Growing Up Pentecostal

holy ghost revival
Photographer: Trey Ratcliff

There’ll be singing, there’ll be shouting
There’ll be sorrow, there’ll be pain;
There’ll be weeping, there’ll be praying,
When our Lord shall come again.

Words to hymns like these filled the air every Sunday morning, and every Sunday and Wednesday evening. In those days, we didn’t have to wait for our Lord to come again hear singing, shouting, weeping, and praying. In those days you never knew what was going to happen, what songs were going to be sung, or who had “the key to the service.”

We would be in a worship service and the pastor of the church (usually) would stand up in the middle of the service and say, “Someone has the key to this service! All you have to do is obey God!” And then sure enough, someone would spontaneously shout, dance, pray for someone who was sick, share a testimony of their salvation, or sing a song, and the whole atmosphere be filled with the peace of heaven.

As much as my hardshell Calvinistic theology would like to inform me that this goes against the “regulative principle of worship” or that “things simply don’t happen like that,” I’ve seen an entire congregation come to life with godly joy over someone simply coming down to the altar for prayer.

There wasn’t a “repeat this prayer and you’ll be saved” kind of rhetoric (most of the time). There were genuine, Jesus-loving people who want to help you communicate with God in prayer.

Tim Challies wrote an article about a well-known leader the early Pentecostal movement, and someone who commented on the article was disparaging their own Pentecostal upbringing (they are Reformed now). I am also Reformed now. I’m a Calvinist, and I hold to the Westminster Confession of Faith (with some minor caveats), I can’t disparage my roots. Maybe their experience was bad, but mine wasn’t. Granted, I’m not going to say that everything I witnessed go on in a Pentecostal church during a worship service was right and biblical because it wasn’t, but overall, I feel as though my upbringing helped me more than hurt me.

My grandparents taught me the Bible. By the time I was in my teens I could quote more Scripture from King James Version of the Bible than anybody my age, and it wasn’t because I participated in Bible Quiz Bowls or sword drills. My grandparents didn’t pressure me to memorize verses or play with Bible flash cards. They didn’t do in-home discipleship, family worship, devotions, or anything like that. They simply lived godly lives at home in front me, and as a result, I learned the Bible by watching how much they valued the Bible. I learned hymns by listening to my grandma sing while she was doing chores around the house. When she taught me to play piano, she taught me to play hymns and southern gospel because that’s all she knew.

When other people talk about their bad experiences in Pentecostalism, I have to sigh and unfortunately say, “I know.” I’m all too familiar with the legalistic horror stories of young women being called whores because they had a little blush on or because they wore a pair of knee-length shorts that might cause someone “to stumble” *eye rolls* …whatever.

In those moments, I can only wish they had had my experiences. My experiences weren’t completely free of legalism and unwarranted insecurities, but those things didn’t matter when the worship service would start (or at least, those things didn’t matter to me).

I was free and somehow, I knew it.

Resources for “God’s Spirit-filled Church”

resources

As some of you may know, I have endeavored to preach through the first five chapters of Acts at my church, Mount Carmel CP Church. So, I thought I would give a short word about the resources that I’ve been using to help me tackle this endeavor.

Acts for Everyone, Part One: Chapters 1-12 by N.T. Wright
acts112wright.jpg
This has been a tremendous resource for me. N.T. Wright has firm grasp on the history of the first century church. It’s almost as if he puts you there in the upper room with the followers of Jesus as they decide how they’re going to proceed with picking a replacement for Judas Iscariot.

I realize that Wright has his naysayers among the Reformed community for his views on Justification, but whatever. If you can’t enjoy the truth that he brings to the table without tossing out the parts where he’s off then you’re pretty much like a kid who has to eat McNuggets all the time cause he’ll choke on a chicken leg from Popeye’s.

 

Exalting Jesus in Acts by Tony Merida

actsmerida

It doesn’t matter what book it covers, the Christ-Centered Exposition series is a commentary set that’s made by the preacher for the preacher.

These commentaries, particularly the one over Acts, will help you break down a text in a digestible way so that you’re not giving people a bulk of information and no way to process it.

Forgive the second food reference, but it’s like giving someone a huge steak and telling them that they have to eat it with their hands in two bites. The Christ-Centered Exposition series gives you a knife and fork to work with so that you can break down the text and see the Gospel clearly on each page.

 

The Age of the Spirit by Phyllis Tickle

ageofthespiritAlthough this isn’t a commentary over Acts, Phyllis Tickle, and her co-author, Jon Sweeney, do an excellent job of documenting the controversy surrounding the deity of the Holy Spirit, and how not much as changed over the last hundreds years.

This has been a helpful resource to me as someone who is trying to communicate the ancient truth about the Holy Spirit into a post-modern culture that only thinks of the Holy Spirit as some kind of impersonal force or power that was harnessed by the mystics of old.

As a couple of honorable mentions, I would like to also briefly talk about Jesus Continued by JD Greear and Rediscovering the Holy Spirit by Michael Horton. Horton’s book is easily 10x more academic than JD’s, but both are very helpful in understanding the deity and purpose of the Holy Spirit. I would say that JD’s book is more for someone who is new to the faith and would like more than just a base knowledge of the Holy Spirit, and Horton’s book is for the academic looking for something to mentally wrestle with, but all in all, I highly recommend both and find both of them helpful in articulating the importance of viewing the Holy Spirit correctly through the lens of Scripture.

Of course, there’s been some other sources that I’ve been using online such as WorkingPreacher.org, but those have been my “go to” books for this series, and if you plan on preaching or studying through the book of Acts I hope you’ll find these resources just as useful as I have.

There Is A River: One of Spurgeon’s Gems in the Treasury of David

River

“There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God,
The holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High.”
– Psalm 46:4, NKJV

The Treasury of David by Charles Spurgeon is laced with many a gem. The following is once such a gem in commentary over the 46th psalm.

There is a river. Divine grace like a smoothly flowing, fertilising, full, and never failing river, yields refreshment and consolation to believers. This is the river of the water of life, of which the church above as well as the church below partakes evermore. It is no boisterous ocean, but a placid stream, it is not stayed in its course by earthquakes or crumbling mountains, it follows its serene course without disturbance. Happy are they who know from their own experience that there is such a river of God. The streams whereof in their various influences, for they are many, shall make glad the city of God, by assuring the citizens that Zion’s Lord will unfailingly supply all their needs. The streams are not transient like Cherith, nor muddy like the Nile, nor furious like Kishon, nor treacherous like Job’s deceitful brooks, neither are their waters “naught” like those of Jericho, they are clear, cool, fresh, abundant, and gladdening. The great fear of an Eastern city in time of war was lest the water supply should be cut off during a siege; if that were secured the city could hold out against attacks for an indefinite period. In this verse, Jerusalem, which represents the church of God, is described as well supplied with water, to set forth the fact that in seasons of trial all sufficient grace will be given to enable us to endure unto the end. The church is like a well ordered city, surrounded with mighty walls of truth and justice, garrisoned by omnipotence, fairly built and adorned by infinite wisdom: its burgesses the saints enjoy high privileges; they trade with far off lands, they live in the smile of the King; and as a great river is the very making and mainstay of a town, so is the broad river of everlasting love, and grace their joy and bliss. The church is peculiarly the City of God, of his designing, building, election, purchasing and indwelling. It is dedicated to his praise, and glorified by his presence. The holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High. This was the peculiar glory of Jerusalem, that the Lord within her walls had a place where he peculiarly revealed himself, and this is the choice privilege of the saints, concerning which we may cry with wonder, “Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world?” To be a temple for the Holy Ghost is the delightful portion of each saint, to be the living temple for the Lord our God is also the high honour of the church in her corporate capacity. Our God is here called by a worthy title, indicating his power, majesty, sublimity, and excellency; and it is worthy of note that under this character he dwells in the church. We have not a great God in nature, and a little God in grace; no, the church contains as clear and convincing a revelation of God as the works of nature, and even more amazing in the excellent glory which shines between the cherubim overshadowing that mercy seat which is the centre and gathering place of the people of the living God. To have the Most High dwelling within her members, is to make the church on earth like the church in heaven.

Here we see that the city of God is Christ’s Church, and the river of God is God’s Spirit. The Spirit gladdens the Church just as the river gladdens the city.

 

A Mental Buffet // 19 Aug 2017

Mental Buffet

Some reading material for the eager mind and the hungry soul. This week’s mental buffet includes a sermon from Ronnie Martin, and articles from Chad Bird, Thomas R. Schreiner, and Kyle G. Jones

Drawing Near to God’s Kingdom – Ronnie Martin

In this sermon, Pastor Ronnie Martin speaks about what it means to draw near to God’s Kingdom.

“God wants to draw near to people that constantly reject Him.”

 


Grace is Karma’s Worst Nightmare – Chad Bird

“Grace is lacking in taste and propriety. The same loving lips that kiss away the tears of a repentant whore will turn right around and kiss the lips of a humble queen. The same hands that scrub the vomit out off the clothes of a drunk will shake hands with the teetotaler. It’s never learned the difference between a shack and a mansion. Grace doesn’t know why the color of skin makes one sinner more or less in need of forgiveness than any other.”

 

Sermon: A Building from God – Thomas R. Schreiner

“The gift of the Spirit functions as the guarantee, the downpayment, of our future resurrection. So, Paul concludes in verse 5 where he started in verse 1. We know that we will have a resurrection body in the future. We are assured of this because we have the Holy Spirit. No matter how happy your life is now, you still long for something better. We all naturally think how life could be better. There is a longing in us for perfection. There is a sense of incompleteness and an ache in our lives. We are not fully satisfied or fulfilled. We sense that there is more to life. Those desires are not a bad thing. They remind us that we were made for another world. They remind us that this world is not our home. They point us forward to the resurrection.”

 

Go and Be Dead – Kyle G. Jones

“We sinners share a common problem when it comes to Jesus’ parables. We read them with an eye to our own righteousness. That is, we read them with our eyes peeled for what they might tell us to do. We read them with Law tinted lenses.

While it is true that Jesus’ parables contain Law (commands and demands from God), if we’re to understand them rightly our eyes need to hunt tirelessly for where Christ and his Gospel reside within them. Though not always easy, we must avoid the temptation to make the Law our primary prize while reading or listening to Jesus’ parables.”

 

The Just Truth About Injustice: Part 1

“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”
– James 1:27 (ESV)

One of things we get used to in this world is the reality of injustice. Most people don’t treat the rich and the poor equally. They tend to show favoritism based on social status or acceptance in society. Most people tend to have a high school mentality. They form cliques and have popularity contests and they shun the less fortunate and socially outcast. In witnessing all of these things, and maybe even being victims of these acts of unfairness, we might feel discouraged and it would be easy fall into negative cynicism and anger but we must hold to the truth that God is and we must keep working to address oppressive injustices that we see in the world.

One of the first things the Church did after receiving the Holy Spirit was give to those who were in need (Acts 2:42-47). They weren’t giving pocket change in a Salvation Army bucket so can get the guy to quit ringing his bell at them. They were giving away deeds to houses. They were giving away deeds to land. They were giving away things that we would consider to be the finer things in life.

The apostles were promoting at Christ-powered lifestyle that drove men to give away their possessions for a purpose greater than themselves. They died to their own desires and wants, and gave from the love of their hearts. They witnessed those who were homeless, hungry, and lame, and they knew that something had to be done. By showing kindness to these victims of circumstance, they were able to win souls to Christ as God added them to the Kingdom (Acts 2:47).

Can you imagine the kind of positive effect the Church could have on our sin-stricken world if we would just allow the Holy Spirit to empower us and inspire us to do service and correct the injustices that we see in the world?

It’s All About Jesus, Part 2: The Praise Hymn, Part 4

I’ve decided that I’m going to do something that I’ve not done in a really long time and that is finish a series. So, if you’ve been following me for a while you’ll notice that I’ve been doing a series called, “It’s All About Jesus”. The title is self-explanatory. The material that we’ve been going over is found in Ephesians 1

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ,  to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ. In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.” – [Ephesians 1:3-14 NIV]

According to this passage of Scripture there are nine things God has done for us and they are:

1. He has blessed us (Eph. 1:3)
2. He has chosen us (Eph. 1:4)
3. He has predestined us (Eph. 1:5, 11)
4. He has made us accepted (Eph. 1:6)
5. He has redeemed us (Eph. 1:7)
6. He has poured grace on us (Eph. 1:8)
7. He has made known unto us the mystery of His will (Eph. 1:9)
8. He has given us an inheritance (Eph. 1:11, 14)
9. He has sealed us (Eph. 1:13)

Let’s get started where we left off:

6. He has poured grace on us (Eph. 1:8)

In the ESV, Ephesians 1:7, 8 read like this:

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight – [Ephesians 1:7-8 ESV]

The word ‘lavished’ implies more than enough. It tells me that God didn’t just give me enough grace to get by on but he gave me grace for every day. He gave me more than I needed. He didn’t have to give me more than enough but he did anyway because He really loves me. Just to think that God has shown that kind of love for each and every person is incredible and unfathomable.

7. He has made known unto us the mystery of His will (Eph. 1:9)

When Paul is talking here, he’s telling us about the mystery of the will of God. How can this mystery remain a mystery if it’s made known to us? To be honest, it can’t. Paul couldn’t keep his mouth shut. He just had to talk in Ephesians 3:6:

“And the mystery is this: Because of Christ Jesus, the good news has given the Gentiles a share in the promises that God gave to the Jews. God has also let the Gentiles be part of the same body.” – [Ephesians 3:6 CEV]

We, who were rejected and kicked out in the cold, are now welcomed by God’s wonderful grace to be his elect people.

“Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” – [1 Peter 2:10 ESV]

8. He has given us an inheritance (Eph. 1:11, 14)

This great inheritance that Paul speaks about is our salvation. God gave this to us as a free gift. I’ve heard a lot of Baptists express this as God giving us a box wrapped in paper and all we have to do is accept it but I’m with RC Sproul on this one:

“God just doesn’t throw a life preserver to a drowning person. He goes to the bottom of the sea, and pulls a corpse from the bottom of the sea, takes him up on the bank, breathes into him the breath of life and makes him alive.” – R.C. Sproul

A dead man can’t receive anything. God has to be the one to bring you to life. Jesus says in John 10:

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” – [John 10:10 ESV]

A lot of people use this to preach on living a blessed and abundant life. That’s all well and good but people seldom realize that you must have life before you can have abundant life and that’s what our inheritance is: life.

9. He has sealed us (Eph. 1:13)

I love what Scofield has to say about this in his commentary.

The Holy Spirit is Himself, the seal. In the symbolism of Scripture, a seal signifies:
(1) A finished transaction; (Jer_32:9); (Jer_32:10); (Joh_17:4); (Joh_19:30).
(2) Ownership; (Jer_32:11); (Jer_32:12); (2Ti_2:19).
(3) Security; (Est_8:8); (Dan_6:17); (Eph_4:30).

After reading and studying what a seal was and its purpose, I understood what Paul was communicating. Our salvation is a done deal. God owns me. I’m secure. I’m not going to lose my salvation at the drop of a hat. As a believer, I have the Holy Spirit as a testimony that God will never let me go.

I hope that God absolutely blesses your socks off today. Remember, that you are loved by the Creator of the universe.

Another World

“For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica; Crescens to Galatia, Titus unto Dalmatia.” – [2 Timothy 4:10 KJV]

About a year ago, I was youth pastoring at a small church in a small town and I spent four weeks preaching through the book of 2nd Timothy because I wanted to bring my youth group to the reality that even in this modern day the beloved church of God is persecuted. In my preparation for this sermon series I studied as much I could, trying to get every bit of information I could about this book and through all my studying, I never noticed this simple phrase, “Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world….” It made me think that if there is a present world then there must be a world that is not yet present, Heaven. Demas had not just fallen in love with the world, but in the process, he fell out of love with the thought of being with our savior in Heaven.

I urge you, don’t lose focus. Keep your eyes upon the goal. Continually fall in love with Jesus! Review the words of Paul the Apostle:

 “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus…For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.” – [Philippians 3:13-14, 20-21 KJV]

Remember that you are loved today by the King of Kings and Lord of Lords!

Our Only Comfort

“For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s.” – [Romans 14:7-8 ESV]

“What is thy only comfort in life and death? That I with body and soul, both in life and death, am not my own, but belong unto my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ; who, with his precious blood, has fully satisfied for all my sins, and delivered me from all the power of the devil; and so preserves me that without the will of my heavenly Father, not a hair can fall from my head; yea, that all things must be subservient to my salvation, and therefore, by his Holy Spirit, He also assures me of eternal life, and makes me sincerely willing and ready, henceforth, to live unto him.” – [The Heidelberg Catechism, Question 1]

When I was a boy, my grandmother made me a refrigerator magnet out of plastic material and yarn with a picture of a boy  holding a satchel over his shoulder and sub-caption read, “You can’t run from God.”

I believe that everything preaches a sermon and the sermon that this refrigerator magnet preached was one of the omnipresent love of God.

As I read these verses and this quote from the Heidelberg Catechism, I am reminded of the words of Fanny Crosby’s Blessed Assurance:

Blessed Assurance, Jesus is mine
O What foretaste of glory divine
Heir of salvation, purchase of God
Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood.

What a thought that we belong in life and in death. Our family and friends can go with us but when we pass from this life to the next, Jesus will still be with us.

It’s All About Jesus, Part 2: The Praise Hymn, Part 3

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ,  to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ. In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.” – [Ephesians 1:3-14 NIV]

In the last post of this series we left off talking about how God has adopted us by making us accepted into His family. I want to continue this by talking about a subject that’s near and dear to my heart and that is redemption.

5. He has redeemed us (Ephesians 1:7)

Humanity is scarred and tainted with sin. Adam took a bite of the forbidden fruit and stained humanity with his rebellion. Since then all of humanity has been totally depraved. Before Christ saved us we were dead in our sin. I’m not sure how much the church today understands that. We were DEAD in our sin. There was nothing alive about us. An accurate picture of redemption is God taking a dead man and making him alive. RC Sproul describes this process better than I ever could.

“God just doesn’t throw a life preserver to a drowning person. He goes to the bottom of the sea, and pulls a corpse from the bottom of the sea, takes him up on the bank, breathes into him the breath of life and makes him alive.” – R.C. Sproul

Here’s a few verses in Ephesians that describe this:

“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience– among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.” – [Ephesians 2:1-3 ESV]

I don’t like to say that I found God or I found Christ, prefer to say He found me because I when I was dead in my sins, I was just that, dead. Dead men can’t choose anything. God had to reach below the bottom and pick me up and save me. It’s only through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ do we have redemption and salvation. What I really love about Ephesians 2 is that in the first three verses Paul talks about our sinful state and in verse four he makes this transition:

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ–by grace you have been saved– and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” – [Ephesians 2:4-7 ESV]

The first two words just stick out to me. “But God.” “I was headed down the wrong pathway, but God…”, “I was on my way to Hell, but God..”, “I was stuck in my sin, but God…” What a wonderful thing to know that we don’t have to have a period at end of those sentence but instead we can have a “but God…”. This is truly the story of our redemption: God bringing a dead corpse back to life by simply breathing the power of the Holy Spirit over him. I love what Adam Clarke’s Commentary says about Christian redemption.

“God has glorified his grace by giving us redemption by the blood of his Son, and this redemption consists in forgiving and delivering us from our sins; so then Christ’s blood was the redemption price paid down for our salvation: and this was according to the riches of his grace; as his grace is rich or abundant in benevolence, so it was manifested in beneficence to mankind, in their redemption by the sacrifice of Christ, the measure of redeeming grace being the measure of God’s own eternal goodness.” – Adam Clarke Commentary

I hope this has blessed you and encouraged you. Always remember that you are loved by the King of Kings and you are special in his sight.