Tag Archives: Holy Spirit

Pursue Community Bible Study

Personal Bible Study is Essential; Group Bible Study is Even Better

Study the Bible in community.When I study the Bible, it’s usually by myself. Though I seek the Holy Spirit to guide me, I seldom have the input of other people. Though there’s value in personal Bible study—which everyone should pursue—greater value comes when we explore Scripture in community.

Here’s why:

Community Bible Study Allows for Equal Participation

A true group Bible study has no leader. Anyone can share their perspective, and no one guides the process. It is egalitarian, with everyone an equal participant. The words fairness, balance, and equality come to mind.

This is far different from a typical church service where one person speaks and everyone else listens. One person’s opinion, often presented as a singular truth, becomes the perspective that the faithful must adopt. Anyone who dares to disagree risks being labeled a heretic or effectively run out of the church.

Community Bible Study Provides Multiple Perspectives

Having everyone participate in an equal manner results in differing points of view, or at least it should. (If you’re in a group where everyone agrees, then there’s no need for the group. Find another one.)

We should acknowledge that there is no one right response to any given passage in the Bible. Instead there are many responses. It’s like studying a piece of art. Look at it from different angles, at different distances, and even at different times. Each experience can emerge as a new one, providing fresh insight.

So, it is when we study the Bible. A quick way to get multiple perspectives comes from seeking the opinions of others in a group setting.

Community Bible Study Promotes Dialogue

In a group Bible study, discussion can take place. One person shares their perspective and another one responds. They may agree, disagree, or—even better—build on each other’s comments.

This dialogue seldom takes place in a typical church service. How richer, fuller, and deeper it is to immerse ourselves in a group Bible study. Having a community with every member participating stands as a strong force to prevent heresy. Click To Tweet

Community Bible Study Prevents Heresy

Some people think only trained clergy can teach them about the Bible. This is in error. Through Jesus we are all priests, and through the Holy Spirit we each have a guide to direct our study of the Bible.

People who think all their spiritual instruction should come from ministers, in a church setting, worry that heresy results when those outside established religious organizations take on the task of understanding the Bible. However, in the last 2,000 years, every major heresy has come from within the established church, perpetuated by trained clergy.

Having a community with every member participating stands as a strong force to prevent heresy. This is because in a group setting, the people in the group can quickly squelch a heretical idea. But in a church, especially with a charismatic leader, dissension is much less likely to occur. Then, before long, the dynamic leader has the congregation metaphorically drinking the Kool-Aid.

Join a Community Bible Study

Personal Bible study is essential; group Bible study is even better. If you’re not already in one, join a Bible study.

We Can Study the Bible for Ourselves

We Don’t Need a Spiritual Guide to Help Us Study the Bible

Trust the Holy Spirit to guide you as you study the Bible.I use the Bible to study the Bible. To me, studying the Word of God is the best way to write about it. I don’t read much about what other people have to say about scripture. I prefer to experience it firsthand, not through an intermediary.

This makes complete sense—to me. But it confused my friend when I tried to explain it to her. She gave me a quizzical look, as if I was speaking a different language. Yet I couldn’t figure out a way to clarify my view.

Our differing perspectives may come from the training we received and how we view our faith journey.

I have come to understand that through the Holy Spirit I can study the Bible: I can examine its words, grow in my faith, and better comprehend God. I don’t need a human middleman to explain it to me. I embrace the Holy Spirit as my spiritual guide who provides the insight I need.

However, other people are taught and come to believe that they are unable—or unworthy—to study the Bible on their own and get truth from it. They need someone to guide them. They need an expert, a guru. They need a preacher, one who went to seminary and has been ordained; someone who knows Greek and Hebrew, the Bible’s original languages. These folks have been conditioned to believe they need someone to tell them what the Bible says, what it means, and how to apply it to their daily lives.

While much of Christianity accepts this, it’s also lazy. Through the Holy Spirit we can study the Bible, examine its words, grow in faith, and better understand God. Click To Tweet

The Holy Spirit Helps Us Study the Bible

God created us with a mind to think for ourselves and gave us the Holy Spirit to guide us. He placed within us a desire to draw close to him. We don’t need someone to facilitate this process. Through Jesus we have all we need. Therefore we no longer a middleman to connect us with God, like they did in the Old Testament or what many church goers seek today.

There’s no point in having someone tell us what the Bible says—unless we’re unable, unwilling, or too lazy to do it ourselves. God has given us all we need to discover biblical truth for ourselves.

Thank you Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Embrace the Biblical Story Arc

Though God Doesn’t Change, the Way People Perceive Him Does

 Embrace the Bible’s story arc.I enjoy a good book, one with a satisfying story arc. The Bible has an arc, too, a biblical story arc.

Some people see the Old Testament as focusing on God’s rules and judgment, with the New Testament focusing on God’s love and freedom. Though there’s some truth to this, it’s simplistic. The Old Testament also has its share of God’s love and freedom, while the New Testament gives us some new rules (though not as many) and contains judgment (check out Revelation).

However, on a more nuanced level we see changes that occur throughout the Old Testament and even the New. But it’s not God doing the changing, it’s people. As the biblical story arc progresses, the way we interact with God changes.

Aspects of the Biblical Story Arc

Intimacy with God: In the beginning is Adam and Eve, basking in the Garden of Eden and hanging out with God each evening. How cool would that be?

Distant from God: Then Adam and Eve are kicked out of paradise. Their relationship with God changes. It’s their fault, not his. From then until the time of Noah, people aren’t close to God at all. He seems quite distant.

Rescued by God: Then God looks at humanity and how they messed up his creation. He considers Noah and makes a plan: a boat, a flood, and a rescue. God is at work. He makes a promise to Noah. Man seems to be back on track with God, but not for long.

Promises from God: The next notable biblical character is Abraham, Father Abraham, a man of faith. Abraham has a closer connection with God and a deeper faith. God makes a new covenant with Abraham and promises he’ll be the father of many nations.

Guidance from God: Then we witness another transition with Moses. Moses sees God face to face. They hang out. They talk. Moses glows. God gives guidelines on how to live, moving his people beyond the barbarism of the world around them. God promises to bless others through his people, but they don’t do their part. They fail to live up to their potential. They don’t do much to bless others.

Closeness with God: Then David comes on the scene. He has the heart of God. God promises that from David’s line will come the messiah, the savior, who we know as Jesus.

Patience from God: But things go downhill after David. Future kings make a mess of things. But from the prophets we see God’s love for his people (us), his despair over their (our) actions, and his patience toward them (us). A cycle occurs: human despair, godly rescue, embracing God, backsliding, and repeat. Over and over. It’s a dark time spiritually. But this is the people’s doing. God’s always present.

Supernatural Provision from God: As we transition from the Old Testament to the New Testament and consider the books of the Apocrypha, we see a new level of spiritual engagement emerge, with supernatural acts. It’s as if the people finally see and accept the Holy Spirit at work. This is a great primer for what happens next.

Saved by God: In the New Testament Jesus becomes the star, as God always intended. Need I say more?

Community with God: In reading the Gospels, we gain a fresh perspective of God’s plan for us. Yet this viewpoint shifts as we move through Acts and more in the epistles. The people live in community and connect with God like never before.

Restored to God: By the time we get to Revelation our perception morphs yet again. We witness a supernatural battle, victory and judgment, and a new heaven and a new earth. Intimacy with God is restored. Just as God intended for us all along. God doesn’t change, but how the people in the Bible perceive and approach him does. And it’s a beautiful thing. Click To Tweet

This is a most pleasing biblical story arc.

Yet from Genesis 1 to Revelation 22, we see consistency in God and his desire to live with us. God doesn’t change, but how we perceive him and approach him does. And it’s a beautiful thing.

Do We Need to Know Hebrew and Greek to Study the Bible?

Ministers who flaunt their knowledge of Hebrew and Greek often do more harm than good

As part of their training, many ministers must study Hebrew and Greek. Sometimes when they prepare a sermon, they go back to the Bible’s initial languages so they can study the words in its original tongue: Hebrew for the Old Testament and Greek for the New.Do We Need to Know Hebrew and Greek to Study the Bible?

Then they talk about these other languages when they give their sermon. Sometimes this helps but other times it seems they’re just trying to remind us of how smart they are—or at least how smart they think they are. This often turns me off.

Yet other times I wonder if I would understand the Bible better if I could engage its words using Hebrew or Greek. It’s not that I want to learn another language; I have enough struggles with English. Instead this impulse occurs as I grapple with the English version of a particular text. I consult various translations and sometimes find clarity, but other times, confusion persists.

The Limitations When Studying the Bible

After all, when I read the Bible in English, I’m reading it through the theological filter of its translators. There’s no way for them not the color their work through the perspective of their beliefs. Some may call this a bias. I get that.

Yes, most everyone who embarks on a project to translate the Bible from its original languages into English—or any other language—strives for accuracy. Yet even the most sincere and conscientious still introduce the slant of their worldview into their work.

If only I could cut out the middleman and read the Bible in Hebrew and Greek.

Yet to do so, to read the Bible in Hebrew or Greek, would mean relying on others for their explanation of each Hebrew or Greek word. Again, their definitions would suffer from the influence of their perspectives and what they learned from other scholars, who hold their own biases and influences.

The reality is that studying the Bible in its original languages wouldn’t really help resolve my dilemma. It would still require me relying on the viewpoint of others to comprehend the text.

The only way I could gain real value by studying Scripture in Hebrew and Greek would occur if I understood these languages in the day and the culture in which the writing took place. And that’s impossible.

The Key to Studying the Bible

Though my desire to study the Bible in Hebrew and Greek carries an admirable intent, the reality is that I would still face frustrations; I would continue to struggle to understand its nuances. Yet, I have more resources available to help me engage with this holy text then at any time in history. There are scores of translations for me to consider. And for that I’m most grateful. Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we can study the Bible for ourselves. Click To Tweet

We, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, can study the Bible for ourselves. We don’t need a Hebrew or Greek-speaking guru to guide us. All we need is the text, the mind God gave us, and the Holy Spirit. We can pray for supernatural insight and have faith God will direct the outcome.

Having religious experts tell us what the Bible says or what God means is an Old Testament mindset. Jesus changed this when he fulfilled the Old Testament. Through him, we become priests. And he sends us the Holy Spirit to guide us. That’s all we need to study the Bible. If you happen to know a little Hebrew and Greek, great! But if not, no worries.

We should all study the Bible using whatever resources we have and trust God to guide us in our journey.

What If God Sent a Pillar of Fire to Guide You?

For Forty Years the Israelites Had a Pillar of Cloud and a Pillar of Fire to Show Them Where to Go

What If God Sent a Pillar of Fire to Guide You?After spending four-hundred years in Egypt, the repressed children of God finally get a chance to leave. This comes under the leadership of Moses. We know of Moses’s meetings with Pharaoh to negotiate the Israelites’ release, of ten plagues, and the people’s escape through the Dead Sea—as if walking on dry land. Their Egyptian captors, in hot pursuit, don’t fare so well.

Now God’s people are free!

What should they do? Where should they go? They know their destination resides in the Promised Land, the area Jacob left four centuries before when he sought food in Egypt. But instead of heading there on their own, they seek God’s direction.

Pillar of Fire

God sends them a pillar of smoke to guide them by day and a pillar of fire to guide them by night. When the pillars move, the people follow. When the pillars stay put, so do they. They do this for forty years.

I must give them credit. They were content to follow God’s direction for four decades, when they could have reached their destination, the Promised Land, in less than a week. For all the times his people messed up when they were in the desert, I admire them for being patient and willing to follow God’s leading, even though it didn’t make sense and was taking way too long. Wouldn’t it be great if God showed us where to go? Click To Tweet

Wouldn’t it be great if God showed us where to go today? If only he would give us a cloud to follow during the day and a fire to blaze our path at night. Then it would be easy to follow him, right?

Yet, God does lead us today. In the Bible he promises to give us his Holy Spirit, Holy Spirit fire (Luke 3:16 and Matthew 3:11). And when the Holy Spirit arrives, what is the visual sign? Fire. Yep, tongues of fire (Acts 2:3).

Yes, God still leads us today. He gives his Holy Spirit fire to blaze our path. All we need to do is listen—and obey.

[Read through the Old Testament of the Bible this year. Today’s reading is Exodus 13-15, and today’s post is on Exodus 13:21-22.]

The Holy Spirit Lives in Us, But Do We Realize It?

God’s Holy Spirit exists in those who follow Jesus

Before Jesus leaves this earth to return to his father in heaven he promises his disciples that they will receive the Holy Spirit, the Advocate, who Father God will send them. The Holy Spirit will teach them all things and remind them of what Jesus said (John 14:26). The Holy Spirit Lives in Us, But Do We Realize It?

A few weeks later, the Holy Spirit shows up. He comes with power and might. He supernaturally enables the disciples of Jesus to do amazing things (Acts 2:1-4).

What about us today? For people who see no evidence of the Holy Spirit in their lives, they assume this promise of Jesus only applied to his disciples, that the Holy Spirit is not a present-day reality.

However, other people operate under the power of the Holy Spirit most every day. They see Jesus’s promise as one that applies to all his followers throughout time. They believe that the Holy Spirit lives in us—all of us. Which is it?

We get a hint at the answer in Paul’s letter to his protégé Timothy. Paul affirms the Holy Spirit lives in Timothy, as well as in all of us (2 Timothy 1:14). This confirms that Paul believes in Holy Spirit power. Paul moved in that power, and Timothy could tap into that same power. What are we doing with this Holy Spirit power that God gave us? Click To Tweet

Neither Paul nor Timothy were disciples of Jesus, but they are his followers. As followers of Jesus they have the Holy Spirit in them, even though they weren’t his disciples. The same applies to us today. As followers of Jesus, we have the Holy Spirit in us. The Holy Spirit lives in us.

The question is, what are we doing with this Holy Spirit power? Are we ignoring it, or using it to accomplish amazing things for Father God and Jesus?

[Read through the New Testament of the Bible this year. Today’s reading is 2 Timothy 1, and today’s post is on 2 Timothy 1:14.]

5 Things Jesus’s Disciples Did

We are to go out and preach repentance under the power of the Holy Spirit

After Jesus calls his disciples, he trains them and then sends them into the world. 5 Things Jesus’s Disciples DidHe gives them five simple instructions:

Go out: To be effective Jesus’s disciples can’t hang out with each other. They need to go out into the world around them.

Preach Repentance: A basic understanding of preach is to tell or to encourage. A simple definition of repent is to turn yourself around, to make a U-turn. When Jesus tells his disciples to preach repentance, he’s instructing them to encourage others to turn their lives around and head toward him.

Drive Out Demons: Jesus empowers his disciples to do miraculous works in his name. These wondrous signs certainly get people’s attention. Supernatural power not only helps people in need, but it also rightly directs our attention to God. I think that’s the point.

Anoint the Sick: When Jesus tells his disciples to anoint the sick, he’s instructing them to bless those with health concerns and pray for them.

Heal People: Yes, Jesus wants us to heal those who are hurting. He gives us the power to do so, through the Holy Spirit. We need to walk in faith to make that happen.The instructions Jesus gives his disciples, can also apply to us today. Click To Tweet

The instructions Jesus gives his disciples, can also apply to us today. We are to go into our world and encourage people to pursue Jesus. As we do, we are to go in Holy Spirit power to perform signs, anoint people, and heal those in need.

While some people assume the supernatural power of signs and wonders ended with the disciples, I see no indication of that in the Bible. What Jesus gave to his disciples then, he gives to us today. It’s up to us to accept his call and move into it. And when we do, our witness will be magnified, and Jesus will be exalted.

[Read through the New Testament of the Bible this year. Today’s reading is Mark 6, and today’s post is on Mark 6:12-13.]

Do We Need to Rethink How We Pray?

Whether we pray often or seldom, we have likely fallen into unexamined habits

Do We Need to Rethink How We Pray?How do you begin your prayers?

What is your common salutation? It might be “Heavenly Father . . .” or perhaps “Father God . . . ” or maybe “Dear God . . . ”  (How about, “Hey, God. It’s me again.”) The Lord’s Prayer opens with “Our Father in heaven,” which is a good model to follow (Matthew 6:9). Some people open with “Dear Jesus . . . ” Have you ever addressed your prayers to the Holy Spirit? He is part of the triune God, after all.

When you finish praying, how do you conclude?

Some traditions end with “In Jesus’s name we pray, amen.” This aligns with what Jesus taught us (John 14:13). Other traditions take their cue from Matthew 28:19 and wrap up with “In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, amen.” Some use the shortcut of just “Amen.” (What about just saying “Bye” or “Catch you later,” which is how we talk to other people. Prayer, after all, is conversation.)

What does amen mean, anyway?

The Amplified Bible suggests it implies “So be it” or May it be so.” Saying one of these declarations to end our prayers may get us out of the rut of concluding with a rote “Amen,” but it usually confounds anyone listening to us.Try praying to specific parts of the godhead according to their character or role. Click To Tweet

And what should we say in the middle portion of our prayers?

Sometimes I direct my communications with God to specific parts of the godhead according to the character or role of each. For example, I can praise Father for creating me, Jesus for saving me, and Holy Spirit for guiding me. Or I can ask Papa to bless me, the Son to be with me, and the Spirit to inspire me. Doing this helps me see God in fresh, new ways; it enables me to better connect and be more real in my communications with God.

But what if I error and address the wrong aspect of God? It’s happened, but I don’t think it matters to God because Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are all the same God, the great three in one (consider 1 John 5:7).

The point is to stop praying words out of habit and think about why we say what we say when we talk to God. He deserves our full attention, so we should avoid using thoughtless words.

So be it.

The Bible Shows Us the Holy Spirit

The New Testament Centers on Jesus, but the Holy Spirit Emerges as Key in the Book of Acts

The Bible Shows Us the Holy SpiritWe’ve talked about how the Bible Reveals God the Father to Us and how the Bible Points Us to Jesus. The Holy Spirit forms the third part of the Trinity, the supernatural mystery of three spiritual deities in one package. Though the Bible doesn’t mention the word Trinity, most all Christians accept the concept of a triune God, albeit with variations of understanding.

The Holy Spirit emerges as the star of the church, guiding the followers of Jesus into a fuller understanding of him and showing them how to live their faith in a way pleasing to him. The book of Acts, the record of the early church, serves as a descriptor of how the church functions with the Holy Spirit at the helm.

Acts contains nearly one hundred references to the Holy Spirit. In fact Acts talks about the Holy Spirit more than it mentions Jesus. While Acts should serve as our practical guidebook to community and faith through Holy Spirit power, most followers of Jesus diminish or even dismiss him as part of our spiritual heritage and present experience.

But the Bible doesn’t relegate the Holy Spirit to the book of Acts. He shows up, by name, in all the Gospels and a majority of the books in the New Testament. The phrase “Holy Spirit” is even in the Old Testament, though “Spirit of God” is more common. The simpler label of “Spirit” occurs in about half of the Old Testament books and all of the New Testament books, except for 2 and 3 John.The Holy Spirit takes part in creation and in the end times. He is present with us today. Click To Tweet

In the beginning we see the Holy Spirit taking part in creation to form our reality (Genesis 1:2). In the end of time the Holy Spirit serves as the central player while God wraps up our physical existence, reality as we know it (Revelation 22:17). Clearly the Holy Spirit moves throughout the entire Bible, just as he moves through the church of Jesus and in the lives of his followers today – or at least how he should move, if only we will let him.

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The Bible Tells the Church to Meet Together, Worship, and Witness

How can we go and be witnesses for Jesus when we sequester ourselves on Sunday mornings?

The Bible Tells the Church to Meet Together, Worship, and WitnessJust before Jesus leaves this world to return to heaven, he instructs his followers to go into the world and make disciples (Matthew 28:19). In an expanded version of this incident, Jesus tells his followers to wait for Holy Spirit power and then be his witnesses, both near and far (Acts 1:4-9).

The church of Jesus doesn’t do a good job of being witnesses and making disciples. To do so requires an outward perspective, yet most all churches have an inward focus: they care for their own to the peril of outsiders, with many churches excelling in doing so.

Yes, God values community and wants us to meet together (Hebrews 10:25). And the Bible is packed with commands and examples of worshipping God, with Jesus noting that “true worshipers” will worship God in the Spirit and in truth (John 4:23-24).

Most churches do the meeting together part reasonably well, albeit with varying degrees of success. Many of those churches have a time of worship as they meet together, though perhaps not always “in the Spirit” or even “in truth.”

Yet few churches look outside their walls in order to go into their community to witness and make disciples. Though Jesus said to wait for the Holy Spirit, he didn’t say to wait for people to come to us, to come to our churches so we could witness and disciple them. No, we are supposed to leave our church buildings to take this work to them. We can’t do that at church on Sunday morning, safely snug behind closed doors.Maybe we should forego the church service in order to be a church that serves. Click To Tweet

Yes there is a time to come together and a time to worship, but there is also a time to go. And we need to give more attention to the going part.

I know of two churches that have sent their congregations out into their community on Sunday mornings, foregoing the church service in order to be a church that serves. One church did it a few times and stopped after they saw little results and received much grumbling. The other church regularly plans this a few times each year and garners a positive influence on their community.

Shouldn’t every church make a positive impact on their community? Yet so few do. They are too busy meeting together and worshiping.

In terms of witnessing and making disciples, what would Jesus think of your church’s activities? What should you do to go into your community?

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