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What?

Much of our Christianity today is like the feast at Cana when it ran out of wine. We have a feast of good things: there is plenty of teaching and preaching; churches and conferences spread tables loaded with superabundance. But we have no wine. The exhilaration of the Spirit is lacking. The spiritual wine that makes glad the heart of man is gone. We need a heart-warming! (Vance Havner, Hearts Afire, MCMLII, 14)

The Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 12.11: Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit. 

What does it mean to be “fervent in spirit”? Vance Havner once defined it in a sermon…

To be “fervent in spirit” is to be “boiling in spirit,” and to boil we must be near the Fire. How shall we obtain the burning heart? Jeremiah said it was God’s Word that did it and it was Jesus expounding the Scriptures that did it and it was while listening to Luther’s exposition of Romans that Wesley’s heart was warmed (Vance Havner, Hearts Afire, MCMLII, 12).

There you go! The key to possessing a fervent spirit is the reading, listening, studying and meditation on God’s Word.

Are we fervent in spirit?

Illustration of John 3:16

“Without the Spirit of God, we can do nothing. We are as ships without wind. We are useless.” – Charles Spurgeon

“I believe it is impossible for any Christian to be effective either in his life or in his service unless he is filled with the Holy Spirit who is God’s only provision for power.”– Henrietta C. Mears

Revivals and awakenings are times of great outpouring of God’s Spirit. By definition they are excessive. It is like Christmas. And while the idea is appealing, Christmas doesn’t happen every day. In fact, life would be quite bizarre, excessive, and unbalanced if it did.

If we attempt to make the excessive nature of revivals normative, it can lead to an imbalance in our life, our walk with God, and particularly our understanding of the Holy Spirit’s ministry in us. Historically, it has at times done all of these. So, to gain all of the spiritual blessings of praying for, anticipating, and experiencing revival, while eliminating the negative side-effects of extremism, we want to review what the Spirit-filled life is.

Believers Are All Indwelt by the Spirit

When you became a Christian, Christ indwelled you through the person of the Holy Spirit. I know neither the how nor the where, but I do know that the Holy Spirit’s indwelling presence carries with it the assurance of our salvation. “Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession” (Ephesians 1:13-14).

We are now God’s possession, and the Holy Spirit is, in effect, the down payment on His purchased property—that would be you. Like the idea expressed through the marriage ceremony, receiving Christ is a one-time decision. We don’t awake each morning to a fresh need to say, “I do”; once was enough. Having received Christ, we became children of God. “To all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12).

In theory, I could tell my parents that I no longer wished to be in their family, but I can never change the reality that I am their son. It’s an established fact on the basis of my birth. I can sever our fellowship but not our relationship. And as there was not one thing we did to earn our salvation, so there is nothing we can ever do to lose it—we are eternally Christ’s. But the Holy Spirit is more than simply an assurance of our salvation. It is through the Spirit that God enables and empowers us to live the Christian life.

The Spirit Comes to Glorify Christ

As we experience the blessings of the Spirit, we can lose sight of Jesus—and we never want to do that. We need to remember that the Spirit works in us to glorify Christ.

“When he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you” (John 16:13-14).

The Spirit-filled life is the Christ-centered, Christ- directed, life.

Walking with the Spirit

Walking is a process and not an event.1 This is how the event of revival can throw off our thinking concerning the Spirit- filled life. Clearly there are events, moments in time, when God empowers us in a special way; that’s what revival is. But the normative Christian life is predominantly a process, a walk. And the Spirit’s influence in our lives is typically not an overwhelming, overpowering presence but a more subtle influence. If we get an overpowering experience—Score! Icing on the cake! Christmas morning! It’s an additive, but not essential, blessing.

The normative Christian life is not an overpowering event but is daily seeking to do those things that increase the Spirit’s influence and decrease the hindrances to that influence. So how, exactly, does the Holy Spirit exert control and influence over our lives, and what is our role in the process? Perhaps the most helpful passage in Scripture for answering these questions is this one in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians:

Be very careful … how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 5:15-20)

One is compelled to ask, “What does getting drunk on wine have to do with being filled with the Spirit?” Well, obviously they are opposite alternatives, but they must share some base of similarity, or else why couple them together? The link between them, or the similarity they share, is in the idea of influence. They are both foreign entities that, when internalized, influence our behavior.

In fact, this is not the only time Scripture places them side by side. In the coming of the Holy Spirit, it was suspected that the Spirit-filled believers “had too much wine” (Acts 2:13), because of the similarity of influence.

Of course, there are many important differences between alcohol and the Holy Spirit. Alcohol’s influence leads to greater enslavement, while the Spirit gives great freedom. Alcohol eclipses our personality, while the Spirit reanimates it. And Satan uses alcohol to control us as God controls us through the Spirit. Still, alcohol provides an example of a foreign influence (albeit a bad one) that can affect our will and behavior.

As demonstrated by alcohol, control is always a question of degrees. There are things we can do that hinder the Spirit’s influence and things we can do to increase sensitivity to the Spirit’s leading. This is at the heart of walking in step—or being filled—with the Spirit. (The word “filled” means filled like a sail, not filled like a cup. When we think about the sail metaphor, we rightly think about adjusting ourselves to catch the existing wind of the Spirit. When we think about filling a cup, we wrongly think about increasing the amount of the Spirit like pouring in more of a drink.)

So, what constitutes the Spirit-filled life? What leads to the Spirit having maximum influence over our lives? This is not comprehensive, but what follow are the primary vehicles affecting the Spirit’s influence upon our thoughts, heart, will, and emotions.

Lordship

How does one become more drunk? (Or should I say drunkerer?)

For the rest of the post…

“If we then are to have fellowship with Jesus Christ in his present work, we must spend much time in prayer; we must give ourselves to earnest, constant, persistent, sleepless, overcoming prayer.” 

~ R. A. TorreyHow to Pray (1900), 14.

Article by Nancy Guthrie

But for those who’ve recently lost someone they love, the holidays can seem more like something to survive than to enjoy. The traditions and events that can add so much joy and meaning to the season are punctuated with painful reminders of the person we love who is not here to share in it. Many have wished they could find a quiet place to hide until January 2.

While those of us who surround grieving people can’t fix the pain of loss, we can bring comfort as we come alongside those who hurt with special sensitivity to what grief is like during the holidays. Grieving people wish we all knew at least five truths, among others, at Christmas.

1. Even the best times are punctuated with an awareness that someone is missing.

I remember a conversation I had with a friend as we prepared to head out on a holiday trip shortly after our daughter, Hope, died. “That should be fun!” she said. I sensed I was supposed to agree wholeheartedly with her.

What I didn’t know how to explain is that when you’ve lost a member of your family, even the best of times are painfully incomplete. Someone is missing. Even the best days and happiest events are tinged with sadness. Wherever you go, the sadness goes with you.

2. Social situations are hard.

I have never been able to figure out why crowds are difficult when you’re grieving, but they are. Small talk can be unbearable when something so significant has happened. Meeting new people will likely bring questions about family. To walk alone into a room full of couples when your spouse has died, or into an event filled with children when your child has died, can be a soul-crushing reminder of what you have lost.

If you’ve invited someone in the midst of grief to your holiday event, let them know that you understand if it seems too hard at the last minute and they have to cancel, or that they may only be able to stay for a short time.

If you’re going to an event, give a grieving person a call and ask if you can pick her up and stick with her throughout the event for support. When you come upon a grieving person at a holiday social event, let him know that you are still thinking about the person he loves who has died, and invite him to talk about his memories with that person. Don’t be afraid to say the name of the person who has died. It will be a balm to the grieving person’s soul.

3. Extended family can be awkward and uneasy.

Grief is often awkward — even, and perhaps especially, with those to whom we’re closest.

My husband and I host weekend retreats for couples that have lost children, and the difficulty of being with family at the holidays is often a topic of conversation among these couples. They know that some family members think they’ve grieved long enough and want them to move on. Others want to initiate a conversation about the person who died but aren’t sure how. What often happens is that the name of the person who died is never mentioned, and it feels to the person who is grieving that they have been erased from the family.

For the rest of the post…

Illustration of Psalm 69:5-6

Another reason why we must continually pray for genuine spiritual revival!

(Tea Party 247) – The Catholic Church has been in the business of politics for quite some time now. It should come as no surprise that recently German Bishops gathered together and declared homosexuality is just as “normal” as heterosexuality and that adultery should no longer be considered a “serious sin.”

The church should be a beacon of morality and righteousness but instead the Catholic Church is succumbing to the pressures of the LGBT mafia and embracing sexual immorality at the cost of sound theological doctrine.

Breitbart reports:

Both the homosexual and heterosexual orientation “belong to the normal forms of a sexual predisposition that cannot and should not be changed by any specific socialization,” the Dec. 5 communiqué stated.

The bishops embraced the findings of a study group on sexual morality chaired by Berlin Archbishop Heiner Koch, which will form a starting point for the “Synodal Way of the Church” in Germany to rethink Catholic teachings and praxis for the present day.

“There was agreement that the sexual preference of humans is expressed during puberty and assumes a heterosexual or homosexual orientation,” the statement reads.

Since one’s sexual orientation is unchangeable, “in church thinking, this means that any form of discrimination against homosexuals must be rejected, as has long been required by the magisterium and is also explicitly emphasized by Pope Francis in the post-synodal letter Amoris Laetitia,” the bishops note.

There was, however, no consensus on “whether the magisterial ban on homosexual practice is still opportune,” the bishops declare.

The communiqué also called for an update regarding Church teaching on adultery, declaring that “a sexual relationship after divorce and remarriage is no longer qualified as a serious sin and thus no general exclusion from the reception of the Eucharist is foreseen,” stating that such a conclusion is “supported by humanities and theology” as well as by “developments that are already apparent in Amoris laetitia.”

The findings of the meeting, sponsored by the Bishops’ Commission for Marriage and Family to deal with issues of sexual morality, will be used to update the Church’s teaching staff on sexual morality, the communique revealed.

This is a disturbing development and should concern all Catholics. Conforming the Church to meet the demands of social movements is both dishonest and dangerous. It is an ineffective way to draw in more believers and will only result in the apostasy of its members.

For the rest of the post…

Illustration of Psalm 69:30-32

“There is another reason for constant, persistent, sleepless, overcoming prayer that seems if possible even more forcible than this, namely, praying is the most important part of the present ministry of our risen Lord.” 

~ R. A. TorreyHow to Pray (1900), 12.

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