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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Know God

Today’s reading is John 17.

Pop Quiz: Where and when did Jesus say, “Know thyself”? 

Pop Quiz#2: Where and when did Jesus say, “To thine own self be true”?

How did you do? Do you remember when Jesus said those things? If you are having trouble remembering, don’t beat yourself up. Jesus didn’t say either of those things. Neither did Paul. Neither did any other person in biblical history. The first is actually attributed to Socrates. The second to Polonius in Shakespeare’s “Hamlet.” Imagine that. Neither one of these statements came from Jesus. Do you know what did come from Jesus? “And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” In a world focused on the idolatry of self, it might do us good to remember that today, I need to spend more time getting to know God than getting to know myself. By extension, if I start by being true to God, I will be true to myself and others as well. What are your next steps for getting to know God better?

Tomorrow’s reading is John 18

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Wait Patiently

Today’s reading is Hebrews 6.

Today’s passage is one of those that gives me real hope. When the author of Hebrews looked around for an example of patiently waiting on God’s promises, he landed on Abraham, whom he claimed “having waited patiently, obtained the promise.” Waited patiently? Is this the same Abraham who lied about Sarah, claiming she was only his sister…twice? Is this the same Abraham who got upset at God for not fulfilling the promise yet and threw Eliezer of Damascus in God’s face? Is this the same Abraham who fell in line with Sarah’s suggestion to have a child with the handmaiden, Hagar? Is this the same Abraham who fell on his face laughing when God renewed the promise of a son with Sarah and then begged God to just let Ishmael be the fulfillment of the promise? Is this the man who waited patiently and obtained the promise? Yep. That’s the guy. Of course, none of this is to suggest we have permission to be impatient. None of this is permission to doubt, stumble, fall, lie, laugh at God’s plan, or straight up sin. It is simply a recognition that we all do those things sometimes. So did Abraham. But in the overall picture, because despite his struggles he did hang on to God, the Hebrews author looks back and says he waited patiently. I don’t have to give up because I’ve struggled. I don’t have to give up because I can see all my own failures, fumbles, and falls. Instead, I can get back up and put my hand in the Lord’s. That is waiting patiently. That is receiving the promises.

Tomorrow’s reading is Hebrews 7.

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Soldier On in Love

Today’s reading is 1 Corinthians 16.

“Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.” This is soldier language. This is battle language. There is an enemy out there; be vigilant. The enemy will attack; stand firm. The attack will be frightening; act like men and be courageous. The attack will be powerful; be strong. I feel like I should make ape-like, grunting noises as I say all of that to show how strong and powerful we should be. But then Paul says something weird as the follow up: “Let all that you do be done in love.” Wait! What? That doesn’t sound like soldier, battle language. A soldier’s marching orders are not to go be loving. And yet, those are our marching orders. Yes, we are in a battle and we will have to stand strong. But the way we fight this battle is by making sure every action we take is based on love. Think of Jesus who was watchful, stood firm, acted like a man, and was strong as He went to the cross out of love for you and me. Soldier on in love. That’s what Jesus did.

Tomorrow’s reading is 2 Corinthians 1.

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