31 January, 2011

An Unsettling Revelation

I sat down this morning and very candidly asked the Lord if there was anything specific I could write in here to minister to others. That's kind of the goal I have going here, to minister things which will broaden our hearts and our minds to receive from God all the great and abundant things He has in store for us. First of all, you have to believe that God wants to do these things for you. Many religious people do not believe God wants to spoil His kids beyond their wildest dreams. Then there are those people who are coming to understand that the Lord has great things in store for them, but they cannot find out how to get out of their own way and allow Him to work in His fullest capacity (or perhaps they have ridden the "God is Sovereign" approach so hard that they do not believe they can actually hinder God from moving in their lives, and thereby do not even attempt to get out of His way). Anyway, I asked the Lord if there was anything specific on His mind. He said, "yes... go find it." So I began searching places in Scripture wondering what He had on His heart for me, and anyone who may be interested in reading this. I have no problem admitting I am not a big fan of His answer...

Hebrews 7:4 says, "Now observe how great this man was to whom Abraham, the patriarch, gave a tenth of the choicest soils." This passage in the seventh chapter of Hebrews deals with Abraham establishing the tithe with the high priest Melchizedek. The Lord began strongly impressing on my heart how Abraham gave of his very best - something Ally and I have begun to realize is something that we need to be striving for. While reading this passage the Lord asked me, "Why does the government get a better cut than Me?" I thought about it for a moment and as I meditated on this question He gave me a very clear vision of what He was getting at:

I saw myself bringing my tithe before Him - a tenth of the value written on the paycheck - and He looked over my shoulder and asked, "Why does those men and women [the gov't] get a piece off the top, and yet I get only a tenth of your 'leftovers'?" I struggled with Him asking me this, "But I cannot control that part. They are practically stealing it from me. I cannot afford to give you even more than this, my money is too strapped as it is!" The Lord responds, "You do not think I can take care of the extra 40 dollars a check?! I created you! I promised to provide everything and more! Will you ever get that?! Is your faith in Me really that weak??

The debate has always raged in churches: net tithe or gross tithe? Preachers dance around the subject, because they do not want to upset congregations into not tithing at all, so we ask that cute tithe question and move on. I have struggled with it always. Ally and I have consulted every avenue and resource, and always get conflicting answers. The Lord fixed that for me right quick this morning. Whether we like it or not, those deductions are payments for services to make our lives better - regardless of who is in power in Olympia and Washington. We are not here to debate whether they are used properly, or taken fairly; that is not the issue. Jesus instructs us to give to the gov't what is due them (Matthew 22:17). In God's eyes, all those deductions are "expenditures."

We have been shorting Him. We tell him that we give Him a tenth of what we "make," without realizing that what we "made" is the first number on the check. The gov't gets their piece of it, and God should be getting His. Tithing off the leftover amount is not giving God our best. We claim we cannot afford it - essentially discrediting every promise of provision He has ever made to us. That is why our finances never seem to get to their very highest point. We have been giving God out of shortage and out of fear. Faith says "My God shall supply all of my needs" (Phil 4:19); fear says "If I give God a tenth of the gross income, I will not have enough to get through 'til the end of the month." The Lord came down hard on me for that one. He expects our best, because He is constantly giving us His. Look at Malachi 3:10, "'Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this,' says the Lord of hosts, 'if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows.'" In The Message translation, it says God will "pour out blessings beyond your wildest dreams." That's what I am striving for!

I want to see God move beyond anything I have ever seen. I want God's revelation to flow in my life beyond anything I have ever experienced before. The reason God has not operated in the fullness of His Blessing in my life is because I have held back from Him. He didn't come down on me because I am not tithing, but because I could be doing better. I shouldn't be so terrified to give up those extra few dollars to Him. He promises to fulfill everything Ally and I will ever need and more (2 Corinthians 9:8-10). If I truly trust God to do all that He says He will do for me, then I wouldn't even flinch at the prospect of giving Him off of the very top. Not only does He promise to give me more than I can ever imagine, God actually dares me to test Him on this issue. It is the only time He does this in Scripture. That is how confident He is in this principle. Now I should be as well. My aunt and I challenged each other to find out the answer to gross v. net tithing. I found it this morning - and I didn't like it.

28 January, 2011

Scripture's Seed

As we conclude our glimpse (because that's all this has really been) of the various roles the Bible plays in the life of the Christian, we move on to the most recent discovery the Lord has shown me. At first, I found this to be a rather odd way of looking at the Scriptures. Having grown up all my life in the church, I had never heard the Bible put this way - even though Jesus Himself called it such. The Word of God is a seed. The Bible is a big bag of seeds. I found that to be a very odd way of putting it until I realized that is exactly how Jesus considers it:
  •  "The sower sows the word" (Mark 4:14)
  • "The seed is the word of God" (Luke 8:11)
People who are attempting to be overly spiritual have botched up the parable of the sower by adding funny meanings that Jesus never mentions. I had a pastor tell me that the seeds that sprouted and withered in the heat were "fake Christians" - folks who were never saved in the first place. ...??? Um, pastor, Jesus said the seed was the Word and the ground was the person hearing the Word. The plant that withers is God's Word dying because the individual stopped tending it. I guess that guy can't read... I also read an author who expressed that this parable is about Christians who do or do not neglect Jesus' teachings. Jesus didn't say the sower was Him, He simply said that the sower sows the Word - whoever preaches/teaches/speaks the Word of God is a sower; whoever hears it is the ground. Honestly, just read it. 

So what do we do with this Seed? We put ourselves in a position to receive it, and then we guard it. Jesus explains that the Word is sown into our hearts, and Proverbs 4:23 instructs us to "Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the issues of life." Jesus echoes that instruction in Matthew 12:34-37,

For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart. The good man brings out of his good treasure what is good; and the evil man brings out of his evil treasure what is evil. But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an account for it in the day of judgement. For by your words you will be justified and by your words you will be condemned.

Comforting thought, isn't it? In order to have a "treasure" of God's Word, we must be diligent in storing up His Word in our hearts. Give attention to the Word as often as you can. If you go back and read the parable of the Sower (Matt 12; Mark 4; Luke 8), you will notice that the devil's first tactic is to steal the Word of God the moment you receive it. If that does not work, He will bring pressure upon you to make you quit on it before His promises come to pass. However, you will also notice that he may not need to do much work, because you are doing it for him. The things of this world can cause some people to become unfruitful in what God has spoken to them. That is all the more reason to guard your heart with all diligence. 

Every situation we face is addressed somewhere in the Word of God. It is vital that we find these promises and meditate on them, so that they take root and become fruitful in our lives. If God has promised you something and you have yet to see it come to pass, take stock of the "garden" in your heart. Have the stresses of life caused the Word to wither? Has the devil been able to sneak in and take it (meaning you lost focus and have forgotten)? Or perhaps you have let the "stuff" of life choke out the place God's Word in your life? God likens His Word to a seed; so remember seeds take time to grow. Jesus wasn't being cute when He gave us this teaching. He wants us to understand that we must cultivate His Word in our lives and give it time to take root and grow. Meditate on Scriptures of healing, prosperity and freedom, allow them to reside in your heart, so that when pressure arises you will not spout off words of doubt and unbelief. Jesus said these will lead to condemnation.

There's my weekly "schpeal" on the Bible. Hopefully it will help us all begin to understand that the Scriptures are much more than mere religious text. We do not sit and analyze it as ancient writings, but as the spoken Word of the Living God directly to His children (you and me) right here and now. Use it. Understand it. Speak it. 

27 January, 2011

The Mirror of God

How do you see yourself? What is your opinion of who you are at this moment? What does it mean to you to be a Christian? What is your understanding about your relationship with God? One of this most important elements of the Christian life is how the Christian views them self. And I have no problem telling you, point blank, many Christians have it flat wrong. I do not know what they are looking at, but it can't be the Word of God. The Word of God is our mirror of how He sees us and how we should also see ourselves.

2 Corinthians 3:18, "But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image, from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit."

 James 1:23-25, "For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides in it, not having become a forgetful hearer, but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does."

Two things we see concerning the Word of God from these passages: we see what God wants us to be, and we see what we used to be. I'll deal with the latter first. God wants us to remember what we used to be. Romans 3:23 says, " for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God." Nobody is exempt here. Adam brought the Curse upon all of humanity when he bowed to Satan and committed treason against God in the Garden. 1 Peter 1:14 tells us "do not be conformed to the former lust which were yours in ignorance." Again, in his second Epistle, he says, "For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins." Also, look at Ephesians 2:12, "remember you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenant of promise, having no hope and without God in the world." Never forget where you came from and what Jesus did for you. But accept it!

There is an overwhelming emphasis still placed on the sinful nature throughout many churches today. While I know that 1 John 1:8 says "If we say we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us;" I also know that same book later says, "No one who abides in Him sins" (3:6). So, if there is still an overwhelming emphasis on the sin nature coming from the pulpit, that person must not yet be fully abiding in the Word of God. Also, look at 2 Corinthians 5:17, "Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature, the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come." That is how God now sees you. That is what the Bible is meant to show you. Paul continues in verse 21, "He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." We are new creatures! We are not remade versions of our former selves, but brand new creations of God in Jesus. That is what the Word is meant to show you - it is meant to show you what you are now in relation to what you were while you were sinners. You were an old sinner, but you have been saved by grace, and if you will put the Word of God to work in your life, and see yourself the way that God now sees you, James promises that a that point you will be blessed in all that you do.

This vision is not just based solely around redemption, either. The religious world loves sickness, disease, suffering and poverty. They are worn as badges of honor to the pious. But that is not how God envisions us. God has big, big ideas for His people. Take the following:

  • We are children of God (1 John 3:1)
  • We are conquerors (Romans 8:27)
  • We are blessed to be a blessing (Genesis 12:2; Galatians 3:29)
  • We are healed (Isaiah 53:5; 2 Peter 2:24)
  • We are rich (Proverbs 14:12)
  • We are prosperous (Psalm 1:3, 3 John 2)
  • We are meaningful (Jeremiah 29:11. Ephesians 4)
  • We are holy (Ephesians 1:4)
These are just a handful of the ways that God already sees us. That is His view of you. That is what He sees when He looks at you, because He is looking at you through the blood of Jesus. Just because you may not see it happening in your life does not mean that it is not God's intention for you to be walking in it. If you cannot see yourself living like this list, then you never will be. Everything is done by faith, so if you cannot believe for it, you cannot receive it. That is why God has given us His Word; it is the mirror in which we can see how God sees us and how He wants us to live, in spite of all we may have done and continue to do to Him. He wants you to see it, so you can believe it, so He can do it (fun sentence, huh?). It is up to you to know His Word and to take Him up on it. Look at yourself through the eyes of God. Look in this mirror and put it to action, and begin to live the way God intended for you from the foundation of the world (I must say, that was a really good, church last line...). 

26 January, 2011

The Sword and the Scalpel

"The Word of God is a double-edged sword; one side cuts the devil, the other side cuts you" ~Jesse Duplantis.

That line simplifies the depth of our next point in learning about the Bible's role in the Christian life: the sword and scalpel. The Word is used as our weapon in warfare against the devil, yet it often turns on us to perform the necessary "heart surgery" of the Christian life - often when least expected. I'm a guy, so I'm going to start with the fighting part.

Ephesians 6:12 says, "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places." In other words, we do not fight against people, we fight against the devil in people (which often feels like one-and-the-same to us...). James 4:7b says, 'resist the devil and he will flee from you." We resist by using the Word of God - "the sword of the spirit" (Eph 6:17); that is our weapon. Sheer will power will not always cut it for us. There will be times when we get so worn down by the pressures of life that our will can no longer stand on its own. If you do not have a firm foundation in the God's Word you will start to crumble. But, if you understand what the Word has to say about every situation, you will render the devil powerless to defeat you. Again, ask yourself, "what does the Word have to say about that?" Then, ask the devil. One thing we must understand is that Satan knows the Bible better than we do, and the first thing he is going to do is try and take you away from it. If he cannot do that, he will attempt to twist it in your mind and make it become unfruitful religion. If we know what the Word says, that is when we have the full power to resist the devil when he comes along trying to implant he lies into our thinking. When he comes along with fears regarding a financial situation, we can fight back with "my God shall supply all of my needs according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus" (Phil 4:19). When sickness begins to creep into your body, you can respond with "by His stripes I am healed" (1Pet 2:24). When lies that God has for some reason given up on you begin to creep into your thinking, you respond, "God's gifts and calling are irrevocable" (Rom 11:29) and "God has a plan for a future and a hope" (Jer 29:11). The list continues. However, if you do not have a firm grasp on these Biblical truths, then the devil can simply pound your brains in with all sorts of garbage, and you will believe it. Your hope will dwindle and your faith will stagnate. The Word contains your victory; it is your weapon of warfare.

However, when go the the Word for our training in righteousness, so that we may be well-equipped against the demonic assignments against us, sometimes the sword we are using turns on us and becomes our spiritual scalpel. However, unlike with the devil, the Word of God is not meant to "cut you down to size." God is not out to tear you apart in the same way He is with Satan. We know God disciplines and we know that it sometimes hurts, but some religious folks are really hung-up on suffering and pain as fundamental element to our daily Christian life. Knock that off. Now look at Hebrews 4:12, "For the Word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart." This verse is packed with revelation about God's Word. Though we are talking about the sword, notice quickly: God's Word is living. I could have easily used this passage when discussing why the Bible is "The Word of God," but I wanted to use it today instead. When we meditate on the Word, it comes to life. It is a primary means of communication between God and His people. So, stay in the Word until it starts talking back to you. Sometimes, however, we do not like what it will have to say to us. We do not want to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us (Matt 5). We read "I will set nothing wicked before my eyes" (Ps 101:3, NKJV), and then we see our TV shows, movies and all those trashy magazines lying about and realize what God requires of us. Or we come across Ephesians 5:4, "Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but let there be thanksgiving" (ESV), and we remember all the trashy jokes we were throwing around the night before. Its not always fun, but it is necessary to remove anything that hinders us from living the abundant life God has always had in mind for each one of us. Remember, God is not cutting you up; He is freeing you from any and all hindrances from Him and the good life.

God wants us to live victoriously in every aspect of our lives (regardless of what religion may say). He wants us to be free, walking in love and prosperity, and blessing everyone we come in contact with. The devil is out to destroy all of that, and he will use any means necessary to do it. If he cannot beat you, he will subtly slow you down and cause you to put up your own roadblocks between you and God. Maybe the reason you are not seeing much victory in your life is not because of the devil, but because of you. That is why time in God's Word is so vital. It reveals to each of us who needs to "go under the knife," the enemy or ourselves...

25 January, 2011

The Instruction Manual

I do not know why, but I have found many Christians who do not like the Bible being referred to as a "manual of instruction." I suppose that if one only refers to the Scripture as a manual, and does not give it any other credit than a "religious book with great morality and integrity," then yes, they would be wrong. However, the Bible refers to Itself as our Instruction Manual. Turn again (for those kind enough to read last time) to 2 Timothy 3:16-17, "All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work" (emphasis added). Don't manuals train and equip one with knowledge of how to function in whatever capacity is needed? Don't manuals teach and correct? Yes, they do; and God gives us instructions for how to deal with the issues of life through His Word.

Look at Romans 15:4, "For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope" (emphasis added). That means all those boring (yes, I know that sounds rude, but try reading Obadiah sometime) Old Testament stories are there for the specific purpose of instructing us in how to live by faith. Many of those characters we see in the Old Testament are listed in Hebrews 11 as "champions of faith." Their example shows us how God expects us to live. If man had never committed treason against God, the Bible would end at Genesis 2. However, since we are prone to the sinful nature, God has given us reams of instruction, through direct commands and story-book examples, of the life we are to lead by faith.

Since we know that all Scripture is from God, and that the writings of the Old Testament are for our benefit, look at Proverbs 4, "Hear, O sons, the instruction of a father, and give attention that you may gain understanding... My Son, give attention to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. Do not let them depart from your sight; keep the in the midst of your heart. For they are life to those that find them and health to all there body" (Prov 4:1, 20-22). Again, based on what we have already seen in Scripture, not only are these Solomon's words to his sons, but God's words to His children. He implores us to incline our ears unto His instructions. We do this by keeping the Word constantly before us. I understand that many people do not feel that they have the time to dedicate to Scripture in such a manner. However, I ask, how many hours do we spend doing other things for "pleasure?" We watch many hours of TV, read countless other books/magazines, commit time to recreation and other entertainment... You get the idea. We have the time; and it is vital that we use it wisely. The Word is our Instruction Manual for life. And God promises us that by giving it the time and honor It deserves we will live a long, healthy, prosperous life.

The Word must become final authority in our lives. Whenever issues of life arise, the first response must be "what does the Word say about that?" In times of financial crisis, what does the Word say? The Word instructs us to "be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God" (Phil 4:6). That is our instruction. Jesus instructs us "do not let your heart be troubles, nor let it be fearful" (John 14:27b). That's not a suggestion, it is an instruction (actually, it is a command). When someone is dealing with sickness or disease, the Bible instructs that "he must call on the elders of the church and they must pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick" (Jas 5:14-15a). God gives us the full of scope of instruction, including the end result: you pray with the elders, have them anoint you and believe - and then you will be healed. Jesus instructs us that, when we pray for things, "believe that you have received them, and they will be added to you" (Mark 11:24b). Get the picture? The keys to life and godliness are found in God's Instruction Manual, the Word. Use it. 

24 January, 2011

Scripture as Word

This is part one of a small series the Lord has begun cultivating in my heart on the roles of Scripture in the Christian life. It is by no means an exhaustive list, as the Scripture is fuller and deeper than any one human being will grasp this side of Heaven. It is designed to expand our thinking on the various reasons it is so vital that we make time everyday to read and meditate on the Bible. The Scripture references are a base, meant to begin one's Biblical foundations (again, nothing overly exhaustive). Today: why do we refer to the Bible as the "Word of God"?

One would think this is an obvious question to answer. However, I have had personal experience to the contrary. I had a professor in college - at my Christian university - who did not appear to take the same view as I did on this matter. This individual is supposedly very well-respected in academic religious circles, so much so, that they believe it is their duty to blast any and all opinions contrary to their own.  If you do not believe what this person believes, you are flat wrong. I was given the task at the end of one quarter to write a paper expressing my personal beliefs regarding God, the Bible, everything in the Christian life. We had just completed a university-mandated course on Biblical theology (zzzz...), and the professor wanted to know our beliefs/opinions at the end-of-quarter as compared to prior (I believe it was nothing more than a shameless attempt to see how mush the professor had changed our thinking to conform to their own). I got blasted on the assignment. I have grown-up in the church. I have volunteered hundreds of hours of my life to the Gospel. Now, I am by no-means building myself up; if anything, I do not do enough for the Lord anymore. I just want to set the stage for what I am about to tell you. After all my decades in the church - after all the missions trips, youth leadership meetings, camps/retreats, and so-on - after a year of intensive discipleship/Bible study in Master's Commission, and even after a year of ministry training at my Christian school as a Ministry major... I got a C. My beliefs were not good enough. I was told I had a lot to learn about God. The atheist who sat two chairs over... got an A. The professor's biggest knock on my paper?? "Where does it say the Bible is the 'Word of God'?" WHAT!?

How is it possible for a leading Christian "authority" to question such a basic, fundamental element of the Christian life? How is it possible for someone to have missed such obvious Scriptural proof? In 2 Timothy 3:16 Paul says "All Scripture is inspired by God..." The King James Version says it is "given by inspiration of God," and the Amplified calls it "God-breathed (given by His inspiration)." In short, the entire Bible comes straight from the mouth of God, through the Holy Spirit. Every last word is a direct result of God's intention for all humanity. If it weren't, why would you even bother to read it? Paul puts it another way in his first epistle to the Thessalonians, "...we constantly thank God that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which performs its work in you who believe" (1Thes 2:13). If what Paul teaches is the Word of God, then all thirteen epistles are God's Word to His people. And if every word in the epistles is God's, then God is telling us in 2 Timothy that every other Scripture is from Him and is His Word. THAT'S why I can say without a shadow of doubt that the Bible is God's Word. 

See, that wasn't exhaustive by any stretch of the means. However, it is important simply to remember the simple. If the Bible is not God's spoken Word to his people, why would any of us bother to read it? It simply becomes ancient religious text without God's intervening. Without God's inspiration, we cannot trust the Bible. However, the Scriptures are given directly from the mouth of God, through the Holy Spirit. It is a perfect book; it needs no interpretation. We need to stop adding our own spins and twists to the Bible. We need to quit placing more emphasis on the literary techniques of each book and remember this is God's spoken Word to His people. The Bible is God's instructions to us (which we will get into next time), not a compilation of ancient writings that Christians need to "figure out." That is not to say that there are not difficult passages that we need to decipher. Actually, the Bible even refers to Itself as containing the "mysteries of God" that are stored up for the righteous (go find it, it's in there). That means it is even more vitally necessary that we spend as much quality time with it as possible. Do not simply plow through as many passages as possible to meet your religious quota; but rather, meditate in it often. That is when the Lord will speak to your spirit through His Word, and all the Scriptures you found difficult to understand/apply will become clear. When you meditate in God's Word, it will bypass your head (which screws it up like my old professor's did) and will go straight to your spirit-man, where it will affect the whole of your being - including your head. It is were direction is found; it is where understanding is found; it is where life to the fullest is found. Be renewed through the transforming of your mind by understanding the Scripture as God's spoken Word to you. 

21 January, 2011

The Holy Spirit's Work

"When you pray in the Spirit, you are praying the perfect will of God" ~George Pearsons.

I had a disturbing conversation with a pastor at my church a few months ago that has frequently gnawed at my spirit. It has caused such an agitation that I have difficulty walking through the doors of the place, or taking anything anyone in leadership says seriously. You see, I was raised in a pentecostal(ish) church. I have an Assemblies of God background, being from the South; and I currently align myself most closely with the Word of Faith tradition (you know, those crazy preachers who actually read the Bible as God's spoken word). Therefore, it should come as no surprise to many of you that I have been baptized in the Holy Spirit. I have the same gift as the early church members: the ability to pray in the Spirit as He gives utterance. Apparently, in the Pacific Northwest, that's weird.

Upon hearing this, the pastor immediately went on the defensive. It was brought to my attention that our church, while teaching the baptism of the Holy Spirit as a biblical truth, does not engage this gift of God - and that I should expect to see any such manifestations from him or any other member of the congregation. What irritated me most of all was how he immediately "clenched up" around me from that point on. He made it abundantly clear that he wanted no part in this wonderful gift of God. He doesn't find it a necessary element in the Christian life; he doesn't want; he doesn't need it. I got the feeling that he thinks this manifestation of the Spirit of God is contagious, and if he spent too much time around me he might "catch it," and look a fool around the rest of the church. He treated me like some strange coot one might see parading around on TBN. The conversation quickly deteriorated. I was glad when it was over.

Why such hesitancy? What is it about this region of the world that has so many people turned off to such an essential part of the Christian life? Romans 8:26 says, "In the same way the Spirit also helps us in our weaknesses; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words." I was part of a men's Bible study at church on the book of Romans, and when we got to this verse our facilitator had the gall to say that this verse means the Holy Spirit is off in some corner of the earth praying on our behalf. ...what?! The "groanings" come out of our mouths! I know that this sounds strange to many people. It took me nearly 20 years to finally come to the place of accepting this manifestation of the Holy Spirit; and nearly two more years to come to a place where I am comfortable praying in such a way. Do not be like me.

Praying in the Spirit opens the airways of heaven. It calms the spirit, and shuts down the mind (literally; it has been shown that when people pray in the Spirit, their brains are not active in the process). It is the gift of God to any who will step up and boldly receive it. It is a vital tool in combating the devil. Many times the Lord has used it to "cleanse" my Spirit. There have been times when I have been so down that no prayer I have prayed has been of any use. I can recall praying in the Spirit, and having the Holy Spirit take control of my mouth and speak something unknown to me. I know my prayer language, and in these cases it was something new - something I could not replicate or even remember. As I would pray, I could feel my spirit lifting. It was as if the very poison of the enemy was being released out of my mouth as I prayed. There have also been times when I could not hear God if my very life depended on it. Yet, as I would pray in the Spirit, revelation knowledge would begin to flood my heart and mind. Understanding of difficult Scriptures would immediately come into my mind. Direction for my life would manifest itself in my spirit. I will walk away refreshed and excited about the things of God.

Ephesians 6:18 admonishes us to "pray at all times in the Spirit." Let me ask you: if the Bible is God's Word, in accordance to 1 Thessalonians 2:13 and 2 Timothy 3:16-17; why do we automatically assume that the baptism in the Holy Spirit is out of date? How has it become the one thing we no longer "need" in our Christian life? I can tell you from personal experience that it is essential to going to the next level in one's understanding of God. For those of you who have been baptized in the Holy Spirit, yet feel uncomfortable praying in such a way: keep going. It is a gift that must be "stirred up" within you (1 Timothy 1:6). Whenever you neglect the operation of the Holy Spirit, it will become difficult to re-engage this gifting. Remain steadfast. As you do so, your prayer language will grow; it will feel less awkward to you, and you will find that you can walk around your house for hours just praying in the Spirit. I encourage those of you who, like my pastor, are put off by the very idea of baptism in the Holy Spirit, to do some research on the subject. Follow the teachings of the apostles; take a closer look at the book of Acts. It is awkward for many of us at first, but it is essential to becoming closer and more intimate with God. Isn't that what we all want?