and go without notice. So why is Jesus’ ascension important?… Read the rest
In a stable in Bethlehem, Mary had a baby. She was certainly neither the first or last woman to deliver a child under less than ideal conditions. But she had an ordinary childbirth experience after an ordinary pregnancy.
She delivered no ordinary child. Mary conceived Jesus while she was still a virgin, a miracle that has happened exactly once. Angels announced Jesus’ birth to shepherds, who rushed to Bethlehem to see him.
The ordinary and the extraordinary persisted side by side throughout Jesus’ life. Luke’s gospel records both a week following his birth.… Read the rest
Did your church acknowledge Pentecost? If so, how? The church has become divided over the significance of the events of the first Christian Pentecost.
Pentecostals emphasize the supernatural events and consider them normative. Others fear them and try to explain them away.
Some even teach that God no longer performs supernatural acts and that anyone who claims otherwise follows the devil! So what happened? And what does it matter now?… Read the rest
Have you ever had a vivid encounter with God? What happened a day or two later? A week? Years?
Quite often Christians have reported an overwhelming spiritual high followed by a deep spiritual low.
God’s presence can be so vivid that it seems like what he says is bound to happen in the next 15 minutes, but it never does.
A cherished promise never seems as far off and distant as it does after vividness of the divine presence fades.
Does that mean perhaps that we had no genuine spiritual experience? Did we get carried away by feelings? Was it all a lie?… Read the rest
This past Sunday was Pentecost. It coincides with an ancient Hebrew festival, but the events of Acts 2 happened on a particular Pentecost right after Jesus rose from the dead. That Pentcost marks the birthday of the church.
Alas, the church today is divided into various Orthodox, Coptic, Catholic, Protestant, and Pentecostal denominations, but we all have but one birthday. And on that day, they all gathered in the same place.
“They,” probably means the same 120 believers mentioned in Acts 1:15. They gathered together in one place, and most certainly not for the first time. This group probably amounts to the first messianic synagogue.… Read the rest
The third chapter of Matthew opens on what, for John the Baptist, was a fairly ordinary day of baptism and preaching. Then Jesus showed up. We know that their mothers were related, but we have no idea how well they knew each other.
Up until this moment, Jesus had lived a perfectly ordinary life and had done nothing noteworthy, but when he lined up with everyone else for baptism, John got uncomfortable, even though, according to John 1:31, he had no idea that Jesus was the Messiah.
Jesus wanted John to baptize him, but somehow John suspected that Jesus had no sin to repent of.… Read the rest
Back in the mid ’80s I had an apartment in what used to be a storefront. My door opened directly onto the sidewalk. One winter it snowed a lot, and there was a stretch of several days when there was just a deep puddle during the day, then at night it would freeze. I didn’t know what my liability was, but I didn’t want to be responsible for someone slipping on the ice and breaking a hip or something.
I felt kind of helpless. There’s not much you can do about either a puddle or a sheet of ice with a cheap snow shovel.… Read the rest
“Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak your word, but stretching out Your hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of Your holy Servant Jesus.” — Acts 4:29-30
I keep reading of prophecies, or at least predictions, that American Christians face persecution like it has never happened here before. Quite a variety of people have written about it, and they offer a variety of evidence. Frankly, the writers exhibit quite a wide range of credibility, too.
As I read this passage from Acts, it struck me that, while I have no idea how likely we are to face systematic persecution, the Bible has already told us how to face it.… Read the rest