time chasing people down a hill

Simple Guide to Know God Better | Spiritual Meditations

Momma always said “Stop, Look & Listen”. Although excellent instruction for children crossing traffic, it is also good advice in polite conversation, especially polite conversation with God. My friend, Stephanie, explains how these simple words can guide your improved connection with God.

Is it the busy-ness of life that sometimes makes you feel that God is silent? Are the hours at work, family responsibilities, and self-care routines actually building a wall that keeps you from hearing His voice? Does the instant gratification created by the information age make you feel impatient and want to put a time limit on getting the answers to your prayers?

Now let’s be real. God is never really silent. we only have to open our Bibles and He speaks to us. However, there are times when you think you need a timely answer. When life, love, and liberty might hang in the balance and each moment waiting to hear from God is excruciatingly long and exhausting. Here are a few questions to ask yourself when you’ve repeatedly petitioning God, and you’re getting impatient to hear from Him:

Are you listening for God’s answer?

Sometimes the answer is ‘No’ when you really want ‘Yes.’ Or, vice versa. The question may already be answered, but you are hoping that God will change His mind. Other times, the noise around you won’t allow you to hear the whispered voice of God. Just imagine being on a roller-coaster at Disney. You’re strapped in and ready to enjoy the sights, sound, and physical aspects of the ride. The cast member gives the go sign and you’re off! At that same moment, the person in the seat next to you leans over and whispers something really important in your ear. Any chance you’re going to catch what was said? And even if you do hear the words, any chance that you’ll be able to give it the focus it deserves? Probably not. In fact, more than 3000 years ago, God gave you the answer to this perplexing challenge of a busy life in Psalm 46:10, “Be still and know that I am God…” So, find a place to be still and silent before the Lord. Pray as you always do, but before the ‘Amen’, take a moment to listen and see if God is whispering to your heart.

Are you watching for God’s activity?

God is at work all the time. All….The….Time. God does not take a vacation, which is confirmed by Jesus in John 5:7 “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.” And if He’s working, then something is happening, just like a clock without a second hand moving from one minute to another. Somewhere inside that clock something is counting the seconds until the minute has passed. You don’t see the counting but you know it’s going on. The awesome and amazing thing about God, is that He can work on us all at the same time. He doesn’t have a schedule that says, “Okay, today I work on the people whose names start with L and tomorrow I move on to the M’s.” No, he works on us individually and collectively simultaneously! That movement from who you are, to who God longs for you to be is the journey of transformation, and if you are truly seeking God, you can look back on your life and see the growth and evolution that is your story for His glory. Take a moment to look for God, in your life and in the lives of those you love. It’s an amazing metamorphosis. (Accounts of real experiences of God working in people’s lives)

Are you open to God’s answer?

I think that this is a really challenging aspect of this whole thing. Somewhere along the line, we humans became really stubborn. Really stubborn. We’ve either become so sure that we have all the answers, or realize that we don’t, but we want to ‘fake it till we make it’ and we forget that the only one with all the answers doesn’t answer to us. Allowing the Holy Spirit to do His work in you can be difficult, yet Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to be your counselor, intercessor, and guide. This Spirit of God is your biggest fan when you’re reflecting God honestly. Yet the Revealer (Holy Spirit) will also admonish you and nudge you toward God when you’ve strayed or rebelled. It is hard to be open to an answer that will probably change you. Yet growth produces the seeds that will start the next exciting cycle in your life with God.

Finally, remember that you don’t need to be in church for the change to occur, yet having a family (your church family) who recognizes your gifts can be an awesome thing. And you don’t need another person to intercede for you, yet having others praying on your behalf can be extremely comforting.

Conclusion

If you combine these things with a quiet place to regularly listen for the Lord, you will hear Him. He’s waiting to speak with you. You just need to give Him your attention. Stop, look and listen.

many hands in prayer

3 Steps to Successful Prayer | Spiritual Meditations

How to Make Prayer Work for You

If your prayers are not being answered, it’s time to take a look at your attitudes, your pride, your trust in God and your connection with God and His Spirit. The following, written by my friend, Reverend Dr. Tim Ehrlich, talks about the power of prayer and how you can tap into it.

“I have been crushed and completely defeated at least four times in my life; I am talking about times I was brought so low by my circumstances that I felt like I was walking through ‘the valley of the shadow of death’, and I could not find my way out. Neither could I see the sun. I could only see doom and gloom. I felt completely empty inside, like there was a dark cloud on my soul. Every time, it was prayer that brought me back up out of the valley.

The Interview I Tried to do Myself

I am going to tell you about the second time I was crushed and defeated; it happened in my second year of my first church appointment.

I had already graduated from Duke Divinity school with a three-year masters degree, and I was serving as a Licensed local pastor. To be an ordained Methodist Pastor you had to be a Methodist for two years before graduation. I was not ordained yet because I had gone to Duke as a Presbyterian and became a Methodist in my second year. but if no ordained pastors were available, I could be appointed as a Licensed local pastor before being ordained.

For my first assignment I was appointed to serve two little churches in the Catskill Mountains. After about a year and a half, my boss, the DS (District Superintendent), told me I should go before the Annual Conference Board of Ordained Ministry to seek approval for ordination. I told him I wasn’t sure that it was a good time for me; my wife had just had our baby girl, and my sons were ages two and four. It was pretty crazy in our house, and my two churches, that had been declining for 20 years, were now growing, and there was a lot going on.

Going before the Board of Ordained Ministry is a big deal; you sit in the hot seat in front of about 20 ministers and they pepper you with questions, to determine your knowledge, your calling, your commitment and your suitability to be a pastor. If they say “no” you are done….out….finished. But the DS said, “Tim, you are one of my best pastors, you will do fine, but if for some strange reason you don’t get approved, no problem, I will just reappoint you and you can try again next year.”

I went before the board and I was nervous. I didn’t know enough at that time to just put it in God’s hands and let go of it. And I was holding on to it like it was all on me. My boss was wrong. It didn’t go really well. I will never forget that, at the end of the day, I was alone in a room in a church…. waiting. A bearded pastor came into the room and sat down. He told me, “it didn’t go well for you. There were 28 people applying to be ordained and because you weren’t in the top group, you won’t be ordained and they are giving your church assignment to an ordained pastor.”

How Did I Get Here?

When I was 17, I had offered to give my life in service to God if He would save my sisters life when she was terribly injured in a car accident and expected to die. (Link) God had poured out his Holy Spirit on me to let me know he had accepted my offer and that my sister would live. God confirmed my calling with several other miracles, and I was completely convinced that I was called into ministry. I could not wait to become ordained as a pastor. It was the great joy and desire of my life.

Revived by Prayer

Now it seemed like it was over and my dream was dead. I drove home that day tired, defeated and completely crushed, empty of joy and hope. I am not sure if I cried but I sure felt like it.

There was a group of five or six Christians in that area who called themselves ‘prayer warriors’. They would get together weekly in one of their homes. People who needed healing would go there to be prayer over. I was friends with several of the prayer warriors who would attend my church when the Spirit led them.

The next morning, I called Loretta, who was in the group, and asked her if I could come over for prayer during their next meeting and she said ‘sure’. At the meeting, I sat in a chair and they stood in a circle around me and put their hands on my head and on my shoulders and back and they prayed out loud for me. After about 30 minutes they stopped and asked how I was doing. I said, “I am half way there. Please don’t stop praying.” They laid their hands on me again and prayed. And over the next 20 minutes I could feel myself getting filled, until I was overflowing with joy!

I can’t remember a single word that was prayed over me, but, in less than an hour, those people transformed me from the worst depression of my life to being filled with joy. That is the power of prayer!

Witness to the Power of Prayer

Since then I have seen dozens of amazing miracles brought about by prayer; a woman burned all over her body instantly healed, a man brought out of a coma, another man who flat lined brought back to life. I have seen two different people who were going to die within hours brought back to health. I have seen people rescued from drowning and disaster. I have twice seen my son, Timmy, recover from bouts of cyclic vomiting through prayer when medicine wasn’t working. This week I heard the wonderful testimony of Melissa Hill who told how God miraculously rescued her from death, through prayer, after being stabbed 30 times. Over the years I have seen so many great examples of the power of prayer that it brings tears to my eyes when I stop to think about them.

My Story Continues

My feeling of emptiness was healed and I turned my situation over to God. My boss, the DS, appealed the decision to the Board of Ordained ministry. They met to reconsider my case, and my boss brought with him letters from 124 members of my congregation, written to the bishop on my behalf, and a video the Sunday school kids made. My boss told me afterwards that, because the bishop was angry with him about another matter, the appeal on my behalf was turned down. But the very next day, he called me and said he had another appointment for me in another nearby conference through a friend of his who was a DS there. I went on to get ordained during that appointment.

Prayer – What Works and What Doesn’t

A recent survey found that 55% of Americans say they pray every day; and only 23% say they seldom or never pray; so, I know that many of you know how prayer works and you already rely on it. But some of you may not. Jesus’ apostle James wrote “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” And in Proverbs we read, “God hears the prayer of the righteous.” What makes a person righteous? Hold that thought.

I want to start by telling you about how prayer doesn’t work.

Prayer is not a magic spell that you say and results occur. On TV, in cartoons and in movies I have seen people using incantations, magic spells, which basically are a string of words or sounds that, when spoken, are supposed to have the ability to release some supernatural power. That is BS.

It is not the words you say, but the intentions of your heart that matter to God. The famous Danish, Christian philosopher, Soren Kierkegaard wrote, “Prayer does not change God, but it changes him who prays.” Actually, there are three things that happen inside us when we pray.

1     The first thing that happens is that your thoughts and actions become righteous or in agreement with God’s will.

God’s will or desire is that we love Him with all of our heart, mind, soul and strength and our neighbor as ourselves. Any thought or action that is in opposition to love, to the decrease of love, or that is damaging to the love of God or neighbor, is something that God finds objectionable (i.e. sinful).

Pray with openness to God, surrendering anything that is in your heart or mind that is against this love. God will bring your thoughts into alignment with His will as you pray earnestly via the gradual inflow of the Holy Spirit which acts to align your thoughts and intentions with God’s will in the same way that a magnet gives order to a pile of iron filings.

This is a process that is not instantaneously obvious, although, it can happen quickly. It depends on how tightly you cling to your anger, your hurt, your improper desires, your depression, and / or anything that is opposed to the love of God. It can take hours of prayer, even hours over several days. But your prayers will not be powerful or effective if you skip this step.

2     The second thing that happens inside you when you pray, provided you pray long enough and sincerely enough, is that prayer opens a channel in your heart. In some ways opening up that channel is like the work of an icebreaker creating a channel. The ice is all the thoughts and distractions you have floating around your mind. See Transcending Mind for guidance on how to stop those thoughts

3     The third thing that prayer does inside you is it prepares a place for the Holy Spirit to come in and rest. The apostle Paul said that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit. You are a temple for the Holy Spirit, but the temple is unoccupied if you keep the doors locked. You have to invite the Holy Spirit in. Jesus said, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock, if any hear my voice and open the door, I will come into their house…” For you to have effective prayer you need to be willing to have the Holy Spirit living inside your heart and all that that implies.

When you have all three of these, things happen, God will answer. God’s answer is not always “yes,” but it is always in your best interest. When what you are asking lines up with His will; when you pray passionately enough to open a channel of communication; and when you are willing to invite the Holy Spirit to live inside you, then God responds powerfully to prayers. A good example from the Bible is when Paul and Silas were put in jail for teaching about Jesus; they prayed and their chains fell off. (Act 16:16-36)

I was talking to my son, Timmy, recently about prayer and he finally got it. He said, “You mean all I really have to do is talk to God like I am talking to you?!” Paul wrote to the Philippians “Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.  Then you will experience God’s peace,” That’s all there is to it.

Why Does God Care?

Why does the all-powerful Creator of the entire universe care what we say or what we pray? Lucky for us, God sees all people on earth as His sheep and Himself as our Shepherd; and when God sees those who believe in Him and in Jesus, He sees His children. That was a part of God’s plan in creating the universe and it gives Him great pleasure to adopt us as His children. It gives God pleasure to interact with us as a loving Father. And for those of us who have committed our lives to following and serving Jesus, God sees us, not just as children but as holy and royal priests. When we get to that point then we too become prayer warriors.

Conclusion

Through prayer, God opens eyes, changes hearts, heals wounds and illnesses, saves lives, and grants wisdom and power. Prayer is the key that opens the door to all these blessings from God, so let us resolve to pray more, to take full advantage of all that God is offering us.”

Relevant Scripture

James 5:13-18 (TEV) Are any among you in trouble? They should pray. Are any among you happy? They should sing praises.  Are any among you sick? They should send for the church elders, who will pray for them and rub olive oil on them in the name of the Lord.  This prayer made in faith will heal the sick; the Lord will restore them to health, and the sins they have committed will be forgiven.  So then, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you will be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has a powerful effect.  Elijah was the same kind of person as we are. He prayed earnestly that there would be no rain, and no rain fell on the land for three and a half years.  Once again, he prayed, and the sky poured out its rain and the earth produced its crops.

Proverbs 15:29 (NRSV) The Lord is far from the wicked, but he hears the prayer of the righteous.
Mark 11:24   So I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.

Acts 16:24-26 ( TEV ) About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them.  Suddenly there was a violent earthquake, which shook the prison to its foundations. At once all the doors opened, and the chains fell off all the prisoners.

Philippians 4:6-9 (NLT) Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.  Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.
Ephesians 1:4-5 Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes.  God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.

1 Peter 2:5-9 And you are living stones that God is building into his spiritual temple. What’s more, you are his holy priests. Through the mediation of Jesus Christ, you offer spiritual sacrifices that please God… But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.

Psalms 116:1-8 (TEV) I love the Lord, because he hears me; he listens to my prayers.  He listens to me every time I call to him.  The danger of death was all around me; the horrors of the grave closed in on me; I was filled with fear and anxiety. Then I called to the Lord, “I beg you, Lord, save me!” The Lord is merciful and good; our God is compassionate. The Lord protects the helpless; when I was in danger, he saved me. Be confident, my heart, because the Lord has been good to me. The Lord saved me from death; he stopped my tears and kept me from defeat.

­­­­­­­

Holy Spirit Dove

Become an Insider on the Holy Spirit Controversy | Spiritual Meditations

If you have reached this article because of your search criteria, you are one of thousands of people who ask the questions every month:

 Who or What is the Holy Spirit

And it is no wonder there is uncertainly when there are so many possible interpretations of scripture.  Even people, who have experienced the Holy Spirit first hand, would have difficulty providing a satisfactory answer to someone who has not experienced the Spirit. 

In my attempt to provide some understanding, I’ll tell you that the references to the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament are generally related to the words and actions of the prophets. In the New Testament, Jesus is the prime example of someone totally filled by God’s Holy Spirit as is evidenced by the many miracles he performed and wisdom he conveyed. 

The big event that made the Holy Spirit available for the rest of us took place as follows:

Jesus prepares His followers to Receive the Holy Spirit  

In A.D. 31, Jesus told His disciples what was soon to occur. At the Passover ceremony, which took place on the evening before His crucifixion, Jesus explained that He would ask God to give His followers another “Helper, … the Spirit of truth,” to dwell with them and be in them (John 14:16-17).

After spending three days and three nights in the grave, just as He had predicted (Matthew 12:40), Jesus miraculously rose from the dead and met with His disciples in Jerusalem and Galilee (Matthew 26:32; 28:7) before the Jewish holiday of Pentecost.

“And being assembled together with them, He [Jesus] commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, ‘which,’ He said, ‘you heard from Me; for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now’” (Acts 1:4-5).

He went on to tell them something they could not have fully comprehended at the time: “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth”

As instructed, the disciples went to Jerusalem to wait for this promised power that would give them the courage and commitment to preach the gospel of the Kingdom of God to the world (Matthew 24:14). Within a matter of days, the gift of the Holy Spirit arrived

The Holy Spirit Comes to the Jesus’ Followers

The way the Holy Spirit came was spectacular and stunning! Along with the sound of a mighty wind, flames of fire appeared on the heads of all the believers who then, inexplicably, started speaking in other languages (Acts 2:2-4).

As multitudes of people from many countries began flowing to this scene, they, too, were caught up in the miracle—everyone understanding in his or her own native language the words being spoken. Who could deny this proof that the Holy Spirit now resided within the followers of Christ? They truly had received a power they had never previously possessed.  Their understanding of the Holy Spirit was exactly what Christ had said—it was indeed the power of God that would be used to tell the world His true nature.

Thank you to David Treybig for such a succinct rundown of the events.

The Holy Spirit Today

The Holy Spirit today is still the motivating force behind telling others what Jesus Christ taught us about God.  However, there are many other benefits that provide a better life to those who live with God’s infinite and invisible spirit.  We feel God’s love for us and want to share it with others.  His spirit opens our heart and minds so that He can work through us, speaking directly to our hearts and giving us courage to follow his guidance.  God’s spirit directs our prayers and shows us how to meet the needs of others as well as ourselves.  It is our teacher and reminds us of Jesus’ teachings.  It is our comforting counselor and gives us peace.

The Gifts of the Spirit

Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.  And there are diversities of ministrations, and the same Lord.  And there are diversities of workings, but the same God, who worketh all things in all.  But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit to profit withal. [As an example] For to one is given the Spirit the word of wisdom; and to another the word of knowledge, according to the same Spirit:  to another faith, in the same Spirit; and to another gifts of healings, in the one Spirit;  and to another workings of miracles; and to another prophecy; and to another discernings of spirits: to another divers kinds of tongues; and to another the interpretation of tongues:  but all these worketh the one and the same Spirit, dividing to each one severally even as he will.  (1 Corinthians 12:4-11)  Brackets are mine for clarification based on the following verses. 

What does it Mean to Receive the Holy Spirit

Jesus taught that we must be born again to enter into the kingdom of heaven.  He clarified this by saying that we must be born of the water (Baptism) and the Spiriit.

Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. (Acts 2:38)

The first step to receiving the Holy Spirit is to make sure that your motives are right and pure with the Lord.  You have to really want this gift because you want to be able to enter into a much deeper, personal relationship with God – and you will need His power and anointing to flow through you so that you can fully accomplish whatever His divine destiny is going to be for your life.

God will be able to read  your thoughts and motives. If you are not sincere with Him as to why you really wanting this gift, or you are seeking after this gift for all of the wrong reasons, God will know and withhold this gift from you until you can come to Him with the right reasons and the right motives.

Once you realize what this gift entails and that you will have to be willing to fully surrender to whatever God’s perfect plan and destiny is going to be for your life – then the next step is to take that big leap of faith and fully surrender body, mind and soul to God the Father.

Then just ask God.  “If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?” (Luke 11:13)

Controversies Regarding the Holy Spirit

Is the Holy Spirit a Person?

Holy Spirit as a Separate Entity

There is some controversy as to whether the Holy Spirit is a separate entity from God.  Those who believe so, generally site the anthropomorphic qualities described in the Bible as proof of this. 

The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association points out that In John chapters 14, 15, and 16, Jesus spoke of the Holy Spirit as “He”.  They also state that the Holy Spirit, as the third Person of the Holy Trinity, is made clear by His inclusion with the Father and the Son in such Bible passages as Matthew 28:19.  Here the apostles are commanded to baptize those who receive the Gospel “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

However, other Biblical verses indicate that the Holy Spirit is God’s power in the world.  Still other verses can be interpreted either way.

Holy Spirit as the Power of God

Jesus began His ministry “in the power of the Spirit” (Luke 4:14).  Peter relates that “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power” (Acts 10).   Likewise, Jesus worked through the apostle Paul “in mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God” (Romans 15)

Again and again the Scriptures depict the Holy Spirit as the power of God, the mind or spirit of God and the very essence and the life force through which the Father begets human beings as His spiritual children.

Paul wrote that God’s plan for humanity had been “revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets” (Ephesians 3) and that his own teachings were inspired by the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:13 ). Paul further explains that it is through His Spirit that God has revealed to true Christians the things He has prepared for those who love Him (1 Corinthians 2). Working through the Spirit, God the Father is the revealer of truth to those who serve Him.

Jesus told His followers that the Holy Spirit, which the Father would send, “will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you” (John 14) It is through God’s Spirit within us that we gain spiritual insight and understanding. Indeed, we come to receive the very “mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2), also referred to as the “mind of the Spirit” (Romans 8).

The Father imparts the same Spirit to true Christians through Jesus Christ (John 14), leading and enabling them to be His children and “partakers of the divine nature” (Romans 8).

Impersonal Attributes of the Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit is spoken of in many ways that demonstrate that it is not a divine person. For example, it is referred to as a gift (Acts 10) that God gives without limit (John 3). We are told that the Holy Spirit can be quenched (1 Thessalonians 5), that it can be poured out on people (Acts 2:17), and that we are baptized with it (Matthew 3).

People can drink of it (John 7:37), partake of it (Hebrews 6) and be filled with it (Acts 2).  The Holy Spirit also renews us (Titus 3) and must be stirred up within us (2 Timothy 1). These impersonal characteristics are certainly not attributes of a person.

The Spirit is also described by other designations—”the Holy Spirit of promise,” “the guarantee of our inheritance” and “the spirit of wisdom and revelation” (Ephesians 1:13)-that show it is not a person.

In contrast to God the Father and Jesus Christ, who are consistently compared to human beings in Their form and shape, the Holy Spirit is frequently represented, by various symbols and manifestations, in a completely different manner—such as breath (John 20), wind (Acts 2),  water (John 4), oil (Psalms 45), a dove (Matthew 3) and an “earnest,” or down payment, on eternal life (2 Corinthians 1).

These depictions are difficult to understand if the Holy Spirit is a person. 

[includes excerpts from Bible Study Tools.]

The Development of the Trinity

One can hardly discuss the Holy Spirit without discussing it’s inclusion in the Trinity.   Why question whether the Holy Spirit is a person unless possibly to justify a trinity?  Where did this concept originate?

There is no trinitarian doctrine explicitly taught in the Old or New Testament. However, many Christian theologians, apologists, and philosophers hold that the doctrine can be inferred from what the New Testament does teach about God.

David Treybig tell us that “In the centuries that followed the Pentacostal experience, most people discarded the earliest Christians’ clear understanding of the Holy Spirit in favor of an evolving, humanly devised definition of the Godhead.

According to that new theory, now well-known as “the Trinity,” the Holy Spirit was elevated to be a coequal member of the Godhead….the Holy Spirit, God the Father, and Jesus Christ were now seen as three distinct entities that together comprised one triune God.

[It is theorized that] theologians had devised the idea of the Trinity to combat polytheism—the belief in many gods—and after long debate had finally come to a general agreement that this explanation of God should be a central tenet of Christianity.”  Brackets are mine

The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy indicates that “the many thinkers influential in the development of trinitarian doctrines were steeped in the thought of Greek philosophy (Hanson 1988, 856–869). Those developing the doctrine saw themselves as trying to build a systematic Christian theology on the Bible while remaining faithful to earlier post-biblical tradition. Many also aimed to show Christianity as consistent with the best of Greek philosophy” where the number three is seen again and again.

Paul J. Pastor suggests that Christians are forced to retain two equal and (seemingly) opposing truths; the God that is utterly and infinitely beyond creation with blazing uncovered glory; and the God that indwells our souls and sustains our lives. He suggests that a separate Holy Spirit entity helps us more clearly define and understand this dichotomy.    

Biblical Definition Discarded

David Treybig goes on to say that “In spite of the theory’s nonbiblical and mysterious, logic-defying elements (how can three individual beings be only one being?), this man-made philosophy is today firmly entrenched in mainstream Christianity. In fact, most churches now consider adherence to the Trinity doctrine the litmus test for determining whether or not one is indeed a Christian.

But bothersome questions arise from this. For example, did theologians have the right to reject the understanding of the Holy Spirit that was held by first-century Christians—the people who actually experienced the miracle of that special Pentecost? And why don’t we give greater consideration to the understanding God gave those with the firsthand experience?”

The Biblical Definition

The Biblical teaching only shows a Godhead consisting of God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit is described and respected as the power of God, but is nowhere defined as a separate being.

Toward the end of the first century, Jude admonished the Church to “contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3). “This faith, including its explanation of the Holy Spirit,” Treybig says, “provides the only biblically defensible definition of the Holy Spirit.

The first-century Christians clearly understood the Holy Spirit was the power of God. Through the power of His Spirit, God comforted them through trials, assisted them in learning the truth, identified them as Christians and offered them the promise of eternal life. But we find no evidence that the Christians considered the Holy Spirit to be a separate member of the Godhead.”

As for the Godhead, Paul succinctly noted the teaching that God had given him and his first-century brethren: “For us there is one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we for Him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and through whom we live” (1 Corinthians 8:6). No mention of the Holy Spirit.

Conclusion

Whether you believe the Holy Spirit is a separate entity from God or God’s spirit existing in the world, it makes little difference in how you build your relationship with God.  Different people may explain the Holy Spirit in different terms depending on their view point as discussed above.  However, no matter what their belief on the subject, the Holy Spirit is always there guiding us, comforting us, protecting us and pushing us into Christian action. 

Paul J. Pastor expressed it beautifully when he said “Without the Holy Spirit we lose the capacity for seeing the wonder and wisdom of God in places where we commonly overlook it. We lose the chance for God’s closeness in the world to give holy quiet shape to our inner lives.”

How the Holy Ghost Became the Holy Spirit?

I’ve been asked about this and whether it had any spiritual implications, so as an interesting aside, this is the explanation given by the Zenit Daily Dispatch – a Catholic publication.

Both Holy Ghost and Holy Spirit were used well before the 20th century,

The word ghost is of Germanic origin and comes from Old English gast, meaning soul, life, breath, good or bad spirit, angel or demon. Christian texts in Old English use gast to translate the Latin Spiritus from where we get Holy Ghost. The more modern sense of a disembodied dead person is first attested in the late 14th century but remained quite rare

Spirit comes to English from Latin through French and also means souls, courage, vigor, breath.  Spirit, in the sense of a supernatural being, is found from the 13th century.

Practically all recent translations of the Bible, both Protestant and Catholic, have preferred Holy Spirit in most instances. The reason is probably because the meaning of the word ghost has gradually shifted over the last 300 years and now predominantly refers to the vision of the specter of a deceased person or a demonic apparition.

It must also be remembered that in literature the popularity of the “ghost story” had enjoyed an enormous boom from the mid-19th century on, a popularity compounded by the advent of the cinema and television.

All of this probably led translators to the conclusion that the meaning of the word Ghost had been so transformed and stereotyped that continuing to apply it to refer to the Divine Person was more likely to lead to confusion than would the alternative expression Holy Spirit.

Relevant Scripture

Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost. (1 Cor 12:3)

 

 

miracle spiritual intervention man at cross praying

A Miraculous Intervention by Accident | Spiritual Meditations

We’ve all been there.  Our situation is so desperate, we are in such pain, our heart is breaking, or all of these at once.  We may not believe there is a God, but when we are at the very bottom, we plead with God, just in case He’s there.

The following is just such a story related by Rev. Dr. Tim Ehrlich.

My Sister’s Car Accident

I was my first solo trip into the world.  My junior year of High school had just ended, I had just turned 17, and to celebrate I hitchhiked up to Burlington Vermont from Long Island to visit my twin cousins Kim and Kerry who were attending the University of Vermont. I woke up happy on the morning of the fifth day of my visit. I had breakfast and was laying on the couch in the living room, singing along to the Beatles’ I am the Walrus when the phone began ringing somewhere in the house.

My cousin Kim came rushing to get me.  It was my mom calling for me.  Mom asked me to sit down because she had some terrible news: “Your sister has been in a terrible car accident; she has 14 skull fractures. The doctors say it is a miracle she is still alive but they say she is going to die in the next 2-4 hours. Would you like to try to see her before she dies or wait for the funeral?”

My sister Lisa was my only sibling; she was 13 months younger than I am.

She had been traveling up from Long Island to central Massachusetts with three teenage friends, to join a group of people who were helping the choir director of our church build a summer home.

They were speeding and as they came up over a rise in the road a highway department grass cutting tractor was crossing in front of them blocking both lanes. They swerved to avoid it and the car rolled over several times. The other three passengers had their seat belts on and received only cuts and bruises and one had a broken arm. My sister was not wearing a seat belt. She was thrown out of the car and her head smashed against rocks on the side of the road. Her face and her entire head was shattered.

I am told that when the troopers found her they thought at first she was dead so they tended to the others first. They transported her to a local hospital and notified my parents and my mom called me.

The Worst Crisis of My Life

In an instant my mom’s words took me away from feeling blissful to being consumed by the worst crisis of my life. When you grow up in a dysfunctional home like ours, (my dad was an alcoholic), your siblings become co-survivors and that is a special bond. That was the case for us and the result was that Lisa was to me—my sister, my friend and my co-survivor in a crazy household.

After I hung up with my mom, I told my cousins what happened, and I went outside and sat in the sunshine on the side of the small hill next to the house to absorb this news. I sat and I thought about my sister. My memories of her starting from our earliest childhood, ran through my mind.  As I thought about loosing her forever, I realized that it would truly be very difficult for me to live without her. So I sat on the little hill, with my head down and the sun beating down on my back, and I began to pray. The air was cool and I still remember how wonderful the hot June sun felt on my back.

I am certain now that it was God’s timing because two days before, I had been on the green of the university when a group of students erupted out of a building onto the green. I asked my cousin’s friend who they were, and she told me they were the campus Christian group. As I looked at their obvious joy and unfeigned friendliness towards each other, I said to myself, “whatever they have, I want it!”

Nevertheless, if you had asked me an hour earlier if I believed in God I probably would have said no, or that I did not know what to believe about God. But now that my sister’s only hope was God, suddenly, all my intellectual arguments were gone, all the doubts and questions I held for years were silent, and instinctively I just prayed. I prayed as only a person with a truly broken heart can do. I prayed earnestly, truly, intently and with every bit of my heart.

The Essence of Prayer

As I prayed, I told God how I would feel without my sister, what her loss would mean to me, that it would damage me irreparably, that I wasn’t sure I could live without her. Finally, I begged God to accept my life in service to him in exchange for letting my sister live. I know this sounds like desperation and bargaining, but just because we are desperate and bargaining doesn’t mean we are not earnest or that God won’t respond to us. I was earnest about giving my life to God, and God did respond to me.

At that moment I was at the very bottom emotionally…completely brokenhearted.   I have since come to realize from scripture (“The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” Psalms. 34:18 ESV) and from experience, that only desperation can produce in us the level of seeking that is required to produce the breakthrough to actually finding God as referred to by Jeremiah: “You will find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.”

All of your heart is a tremendous amount when you consider all we keep in our heart. To truly have an encounter with God we must put everything else in our heart to the rear and God to the front.

God’s Answer to My Desperate Proposal

So as I prayed that day, God gave me three great gifts: first, he miraculously saved my sister; second, he baptized me with the Holy Spirit; and third, he allowed me to join his service, fallen as I was.

As I humbled myself before God with my head bowed, suddenly a comforting warm sensation began sweeping down over me, outside and inside. I lifted my head and it continued to pour out on me and through me. It felt like water but lighter than water, like a large bucket of warm water slowly, gently being poured down on my head.  It was approximately body temperature, as it felt warm on my skin but neutral inside me. It continued to pour down on me for several seconds washing me completely inside and out. This must be why it is called a ‘baptism’ of the Holy Spirit.

I now realize that God’s plan was to cleanse me first before accepting me into his service by pouring the Holy Spirit over me and through me; but at that moment I didn’t even know what the Holy Spirit was. All I knew was that God was pouring something on me that felt warm and comforting inside and out, and I knew that it meant God had accepted my offer and my sister was going to live. Relief flooded my heart and I felt deep joy and peace and calm assurance.

God has also given me the proof of his reality, a question that had tormented me for so long. How good God is to take me all the way from being filled with horror and desperation and anguish to complete peace and joy and assurance in an instant! To this day I know I have gotten the best out of the agreement I made with God that day. God saved my sister and saved me too, He saved me from a wasted life, a life without knowing the greatest Being to exist!

When I stood up from prayer I had such profound peace. I knew with complete certainty that as surely as God had just poured something wonderful all over and through me, that my sister would live.

My cousins in Vermont and everyone around me at the hospital were still fearful and horrified, but I was calm. They were all certain she was going to die but I knew my sister was going to live! And of course, miraculously, she did.

As one doctor indelicately described it, her head was “shattered like a hard-boiled egg.” We would soon find out she had not 13 but 22 fractures, and there is no way she should have lived! Her forehead was bashed in, the bones around her right eye were pulverized and there were fractures in the top, sides and back of her head.

When I got to the hospital I was allowed to her bedside in the intensive care unit. Lisa always had the coloration of Snow White: the whitest skin, jet-black hair, and beautiful blue eyes. Now she was unrecognizable, her head was swollen and round almost like a basketball; her skin was entirely black with tinges of purple and blue, her face was so swollen that the only recognizable feature was the end of her nose that was just sticking up above the swelling.

Amazingly she was conscious, she heard me and said, “who is that?” I said “Its me, Timmy.” She said “What are you doing here?” I said, “You have been in a bad car accident so I came to see you.” She said, “Why?” I said, “Because I love you!” she said “Oh.” I was so happy as I stood at her bedside because I knew God was saving her life.  At that point she went into a coma which she remained in for most of the next month.

Lisa’s Recovery

After about a month, she was conscious and talking and they discovered that she was nearly blind and could only see out of the bottom half of her left eye. After about a month she was flown by helicopter from Massachusetts to the hospital at Port Jefferson on Long Island. Lisa spent a total of four months in the hospital. She remains legally blind, but fortunately she can read and can navigate independently, although, she can still see only out of the bottom half of her left eye.

After spending several years learning to deal with her new handicaps she got a GED then a Bachelor’s and then a Master’s Degree and is now a social worker in the Veterans Administration, where she helps veterans ever day.  I thank God every day for accepting the offer of my life in service in exchange for hers.  I am so blessed and so lucky that God agreed to my offer. It is the best thing that ever happened to either of us.

Miracles Can Happen to Skeptics

If I look at what happened as an unbiased, detached theologian, the first thing that jumps out at me is how unworthy I was to have received such a miracle, much less to have been accepted into God’s service. I was an agnostic, or a skeptical inquirer, certainly not a believer. Theologically, it is significant that a person should have a profound, miraculous experience under those circumstances.

The stereotype and the expectation most people have is that miracles and spiritual experiences come to saints or at least to the devout and not to agnostics and skeptics living in sin.

I now know that none of us are ever worthy to receive a miracle from God, that his miracles are always given in grace. The apostle Paul wrote in Romans chapter seven about his struggles with sin. He said: “ I do not understand what I do; for I don’t do what I would like to do, but instead I do what I hate” (7:15 GNTD). The greatest apostle in history struggled with sin and yet was a part of many miracles.

So I conclude from all this is that God loves and responds to the love and desire for Him that we have in our hearts.  God also knows that, in the world, love and our higher instincts are often overpowered by physical and psychological desires.

For me personally, I was skeptical about the reality of God from an early age. Like doubting Thomas, I was resolved to believe in nothing I could not see or touch or that could not be proven to me. Even though I attended church and Sunday school regularly in all the years between age five and my sister’s car accident, I still didn’t know God, nor had I seen any proof of his existence.

The Seeds of Faith

When Lisa was miraculously saved I discovered that seeds of faith had been planted inside me by all the years of Church and Sunday school. Watered by the prayers of my deepest need in the darkest time for my soul, the seeds of faith burst forth suddenly with amazing life. I have come to realize that unlike physical seeds, which can take weeks to germinate and sprout, spiritual seeds can and do spring to instant growth when watered with the sincere and urgent prayers of a person facing catastrophe such as I was then.

I have also come to realize that this is an illustration of the reality of the words God spoke through the prophet Jeremiah: “When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart” (29:13 NRSV).

 

Relevant Scripture

You will find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. (Jeremiah. 29:13)

I do not understand what I do; for I don’t do what I would like to do, but instead I do what I hate” (Romans 7:15 GNTD)

The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” (Psalms. 34:18 ESV)

When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13 NRSV)

John 20:24-29 New International Version (NIV)
Doubting Thomas
24 Now Thomas (also known as Didymus, one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came.  So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”
But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”
A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”  Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”
Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”