Filled with the Spirit

Today’s reading is Luke 1.

John was filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. However, according to the people’s testimony of John 10:41, he never performed any signs. Not only that, he would go before the Lord in the spirit and power of Elijah. Elijah multiplied the flour and oil for the widow of Zarephath, raised the widow’s son from the dead, called fire from heaven. Yet, John never performed any signs. He didn’t speak in tongues, heal the sick, raise the dead, cast out demons, foretell a drought, pray the rain back, call down fire from heaven. We might claim he prophesied in that he spoke from God about the the identity of Jesus. Even with that, there were never any accompanying miraculous signs to testify that his teaching was from God. There was even a time when he wasn’t sure about Jesus’s identity (see Luke 7:18-19). Yet, he was constantly filled with the Holy Spirit his entire life, even from the womb. This is different from his parents’ experiences. They were also filled with the Holy Spirit, but only for short periods of time (see Luke 1:41-45, 67-79). This is important to note because when we talk about any aspect of the Holy Spirit, we sometimes commit a Bible study fallacy. We think particular phrases, like “filled with the Holy Spirit,” are technical terms that always refer to the exact same experience or manifestation.* The fact is seen in this very chapter: John being filled with the Holy Spirit was a manifestly different experience from Elizabeth and Zechariah. By the way, the text doesn’t at all say Mary was filled with the Holy Spirit, but she experiences the exact same manifestation as Elizabeth and Zechariah (see Luke 1:46-55). What a fantastic rule of Bible study we should learn here. Certainly, whether we are studying the Holy Spirit or some other issue, we examine all the uses of similar phrases. We will learn a great deal from that exercise. However, never forget immediate context is our biggest help in understanding what is meant with a given word or phrase at a given point. Don’t assume every time you see a word or phrase it means the exact same thing as every other time you read it. Further, don’t assign technical meanings that you then try to force into the words or phrases every time you see them. Stick with the context.

Tomorrow’s reading is Luke 1.

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I Don’t Get to Know Everything

Today’s reading is Revelation 10.

How frustrating! Is God taunting us? Here are seven thunders that said something, but He doesn’t let us know what. Why even make us aware that the seven thunders sounded? Perhaps because we need to understand 1) God knows what we don’t and 2) we don’t get to know everything. However, do you catch what happens next? The angel announces that in the seventh trumpet the mystery of God would be fulfilled just as he announced to His prophets. That is, the mysteries that benefit us, that help us, that we need to know, we get to know. He reveals those to us. Let’s face it. Whether we like it or not, our human minds cannot handle all that God knows. But our God is a good God and reveals all we need to know. The question isn’t whether we should get to know what was in the thunders, the question is whether we will listen to what God has revealed. What about today? Will you spend more time worrying about what God hasn’t revealed, or more time living by what He has?

Tomorrow’s reading is Revelation 11.

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Fear Not

Today’s reading is Revelation 1.

John sees Jesus walking among the lampstands and falls on his face as though dead. Jesus lays His hand on John and says, “Fear not.” What a great kick off to this book. Obviously, Jesus is addressing John’s fear in the presence His own divinity. However, this is also a summary of the book. Jesus is the first and the last. He is the Living One. He lived, He died, but now He is alive forevermore. And that sets the stage for everything Jesus is going to reveal to John. A lot of things were going to happen to Christians that were pretty frightening. Frightening in the same sense that being unjustly arrested, tried, and crucified is frightening. However, though Jesus died, He was still victorious and is now alive forevermore. In like manner, John has nothing to really fear from anything Rome, Jerusalem, name the enemy of your choice, would do to him because no matter what it looks like, Jesus always wins. Whatever else you get out of reading Revelation this time, get this. Sure, death may be coming. But, for us, even death is the pathway to victory. We have nothing to fear. Praise the Lord?

Tomorrow’s reading is Revelation 2.

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Diotrephes & Demetrius

Today’s reading is 3 John 1.

As First John seems to be somewhat a commentary on John’s gospel. Second John seems to summarize First John. And then Third John provides an illustration of Second John. According to Second John, we are not supposed to greet (which means more than just saying, “Hi,” but is a greeting with acceptance) those who do not walk in truth. However, Diotrephes, who longed to have pre-eminence in his congregation, refused to greet even the apostles let along the faithful brethren who submitted to the apostles teaching. On the other hand, Demetrius was a faithful brother who should be greeted and accepted by the brethren. I pray that I live in such a way that an apostle would give me such a commendation. I pray that you will do the same. And notice ultimately from where that commendation came. Yes, he received a good testimony from “everyone,” but more importantly, he received a good testimony from the truth. When we walk in truth and love, we will obtain a good testimony. How will you walk today?

Tomorrow’s reading is Revelation 1.

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Eye-witness Testimony

Today’s reading is 1 John 1.

Sometimes, I forget what I’m reading when I read the Bible. I don’t want to act like the Bible is just a book like any other book. On the other hand, I do need to realize that in many ways that is exactly what it is. These are not some kind of special writings. These are the eye-witness testimonies just as if we were in the jury of a trial and had to figure out if we were hearing the truth. John didn’t sit back and try to make up a story with a couple of his friends. Rather, he saw and experienced things. Then he, and a few others, recorded what they experienced. This, of course, produces a struggle for us. Just as Jesus was fully God and fully man at the same time, the Scriptures are fully written by man and fully written by God at the same time. No doubt, just as with the incarnation, this produces some difficulties for us. But what a powerful gift God has given us. His Word in man’s words. Read the testimony. See what you think of it. Then follow it. It is a true record.

Tomorrow’s reading is 1 John 2.

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No King but Caesar

Today’s reading is John 19.

What a long way Israel had traveled. God had wanted them to view Him as king. But in generations past, they had asked for a king like the nations around them had. Now, as Jesus is on trial, they declare that having a king like the nations isn’t enough. They actually want the king of the nations around them. And in so doing, they actually once again reject God as their king. And even worse than simply turning their back on God’s judge, they decide to kill God’s king. Yet, as quickly as we repudiate them, we decide to walk our own path. And in so doing, we say, “I have no king but me.” It’s tough, there is only room on the throne for one. Either we will let Jesus be on the throne while we get on the cross or we will sit on the throne and nail Jesus back to the cross. Which will you choose today?

Tomorrow’s reading is John 20

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Understanding Peter

Today’s reading is John 18.

Before we throw Peter all the way under the bus, did you notice he really was willing to die with Jesus? When the soldiers and guards came to get Jesus, Peter was true to his word. He pulled out a sword and was ready to fight against all odds for and with Jesus. This was a sacrificial, ready to die move. However, when Jesus demonstrated He wasn’t going to die in battle but was going to die in surrender, Peter caved. He was ready to die for Jesus on his own terms. He was ready to go down swinging, with sword in hand, dying on the battlefield. But he wasn’t ready to give up, lay down his sword, and walk to a cross. He wasn’t ready to die on Jesus’s terms. And this is where we end up following in Peter’s footsteps all while thinking we would never act like him. When we are ready to follow Jesus on our terms, but balk at His terms, we are being just like Peter. On whose terms will you serve Jesus today?

Tomorrow’s reading is John 19

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