Thursday, May 24, 2012

Long Hair, Strange Clothes, Odd Food

John the Baptist is spoken of by all four of the Gospel writers. It was the Father's plan for him to be born and to preach before Jesus was born and preached. He came before, just as Isaiah said he would (Isaiah 40). His job was to call Israel to repentance - to change their minds. That is what repentacne is, a changing fo mind and direction. Isaiah 40 and all the Gospel writers imagine John's ministry as the building of a smooth highway. This freeway needs to be straight, smooth and flat. The problem is, the country (hearts) in which this road is build is full of valleys, hills, rough and rugged places (sins). In order for the road to end up smooth the valleys have to be filled in (raised up) the mountains have to be bulldozed (brought low) and the rough and rugged places smoothed out. The reason for needing a smooth road is that the King was coming. In order for him to get from where he was to you the encumbrances have to be removed. Their removal comes through repentance so John preached repentance. Once the King arrives on the newly built highway (an honest, open and penitent heart)the Gospel writers report that Jesus "Will baptize in the Holy Spirit." John "the baptist," John the baptizer was one odd fellow. He lived in the desert, wore clothes which looked strange to everyone, ate odd food, never shaved or drank beer. AND while he was out there looking and being out of place the crowds came and he told them they had to change, repent. This "change" this new "Spirit" that was to come was as out of place for them as John was. I am wondering if this strange fellow some how is a word from God himself. I mean what he looked like, where he lived and what he ate. Perhaps a glance at him was supposed to spark imagination and wonder. Then when he opened his mouth and called for change...he looked like surprise to hear an odd thing come out of the mouth of an odd fit right in. Something has to be different if Jesus' Spirit is to live in us. We cannot keep our mind set on where it was set before. Philosophies have to change. Ideas, perspective and points of view have to now become as strange to us as camel hair. And here lies the rub. How we presently live, if we do not know Jesus, ideas we hold and things we practice are the hills, valleys and rough places between Jesus and us. It is strange at first, but if repentance is possible the road will smooth out and the blessing of the Spirit of God will arrive.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012


Along the way to being 61 with 62 eagerly waiting in the wings I had a lot of help. Some of that came from family like my Mom who told me bible stories in bed at night. Dad who MADE me "help" him with every project he undertook but who really was teaching me to be a handiman. A preacher who saw in me a glimpse of ability and encouraged and helped me do a sermon when I was 13. A grandmother who loved me like I was the only person in the world every time I was in her home. A school counselor who talked to me about why I got so nervous before a test and ended up blowing it. A sister 16 years my senior who really was my second mom. Helpers - there have been a bunch of them. Without those kind of folks in all our lives how would we have made it? The Father has given us one more...
Read John 14-17. Jesus is on his way back to the Father passing along the way through the eternally planned garden of Gethsemane and hilll of Golgotha. With him at the time were the 12 (really 11 if you don't count Judas). They were about to lose their mentor and friend. The One for whom they left their fishing nets and tax booths. In John 14:1ff he tells them not to worry He would not leave them "comfortless" He would send them "another" "counselor." The word "counselor" could easily be given as "helper." This helper would teach them, convict them, reveal to them and live in them (John 14:26;15:26;16:6-7;16:13,15). AS the APOSTLES, the ones who took the leadership after Jesus left, they would need someone to walk along beside them and help them do what they could not imagine doing - taking Jesus' place.
The Holy Spirit is their and our HELPER. We want to be like Jesus but as hard as we try we cannot accomplish the task. Neither could they. But Jesus went back to heaven and when He arrived he did not forget us - he sent "another Helper." It was part of His plan not to leave them/us confortless.
We made it this far with a lot of help - people who made a difference. We can make it much further with the help of the Helper. Once again, Jesus comes through. Foree

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Enigmatic Spirit of God

Zachery was a our first grandchild. He was one amazing blessing. When he was beginning to walk and talk my son and his wife arrived in town for a surprize visit. They decided to send Zachery to the door. He rang the bell and when I opened the door he said "PA PA!" It was the first time I had ever heard it. Grandchildren! You will not experience this until one arrives but when he or she does arrive you will feel it. I have told a number of people who are waiting for their first grandchild that they are about to experience a feeling that they have never had for anyone else. There is SOMETHING about a granddaughter or grandson which is wholly enigmatic, puzzling and inscrutable. It is a feeling that goes beyond the feeling for a spouse or children or parents. It is not better or more ...just different. It remains inexplicable. A mystery of the emotions. It is "enigmatic"...look it up.
Like this mysterious grandchild feeling consider the work of the Spirit as Jesus is about to come into the world. Consider the mystery: Jesus is both with God and is God (John 1:1). HE leaves the heavenlies where he has always been (but not as "Jesus"), empties himself and becomes human (Philippians 2:6-8)and experiences the world as we experience it (Hebrews 4:15-16). As the entrance of Jesus takes place the Holy Spirit is hard at work and as we read about his work we find out it remains enigmatic, puzzling and inscrutable.
Take a ride through Luke 1:1-4:18, Mark 1:1-3:9;Matthew 1:1-4:1 and watch for the Spirit's involvement in the arrival of Jesus. Look for the mystery, the unexplainable. The Spirit FILLS John the baptist in the womb (Luke 1:15), Jesus' mother Elizabeth (1:41) and John the Baptist's father Zechariah (1:67). The Spirit "came upon,""moved" and "revealed" things to Simon (2:25-27). Later when the ministry of Jesus was about to begin the Spirit "led" and "returned" Jesus from the wilderness where he was tempted (4:1,14). So how do you explain HOW the Spirit fills or leads or reveals or moves anyone? Is there a shadow or a cloud or a voice from beyond? Is there a physical sensation or some event in nature which lets you know it is happening?
Now consider the most awesome Spiritual activity of all...the Spirit "OVERSHADOWED" Mary and she became pregrant with the one who would be called Jesus (Luke 1:35; MAtthew 1:21). So Jesus who is God and was with God from eternity enters the world when the Spirit OVERSHADOWED Mary...AND she remains a virgin. Quite a mystery? Enigmatic enough? Just how does HE, the Spirit accomplish these activities? God doesn't say.
There is no chapter in the bible where God lays out the Spirit's moves and tells us HOW it is done. The work of the Spirit is and will remain inexplicable. It must then be a matter of faith. Even with you when you were baptized you recieved the "gift" (Acts 2:38). Now just HOW did that happen? Tell me if you know? Explain the mechanics of Spiritual activity. It cannot be done.
So it begins. The Holy Spirit is introduced with mystery. A grandchild says "PA PA" for the first time and you feel it but can't explain it. So it is with the Spirit. We just know but it will remain ENIGMATIC. Foree

Monday, March 19, 2012

The Spirit and Acts 2:38

The Spirit and Acts 2:38

At the age of 13 I had sins which needed forgiving and I was aware. I was sitting at a downtown drug store counter eating a flat enchilada and drinking a coke – the cost was 50 cents. There was a man two stools away who had had the same lunch but had finished and left his 50 cent piece on the counter under his empty plate. That 50cent piece meant I could have a free lunch. I reached over, stole the coin, slipped it under the edge of my plate, got up and left the store with my 50 cent piece still in my pocket a free lunch but no free conscience. I was tormented all the way back to school…that 50 cent piece was burning a hole in my pocket but not because I wanted to spend it.
There were other sins of course but when I was baptized I knew this one for sure was “remitted.” I knew it because of Acts 2:38. I had heard it almost every Sunday every time I went to church (and Grove family went to church every Sunday and Wednesday). If there was a hanging at church, Ray Grove, wife and kids were present.
I was baptized in June 1963 at the Lubbock Christian College student lectureship by a student named Bruce Simmer. I remember that evening like it was yesterday. It was the day my sins were forgiven. I knew that God had promised me the “remission of sins.” This promise was stated in Acts 2:38 and was T H E passage about baptism in the little church in which I grew up in Northern New Mexico. If someone wanted me to talk to them about baptism I would begin at Acts 2:38. Of course I was aware of other passages but 2:38 was where I would begin and end.
So baptism was based on Acts2:38 and in my mind, at 13, was about walking away from sins. I was glad to do it and glad God had promised it could be done. I also knew that since my sins were forgiven God expected me to try not to commit them anymore. I had learned from passages like Romans 6 that baptism was a burial to an old life and a resurrection to a new one. I knew that if I were to live faithfully there could not be anymore stolen lunches, stealing cigarettes from the laundry lady next door, cussing up a storm with my friends , telling lies, looking at dirty magazines etc. I knew as a Christian, God expected more of me than that and believe me the preachers and bible class teachers at the Raton Church of Christ had made that abundantly clear. Sinning was not allowed in Northern New Mexico and living for God meant you did your best not to sin and especially after you were baptized. How unappreciative would it be to receive the remission of sins and then just start sinning all over again?
As I would learn later there is more to Acts 2:38 than the remission of sins. That is only one of the promises God makes in that verse. The other one is “…and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Now the preachers and teachers in Raton did not spend a lot of time on that part of the verse. They may have read the verse and even quoted it at baptisms but in the services I attended and the classes I received there was not much commentary on the subject of the Holy Spirit. Maybe I missed it, ignored it or just was not able to understand it. But I do not think so. For probably explainable reasons the church in which I grew up just did not spend much time talking about the Spirit. The only time we mentioned “IT” was to talk about the “holy rollers” on First Avenue trying to perform miracles or speak in tongues. Outside of that “IT” was never mentioned.
So, why would I want to study the Holy Spirit? Because of Acts 2:38. And now as I have learned, God has given me the Spirit to help keep me from stealing lunch. There is power from HIM that reminds me, leads me, instructs me and convicts me. He is God’s instrument to put good things like love, joy, peace, goodness, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control into my heart (Galatians 5). He is the reason believers can disagree and still have unity. He took Jesus’ place on earth after Jesus left. He is the functionary of the New Covenant. Not only are these good reasons to study about “HIM” they are the reasons I want to study about him. All of that and because of Acts2:38

The Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit was not a subject I heard much about in the small New Mexico church in which I was raised. The only time "IT" was mentioned was when comments were made about "Holy Rollers" who, it was said, beat themselves with cactus and rolled around on the floor. There were also ideas shared that people who believed in the Holy Spirit were primarily looking for miracles and the ones they found were not anything like the immediate indisputable ones that Jesus performed. The Spirit was not a subject which aroused much interest in my world.

As time went by, in my College years (68-72), the Spirit began to be talked about more often. Mostly the subject came up in the context of the miraculous. During this time I had a discussion with a "Pentocostal" who said he could heal and I just happened to have a sprained ankle which was covered by my "bell bottom" pants (it was 1973). He prayed over me and I can honestly say I prayed too. My ankle remained sprained.

So the Holy Spirit, His purpose and His work,remained to me a mystery and honestly I avoided conversations about the subject. In about 1985- I had been preaching for 13 years - I decided my fears about the Spirit needed to be addressed. I began my own study of the topic. I decided not to read any books written by others and to begin in Matthew and read through the New Testament writing down everything the Book had to say about the Spirit. Needless to say my mind was opened - as open I suppose any human's mind can be - and I was happy to learn about the Spirit and to and see how He had worked and was working in my life.

For the next few (or many) BLOGS I will seek to share what I have learned. I hope it is beneficial for those who might choose to read. I solicite comments and even argument although my purpose is not to turn this space or my time into an arena for a debate.

Please know that I am on a spiritual journey and since I have been called to preach I try and share what I have learned with others. My only desire is to know the Father, the Incarnate Word and the Spirit left by Jesus when he left this earth. Foree