God Needs A Home

god's handIt was perhaps the greatest opportunity ever. God tells Moses that he wants to come to his people and dwell right in the middle of their camp. Not on the outskirts. Not in the ‘burbs. But right in the middle of where they were living.

You might wonder, “What preparations would a people need to make for God to live in their midst?” Would it be like getting ready for weekend guests or someone special coming to dinner? You feel compelled to make sure your home looks as good as possible. You want to make a good impression and you want your guest to feel welcome.

God anticipated the question and told Moses what needed to be in place for his coming. First, he wanted to be close to them but there was the problem of sin that created a breach between them. So God provided Moses with instructions about the practice of sacrificing, offering a covering for the people’s indiscretions before a Holy God. Sin is serious stuff, not to be taken lightly, and the sacrifice of unblemished animals was necessary to give the people a picture of sin.

Second, he wanted to stay close to them. Moses was given the blueprints for the building of the Tabernacle. It’s a big word for “tent.” A portable place of worship. Kind of a mobile Motel 6. And he wanted to camp out right in the middle of where they were camping. God wanted to be close to his people.

But he also wanted them to be close to each other. So he declared a third thing to get ready. He gave them Ten Commandments concerning relationships. The first four commandments focus on how we are to demonstrate our love to God. The second set of six have to do with how to show love to other people. In seeing these relationships of love it was God’s desire that people would come tabernacleto know Him too.

Jesus said the same in John 13:34: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another. . .  By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

God gave the Israelites guidelines so that, when they sought to live by them, other nations would see them as different and know that they were God’s people. God gave us Jesus so that, when we live like him, others will know that we are his people.

For those who know him, God took care of our sin through the sacrifice of Jesus. He tabernacles in the hearts of those who have drawn near to him. Could it be then that the degree to which we are obedient to him in this command to love each other is the degree of his presence we will find among us? It could be our greatest opportunity ever.


Making Sense of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit

A highly controversial subject in the Christian community today is something called the baptism of the Holy Spirit. We are first introduced to the phenomenon in the second chapter of Acts. Here Peter, who was doing the preaching that day, refers to a prophecy made by Joel, some 800 years previous to this event.

“‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.

I will show wonders in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and billows of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord.

And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Acts 2:17-21

What does this promise mean that His Spirit be poured out upon all people? Who are the all people? Some would say, “Every single person can have the baptism of the Holy Spirit and should seek it.” In fact, there are those who teach openly and sometimes very loudly, that the baptism of the Holy Spirit, that specifically manifests itself in speaking in tongues, is THE sign that you have been saved and if you haven’t done it (spoken in “tongues”) they you don’t really have it, that is salvation.

However, if you take the time to examine the Baptism of the Holy Spirit in scripture you come up with a far different understanding. What is the best way to understand this prophecy of Joel’s? What is the best way to understand any prophecy? And this is a key principle when it comes to understanding prophecy. The best way to understand a prophecy is by its fulfillment. So, the question then becomes, “How was this prophecy fulfilled?”

Here on Pentecost the Baptism of the Holy Spirit came upon the Apostles giving them the ability to speak in all the languages of the people gathered there with the purpose of getting the message out that the kingdom of God is open to all people. The kingdom is for EVERYONE. In fact, the prophecy ends with the words, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Jesus wants to save all people and all people are welcome in his new kingdom.

The core message Joel was declaring in his prophecy and Peter was reaffirming, is found in the word “everyone” Everyone can come to Jesus for salvation. The kingdom of God is open to everyone.

Now, even though the kingdom was open to everyone, the truth didn’t catch on quickly, not even with the Apostles. This can be seen in the fact that most, if not all their evangelism outreach in the months following Pentecost, centered around the Jewish people, trying to get them to accept Jesus as the chosen one of God. The Apostles just weren’t getting it. This was new to them, that there were other people, besides the Jews, who were welcome into the Kingdom.

So to drive this message home again of everyone, God sends a second occurrence of the baptism of the Holy Spirit and, as with the first time, it involved Peter.

You can read this in detail in chapters 10 and 11 of Acts. Here’s the condensed version. In Caesarea was a God fearing and devout man with his family, named Cornelius. An angel appeared to Cornelius and told him to send some messengers to Joppa where Peter was and have him come to his house.

Meanwhile in Joppa Peter is up on His roof top porch taking a nap when he has a dream about a sheet that comes down from heaven and on it are all kinds of animals. A voice tells him to get up, kill something and eat it. Peter objects because there are certain animals that his Jewish background has taught him are unclean. But the voice says, “Do not call anything impure that God has called clean.”

About that time these guys from Cornelius arrive and invite Peter to come with them to the house of a Gentile. When they arrive the house is filled with people. Peter by this time was getting the message. The first thing he says to them is (Acts 10:28-29)”You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with a Gentile or visit him. But God has shown me that I should not call any man impure or unclean. So when I was sent for, I came without raising any objection.” 

He begins to share a message just like he did on the day of Pentecost. And what happened? Look for yourself. “While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles. For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God.

Then Peter said, “Can anyone keep these people from being baptized with water? They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.” In other words, God has sent this miraculous baptism again to show that gentiles also are welcome in the kingdom. “So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.” (Acts 10: 44-48)

The same thing happened here as in Acts chapter 2, to show that the Gentiles also were welcomed into the Kingdom. And once that was made clear by the miracle of the baptism of the Holy Spirit those who were willing to accept Christ were baptized by water into His family, just like at the beginning.

Question? How do we know this is the same baptism of the Holy Spirit that took place at the beginning of the church, in Acts 2? Because, after this incident Peter goes to Jerusalem and reports to the church what had happened. Pick up with his report in Acts 11:15-18 “As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came on them as he had come on us at the beginning. Then I remembered what the Lord had said: ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.So if God gave them the same gift as he gave us, who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could oppose God?” When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, “So then, God has granted even the Gentiles repentance unto life.”

Both events, what took place on Pentecost and at the household of Cornelius, are connected with Jesus promise of the coming baptism of the Holy Spirit. The purpose was to declare the kingdom of God as open to everyone, both Jews and gentiles. The day of Pentecost was primarily to the Jews. At Cornelius’ household it was declared to be open to the Gentiles as well.

In Jewish thinking of that day there were only two kinds of people, Jews and everyone else was Gentile. God welcomes everyone who will come to Jesus, from both Jews and Gentiles.

Back to Joel’s prophecy. The “I will pour out my spirit on all people” doesn’t refer to every single person but to all people groups. How do we know that? Because we have a clear record of its fulfillment. That’s how it played out. That’s how it was fulfilled. And the best way to understand the meaning of prophecy is in its fulfillment.

So, based on what the Bible says, the baptism of the Holy Spirit had a specific and temporary usage, and when it had fulfilled its purpose it faded from the scene

In fact, the events that we have just examined are the only references to the baptism of the Holy Spirit in the Bible. There are no others, even though from the occurrence at Cornelius’ household, to the end of the Bible, there were another 60 – 80 years of Bible writings, during which there is no other reference to the baptism of the Holy Spirit ever again. Why? I believe, from what we have revealed in scripture, that it is because it had fulfilled its purpose and then disappeared from the Christian scene.

For a full discussion of the practice of “speaking in tongues” that accompanied the baptism of the Holy Spirit, click on this link. http://relaxedchurch.sermon.net/da/1199845736/play


Celebrations in Baptism, 6/24/2012

Sunday, June 24, was a tremendous day of celebration for Chris and Nereida Glascock and Brent Wolfe as they followed Jesus in baptism for the forgiveness of their sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit. Each took the step to bury the old self-driven life in baptism and to come forth a new person and life in Christ Jesus. Pictures say it better than words.

world’s greatest comeback story

EVERYBODY LOVES A COMEBACK STORY. The best sports on TV, the most dramatic movies, the most inspiring news features are about people who’ve been beaten down, overwhelmed, pummeled into the mud- and then somehow they come surging back to win.

ABRAHAM LINCOLN losing half a dozen elections over the years and then becoming President just as his country desperately needed a wise leader for the Civil War.

The 1980 U.S. OLYMPIC HOCKEY TEAM rising to finally beat the Soviets 4-3 at Lake Placid and going on to win the gold medal.

Apple, coming from the verge of bankruptcy just thirteen years ago, to arguably the greatest corporate comeback story of all times with a net worth of over $500 billion today.


Because they give us hope. They light a match inside our self-doubt. They tell us that maybe, just possibly, our present failure and defeat might not be the end of the story.

Most of us can think of plenty of mistakes we’ve made. We know  we’re not quite the world’s best and brightest, the champion of the league or the most-likely-to-succeed.

But still . . . wouldn’t it be great to surprise everybody and make a comeback?

Wouldn’t it mean a lot if, just once, we could rise above the obstacles?

What happened on Easter was the greatest comeback of all times. And this Easter we are going to celebrate that comeback in all its magnificence.

The most beautiful building in the world

King David requested permission from the Lord to build the first permanent place of worship for the Lord’s people. But because of David’s heavy involvement in war, and to keep from God’s House being thought of in the same context as bloodshed, he was refused permission. Instead the privilege went to his son, Solomon.

The temple Solomon built has been called “the most beautiful building ever constructed.”  It would very possibly hold such a distinction even in today’s age of modern technology and architecture.

It was constructed of three primary materials—stone, cedar and gold. The stone was hewn in the quarry by 80,000craftsmen.  The cedars were transported by sea from Lebanon.  30,000 men were sent from Israel to help in this operation in addition to 70,000 common laborers and 3,300 supervisors.

The main structure of the temple was stone, overlaid with cedar, overlaid with gold. Everything was covered with gold, floors, walls, ceilings, etc.  It took more than 183,000 men seven years to construct. There hasn’t been a building built that could match its excellence, beauty and splendor.

But most interesting to note is that during its construction not a hammers sound or ax chop or clanging of any tool was heard on the building site itself. (1 Kings 6:7) The cedars were cut and the stone was hewn to precision before ever reaching the construction site.  And then merely assembled upon arrival. It was a temple that silently took its shape piece by piece.

There is one building that exceeds the beauty of Solomon’s temple though. It is the temple in which God dwells today. Acts 17:24 says, “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands.  

Then where does He dwell? “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?” 1 Cor. 3:16

And just as the perfectly hewn stone, cedar and gold made the first temple so beautiful, it is the Holy Spirit and the fruit that God’s spirit grows in us that makes our life so beautiful, because this fruit is Jesus. And when they grow in us we reflect His likeness.

And these fruit are developed silently from the inside out.  They are seen visibly in our life but they grow silently. The fruit of which I speak are identified in Gal 5:22-24 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”


These are personality traits. Yes, your personality can be changed. Yes, these characteristics can be developed in your life if they don’t currently reside there or they can be improved upon if they are weak.  Yes, no matter how challenging you see it to be, these keys to healthy relationships can be grown in the soil of your life. You can reflect the life of Jesus in your life.

Get out of the way and let the Holy Spirit produce His fruit.  

When does a person receive the Holy Spirit?

There is perhaps no more discussed and debated subject among Christians today than exactly when does the Holy Spirit actually come to dwell in the life and person of a Christ Follower. Brilliant scholars have addressed the issue exhaustively. But does it take brilliance to find the answer?

The first two verses in the second chapter of Acts say, “they” (the disciples) “were all together in one place,” and that all of a sudden, a sound came from heaven that was like a mighty rushing wind.” The text says it: “filled the entire house where they were sitting.”

Imagine this scene with me. Jesus Christ, the one you have spent the last three years following, the one you have dedicated your life to, just ascended to heaven. You saw it with your own eyes. You and the people who have become as close as your own family are all gathered in Jerusalem in someone’s house waiting. You know that something is coming because Jesus told you about it. He said wait, but you don’t know exactly what (or in this case who) you are waiting for. Maybe you are getting tired of wondering how many more days before something (what, you have no idea) happens.

Suddenly, a sound fills the entire house. And then tongues of fire appear and come to rest on each person present. And then it happens. Verse four reads, “And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit.”

Now, these are the same disciples who were dedicated to following Jesus, no matter what, but scattered as soon as Jesus was arrested. And they were gathered together, no doubt confused about how they should proceed now that Jesus has ascended. Yet when the HS descended and indwelt them, a radical change occurred. From that point on, none of these disciples were ever the same. The book of Acts is a testament to that fact. We read of Stephen, the first martyr. We see Peter, a changed, courageous man. We see Paul, formerly Saul; go from killing Christ followers to becoming one and showing many others how to do so too. They were not longer timid or confused; they were bold and inspired and began to declare and live the gospel of Jesus Christ through the power of the HS. Think about what a huge moment this had to have been in the lives of these disciples.

A huge crowd of people had gathered, some estimates of over a million. Peter preached a powerful sermon, and as they heard his words, they were “cut to the heart “and asked how they should respond. Peter answered, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the HS. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord your God calls to himself.” (Acts 2:38-39) The text says that on that day around 3000 people were baptized into God’s kingdom and received the gift of the HS.

I think it is needless for us to debate about when the Holy Spirit becomes a part of someone’s life. Some think it is when a person raises their hand at the end of a service when the preacher says raise your hand if you would like to receive Christ and repeat after me this prayer? Or is it when someone gets baptized? Or when someone chooses to surrender their life fully to Jesus and actually develops a personal relationship with Him? Or could it be at a charismatic church service when they are instructed to come forward to “receive the Spirit?”

We can easily spend all our time fixating on the many answers offered and miss the simplicity of Peter’s message. Just listen to what the Bible says, if not you will allow all the opinions and voices to lead you to a great deal of confusion. The people were cut to their hearts and asked, what do we need to do? Peter said; don’t miss this, one more time. “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Peter then adds, in case you don’t get who I am speaking to let me make it clear, “For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord your God calls to himself.”

 Question? Is this your response to the Word? Is it clear to you that you’re supposed to repent, be baptized and receive the HS? If so, have you done it? If not, what’s keeping you from doing it today?

Why do we sometimes feel that we need to debate this endlessly, running through every possible hypothetical situation and answering every theological question first? Why not simply respond to the truth we have heard and then work through our questions from there?

(For more in-depth discussion on the work of the Holy Spirit I recommend Francis Chan’s book, “Forgotten God.”)